I am Righteous

Like a Tree… (4)

4oakTREEImage by k_r_craft on Pixabay

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3

Who are they? “They” are those who have been saved and belong to God. “They” are those redeemed from poverty, brokenness, and despair. “They” are us.

We are called oaks of righteousness—two words we may not be comfortable owning, but who’s to argue with Isaiah? This is what I know about oaks:

  • Oaks are hardy, adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions and not prone to disease.
  • They thrive worldwide, reach fifty to seventy feet, and can live longer than 200 years.
  • Their wood is not only beautifully grained but is hard—used for ships of old and preferred for flooring and furniture.
  • Oak trees are considered one of the best shade trees and have long been a symbol of strength, wisdom, and stability.

Durable. Adaptable. Healthy. Strong. Stately. Beautiful. Feeling even less like an oak? We’ve not yet touched on the righteousness aspect.

Righteous—yes, you are, as am I. Even though I was angry yesterday, struggle with self-pity today, was jealous of my friend and doubted God, I am righteous because I am a “planting of the Lord.”

  • Because of His rescue and forgiveness,
  • Because my extensive taproot system seeks the water He supplies,
  • Because I am His planting,
  • Because God has made me so, I am righteous, and so are you.

My leaves will shade those who need respite from the heat, my acorns will fall and reproduce, I will stand as a symbol of strength and dignity—all for the display of His splendor.

I am righteous.

Image by k_r_craft on Pixabay

I am Fruitful

Like a Tree… (3)

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From cherry blossoms in the spring to apples ripe for picking in the fall, we enjoy the beauty of bountiful trees in the Garden State. We wait for peak season to stroll through Branch Brook Park, wowed anew that Newark’s cherry blossoms rival those in D.C. In autumn we plan a day to pluck apples from their branches to make pies and sauce. The gray, dormant trees of winter do not disappoint—come spring, one by one, they begin producing their fruit. And so do we.

We could turn this discussion to seasons and the need for warmth and sunshine, or review the necessity of water-searching roots. Instead, let’s look at a simple secret to bearing fruit—being connected.

Fruit production should not be viewed as work; it’s less complicated than that. Fruit doesn’t come from our labor but through our connection to the branch.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NKJV)

That sounds simple, but it’s not easy to lie dormant, to wait, to trust things will happen without effort. It’s not easy to trust when I don’t even see buds. It’s not easy to be expectant when I feel nothing coursing through my veins. And it’s certainly not easy to submit to pruning and believe that somehow it will help. But abiding is a sign of faith in the unseen, mysterious ways of God. It’s believing that the premise of John 15 is true and a connected branch will bring forth fruit, and more fruit, and then much fruit. And there’s no expiration date.

So I’m just a quiescent, expectant branch hanging on to the Tree for dear life—and that position, that connection, that dependence is producing fruit.

I am fruitful.

3apple-tree-Nelya_PixabayThe righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. Psalm 92:12-14 (NIV)

Photos compliments of Pixabay.com (apples by Nelyah, blossoms by auntmasako)

 

I am Green

Like a Tree…

maple-leaf_Sweetaholic_PixabayI am not the green defined as naive, envious, or unripe. Rather, I am the green defined as fresh, vigorous and, to quote Webster, “pleasantly alluring.” Praise God!

His life flows through me and His Spirit teaches, directs, and improves me. I have hope, peace, and joy that may be distracted by troubles but never destroyed. I have purpose, a reason to be alive, to walk this earth and breath its air. And all of this means… I’m not brown.

I’m not drying out and wrinkling up—well, maybe my outward self is, but not my spirit.

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”*

I’m not hanging on for dear life, expecting the next strong gust to blow me to the ground. I’m well connected to the branch, enjoying my relationship with the tree and the company of other green leaves.

Because of my bond with the Tree and my confidence in Him, I will not fear when heat comes or worry in time of drought. I rely on the truth of Jeremiah 17:7-8.

The one “who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him… will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Did you notice the two activities mentioned as incongruous with green leaves? Fear and worry. Though pressures, disappointments, and worries come, my connection, my confidence, my correlation to the tree of Life makes me “pleasantly alluring!”

I am green.

*2 Corinthians 4:16
Photo from Sweetaholic@Pixabay.com

I am Planted

Like a Tree…

1Tree RootsWe have a lot of trees in our backyard. The fall consumes my husband’s time with raking and blowing, but right now the trees are peacefully barren.

I see no hints of green that promise the arrival of future leaves but I know they’re coming for one simple reason—the trees are planted. Their roots are spread through the earth drinking nourishing water and offering sturdy stability.

However, an upright tree doesn’t necessarily signify a planted tree. A severe storm toppled a large tree in our yard that appeared healthy. We were puzzled when it crashed to the ground—until we saw its roots. Shallow roots revealed that it was not firmly planted, despite its outward appearance. You know where I’m going with this, but it’s worth the repetition.

The person who delights in God’s Word is “like a tree planted by streams of water.” (Psalm 1:3)

The person in that verse is you and me—righteous people who have become so thanks to God’s forgiveness. Not content to make a good show by standing straight and looking respectable, we reach and stretch our roots to become strong, healthy, productive trees. We are balanced and nourished by roots that continually want more—more life, more knowledge, more fruit.

This is how I know a storm won’t down me like the tree in our backyard:

  • I am positioned near the water; I don’t hang out in dry places.
  • I am proactive in my thirst for God and the refreshment of His Word.

I am firmly planted.

Graphic from lmchouston.com

Being Present

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My dear Friend,

I love our relationship and that we talk every day. You mean so much to me! But… I long for the conversations we used to have, before life got so busy. I treasure our time together and I want our friendship to deepen, not diminish. That’s why I’m sharing my heart with you today.

It just seems that you’re not “present” when we’re together. There’s so much I want to talk about but I feel like you’re distracted. I long to hear about your life—what you’re thinking, feeling, loving, struggling with, excited about. I remember when you would eagerly share your hopes and dreams with me and I really liked that!

I love it when we exchange ideas and make plans. I love seeing you happy and enthusiastic, on the cusp of a new venture. I even love the times when you come to me crying—I want to be involved in the good and the sad parts of your life. I want to do life together.

I guess what I’m asking is, can we go back to the way things were? When we get together can we be present and engaged? Can we shut out the roar of the urgent and relax together? Can we again share what’s important to us, what makes us laugh, and what brings us to our knees?

I would love to do that… regularly. Do you have any time today? Whatever works for you, wherever, I’ll be there. I love you!

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you,” Jesus. (Rev. 3:20, paraphrased)

Graphic credit: AnnaHelsinki@Pixabay

Taking Memories

About Memories #4

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I thought I was finished with the topic of memories, but today they are barraging me. I’m writing this on my daughter’s birthday (January 22). Stacey would be 44 today, but she died 14 years ago and all we have are memories. So, yes, I’ll take the memories. There are no upcoming dates on the calendar, no random phone calls (for which she was famous), no plans for a party (another thing she was famous for)—just memories that swirl with bittersweet remembrances. Sweet for the joy her life created, bitter for the helpless sorrow of missing her.

The day poses a dilemma—try to remember or try to forget? I’m guessing you also have a significant date or two.

I’m all for remembering. Tears will come and that’s okay, they’ll pass. But the sweetness will remain—the lingering fragrance of a life loved, the echoes of laughter, the pleasure of having shared life. And it’s not over. God just hit the pause button—we will again walk, talk and laugh together, for all eternity.

So, if you’ve lost someone special, I suggest you take hold of your memories. Savor the sweetness and release the bitter. Recognize that the person you loved and lost enriched your life and made you who you are today.

This short visit was not an incident: it was a benediction… The remembrances, the influence, the associations remain… And if God recalls the child He lent, then let us thank Him for the loan, and consider that what made that child the messenger of God—its purity, modesty, trustfulness, gladness—has passed into our soul. The Potter’s Wheel (1904), Ian Maclaren

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Awaking Memories

About Memories #3

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We all forget. I’m hopeless when it comes to remembering passwords. I also forget names, birthdays, and appointments. While forgetting usually embarrasses and often inconveniences me, it’s much more critical that I remember those things God specifically tells me to remember.

These are the memories I must awaken—I cannot afford to forget God’s faithful involvement in my life, or His character, greatness and power, or His expectations of me and His plans for me. These memories cannot be permitted to fade. Even though this post is longer than usual, my list is only partial. Join me and awaken these memories in your heart.

  • Remember what God has already done for me and around me.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (Ps. 105:5)

  • Remember my strength, supply, and giftings are from Him.

But remember the Lord your God…it is he who gives you the ability… (Deut. 8:18)

  • Remember to praise to Him—when I understand and when I don’t.

God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, “You have done wrong”? Remember to extol his work… (Job 36:22-24)

  • Remember God’s power and strength when overwhelmed by what I face.

“Don’t be afraid… Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Neh. 4:14)

  • Remember I need refreshment that is found only in His presence.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy… the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Ex. 20:8, 11)

  • Remember that God sees the full picture and His purposes stand fast, even though I don’t understand and can’t see one step ahead.

Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning…what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Isa. 46:8-10)

  • Remember to release all I possess for God’s call and purposes.

Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:32-33)

  • Remember God is forever faithful, even when I suffer.

So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. (Ps. 143:4-5)

  • Remember to give generously to those in need.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously… God loves a cheerful giver. (2Cor. 2 9:6-7)

  • Remember to be gracious, hospitable and caring.

Do not forget [Remember]to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Heb. 13:2-3)

  • Remember God’s power when I don’t feel His presence but desperately need it.

Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he…withheld his compassion? … I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Ps. 77:9, 11)

  • Remember His mercy and compassion when I feel forgotten.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall… Yet this I call to mind [remember] and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:19-23)

  • Remember His strength and power when I am weak and helpless.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (1 Chron. 16:11-12)

  • Remember His mercy in saving me, taking me in, giving me hope.

Remember… you were separate from Christ… without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:12-13)

Holy Spirit, You are our Helper and Counselor. Awake memories of Your goodness, mercy, and love.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)

Graphic compliments of aitoff@Pixabay

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