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You're a tree!

I don’t remember if it was in January, but I do remember a wild winter storm in the early 1990’s. For Central California – specifically Escalon, where we lived for twenty years – that meant strong winds and heavy rain, with temperatures likely in the low 40’s. Admittedly, that makes for a wimpy weather event compared to many other regions, but it was enough to send me outdoors on a rescue mission.

The object of my midnight-hour deliverance? Our house stood strong, but a young oak tree planted a couple of years prior was surrendering in defeat. I had recently removed the supportive stakes, figuring the root system was strong. But this night of inclement weather inclined the tree at about forty-five degrees. Days of rain had drenched the soil, and the root ball was partially exposed.

Donning my storm clothes, finding a portable light, a ladder, and the necessary supplies, I reset the stakes and lashed the tree with support bands. I got soaked, but the tree got saved.

We now live about an hour north of Escalon, and Linda and I drove by our former home three weeks ago and took this picture. Seeing it now, I wish I had planted it away from the power lines, but the present owner has done a nice job of maintaining it.

More than twenty-five years have passed since this event, but one thought from that escapade still rings true: what I did that night was exactly what God does for his children who call out to him amidst the storms of life.

Think I’m over-reaching for a pastoral metaphor? Think again.

In fact, think back to my most recent post, in which we looked at Isaiah 61:1-3. Those who receive the wonderful gifts Jesus brings have an identity, found in the last line of the passage: They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Did you get that? You’re a tree! That’s your identity as a follower of Jesus – you are an Oak of Righteousness. Maybe it sounds a little presumptive, but it’s exactly how God describes you.

Don’t flinch from the descriptive term “righteous”. No, you’re not perfect. Righteousness is one of God’s chief characteristics; becoming an oak of righteousness means you are growing into your God-given identity as one who is created in his image.

Like other trees better than Oaks? It’s all good. In other biblical passages, a variety of trees appear as metaphors for us – Olive, Cedar, Palm and Fig.* God even describes himself in this way: It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me.**

So, how do we grow into our identity as one of God’s precious trees? Better stated – how do we thrive in our life with him?

It always starts with God, who never fails to live out his end of the Covenant relationship he has with his children. Or should I say his trees? The Old Testament word for that is Hesed, a steadfast, undying love, which he has always had for you.

I hope you can humbly and joyfully live into the reality that you are loved by God, and how devoted he is to your well-being, making sure that you thrive. Psst -- thanking him for that is always a good idea.

And yes – he has delivered you through many storms, intent on helping you stand again, possibly putting some stakes in your life – maybe friends or family – to secure your future. Sometimes you knew he was doing that.

Within a couple of the biblical passages that metaphorically compare you to a tree, an importance is attached to the roots – a specific action they undertake, in fact. Here’s Jeremiah’s description, with the exercise highlighted:

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They 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.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

I have had the privilege of serving as Pastor for some of you who read The Blue Spigot. You may remember me asking you a question based upon this passage: How are you sending out your roots by the stream?

That’s my question today, which is fundamental to our covenant relationship with God. What habits are you developing that will help you thrive in your walk with Jesus?

No, I’m not hinting at making New Year’s resolutions, even though I’m writing this in January. I have never been an advocate for trying to convince myself that this year is going to be different from the last one.

But I am a firm believer that there is no substitute for developing lifelong habits – intentionally sending your roots out – so that you will thrive as a believer. I honestly don’t believe you can flourish unless you do.

The start of a New Year is a good time, however, to do an analysis. We do it for our finances; why not for our faith?

Look again at the picture of the oak tree I planted almost thirty years ago at 1306 Sierra Drive in Escalon. Here’s how I would describe it today: a little scraggly and top-heavy; needs some pruning and thinning; sturdy and secure, and not likely to get blown over in a storm.

Hmmm. Sounds like a pretty authentic description of me.

How about you? How’s the tree of your life? Are you thriving, living to display God’s splendor, and providing shade for others? Or have you been content to think small and limit yourself, and as a result have become root-bound?

In the next few posts, I’ll share with you some of the personal habits I’ve developed over the past few decades as I seek to thrive. Specifically, we’ll look at prayer, meeting with and relating to God through the Bible, and developing the art of remembering.

If in some small way you are helped to become an even-more awesome Oak of Righteousness than you already are, then I will be blessed.

Benediction of Blessing

  • May your heart be filled with joy as you accept the steadfast love of God for you, his beloved oak of righteousness.

  • May you be given eyes to see the times and the ways that God has rescued you amid your storms.

  • May you intentionally send out your roots by the stream of the Holy Spirit so that you may thrive and grow in your faith.

* * * * * * *

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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM

* Specific Tree Metaphors can be found in Psalm 52:8, Psalm 92:12, Luke 13:6-9. For general descriptions, see Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:5-8.

** Hosea 14:8 NRSV


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