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Archive for May, 2014

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When Steve and I moved from South Florida to north of Tampa, we were delighted to see the abundance of live oak trees. Each one reaches wide with graceful, curving branches that outline intriguing free-form shapes.

Live oaks can grow to be eighty feet tall and just as broad over a life-span of hundreds of years.  The key to their longevity is their root system, which reaches down into the soil about four feet, and extends laterally to ninety feet. Such depth and width offers strong support for the tree.

Of course, roots also provide water and nutrients. A mature oak can take in more than fifty gallons of water per day, much of which evaporates and keeps the tree cool.

Such facts give me greater understanding and appreciation for Jeremiah 17:7-8.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

He 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.”

Doesn’t that sound satisfying and peaceful? Yet too often I’ve been more like a tumbleweed in the desert—dry, flitting here and there, and anything but peaceful.

Tumbleweed

How do I turn my tumbleweed self into a mature, flourishing tree?

The secret is in the roots. Oak tree roots grow wide and deep; tumbleweeds have none.

I have to send out my roots into the soil of God’s Word. That’s where the nutrients of strength, wisdom, and encouragement will come from. The deeper and wider my knowledge, the more empowered I’ll be to withstand the buffeting challenges of life.

The soil also represents God’s love (Ephesians 3:17-18). I must learn about my loving Heavenly Father and spend time with him in order to know him. As intimacy develops, trust grows.

And when roots grow deep into God’s Word and his love, when we practice his presence, we can remain strong when life turns up the heat…

  • When our kids make foolish choices
  • When the boss’s high expectations ratchet up a few more notches
  • When the paycheck will not stretch another penny
  • When a disagreement becomes an impasse
  • When a decision must be made and the pros and cons swim endlessly in our heads

We express our trust by affirming what we know about God. And we affirm our confidence in him by reviewing his promises–not once a day in a quick morning prayer, but moment by moment.

Roots are continually absorbing water and nutrients. We must do the same by praising and thanking God all day long. Even our concerns can be expressed with praise and gratitude:

“Father, I lift up _______ to you as he looks for another job. We are trusting you to provide, knowing that those who seek you lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). Our hope is in you because no one who hopes in you is put to shame (25:3). I thank you that he is looking to you, God, and seeking your path. You are a good and upright God; you will instruct ______ in the way you have chosen for him (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Hallelujah!”

As our roots grow deep, our spirits can reach high and strong like live oak branches — in adoration and praise for our trustworthy God.

I am DONE with tumbleweed living!  How about you?

(Photo credits:  www.nativetreesociety.org; http://www.sonoragardensinc.com)

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(Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill)

 

The annals of history are filled with failures.  Consider:

Example #1: A.’s parents may have felt like failures when their son did not speak until age four and did not read until he was seven. Later they faced the embarrassment of his expulsion from school.

But surely his parents must have breathed a sigh of relief when A. was finally admitted to a university–only to be discouraged again when a professor called him a lazy dog! Who was this disappointing failure of a son? Albert Einstein.

Example #2: As a young man, W. worked for a newspaper, but not for long. His editor told him he lacked imagination and had no good ideas. In the coming years he started a number of short-lived enterprises that ended in bankruptcy. The name of this business failure? Walt Disney.

Example#3: M. was set up for failure. Jealous competitors convinced an employer to assign him a difficult, time-consuming project, outside M.’s area of expertise. It was a sure-fire plan to keep him busy, ruin his reputation, and be rid of him.

The employer? Pope Junius II. The person set up for failure? Michelangelo. The project was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo had no experience with fresco painting. In addition to tackling a new medium, he had to paint upside down on a curved surface. It took him four years to complete the project.

But. Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), painter, writer, and historian said, “The whole world came running when the vault was revealed, and the sight of it was enough to reduce them to stunned silence.”  I’ll bet his competitors were among them!

As I seek to put myself in the place of each of these individuals, I sense their disappointment, embarrassment, and frustration. Failure is painful! It damages our dignity and destroys our morale.

Simply put, failure feels bad…

…but that’s good!

Defeats push us to refocus and redirect. And with God’s help, those two steps can bring us to peace in spite of failure, and hope for a future of contentment.  Our relationship with God is deepened; our character is strengthened.

Care to join me in a closer look at those two verbs, refocus and redirect?

Refocus by turning our attention upward—not backward. Dwelling on the disappointments of the past is counterproductive.

As soon as we realize negativity has moved in, we must refocus our thoughts on gratitude for God’s gifts and praise for his attributes. (If my past experience is any indication, we may have to do this frequently. The enemy does not give up easily!)

But when we fill our hearts and minds with faith-statements, peace, encouragement and hope have a chance to flourish.

Redirect  our energy. God gives us our marching orders in Psalm 37. Again, note the verbs.

Trust in the Lord and do goodDelight yourself in the Lord…Commit your way to the Lord…Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…Do not fret—it leads only to evil (Psalm 37:3-8).

And all the while we can remind ourselves, God specializes in providing…

  • Strength for the weary and power for the weak
  • Light in place of darkness
  • New ways out of a wasteland
  • Comfort for the afflicted
  • Gladness and joy after sorrow and sighing
  • Beauty out of ashes

(Isaiah 40:28-29; 42:16; 43:19; 49:13; 51:11; 61:3)

 

Thank God he also provides what Winston Churchill (at the beginning of the post) says counts the most:   the courage to continue.

 

(Photo and quote credit:  www.ebay.co.uk.com.)

 

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