Being Trees

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The neighbors are up this weekend and their fire wafts the eighth of a mile from their chimney to this porch. It’s twilight and the sun is retreating and the onset of night sends its milky blue haze over the leafless trees, and somewhere off in the distance is the gentle hum of a motor…soft and almost indiscernable. The clouds cover all the sky…except for a thick band across the mountaintops that is peachy…no, purpley…now it’s almost gone.

This is a magic moment, a holy one.

My husband is driving home and my daughter is cleaning her room and my boy is curled up on my bed with a slight fever. It’s just me out here on this porch marveling at the thick band of sunset that dances on the mountaintops.

I’m struck again at the beauty of the empty trees — trees that bear no leaves, no evidence of their fruitfulness. Just twisted trunks and spindly limbs intertwining in a stunning silhouette against a milky blue sky. As I sit and listen to the distant hum and watch the sun fade, the stillness of the emptiness is achingly beautiful.

I only see these mountaintops in the winter — when the leaves have fallen into soft piles at my feet. I only see these mountaintops and this thick band of sunset when the limbs stop trying to hang onto that which needs to fall. And through the twisted and spindly silhouette, I see majesty and beauty and am in awe.

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The ashes at my feet have been replaced with a crown of beauty on the mountaintops — bigger and grander than the leaves the trees themselves bore the rest of the year.

This stillness — here on this porch, watching this sunset through these silhouettes — this stillness is deafening. Not the silence, but the stillness. There is no breeze, no wind. No leaves raining down like snow as it has most other days. Just tall, stoic, empty and bare trees that almost seem to be afraid to breathe for fear that something else will be taken from them…they feel poured out.

I think we’re the trees, yet we’re trying to be the mountaintops. I think we try to be majestic and beautiful and awe-inspiring for God, when we’re really supposed to be twisted and spindly and empty…so that through us others can see. I think we mourn the falling of our own leaves and fruit — but yet when they’re gone, it allows God to be seen through our silhouette. We’re evidence of creation, but we wave our leaves and obstruct the view of the Creator Himself.

I think we’re the trees.

Winter creeps in and whisks everything off limbs and we feel poured out. We feel poured out and empty and we hold our breath for fear that something else will be taken from us. We stubbornly grasp at single leaves that remain on our spindly limbs, unwilling to let the gentle breeze of the Spirit blow it off so new growth will soon come.

We try to be mountaintops; I don’t want to be a mountaintop anymore.

This stillness is deafening. The stillness of stopping and grabbing The Moment that’s been extended out to you unexpectedly — the one that crops up when your daughter is cleaning her room and your boy is curled up on your bed with a slight fever. The stillness of seeing the beauty in the bare, seeing through the bare and off into the distance.

It’s deafening.

Because when you stop to listen in the stillness, God’s presence is so thick you can’t hear anything but majesty and beauty and awe.

It is a magic moment, a holy one.

We are the trees.

Altars of Grace

I felt strongly led to repost something I wrote last year. I’m not sure why, but I’m going with it. Blessings!  

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FALL SIDEWALK

To journey toward holiness is to walk where the sidewalk never ends. And the path is littered with altars along the way — altars of remembrance and altars of sacrifice.

“Here…on the left…this is where God remembered me and met me and parted the sea for me.”

“Over here, on the right…this is where I laid down my Isaac. There was no thicket, there was no ram.”

 ”And up here just a little bit…this is where God got a hold of me and blinded me. And it took awhile for the scales to be removed, but then I was able to see.”

These little altars are mile markers of progress on a path that will take a lifetime to travel.

As you walk along the path, you are showered with grace. Grace falling like snow into blankets of insulation. Grace falling like rain bringing water to a thirsty soul. Grace shining like the sun and illuminating His glory. Grace falling like fall leaves, where the slightest hint of the wind brings them to submission and piles them high where it’s all you can do not to just JUMP in without concern for bugs or spiders or slithering enemies.

Grace.

Holiness is unattainable without it — yet it is given, not demanded. We cannot demand the snow insulate the earth. We cannot demand the rain hydrate the soil. We cannot demand the sun illuminate our face. And we cannot demand the wind to shake loose the dry leaves from its branch.

For the leaves only fall when the Spirit blows through them. And their fall is gentle and silent, not loud and demanding.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy. (tweet)

Instead, grace is the bumper along the path of holiness…that path where the sidewalk never ends…that path littered with altars…grace is piles of fallen leaves and banks of snow and pools of rain, guard rails that keep you from falling over the edge.

When unholiness beckons and summons you like the enemy of Wisdom, go to your altars. The altars of remembrance and the altars of sacrifice…stop on your unending sidewalk and visit them. Remember the things the Lord has done for you — the miracles He performed, the rams He provided and the sight He restored.

Lay back on them like they were lush, green pastures and use them to restore your soul.

And after you have waited on the Lord and renewed your strength, get back up again and continue walking forward toward holiness. Soak in the Spirit as it blows grace all around you, assured it will guard you, should you stumble.

“The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker — travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.” (Proverbs 4:18-19, The Message)

Fan of Holiness?

I’m honored to participate in our pastor’s current sermon series, “#1 Fan?” as a guest writer. Here is the seventh installment — you can find the others by clicking here.

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To journey toward holiness is to walk where the sidewalk never ends. And the path is littered with altars along the way — altars of remembrance and altars of sacrifice.

“Here…on the left…this is where God remembered me and met me and parted the sea for me.”

“Over here, on the right…this is where I laid down my Isaac. There was no thicket, there was no ram.”

 “And up here just a little bit…this is where God got a hold of me and blinded me. And it took awhile for the scales to be removed, but then I was able to see.”

These little altars are mile markers of progress on a path that will take a lifetime to travel.

As you walk along the path, you are showered with grace. Grace falling like snow into blankets of insulation. Grace falling like rain bringing water to a thirsty soul. Grace shining like the sun and illuminating His glory. Grace falling like fall leaves, where the slightest hint of the wind brings leaves to submission and piles them high where it’s all you can do not to just JUMP in without concern for bugs or spiders or slithering enemies.

Grace.

Holiness is unattainable without it — yet it is given, not demanded. We cannot demand the snow insulate the earth. We cannot demand the rain hydrate the soil. We cannot demand the sun illuminate our face. And we cannot demand the wind to shake loose the dry leaves from its branch.

For the leaves only fall when the Spirit blows through them. And their fall is gentle and silent, not loud and demanding.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy.

Instead, grace is the bumper along the path of holiness…that path where the sidewalk never ends…that path littered with altars…grace is piles of fallen leaves and banks of snow and pools of rain, guard rails that keep you from falling over the edge.

When unholiness beckons and summons you like the enemy of Wisdom, go to your altars. The altars of remembrance and the altars of sacrifice…stop on your unending sidewalk and visit them. Remember the things the Lord has done for you — the miracles He performed, the rams He provided and the sight He restored. Lay back on them like they were lush, green pastures and use them to restore your soul.

And after you have waited on the Lord and renewed your strength, get back up again and continue walking forward toward holiness. Soak in the Spirit as it blows grace all around you, assured it will guard you should you stumble.

“The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker — travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.” (Proverbs 4:18-19, The Message)