Lessons from a Tree

Copyright Dale Brock All rights reserved

Have you ever seen a beautiful example of bonsai? All my life, I’ve been drawn to tiny pots holding miniature trees that have been trained to grow ever so gracefully into living art. They bring me joy and, having seen them so many times, I thought I knew bonsai.

But now I know a bonsai artist. He posts pictures of his ongoing projects on Facebook, and through him I have learned so much more – including just how much I don’t know about the art. First, bonsai comes in all shapes and sizes from the tiny trees I’ve seen to trees so tall he needs help to move them. Second, he doesn’t generally start with nursery-perfect trees, but rather goes out on his own to find truly interesting specimens that show promise of greatness…at least to his trained eye. Then comes the real work.

Focused on producing the ideal product, he begins by selecting just the right the pot. After settling the tree’s roots in its new home, he sets it aside, letting it sit there and grow. He does nothing but nurture it until he knows its roots are established and it is healthy. Then, and only then, does he begin the careful and entirely deliberate pruning process.

I don’t know what goes on inside his head, but I do know that each move he makes is deliberate. He removes branches that are unhealthy or don’t belong in the final design, pieces that get in the way of the special beauty he wants to reveal. Then, having done this, he pulls out his wire and wraps those branches with it so he can ever so gently train them to grow exactly as he sees them in his mind’s eye.

It was a revelation when I saw it. Bonsai isn’t those tiny trees I’ve always admired; it’s careful, thoughtful, pruning and training.

So is Christianity – our development as Christians. When we’re born again, God repots us, putting us in a place where our roots can settle and we can grow strong. Unlike the bonsai trees, we have it within our power to move from this place, but if we’re wise we choose to remain.

Having repotted us and given us time to grow, once He judges that we are settled in, strong, and health enough, He begins a very deliberate pruning process. This is when life gets challenging and exciting all at the same time. Some things we exult in. When He delivers us from addictions that have plagued us, we feel suddenly free. When He gently removes things that have been blinding us, freeing us to truly see Him, we rejoice. Other changes He makes are more painful. We may not want to leave behind things like dangerous friends, bad habits, etc., but if we do…

If we trust His vision, that He sees clearly the promise within us and has a plan for making us beautiful, we submit to the pruning.

Then comes the next step. Having pruned away the deadwood and offensive branches, He pulls out His wire and begins to shape us. Patiently, gently, He nudges us to learn to show love, to be forgiving, to walk in integrity, to be faithful… He helps us learn to produce the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives and, in general, to grow to look like Him. I have this image in my mind of Him sometimes sitting back, like my bonsai artist friend, and smiling softly in satisfaction as we begin to truly take shape.

Bonsai is a slow art, one that requires mind-blowing patience on the part of the artist as his pieces take years to develop. Our growth as Christians is the same. I thank God that His mercy, grace, and patience with me are new every morning.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Image copyright Dale Brock – All Rights Reserved

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RIGHT

RIGHT

REFLECT
To show an image of the One who is looked at you. Let the Refiner see His face in you just as the silver refiner can see his face in the pure silver. This only happens when your heart is pure.

INSIGHT
Insight comes from reflection, from studying the reflection. How accurately do I reflect Him? Where am I a little (or a lot) off?

GLORY
Glory comes only in His presence. We can be mirrors reflecting His glory out into the world just as mirrors have been used to send messages from place to place through history. Everything we need and desire is found in His glorious presence. Let us stay there.

HOLY SPIRIT HELP
We must have the Holy Spirit’s help in all things. Without God we are nothing, and without Him we can achieve nothing of eternal value. We must humble ourselves, seek His help, and follow His instructions.

THINK
When He speaks to us, be it through the Word, a minister, a friend, or directly to our spirits, we must not simply hear what He says; we must also think about it, meditate on it, and chew on it. Only then will it truly change us, making us more like Him.

At all times, we must strive to be RIGHT.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Slow Down!

Hello. My name is Tammy Cardwell, and I move too fast.

I have moved too fast most of my life. In school, I learned that moving quickly from class to class gave me more time to read. This began a habit of walking fast that still gets me in trouble today as my shorter friends and relatives have to call out from somewhere behind me, “Slow down!” Truly, unless I’m on a deserted road in the country, intentionally idling away the time, I forget there is a such a word as “amble.”

All of which is bad enough, but when you hear God calling out, “Slow down,” as I have, you know you’ve gone beyond a lack of courtesy and are veering into dangerous territory.

He reminded me, recently, that it is those who wait upon the Lord that renew their strength. Too often, I listen to one part of what He says and move forward without hearing Him out completely. This is something I do to people as well, and I assure all of you that I really am working on it!

So, in a recent conversation, God reminded me that it is the warrior who waits to hear everything his superior has to say that is strengthened for battle, and the server who waits to hear everything his customer has to say that is strengthened for service.

It’s bad enough when my friends have to tell me to slow down. It’s far worse when it’s God sitting there, patiently waiting for me to return and actually hear Him out so that I can be strengthened for what lies ahead.

So if you hear me muttering, “Slow down, Tammy.” Don’t worry about me talking to myself. I’m just reminding me before someone else has to.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Those People

Everyone seems to have a few of “those people” in their lives. You know the ones I mean. They’re the paranoid person who constantly complains about all of the plots people are hatching against them, the OCD person who has to carefully script every conversation, the one who is always asking for your help but never offering theirs even when they can clearly see you need it… It seems they have only one things in common; they can rub you raw… and if they’re Christians, they can REALLY rub you raw.

The Word of God says, in Proverbs 27:17, that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” When I said they rub you raw? There is a reason. God often puts people like this in our lives for this very purpose, to teach us what it is to truly love as He loves.

It is easy to love those who treat us well, who love us the way we expect to be loved or at least behave the way we expect them to act. That type of love is good, but if we aspire to love like Jesus loved, we must go further – a lot further. One step along that path is to learn to love “those people” – to genuinely feel compassion for the one who is so consumed with paranoia that all of their conversations center around the enemies that surround them. True love listens, true love responds by encouraging them in the Lord and giving them the Word of God to stand on, and true loves prays for them with a heart that genuinely cares for their well-being. Yes, frustration may enter in – we see in Scripture that even God got frustrated on occasion – but true love responds as God is inclined to respond, with mercy and compassion.

If we genuinely wish to learn to love as God loves, we should thank Him for putting those people into our lives and let Him use them to push us closer to Him.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C