An uprooted tree behind the title: Deep Roots?

 

How deep are your roots?

Back when I studied in Germany, there was a forested area I enjoyed slipping away to in the afternoons. This allegory is from my time there.

I pulled on my runners and slipped out the door. With a smile, I breathed in the fresh rainy air. After a morning in lectures and a noisy meal in the dining hall, it was lovely to be outside.

To fend off the chilly edge in the air I tugged on my jacket zipped.

I had a couple of hours before I needed to return to the school, so I headed past the charming little stone church built decades before and followed the street.

After a time, I veered off on a side path. It was slightly muddy due to the dampness of the day.

Softly I sang as I walked, whispering my favourite worship songs into the emptiness of the world around me.

I stooped to check on a familiar stream. It was flowing well today.

When a bird fluttered nearby I paused to watch. As it flew away, I strolled on.

At length, my way led me into a more wild section of forest. It had no paths to guide my feet, but I didn’t mind. I knew the patch of forest was surrounded by civilization on all sides. I couldn’t get too lost.

As I roamed freely among the trees, pausing to study the vines clinging to the tree trunks, or the moss underfoot, I noticed a fallen tree. Had it been there the last time I’d wandered through? I couldn’t remember.

Approaching the fallen tree, I eyed its base. How odd it was.

The tree had not broken its trunk nor torn off from its roots.

Rather, the roots had stayed with the tree and taken much of the ground with it.

Indeed as I rounded the bottom of the tree, I marvelled at the layer of rocky soil now vertically suspended nearly as high as I was tall.

I leaned closer, wondering if I could spot evidence of larger roots still in the ground. I couldn’t.

The tree’s roots hadn’t broken, but they also hadn’t been deep enough to properly anchor the tree. Not only that, but the soil into which the roots had grown was too loose and rocky to keep the tree secure.

Marvelling at the sight, I pondered what I could learn from it.

It didn’t take long to think of an application.

The Bible mentions roots several times.

One example of this is in the Parable of the Sower. The seeds sown on rocky soil have no root. They hear the word and receive it, but when trouble comes they fall away for lack of root. (You can read the parable in Matthew 13:3-8,18-23.)

Challenges come in life.

For a tree, those challenges may be strong winds, heavy snow, or simply the weight of the tree’s own branches. If the tree doesn’t have strong enough roots, it will tip over.

In the case of the tree I observed in that forest, the tree had roots, but they weren’t deep enough or in good enough soil to hold the tree upright in the challenges of life. The roots themselves didn’t break, but they took the loose rocky soil with them when they tipped.

The question to ask myself, then, is how are my roots doing? Do I have deep roots? What sort of soil are my roots anchored into? Am I anchoring my life in Jesus?

In closing, here is another place the Bible mentions roots that serves as a valuable reminder for me.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

A golden gift behind title: The Perfect Gift

 

Have you ever received a gift from someone that you didn’t know you wanted, but when you received it, it fit a need or want wonderfully?

That was my experience recently.

One morning last week, I glanced outside. I needed to drop some Christmas cards in the mail.

I checked the weather app on my phone. -17C with wind chill making it feel like -21C. That’s cold.

Despite the fact that the mailbox was not far away, I bundled up carefully. An extra sweater under my winter jacket, two layers of gloves, a neck warmer and a toque (or beanie for those of you not from Canada). I pulled on my winter boots. That ought to do it.

I frowned, however, when I zipped up my winter jacket. I’d worn the same sweater beneath it just the week before, but this time the zipper felt tighter.

You see, I’m pregnant. My middle is quickly expanding and now pushing the limits of my winter jacket.

I shrugged it off and headed outside.

The fresh air greeted me and the sun was shining, though it did nothing to melt the snow on the sidewalk.

I strolled to the mailbox and back, enjoying the outing.

As I stepped back into the house, I felt reluctant to leave the freshness of the outside world. My layering had worked. I wasn’t cold yet.

I glanced at the snow shovel sitting near the doorway. There wasn’t a lot of snow, but the sidewalk could use some shovelling. My husband would gladly do it, but he wouldn’t be off work until after dark and it would be colder then.

Deciding to go for it, I picked up the shovel and got to work. I was careful to go slow and not do much lifting as I cleared the sidewalk.

Not long afterwards, when I headed back inside, I smiled. How refreshing to have been outside and to have moved my muscles.

Later that day, when my husband got off work, I commented to him that I hoped my jacket would last the next week or two of colder weather, but wasn’t sure it would last much longer.

I figured that if I wore enough sweaters then I might be able to get by with having my winter jacket unzipped. Especially since we typically don’t have too many days that are so very cold. Alternatively, I could try buying a maternity winter jacket, but I wasn’t sold on the idea.

Anyways, that evening we visited with one of my sister-in-laws. As we prepared to part ways, she handed us some Christmas presents. The plan was to open them on Christmas day. However, she spoke up and insisted that I open mine before leaving.

I hesitated, but finally conceded.

When I opened the cutely decorated gift, I found a piece of fabric with zippers on it. Holding it up, I discovered it was a jacket insert.

Right away we tested it on my winter jacket. It fit well.

The insert attached to my jacket zipper on both sides, making the jacket bigger. Now I could continue to wear my jacket even as my middle grew larger.

I smiled. I had not thought to put anything like it on my Christmas wish list, yet it was exactly what I needed.

It was the perfect gift.

Gifts are on my mind a lot around Christmas time. I try to think of meaningful gifts others would appreciate. At the same time, my family asks me what I want, so I brainstorm a list of ideas.

There is a lot of shopping to do and sometimes coordinating to buy bigger gifts. Sometimes I think I’ve found the perfect gift for someone, other times I’m not so sure.

Then there are the many gifts that money can’t buy. The list of things to be grateful for is long. 

There are so many ways that God blesses us. Often we take them for granted and forget to say thanks.

Many of the gifts God gives us are similar to that perfect gift my sister-in-law gave me. It wasn’t something I had thought to ask for, but it met a need wonderfully and in the nick of time.

Around Christmas time, we often pause to remember the gift the Father gave us when He sent Jesus to be born on earth. Yet that gift would not matter much if it weren’t for what it led to.

It was when Jesus died on the cross and then rose again that God granted us the ultimate gift. It was a gift we didn’t know we needed, but He gave it to us at the perfect time.

The Bible tells us:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

This Christmas, beyond all the other gifts the season may bring, I want to celebrate the gift the Father gave us in sending Jesus to come in the flesh. Beyond that, I want to remember the ultimate perfect gift He gave us by taking away the wages of sin which I deserve.

Because Jesus died on the cross and rose again, I can have fellowship with God. The barrier sin caused between us has been torn down. Praise the Lord for giving us such a perfect gift!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Sunrise illuminating cloud behind title: Staying in Right Relation to God

 

One morning a while back, I sat for a few minutes to watch the sunrise. It was an especially brilliant one.

After a few minutes, the pinks and oranges and yellows faded away as they always do.

That particular morning, something caught my eye. Two or three clouds still glowed brightly. While all the clouds above, below, and beside these two or three clouds had lost their glorious hues, those two or three had not.

The sight left me wondering. Why didn’t they fade as well?

It took a few moments of pondering to conclude that those two or three clouds were likely closer to the earth than the ones that, from my perspective, surrounded them. The sunrise rays of the sun no longer reached the further clouds, but still lit up the lower ones.

Then I wondered if there’s a lesson to be learned from these clouds. It didn’t take long to realize that there is.

Whether or not the cloud still shone was to do with the cloud’s relation to the sun. There was no way that cloud could shine on its own. It had no light in itself. Only when it was in right relationship with the sun, could it shine.

In Matthew 5:16, I am told to shine so that people would glorify God.

How can I shine? Is it of my own accord? Do I muster up the light myself?

No. It is the light that Jesus gives. I must be in right relation to Jesus so that His light may shine through me.

Interestingly, shortly after the sun had risen, I opened my Bible for my morning devotional time. I’d been reading through Numbers recently. That morning I was at Numbers 25.

As I began reading, the theme of right relation to God, or being tuned into Him, continued.

In case you haven’t read Number 25 recently, let me re-cap the story for you.

Israel was approaching the Promised Land. God had warned them not to get too friendly with the enemy nations in the area. He knew these nations would draw the Israelites’ hearts away from Himself.

Nonetheless, in chapter 25 we find the Israelites prostituting themselves with the women of those nations and going after their idols.

God was furious! Yet again, His chosen nation had sharply turned their back on Him. The people had been so out of touch with God, that they did the very thing that most inspired His righteous jealousy!

But wait. It gets worse.

As many of the Israelites gathered to grieve what their nation had done, an Israelite man, Zimri, passed by with a woman from an enemy nation. He publicly and unashamedly took her into his tent.

Zimri’s timing was terrible. He was completely out of touch with what was going on. Why were all those people gathered at the Tabernacle? To grieve over and take action against the very sin he was publicly committing.

Zimri’s actions earned him capital punishment. 

Now, that story is an extreme example. Thankfully we are no longer under the Law but are under grace.

Regardless, as I read that story, I couldn’t help but blatantly see how very critical it is for me to be in right relation with God.

When I am walking rightly with God, not only will I be a light for Him, but I will know what pleases or angers Him. Only then can I live a life fully pleasing to God.

No, it is not that I must earn my salvation, but out of thankfulness for God’s great mercy on me, I desire to please Him. As a Christian, God has instructed me how I ought to live – in right relationship with Him. He knows that such a life is the very best possible thing for me.

So, like those two or three clouds, may I make it my goal to live in right relation to God.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:1-2 NASB

 

Getting ready by tying shoes behind title: "Steady Ready Stance"

 

How we stand is important. Nearly every sport has a specific ready stance – a way of standing that improves performance. Many other activities also benefit from having a steady stance. What about my walk with God? Am I standing in a steady ready stance?Boy in ready pose

Recently, as I watered the plants on my windowsills, I found myself thinking about stance. I have plants on four different windowsills in my house. As I watered them this time, I didn’t spill when watering the plants on three of the windows. On the fourth window, however, I accidentally poured some of the water onto the windowsill… again. As I wiped the spilled drops with a towel, I asked myself why it was that the plants on this particular windowsill seem to be the only ones that, when watering, I frequently spill.

The flower pots on the fourth window are identical to the flower pots on the other windows. Therefore, the type of flower pot couldn’t be the problem. I was using the same container to water them and the container was filled to a comparable level as when I watered the other plants. So what was the difference?

Then it dawned on me. My stance was different. The angle at which I approached the flower pots on the fourth window was different from the other three windows. I didn’t have a clear path to the fourth window, so my stance was unusual. My stance wasn’t steady. It forced my arm to a weird angle as I attempted to pour water into the pots.

Once I cleared the path to the windowsill, enabling a better stance, I had less problem with spilling as I watered.

This got me thinking about how important good stances are.

Growing up, I played ringette for many years. (If you don’t know what ringette is, picture ice hockey and you’ll be close.) Early on, they taught us the ready stance. The ready stance involved keeping knees bent and hands on the ringette stick poised for action.

(For those unfamiliar with this ready stance – often refered to as the “hockey stance” – here’s a quick video example.)

   

From this stance, it is easy to skate toward the action with a burst of speed. If, on the other hand, I were to stand tall and cross my arms while I waited for the action to start, I would be caught off balance. I would likely stumble and fall. Even if I didn’t fall, I would lose valuable seconds as my opponent got to the ring first. Elite ringette or hockey players will frequently be spotted in the ready stance.

Then I began playing goalie for my ringette team. Again there was a ready stance, but this one was different. The ready stance for goalies involves keeping the blade of the goalie stick flat on the ice, and their legs ready to go down in a butterfly at a moment’s notice. Despite the difference in this particular stance, the same principles apply. The goal of the ready stance is to be able to jump into action at the blink of an eye without being caught off balance or flat-footed.

Other activities also benefit from having a good stance.

When walking on ice, having a steady stance is important. Those experienced with walking in icy conditions learn tricks in how to move their feet and legs that help them stay upright. When climbing a ladder, using a good stance keeps the person from falling or toppling the ladder. When lifting a heavy box, using the right stance protects the person from back injuries.

Stance is important in many areas of life. Stance is also important in my walk with the Lord.

The Bible talks about a steady ready stance from which to approach life. This stance is especially helpful when life gets tricky.

What is that stance? Well, first off, much of the Bible is filled with instructions and examples of what my stance ought to be (or ought not to be). Therefore, if I want to understand the full picture of the stance God desires for me to have, I must be reading the Bible – the whole Bible – regularly.

However, to keep this post short, I will focus on two aspects of the Christian stance: faith and readiness.

2 Corinthians 5:7 reminds us that: “we walk by faith, not by sight.”

What is faith? Taking God at His Word. To walk in faith is to trust and obey God. Faith gives steadiness to our stance. (For examples of what faith looks like, read Hebrews 11.)

The second aspect of my stance ought to be a readiness.

“Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear…”  (1 Peter 3:15b-16a HCSB)

My stance is to be a ready stance – ready to explain what I believe.

What does this look like? Many examples exist in the book of Acts of godly individuals using the opportunities they had to share about Jesus.

Truth be told, my stance is not always one of readiness and faith. How can I change that? By being intentional to know God and His Word.

We are told that the Bible is “able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:15b-17 HCSB)

Keep in mind that the Christian stance is not just about head knowledge. The closer I am walking with God, living according to His Word, the more my stance will be one of faith and readiness.

So how is my stance doing? Have I stopped to consider it recently, or am I too caught up in the busyness of life? Am I off-balance and flat-footed? Or am I steady and ready for action, walking close with my Lord?

Bible and mug by lake

Am I filling myself with the things of God or is something else taking that space?

I am a preschool teacher. As a preschool teacher, there are many tricks of the trade which help my day go smoother with happier, healthier children. 

Many of those tricks involve snack time. Using a straw for yogurt drinks cuts down on the number of catastrophic spills. Cutting grapes eliminates a choking hazard. Sending only healthy snack options results in the child choosing to eat a healthy snack rather than choosing a sugary, unhealthy option.A juice box

One classic snack item, which has its own host of tricks, is the juice box. Many of those tricks involve how to open or hold it without spilling. Not spilling a juice box is indeed a skill for preschoolers to learn!

Beyond that, a useful trick for getting some preschoolers to eat more of their snack is to not give them a juice box at all. Let me explain.

Over my years of teaching preschool, I have seen three significantly different patterns of behaviour in children who have juice boxes with their snack. 

First, many children will only drink one or two sips from the juice box before setting it aside. This leaves the vast majority of the juice wasted.

Second, some children are able to coordinate drinking their juice with eating their snack. They will drink most of the juice and eat a good portion of their snack before snack time is over.

Finally, I’ve seen a number of children who, upon seeing the juice box in their snack, get excited. They drink and drink and drink until every last drop of the juice is gone. Then, having drunk the whole juice box, they look at the rest of their snack, perhaps apple slices or bread and cheese, but aren’t the least bit interested because they already feel full.

These children drink so much juice, often artificially flavoured with added sugar and colour, that they are not eating the sturdy healthy food they need to grow strong. From these children, we can learn a lesson.

The other day, I was reading in Isaiah 2 the explanation of why God rejected His people at that time:

    “They are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers …

    Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures;

    their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots.

    Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands,

    to what their own fingers have made.” Isaiah 2:6b-8 ESV

After reading these verses, I paused. I asked, “What am I full of?”

Am I filled with the things of God, or something else?

This question brought to mind another verse:

    “[God is] always on their lips but far from their hearts.” Jeremiah 12:2b NIV

Instead of “heart,” some other translations say “mind” or “conscience.”

Regardless of how much I talk about Jesus and know all the right answers, what is taking up the space inside me? Is Jesus in my thoughts? When my mind wanders, does it wander to the things of God?

Far more often than I’d like, my thoughts wander some other direction.

Is it bad to think about other things? Certainly not! There are many good things in life that require much thought. The problem comes when those other things are filling me, leaving no room for thoughts of Jesus, just like my preschoolers who drink so much juice that they aren’t the least bit interested in solid healthy food.Two babies drinking milk from bottles

In 1 Peter 2:2(NIV), Peter urges:

    “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

Other translations say “desire the pure milk of the Word.”

Am I desiring the things of God? Am I seeking to be filled with Him?

While there aren’t any shortcuts to being filled with the things of God, spending time in the Bible, in prayer, with other Christians, and in worship are critical.

So for today, I’ll make it my goal to drink just a little less juice and a little more of that pure spiritual milk.