Sunday, March 25, 2012

Part 2 Amy’s Tree

My wife loves the out of doors. She love to plant and tend her garden. For her, much like it is for her father; gardening is an act of worship. I know that may sound strange to some but they both experience the profound joy of the Lord when they are laboring in the soil.
One of Amy’s prouder moments of horticultural genius came several years ago when she planted a red dogwood tree in our front yard. We had only been in this particular house for about a year in which time Amy had deemed our front yard, “entirely too bare.”
She loved that little tree. She tended and managed it meticulously, and cared for it religiously. As one year, then two, then three years past that little tree became a striking testament to her work. And then we moved and Amy’s little tree into which she had invested so much time and love had to stay.
Three years later we were back in the town and decided to drive past the house; I actually think Amy wanted to check on the tree more than she wanted to see the house. To her horror her beloved little red dogwood had become diseased and was dead. It was early June and Amy’s little tree was not red and lush the way it should have been. It was gray and sparse. The bark was pealing and it was clear that no life existed in our little tree.
My wife mourned her little tree that day. She mourned the fact that she had not been there to take care of it. She mourned the beauty that had been lost. And as she mourned I was reminded that we all have the potential to be like that little tree.
My mind when to Psalm 1 (the three verses we looked at yesterday). It was obvious from the state of Amy’s little tree that it had been ravaged by disease. The neglect of the current home owns had enabled the disease to spread and what should have been beautiful and full of life had become an ugly shell void of vitality. The tree did not bear fruit in its season. Something had gone terribly wrong.
As we drove past our old house that day the Lord reminded me to remain vigilant. Don’t allow yourself to be diseased by the counsel of the wick. Don’t neglect holy pursuits as you stand in the way of sinners. Don’t be filled with the poison of mockery. But rest in and drink deeply of the delightful provision of the God.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Amy’s Tree

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

One of the first things that any young Bible student learns is the importance of the word like when reading and interpreting the scriptures. This word is very important because it alerts us to the fact that the biblical writer is trying to make a comparison or give and illustration.
These comparisons and illustrations allow us to more quickly understand what the author is trying to teach or tell us by connecting an abstract truth with a concrete example.
In the verses above the Psalmist communicates a very profound truth – when a person delights and meditates on the law of God he / she will be blessed. The Author illustrates this truth by pointing us to a lush and fruitful tree. The tree is a metaphor which anchors the theoretical idea of delight in a way that is both accessible and understandable.
When I consider this analogy I am struck with the fact that there is a causal relationship between the tree’s life source and its productivity. Above the surface of the earth we see the bright green, the strong branches, and the lush fruits. But it is below the surface at the root level where the nurturance for life, health, and strength are attained. This tree bears fruit and remains strong because it is nurtured at the root level.
With this being said, I wonder what kind of “tree” people see when they look at me? Do they see fruit? Do they see health and life? And what does it mean if they do or don’t see these things? It may mean that there is something wrong with my roots.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Part 2 – Why we’re not dog people

God created this world – matter and time, earth and sky, light and darkness, plants and animals (Genesis 1:1-25a). And it was good (Genesis 1:25b). God made human being and gave us the charge to steward and tend all that God had created.
Humans and all of creation worked in harmony and unity. Everything functioned like it was supposed to and all was well. No, it was better than that. It was very good (Genesis 1:31). But then humans sinned and because of our sin we fell away from God and now live in a world that is dominated by sin, struggle, death, and suffering.
This may seem like a stretch to some of you but I think that part of my hesitance about getting a dog is bound up to the fact that this world is not how it is supposed to be. God created it good but we have polluted it. God ordered it perfectly but we have brought disorder to it. But even among the disorder we can see the imprints of God’s handy work.

Romans 1:20 tell us:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse

But what difference does it make for our family when it comes to getting a dog? I think it makes all the difference in the world. Honestly, I am still not sure we are dog people. But working through this decision has taught me something about what it means to live as a kingdom citizen in a fallen world.
It has taught me that as a child of God I should not fear the effects of the fall so much that I miss out or cause my family to miss out on experiencing the greatest of God’s invisible qualities, love. Whether or not we get a dog isn’t the issue. The issue is how I will choose to live. Will I live a life that marginalizes love to avoid pain? Or will I choose to love freely, even risking pain, as a testament to the overcoming work of God that is manifested in love – even love for His creation.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why we’re not dog people

Right now my family is in a bit of an uproar. My wife, two sons, and daughter all want a dog but I am refusing to get one. Now before all the “dog people” start extolling the virtues of canine companionship let me explain myself.
I live in a place where you can legitimately expect it to snow in 6 of the 12 months out of the year. Our yard is just a slightly bigger than a postage stamp and we already have two indoor animals. A skittish hamster named Snowball and a rotund, ill-tempered, and neurotic cat named Holly Chaffins (yes our cat has a last name that is different than ours. I will explain sometime. It's a riveting tale).
While my family assures me that they will take care of the dog I know that this dog will demand much more work and attention than both Snowball and Holly Chaffins put together. The dog will need walking in the dead of winter. It will need to be boarded when we travel – which is quite often since we do not live near family. The dog will be messy which will necessitate constant clean-up both outside and inside. The dog will need training which will take time and effort. The dog will cost money: vet bills, food, boarding, grooming, and the list goes on and on. But none of these things are the real reason I don’t want a dog.
The real issue is the sense of mourning associated with loss. So here is the confession. I don’t want a dog because if we get a dog I will get attached to him/her and when he/she dies I will mourn the loss. But isn’t this wrong-headed? Am I allowing the reality of sin and the fall to keep me and my family from experiencing the love and joy of His creation?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Living the Resurrection

Today I choose to bring life to things. I choose to shine the light of Christ's life on those around me. There is so much death, literally and figuratively, in this world. I choose to bring the resurrection power of Jesus with me today. To embody it.
The only way that resurrection hope can be manifested is if something dies. I choose to die to myself today. I choose to put to death the lust of the flesh, pride, false humility, and greed. I choose to journey with someone who is in some small way walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
I can only do what I can do. God will have to be God because all I can be is Dennis. But today I choose to really as one who has been changed by the resurrected Christ can. And because of that change to be a source of light and life to another.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Time and Energy

Do you remember when you thought you were busy but you really were not. I sure do. I remember being in high school and thinking that I was busy. But I really wasn't. Then when I arrived at college I thought I was busy but I wasn't busy then either. I seemed to have so much more time then than I do now. But the reality is that I have the same amount of time now as I did then I just have more responsibilities now and more demands on my time today than I did in years past.
The reality is that we all have a limited amount of time and energy. So we have to make choices. We have to decide where we will go and what we will do. We must decide who we will invest in and with whom we will journey in community.
I am becoming more and more aware of this fact the older that I get. Choices are inevitable and as we grow and excell our opportunities will exceed our ability to take part in those opportunities. And here is where our true values are exposed. We value what we invest in. We spend our time, our money, our energy, our resources, and our attentions on things that we value.
So here is what I am going to do. For one week I am going to attempt to track everything I do - what I spend, where I go, and with whom and in whom I invest. You see I think I value certain things but I wonder if I really do value those things or if I am self-deceived into thinking I am someone I really am not.