Lessons From A Tree

A neighbor and I would start our days with an early morning walk around the streets of our neighborhood. Along our way there was a tree that I enjoyed walking past especially in the spring because of its sweet fragrance.

One winter morning following an ice storm we found the tree completely bent over. I was sure the tree would no longer live to send forth its sweet fragrance. The coming spring brought no sign of life. The tree remained bent, broken, and brown for the entire year. Walking past this tree I wondered why the owner didn’t cut it down. But there was more to the tree than what could be seen on the surface. The roots of the tree weren’t damaged. Those roots continued to draw up water and nutrients into the bent and broken trunk and branches.

The following spring new growth appeared. There were so many branches coming from that bent and broken trunk. What seemed dead and hopeless sprang to new life, healthier and fuller than the original tree. Once more it sent forth its sweet fragrance.


The story of this tree reminds me of the Redeeming Love of God.

Ice storms come into our lives in a variety of circumstances. They cause damage, damage that looks as though the situation is dead and hopeless. It’s during that time we can respond in different ways. We can look at the dead and hopeless situation and give up on it, we can cut it down and remove it from our life, or we can wait on God to bring redemption and new life into it. I’m so glad the owner didn’t give up on the tree. It grew to be a beautiful, sweet smelling tree that is a constant reminder that…

what the enemy meant for harm, God intended for the good!

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous Love;” Ephesians 3:17


There was another tree long ago that held a lesson…

The Greatest Story ever told!

There was a tree upon which the beaten and broken body of Jesus was crucified.

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5

It was upon that tree the Perfect Lamb of God shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sin of all mankind.

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” Romans 3:22-25

It was upon that tree where Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

That tree of long ago, known today as the Cross, is a constant reminder the no matter what “ice storm” has bent, broken, or left you hopeless, there is no damage that cannot be restored by the Redeeming Love of God.

And as the tree in my neighborhood, God intends for your life to be rooted in Him so that no matter what “ice storm” comes into your life God will work all things together for good…

so that your life will be fuller,

your faith will be made stronger,

and you will give off have the sweet fragrance of Jesus to those around you!

May you remember the Tree this Good Friday and embrace the Redeeming Love of God that He demonstrated towards you… 

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:6-11

Picture: Jamie Gillem, Passion Play 2012

“I Can Only Imagine”

Mark, Kayla, and I just went to see an incredible movie,

“I Can Only Imagine.”

I highly recommend it!!!

You must go see it!!!!

It is the story behind the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” written by Bart Millard, of Mercy Me.

Bart’s story is filled with much emotion as he faced many “problems.” I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, but his story is evidence of how the “problems” Bart faced were meant to  bring him harm and to keep him from knowing who he was created to be, and from the destiny God intended for him.

It wasn’t until a huge “problem” brought him to the end of himself that he did the impossible.

And in doing the impossible he found redemption and success.

He found grace to step out of his “problem,” he found faith to believe for a “possibility,” and experienced a “reality” that only God could orchestrate! 

Bart’s story isn’t unique to him. His story is so powerful and so emotional because everyone who watches it can relate in some ways.

Bart’s story brings hope that no matter what “problem” the enemy brings to harm you, God is a good, good Father who intends a good “possibility” for you and is able to do above and beyond all you could think or imagine!

Bart’s story is one that proves that…

The bigger the problem the greater the possibility!!!

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” Ephesians 3:20


A Battle Plan Like No Other

After spending the past forty years wondering in the wilderness the Israelites finally crossed over the Jordan River, into the land God promised them; a land flowing with milk and honey! Though this land was indeed prosperous, it was filled with “problems.” The first “problem” was Jericho. Jericho was a city surrounded by a huge wall, impossible to penetrate.

Joshua was called by God to take His people, the Israelites, into the Promised Land. God told Joshua they needed to defeat the nations that were in the land so they could live there in peace. Jericho was the first city they were to completely destroy.

Joshua faced a huge “problem”!

Joshua was a mighty warrior and was familiar with fighting Israel’s enemies. He fought battles and experienced God’s miraculous victories.

Joshua was also one of the ten spies Moses sent to check out the Promised Land. He was one of the two that brought a good report, confident that with God’s help they could defeat their enemies.

Now, facing this “problem,” Joshua’s faith was put to the test.

Have you ever spoken out confidently about the power of God and then find yourself facing the very situation that requires you to put your faith into action?

God never leaves us on our own; to fight our own battles, and to solve our own “problems.” When our faith and confidence is in Him we find He is there to show us the “possibility” within the “problem.”

“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.” Joshua 5:13-15

To see “problems” as “possibilities” requires humility.

In the presence of the commander of the Lord’s army, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. He realized he was in the presence of someone much greater than himself. He realized he had no idea what he should do in light of the wisdom and knowledge of the one who stood in front of him. He humbled himself and asked the commander what he should do. The commander’s reply was the same command God gave to Moses; “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” 

And Joshua’s next words are what I believe makes the  difference to whether we see our situations as “problems” or as “possibilities,”

And Joshua did as he was told.”

God is ready and willing to tell us what to do.

God has the answer to everything we face, if we are willing to bow before Him in humility, to take off our shoes – our striving, ideas, and plans – and to be willing to listen to His advice and carry it out no matter what.

Joshua didn’t try to come up with a plan.

Joshua didn’t go to his men and ask for advice. 

Joshua held to God’s promise…  

“See! I have given Jericho into your hand!”

Joshua chose to see this “problem” as a “possibility” that only God could make into a reality. 

Joshua obeyed God’s plan!

“But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” Joshua 6:2-5

This was a battle plan never seen before, nor since!

When I take my “problem” to God I find His plans for a “possibility” don’t make sense. They seem foolish; opposite from the ways I feel, different than I would respond.

Then the battle begins in my mind!

Two opposing thoughts, two opposing views begin to war against each other.

I consider my “problem” in light of my experiences and what I have heard others say.

But the words from God contradict all of those.

I find myself trying  to understand God’s ways and convince myself that what He is asking me to do really is the right thing.

God gives me a different plan.

God tells me to walk a different way.

Which will I choose?

This is when I need to see my “problem” through the grid of the truth in Philippians 4:4-7 so that it becomes a “possibility.”

The battle plan God gave Joshua lines up with these verses…

Seven priests were sent out first; “rejoicing” as they blew the ram’s horns.

Then the fighting men followed the seven priests. Marching, not fighting… Let your gentleness be known to all men.”

Then came the Ark of the covenant, representing God’s presence, carried by the priests… The Lord is at hand.”

Then came the rear guard…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 

Then all the Israelites were to walk silently; without saying a word… Be anxious for nothing.”

I’ve often wondered why God told them to keep silent, to not say a word? I don’t know for sure, but I know that when I’m facing a “problem” I want to talk about it, complain about it to others, and justify why I’m having a bad day. There is something about whining and complaining that I am drawn to. I’m no different than the Israelites while they were wondering in the wilderness for forty years. But, that alone should be a lesson for me. That’s what kept them there. Now in the Promised Land it seems as though God is showing them there is a better way.

Perhaps talking doesn’t allow us to hear God’s voice.

Perhaps talking decreases faith.

Perhaps silence makes way for God’s “possibilities.”

Perhaps silence allows me the opportunity listen to God’s voice alone.

Perhaps silence is where faith increases.

“It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.” Hebrews 11:30

Silence can be powerful!

Silence brings an atmosphere of confidence. 

Rejoicing, faith, and silence diffuses the enemy’s strategy against us. 



Problem or Possibility?

Are you facing a “Problem,” or a “Possibility”?

How you see the situations you face in life will determine how you respond and where you go for advice.

Your response will reveal who and what you put your faith in.

What if you no longer saw your situation as a “problem,” but instead chose to see it as a “possibility”?

The definition of a “problem” is; a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome and needing to be dealt with and overcome.

The definition of a “possibility” is; a chance that something might exist, happen, or be true.

“Problems” are viewed as “bad.” They need immediate attention to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. “Problems” are often reacted to out of emotion that comes from your own understanding, your past experiences, your fears…

“Problems” keep you striving to fix the “bad.”

“Problems” keep you looking for solutions.

“Possibilities” hold within them a chance that something good will come from the situation. Seeing your situation as a “possibility” enables you to look past the “bad” and choose to believe that this is something God is working together for your good. “Possibilities” bring hope into an unwanted situation.

Possibilities cause you to search after the good.  

Possibilities cause you to seek God for answers.

These verses are God’s answer to how we should view life situations…

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

God doesn’t want you to handle your own problems.

God wants you to look to Him for the good, the possibilities, in the situations you face.

God doesn’t see problems, only possibilities!

When I face a situation God tells me to “Rejoice in the Lord.” It’s hard to rejoice and freak out at the same time, but I’ve been known to, so maybe that is why He tells me to “Rejoice” twice! When I choose to fully rejoice in God a miracle happens in my heart, and in my thoughts! Rejoicing brings me into God’s presence and I realize He is at hand, that He is right there with me in the midst of whatever I am facing. I can trust that God sees and God knows, and because He is for me, He intends good to come to me from this. Rejoicing in God’s presence causes the “bad” to fade and allows me to see see the “good” my Good Father intends!

“My child, never forget the things I have taught you.
Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying.” Proverbs 3:1-2

God tells me that His commands are to be stored in my heart so I will live a satisfying life. All of God’s words are meant for my good, they are life to me. So, when He tells me to, “Be anxious for nothing,”  I need to obey. Anxiety is sin. Anxiety is fear based, it is from the lies of Satan, and it has harmful consequences both physically and spiritually. Instead of being anxious, I am to pray about the situation, to ask Him for what I need, and to thank Him for how He intends to bring good from it. This means prayer, and asking with thanksgiving is to be my FIRST response. I’m not to freak out, take things into my own hands, and when everything I have tried or the advice of others doesn’t work… then decide to pray.

God loves me so much that He doesn’t want me to take care of my own “problems.” It is in those difficulties that God wants me to come to Him and talk to Him about it. He longs for me to bring everything that concerns me to Him, because He cares for me. He knows I can’t live life on my own, He never intended for me to. He created me for relationship and that relationship includes walking through life together. Rejoicing in Him, talking to Him, and thanking Him for whatever I’m going through shows I love and trust Him in return. It shows I know I can’t do anything on my own, but when I abide with Him, He will take care of me. He doesn’t put any restrictions on what I ask of Him. He just wants to spend time with me and He promises to work all the things I face together for the good.

God wants you to give Him your impossibilities, to see them as possibilities, so that He can make them realities!

And that is when the peace, that amazing, wonderful peace of God, comes and takes away my fear, my anxiety, and the “bad” of my problem. It is the peace of God that guards my heart and my mind and keeps me calm. It allows my heart to trust that God knows and understands exactly how I’m feeling and what I am going through. It quiets my mind from my own thoughts and worries so I can hear what God has to say. When I give God a chance to show me His perspective it changes the way I view my situation, and I begin to see the possibility of the good that is attached to it.

God takes my impossibilities and begins to exchange them with His possibilities!

God takes the heavy weight off my shoulders and carries it in His loving, capable hands. Once the heaviness is gone I’m free to receive His instructions with a heart that trusts God and a mind that is willing to do what He tells me to. I find that the unwanted situation is the very thing that God intends to make me better, it’s the very opportunity to bring good into the situation!

A “problem” handed over to God becomes a “possibility.” 

A “possibility” in God’s hands brings calm to your heart and to your mind.

A calm heart and mind trusts God to work your “bad,” together for “good.” 

No matter what you are facing today, choose to see it as a possibility, because God is a Good, Good, Father, and you are loved by Him!!

I’ve often thought that writing this blog is as much for me as it is for any one else…this morning when I woke up and looked at my phone, I found a “problem.” My mind began to consider all the “bad” of this situation and how I should respond. Then I remembered what I wrote yesterday, here on this blog. I decided that if I really believed what I wrote I needed to put it into practice. I worked my way through the verses in Philippians, applied them to my “problem,” and found that it worked! The “problem” hasn’t gone away, but I now see it as a “possibility” and I’m trusting God to take care of it and bring the good He intends from it.