Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trees ~ Part 5 ~ Emmanuel God is with us

During this time of year many commemorate the most momentous event in history.  ~ "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."
We drive through our towns and cities and see Evergreen trees for sale. We place gifts under these trees.

Please remember the birth of our Savior; who He is and why He came into the world. 

God the son, became the babe in the manger, that He might become the man of sorrows on the cross, to die as our sinless substitute, to release us from the penalty of sin and reconcile us to God the Father, so we can receive eternal life and live abundantly. 
All of this as a gift by faith in Him.

For God so loved the world...

God has provided us with a Tree of Life through the work of His Beloved Son ~ Jesus.
With God's tree comes the eternal, imperishable and unfathomable gifts of His grace.

His gifts don't break or wear out. They are always timely, personal and exactly what we need. His gifts are the gift of love and the Holy Spirit, free and bold access to Him, the hope of glory, the gift of triumph in times of trouble, the free gift of salvation; the gift of rejoicing, the gift of peace in Him and the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation and so much more.

Seek Him and you will find Him.
You will be transformed by His love and grace.
This is the best gift I could give to you.
God is with us still.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trees ~ Part 4 ~ What is Faith?

What is faith? Webster's dictionary defines faith as "a belief and trust in and loyalty to God. A firm belief in something for which there is no proof."
What does faith mean to you?
The Holy Scriptures (Bible) says in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 6, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." 
How can we please God?
How does faith come to us? 
Romans 12:3 says that, "God has given to each one a measure of faith." 
In Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, I read, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Romans chapter 10 speaks of faith in a beautiful way. "The Word, God's message through Jesus Christ, is near you, on your lips and in your heart. Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ." 
Faith is a spiritual substance inside us that can either grow or sit dormant. 
Romans 10:17 ~ "Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God."

We need to read the Bible, or hear it read, so we can receive and understand faith. 
Jesus talked about faith as a mustard seed. In Matthew chapter 17 the apostles were talking with Jesus and asked him to "increase" their faith. Jesus replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed nothing would be impossible for you".
Mustard seeds are small and round. They are typically about 1 to 2 mm in diameter. They can be yellow, white, or black in color. Mustard is beneficial for health. It grows wild and once it has been sown, it is almost impossible to get rid of. The seed begins to germinate almost at once.
Jesus talked about a mustard seed in a parable. He compared the mustard seed as a model of the kingdom of God within us. It starts out small but grows to be big. Like faith, it takes root in readied soil. it grows in any climate, it is carried into all the world, it blesses and grows and thrives. Jesus used the mustard seed to make a point. Faith develops rapidly from small beginnings and once it is planted, it germinates and we see the fruit of it's labor. We see the result of faith.
What will you do with that measure of faith God has given to you? Will you keep your measure of faith bottled up or will you allow it to settle into the soft soil of your heart, take root and grow? Will you plant that seed of faith by trusting in Him?
All we have to do it sit at the foot of the cross and accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus. Salvation is free, but it's not cheap. It cost God the death of His son. When we plant that seed of faith, we are trusting in Him and we have the capacity of growing into beautiful trees of Life. 
Do not be afraid, only believe. With God all things are possible. 

King David wrote in Psalm chapter one, "You will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bring forth fruit in season, your leaf will not wither and whatever you do will prosper." 

What is the message of faith? For the Christian, it's the 'salvation message'. I believe it is the only, true faith. 
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 10, "If you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes on Christ and so is declared acceptable to God; with the mouth we confess and speak freely our faith and confess our salvation. Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ."

We are to be rooted in God's word, a good tree, planted by God, set by His rivers of water, grafted into Christ, our Tree of Life and rooted in Him with a continual supply of His divine grace we are watered and will grow.
Because of God, we live and move and have our being. We live because of God's providence and blessing.
When we accept Christ as our savior, we are acquitted from sin's penalty and are made acceptable to God. We are reconciled to Him. We now can have peace with God. 
That sin that separated mankind from God, that started back in The Garden, can be washed away through the blood of God's son Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Redeemer. All we have to do is accept and believe with that small measure of faith that God has placed in each of us. It's that easy. God has given us the opportunity to eat from the Tree of Life once more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trees ~ Part 3

Sin separates us from God. But God in His great love and mercy sent His only Son to redeem us. In the book of Romans chapter 6 verse 23, it says, "The wages (or payment) for sin is death, but the gift of God (Jesus) is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".
What does the Tree of Life represent? I think it represents Jesus, the source of forgiveness and restoration to God our Father. In John 14:16 Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through me."
This leads me to the next tree that changed my life. The Cross of Christ.
I was born a sinner. Yes, innocent, baby me. I was born a sinner because of the nature of our human existence. Adam and Eve got the sin ball rolling for the rest of us. I knew at an early age what was right and what was wrong. I knew when I disobeyed my parents. I knew when I lied, cheated, was selfish, hurtful...
I needed forgiveness, atonement, and restoration. I needed a savior; a way back to God.
I am the youngest of five children and born a distance of 18 years from my oldest brother and 10 years from my closest sister. I enjoyed a safe and happy childhood. I played alone a lot. My favorite thinking spot was our big rubber tree in our side yard. I would climb up to my favorite spot where the tree branches had created a little chair and sit and think my childish thoughts. One thought that kept creeping back was about a sermon I had heard about "the rapture of the Church". It was preached by an old minister in the church our family attended. I remember him telling us about how God would carry away all the believers from the earth.
One day, while I was rollerskating on our driveway, I fell and scraped up my knee. I went into our house calling for my Mother. She did not answer so, I called for my oldest sister Teresa. She didn't answer either. Then I realized that everything was quiet. I couldn't hear the birds singing or the traffic on the nearby busy street. I began to wonder if the Rapture had occurred and I was left behind. I went to our medicine cabinet above the bathroom sink and got a band-aid. I sat down on the edge of the bathtub and put the band-aid on my scrapped knee.

 I called out for my Mother again. I called out for my sister again. All was quiet. I began to worry. What if the rapture had really happened? I had not called out to God to save me. I knew I really wanted to be with Him. I knew all my family had prayed to Him but, I hadn't. I began to pray a simple prayer. "Dear God, I love you. I want to be with you. Please, can I be with you too?" I imagined His strong hand reaching down from the sky and picking me up. Of course I could be with Him. It was that simple. All I had to do was have the desire and ask.
At that moment, I heard the normal sounds of our household, my Mother's voice, the birds chirping, the busy street, and I knew I was different. I had been transformed from sinner to forgiven.
When I was a young teenager, I was in Texas with family friends. It was nighttime and I was sitting in the very back of their station wagon on the rumble seat next to my best friend Caroline and it dawned on me that I had not said the typical "sinners prayer". I worried a little and then in my mind made sure that God knew that I knew what He had done for me. I wanted to make sure I had dotted the "i's" and crossed the "t's". I sat back and watched the telephone polls drift by and the road we'd been on sail under us and I told Him that I knew I was a sinner and that I needed a Savior and that He had sent His only Son Jesus to die on a cross for my sin. That Jesus took my sin on Himself; that He took my place and that I accepted Him as my Savor. I asked God to forgive me of my sins and to come into my life.
I knew in my heart that I was already saved but, it was good to verify it.
Why did Jesus have to be crucified? Why did there have to be a sacrifice? It goes back to the Garden and the Curse. Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us, for it is written 'cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'". In the book of First John 4:10 it says, "God sent His son to be the atonement for our sins" and I Peter 2:24 says "He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness".
Crucifixion was one of the most horrible forms of death ever devised. It was designed to be a lingering death. The guilty was first beaten with a whip of braided leather with bones and metal at the tips. Jesus was stripped naked, secured with ropes and beaten. A crown of thorns was smashed upon his head as a symbol of the curse ("you shall have thorns"). He was forced to carry the cross beam to the site of execution and became too weak; another man had to carry it some of the way for him. Jesus was nailed to a tree for us. He was cut and opened before all. Holy Scriptures tell us that he was so badly disfigured that his face didn't even look like that of a man. Jesus took our punishment on that cross. He was the perfect sacrifice because he was God in the flesh. He was holy and pure and blameless.
How do we obtain God's righteousness to be in right standing with Him? How do we become forgiven? When we accept this gift of salvation, of forgiveness, through faith in Jesus. We are no longer condemned. We now can eat from the Tree of Life. Jesus is our Tree of Life.
After Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after he was crucified, the apostle Peter said, "There is no other name under Heaven, given to men, whereby you must be saved."
In my next post I will write about faith.
What is faith? What does faith mean to you?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trees ~ Part 2

The name Eden means voluptuous, delight, luxury or finery. 
In our Genesis story, God formed man from the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. God placed this man He called Adam in this beautiful garden called Eden. There were all kinds of trees "that were pleasing to look at and good for food".  Here in Eden, Adam and his companion Eve enjoyed talking with God. They experienced peace, perfection, plenty and pleasure on a perfect planet.

In this perfect garden of God were two distinct trees. These two trees were named the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the other tree was called The Tree of Life. These two trees play a role in our destiny.
In Genesis chapter 2, God tells Adam (and Eve) that they can eat from any tree in Eden except from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God allows them to have a choice and a free will. They could trust Him and have Faith in Him to be truthful or they could chose to do as they pleased. He told them of the consequences of eating from the Tree if they disobeyed. 
Genesis chapter 2 verse 17 says, "...for when you eat of it, you will surely die". Unfortunately, we know what happens next. 

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that Satan was in Eden, the Garden of God, and was beautiful to look at. The apostle Paul writes in Second Corinthians chapter 11 verse 14, that "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light". It would be natural to think that a spirit being so evil would also look ugly but, this is not the case with the fallen angel Satan. Genesis chapter 3 tells us the story of how sin entered our world. The serpent (Satan) said to the woman, "Has God said you shouldn't eat of every tree in the garden?" Eve said, "We may eat of the trees but of the fruit of the Tree in the middle of the garden, God told us we shouldn't eat of it or even touch it or we will die." Satan replied, "Oh, you won't surely die! God knows in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods knowing good and evil." Eve saw that the Tree was good for food, nice to look at and a tree to be desired to make one wise so, she took a fruit, took a bite and handed it to Adam and he ate it too. Their minds were opened and they knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves together to make aprons and hid among the trees from God when they heard his voice in the garden. God called to Adam, "Where are you?"  Adam replied, "I heard your voice and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid."  God asked, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the Tree I told you not to eat of?" Adam says, "That woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit of the Tree and I did eat it". God says to Eve, "What have you done?" Eve says, "The Serpent deceived me and I did eat." God made garments of skin (the first sacrifice) for Adam and Eve and clothed them. Then He said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever." So God banished them from the Garden of Eden and placed a cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

The Devil didn't tempt Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Life because it wasn't prohibited. They would not have sinned if they had eaten from it. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was truly a tree of death. The death was a spiritual death. Their disobedience came with a cost and separated them from their creator God. They listened to the voice of the Tempter and began to doubt the goodness of God. God then immediately removed the Tree of Life because He was not going to allow them to eat of it and live forever in sin. This was an act of mercy. If they had eaten from the Tree of Life, earth would have become a living hell; they would have lived forever in sin without a way out. Adam and Eve disobeyed God's only rule. They acted on their own will, their own desire, instead of trusting in God's perfect will for them. Because of this, sin entered the world.
The book of Romans says in chapter 5 verse 12, "Just as sin entered the world through one man, (Adam and Eve) and death through sin, in this way death came to all men (humankind), because all sin."

Because of sin our planet and people suffer from a curse. Sin has separated us from God our Creator. We are encumbered with the cares of life. We contend with thorns and weeds; we have pain in childbirth; we work hard and face temptations and sin each day. We suffer from sadness, illness, loneliness, loss, grief, pain, and death. The punishment for sin is death. God was right.
I think Eve was hopeful that the birth of a son would help restore her relationship with God. She named her first son Cain which means 'to create'. In Genesis chapter 4 Eve says, "With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man". But, by the time Able was born, I think the realization of her disobedience had sunk in. The name Able means, 'to act emptily' or 'all is vanity'.
Sin separates us from God but, God in His great love and mercy has created a way back to Him.
In my next post, I will write about how God reached out to me and showed me The Way back to Him.
In the meantime, feel free to comment. Whether positive or negative, I would love to hear what you think.
Until then, blessings in the journey.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Trees Have Changed My Life ~ Part 1

I have always loved trees. I was born and lived most of my life in Southern California. As you probably know, California gets very little rain, usually 9 to 11 inches a year and trees are scarce in certain areas. When I was young, we had a number of trees on our property. In our small backyard we had the most amazing rubber tree.

This tree was tropical. It had wide, glossy leaves which were a deep green color.
Up high a few of the branches had grown into a square shape. This spot became the perfect chair for me. I'm not sure how I got up into this tree but, I have many fond childhood memories of sitting in it and thinking my childish thoughts.
Trees are special. I've learned a lot about life from them. It's important to have roots. If you really believe in something, don't be afraid to go out on a limb. Sometimes you have to shed your old bark in order to grow. Grow where you are planted. It's okay to be a late bloomer. Avoid people who try to cut you down. You can't hide your true colors as you approach the autumn of your life.
It is more important to be honest than poplar.
Trees are solid. There are a lot of them. They capture energy from the sun and help us have the air we breathe. They provide beauty, shade, food, nuts, berries, oil, syrup, fuel, housing for people, birds, animals and other plants.

They have character. No two trees are exactly alike. Trees can be climbed, protected, lived in and even driven through.

We tie things on them (yellow ribbons, signs, tire swings), carve lovers names on them, nail up signs on them and even cut them down and decorate them.

We use them to make houses, floors, roofs, cabinets, doors, chairs, tables, stairs,

cutting boards, bowls, boats,

shoes, coffins, wreaths, and my favorite ~ books and shelves to put them on.

In 1913 the poet Joyce Kilmer wrote the poem "Trees"

"I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me but, only God can make a tree".

Trees play a major role in the Holy Scriptures. From the first book Genesis to the last book Revelation trees are mentioned. I've counted 42 types of trees in scripture. Two are given proper names and there are over 300 references to trees, wood and seeds.
The Bible tells us that trees were created by God on the third day of creation and are made for His glory.

Noah built an ark from trees; Aaron had a staff made of wood; Sacrifices were burned on wood; Zaccheaus climbed up a sycamore tree for a better view of Jesus; Palm leaves were waved in joyful triumph when Jesus passed by; and most importantly, Jesus bore our sins when He was nailed and hung on a tree.

Trees play a major role in the history of humankind.
In my next post, I'll continue to write about how they have played a major role in my life.
Until then, blessings in the journey.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cape Cod in Spring

 I am renewed at the seaside. Cape Cod, Massachusetts in spring is emerging from the harshness of winter. The temperature rises, the ice and snow has melted and the horseshoe crabs come out to mate. 
Somethings never change. The sea changes each moment. 

 Why is it that those closest to us hurt us the most deeply? Do I set my expectations too high and then am disappointed? What I love about this place is the ability to feel alone. I mean really alone. I suppose it is a different environment in summer.
 To be able to be alone with my thoughts, to cry out to G*D. To pray, or praise, or petition Him is good to do alone. It was worth waking at 4:44 when all the rest were still dreaming dreams and put on my pink, water shoes, my jacket with pockets and drive with the dog down to the sea.

 The sea gave the dog a gift. A tennis ball washed up and he played fetch with me until the smell of a dead gull caught his attention. We walked together, the dog and me in our own and different thoughts. What do dogs dream of? I know ours loves to chase UPS trucks and Volkswagen's. He loves to lick the bacon grease out of the pan. He loves leather, work gloves. He loves to chase birds and cats. He likes to be with his pack. I am alpha to him.
 The sea gave me gifts too. Empty shells, the sunrise, a lone fisherman who greeted me with a smile, cool sand beneath my feet and the ever constant sounds of the waves of water lapping the shore.  It also gave me the gift of solitude. My life is ever noisy, ever busy, ever constant movement. My quiet times are rare and as summer vacation draws near, even rarer.

 I am in the midst of tremendous change. I am leaving the sea I love. I am leaving the garden of roots that go deep. I am leaving and change will occur. It is inevitable. Friendships will change because of distance. Not the distance of our hearts, the distance of proximity. I am grieving. Yes, we'll have Facebook. Yes, we'll have email and snail mail. But, we won't have the spontaneity of watching a matinee together, of going out for tea, to meeting each other at the used book store or even sharing the same weather.
I am leaving one of my dearest friends. She is my soul sister. I miss her already. I'm one to have a very small circle of friends who really know me. She is one.

There are people who have known me for years and they REALLY don't KNOW me! Or maybe they really don't UNDERSTAND me. Maybe that is the difference. Then there are those dear people we connect with immediately. Deep to deep.
Life is predictable in its unpredictability. I began reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking a few nights ago. She opens with, "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends".
Thankfully, I have prepared for this change.
The reason I have not been posting as often is we are moving to the middle, north of our country.
A new adventure awaits.
I have never been far from the sea. Soon I will be.