Lessons from a Christmas Tree
You can laugh, but cut me some slack. I have lived the desert for more than two decades and the sun shines here 300 days out of the year. This means that I reflexively put on sun glasses at least 90% of the time without even looking at the weather.
But this afternoon that practice almost gave me a heart attack. Our potted tree out front looked really brown! Now I know it’s not the healthiest tree (as we discussed last week), but it looked like it was about ready to croak. But when I took off my glasses to get a better look – it was magically fixed! The tree looked at least passably green again.
It is hard to imagine (ha, ha) but my glasses were telling me lies about the world around me. I wonder how often “my glasses” are telling me lies. How often I am seeing a distorted picture of God’s working? How often am I so self-centered, everything looks brown when it is really green? How often am I ignoring God’s wisdom in favor of my own because I just can’t see how His way will work? I think it may be more often than I want to admit.
"Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way."
– Psalms 119:37
Lessons from a Christmas Tree
We bought a live Christmas tree last year and now it has made itself at home on the front porch. Unfortunately, it is starting to brown after all these months in a pot…it doesn’t like it, imagine that. And we laugh.
But you know a lot of people treat their relationship with Jesus that way. A tree needs consistent water, daily sunshine, and nutritious soil to sink deep roots so it doesn’t blow over with every storm (which is what happens to our poor neglected tree in the pot). A Christian needs the water of Word of God, the daily presence of the Lord in prayer, and Biblical teaching and fellowship to build their faith.
A few of us ignore our Bibles, pray only at mealtimes…when we remember, seek out solid teaching and fellowship only on Sundays (or realistically, maybe just Christmas and Easter) and then walk away. We act like God’s way doesn’t work – He is not enough.
My tree is not getting enough but it’s not because there isn’t enough water, sun, and soil. It is because the poor thing is stuck in a pot and in the pot there isn’t enough. Sometimes our faith is not getting enough, not because God isn’t enough, but because our faith is stuck in a pot of self-imposed drought, dark and famine. Trees are not designed for pots. God made them for forests. Faith is not designed for mediocrity. God made it for authenticity.
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” -- 1 Corinthians 16:13
Some Ideas to Focus Praying
Get some place where you won’t be distracted: like a library, park, prayer closet, or on a hike.
Start with thanksgiving – God has blessed us all richly.
Praise God in song. Use a hymnal if you would like.
Try praying in 5 minute intervals for different topics like your family, community, state, church, ministries and nation.
Write out your prayers.
Read and pray scripture out loud.
Keep prayer requests in constant view (such as those from friends, your church, and ministries you support).
Draw while you pray.
Play instrumental music in the background. Elijah did this when seeking the will and counsel of God (2 Kings 3:15).
Listen in silence to revel in the presence of God and practice hearing His voice.
* Take a literal walk with God and purposefully get alone with Jesus.
* Try writing or drawing your prayers and spiritual truths God is teaching you.
* Memorize and meditate on Scripture possibly even writing or drawing.
* Do devotions differently.
* Pray and/or study with someone else to invite accountability and encouragement.
* Serve others in a special way.
* Ask hard questions. There are questions in this life and in our faith that we could spend a lifetime contemplating and never fully understand. What is the nature of the Trinity? Why does God allow evil? How does freewill mesh with God’s will and sovereignty?
* Take a spiritual retreat. It can be short, like 30 minutes while the kids are out, or a whole weekend. Monasteries, National Parks, or actual retreat centers are all options.
* Dedicate an hour to pray and enjoy the presence of God.
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.