The Mulberry Tree

I am fascinated by the mulberry tree. As I went for a jog this morning, I was reminded of a phenomenon that I have always found interesting. When Susan and I lived in Canyon, we had a mulberry tree in our in our front yard and one in our back yard. All the leaves would be on the tree one day and they would all be on the ground the next day…literally, all of them. Today is that day. All of the mulberry trees in our neighborhood are shedding all of the leaves today. By the end of the day there will be few remaining leaves on any of the mulberry trees in Amarillo. (And, by the way, mulberry trees have an insane amount of leaves that all of a sudden you have to rake all at once!)

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I don’t know of any other tree like this. In our yard now, we have two oak trees and a locust tree (thankfully a beanless one). Each of those trees shed their leaves over a period of time. The leaves slowly turn colors and a few leaves fall each day. Not so with the mulberry. It just gets rid of all of them at once.

As I was jogging this morning, the gentle falling of the mulberry leaves reminded me of the incredible creation of God. Why does the mulberry tree lose all of its leaves in one day while the oak tree sheds its leaves over a period of time? And why do some trees not lose their leaves (or needles) at all?

It doesn’t matter. It’s just a curiosity. What is important is that God created an amazing universe. No two things are identical. All of God’s creation reacts in different ways to the changing of the seasons, to the day and the night, to the cold and the heat. God, in His infinite wisdom, created a vast world with so many variations of beauty and intrigue. To witness the complexity of life and the intricacies woven into our world makes me know that I serve a mighty Creator. I am so thankful to know and have a relationship with Almighty God. I am so privileged to know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a Father that loves me. If our Creator took such care in designing the changing of the seasons and the ways in which nature reacts to those changes, how much more must He care for me as one who is made in His image.

So, if you are blessed to have a mulberry tree in your yard and it has joined the ranks of the falling leaves, may it be a small reminder of the awesomeness of God’s creation. Now, do try to keep that in mind as you go through multiple boxes of yard bags and hours of your day raking up all those leaves…or perhaps it’s time to invest in a leaf blower!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth….Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:1, 31 NLT)

Settled In

It’s been over a month since my last post.  Susan and I are finally getting settled in.  Almost all of the boxes are out of the house and some of the pictures are even on the wall.  We won’t talk about the garage.  Our move back to Amarillo has been a tremendous process.  I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the elders of the Church of Christ at the Colonies for giving me a wonderful opportunity to work with the young families here and to also thank them for providing our family with a moving company.  What a blessing that was.

Last Friday, we had a get together for the young families here and we had a great turnout.  Several families came and we had a wonderful time of fellowship.  In March I will begin my first Bible class entitled “The Passenger Seat.”  We will look at what God’s purpose is for our lives and how we are to manage families and God in today’s fast-paced society. 

God has truly blessed our transition and I know that he will guide us as we continue to work in the Kingdom here in Amarillo.  May he also bless the work that is happening at West Freeway in Fort Worth.  The church has already been blessed by Britt Farmer and his family.  My prayers will always be with the church there.  We love and miss you.

May your 2012 be blessed and more importantly, may you continue in God’s service; reading the Word, serving the world and encouraging the weak. 

Reflections

I expected the day to be miserably hot.  It was the middle of the summer and I had a big job ahead of me.  It had already been an incredibly busy week…month…several months.  All the boxes were packed and it was time to load the U-Haul.  My family, for the first time, was making a major move.  We had made the decision for me to accept the position as Worship Minister at West Freeway Church of Christ, in Fort Worth, TX.  We made a conscious decision to leave all of our friends and everything we had known for the past 12 or so years.  We made a conscious decision for me to change careers and for Susan to become a stay-at-home mom.

On July 11, 2008 (the day after our son’s 1st birthday party surrounded by moving boxes), the skies were overcast and there was a drizzle in the air…much more comfortable for hard work than I was anticipating.  We got the U-Haul loaded and left the next morning to begin the newest phase of our life.

Over the last three years, my family has gained a beautiful little girl, lost a great dog and gained many, many friends (many of whom are more like family than friends).  We have rejoiced over many new births (both physical and spiritual) and we have wept over illnesses and deaths.  We have loved and we have been loved.  To count the ways in which we have been blessed is an impossible task, as is attempting to say thank you for each kindness shown to us over the past few years. 

I believe that God put us in this place for very specific reasons…some of which we may not realize for many years.  I know that I have grown in maturity and wisdom because of my experiences and relationships.  I know that my family is stronger because of the love that has been shown to us over the past three years.

Sunday (Dec. 25th) is my last day here at West Freeway and I will begin my work as Young Families Minister at The Church of Christ at The Colonies on January 1, 2012.  I believe that I could not effectively minister at The Colonies had I not first worked with the wonderful people of West Freeway.  Susan and I will be forever grateful for our time here.  We love you all.  Please continue to pray for us as we return to the place we like to call home.  We will likewise, continue to pray for you and for the work that you do for the kingdom of God. 

Come see us anytime and we will certainly be back to visit when time allows.

(I will continue to write my weekly blog.) 

Peace on Earth

Christmas.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Well, at least in my opinion and according to a popular Christmas song.  It’s a season of joy.  It’s a season of gatherings.  It’s a season of “peace.”  Another popular Christmas song boasts, “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all gracious King.”

Most people long for peace on Earth, and many also believe that Christ came to the earth to bring peace.  However, Jesus himself said something completely different.  He said, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!  Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53 NIV)

The peace that Jesus brought is not peace in the sense that there will be no more bickering or fighting; no hatred or disdain.  The peace that Jesus brought is a personal, internal, heartfelt peace…the peace of knowing that your soul is in the arms of the Savior.

The awesomeness of Christ is not in His birth.  Please understand that I’m not negating His miraculous birth and its importance.  In fact, I believe that it is wonderful to celebrate His birth because without his willingness to be born of a virgin, He could not have brought about salvation.  Yet, the awesomeness if Christ is His death, burial and resurrection.  A sinless life was sacrificed for our lowly sakes.  Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-3 NIV)

Indeed, Christ brought peace to this earth, but it is not the peace of all men getting along.  The peace that Christ brought is the peace of knowing that He is coming again and that He is taking His faithful home to live with Him in Glory.

Peace, perfect, peace,
In this dark world of sin:
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace,
By thronging duties pressed:
To do the will of Jesus this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace,
With sorrows surging round:
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

It is enough:
Earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heavens perfect peace.

May you know the peace of Christ.  May you be filled with the hope of everlasting life.  May you have true joy that supplies contentment.  May you know the Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Blue Skies & Rainbows

Today is the first time in several days that I have seen a blue sky.  There is not a cloud in the sky and the sun is shining brightly.  It is a beautiful, albeit cold, day.  While I am very thankful for the rain that God brought this past weekend, and while I will continue to pray for rain, it is wonderful to see the bright blue sky again.

The beauty of this morning got me to thinking about a song that I have sung for many years.

Blue skies and rainbows
And sunbeams from heaven,
Are what I can see
When my Lord is living in me.

I know that Jesus is well and alive today
He makes His home in my heart.
Nevermore will I be alone since He
Promised me that He never would part.

Studies show that moods and attitudes of people can be affected by variations in the weather.  Cloudy days tend to bring about lethargy, pessimism and sadness while sunny days tend to create more energy, optimism and happiness.

Although changes in weather can produce different emotions, when Christ lives in your heart, He provides a joy that cannot be suppressed by a cloudy day.  He brings a contentment that cannot be achieved by a worldly measure of success.  Christ provides a hope that cannot fade or diminish because it is a hope that promises a glorious life that will follow this one; a life that is free from pain, anguish and grief.  To those who allow Christ to dwell in their hearts, He has given the knowledge of the magnificent riches that await us in heaven.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV)

Anyone can recognize the beauty of a sunny day or a day when dreams are fulfilled.  Only a child of God can realize the joy of the promise of everlasting life!  May each of your days be filled with the sun shining down on you through the love and grace of Christ Jesus!

Waiting and Worrying

Teach me Lord to wait
Down on my knees
‘Til in your own good time
You answer my pleas
Teach me not to rely
On what others do
But to wait in prayer
For an answer from you.

They that wait upon the Lord
Shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings as an eagle
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint
Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait.

Teach me Lord to wait
While hearts are aflame
Help me humble my pride
And call on your name
Keep my faith renewed
Keep my eyes on Thee
Let me be on this earth
What you want me to be.

They that wait upon the Lord
Shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings as an eagle
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint
Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait.

Patience is not one of my strong suits.  I like everything to happen in my time and in the way I think it ought to occur.  It’s funny how God doesn’t work that way.  Instead, God’s timing is perfect.  He has a plan and He carries out that plan in the way in which it works best.  I was reminded of this just yesterday.

My family is preparing to move to Amarillo at the first of the year.  We put our house on the market with a realtor on October 27th.  Since that time, there have only been three showings.  I have prayed every day that the right buyer would come along so that I would not have to worry about our house.  (What makes it harder is that our previous home sold to the first person that looked at it after only being on the market for five days…that spoiled us a bit.)  After who knows how many times I have prayed about this, we received an offer on our house.  It’s not a perfect offer and it is still in negotiation. I’m not sure what the end result will be of this offer; what I do know is that God is present and working in our life.

I spend so much time worrying about the future, about finances, about the church, about the generalities of life.  It’s important to remember that it is God who makes the world spin and He is in ultimate control of our life (if we allow him to be).  When we put our trust in the Lord, things work out.  It might not always be exactly the way we pictured it or the end result we expected, but it always works out. 

Jesus said,

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)

When you truly turn your struggles and worries over to God, the burden of them is lifted from your shoulders.  I don’t know what God’s ultimate plan is for our house, but I do know that it is in His hands.  He is powerful enough to take care of our burdens and to remove our stresses.  I choose to wait on the Lord and to give Him my worries.

The Joy of Gratitude

I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to see the glass as half empty rather than half full.  I don’t like that about myself.  At the same time, I think that our society overall has a pessimistic outlook on life…although that is no excuse. 

There are always things that can be different; always something that needs to be changed.  The key is to be grateful for what we have.  Although the world tells us that we won’t be happy until we have all the best toys and the largest home to put them in, the truth is that along with gratitude comes contentment. 

It could be that you are pushing a broom on the graveyard shift.  Isn’t it a blessing that you have a job that allows you to provide for your family!  Maybe your car is ten years old and there’s a great new body style on the new model.  On the other hand, your car is paid for and it doesn’t burn a drop of oil.

Michael Hyatt’s latest blog stated,

“Someone once wisely told me, ‘You won’t get what you don’t have until you learn to be grateful for what you do have.’ I think that is so true. We so often focus on our lack–what’s missing.

For example, we complain about our lack of a vibrant, real relationship with God. We wish our church were bigger–or smaller. We wish we had a spouse. Or perhaps we wish we didn’t have a spouse. Or maybe we want to change our spouse.

Or we wish we could get a different job, a different boss, or a bigger paycheck. We wish we had more interesting work, more sensitive coworkers, or different hours.

We wish we could live in a different city, a different part of the city, or a different house. We complain about our furniture, our car, and all our other stuff.

To state the obvious, this is not healthy. And do we really think this complaining spirit will lead to better relationships or more abundance?”

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

Whether we are in a time of plenty or a time of need, God has blessed us with life and with hope through Christ Jesus.  There are times in life when it is hard to see the positive.  There are also times in life where positive is all around us and yet we cannot look past our own selfish desires and recognize the abundance that God has prospered us. 

I would like to challenge you to take a moment and write down twenty items that you are thankful for right now.  Here’s my list (although it’s not close to exhaustive):

  1. Christ’s sacrifice for me and the relationship He has offered to me
  2. God’s Word and the hope that it brings to all humanity
  3. My children and their wonderful curiosity and overabounding love
  4. Susan’s love for me and our kids
  5. My parents and the good relationship that we share
  6. A nice home
  7. Plenty of clothing
  8. Many friends who support me and laugh and cry with me
  9. Reliable transportation
  10. Music
  11. Beauty of creation
  12. A job that provides for my family
  13. My church family for always loving and supporting me
  14. Cooler weather
  15. New opportunity in Amarillo that begins in January
  16. Delicious food
  17. Chocolate
  18. My iPhone – it’s a lot of fun and it provides tremendous convenience
  19. The Benevolence Center and all of the wonderful people who give their time to help those who are less fortunate
  20. Technology and all of the conveniences it provides