Grow Down to Grow Up

Amazing Trees

Have you heard of the upside down tree?  The huge baobab tree here in Southern Africa has the unique feature of looking like it is topsy turvy with its roots sticking up in the air.aaa tree blog2

Although all trees may not have the radical look of the baobab, each species has its fascinating uniqueness.  And just think of all the products that we get from trees: fruit, paper, furniture, food, healing ointments and syrups, just to mention a few.

There are 60,065 tree species in world. Every tree, like every human, is unique.

Trees in the Bible

The Bible makes significant mention of trees – literally and figuratively.  The Garden of Eden had two very famous trees; the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life which God has kept cultivated in heaven’s greenhouses until the New Jerusalem is established (Rev. 22:2).20190312_193311

But the Scripture also pictures a person as a tree. What kind of tree would you be?  A person who loves God’s Word is a healthy tree (Ps. 1). King Nebuchadnezzar was a tree that got cut down (Dan. 4). Jesus likened people to trees, and said you can tell what kind of tree they are by their fruit (Mt. 7:15-19).

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If you know anything about trees, you know that what is happening under the surface is even more important than what you see; the health of what you see is determined by what is happening down in the roots.

The same is true in the Christian life; what is happening in the privacy of our hearts and minds determines what is happening outwardly.

In the soil of my mind is Truth about God’s character, God’s work (in the world, in sending Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, even His work in my life), and God’s promises.Screen Shot 2020-03-04 at 3.13.06 PM.png

But in the soil of my mind there are also Lies of the world, the flesh and the devil driving fears, setting goals, promoting values, pushing attitudes about myself, about other ethnicities or classes, and about God.

My HEART is my core wanter that chooses where my roots are going to grow to draw up nutrients … either drawing on Truth or drawing on Lies. The Truth that my heart draws up feeds my THINKING, what I meditate on in my free time.

My THINKING in turn shapes my DESIRES; here is where the tree branches out – I have desires, drives, for what kind of wife I want to be, what kind of mom, my desires as a businessperson, desires for what I want to achieve as an athlete, desires for the depth of my walk with the Lord, desires of how I want my kids to turn out, desires for our holidays, cars, and homes.

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Those desires are fleshed out in my BEHAVIORS, moment by moment, enjoying things that line up with my desires, getting frustrated with things that are against them. Desires determine how I spend or save my money, how I perform at work, how often I share Christ or live like Jesus (hey, I am bearing some fruit!), how I interact with my teens, how I serve at church, when I get up and what I do first thing in the morning. Desires drive behavior.

EMOTIONS are the upper leaves, the tip of the iceberg. Toxic emotions flow all the way up from toxins in the heart, through bad thinking that skews my desires and can blend together with some other bad behaviors.

Then Comes The Test

Notice that when you look at both sides of the tree, they seem similar. A Christian can be drawing on lies that feed everything they do, and their leaves still seem pretty green. But then the winds, the waves, and the storms come.  Then comes the HEAT.

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It seems that only in the heat can we slowly see what a believer’s roots have been feeding on.  Jeremiah 17:5-10 speaks of two trees.

The first tree is in vv. 5-6: “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord [feeding on the lies of the world]. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

The green is gone; the leaves just fall away because they were fed by lies, not truth.

The second tree is in vv. 8-9: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

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Going For Thriving and Fruitful!

So, what is God’s desire for your life, a perfect life in His way of thinking?

  1. I must be born again by tapping into the Living Water (faith in Jesus Christ) – this requires a personal response to the gospel.
  2. I must be rooted, anchored and sustained by the Truth about God’s character, God’s work, and God’s promises – this requires a commitment to read His Word personally, to get a study Bible to read the notes, to listen purposefully and take notes during Bible studies and messages, maybe to listen to podcasts – whatever it takes to know our God well.
  3. My heart must constantly draw up Water and Truth to renew my mind, control my desires, and produce fruit – as the heat comes, it is critical for me to let go of lies I have been believing, keep my roots in the water and the Word of God, and in some cases, to even produce my best fruit in severe conditions.

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While these principles affect any behavior in your life, they certainly affect your ability to be th(i)nkful.  That’s why the th(i)nkful logo (bottom) is a tree.  Even with the heat bearing down on me, I know my God’s character, works, and promises and can think thanks in whatever circumstance He places me.

What Type of Tree Are You?

You may not be like the African baobab tree with your ‘crown’ looking like your ‘roots,’ but what would your ‘roots’ look like? Could your existing ‘roots’ support a mature tree that will stand strong in the heat and drought?

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The Logo of Your Life

The Th(i)nkful Logo

It’s here!!!

My Th(i)nkful logo has been up and running for a few weeks. It is so fun to see it in different styles. My desire was to have it look like an olive tree, representing Psalm 52:8-9a where it says: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever.”

The three parts of a tree – roots, trunk, and crown – are perfect to represent the process of being th(i)nkful.

  • I have to have roots in the Word of God and the Person of God in order to trust His character when heat and storms come, and I cannot figure out His ways;
  • Through the trunk, I pull up that trust from the roots and connect it with what is going on up in the crown. That pulling-up process occurs in my thinking and meditation.
  • Then, as a result of the trust developed in the roots, and the renewed thinking pulling up that trust, I am able to give thanks in the crown, having branches, leaves, and fruit that thrive, no matter the heat or storm.

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Trust. Think. Thank.

What Organizations Do

When I wanted the logo, the graphic artist asked me probing questions about what my purpose and values were in starting th(i)nkful. I had to really sit down and think about it. Organizations come up with logos and purpose statements to encapsulate their identity, and doing this takes time and thought.

  • A logo is a mark, emblem, image or symbol used to aid and promote public identification and recognition.  When a person sees that design, it is supposed to trigger a connection and help them remember what it represents.
  • A purpose statement is a succinct statement answering the question why an organization exists. It gives direction to employees and customers alike, and normally does not change over time.

Th(i)nkful is not an organization; it’s just a personal ministry – nothing fancy. But the exercise of encapsulating something big into a small space is challenging, and can be rewarding. Here’s a thought! Let’s apply these two tools to you, to your life.

You As A Logo

If you were represented in a logo, what it would look like? Stop laughing. Be serious. What’s a little image that would identify you as a person? Would you use hands, or a plant, or wood, or rock, or a river, or a feather, or the sun in your life-logo? Maybe fog? What colors would you use? Would your logo be complex or simple?

Maybe take a few minutes and sketch something.

Your Life Purpose Statement

In the Biblical Womanhood course that I taught at a Christian university, I required each learner to come up with an LPS – a Life Purpose Statement.  It needed to be short enough to remember but also encapsulate what their life was all about.

Why do you exist? Why did a sovereign and meticulously planning God who is infinite Mind place you on earth in your time and place?

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For Jesus-followers, there are two basic purposes that should flavor everything we do – to love God and love others (Luke 10:27), and to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) – but don’t just copy-paste those phrases into your purpose statement, since they apply to every Christian.

What is your unique purpose? Can you word-smith your statement to blend in ways in which you are individually wired or gifted to glorify God in your life? Take time with this. Try a first draft and come back to it in a day or two.  The journey is more important than the destination.

  • My LPS is : “To maintain an intimate walk with the Lord that will enable me to develop relationships with believers and unbelievers to create thirst for righteousness.”
  • My husband’s LPS is: “To walk, work, and worship in such a way as to bring about life-change towards Christlikeness in the life of every person and organization I come in contact with.”

To craft my LPS was an exercise that has left a profound impact on me. When I go to bed at night, I can do a quick check on my day to evaluate if I am accomplishing my purpose. Every day, I should be able to relate everything back to that purpose.

I challenge you to prayerfully come up with your own LPS and a logo that represents your LPS. Maybe post your LPS in the comments below.

A good way to come to the end of your life without regrets is to live on purpose.

 

 

 

Mystery in Trees

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I want to give you an amazing illustration of how thankfulness can affect your life. Trees. Crazy, you say? Just read on!

The machine within a tree

Trees have three main divisions: roots, trunk, and crown. The root system is not visible usually, but instead does its work underground, diligently absorbing and storing water and nutrients, and anchoring the tree as it grows.

The trunk is a place of navigation up and down.  Water and nutrients from the roots are brought up to the crown for photosynthesis and afterwards, sugar (glucose) is brought down to the roots for storage and growth. Hang on – don’t give up yet!Tree

The crown of the tree is where the mystery happens.  Leaves gather carbon dioxide from the air. As water combines with the carbon in the chlorophyll, and sunlight shines through, photosynthesis takes place, mysteriously changing carbon and water to glucose (energy sugar!) and oxygen (fresh air!). The glucose is transported down the trunk to the roots to help strengthen and grow the tree. The oxygen is released into the air.

All trees practice photosynthesis. Photo is the Greek word for “light” and synthesis is the Greek word for “putting together”.

Now that was a very quick, simplistic explanation of how a tree functions and lives.  Unless photosynthesis takes place, the tree will wither up and die.

Trees and being th(i)nkful

Let’s see how this illustrates the life-skill of being th(i)nkful. We begin at the bottom. Let the roots represent what you trust in.  If you are in Christ, you have been connected to the living water that was described in John 4:14. There is a good water source bubbling up from within.  Roots also anchor. When you are rooted in the Scriptures, through meditating on the promises of God and exercising personal trust in those promises, you are held fast in storms and gales of wind.

The trunk represents our thinking.  Our thoughts, navigation routes in our minds, run at incredible speed.  Unless the water and nutrients from the roots get connected to the crown, no life or growth will happen.  Therefore, the trunk is vital in moving spiritual water and nutrients from the roots to the crown.

The crown of the tree is our interaction with circumstances.  Intense heat and carbon are the hard things that happen to us.  But if we have been drawing up God’s truth and promises, the chlorophyll of thinking thanks turns those hard things into “grace things” – fresh air for other people and nutrients for our own soul!  The crown is where being th(i)nkful takes place, where we can turn around hard news and difficult days into spoken thanks and written praise.

There is a mystery that happens every time a tree engages in photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide and water change to sugar (glucose) and oxygen. When we connect thinking thanks with things that happen to us and express those things orally or in a written form, the Lord  changes the essence of those things to “food” that makes us stronger and “oxygen” to be released for others to benefit from.

Living out this truth

Let’s give an example. You are told that you have developed cancer (carbon dioxide).  In your thoughts you pull up from your spiritual roots promises that enable you to think thanks about this new challenge.  You begin to list things that you can be th(i)nkful for.

  1. My God is the blessed controller of all things
  2. I still have some time to fight hard this disease
  3. This news makes me long for heaven and the new body that Christ has promised
  4. I get the opportunity to be a testimony to others who are going through similar tests
  5. The Lord has promised to never leave me, nor forsake me ever
  6. I realize how valuable every day is and can live more on purpose without regrets

As I think thanks about this carbon dioxide in my life, the mysterious transformation takes place. God changes the carbon dioxide and water to become things that actually help me grow and also provide air for others to breathe. I am better for having gone through the hard things, if I am th(i)nkful, and others are made better as well.

VW with treesBy the way, I love trees. I also love VW bugs; it was the first car I ever owned.  As I cruise down the road of life, may I choose to be th(i)nkful about all the carbon that comes my way today. It makes the journey so much more enjoyable.