This is part of a series, Splendor and Majesty, Knowing God Through His Magnificent Creation. This contribution is by my dear sister in Christ, Jessica Hughes. I hope this encourages you to see God throughout your day in His General Revelation of Himself through His creation.
I have always loved trees. I was born in Pennsylvania, which literally mean’s Penn’s (William Penn’s) Trees. If you’ve ever been there, there are just so many trees. People out here California) talk about forests, but where I grew up we talk about “the woods”. One of my favorite things as a little girl was to spend my days playing up in the woods behind our house. We lived at the base of a hill called Boulder Hill, which was odd because it had far more trees than boulders. Perhaps they ran out of tree names for hills in such a vastly tree-covered region.
At the top of Boulder Hill was my best friend’s house, and in the middle of the hill ran a creek amidst the woods. My best friend, Danielle, and I would meet in the middle, splash in that creek, and then hike those woods until we got lost. And then we would slowly wander till we found our way out again, usually just in time to part ways and head home for dinner. We climbed old sturdy trees and made tree houses among the wide, lofty branches. We snapped off old dead limbs to make “log cabins” (usually more like a 6 inch high perimeter of a cabin because young minds bore quickly). We bent young spry twigs to create romantic leafy archways along our footpaths. And we sat on stumps for many a tea party.
Naturally I am drawn to the way God talks about trees in Scripture. In Isaiah 55 the trees of the field clap their hands in joy. In Psalm 1, people are pictured like trees planted by a river, they nourished and strengthened as they drink up the Lord’s laws and meditate on them. Something fascinating about trees you may or may not know – did you know you can tell how old a tree is by counting its rings? And did you know you can tell how rainy the different years of that tree’s life were by how wide or narrow the rings are? In seasons where the tree receives much water, it grows fast and the rings are narrower. And in seasons where there is drought, the rings are wider. These seasons are necessary for the tree to be strong. It needs seasons of speedy growth where it becomes taller and bears a lot of fruit. And it also needs seasons that are quiet and slower, so that its wood can solidify and become stronger.
In one of my favorite books, outside of the Bible, Green Letters by Miles Stanford, the author quotes A. H. Strong telling this story, “A student asked the President of his school whether he could not take a shorter course than the one prescribed. ‘Oh yes,’ replied the President, ‘but then it depends upon what you want to be. When God wants to make an oak, He takes an hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months.’ Strong also wisely points out to us that ‘growth is not a uniform thing in the tree or in the Christian. In some single months there is more growth than in all the year besides. During the rest of the year, however, there is solidification, without which the green timber would be useless. The period of rapid growth, when woody fiber is actually deposited between the bark and the trunk, occupies but four to six weeks in May, June, and July.’ “
I wonder sometimes what my rings would look like if I were a tree. I think mountaintop experience after mountaintop experience might be a refreshing season with rich rains. In my teen years especially I think I had many of these. The rings were probably narrow as the years zipped by, but how I grew tall and was eager to produce spiritual fruit in my life. But then have come the valleys, and oh there have been many valleys. The rains were a little more spread out, and I wondered at times how long until the Lord would grant me rain again.
Like David wandering in the wilderness of Judah, I have said in my heart, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1-2). But it’s there that my rings become wider and stronger. The dry valleys are a time of revealing whether what I learned up in the mountains has taken root in my heart.
Stanford also writes in Green Letters, “In that the Husbandman’s method for true spiritual growth involves pain as well as joy, suffering as well as happiness, failure as well as success, inactivity as well as service, death as well as life, the temptation to shortcut is especially strong unless we see the value of and submit to the necessity of the time element; in simple trust resting in His hands, ‘Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6). And, dear friends, it will take that long! But since God is working for eternity, why should we be concerned about the time involved? …’So often in the battle,’ says Austin-Sparks, ‘we go to the Lord , and pray, and plead, and appeal for victory, for ascendancy, for mastery over the forces of evil and death, and our thought is that in some way the Lord is going to come in with a mighty exercise of power and put us into a place of victory and spiritual ascendancy as in an act. We must have this mindset corrected.”
He does lead us to the valleys sometimes. It’s not by chance, it’s by design. Because He knows that we need wide rings too. I get impatient with the Lord and have thrown my fits that He didn’t pull me out of those valleys as quickly as I’d like. I’m learning to appreciate that He does all things in His time. He is God, He does it His way. In the theme of trees, Ezekiel says it this way, “And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:24).
In my driest valleys is when I’ve truly come to understand who is the Lord, and who I am. And just to be clear, this is love. He doesn’t send us into dry seasons or valleys for entertainment or out of harshness. He tenderly walks with us through those seasons, with His glory and our joy in the forefront of His mind. He knows where the still waters and green pastures are, we need only to trust Him and continue faithfully at His side.
So, what would you look like as a tree? What would be the pattern of your rings? If you’re in a season where the rings are needing some widening, be patient with the Lord and don’t fight Him for that time (preaching to myself here). And if you’re in a season of frequent rains and narrow rings, praise the Lord! May your fruit be ever abundant in this time.
You can read more of Jessica’s blog here; jessmhughes.blogspot.com
If you are in a dry season and would like prayer, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check back regularly for more refreshing waters or sign up to receive some Soul Water right in your in box.
My name is Keri Willis. I am a semi-retired educator. I spent a great deal of my career working with adults with developmental disabilities and many years in elementary education, in the classroom and as an administrator. My main ministry now is coordinating the women’s ministry for our church in San Diego, CA. I have been married thirty-four years and have two grown and married children. I now have a head of full grey hair and good ideas.
I believe we are created to use our gifts and to be creative. That comes in many forms for me. I love to woodwork and use power tools, design, decorate, garden, and create new recipes. And I love to write. One major lesson I have learned in my writing journey is that I need to be still and listen to hear God’s voice before I am prepared to put into words the message he has instilled in my heart. This has been much easier since I am no longer working full time, but it is so easy to get distracted and not listen, which almost always ends with an empty page in the form of writer’s block.
While I have written many articles for newsletters and local newspapers, I did not consider myself a writer until I self-published my first book, Teapots and Power Tools. https://www.amazon.com/Teapot…/dp/1466458763/ref=sr_1_3…
The idea emerged as I was working on a project in my garage. I had worship music playing, power tools out and saw dust flying. I glanced up and saw my delicate teapot sitting on my router table. The message was clear. Sometimes we are using the power tools God gives us and sometimes he just wants us to be still and have tea with him. The book became the foundation for a women’s retreat, and then my amazing niece helped me work through publishing it on Create Space (now KDP).
At least five other projects are in different stages of production. I joined hope*writers to help motivate me and keep me focused and accountable. I am still trying to figure out the whole website and blog thing. That is my next goal for myself; that and finish writing at least one of my projects!
Teapots and Power Tools: Effectively using the tools God has equipped you with, while taking time to “Be Still and Know That He is God”
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Used with permission from Keri L. Willis.