The Red “X”

For days now – months actually, I’ve driven by these two trees.  I always notice them, as each one displays a big red “X” on its trunk.  I’ve wondered if the markings were graffiti, or if the trees were diseased and needed treatment, or if they were perhaps marked for cutting.  However, I surmised that if they were to be cut down, they would not need large red X’s to distinguish them – as they were the only trees in this particular front yard.

Each time I went by these trees I became more curious.  They were singled out.  But why?  What did they do to deserve this big red X?  Why were they seemingly chosen?

After driving by this site for so long, I decided two days ago that I would take a picture of these trees, as they were beginning to teach me lessons.  I was learning each time I cruised by.  So, armed with my camera I pulled into the driveway beside the trees and rolled (pushed the button actually) down the window of my car.  The wind was blowing, and I heard a wonderfully sweet, melodic sound coming from one of the branches.  I explored further to find that wind chimes were producing this beautiful sound.   It was a lovely moment, as I sat listening to the song from the red X’d tree as I snapped its picture.   I felt sort of strangely attached to these trees that had taken my attention.

Today I drove back down this road, only to be stopped by a police officer directing traffic.  Two large trucks were in the road and a few branches were scattered here and there.

“My” trees were gone!  Kapoom!….Gone!…Nothing left!   In my personalization of these trees, I hoped they were marked because they were “chosen” for something special.   Sometimes being chosen feels good, and sometimes it’s hard.  I think of the scripture in John 15:19

    If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

God has, in a sense, put a big red “X” on me.  Through the blood of Jesus, he chose me to be his daughter.  He chose me to be part of his family, and to live with him and be loved by him.  That feels really good.  Yet, when we live for God, the world doesn’t understand.  That sometimes doesn’t feel good.

In a way, each of us is marked with a red “X”.  God has chosen each of us; however we must decide to choose God in order to have a relationship with Him.  We can’t choose God and the world.  We belong to one or the other.   Jesus gives a sobering lesson using the visual of a tree.  Matthew 7:17-19

    Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

This makes me all the more eager to guard my heart, so that it will bear good fruit.  Prov. 4:23 NRSV  23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,  for from it flow the springs of life.

As long as I am standing I pray that, like the wind chimes in the tree, a melody from the fruits of God’s Spirit can come from my life – and that it is pleasing and delightful to Him.  “My” tree with the red X may be gone, but I’d like to think many a home can be warmed by the wood it produced.  Like the wood that comes from that tree, I long to be useful in fueling the spark that ignites and warms human hearts for Him.

Excuse Me, There’s a Turkey at Your Door!

On the way home from lunch today I noticed a visitor at my neighbor’s front door.   He was patiently waiting, looking as though he had just rung the doorbell while waiting to be invited in.  The strange thing about this scene was that the visitor was a turkey.  Yes, a large, ugly turkey!  My neighbor had no idea that a turkey was on the other side of her front door, as turkeys don’t come calling every day.  I laughed as I envisioned her surprise upon opening the door.  Who would have thought a turkey would be lurking outside the front door?

Fact is, I can be unaware of what is outside my door at any given moment.  For all I know, a turkey could be at my door.  We usually don’t know what waits on the other side of our door.  The scriptures speak of several things waiting behind our doors.  Three stood out to me.

Door number one:

Genesis 4:7

    If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Sometimes, temptation that can lead to sin is waiting for us, ready to devour us.  It’s like finding a skunk, hyena or even a lion, crouching behind your door.  Don’t let it in and try to make it your pet.  It will stink, or worse yet destroy you.  1 Peter 5:8-9

    Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. [9] Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

I pray to be self-controlled and alert, so I don’t open the door to that which can spiritually harm me.

Door number two:

Truth be told, opportunities may be waiting for you outside of your door.

Matthew 7:7-8

  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. [8] For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

When we inquire of God, and seek a relationship with Him, He eagerly awaits us.  If we fail to seek Him, or inquire of Him, we will miss out on untold blessings and privileges….which last through eternity.

1 Cor. 16:7-9

    I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. [8] But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, [9] because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

Effective opportunities for sharing the amazing promises of Jesus, which can change the course of eternity in people’s lives, may also be waiting outside of our door.  Again, I must be alert and prayerful to see these.

And behind door number three:

Rev. 4:1

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”…..v. 8

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

 “Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.”….v. 11

    “You are worthy, our Lord and God,

        to receive glory and honor and power,

    for you created all things,

        and by your will they were created

        and have their being.”

Sometimes I can miss the big picture, the spiritual reality, which is right in front of me.  This can happen most often when I become distracted with the details and busyness of things that won’t matter or exist a hundred years from now.  I pray that each day my eyes and heart are awakened to the “heavenly, spiritual realm” that is true reality, and the only thing that really matters.

What do you see behind your front door?



Clarence’s Shoebox

Today, during our staff meeting, we had an opportunity to share our appreciation for a dear sister, Laura Webster.  It was Laura’s birthday….and a big one.  An elder’s wife, she is a beautiful woman, inside and out.  As her strong and burly husband, Clarence, shared about her with tears he recounted a story about a shoe box.

As a young man, Clarence assumed he would try to make his life work by entering the military.  His mother became disabled, and called him into her room one day.  Under her bed was an old shoe box, which she pulled out to show her son.  Upon opening the box, and seeing a sea of green, he was dumbfounded to discover that the box was full of hundred dollar bills.  His mom had saved this money throughout her life, and presented it to Clarence.  She implored him to use this to go to school.  He did just that.

It was at university that Clarence met his wife, who impacted him greatly, especially when she became a Christian after they were married.  This led to his own decision to become a Christian.  Clarence recently buried his mother, and even more recently his brother, both of whom had followed suit as they learned the Scriptures.  His sons and daughters- in- law are wonderful Christian men and women as well, and his grandchildren are being raised by faithful, confident parents.  So many lives in many places have been touched by this couple.  For Clarence, it began with the shoe box.

We may never know how an opportunity we afford someone can impact them and countless individuals for generations to come.  Clarence’s mom did not have much money, but decided she would scrimp and save to give her son a chance to succeed.  Similarly, I’m reminded of a woman in the Bible whom Jesus said would be told about everywhere the Gospel was preached.

Mark 14:3-9

    While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

    [4] Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? [5] It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

    [6] “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. [8] She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. [9] I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Her sacrificial giving “what she could”, (though it was not a lot by human standards) had a tremendous impact on Jesus and on those who heard of her actions.  Even today, years later, this woman inspires me to give what I can.  And Clarence’s shoebox reminds me that what you and I may be able to give can have a ripple effect of good that may make an eternal  difference in many lives – in ways that we may never  even see.

Eccles. 11:6

    Sow your seed in the morning,

        and at evening let not your hands be idle,

    for you do not know which will succeed,

        whether this or that,

        or whether both will do equally well.