Wasting Away

I had one of those “wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4.16, ESL) experiences today.

I’m trying to gather things I’ll need for the July Poland mission together ahead of time. (See sidebar.) While trying to choose some socks at Stein-Mart I noticed that the printing on the labels all of sudden resembled the view through a kaleidoscope rather than simple English type. I know what that means for me now that I’ve been through it numerous times – migraine!

It’s crazy really. For years my wife, Sandra, suffered with migraines that knocked her flat for a day or two. We asked both God and the Docs for help for so long and then – sort of all of a sudden as well – it was solved for her. But some time later I began to experience that kaleidoscope-vision-experience and the headache that follows it. My experience isn’t nearly as serious as Sandra’s was, but still it is a hassle and it has been strangely more frequent lately. It stands out for me as stark evidence of the wasting away reality none of us can avoid.

From the moment of conception our biological clock starts ticking down those seconds from the personal allotment we each have to draw (Psalm 139.16). Time is such an unfriendly escort along the earth journey. Each heartbeat, while it sustains us, also takes something from us. And aging is such an affront to our sensibilities we become vulnerable to the same demons that haunted Ponce De Leon, or worse (Botox?).

Why is it so? Simply because we weren’t made for this. We are like fish out of water or butterflies in a petrified garden, dying to taste the saltwater and the nectar of life. Life is what we were made for and this environmental deprivation we must live with for now only heightens our awareness that things are not right in this world. We groan or whine at that awareness or we draw hope from it.

Even now as the pain begins to seep deeply into the core of my brain where it will reside and percolate for the next 36+ hours, I coach myself to stand firm in the hope, that anchor in the storm. I tell myself that it’s all about wasting away. The more this vessel wears away, the closer I get to full experiential disclosure of abundant life.

Thank you, wasting away. You are making room for more of eternity!

Life as a Good Tree

“So they will be called oaks of righteousness…” Isaiah 61.3

I am struck by how often trees are used to teach us simple, profound truths.

Recently Andrew Murray blessed me with another tree-truth from “The Master’s Indwelling” by suggesting that every oak tree, from the young sapling to the ancient and mighty, is standing in the grave of an acorn. And it requires the acorn to die to being an acorn for the oak tree to have life. The acorn is buried and dies, and from its grave the new life form, the oak, emerges.

When Jesus announced the beginning of His ministry on earth He read from the scroll of Isaiah the passage we find in Isaiah 61. He confidently proclaimed that Isaiah’s prophetic words were about to be fulfilled in Him. God was preparing to raise up “oaks of righteousness.”

But there was a problem – the earth was (and is) full of bad trees. When Jesus said, “…make the tree good and its fruit good…for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12.33), He offers an obvious but implausible solution.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) In this excerpt from the book of John Jesus explained to those who would hear that the death-yields-life principle provides not only the source of a new life form but also serves as the multiplier effect for its abundance, the good fruit.  From the grave of the grain of wheat emerges a plant with many new grains, and new life is multiplied through that death.

How can you make a bad tree good? Better, how does God produce oaks of righteousness from bad trees? He plants a righteous Acorn and out of the grave of the righteous Acorn, Jesus, rise the oaks of righteousness! The nature of the acorn determines the nature of the new oak. The death and resurrection of righteous Christ becomes the new paradigm for the propagation of the new life form, the Oaks of Righteousness, the children of God, the Church.

Paul helps us better understand how God brings this about. “One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life…” (2 Corinthians 5.14- 15, MSG)

Let’s finish that verse, Isaiah 61.3: “So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.” While we are the beneficiaries of the grace and righteousness God imbues to us through Christ,this whole exercise is not ultimately about us.

Only Father can make a bad tree into a good tree. As Isaiah tells us these oaks of righteousness are “the planting of the Lord.” Having been planted in Christ we each stand in the grave of the Quintessential Acorn, Jesus Christ. We are glorious new creations who, in our unfolding glory, emanate the glory of the Father and His Son. We are blessed to become oaks of righteousness, but it is God’s glory that is multiplied and manifested in each and every one of His oaks as we bear much fruit.

For some crazy reason I still recall from my school days Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees.” Did you have to learn that one? If I may exercise a bit of poetic license, I’ll close with this:

Words are spun by hacks like me
But God alone transforms the Tree.

Beginning Again

Life is full of challenges.

I’m facing one now as I attempt to create this new website for Grace Link. I am assuming that my daughters can assist me with the creative element at the very least. For me creativity is deciding that a pink polo shirt would be okay to wear with khaki slacks to church! Oh I’ve been known to write poetry for special occasions like my daughters’ weddings. It was a way for me to avoid the other challenge of trying to officiate the services without turning into a blubbering, sentimental fool and for the family to avoid the embarrassment of having to bring in a reliever from the pastoral bullpen! Even then I could barely make it through reading the poems without slobbering all over myself.

The poems were decent I guess and it seemed somehow fitting that I try to express to my three girls my pride and how precious and unique each of them are. But it seems my creativity, such as it is, requires an impending crisis such as a wedding to get cranked up and running. Now I’m not suggesting that “creating” a website rises to the level of crisis as our weddings, but they worked out well mainly because the girls were so much a part of them. I pray they can bring  a similar level of creative expression and completion to this challenge too.