Teaching at the Tree is communicated in a practical, easy to understand way that is relevant to your everyday life. It’s not religious jargon, just the truth of God’s word presented in a loving and challenging way.
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I wake with a purpose to clean. Not because I feel my house is particularly dirty, but because it’s been a little while since I’ve mopped the floors so it’s probably time to do so. The cavalry has arrived home (aka Husband), allowing me a chance to get some things accomplished since all babes are out of school for the summer. I need to run some errands, go to the grocery, and situate dinner plans so I’ll be quick about my cleaning.
I turn on worship music and get to work because doing work with my hands gives me a desire to worship Him with my heart. (Plus, work can be tedious at times and we need the extra spiritual “oomph” to encourage. Can I get an amen?) I fill my bucket with water and Pine sol. I vacuum, grab my bucket, and get on my hands and knees to get started. (Did I mention the entire first floor of our home has hardwood flooring? Oy.) It doesn’t take me long to realize the filth. The baseboards are dirty, under the couch needs cleaning, there are bits of dried food I hadn’t noticed until I got down there. Everything had seemed clean from my standpoint. It was all just commonplace, unnoticed until I really gave it some scrutiny.
And the Spirit stirs my heart. We don’t notice the things in our lives, the filth in our hearts, that need attention until we get down to scrutinize them. Without spending time with God and allowing Him to reveal to us the things that can “dirty up” our hearts and lives, it’ll all just be commonplace and go unnoticed. We just keep living the way we’ve always lived, unaware of the grime.
And once we’re down on our hands and knees asking for a revealing of sin, He may just lead us to another sin that is making things grimy. And once that area has been taken care of, He’ll reveal another. But listen here, the cleaning and working of these things God reveals to us isn’t to create more “work” (although it can be exhausting because we are a defiant bunch at times), but to create clean hearts.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalms 51:10 ESV
Is your heart stirred toward something God wants to cleanse your heart of? Pray on it and ask Him to reveal it to you. If nothing comes to heart right away I recommend getting on your hands and knees to clean baseboards...there’s something spiritually revealing about baseboards.
If there were such a thing as a struggle bus, I’d be sitting on its front seat this week. It seems like this is one of those weeks when I’m in the spiritual valley trying desperately to get back to the mountaintop. As I mope in my misery and wallow in self-pity, it occurs to me if I want to be able to climb a mountain, I can’t do it wearing flip flops.
Let me elaborate a little on that previous statement. If I’m going to the gym, I’m going to be most effective if I am wearing gym clothes and tennis shoes, not a dress and heels with my good jewelry. If I’m going to the beach in the summertime, I’m much better off with a bathing suit than I am a winter coat. If I want to go mountain climbing, flip flops aren’t going to get me much traction to scale the mountain. All of these activities have tools or gear that is appropriate if you desire to be successful.
Why then, am I trying to climb this mountain wearing flip flops? Instead of allowing the situation to consume my hope and happiness, I need to put on my boots and prepare for the climb. I need to surround myself with proper tools, ones that do not include indulging in mindless television as a distraction or music that doesn’t honor God. If I really want to climb this mountain, I need to put on the full armor of God!
Do you have a mountain in front of you right now? Satan would like nothing better than for you to just sit in your flip flops and resolve that it’s insurmountable. He wants you to believe that you are never going to get to the top. I have advice for you…SHUT HIM DOWN!
Put on the full armor of God, as Paul instructs us in Ephesians 6:10-11: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
We have tools for our climb! Paul goes on in verses 13-17 to instruct us to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and boots full of the readiness we get from peace. We have a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation, and a sword of the Spirit (His Word).
It’s time for me to get off of this struggle bus and kick off my flip flops for better tools. With the tools He’s given us, there’s no reason we should be ill-prepared for what’s ahead. Ask God to remind you that you have a toolbox for your climb, and you can face it head on!
My family is not finding a good "routine." Our weeks are full and scheduled but things keep changing and happening, and it’s making a mess out of each of us. We're turning on each other out of frustration and losing patience. When this happens, I have moments when I regret how I treat my loved ones. I don’t want to snap at the ones I love. I want to SHOW them love. Usually the next day I’m filled with guilt and hoping they will forgive me when I apologize. A few years ago, I remember feeling the same way this exact same time of year. I will never forget one particular day after a tough night of bad attitudes. I was working around the house all alone. I kept it silent. No TV. No music. Just me and my thoughts and the guilt for the part I played in the bad attitudes the night before. As I moved from one task to the next, I would hear the whisper "hesed." Nothing more, just that word. I had read it a lot in a study of the book of Ruth, a book God has kept me going back to off and on the last few years. I had looked it up because it wasn’t something I had put too much thought into until then:
Hesed is a quality of life that should characterize those who know God.
One virtue in people that reflects God to us is in the Hebrew word hesed.
Hesed is difficult to translate. No single word in English captures its meanings. Translators use words like "kindness," "loving-kindness," "mercy," "loyalty." Perhaps "loyal love" is close.
Hesed is one of the richest, most powerful words in the Old Testament. It reflects the loyal love that people committed to the God of the Bible should have for one another. It is not a "mood."
Hesed is not primarily something people "feel." It is something people DO for other people who have no claim on them.
The word hesed is displayed throughout the story of Ruth where it is usually translated "kindness." Love is something we do, not primarily something we feel. (www.discovertheword.org)
So lately, I have been telling my kids “actions speak louder than words.” Hesed is the action of love that God has designed in each one of us. I love it when stuff like this happens! Another translation described it as the love kindness in a relationship, the love kindness God has for us and what he intended each of us to have in our relationships. This means our family, too. Of all our relationships, this one is pretty important to remember to show love kindness, but at times they are the ones we easily forget to show it to.
I love the way the Message Bible states Luke 6:31: "Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!”
And might I add, love them! Choose to love them with your actions and choose to hold your words. Choose hesed!
I am currently training for a half marathon that will take place in October. The other day, I had to run a certain amount of miles and only had one portion of my day when I could go out for a run. It just so happened at that particular time it began to rain. I had every reason and excuse you could possibly think of not to continue. I was wet, I was tired, and I had a list of other things I could be doing with that time. But I continued and decided to press on.
I started to compare it to the rainy seasons we often encounter in life. Rainy seasons are tough. It is often really hard to convince ourselves to keep pressing on and moving forward. I know for me, I just went through a very rainy season. There were many days I wanted to give up. It felt as if the “rain” would never end and I would be in this season forever. I could have walked away and no one would have questioned it. In the moment, it felt like it would be so much easier to give up. It was a time filled with moments when I thought there was no way I would ever survive. Can you relate?
Instead of giving up that day, I decided to keep going, despite the rain and the circumstances around me. At the end of it all, I was so glad I decided to keep running. Even though everything around me was causing me to question and want to quit, I stuck with it. I didn’t give up and I kept going. That is my encouragement to you today, friends. We all walk through seasons that are difficult. We all have rainy days and seasons in our lives. Even if it feels as if everything is against you and you can’t go on any more, God will help you. There is so much satisfaction at the end, when you know you stuck it through and did the hard thing God called you to do. There is something to be said of people who keep going, even when everything tells them not to. God wants to use those messy and rainy seasons for His glory and for your good. Embrace them, press on, and keep trusting that at the end, the light will shine even brighter and your testimony will be that much greater.
This is what ended up happening that day for me…it was one of my best runs ever. I had some of my best times and felt the most accomplished I had to date. But even greater, right at the end of my run the sun started to peek through the clouds. The rain was over and the sun came through once again. God reminded me in that moment that walking through the hard and tough seasons is worth it. Even when it feels as if the rain will never end, we can have hope and know the sun will shine through again. It may look dreary and dim for now, but at some point, God breaks through and the dawn appears. Don’t lose hope, friends. God can and will do some amazing things in the rainy seasons. Keep trusting Him, and know that He is a faithful God who uses the rainiest of days to strengthen us and to lead us into a closer relationship with Him. Don’t fear the rain. Embrace it, and know that God wants to use it for His glory. The sun will shine again (and possibly brighter than ever before).
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Hebrews 12:1 NLT
School has begun. Early drop off, early pick up. Soccer games and practices…lots of them. Football games and practices…lots of them. Endless work at the office…and when you come home, endless work at home. Homework. Groceries still need to be bought and meals need to be prepared. Don’t forget to mow the grass and take out the garbage. I’m tired just thinking about it.
So, let me ask you. Are you tired? Do you need rest? Did you know that your physical condition has a strong impact on your relationships and ability to show love to others? Do you have enough energy resources right now to love others?
You need physical energy to listen to people and put their needs first. Have you ever tried to appear like you’re interested in listening to your spouse or your child when you’re dead tired? To listen takes energy. And when you are physically exhausted, little issues can become big problems. You can get cranky and defensive when you’re physically low. An interesting thing happens, though. When I’ve slept well at night and awake in the morning, I’m a more sensitive and compassionate person. I didn’t have a spiritual problem. I was just physically exhausted.
Now I understand the seasons of life…babies at night, job issues, family situations. However, there ARE a number of things you can do. Like taking control of your calendar. Many of the things we do are related to intentionally over-crowding our calendars with too much activity. As always, the Bible is full of answers to our problem of being tired. Here are just a few:
REST. “It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest” (Psalm 127:2 TLB). Are you taking the time every seventh day to find a day of rest? One of the most spiritual things you can do is get some rest. Take a nap. It’s amazing how much better life looks after a nap or a good night’s sleep!
BALANCED DIET. “You made my body, Lord; now give me sense to heed your laws” (Psalm 119:73 TLB). Choosing fruits and vegetable over donuts, chips, and cookies will give us more sustained energy. You know you to need to do it. Start today. Choose wisely.
REGULAR EXERCISE. “Honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20b NIV). Our bodies were never made to be sedentary. We were made to move. We were made for activity. But the problem is, we live in a sedentary culture. So, you really only have two choices: fatigue or fitness. You do know if you choose fitness, it will mean regular exercise. Don’t know where to begin? Use technology. For example, try downloading a fitness app on your phone. You can begin a fitness program today.
I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2 NIV