Anyone who has spend any amount of time with me will quickly learn that I am the “Angel of Death” when it comes to trees. I’m not talking about trying to grow them and not having the “green thumb” so to speak. More like if the tree don’t fit into my master plan it is cut down and thrown into the lake of fire. You may laugh but this is very true. When we moved to our property 3 years ago I was determined to have every pine and sweet gum tree cut. Over 120 trees lost their lives in my path of destruction but the end result was a masterpiece.
Trees mean a lot more than just to provide shade and homes for the birds. Often times they are referred to in the bible as people. Just a few weeks ago I published a story “Different, but yet the same” that spoke about pine trees and how they can be compared to the Christian life. Their lives can tell the story of the death, burial, and resurrection of the life of Christ. Or you may be thinking how it tells the stages of our lives thru spring, summer, fall, and winter. It is the great circle of life and the very intelligence hidden within them comes from God. Trees are fascinating creations that appear to be hands springing forth from Earth reaching up to the heaven to praise God.
Now in this mindset let’s look deeper at how my destruction can give you perhaps a deeper revelation.
As any young couple with their first new place would be, we were excited to get started on the projects and making the place our own. Looking back now if this old place didn’t hold sentimental value from a dear friend who passed we would have never considered buying it and taking on the renovations it needed. It was so overgrown in pines and gum trees, prickly thorns, and the poison ivy was just unreal. Since we were not able to see our neighbor’s house we thought, “hey, let’s go down and meet them.” We knocked on the door and after a brief introduction the first thing she asked was “Are you going to cut those trees?” We had the best laugh. Bless her heart, they had lived there for years dealing with the mess of the pines shedding and doing damage to their driveway. We can so easily identify with them as Christians who are praying for the hope of redemption from being heavily burdened by sin of the world. The thorns and the Poison Ivy represents all the adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and revellings of what we as Christians have to deal with. It was a relief for us all to get rid of these burdens.
So our journey continues as we walked out into our field and marked each tree that was to be saved. Then we sent our workers out into the fields and told them to cut down every tree that was not marked with that red tag nor save any tree that other tree that would not bare good fruit. We had them push the rubble into big piles to be burned. Then all the stumps were to be ground up and remembered no more. It was like the Angel of Death moved across and judgment fell upon the land. This just reminds me of how God will do in the same in his great judgment for those who are not covered with the blood of the lamb and who bare his holy spirit. All of those poor trees lost their lives but one pine still stood. Now why do you think that I choose that one out of all of them to keep? It’s actually interesting but that tree was originally on the list to be cut. At the very end when it became its turn, something caught my eye and I took a liking to it. Now that tree stands strong and is a beautiful reminder of the “thief on the cross” and how he found favor with the Lord at the end of his life.
We then had a fence built with large gates on each side of our property. All the old went away and the new trees were planted. Have you ever heard of story of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13? I became that sower and scattered the seeds to the new trees all over. Some fell on rocky places, some were scorched and withered, some were chocked out from the other plants, but then there were the strong that took to the ground and sprang up in the ground. Once they began to grow and become deeply rooted it was pleasing. Then I decided to test their strength and send trials upon them. The ground was not smooth enough to mow easily so I asked my husband to take a tractor and devastate the ground once again to smooth it out. He asked, “honey, what about all the work you put into replanting the new trees, will they not all die?” I thought to myself “maybe they will but the ones who survive this will be the cream of the crop and will be worth saving.” Amen? Now think of this isn’t that how we become his bride? Trials will come and about the time you start to grow a little here comes another trial to mow you down. Stand firm on the ground get deeply rooted into the word of God. It reminds me of “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” Matthew 24:13. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14
So now that the dust has settled and I look out across the land. I notice this little gum tree trying to grow up in the fence line. He’s growing up on both sides and thinks he is safe!!! That is annoying and of course he has got to go, but what can we learn from him. How many Christians do you know that think they can have one foot in the world with their drinking parties and adulterous relationships and then have one foot in the kingdom and come to church on Sunday? They join that church or organization thinking that will cover them enough to be safe. No!!! Hypocrite!!! Just remember the Lords words in Matthew 7:23 will echo in their ears, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” Well, in a way you can’t fault the little guy for trying because it sounded like a good idea at the time, but in the end he was cut down.
Now we have to move and were unable to finish up the remaining cleanup of the trees in the front yard. There are many oaks planted in the mist of the pine and gum trees. Even though it is a small remnant we plan is to save them but they will have to go through the destruction when we return in four years. Think of these trees remaining as the Great Tribulation Saints. They will be saved but look at the destruction that will be all around them that they have to witness and endure when the Lord returns. What about the dead trees on the outer perimeter that belong to the county that are peering over in to my land? These trees can be thought of as the souls that are in prison who never belonged to the master in the first place who are crying out across that great gulf and can never enter in.
It is just fun to take the life of a tree, study it, and apply it to the Christian life. You may never look at them the same again. Each has it’s own purpose and can tell the great story. I think of the little persimmon tree; had it been given more light (which is revelation) it would have grown twice its size. Or I think of the old pecan tree that had fed so many through the years (which is the seasoned pastor). One tree planted here is a cedar that someone took a chain and wrapped around and forgot about removing it later. The chain grew so deep into the tree and bark that it nearly died. Doesn’t that remind of you someone who has heard a wrong teaching and then battled the chains of legalism to the point it has choked them out from growing to their fullest? Even the tiny sapling can represent the new believer. But the greatest of all is the 200 year-old Red Oak can reminds us of our grandparents who have left each generation with their legacy. Even when a tree sheds its dead limbs (sin) it will reproduce a new one in its’ place (this is the new nature).
I hope you will have fun with looking at trees in a different likeness. Think about its purpose and how it applies to your own life. I realize we each have our own faith. Many lose fellowship because of our differences. My goal is not to get you to believe the way that I do but only to perhaps spark an interest in getting to know the Lord more. I can’t answer for you nor can you answer for me. And none of us can go hanging on the back of our mothers’ skirt. It is an individual decision and my hope is you become deeply rooted and can place your identity in him.
Can you see the parallel of the masterpiece?
May the Lord bless you,
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and your may live long on earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3
I’m sure most of you have heard from your grandparents that if you grew up back in the day they lived in that you would appreciate the things you have a whole lot more. We’ve all heard “I had to walk to school barefoot in the snow for miles…” or “all we had to eat was an old chicken that momma went out to ring the neck on.” Those things we’re very true if you grew in the Great Depression in the South. I heard all of these plus many more. However instead of it coming from my grandparents, it was my dad.
Daddy was 49 years old when I was born. He always told me growing up that he had a late start in life. It took the Lord to shake him up to turn him from alcoholism, cigarette smoking, and chasing women days. He joined the military when he was 16 years old. They required you to be 18 but he was desperate to help his own parents and siblings to have money for food so he told a lie to get enlisted. So off to the war he went. Could you imagine being a 16-year-old boy going away from home and into the unknown in the military? God Bless him! Some of the stories he tells about the consentration camps send chills down my spine while others are some of the greatest adventures that have ever been told. You’ve heard “They just don’t make them like they used to” right? He is one of kind for sure as you will hear about how much I love him; he’s a great man.
We were a family of 6 or I should say six plus. Dad and mom basically raised my two other cousins most of the time and we also had the neighborhood boys coming over. Dad worked two jobs to put food on the table and anyone who has raised teenage boys knows that they can eat a lot! They would drive 50 miles one way out to the commissary on base to get groceries once a month because it was tax-free. It must have been a nightmare taking six kids each with their own basket. It was routine for dad to give us a spanking in front of everyone in the store when we would accidentally run over the back of his heels with the cart. There wasn’t any waiting to get home; it was discipline right then. It is not the way that I would have handled the situation with my own kids but I love him; he’s a great man.
We had one of those old upright pianos that were severely out of tune that I used to go bang on all the time. So dad, NOT ME, decided that I needed to start taking piano lessons. So he found a teacher that gave lessons at $5.00 for 30 minutes. I’m not sure why she said 30 minutes because every lesson turned into 2 hours of writing notes and playing until my fingers and eyes had crossed. I hated to go and hated to practice even more. I remember once my brothers took a remote control car while I was practicing and wound it up in the back of my hair. Oh my they were mean boys! But anyhow, dad would tell me if I had to give him any attitude about practicing that he would record it on tape and play it back to the teacher so she could hear. Now who does that? He said “Someday you’ll thank me for all of this!” And of course anyone who has heard me play today certainly knows that I have thanked him many times since I’m blessed by being able to sight-read anything you put in front of me. It is certainly not how I plan to go about it with my own children but I love him; he’s a great man.
Later on my teacher had to move and we had to find another teacher. Dad found a sweet heart close to our home that was interested in helping out. The more I advanced with music the stricter daddy became. He would go to every lesson and sit down and critique every note. I would beg my mother to be the one to take me. I could have played Chopin’s greatest masterpiece almost perfect. But daddy could pin point when I missed that one note and the exact time my timing was off; he’s not even a pianist! Matter of fact he is missing a finger where he was horsing around on a barbwire fence. His entire focus would go on that one note! Forget all the work that had been done previously to get to that point. Mom always says “If you are looking for a compliment from your daddy then you can forget it.” That may have stood to be true but I sure was determined to please him anyhow.
Once there was a time that when we were leaving lessons my teacher’s grandson had just witnessed a very embarrassing moment of failure on my part and he said to his grandma, “boy Grandma, I sure do feel sorry for the person who marries that girl!” Little did he know that he would he would be that boy. I still tease him about it to this day and so does my daddy. Those days were tough growing pains and daddy was harder than most but I love him; and he’s a great man.
Growing in the teen years only got a lot harder. I found myself trying to rebel against daddy rules. He wanted me to be a good girl, presentable, modest, and polite. He also wanted to make sure that I did not have any friends especially boy friends that could influence me in doing anything wrong. It is funny now but at the time it was not when a boy that I liked called our house to talk to me. Daddy answered the phone and once he realized it was for me he started interrogating the poor fellow on what his intentions was of wanting to talk his precious daughter. Needless to say the phone never got to me and ended with dad telling him “Don’t you ever call my daughter again, she is not interested in you and you have no business talking to her!” Well, there went that one for sure. That poor guy would not even look my way in the hall at school. Over and over again things like this would happen and I knew daddy ruled his house with an iron fist. Many times I felt like crawling in a hold from embarrassment but what can I say but I love him; he’s a great man.
There was no staying out late past 10:00 because there was no going out in the first place unless mom could go with me. When I finally was able to go out I had to call every hour to let him know my exact whereabouts. It it was not beneath him to come looking for me either. So after a while we started really butting heads. To many rules and too much pressure to follow was my motto. I got to the point where I thought dad was more of a drill sergeant. Unfortunately I started talking back when I should have listened. That was when my problems began. Our relationship became a proving ground. The road I chose to travel became a road of destruction and regret. Isn’t that how we do when we decide to take our own path and choose to get out of the will of our Heavenly Father? So eventually I had to crawl back to dad to pull me out of the rut I was in.
I had a chip on my shoulder, a bad attitude, and I thought I knew everthing. So when I got married and had to move away in my mind I could not leave soon enough to get away from my home. I had just finished packing up my cars to get ready to go be with my husband who was still on deployment at the time. It was late and I was ready to crawl into bed. Dad came knocking on my door and said “Are you ready to go”? I was thinking yeah… to bed. I said, “What do you mean dad”? He said, “We are leaving tonight so get your stuff and let’s go”. NO WAY ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! “Dad for real, I have been working all day and have had zero amount of sleep and there is no way that I can drive tonight”!!! Anyone who knows my dad has to know that you don’t tell him No. So 22 hours later from Arkansas to Virginia in the cold while it was raining away we went. I was terrilbiy sleep deprived, and don’t think the 20 minute freezing cold cat nap I had at that rest area was anywhere near a hotel. Oh my!!!! I never talk about this trip or I still get fired up. IT WAS THE WORST TRIP OF MY LIFE!!!!
I had never been out of state by myself in my life. Dad gets me to my destination at midnight and unpacks the car in the parking lot and says, “Bye!” “THAT’S IT?” I’m screaming, “DAD YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME HERE BY MYSELF!” I was terrified and exhausted and the tears were freezing to my face. He said to me, “You’re independent now… sink or swim!” My dear brother finally stood up and said “Dad, I love you but I love her too and am not going to do this to her.” Thank God my angel came through. Have you ever been so tired in your life and so mad that sleep would not come? It was horrible when we finally got to a hotel that all I could do is listen to them snore while I was wide-awake and terrified where my life was about to lead to. That morning when they got up there was only a brief goodbye. They were rested and ready to get back to their lives and I was ready to move forward and begin mine. And as I stared solemnly at their car as they slowly pulled away I could see tears running down my dads face. It was a very surreal moment in my life. And you may not really comprehend my feelings that I had but I knew then just how much I love him; he’s a great man.
Married life has done me a lot of good. It has made me realize just how selfish that I can be. Mike has been an amazing example and has helped me iron out a lot of my problems that were certainly self-induced. I have had a lot of time to grow and learn. Marriage has also taught me how to have great respect for the other person. I am not the same person that I was 10 years ago that he met back from his deployment. But once again he found himself having to deploy again but this time to Africa. I had just given birth to our first baby and she was only a few weeks old. There was no other option for me but to move back to Arkansas and be with my family. I felt so much anxiety and questioned the Lord on why he would send me back there and I was worried that dad and I would not be able to get along good. Little did I know that his response would only be that it would be the best thing for us both and his plans were greater than what I could see. He spoke to my heart and said “I love him; he’s a great man.”
I want to tell you, God began a work with dad and I. Those hurt feeling were slowly being healed. He helped me countless hours with my baby and often times cooked dinner and came to clean my house. We still picked at each other but you know what? I had to realize that daddy was just that way and he was a born fighter. And his every intention with me was to help me succeed in this life. That is all he ever had done his whole life was fight for the greater good. He has mastered the art of getting under your skin and bringing the worst out in you to somehow make you mad enough to do better. Sometimes I think we would argue just so we would not miss each other.
I can think of millions of things he has said that makes me annoyed. Like…. “Don’t want to go to church? Hope you’re not left behind some day when the Lord comes!” Come on Dad…. Uggg….. Or the all time famous “Go ahead then, when your out there in a ditch somewhere where someone has knocked you in the head, then don’t come cry to daddy.” Mike always says to me “If you are just quite and agree with him you will be the one who wins.” But I can’t do that I’m one of those who wants the last word!!! Mike also says to me, “You are just two peas in a pod.” I guess the apple didn’t fall to far from the tree because every day I find myself becoming more like my him and even saying some of the funny sayings to my own kids.
Dad would drive two hours when I would start on my way home just so he could be with me that much sooner. He has driven all night just to come care for Mike, me, or the kids when we were sick. Once he drove hours in the middle of the night when it was pouring down rain to meet us when our car broke down in a corn patch somewhere in South Arkansas. He wanted to make sure we were safe. He still tries to come help in my house just so that I could get some extra rest and helps me with the girls. He has sat many hours telling me about what men really want from their wives and how I could be a better person to others. He has taught me the value of prayer and has given me the true fear of God. He is the most giving man you could ever meet. No other man that I have ever met in my entire life had worked as hard as he does. We have laughed together and cried together. There was never a day that he did not make breakfast for us before we went to school or have a hot dinner when we walked in the door. He has always provided for his family and loved our mother. He has gone above and beyond what any normal dad would do for his family. And his children respect and love him. Yes, he was hard. Yes, he was strict. Yes, made a lot of people mad at the way he chose to discipline. But I tell you the truth. It all worked out to our own benfit. It has been the best blessing of my life to get to move back here close to him and hammer out our hardships. He has really enjoyed getting to know his grandbabies.
Now my daddy is 84 years old and is starting to become a lot more frail. I’m soon to be leaving with my husband to our next duty station with the Navy. Our hearts breaking nowing that we will not get to see him everyday like we do now. We thought just a few weeks ago that we would lose him with his close call of a heart attack. My husband and I along with our family just prayed hard knowing that he was near deaths doors crying out to the Lord “PLEASE… Lord just a little grace period… just a little more time with him to say more things and make more memories…. Lord, we don’t want to be without him, we love him; he’s a great man.” And God’s grace and mercy pulled dad out of that bed and breathed life in him once again. He has his bad days and sleeps most of the time, but at least he is still here.
I think each of us desperately needs to look at our relationship with our dads. Maybe it wasn’t that he was the rough and tough one but you were. Maybe to he was like my dad and only trying to make you think and be wise. Perhaps since he had previously wrecked his own life he was only trying to prevent you from making some of those horrible mistakes. I know my dad did. He told me countless times that he never wanted me to have to live with the regrets that he has to. I think many of us can easily take our parents for granted but when they are gone, we will be the ones left here to cry. Don’t do that. Settle it now. If there are chains of bondage holding you back just swallow that pride and tear them apart. One day you’ll wake up and say “But I love him; he’s a great man.”
May the Lord bless you.