Dan Greene, Senior Pastor at Cape Bible Chapel, shares his recent tree planting experience and the seven reflections it brought to mind. Part 2 will be posted on Wednesday. Come back and visit the blog throughout the week.
As a belated Mother’s Day gift, I planted two trees in my mom’s yard: a Japanese Maple up by her house to replace the dead stump of a Dogwood, a decaying hint that her landscape had once donned a centerpiece; and a Weeping Cherry out by the street. I’ve planted a lot of trees in my day. In college, my summers were spent laboring for tree companies from Denver to D.C. So for me, planting a tree is like riding a bike—it all comes back to you when you hop on. And as it came back to me, here are a few things I reflected on:
1. Plan Ahead
Planting a tree in my mom’s yard was different than planting one in my own. I had to plan ahead and load up all the things I would need: shovel, wheel barrow, rake, topsoil, ax, stakes, rope, mulch, and so on.
Lisa and I pray for each one of our kids every night. The longing of our heart and our greatest source of joy is to see them walk with the Lord (3 John 4). We have prayed for our son Christopher as he has moved from Dayton to Las Vegas to Orlando to Cleveland to Chicago; our prayer was that he would stop running and get planted in the Lord.
We also prayed for opportunities for him to see Jesus in us and to speak the truth to him in love. And whenever he would come home for a holiday or join us on vacation at the beach, we would not only pray, but plan a way to communicate the gospel. One of the best companions of prayer is a plan; Nehemiah got that. He prayed day and night for four months that God would give him an opportunity to speak to the king. Then one day, low and behold, that opportunity came, and Nehemiah had a plan in his back pocket (Nehemiah 1 & 2). With Christopher, we planned ahead for a day when God might use us to reach him.
2. The work is front-loaded
The hard part about planting a tree is planting the tree. This sounds simplistic, but here is what I mean: I drove by my mom’s old house recently and pointed out to my wife a tree I had planted in that yard. It is now 60 feet tall; truly a towering thing. And guess what? I haven’t done any work on it for thirty years. You see, the work is front-loaded. One has to work hard when he or she is planting and commit not to cut corners. Digging a shallow hole. Not breaking up the clods or skimping on the topsoil. Allowing the newly planted tree to blow and sway by not staking it against the wind. Take these shortcuts and the tree has no shot. You will reap what you sow . . . a dead tree or, at best, a crooked, struggling one.
Remember the big snowstorm we had after Christmas? If you don’t, I’ll help you out: it was a big snowstorm! Well, it changed our kids’ travel plans and left Christopher without a ride to St. Louis, where he was to catch the Amtrak back to Chicago. While Lisa and I were checking with BART Transportation and trying to find a solution to this dilemma, it dawned on me: this was an answer to prayer! This was not an unfortunate happenstance, this was a blessed opportunity. One of those “God things” people are always boasting about in small groups! If I drove Christopher to St. Louis, we would have two hours in the car alone to talk. His only escape would be a rough seventy-mile-per-hour one. This was an opportunity. Now did I want to drive four hours round-trip in the snow? Did I want to leave the festivities at home?
Of course not. But in that moment, I realized the work was front-loaded. All the things I was praying God would do, well, we were at the beginning of those things, so I dug in. On the trip, I shared my testimony with Christopher and had ample time to answer any questions he had.
It made me remember how much I loved planting trees . . . just like riding a bike.
3. “No” doesn’t always mean “no”
What do you give to the mother who has everything? Or, in this case, the one who says she doesn’t need or want anything? I suggested that I could get her a tree to replace the dead Dogwood and she adamantly resisted, declaring that she didn’t want a tree there. This is one of those rare times when I’m glad I didn’t listen to my mother. When she saw the tree, she loved it and couldn’t cease from telling people about it. You see, she didn’t know she needed a tree until she got one.
If you had asked us three months ago who of our kids was the most resistant to the gospel, my wife and I would answer, in perfect harmony, “Christopher.” He would often say things like, “That stuff is fine for you and I’m happy that you believe it, but it’s not for me.” It’s important to remember that no doesn’t always mean no. Christopher, like everyone else on this earth, didn’t know he needed the Lord until he actually met Him.
To be continued . . .
Don’t forget to check back in this week to get Part 2 and more!