Beauty and Branches (by Len Winneroski)

UnknownBe energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give Him the most pleasure.” Philippians 2:13, The Message


I don’t mind mowing the grass.  We have a push mower and I usually look at cutting the grass as an opportunity to get some exercise and catch up with the Lord through prayer and worship.  Isn’t it amazing how we tend to mow the grass (or do any other routine task) the same way every time?  I always start in the front yard, mowing from north to south, switch to an east to west pattern on the side yard, and then finish the back yard in north to south strips.   Sometimes I remember to thank the Lord for my family and home as I work.  I also pray for each of my neighbors as I work my way around the house.  Mowing is also a chance to enjoy my latest favorite contemporary Christian music (lately I’ve been listening to praise music from Jesus Culture).

My “mowing life” is always perfect until I get to the northeast corner of my yard.  Let me explain.  Weeping Willow trees are beautiful, and it seemed like a good idea several years ago to plant a young Willow in the moistest part of my yard, near the drainage ditch. What I didn’t realize is how fast these trees can grow if they have plenty of sunshine and water.  Don’t you love the way that Willow branches flow from the trunk and bend towards the ground in “worship” to our Creator God to form a sort of living fireworks display of beauty?  These lovely trees are incredible to look at, but they are a royal pain to mow around, which is why I always save this unsavory part of the yard for last. Weeping Willows are like swimming pools.  They are best enjoyed when your neighbor has one. 🙂

Sometimes the Willow branches scrape my face and arms, and occasionally they even pull out my ear buds or knock off my hat or sunglasses.  I know that my green-thumbed brothers and sisters are probably asking themselves, “Why doesn’t he just prune the tree?”  This thought does cross my mind every time that I mow, but then I start thinking about something else when I’m finished mowing and I forget (again).

Today when the branches scraped against my face, I began to think about how well mowing around our Willow tree describes perseverance in the Christian walk.  The Message Bible says it this way, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:2-4, The Message).

Do I consider it a gift when I’m challenged from all sides?  To be completely honest, “gift” isn’t the word that always finds its way to my mind and mouth in the heat of the moment when I’m tested and challenged. However, my “heart status” is always revealed during these trying times, and my faith and level of spiritual maturity is exposed for God and all to see.  Muscles don’t develop without constant resistance, so why do we think that faith is any different?

Where are the “Willow trees” in our lives that we are currently persevering through with Christ or are avoiding?  Do I truly want to mature, or am I trying to “play it safe” and look for the easy way out spiritually most of the time?  Dear Lord, thank you for your patience and perseverance in my life.  Thank you for your promise to finish the work that you began in me when I accepted your offer of Grace (Philippians 1:6).  Help me to remember that your perfect love is revealed to me in both the beauty and branches of life.

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