"Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it!
Shout, you lower parts of the earth;
Break forth into singing, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
And glorified Himself in Israel." Isaiah 44:23
"For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12
Today as the kids and I drove about town running a few errands, my gaze was drawn to tree after tree. This past summer we had several windstorms that wreaked havoc on the trees in our city. So many old and towering trees have been broken, damaged, or completely felled in this past year. With the leaves now gone, those broken limbs and trunks are very obvious, and are everywhere you look. I was looking at all these broken trees and wondered about them. As I thought back to those windstorms, I pondered the same thing that I thought back then. What was God trying to say to us through those storms? At the time I thought that one of the things God was saying was that He was watching over us very closely. Those storms caused damage to trees, yards, homes and vehicles, but not a single person sustained even the tiniest of injuries because of the weather. That was huge!
But as I saw those broken branches today, I felt something completely different. I felt burdened. I really felt a need to spend time praying for my community. One of the things that I've always loved about trees is that they always look like they're praising God with outstretched arms. Think of it- as they grow, their branches reach up and out, like a child reaching up for their daddy. The trees that I saw today weren't praising anymore. Their arms were broken off, and they just looked so sad and forlorn. They looked lost, and without purpose. It made me wonder if all these broken trees are a natural sign of how our community is faring in the spirit.
Our community specifically has suffered many harships over the years as far as churches go. There have been many church splits and many hurt feelings over the years, and as a result of that, a lot of the church going people have simply stopped going to church. They've been burned by bad churches, by bad people within the churches, and especially by gossip and rumors. I think because of that, also, the churches that are still forging ahead in our community do so cautiously, trying ever so hard to not offend or cause distress. And I just think that there are too many people hurting because the church was not as they expected- and not as it should be to them in their times of need.
And so I found myself praying today for my city. I love, love, love, living where we live. Truly, every time I get in my van and go somewhere, or go for a walk, I think about how blessed I am to live in paradise with my family. We really do love it here, and more than anything, I would love to see the hurt gone from our city. There has been far too much of it. I really think all the broken branches and trees around town are a sign to us that there is something missing in our community- and that is a relationship with God. And I think what so many people have missed for years is that it doesn't really matter how that relationship is achieved- there is no one church congregation that does it best- and that is where so much of the brokenness is from. It's from the people at one church condemning the people at another, simply because of a difference in doctrine or policy. Instead we should appreciate one another and appreciate the uniqueness that each one of us brings to this community.
That's my Christmas prayer this year. That those around us will let go of the hurt they've experienced in the past, and just move forward. And that they'll move forward in the Father's love- which is for each and every one, no matter what. No matter what is in the past, God's Love is for every single person.
Maybe, just maybe, the broken trees do tell us something. They tell us the story of the past, of the brokenness and hurt. But they also can tell us something else. As the old passes away, the new comes into being. May the newness that comes only from Heaven fill our city and take away all the hurt of the past. May the new be full of joy and praise, and worship for the King of Kings.