This past month, my family and I got away for a week’s vacation in the beautiful mountains of Northern California’s Sierra Nevada. We rested a lot, lounging around in a beautiful cabin listening to birds sing and watching trees sway in the afternoon breeze.
For whatever reason, God kept directing my attention to the beautiful and rustic details of the interior of that mountain cabin. Large timbers connected in what appeared to be a rudimentary fashion, yet upon closer study I found intricate and easily missed detail work left behind by a craftsman who must have wondered if his effort would ever be noticed.
As a pastor enjoying rest and relaxation following a very full year of ministry, I could not escape the parallel God was drawing in my own life and ministry. I wondered how the intersections of the roughest parts of my own life might appear to my wife, my kids, and my church.
In the days that followed, I dived deeply into Psalms in the early mornings.
“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.”(Psalm 3:3 NLT)
I asked myself if I have allowed God to hold my head high or if I have counted on ministry wins and personal triumphs to carry me through.
When the honest answer to that question was found, I pressed on.
“Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord.” (Psalm 4:5)
Have my sacrifices to God been offered in a right spirit full of trust or simply done out of obligation? The journey continued deeply into the easily ignored spaces of my busy mind and cloudy heart.
These and many other insights from David and the other psalmists have served as a constant encouragement to my soul as I prepare for the draining and demanding months ahead leading to the fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
But there is more that can be learned from those blunt intersections and knotty timbers:
1. Beautiful things come from dead trees.
In your ministry, like mine, there are marriages, relationships, and sometimes hearts that are dead. The temptation to write off anything good coming out of such things is strong, and in the flurry of activity in your life I imagine these situations come up regularly. Take a lesson from that mountain cabin—cliché as it may appear—that in the right hands even a dead tree can make a beautiful house. Maybe now is the time to trust God to again make beautiful things from what appears to be dead.
2. Committed craftsmanship is missed by most.
It took me quite a bit of study before I could see those joined logs for what they were. Allowing some time to think about it, my mind swirled with amazement at the task it took to move, set, join, and secure those pieces in place, not to mention the small bits of shaving that must have been required to get those intersections to fit just right.
What a reflection of your ministry and mine! There is a lot of heavy lifting and a fair bit of directing traffic, but even after all that, it’s the tiny adjustments and shavings that make the impossible beautiful. I know. Few will see the late nights and early mornings you are committing in response to the Lord’s call on your life to serve His bride.
I imagine God looking on your efforts with great joy because of your devotion and love for the local church. On my last morning sitting on that third-floor balcony, I read Psalm 5 several times. From my vantage point, I was half as tall as the mighty pine trees that surrounded our cabin. I could hear the birds chirping and the breeze whistling through pine branches and occasionally saw a pine needle fall in a graceful dance toward earth. It was in that moment that I rejoiced in the Holy Spirit’s love and protection of my soul and found myself praying for the joy of your soul as well.
“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love your name may be filled with joy.
For you bless the godly, O Lord;
you surround them with your shield of love.” (Psalm 5:11–12)
NAB Vice President of Advancement