If 2020 Was A Lemon Tree

Our Colorado lemon tree

Just in case you wonder, lemon trees are not indigenous to Colorado. In fact, unless one has a green house or a western facing window and lots of patience, it really isn’t possible to grow them here. So when we brought this little tree from California four years ago, we knew we were taking a long shot chance on it producing fruit. However, year after year it has had an abundance of lovely green leaves, fragrant lemon blossoms and each year we get to enjoy two to four sweet, juicy, Meyer lemons. No matter who came to visit, its unexpected beauty and bounty became a conversation piece. Then came 2020.

What do you see when you look at this picture of my tree? Two lemons are valiantly hanging on, doing their best to ripen into their full potential. But the leaves! The leaves are gone, and nothing remains but spindly little branches and two, little Meyers. It would be sad if it wasn’t so prophetically beautiful.

In Luke 13 we read the story of a man who went for a walk through his vineyard in which there was a fig tree that had not produced fruit for three years. He ordered the vine dresser  to cut it down so it didn’t take up good ground and nourishment other trees could use. The grounds keeper asked him to leave it for one more season. He would feed it, tend and care for it, and see what happens. From this account as well as the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree that had an abundance of leaves but no fruit, we learn what matters most in the Kingdom. Leaves are lovely: fruit is the goal. In light of this, I’ve decided to give my Meyer one more year, as well.

My little lemon tree is not the only living thing that bears the marks of this crazy year of 2020. Each of us has been touched by the events of this year, some impacted more than others. I remember in the height of the panic, when it was all new and we really didn’t know what was happening or what to expect next, my heart would skip a beat when I realized – again and again – that it was not just OUR family, or our city or even our nation but, in fact, the entire globe that was being impacted. Each negative story or report that came along in those months left an imprint. In lemon tree terms, with each negative report, I lost a leaf. Now that we’re coming up on the end of the this year of unknowns and challenges, I hope I look like my lemon tree. I may not have all my leaves or look as in years gone by, but if I am producing good fruit that remains, I have done well. It is fruit the Master looks for when He comes. The fruit of faith that overcomes fear, the fruit of joy that brings strength. It may be time we each take a fruit inventory, before a New Year rolls around again.

A year ago, toward the end of 2019 (seems like longer than one year ago, doesn’t it?!), many people were talking and writing about what seemed to me the obvious concept of the Lord giving us 20/20 vision in this year. I remember having perfect vision when I was a child, to the point school teachers would comment on how exceptional both my close and distant vision were. That has changed with age and now eyeglasses afford me a similar benefit, though earlier this fall I had to get a new prescription and glasses as my vision continues to weaken a bit. However, the vision the Lord wants us to operate in is not just physical, natural vision but spiritual vision: the ability to see beyond what is happening in the natural. To see as He sees. To see Him more clearly than we’ve ever seen before. Thankfully, spiritual vision increases and sharpens with use and wisdom comes as we learn to see as He sees.

As I recently chatted with my friend Lenny, he shared something profound with me (and gave me permission to share the gist of the concept with you.) As the year began He asked the Lord how he was to navigate it and heard the Lord tell him to read John 20:20. He, too, was processing the idea of improved, in fact, perfect 20/20 vision and what that might mean or how it might come about.  In this verse, the disciples are hidden away in a locked room (sound familiar?), afraid. The resurrected Jesus appeared to them, speaking peace over them. As He was speaking, He showed them the wounds in his hands and side, and it says the disciples began to celebrate as they SAW the Lord. There was something about seeing His wounds, knowing that He not only could identity with but in fact had carried their pain and stress and all the trauma of the uncertainties of those days IN HIS BODY, that unlocked their ability to bear fruit. They may have been ‘stripped of their leaves’, that is, their bravado and ego and posturing for power was gone – but when Jesus showed them that He was alive and carried all the ‘hard stuff they’d been through’ in His very being – they began to celebrate. Joy came and replaced fear. Relief washed over them and cleansed the trauma of all the unknowns and what if’s. In some versions the end of verse 20 reads, “it sank in that they were really SEEING the Lord.” In seeing, they were able to receive the peace He came to leave with them and went on to produce lasting fruit that we still enjoy today.

In this month of Thanksgiving here in the States, as we look forward to a Christmas celebration and the beginning of a new year ahead, I pray you will Love Yourself To Life by taking time to LOOK and SEE. Ask the Holy Spirit for fresh vision; for the ability to see beyond what the natural eye perceives. For when you do, you will see Jesus. Seeing His scars, remembering He has borne it all for and with us, the traumas and fears of this 2020 year will fade and heal and you will be restored to produce the fruits of the Spirit. And peace that passes all understanding will be able to settle in your soul, once again as you celebrate the God who is always, ever with us.

I’ll leave it at that.


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Running On My Knees

The past two years found us running as fast as we could. Moving, trying new ministry expressions, pushing ahead all while doing our best to keep up with events that happened to and around us. It seemed like something over here always needed attention and something over there needed doing. List making became a moot point as more than once I found myself making lists of my lists. Sometimes we’d work and serve and do and give until it felt like we had nothing left and when we slowed down guilt was waiting in the silence to remind us what we had not done. What a ridiculous way to live! In fact, it’s not really living, at all. I know you know what I’m talking about! I’m blogging this today hoping it will help someone head into this holiday and new year season with joy and lightness of heart, not overwhelmed and exhausted.

When we moved into our new-to-us house in August, I was both grateful and uncertain when my new ‘work orders’ were – rest. Oh, good grief. I’ve blogged on rest, taught on rest and worked hard to get to rest but to know my only assignment was to rest left me unsure of what to ‘do’. That’s the point. I’m as guilty as the next person of ‘doing’ at the expense of ‘be-ing’, so was unsure how to stop the madness in order to just be.

I’ve learned a lot these past couple of months about myself and what I expect of me. About the Lord and what HE expects of me. I have learned that slowing down after years of running hard is not easy. For one thing, the body responds in strange ways. I had a headache, then felt like a cold was coming on. I was so tired and hadn’t realized, when in the midst of the madness, that my weariness was not just physical. My emotions were tired as was my mind. Stopping was more challenging than I’d ever have believed, especially because what I did not do was lie on the couch and watch television. I did not quit all the groups to which I am committed, though I did pull back a bit and not attend every meeting every time. I didn’t turn off the internet (tempting!) or become a hermit. Here is what I did do:

I recalibrated my heart to hear what the Lord was saying. Now I hear Him more clearly than I have in a long while. I don’t think He’s speaking louder: I’ve moved to be closer to Him. I readjusted my vision – my way of looking at things – so I could see things more from heaven’s perspective. I spent hours listening and not much time talking. I didn’t write at all but did read, especially the Bible. If I want to know The Word, Jesus, I need to know The Word that is written that gives testimony of Him. I prayed – a lot – mostly silently, just me and Jesus, having a chat about the condition of my heart far more than the condition of the planet. I worshipped, most often in silence. I went to the Every Home for Christ building and when it was nice weather I sat outside in the grass by the pond and pondered the life of the geese who live there. On cold, rainy days (and often on the sunny ones, too), I went inside and sat silently in their worship room, allowing the Presence of Holy Spirit to wash over me again and again.

I made a conscious effort to engage with friends and family. Relationships require tending if they are to stay vibrant and healthy. Our earthly relationships as well as our connection with the Lord require time and engagement. I don’t want to lose touch with people – or with my Lord, so I intentionally made time to be sure our heart connections are strong. There was much going on during my ‘rest’ time – and I did it all on my knees.

Oh, not literally, of course. But my heart, my soul, every part of me was enabled to become still and quiet and humble and I felt like I was living life on my knees as that was the posture of my heart. I didn’t blog, work on any manuscripts or do any public speaking, so in the natural it seemed like I was doing nothing. In fact, I was running fast and hard and a great distance in the Spirit- and I did it all on my knees. I think this is one dimension of becoming, once again, like a little child. Our granddaughter, Ella, is six and runs cross-country. She has to be encouraged to push hard to win as she just loves to run and enjoys the race!

As we enter this Thanksgiving week here in the States I can feel my season changing. Ideas are flowing; the anointing is, too. I’m energized and realize I am acutely aware of the movement of God in and around me. I have more dreams than one person needs and actually have the emotional, physical and spiritual energy to begin pursuing some of them. All this happened because I obeyed when Father said, ‘rest’, and I took time to know what that meant for me in this season. Out of rest and staying childlike, that is, ‘on my knees’ in humble obedience, fresh, new life is erupting!

My prayer, my hope, my desire for you is that whether you are in a ‘go!’ season or a season of quietness, that you encounter the reality of His nearness that is greater than any you have known. I realize not many people get the gift of two months to slow down and gain momentum, but we can all make time in our lives for more of Him. I pray you take time – even 20 minutes a day or an increase of ten minutes in what you already do –  to listen, to sing, to worship and read the Word and BE. That you Love Yourself to Life by getting on your knees and staying there until He says it is time to rise. Pulling back and gaining new perspective, may you, too, run the race of life with passion and gusto as together we disciple nations and proclaim His goodness – on our knees.