15 Dec

Between the Trees Part 2: The Tree of Life

face-in-trees-illusionWhat is life between the trees?  It is our framing story – the BIG picture.  (Scroll down to read part 1 for more on that).  Understanding this big picture can help us understand our roots, deal with our present reality, and look ahead into the future.  For me it has changed my perspective and revolutionized my understanding of God’s Story.  More than that, it helps me find to find my place in HIStory.   Let’s dig back to the beginning and unearth the roots of what I believe is a stunning connection that weaves its way from start to eternity.

In the beginning of the Story as we know it, we find our literal roots in a tree in the Garden of Eden.  Imagine the beauty of Eden.  God named this place just what it was to Him – “delight.”  The Garden of Delight.   A place of unbroken intimacy between God, man, and all of creation.  Adventure.  Exploration.  Limitless possibility.  Perfect love.   Perfect health.  Perfect harmony.  It’s all there.   It is a One ruled world and a world with one rule. The Garden. Pure Delight.   A custom made home for God’s custom made people.

This was the plan that God started with.   Yes, He knew the future, but this was the original blueprint, God’s intent, His desire, His Delight.  Our story, the Story, began with glory.  And in the middle of it all?  The “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived between those two trees.  Why were these two trees there?  To put it simply – the gift of free will.  God desired a relationship with His creation that was real and for it to be real, there had to be a choice.  Two trees.  Two choices.  These two trees served as Adam and Eve’s framing story.

I believe God intended for mankind to live forever.  How?  By allowing them to eat from the tree of life.  It is this tree that literally gave them life.  While they could certainly eat and enjoy other food in the Garden, eating from the tree of life gave them just what its name implies – LIFE.  Obey God, eat from the life giving tree, and live in His Story forever.   But what about the “other” tree,  the one that was forbidden?   Love is only real when chosen. It simply cannot be forced.  It may make you uncomfortable to say that there’s something God could NOT do but I believe that there is one thing. He could not, He would not, and He does not force His creation to love Him.  So God gives His creation an opportunity to choose.  Choose life and live fully in the pure, unbroken reality of God’s Story, or choose the forbidden tree and have your eyes opened to an alternate reality, an alternate story of your own fabrication.  Creation or fabrication?  It was the original choice between the trees.

So what really happened in that tragic choice that we refer to as “the Fall?”   I must have heard it a hundred times.  “And so God punished them by kicking them out of the Garden.”  Okay.  Technically, that’s true.  But there is so much more. To get it, we have to look carefully at exactly how God responds.  It’s typically an overlooked yet crucial part of the Story.  Gen. 3:24 says:

After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Did you see it!  What was really lost?  Access to the tree of life!  God’s plan has been marred.  Man chose an alternate reality, a different framing story of his own design.  And what is the result?  Mankind will no longer have access to the tree of life and will no longer live forever as God has originally planned.  They…WE…will now experience pain, loss, agony, disruption, conflict, sickness, disease, labor, and death.  These are results of not eating from the life giving tree.  HIStory has been changed forever.  Sin has broken in.  Life as God planned it has been altered.  And the way back to the tree of life has been blocked by God Himself.  Only those in an unbroken relationship with Him can experience the fullness of His reality.  That fullness of life came through the tree and it’s first and only partakers have now given it away.

A story that began with delight and glory is now stained by one tragic decision.  But in the midst of it all, there is hope.  And that hope comes…through another tree.

God calls a people.  In a sense, it is His new creation.  And He calls this new creation –  Israel.  And what metaphor does God use to describe His covenant people?  A tree.  In speaking of Israel the prophet Jeremiah describes this metaphor.

The LORD called you a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form.   Jeremiah 11:16

One tree lost, another planted.  Hope arrives through a people with a purpose.  They will be a tree.  God’s tree.  A tree shaped by the Creator to give life.  Israel’s purpose was to walk with God and to offer life to the world.  Listen to God’s own description of His people:

I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles… Isa. 42:6

Sound familiar?  You can almost hear the echo of the footsteps of God walking in the Garden with His newly created and beloved children.  He takes them by the hand.  He walks with them.  He talks with them.  He cares for them.  And they threw it all away.

And so we turn our eyes to Israel.  A new people.  A new tree.  Hope has arrived.  Beauty is upon the horizon.  And the Story between the trees is just beginning.

04 Dec

Between the Trees Part 1

The tree in my grandmother's backyard.

Maybe you’re going to call me a “tree hugger” for saying this, but the truth is, I love trees. Maybe part wholesale jerseys of it is because I love the outdoors but there’s more. Much more. When I was a kid, cheap mlb jerseys probably about 9 years old, I remember climbing a huge tree at the top of a steep concrete embankment in my grandmother’s back yard in downtown Atlanta. (Yes, there were once trees in the city). I loved climbing trees.  I still do for that matter. Dealing With each branch higher the view changes and becomes more dramatic. And the challenge cheap nba jerseys of finding just the right branch to pull yourself upward is pure adventure. Climbing this particular tree was epic. It stood at the top of a huge concrete hill.  When you’re 9 it looks like Mt. Everest.   Because this enormous tree was at the top of a huge hill, once you began to climb high you felt like you were way, way up in the sky riding in the clouds. I loved it.

One day, my 5 year old sister, Stephanie, followed me to the tree. I started to climb like I normally did but once I got a good Across bit of the way up I discovered that she was beginning to try and climb this huge tree too! I warned her not to continue the dangerous journey upward because if you fell out of this tree, you didn’t fall just to the ground where it was planted but you fell another 25-30 feet TALMIDIM down the steep concrete hill. But it was too late. She began to scream. I quickly began to climb down to rescue her only to discover a bit of a dilemma. Stephanie had somehow climbed up just enough to get a grip on the main branch that I had to step on to ease my way down to the narrow and sharply sloped ground. The exit from this tree was a one way street.  If you wholesale nfl jerseys weren’t careful in coming down to the ground you’d lose your footing and tumble painfully down the hill. I was almost to her and could see her feet were dangling in panic. If she let go a painful tumble down the hill would follow. If I could have simply climbed down the tree I could have easily stood at the trunk, reached out my arms, and caught her as she let go. But she was blocking my way down! If I stepped on the branch needed to get down I would crush her fingers and she was sure to let go.

Meanwhile, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs that she can’t hold on much longer. There was only one thing left to do. Jump. But to do that, you had to jump outward. And to jump outward meant landing on the steep concrete hill and then enduring the tumble downward. Time was running out. Either I would painfully make the exodus Fans from the tree or she would. I swallowed real hard, mustered up every ounce of courage that was left and took the leap. Thud! I hit the slope hard and then Youth tumbled the rest of the way down like a ping pong ball. Once I regained my composure I quickly realized that my heroic rescue was not complete. If I didn’t get myself to the top of this cheap nba jerseys mountain quickly she would soon be joining me with bruises at the bottom. I quickly and painfully began the ascent up my Everest climb that only seconds before had taken me downward much quicker than I was now making it back up.

Cue the epic hero music and start the slow motion because in a nick of time, when all hope was lost, I valiantly reached the impossible summit, stepped toward the the trunk, reached out my arms, and waited for my little sister to fall into the arms of her new hero, only to discover….she wouldn’t let go. What! “I can’t let go!” she cried. “What if you don’t catch me!” You mean I’d nearly jumped to my death from the clouds and now she wasn’t going to let go! Some storybook ending. Scratch the music. Take my name off the trophy. It was back to reality and here I am standing at the trunk of a tree like an awkward firefighter who’s dressed in full gear but hasn’t seen a fire in weeks. And finally, the little kitten, I mean my little sister, after minutes of reassuring her I was strong enough to catch her, slouched down into my grasp.

I’ve discovered lately that there’s something even more adventurous about trees that may actually frame our entire Story. I invite you to journey with me over the next several blog entries as I blog on “Life Between the Trees.” You’ll also notice that this is what I’ve decided to call my entire blog. I think you’ll understand why as we get into the journey.

Let’s take a few steps together. As we follow Jesus, it’s important to understand the framing story. What’s a framing story? Think of it like a frame around a picture. It surrounds and even shapes the picture and provides you with the perspective in which to view it. So the framing story of the Bible is what surrounds it from beginning to future (with God’s Story there’s really no end). Without the frame it can be difficult to see the picture of how God is shaping our lives Jerseys within His epic Story. And it’s then that we often times find ourselves wandering aimlessly to find our purpose, our place, our role, and our destiny.

So what is the framing story? Did you know that the entire Bible, God’s Story from beginning to future, is framed by trees? Not just any trees. Hagaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Two very, very specific trees. You’ve no doubt heard about the first one. In the beginning…there is a “tree of life” (Gen. 2:9) in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve are allowed to eat from. But the second one? In the last chapter of the Bible, John describes his vision of a restored “tree of life” (Rev. 22:15).

What does this have to do with following Jesus? Everything. But we have to dig a little bit to unearth what I believe is one of the greatest treasures in the Bible – life between the trees. Stay tuned.

(Part 2 – Coming soon!)