August 27, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This morning I was reading from a book, my friend Fred Hollis recommended to me, by Amy Carmichael entitled, “Gold by Moonlight” subtitled, “Sensitive lessons from a walk with pain”. In it she describes a metaphor similar to the Rose of Sharon (that describes the times when life is good and everything is going well), and the Lily of the Valley (when we enter into the dark valley and experience the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.) Her metaphor is one of standing on a mountain and looking over a valley to the distant mountain on the other side, which is your destination in life; you’re destiny so to speak. 

In our youth, we venture forth with fearlessness of reaching the high mountain in the distance. As we begin our journey, we leave the sunlit mountain meadows and descend into the valley and enter the dark forest. We eventually encounter storms of varying intensity, some of which tend to make us lose our confidence. These storms are required that we go through on our way to distant mountain. We continue our journey, and though it is dark and we cannot see the mountain in the distance any longer, and sometimes we lose our way, she reminds us that if we look up we can see sunlight and we can remember the sunlit meadows from whence we came and where we are going. There is always light if we would only look up.

It reminds me when I was a canoe guide in the BWCA and towards the end of one day, I decided to take my group on a shortcut to the next lake, which would make for a much shorter portage and we’d find a campsite much earlier. Double checking the map, I concluded that we could save half the time if we cut our own portage and make a bee-line  to the next lake from the spot I saw on the map. I was confident and rather impressed with my foresight that I saw a better way. We’d probably end up making a new portage that others could follow! I was so impressed with myself.

We picked up our packs and canoes and off we went, fearlessly, into the dense forest. After about ten minutes I figured that we should be close to the next lake and looked about for any signs of an opening in the trees where I could see glistening water. Nothing. It must be just beyond the next little ridge I thought. We pressed on and when we got to the ridge, still nothing. After doing this for over an hour, my confidence began to wane and eventually I had to admit that we were hopelessly lost and I had no sense of direction. The dimming light revealed that the sun was now lowering towards the horizon, which we couldn’t see. Here I thought we get to a campsite earlier, but now we’re exhausted and the campers were complaining that we might have to set up camp in this misquote infested forest!

I was desperate and I went to the top of the highest ridge and climbed the tallest tree I could find. I needed ropes to get up to the first branch but when I got to the top I could see the sun hovering on the horizon. And from there I could see our lake in a totally different direction than where I thought it was.

We eventually made it to a campsite and put up our tents in the dark and ate our meal in exhausted silence. I was so certain, and so sincere, and so wrong. 

There are times when we are in the valley and the forest is so thick we can easily get lost if we lean to our own understanding. It is moments like this we need to look up and see there is still sunlight in the tops of the trees. Then we can climb that tall tree whose roots grow down to the rivers of water beneath  (PS 1:3) and, using Amy Carmichael’s metaphor, there we can regain the vision of the mountain in the distance and reset our bearings. 

Even in the dark forest the light is always above us. Matthew 28:20 says, “lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the world“. Using the grammar of the Greek in which this was written, it is actually saying, “lo, I am with you all the days, and all day long.”

That is worth reciting throughout this day. He is with us and we can pray that we will be conscious of that today. But what happens if we find ourselves caught in a storm and fears and sorrow rain down on us? Look up and find a tree to climb. 

And which tree will we climb? If we have entered back into the Garden through the veil of Christ’s death, then why don’t we climb the tallest, most beautiful tree in the Garden? – the Tree of Life! Think about that illustration: Climbing up into the Tree of Life and on the way up tasting Its delicious refreshing fruits. Climb to the top and you’ll be able to see clearly the mountain of your destiny – which just so happens to be right where you are; in the Tree of Life, clinging to the BRANCH of that Tree.

“Behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH” (Zech 3:8), who on His death on the cross, was cut off of the Tree and separated from His Father, “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off” (Dan 12:3). Then, after He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, He returned to the Tree of Life where He abides again with the Father and the Holy Spirit, all branches of the ONE Tree of Life. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (1Jn 5:7) 

Then as we are looking for the way to our life’s destiny, we discover that the ONE to whom we are clinging to is the Way. “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6)

As I sit here at Bethany’s gravesite, this illustration reminds me of her. For when I first met Bethany in Italy, she was going by the name of, “Bethany Treechild”. No fooling. It’s a long story, (which perhaps I’ll tell later), but she loved to climb trees as a child, and she chose that name for herself at the school we both worked at. She loved to climb trees and she even climbed one to get to the zip line she rode on, the day she died. (Oh, how I miss her.)

It’s all just a little word picture to have fun. I can picture you climbing up and clinging to the BRANCH of the Tree of Life today. May God richly bless you!

In Christ,

– Bob

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