Dead Among the Living

All winter long, we have been admiring the beauty of the trees in our yard. I have really come to favor winter as you can really “see” the tree, its shape, limbs, its tree-ness without all the pomp of leaves and flowers. But today as I was taking a break from weeding, I looked up and the same line of trees I had been admiring has a glaring discovery. It is one of those kindergartner exercises, “Circle what doesn’t fit in this picture.”  Amid all the lush green trees, leaves waving and dancing in the wind, is a grey bark trunk and bare jagged limbs sticking out of the green wall.

All winter long, we never knew. But now with new growth busting out all around it, spring having sprung, the dark naked branches and shape reveal its true condition. Dead. I watched as it did not sway in beautiful motion with the wind,  but rather it jolted and staggered, like any good gust would cause it to crack and splinter and fall.

You know, dead trees are a hazard to living ones. Because when they fall, they bring the living branches down with them; sometimes whole live trees are grounded by the falling timber.

This is a precarious spiritual question. But one that needs to be asked. Are you a living or dead tree? Are you continuing to grow through the seasons, to produce new growth in spring, the promise of fruit in summer?

Or are you a dead tree trying to blend in? Don’t miss this. It is not enough that you are standing right next to the others in church. That dead tree is still standing. It is not enough that you grew up in good company, family, tradition, or denomination. Do you have God’s life that is reproducing in you? Slowly but surely. Gradual but inevitable because you are a Living Vessel that God pours through.

Not checked boxes, but a living transformation, so much so that others can see and say, “Yes, this tree is definitely alive. No question.”

The dead tree in our yard will be cut down shortly for firewood. And just like Jesus said,  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:6 NKJV

Do not let merely the fear of hell keep you from answering the question. But rather receive the invitation that Jesus offers right before in this passage: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Don’t just stand there. Bloom.

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