The AMAZING Change-Tree…and the Church.

I have a tree outside my window. Adele thinks it is an ornamental crabapple tree but I’m clueless. I call it “pretty”.

The tree was there when we moved in. I think it was planted by the developer 13 or 14 years ago. It hasn’t moved at all… same spot all these years. But it has changed a good deal.

Some of the change was purposefully done for/to the tree.

It sits on a hill, so we had a decorative retaining wall built around the lower part of the tree, providing a leveling-effect while creating a much more fertile bed for the roots to root.

Some ground-cover vines and deer-resistant tulips have given the tree companionship and additional color.

Painful though it seems – and painful is how it sounds when happening – we’ve had the tree pruned a couple of times. The branches were rubbing up against the house and leaning too far out over the sidewalk. We were advised by the HOA that it needed to be trimmed, and assured by the professional who did the work that the tree would become healthier as a result of the process.

Most of the changes for the tree, however, have been less on-purpose and more by Supernatural design.

I’ve been watching our tree for 4 years now.

In the winter the limbs slowly lose the berry-like apple-ettes causing it to look barren. I know from my college classes that the visible part of the tree is merely resting while the invisible parts are soaking up all kinds of nutritional stuff. It only appears to be the least attractive part of the year for the tree. The truth is, all that is to come would be impossible without this season.

For good measure, our Father decorates the visible parts of the tree multiple times each winter. Sometimes there is a light frost clinging to the limbs, sometimes it is insulated by a heavier snow. On occasion the limbs are carefully wrapped in the most beautiful, glistening ice glaze you have ever seen.

Enter spring! Each spring the tree goes through an inspiring transformation: With the tiny apple-ettes all gone, and the winter-wonderful all melted, blooms appear… 1st as almost imperceptible buds before exploding into the bright, blue sky. Dozens then hundreds and finally thousands! They are everywhere. Sometimes (just for me) they blow around like snowfall… have I ever mentioned I love winter?

The delicate, white blooms are like magnets, drawing birds of all sorts of feathers into the fold of the branches. It’s not quite as dramatic as the singing bush in The Three Amigos, but the tree most definitely comes alive with song!

Birds do what birds will do and before we know it, a nest or more appear out the windows of the townhouse. The new life on the topside of the tree becomes the perfect environment to incubate even more life!

Summer slides in on us at a reasonable pace most years. We don’t usually go to bed one night with comfy spring temps and awake to summer swoons. Instead, it is a gradual climb. And, as the temperatures rise, that change-tree migrates through yet another set of changes.

The blooms ever-so-slowly lose some of their sparkle before quietly fading into the lush green leaves spreading out to fill every hole in a virtual shield surrounding the tree.

The birds remain but now their bright colors (robin red, cardinal redder, blue jay blue, etc.) are against a green backdrop rather than the white blooms of spring.

The nests that were built in the spring are occupied (late spring/early summer) by eggs – beautiful colors of eggs and, before you know it, the concerts of song are joined by the early-chirps of brand, new talent.

By mid-summer those little apple-ettes are showing up again, giving texture to the meadows of leaves.

Fall. What can you say? I grew up in pine tree country. Trees were green until the new green needles pushed the old green needles to the ground where they turned brown. That’s it.

But fall outside my window is almost like touring the paint chip aisle at the local Lowe’s or handy Home Depot. The colors of the leaves change… green tints yellow then red before ending in the happiest of all colors: orange. The apple-ettes go from a bright green to a brighter red before morphing to a rich, wine-red.

It’s a truly amazing adventure to watch each year: the change tree changes yet it never goes anywhere else.

WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH THE CHURCH?

As a coach/consultant, I often deal with churches addressing the multi-faceted issues of change. More times than not (and, to be clear, I mean almost all the time) what a Church means by wanting to change is: we want some people in the Church to leave.

If I am anti-change, I want the pro-change crowd to take their own advice and change churches.

If I am pro-change, I want the anti-change folks to give up, give in, and move on (or at least be quiet).

My change-tree changes without leaving, but churches have about decided the ticket to change is for somebody to change churches!

Why? Maybe we don’t like conflict – wanting peace even though we all know growth seems to always happen through hard times. More likely it is because I want my way and you are in the way.

The big issue, as I see it, is what all this says about what we think about God.

It says we don’t see real change, at a soul-level, as possible. We do not think God is able to achieve that in the lives of our detractors. We seem unconvinced that we can grow… change, without having to go.

It all seems sad to me, especially when I marvel at my change-tree.

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About christmasandicecream

Grace & Peace to you all! I'm Randy. I am a follower of Jesus - sometimes close up and, sadly, sometimes way too far away. My best friend, administrative assistant, partner, and high school sweetheart all live with me and go by the same name: Adele. She and I are part of a relationally-focused, small group based Church family that helps us along spiritual quest. Our boys are both grown now. We have a wonderful daughter-by-marriage and 2 truly GRANDchildren... 1 boy and 1 girl. We are Corgi people and now oversee the care of 1 spoiled Corgi puppy named Elly May. I am a devoted fan of 2 'seasons' in each year: Christmas and baseball!! At my house, a Christmas tree goes up somewhere within days of the close of the Fall Classic (baseball lingo for the World Series) and a Christmas tree stays up all the way through Spring Training. In between it is non-stop celebration of the Incarnation. I live in the Mid-Atlantic part of the U.S.A. and, among other things, work as a coach and consultant with an incredibly diverse network of churches that make up the BCMD. My Church-roots are in the Baptist bucket of the Christian ice cream shop. But, just because I have a favorite flavor, doesn't mean I don’t like them all! I do. I work with things like soul care & leadership development of pastor/pastoral team members; with small, simple, organic models of church life; with relational strategies of spiritual formation; and with the health of the Church. I taught at New Orleans seminary for a decade and have served in local churches for 30 years. I am currently part of the faculty of Rockbridge Seminary – a new kind of seminary for a new kind of Church – where I also play a role on the Academic Council. *I am obliged to note that questions, comments, ideas, views,... just about anything you read here, are mine, and not those of BCMD, RS, any other organization or school I work for, or those of most normal people. Thanks for visiting. Come back again.
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