Be Like a Tree

When I was a young girl, I used to love the apple tree that was in the horse pasture by our house. It had a low hanging branch that made it easy to climb. I would take my Nancy Drew book, jump over the fence, and then hoist myself up to sit on a limb, resting my back against the trunk. Reading a book while sitting in a tree was magical.

These days, I might sit under a tree with a book, but my climbing days are over. Still, trees hold an allure for me. I’d take a walk in the woods over a stroll on the beach any day. (Unless it’s February — then a stroll on the beach can’t be beat.)

The opening song in the Hebrew book of prayers, Psalm 1, tells me to learn from the trees.

“…be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither…” Ps. 1:3

There are some instructions on how to be this kind of tree:

  • Get planted in a good place
  • Be still to let living water saturate the roots
  • Pay attention to the seasons
  • Graciously share what develops
  • Stay refreshed and vibrant

So I’m asking myself some questions:

  • Where do I plant myself most days? In ungodly counsel and in the seat of mockers (Ps. 1:1), or in God’s Word, meditating day and night (Ps. 1:2)?
  • What am I soaking up? Fresh springs of living water from the Lord, or the lifeless stagnation of worldly advice?
  • Am I willing to accept seasons of dormancy and stillness, or do I constantly push for peak productivity?
  • During times of prosperity and growth, will I be generous and eager to share, or will I hoard the bounty for myself?
  • As I grow older, how will I keep myself from withering up and being blown away like chaff (Ps. 1:4)? Will I abide in the Vine, remaining in Him, bearing much fruit (John 15:5)?

A children’s Sunday school song runs through my mind every time I read Psalm 1.

I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water,
Trusting in the Father to keep me strong.
I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water,
Trusting in the name of the Lord.
The deeper the roots grow, the better the fruits grow,
The blessings bloom out for all to see.
The deeper the roots grow, the more my life shows,
That Jesus is the Lord of me.

Integrity Kids Worship

What kind of tree will I be?
With over 60,000 species in the world,
there is plenty of room for variety.

I have no visions of becoming
a tall pine
or a stately oak
or a majestic redwood.
I would like to be an apple tree,
with a low hanging branch,
in a green pasture,
inviting small ones to crawl up
and sit a while with a book,
munching on the sweet fruit
of a life lived in Jesus.

God’s Prayer Notebook

The biggest and best thing I have learned so far during this year of exploring prayer is that God has His very own prayer notebook. It’s called the book of Psalms. He put it smack-dab in the middle of the Bible so it’s easy to find. God provided 150 prayers right in the Holy Book so we could have words to pray back to Him. The Psalms are God’s gift to train us in prayer!

I’ve read the book of Psalms.

I’ve studied some of the psalms.
(Remember For the Flock — a 15 day study on Psalm 23?
And The Long Song — a 6 month study of Psalm 119?)

I’ve even sung a few psalms.

But it took me this long to catch on to the fact that I’m supposed to
pray the psalms.

Here in the pages of God’s Word
I have found my school of prayer.
This is where I’m learning how to pray.

I used to think the book of Psalms was a good place to find a bit of comfort, a word of assurance or a little inspiration.
Now I’m learning that I’m supposed to live in this book, using the ancient poetry in my own conversations with my Father.

I used to occasionally open to a handful of my personal favorite go-to psalms, depending on my mood.
Now I’m learning that I’m supposed to be nourished by all 150, on a regular basis, even when I don’t feel like it.

I used to believe that these songs belonged to King David, predating Jesus by hundreds of years.
Now I’m learning that Jesus dwells in the lyrics, and that He Himself often quoted from this beloved hymnbook, even on the cross.

I’m learning.

“The Psalms are the perfect prayers
for they are God’s words to us
that become our words back to God.”
Chad Bird, The Christ Key

Next: Time to Pray

Waiting Room

waiting roomI think every church should have a Waiting Room.  I don’t mean like the ones in hospitals, clinics or offices; certainly not with Muzak and outdated magazines.  A Waiting Room — a place for people to go who are waiting for God to answer a prayer, to move in a situation, or ease a pain.  It would have to be an awfully big room, though, to fit us all in.  Hmm…maybe we should just use the sanctuary.  While we’re waiting, we could do a little worshipping, a little singing, share some burdens and lift each other up.  It’s better not to wait all alone anyway.  Since we’re all together, let’s have some coffee and doughnuts and visit awhile.  That’s the kind of waiting room I have in mind.  After all, we are all waiting for something, aren’t we?

There’s a lot of waiting going on in the book of Psalms. Those old Hebrew poets had a big advantage over us — they had a much wider choice of words at their disposal.  Our measly English word “wait” doesn’t come close to the array of expressions the psalm writers used.

For instance, one could wait expectantly.  It’s the picture of someone leaning forward, keeping an eye out and anticipating what is surely just around the corner.  (“Morning by morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  Psalm 5:3)

There is hopeful waiting, which implies confidence combined with a sense that the answer may be down the road a ways.  What’s required here is sticking around long enough to see it through.  (“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20)

Of course, there is anxious waiting, which is the one we probably practice most.  This is a whirling, trembling, worry-filled type — you know the kind.  It takes all of your energy and leaves you exhausted.  (“Be quiet before Yahweh and wait for him.  Do not fret…”  Psalm 37:7)

And then there is a special Hebrew word for when the waiting is especially long.  It means to have patient endurance, to linger before God with all the pain exposed, to depend on Him alone.  Sometimes this kind of waiting goes on for years until the longed for answer comes.  (“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1)

Waiting is part of God’s plan.  He sits by us in the Waiting Room, takes our hands and says, “I will wait with you.”

“Lord, I wait for you;  you will answer, Lord my God.”  Psalm 38:15

Rewriting the Psalms

I love the book of Psalms.  It’s the first place I turn when I am sad, burdened and in need of comfort.  Sometimes I go to familiar verses, the ones I can count on time after time to express exactly how I am feeling.  Sometimes I am surprised by a new thought that never occured to me in a new verse I’d never noticed before.

In an effort to really understand the depth of these beautiful writings, I decided to rewrite the Psalms.  The Book of Psalms According to Dinah.  Phrase by phrase, I had to think about each word and how I would express the same thought.   For instance,  Psalm 30:1-5 says,

“I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.  O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.  O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.  Sing to the Lord,  you saints of his; praise his holy name.  For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  NIV

Now the DPR version (Dinah’s Personal Rendition):  “Because You lifted me up out of the hole I was in and kept others from kicking me when I was down, I will now hold You up for all to see.  Here’s how it happened: I cried ‘help’ and You made it all better.  Honestly, Lord, it’s like being buried alive and having someone dig you up just in time.  This calls for some singing and praising, everybody!  God may show a flash of anger from time to time, but what rules the day is His loving acceptance.  I can cry a river at night, but as sure as the sunrise, things will look better in the morning.”

I hope David doesn’t mind me putting my own twist on his poems.  I’m not attempting to change them, just relate on a deeper level.  Just trying to get into the psalm writer’s head and get the ancient words into my heart.