Shrubs vs. Trees: It's Your Choice




If you’re reading this, that means that you survived 2020 even if you did so on broken pieces. If you allow me this space to simply testify that had it not been for God on my side, I don’t know where I would be. I know what it means to testify that I could have been dead sleeping in my grave, but God made old death behave. And now I’m here with a story to tell of God’s goodness to me.


Yet, when I reflect on 2020, I am reminded that not all of my struggles, stresses, strains and storms were because of someone else’s doings in my life. No, my friends. Some things I brought on myself. Some things I did because I wanted to do so. Some places I went because I wanted to do so. Some words I spoke because I wanted to do so. But God kept me! That’s why I’m so happy-glad that God saw enough in me to keep me here.


Still God impressed upon me that if I was going to not only survive and thrive in 2021, I had to reset, regroup, restore, and recover ME. The Holy Spirit led me back to what matters most, and that is being quiet before the Divine. In other words, I have been so busy trying to do this and that until I in many ways I was existing on fumes. Bluntly speaking, I had neglected the very discipline that was guaranteed to keep me grounded. I had neglected the disciple of sitting still and being quiet. Do you know how hard it is for me, the preacher, pastor, chaplain and coach to sit still and be quiet?


God showed up like a good mother and said, “If you don’t sit down and shut up, I’m going to give you something to cry about.” God led me back to my bookshelf in search of a book that I had not opened since seminary. That book is Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. The book is divided into three categories of disciplines: Inward, Outward and Corporate. Might I say that many of us have the Outward and Corporate Disciplines down to a science. It’s the Inward Discipline that we most often neglect.


What are the Inward Disciplines? They are meditation, prayer, fasting and study. These disciplines are designed to be done alone in the presence of God. Just you and God. It is in the stillness and quietness that we are able to hear, not just with our ears but with our hearts. Is it scary? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. If you can’t be with you, being with others will crush you.


So when I read Jeremiah 17:4, I immediately knew God was giving me an opportunity to start over again. God was simply saying that if I did not succeed, if I did not live an abundant life in 2021 and if I did not reap a harvest of blessings, it ain’t nobody fault but my own. That may not be good English to you, but it’s good to my soul even as I type these words.


The text continues through verse 10, where God through the prophet Jeremiah said that if we’re going to prosper it will be because of the choices that we make. We can be like the “shrubs in a desert” or “trees planted by the waters.” God stands with extended hands ready to give us the heart’s desires. But, those desires must match God’s desires for us.


I don’t know about you, but I want everything that God has for me. So I must sit in silence and sit in stillness as I seek to remain in God’s presence. It is in the presence of God that I will hear God’s voice with a mind to follow that voice.


It’s a good time to engage in those inward disciplines that will yield outward fruit. It’s up to you. What acts will you engage that will yield you a bountiful blessing?

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