Perspective is everything! I have recently married and moved up and over to one of the hills above Lake City. Now, from my new and improved office windows, I have a panoramic view of my little corner of the world. You may not know this, but Hinsdale County, Colorado is the most remote county in the Continental United States. We have many more elk than we do people. There is also a great deal of pride (as though we had something to do with it!) that we have five “Fourteeners” : more than any other place in the lower 48. ( Mountains of over 14,000 ft. elevation)
I have amazing unobstructed views of these mountains. I can see a long, long way. From my perch, I watch as afternoon clouds crest and approach with monsoonal rains. This vantage point allows me to observe as weather systems and the atmosphere begins to shift. Sunny afternoons can quickly begin to develop into ominous thunder
storms complete with dramatic lightning or heavy snow that can be seen hours before it reaches my steps. It is a good spot to think and pray. I am blessed.
This is the long over-view that I didn’t enjoy when I lived in town. Lake City sits in a valley, an ancient volcanic caldera, and my previous abode was surrounded by very tall cottonwood trees and ancient sky-punching firs and spruce. That place had its own charms which included these lovely, rather claustrophobic trees. Additionally, I enjoyed easy, in-town winter driving where everything is flat.(I hale from Texas, so this is an important consideration!)
These enormous cottonwoods in our little town were planted along the roadways long ago in boom-town mining days. Irrigation ditches supplied by the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River and Henson Creek once criss-crossed Lake City. This was handy, back in the day, for fire prevention, mule watering and gardening. These ditches enabled fresh water to bubble through town and the cottonwoods flourished beside them and grew tall.
As we all know, towns change as do the times and old methods of irrigation, transportation and fire prevention changed along with it. Roads widened, streets paved and most of Lake City’s ditches that fed the beautiful cottonwoods were filled and forgotten.
Those cottonwoods mostly still stand although, their once perpetual water source is long gone. Their foliage is lovely, the shade appreciated, and in the fall, these stately rows of grand trees line our quaint lanes with a different shade of gold than do the aspens.
Occasionally, however, one of these old girls will crash down in a wind storm and we realize that what had, outwardly looked fine and dandy, was at it’s core, sick and rotten.
Our perspective in the flat valley-lands had been camouflaged and obstructed by those familiar and comfortable over-arching boughs. Removed from the constant trickle of water to feed their deep roots, those old growth beauties had to rely only on uncertain sources of summer showers and wildly variant annual snow fall. Unbeknownst to the townsfolk, many years of subtle, creeping drought began to substantially weakened them.
Arboreal Science aside, this is an important lesson for us to climb up into just as these colorful leaves are beginning to fall! First, We were never intended to “spiritually” stay down in the valley. While you may be fortunate enough to keep the same physical address for years on end, your “spiritual” address needs to be always found next to The Water Source. Second, unlike Lake City’s Cottonwoods, you were never intended to be fed by ditch-water.
Throughout scripture Jesus, Holy Spirit as well as Godly Knowledge and Truth are portrayed by water. Still waters, wells of water, pools of water, rivers of water, lavers of water, Water turning to new wine, Living Water. You get the idea. It’s a good word study for a lazy afternoon that will bless your socks off. (Psalms 1:3)
Like our cottonwoods. Perhaps you started your spiritual life being fed by a steady reliable source: Godly parents or grandparents, perhaps later with a Bible Study, a solid youth group where the Gospel was preached. Times changed and you got busy, life happened, moves were made and priorities shifted. Before you were truly established or well-rooted in His Word, that Godly stream was allowed to gradually dry up….Or maybe you just didn’t think or bother to occasionally clear out the overgrowth of grass and weeds of life, dig out the silt and drag out the fallen branches and soon the Water just couldn’t make it through to you anymore.
Maybe, like Lake City, you decided that irrigation ditches were old-fashioned and too difficult to maintain: nobody has mules to water anymore, and you just don’t need that stuff anymore. Perhaps, like some I know, you think, because you were well-watered for a few brief years in a home with Christian parents or attended a parochial school that you “caught it” all. Because you were a regular Sunday School attendee during your formative years, you now truly, honestly feel that you know everything there is to know. You received that ridiculous lie, like Eve in the Garden, and added to it that all that religious stuff is for blue-haired old ladies and you have better things to do with your valuable time. After all, you made a profession of faith and were baptized as a kid and that should be enough moisture to set you up and sustain you for a lifetime.
The pitiful rationale in these scenarios is heartbreakingly common. Like Jesus’s eloquent parable of the Sower and the Seeds recorded in Matthew 13 and Mark 4: So many precious seeds and souls have been lost to scorching heat, eaten up by birds or choked to death by the cares of this world. Folks get tripped up by sin they think is too big for God to overlook or their family to forgive. Perhaps they became disillusioned by an ineffective, powerless church that is afraid to offend or rock the boat of “religious tradition”, a church that attempts to entertain rather than train disciples. Maybe life has dealt you a mighty blow (or two or three!) and you have been stuck, bitter and angry, at the unfairness of a loving God who could allow such a thing. Adrift, sick and disheartened, these folks dry up, starving for nourishment in a church(if they are still in a church) that preaches salvation but advocates that the First Church, Holy Spirit power, healing and miracles no longer have a place. Those tender roots are withering away un-taught, un-watered by the Holy Spirit, knowing that they need something but not sure how to fill that need!
Where are the apostolic gardeners, the spiritual tree-surgeons willing to prune back the doctrinal dead-wood and pour on the full, sound, Bible- based teaching like” Holy Spirit Miracle Gro”? These are serious times and the world is full of hungry folks. We all need to make sure that we are well-fed, spiritually healthy and ready to produce the “food” that they need to shore up those in spiritual eternal,desperation for what we have. We need trees of all ages that have deep roots. Trees that know how to produce fruit all year long and are comfortable doing so. Trees that have sturdy, healthy limbs that will stand when the weather gets crazy.
If you employ some of those sad excuses listed above, or perhaps you never even had any water at all and this is all brand new confusing information. You may look alright to those around you: but, when the big, unexpected wind storms of life come, will those long ignored, tap-roots grip well enough to keep you from going down in that storm? Will your inner core be rotten from a lifetime of drifting, self-absorbed neglect, abuse and dry rot? If toxins of this world settled in your core-unfiltered by repentance, un-watered and never guided by the Spirit of Truth, then not only are you, the tree, incapable of producing viable “seed” and tasty “fruit”, but your roots are in peril and you could do a lot of damage to yourself and others when you crash. Like our downed cottonwood in the windstorm, there may be so little of substance left in your heartwood that you will be useless for even building anything… but a good bonfire.(John 15)
To maintain the best perspective, like the old gold miners, you need to backtrack from those abandoned ditches and get on back to the river. In my neighborhood, if you follow either the Lake Fork of the Gunnison or Henson Creek you will eventually get up to the High Country. Up there, I am closer to the Headwaters, the air is clean, the view is long and there are precious, valuable things in that water, waiting to be discovered. As I stand in this mountain stream, I can still make out the pretty, town cottonwoods. They don’t look overpowering or claustrophobic now.
By following the River to a loftier height I now have a 360 degree view. I have broadened my horizons from my tight, little intrinsic circle and can now focus on a broader view- His broader view. I have a much better vantage on what is important, what is coming. I can see sunshine and storms.
Wherever you live, and from here on out, you must maintain your connection to that Water Source. To maintain or follow Jesus you need to change your un-Godly lifestyle, rearrange your misplaced priorities. Forgive people, ask for repentance. If you never really asked Jesus into your heart then do so now!(don’t know what to do? email me and I’ll show you what to do next) For the first time in your life you need to really start talking to Jesus, build that relationship. To stay in His River flow, you may need to move, find a new job or a new church. You may need to unload some old baggage and life clutter, or let a few “albatross” friends go their way without you. You must follow that River, wherever it flows.(Ezekiel 47:9) Stay in the water, wallow in it, drink it up, enjoy the cleansing and refreshing that is there. Never forget again what it tastes like, what it feels like and why it is so critical to your spiritual survival. Find all those sparkling rivulets that come from the mountain top, emanating from the snow melt.
To flourish, we cannot depend solely on the water we once knew in childhood, the refreshing from a previous revival may not look like or be what The Lord intends for us today. Those stagnant pools that have become polluted with false doctrine or satisfaction with “happy-perky-wealthy” church need to be abandoned
We must keep growing, sinking deep, strong roots to be able to meet the soon-coming challenges. To be productive, our roots must be constantly refreshed and fed from a fresh source. Jesus is that steady, fresh, abundant source vital to withstand not only the regular storms that find us in life but, the gale force winds of spiritual warfare that we know are coming.