Probably the same things I do: its pleasing shape, the attractiveness of the leaves, its height, or the welcoming shade it casts. The presence of flowers, fruit, or nuts on its branches would also catch my attention.
But someone who wants to use the tree will look at it quite differently.
A woodworker will assess a tree’s trunk and branches and have a sense of the quality of wood it will bear. He or she will know which areas will produce the truest grain, and whether the core of the tree is likely to be “conky,” or decayed inside.
My grandfather could judge a tree in this way.
He could discern how the way the tree had grown and the stresses it had been exposed to would combine to make the strongest grain. He could point to the best part of the tree out of which to make an axe handle, for instance.
My grandfather and I could look at the same tree but see entirely different things. I would consider the outside, but he would look much deeper.
Ask any child who puts on a superhero costume for Halloween.
They suddenly feel braver. Their confidence gets a boost. They believe that they can achieve things that they couldn’t before.
Actors understand this. Many actors report that they can more readily get in character for their role once they don the costume associated with it.
Interestingly, some actors identify with the characters they portray so much that they become real-life action heroes.
Tom Cruise has reportedly rescued people in real life at least six times, including coming to the aid of a woman set upon by muggers in London, rescuing a family from a burning boat in France, and helping the victim of a hit-and-run in California.
Likewise, action star Harrison Ford has pulled someone out of a burning car, and has used his own helicopter to rescue a stricken hiker.
The theory behind this phenomenon is called “embodied cognition,” and it might help explain how actors and others become their roles.
In the case of action heroes, acting brave in movies may lead to actually being brave. The more you practice something, the more you become it.
The key might be in putting on a costume or adopting a set of behaviours.
I think that’s why Scripture tells us to “put on” Christ.
Multi-tasking has been described as the art of messing up several things at once.
Like trying to apply makeup and drive on the freeway at the same time. Or using power tools while texting.
Much of the time when we try to do several things at once, we wind up doing each of them poorly.
God, on the other hand, is a master at multi-tasking, and He does everything perfectly.
When we think God is doing one thing in our lives, He’s actually doing many things at once. And much of what God is accomplishing is completely off our radar screens.
As theologian John Piper says, “In EVERY situation and EVERY circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.” And, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of 3 of them.” (I invite you to read Piper’s excellent post on this topic.)
Don’t you wish there was a style of clothing you could wear that would always be in fashion?
Think of it: You’d never have to worry about being caught wearing last year’s fashions. You’d never accidentally make a fashion faux-pas. Your clothes would always be in style.
Perhaps this is a notion that preoccupies women more than men. Men seem to be a bit luckier in the fashion department: styles of suits don’t evolve very rapidly over time, and they always look becoming.
Women, on the other hand, have had to put up with fashions that have changed drastically over the years and decades. Our foremothers had to endure corsets, hoop skirts, and bustles. Perhaps some of you are old enough to recall leg warmers, tie dye and jumpsuits.
Some styles inexplicably come back into fashion for a time, like bell-bottom jeans or platform shoes.
Let’s hope that some never do: women once wore skirts so wide that they had to turn sideways to get through a door!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to put on a style that would never go out of fashion?
As a matter of fact, there is such an item of “clothing.”
Is it just my imagination, or do weeds actually grow faster than the flowers I’m trying to nurture?
Gardeners will know what I’m talking about. Weeds seem to be gifted with internal steroids that accelerate their growth, outpacing the delicate flowers that we’ve brought home from the garden centre.
Weeds don’t seem to be affected by lack of rain or by intense heat. They’ll grow just about anywhere. They’re speed demons of growth compared to the flowers we try to baby along with regular watering and fertilizing.
I looked into this crucial issue on behalf of readers of The Faith Cafe, and found that weeds do have some competitive advantages.
Weeds which are perennials have the benefit of established root systems that have been alive for many years; these dormant roots have a lot of stored energy. Perennial weeds grow faster and are harder to kill than annuals.
Weeds are already acclimated to the region’s soil, and are highly adaptable. They’re usually native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, unlike plants from the garden centre which may be non-native and need time to adjust.
Weed seeds are already present in our garden soil. They bide their time until the right conditions present themselves, and then race out of the soil. They’re often excellent self-propagators and are opportunistic growers.
All these things give weeds a head start over the flowers we favour.
This got me thinking:
Why do the “weeds” of our character grow better than the fruits of the Spirit?
Are there lessons we can learn from the natural world?
Why is it that when traffic is diverted around “Men At Work” signs on the road, we often don’t see anyone doing any actual work?
Sometimes the construction zone is deserted, and work on the project seems to be at a standstill. And yet vehicles are still forced to circumvent the area.
At other times there might be a few workers milling about and talking, or peering down an open maintenance hole. But again, lanes are blocked off and traffic is being slowed down for seemingly very little reason.
We naturally find this very annoying. The disruptions and delays would be easier to handle if we could actually see some work getting done, some real progress being made.
Sometimes we show the same impatience with God, don’t we?
We have prayers that we want Him to answer, and circumstances in our lives that we want Him to change. But we get frustrated when nothing seems to be happening.
Some things are better when they don’t come too easily, aren’t they?
Like making butter yourself. When I was a child, I had the chance to do just that.
On a visit to my grandparents’ farm, my grandmother handed me a closed jar with rich cream inside it from their dairy cows. She instructed me to shake the jar vigorously.
I did so, but didn’t see much happening. I wanted to give up, but Grandma told me to keep agitating the jar. I obeyed, and soon started to see clumps forming inside the jar.
Grandma knew it wasn’t ready yet, however, and instructed me to keep going. My little arms were getting tired, but eventually Grandma told me I could stop. The cream had finally transformed into the right consistency.
I had made butter! (Well, technically, I suppose most of the credit should go to the cows.)
It was hard work making that fresh butter, but the taste of it was heavenly on fresh bread. It was vastly superior to the blocks of chilled butter you buy in the supermarket. Not only did it taste wonderful, I appreciated the butter more because I’d put in the work myself to make it.
Sometimes God lets us go through the effort of doing things for ourselves, doesn’t He?
Sometimes the sweetest things take the most effort to produce, don’t they?
Take, for instance, maple syrup, one of Canada’s iconic products. We often use it atop pancakes or waffles, or in desserts (see below). This delicious liquid starts out as sap collected from sugar maple trees.
Right now it’s maple syrup season in Eastern Canada: as the weather warms, the sap in the trees starts flowing freely. Holes are drilled into the trunks of the maples, and buckets or tubing collects the dripping sap, which is then transported to a central location.
And then it’s ready to be bottled, right? No! Actually, the process has only just begun.