Going for a walk on Sunday morning before church has become a habit for me now. Even dreary days in the bush seem to be better than sunny ones in the big city. There are always interesting things to see in nature and God uses them to speak into my life. These walks have become for me pre-service worship.
This past Sunday, as I was hiking the trails, I noticed the many cedar trees that had been bent over by either heavy snow loads or strong windstorms or maybe even a rock slide. The interesting thing with these trees is, that they are still very much alive even decades after these disasters. And you can tell this from the branches that have turned into little trees themselves growing at a 90 degree angle right up from the knocked-down trunk of the original tree. Yes, they are definitely bent out of shape and look a bit gnarled, but they just keep on growing and doing their tree-thing, which is among other things, cleaning the air of carbon emissions, keeping erosion in check, providing a habitat for many other creatures, and producing a lot of fresh oxygen for us to breath in.
The dictionary defines “gnarled” as bent; twisted; as having a rugged, weather-beaten appearance – or as being crabby and cantankerous. The surfers of the 70’s introduced us to a new meaning of the word “gnarly” which in their slang terminology described a dangerous wave that they saw as a great challenge to ride, and so the word came to express “excellent, wonderful”. And so in New Zealand the word simply means “good, or great”.
Interesting: there are two ways to respond to hardships. We can either become cantakerous and crabby, or we can make the best out of a dangerous and difficult situation and become a testimony to God’s good, great, wonderful and excellent life-transforming power.
Our daughter Katie, who is teaching a kindergarten class in Malawi, Africa, just recently experienced her whole classroom being flooded. It was a big mess. But instead of moping about it they mopped it up and then she wrote a story about the kindergarten classroom that went for a swim. She illustrated it with photos of the clean-up and different cartoons and made it into a fun picture book for her class. They absolutely loved it. What a way to turn a mess into a message!
It’s what Churchill did on October 29, 1941 during the middle of WW2 after Britain had endured the 37 weeks of the Blitzkrieg, when he addressed his old school with these words: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Don’t allow the storms and heavy loads of life to destroy you. While they may bend you, injure you, and scar you, they can also make you stronger in character and help you have more of a positive influence than if you’d never had to undergo those trials. God wants to turn your mess into a message of hope.
The apostle Paul was, what some might call a “mess-magnet” (or another less refined term). He attracted trouble like honey attracts flies: shipwrecks, beatings, stonings, dangers of all kinds, and of course many imprisonments and trials. He could have easily become a cantakerous, crabby old man. But even after being stripped naked, beaten with rods and mercilessly floggesd he sings praises to God (Acts 16:22-25) and even from the depth of a dungeon he can write a letter of joy like Philippians. So when he writes in 2 Cor.4:9 about being “knocked down but not destroyed” it’s not just a nice theological, theoretical sentiment, but a bloody life experience about which he testifies.
Here is how the VOICE puts it (in 2.Cor.4:8-11): “We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.”
Like those cedars, (damaged and bent by heavy loads, strong winds or dangerous rock slides), we too get bent out of shape. The church is a gnarly bunch. We are far from perfect and have many flaws. We are cracked, chipped, bewildered and knocked down. But with our strong connection to the Rock, Jesus, we will not be knocked out. Yes, we will always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus, but we also get to reveal something of the wondrous power of His resurrection life through our frail human frame. Even though bent and gnarly, there is still green growth happening: we are still salt and light for our society; we still keep moral erosion in check, we still provide a habitat for many people, we still produce a lot of fresh hope, that enables people to breath in deeply.
We are a pastoral couple named Stefan & Heidi König. We have many years of experience in various ministries, and are thankful that God has given us this property to use as a way to bless others who need a place to relax and reconnect with Him.
Kingfisher Spiritual Direction
Direct your heart to Jesus and restore your soul. If you need to hear from God, to grow deeper with Him, consider spiritual direction. An ancient discipline of soul care, Heidi is trained to prayerfully lead you in this practice.