Monday, September 29, 2008

The Tree That Almost Died

The Tree That Almost Died

Wesley G. Vaughn, © 2008

As published in The Outreacher <>

(in print, but not online)

One morning in mid-April, I got up to find that it was 29°F, and had been all night long. In Ohio, frost and freezing nights can be expected halfway through Spring, and this year was no exception. Since I had not worked the evening before, it was easy to forget about the potted plants outside. Coming home at 12:30 am, I would have seen them and brought them into the garage.

Alarmed, I went out to check the plants. To my dismay, the leaves on the grapefruit tree were curled with the frost. I didn’t know how badly it had been injured, but it looked bad. This tree was special. I had planted a seed from a grapefruit we ate, and it sprouted and grew. It was eight years old but not too big since it was a potted plant. We had brought it from Virginia to Ohio. It seemed such a shame to come this far only to freeze. With a sliver of hope, I took it into the garage and set it down far from the door.

Over the next few weeks, I checked the grapefruit tree almost every day. A few at a time, leaves dried up, beginning at the tip. It was apparent that all would go. But in the second week I saw what looked like a few, very few, new leaves emerging. A month later, all but a few of the frosted leaves had died, and these few were dying. Not wanting to damage the tree needlessly, I waited until a leaf was obviously dead before removing it.

Shortly after Memorial Day I pruned off dead wood. By then several sprouts were showing. Before the end of June, new branches grew from the lower trunk. These have now grown straight up like parallel trunks. The whole tree is lush with glossy dark green leaves. Of course, spines are growing too. The tree that almost died has not only made full recovery, but looks better than it had for a long time. The freeze which almost killed the tree stimulated new growth which gives it a greater glory.

In Psalm 51:8, David says, “Let the bones that You have broken rejoice.” [NASB] David referred to a shepherd breaking a leg bone on a lamb which kept wandering away. The shepherd
then carried this lamb every time he moved the flock. The lamb became dependent on and bonded to the shepherd. By the time the leg healed, the lamb always stayed close.

David was chastised for his sin. Job was blameless, yet God still let him suffer severe affliction. Though Job did not understand why, his faithfulness through this suffering brought glory to God. It also revealed Job’s real character to a scrutinizing world.

The apostle Paul says that God causes all things to work together for good for His children (Romans 8:28). He goes on to say what this good is: believers being fashioned into the image of Christ (verse 29). Since God is all sovereign and all powerful, nothing can happen to us unless and until He allows it. This is for His glory, and for our greater good.

Leaving the grapefruit tree out on a freezing night was unintentional. The good results were accidental. But God’s letting us go through suffering and loss is not accidental. It is intentional, and for the best intentions. Like the sheep whose leg was broken, it draws us closer to Him. And like frost that almost killed the tree, it stimulates new growth we would have never otherwise experienced.

Scripture references –Psalm 31:12; 34:18; 38:8; 44:19; 51:8, 17; 61:1; 69:20; 147:3; Romans 8:28-29

Friday, September 26, 2008

System Failure

System Failure

Fred Chipp was the system administrator at a large firm in Chicago. He lived in the suburbs in a medium-sized house with a large yard in a nice subdivision. Fred drove the roads, freeways and streets to work fives times a week, sometimes six. He drove, that is, until the combination of gas prices, traffic congestion, and environmental consciousness persuaded him to use public transportation. From then on he drove to the local park-and-ride, completing his commute by train and bus.

Once he started to use public transportation, Fred enjoyed it. There was time to read, work on problems, surf the Blackberry, etc. It was great! This went on for five years. But Fred’s wife, Tillie, worried about the germs he might catch from other riders.

Last winter, Fred came home with a bad cough. It became worse, but the hard worker he was, Fred kept going to work. Finally Fred collapsed and was hospitalized. It was too late. Fred had let it go on too long without proper attention. Within the week, the end came. The cause of death? System failure brought on by a commuter virus.

© 2008, Wesley G. Vaughn

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Rage" Out of Bounds

I had not heard of the rock group Rage Against the Machine (RATM) until the news of the riot following their concert in Minneapolis Wednesday night. So I googled them and found this MTV article about their plan to play in Minneapolis during the Republican national Convention in St. Paul ( They also played in Denver during the DNC.

The MTV article said that "according to Minneapolis' Star Tribune, [RATM] will bring their incendiary politics and anthems of violent revolution to the Target Center September 3."

The article also went on to say:

De la Rocha recently called for President Bush to be "tried for being a war criminal," and during the band's Lolla set, he raged against the last eight years of Republican rule and even had a word of warning for "Brother Obama," referring to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama.
"Now, we know Brother Obama. ... But I tell you what, if he comes to power come November and he doesn't start pulling troops out of Afghanistan, I know a lot of people who are gonna stand up and burn down every office of every Senate [Senator?]."

What De la Rocha said comes perilously close to incitement to riot and violence. The last I checked, incitement to riot is not protected by the First Amendment.

It would appear that Rage Against the Machine is out of bounds.