Thursday, January 8, 2015

OnFire 324 Lessons from the Crab Apple Tree

OnFire Encouragement Letter
 OnFire 324 Lessons from the Crab Apple Tree

When we moved into our house in Shilo, we discovered a crab tree in the backyard. Like many crab trees, it is overgrown, but it has especially tiny little red apples, about the size of large cherries. They don’t taste very good. I tried.

Despite it being November with the temperature already averaging below freezing, a lot of the little apples still hung in the branches, while many others occupied the ground under the tree and on the walkway leading into our back door. It did not take long for the movers to track these little apples into the house, where their mashed remains quickly dried like glue on the floor. Needless to say, we were not great fans of that tree…

…Until a couple of weeks ago, that is. About 50 Bohemian waxwings (wide-bellied cousins of the cedar variety) showed up and spent 2 days feeding from the apples in the tree and on the ground. It was quite a show to see them milling in our trees and taking turns swooping onto the ground. Any hint of movement sent them lifting to the air, so we watched quietly from an angle. You can see them on my Facebook page if we are “friends.” We were disappointed when they left, but felt blessed to have seen them.

And then this week we spotted some bunny tracks in the newly fallen snow under the tree. Every morning the tracks multiply, mounting evidence that a rabbit or two has found a private stash of apples.

I take two lessons from this. First, I was gently reminded of the passage from Matthew 6:25-27.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

God is looking after the forest critters in our neighbourhood; in fact, He is using this “useless” tree to do it. 50 birds and a few rabbits, and probably a few deer, too. In the same way He provides for them, He will provide for us, and so we are lovingly reminded that our worrying is futile and pointless. God will, repeat, will provide for us because we mean even more to Him than the birds.

And then, there was lesson number 2. What we considered a pain in the neck actually turned out to be something very valuable and meaningful to us. Cleaning stuck-on dried apple from the floors of our house was a pain in the neck. I contemplated ways to trim the tree and wondered if it was time for this thing to go. But we rent our house, so it is hands off the tree.

We think of the tree differently now. We delight in finding the new tracks each morning. So far I haven’t convinced Jan to let me buy a trail camera to capture pictures at night – she apparently sees through my pretext. But, this tree is now a delight and we see it as so much more than the pain we initially thought it was.

Change is like that. Someone asks us to consider doing something differently. All we can see are the inconveniences and problems. But in God’s economy, who is to say that perhaps God will use this change – and our inconvenience – to accomplish something according to His purposes? It requires a little less selfishness on our part to have this perspective.

I’m living this currently. I have the chance to finish my remaining courses and get off the training list for chaplaincy. Then I can get to more permanent ministry in a unit. That’s what I joined the army for. Or, I can take a French course for three or more months, and delay getting my required courses for another year. It’s not what I prefer. I want to get right in there, and sitting in the class doesn't feel like I’m doing something productive.

But there is another way to think about it. I can be a more effective chaplain if I am willing to see things a little differently. My French currently isn't good enough to provide ministry. Without more second language skills, I cannot minister to a significant portion of our military members. And so this is the thought I need to hang on to.

Change is tough for all of us, no matter the form in which it comes. But let us not give up the possibility of something joyful and delightful just because we can’t, or won’t, see beyond our own circumstances.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Jan 8, 2014. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at