I lost my mind in the woods today. OK, that's not 100% accurate. What I meant to say was, "I got lost in my thoughts in the woods today."

Ellen and I were in northern California near Santa Cruz where I spoke at Mount Hermon Conference Center. I think this was our fifth visit and each time I am more impressed by the mission, staff, and setting of Mount Hermon. Check out their website at to learn more about all they have to offer individuals, families, and churches.

RedwoodsAside from the perfect 75 degree and 0% humidity climate, my favorite part of this area is the awe-inspiring redwoods that tower over every manmade structure. Ellen and I went hiking through a local state park, just letting ourselves be overwhelmed by God's creative genius. The largest living redwood in the park is 285 feet tall and about 16 feet wide and has been faithfully directing people's attention heavenward for somewhere between 1400 and 1800 years.

I was already pretty deep in thought when we walked up to a cutaway section of a tree that fell in 1934. The sign explained that each ring represented a year's growth and someone had painstakingly counted more than 2,000 rings. Pins with labels marked certain major events in American and world history. The founding of our country in 1776 was barely inside the bark. Columbus' exploration of the new world was a few inches more toward the center but still appeared relatively recent.

Just a few rings from the center was a tag representing the birth of Christ. Are you serious? Did they really mean that tree was standing when Jesus walked the earth? More than a little skeptical, I started counting the rings. It wasn't long before I gave up and decided there were better ways to spend the next few hours.

Instead, I focused on some of the individual rings. Some were thick indicating a year of bountiful sun and ideal rainfall. Others were tiny and growth was barely noticeable because the conditions were tougher that year. I couldn't help but think how cyclical the pattern appeared. Several years of abundance followed by a year or two of hardship. Repeated decade after decade, century after century.

RedwoodsAt first it reminded me of Nasdaq charts and the business cycles of our national economy. Then things got a whole lot more personal. I thought of my own life and relationship with God. Some years my faith grows rapidly as trust seems like the most logical thing in the world. In other years, I struggle just to hold on to the hard-fought victories of the past.

Then it hit me. Though I despise these ups and downs and frequently condemn myself for my lack of consistency, they're all part of the rhythm of creation. They're also all necessary if we're going to stand the tests of time and grow to our full potential.

What about you? What season are you in right now? If your soul feels well-watered then be grateful, but don't forget to lay aside some memories for the dry times that will inevitably follow. If you're in a lean time right now, be encouraged that this season of difficulty is essential to your longterm development. Either way, learn from the redwoods. Keep stretching toward heaven, confident of God's promise that He always finishes what he starts. Who knows, there just may come a time when someone smaller in faith walks away with renewed perseverance after they look up at you with a sense of awe.

So tell me, what season are you in right now?

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jfretz 03.11.2014 12:23  
Words of Encouragement Yes No   Thanks Phil, for your words of encouragement. Jfretz  
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