This picture was taken on my family's property when Beve and I were there for our short visit last month. And I know what you're looking at. Of course. It's what the eye is drawn to. We can't help it. I meant it that way. When I was growing up--until after my dad died, which means until we moved to this neck of the woods, to be punny--we didn't have indoor plumbing at the cabin. We had two outhouses. One was an three-sided, open-to-the woods one which everyone preferred (less smell and a kind of ambiance one doesn't normally associate with such places) and this one. This is the two-seater out-house. Yep, I'm not kidding, a two-seater. This made perfect sense for our large family because I'm the second oldest of 23 grandchildren, and my youngest cousin is 22 years younger than me. And my oldest nephew just 3 years younger than him. So there was always a parent (or older sibling) needing to take a baby. Or cousins who playing together who didn't want to wait in line. This little building got, shall we say, a generous amount of use back in those days. It still stands because now and then, when we have our enormous family gatherings or one of us hosts parties, we need more than the septic can hold (again with the pun, sorry). I also have to explain that it didn't always stand out in the middle of open field as it does now, but my care-taker cousin has been making our acres look like a giant gorgeous park, so there it is. I'm a little ambivalent about this being a sentinel as it is, but generally speaking I love what he's done.
And for my purposes today, this picture works.
Because our eye goes directly to that outhouse. We just can't help it.. That's what happened to me: I walked around the corner of the bunk-shed and there it was, bathed in sunlight. All I saw was the outhouse. But you know what's in front of it? Can you see those branches in that top picture? No? Well, here's the glorious trunk.
It's a cedar.
This morning, as I read Psalm 86:11, "Give me an undivided heart that I might fear your name," I got to thinking about this moment at the family property. So often what I see on what should actually should be eliminated from my life. It's just plain crap, if you'll excuse my language. But I spend my time thinking about it, worrying about it, fixating on it. But behind me--or even in me, right IN me--is this cedar. The cedars of Lebanon, according to scripture, were the most valuable of all near Eastern trees. They were used for making temples and palaces. Temples. Like the Temple where the Holy Spirit dwells.
This is truth: that He builds us with the most valuable of materials. When He's working on me, He's replacing what should be eliminated with what isn't merely available. He doesn't use what He can get at a discount. He uses the most most valuable of qualities because He dwells withing us. So who we are becoming isn't put together with junk but with The master builder's finest materials. That's a revelation, isn't it? It doesn't matter what your past has been, or what crap needs to be destroyed from your life, our Tri-une God's work is to rebuild you. "He who started a work in you is able to complete it," we're told. And He means it. He starts with the richest of materials--the blood of Jesus Christ. He adds His grace and mercy, and, wah-la, there's a foundation. Before you know it, we're being rebuilt into something more like Him than we were in the beginning, which is amazing considering that we were made in His image in the first place...well, before all that crap got in our way. The thing is, God is never limited to what got in OUR way. Or what gets in our way. He isn't limited to the materials of our past. He uses what HE has to use--truth and righteousness and goodness and honor and...LOVE. And He rebuilds us into a temple where He is the chief resident. It may be a life-long process, but I'm encouraged today by the mighty cedar in the center.
So today--while we are each a work in progress--just turn your head around. Shall we? Turn away from the outhouse in your life (whatever that is), and toward the beautiful grounds of the park (where there is beauty and joy and He is alive and well). Look at the mighty cedar in the center that will make something beautiful out of our life. Praise Him.