What Kind of Tree Are You?

By Linda Tancs

Journalist Barbara Walters once asked actress Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she would be. Hepburn likened herself to an oak tree. Not a bad choice. After all, the oak tree is a symbol of power and strength. And the Bible says that we should be like a tree firmly planted (Psalm 1:3).

Like an oak, a firmly planted tree is stable. So what does stability look like? For starters, it’s properly managing the past, present and future. Leave the past behind (Philippians 3:13). Be confident in God’s promise to provide in your current circumstances (Malachi 3:10). Remain hopeful for the future (Hebrews 6:19; Jeremiah 29:11).

So, what kind of tree are you?

It Came to Pass

By Linda Tancs

The renowned artist Auguste Renoir was an Impressionist painter, best known for his paintings of bustling Parisian modernity and leisure in the last three decades of the 19th century. He suffered terribly from arthritis in the last decade of his life but continued to paint. When asked why he continued working in such agony, he replied, “The beauty remains. The pain passes.”

That quote reminds me of the Bible phrase, “it came to pass.” It occurs with great regularity, especially in the Old Testament. You might be tempted to just brush it off as a transitional phrase, a way to mark the passage of time in a story with a flourish. But this simple phrase has the potential to mean so much more. Imagine applying it to your difficulties—a job loss, financial reversal, broken relationship, health challenge, or whatever it may be. The problem, or event, didn’t come to stay; it came to pass. Solomon’s Book of Ecclesiastes teaches this principle of coming and going (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). In every storm of life, the pain will pass but the beauty (the ultimate good) will remain. In other words, as Paul reminded the Romans, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 KJV).

Flavor of the Month

By Linda Tancs

You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “flavor of the month.” It means a person or thing enjoying a short period of great popularity. Applied in the negative, it’s the state you’ve lost when your stock drops, so to speak. Depending on your circumstance, it may mean you’re no longer relevant, on trend, winning, and so on—to your family, friends, employer or acquaintances. Maybe you’ve become, as the late film star Katharine Hepburn famously put it, “box office poison.”

Jesus could relate. One day they’re cheering Him in the streets (Matthew 21:1-11) at His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and just days later another throng wants Him crucified (Matthew 27:22-23). However badly you feel about your own situation, His loss of reputation led to a loss of life—that is, until the Resurrection. So take heart. You, too, can arise anew. Life is full of second chances. As another adage goes, everything old is new again.

The Light Within

By Linda Tancs

Author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true meaning is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

That’s a good reminder to find the light within you. All the time. And everywhere—on the grocery line, at the doctor’s office, in the chemo room. Strive to be full of light—and life—in all circumstances. Why? Because we are like light for the whole world (Matthew 5:14-16). No one ever said life would be easy, fun or painless—all the more reason not to be immune to the wonders of the life all around you. Be vibrant.

It’s Okay to Wobble

By Linda Tancs

If you’re of a certain vintage, you probably remember the Weebles toy—“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Think of that toy as a metaphor for life. Each of us needs to bounce back in the face of setbacks. Maybe you’ve fallen short in some area of your life—marriage, career, parenting. Just don’t settle for lack; get back on the horse, as the saying goes.

Discouragement scourges and oppresses progress. Consider the Israelites, whose grumbling and complaining kept them out of the Promised Land, ultimately for 40 years even though the journey was roughly only 11 days (Numbers 14:2-4; Deuteronomy 1:2). And then there’s Abraham’s father, Terah, who set out with his family in tow for Canaan but then settled for Haran (Genesis 11:31). In each case, the parties outright surrendered to discouragement and thwarted the progress God intended for them.

Wobble if you must, but don’t surrender (see Proverbs 24:16). Don’t settle for less than God’s best. Pray for the strength to hold on and not give up (Luke 18:1). You can’t reap a harvest without tending to the field (Galatians 6:9).

 

 

When it Rains, it Pours

By Linda Tancs

You know what it’s like when you’re having “one of those days,” when everything that could possibly go wrong does exactly that. The prophet Habakkuk could relate. He lamented over fig trees that did not blossom, vines that bore no fruit, failing olive trees, fruitless fields, flock cut off from the fold and no cattle in the stalls (Habakkuk 3:17). I guess you could say he was having a bad day.

Do you often get overwhelmed when circumstances seem out of control? Habakkuk did, too, but God reminded him to trust Him in the midst of oppression and destruction. He instructed him, in essence, to create a vision board and stand by it (Habakkuk 2:3). After all, what’s the use in focusing on what is going wrong when you can visualize a better outcome? It’s easy to quit in hard times, the storms of life. Habakkuk resolved to trust God to make his feet like hinds’ feet—in other words, swift and nimble. How swiftly and nimbly do you act when life throws you a curveball?

Rock of Ages

By Linda Tancs

I’m captivated by large boulders, especially those with a history. In New York City alone, the giant outcroppings framing many of the city’s most prominent open spaces arise from bedrock ranging in age from 1.1 billion to 190 million years old. Those are rocks of ages, but not the Rock.

The Lord is often referred to as our Rock, especially in the Psalms (see, e.g., Psalm 18:31; 28:1; 42:9; 62:7; 78:35; 92:15; 94:22 and 144:1). It’s a particularly apt metaphor, considering that rocks symbolize strength and stability. In biblical terms, a rock also presents a place of refuge, as David discovered on his many retreats from the threats of Saul (1 Samuel 24:1-7). And during the exodus, a rock represented a miraculous source of water for the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:15). In summary, a rock symbolizes strength, protection and provision. Is it any wonder that it’s used so frequently in the Bible to refer to God, our true Rock of Ages?

Keeping Up With the Joneses

By Linda Tancs

The temptation toward self-sufficient materialism expresses itself in our culture today (particularly in a capitalist, consumer-driven society) with the old “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. How often do you envy what someone else has or has done? How does it influence your own behavior? Do you buy the same brand of car as your colleagues, particularly if your occupation dictates the kind of car you should be driving? Do you enroll your children in the same activities or school as those you admire? Even the disciples started an argument among them as to who would be the greatest (Luke 9:46-48).

Healthy competition is one thing, but rivalry amounts to chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6). In fact, Philippians 2:3-4 warns against doing anything out of rivalry and conceit. Why? Because it’s so dangerous. It manifests in an upset of the love people/use things equilibrium. When one desires to be on a par with everyone else, the result is often using people to get more of the things one loves, failing to recognize that other people or circumstances do not dictate our riches. Only God gives, and God can take away (Job 1:21).

Measure yourself by God’s standards, not those of others (Galatians 6:4). You’re a marvelous work of God (Ephesians 2:10) with your own gifts and talents. Use your gifts in service to others and you’ll be less likely to fall prey to the kind of envy that rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30).

Are You Afraid to be Happy?

By Linda Tancs

Does happiness seem elusive to you? Do you go about daily life “waiting for the other shoe to drop”? Like Job, do you fear that something will come upon you (Job 3:25)? You’re not alone. According to a study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, people across 14 different cultures identified with statements like “having lots of joy and fun causes bad things to happen.” Clearly, there’s a universal need to control bad thoughts. Such thoughts lead to bad words and bad, unhealthy actions. Jesus came so that we might have and enjoy life, not fear it (John 10:10).

So what are some steps you can take to control your thoughts? Second Corinthians lends imagery of taking thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Imagine taking bad thoughts and banishing them to a prison cell. Envision locking the cell door. Now replace each bad or negative thought with a biblical thought. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God’s plans, or thoughts, are for our welfare. That doesn’t mean we never have a reason to be unhappy; rather, we should look to God to turn our trials into triumphs in due season. What can you focus on that’s pure, lovely, praiseworthy, commendable, honorable or excellent (Philippians 4:8)? Accentuate the positive, as the old song goes. Maintaining a positive focus will renew your mind (Romans 12:2) and bring God’s peace (Romans 8:6). You can’t be both peaceful and unhappy.

Back to the Future

By Linda Tancs

Are you surrounded by other people who specialize in prophesying your future (Ecclesiastes 8:7)? That idea will never take off. It’s all been done before. That book will never sell. You can’t go back to school now. You’re too old to adopt. The list goes on and on, and it’s often less than life affirming. Do you let the opinions of others control your goals and dreams?

It’s easy to get discouraged over someone else’s opinion of you, however uninformed if might be. And it’s especially difficult to deal with in this season because a new year often brings new reflections on the future. The power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Don’t let someone else’s tongue bring death to your dreams. Keep calm and carry on is a popular expression these days. The Bible expresses the same sentiment (Ecclesiastes 9:10; 10:4). Give yourself to what you’re dreaming to accomplish, staying calm and composed in the face of opposition. Let God be the one to guide you toward what is appropriate and to discern what needs letting go.