Category: Faith

Not growing weary

Waiting to Reap (pictured above), by Stephen Rountree, is an original painting in acrylic on salvaged, early 1900s barn wood, lightly coated in white pickling stain. The encouraging words of Galatians 6:9 are hand-transferred onto the wood in distressed lettering. Waiting to Reap is available in the shop today.

Are you tired yet? You might have immediately thought I was referring to the pandemic and the social distancing, and all that has changed in such a short time. I know we’re tired of those things. But that’s not what’s on my mind today.

I’m talking about getting tired of doing good. As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, many people have shown the best of humanity in trying times (one thing I’m really tired of is the use of the word “unprecedented,” so I’ve banned it from this blog). But we are finite creatures with limited bandwidth, energy, and stamina. At some point, we reach the end of our resources and ability to meet the needs of our families, friends, and neighbors. We just get tired.

Maybe you’re at that place today. Maybe you’ve been at that place for a while. Maybe you’re still going like gangbusters. Whatever your status, the New Testament book of Galatians has some words of wisdom and encouragement for us all regarding doing good.

Encouragement from God

In Galatians chapter 6, the apostle Paul gives the church instructions on how they are to treat one another. He talks about the need to “bear one another’s burdens” and says that by doing that, we will fulfill the law of Christ. What is the law of Christ?

In Matthew 22, Jesus answers a similar question from a religious leader of the day: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV)

Later, in the book of John, Jesus tells His disciple that His commandment is to love one another. In fact, He says that their love for one another would be one of the ways people would identify them as His followers.

If you had to put it on a bumper sticker, you might boil it down to say, “Love God, love people.”

Doing good the right way

Fast forward to Galatians where Paul encourages followers of Christ to keep the main thing the main thing—to love God and love the people around them. Consider these words from chapter 6:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV)

Here Paul is like the person along the marathon route who hands out water to the exhausted runners. He’s telling us, “Keep it up! Stay on the right course. Invest in your spiritual life with God and love Him and the people around you. Pour yourselves into this race! It’s worth it; there’s a payoff at the end if you just don’t give up!”

Don’t give up

When we’re tired of doing good, let’s allow God’s words from Galatians to spur us on another mile. We don’t want to waste time and energy on things that won’t matter tomorrow, let alone for eternity. And we don’t want to do the work in our power. God never intended for us to accomplish His work in our strength. He wants to work through us by His Holy Spirit, who gives us the strength to do whatever He calls us to do. Let’s sow good things by spending our time with God in prayer and reading His word and doing good to all people. Even when we feel like neither one is getting us anywhere, God says they are.

If we take the time to invest ourselves in the spiritual and physical parts of our lives by “doing good” in both, we will reap a harvest.

Be encouraged and inspired, and until then, keep sowing!

Stuck in the belly… or safe in the belly?

Further thoughts on Jonah and the finished sculpture

In last week’s post, I shared a new Jonah sculpture in progress on the workbench. This week, I’m happy to share the finished piece. It’s now waiting in the shop, ready for a good home.

As I was putting the finishing touches on this, a new perspective on the account of Jonah occurred to me. I titled last week’s post “Stuck in the belly.” Of course, that’s how we usually see Jonah—stuck in the belly of the whale. But there’s another way to see it. Without the whale, Jonah would likely have drowned. It’s probably what he anticipated when he had his shipmates toss him overboard in the storm. But God still had plans and a job for Jonah to do. So He kept him safe—not stuck—in the belly of the whale.

A fresh perspective

Why am I returning to the account of Jonah again for the second week in a row (other than to share the finished sculpture)? Because in following the Coronavirus news like everyone else, I came across a refreshing perspective. Someone wrote that instead of seeing this as being stuck at home, we should see it as being safe at home. That’s a big difference. How many times have we been out somewhere in some sort of distress and wishing we were home—safe at home?

Now, with the entire world in distress, many of us are, indeed, safe at home. We can be grateful for that and pray for those who are truly stuck somewhere they don’t want to be or those that can’t stay home—like our medical teams, grocery store workers, and delivery folks—because they’re out every day taking care of the rest of us.

This week, when I start to dwell on what I’m missing, where I can’t go, and who I can’t see, I’m going to try to remind myself that in spite of all of that, I’m blessed to be safe at home. And it’s a lot more comfortable—and better smelling—than a whale’s belly!


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Give peace a chance

Protesting the war—on ourselves

If you’ve been reading us for a while, (or if you’ve read our welcome post) you know the vision behind Inspiring Handmade is found in Philippians 4:8, where the apostle Paul writes, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Inspiring Handmade celebrates original art and craft, writing, and other creations and offers you a break from the things in the world that drag you down—a chance to dwell on the true, pure, and praiseworthy things. Through the art and craft works as well as the blog posts, Inspiring Handmade invites you into your own Philippians 4:8 moment. We want to create work on which you can feast your eyes and feed your soul.

Genuine peace is possible if we engage our minds

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we dwell on. We are surrounded by negativity, temptations, and all sorts of other influences that, if allowed to occupy our minds, will do us serious harm.

Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” It’s a picturesque acknowledgment that, even though we may be bombarded by harmful thoughts and temptations, it’s the dwelling on them that’s the problem. We can’t help what thoughts may creep into our minds, but we can decide what to do next. Do we allow them to remain—to build a nest— as Luther would say? Or do we immediately give them the boot? In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul tells us that it is possible to overcome temptations and harmful thoughts. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” he wrote to the church in Corinth. And one of the best ways to do this is to choose to dwell on what’s good and pure.

Truth meets art

We all know it’s true. Giving in to temptation, feeding negative thoughts about ourselves and others, thinking on things that are impure, and untrue always results in turmoil, guilt, shame, anger, depression, and more. There’s no peace when we head down that path and when we do, we find ourselves in a vicious, self-defeating cycle from which it’s difficult to break free.

But there’s a positive, life-giving cycle we can experience when we dwell on the good things. To illustrate this truth, I’ve created the sculpture, Dwell. One one side is a reminder of what Philippians 4:8 encourages us to dwell on. Spin the sculpture around, and you see the result of dwelling on those things: peace (see Philippians 4:9)! Dwell shows the connection between what we dwell on and the peace of mind and life we enjoy. Dwelling on the good brings peace, which comes from dwelling on the good. And repeat. Original art picturing life the way The Creator designed it to be.

Fire in the jungle

This week, Patti is introducing a new piece in the Inspiring Handmade shop called Fire in the Jungle. It’s a work full of energy, conflict, passion, and respite—a little bit like life. The name of the piece reflects the tension inherent in its bold colors fighting for your attention.

A fire in a jungle evokes imagery of devastation amongst lush green vegetation—death and destruction encroaching on areas teeming with life, but kept at bay, maybe, by a river or a stream, or a drenching afternoon rain. Such a scene would be a confusing mashup of hope and hopelessness.

Our lives are full of these elements, aren’t they? Pain, refreshment, loss, restoration, difficulty, rest. Taken on their own, they might not make much sense. But in the hands of the Master, they can be blended together to create a work of art—a life—that speaks encouragement and beauty into the world around it.

1 Peter 1:7 tells us that “we have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

A cold winter’s sky

One of my favorite things about winter is the clear night sky. While it’s more comfortable temperature-wise to skywatch in the summer, the winter sky seems clearer and sharper. Colder air is often less hazy, so it feels like I can see farther into the depths of space. And there are no bugs.

The next time you’re outside on a crisp winter’s evening, turn your gaze skyward fo a minute or two and consider that, while some of those tiny points of light are single stars, like our sun, some are many times larger than our sun and some are not even stars at all, but are entire galaxies, appearing to our eyes as a single speck of light.

From my own back yard…

Just tonight, as I looked out toward the south, I saw Orion. The distinctive 3-star belt makes the hunter one of the easiest constellations to spot.

The main figure of Orion is a large rectangle comprising four bright stars, including two of the brightest stars in the sky: Betelgeuse marks the hunter’s upper left shoulder, while Rigel anchors the lower right, representing his right knee.

A set of 1825 astronomy cards published in London c. 1825 featured a hand-colored etching of Orion the hunter.

Betelgeuse (pronounced, “Beetle-juice”) is a red supergiant. The star is more than 850 million miles across—that’s about 1,000 times wider than our sun. If you were to replace our sun with Betelgeuse, the red star’s surface would engulf the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and extend out even past the orbit of Mars.

Scientists speculate that earlier in its life, this stellar supergiant devoured a neighboring star about the size of our sun. Now, astronomers believe Betelgeuse will soon die in a supernova explosion.

Cosmic drama

That’s a lot of drama going on just in the left shoulder of Orion. Imagine what’s happening at this moment in every other corner of the universe.

I guess that’s why I really love the winter sky—it reminds me of the magnificently powerful God who created it. I’ve been drawn before to Psalm 19 in my work. This week, I returned to it to create the piece you see at the top of this post.

It opens with these two expansive verses:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”

It’s good to remember to look up every now and then. It helps put our trials, triumphs, and ourselves in perspective. If all of that cosmic drama is unfolding at one little red spot in the sky, surely we, along with the cosmos, were created by a being of unimaginable power.

The writer of Psalm 19 thought so. And he knew he was accountable to his Creator, so he closed that Psalm with this request and praise, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

A good prayer anytime, and certainly on a cold, clear winter’s night.

Photo by Rogelio Bernal Andreo, October 2010. The Orion constellation and surrounding nebulas of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex. Also shown is the red supergiant Betelgeuse (top left) and the famous belt of Orion composed of the OB stars Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. To the bottom right can be found the star Rigel. The red crescent shape is Barnard’s Loop.

A Psalm 19 Night is now available in the shop.

A new song

New Song sculpture by Stephen Rountree

A new year. A new decade.

100 years ago, our nation was entering what became known as the “Roaring Twenties.” It was a time of economic and cultural growth and prosperity.

As we ease into the 2020s, I’m wondering if these will be the “Roaring Twenties” for me creatively and spiritually. Will I see new growth in those areas of my life this year? I’d like to. Maybe you would, too.

A vision for 2020

Lately, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 96. It’s short—just 13 verses—but it’s packed with big ideas that make it worth dwelling on in these early days of the new year. I’m using it as a guide for my goals—my vision—for the year, maybe the rest of my life. Depending on how you might count them, there are around seven calls to specific actions in this Psalm.

• Sing a new song to the Lord
• Bless His name
• Tell others about His salvation
• Give God the credit He is due and tell others about His glory and marvelous works
• Praise the Lord and rejoice because of the Lord
• Fear the Lord (as in holding Him in proper reverence and awe)
• Worship the Lord with all your heart in reverence

You can read Psalm 96 for yourself here.

Inspired to create

This Psalm has inspired the first sculpture of 2020, which I’m calling New Song.

This piece is created from salvaged oak barn wood from a circa 1905 barn in Southwest Virginia. You can see the barn and read more about that here.

I’ve taken one of the old oak planks, cleaned it up, and cut off the parts I didn’t need. I sanded it, painted a landscape on it and hand-transferred the first verse of the Psalm onto it. It reads, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!”

In essence, I’ve given this old piece of oak a new song. It was part of a barn for many years—more years than I’ve been alive. Then it was part of a pile of scrap wood, destined for a landfill or a fire.

But now it will have a new life as a piece of art that carries the words of God on it. Its new life will be totally different than its old one. The old oak wood will be in someone’s warm home instead of exposed to the harsh mountain weather. It will be appreciated on a deeper level than it was before. And it will be able to inspire thoughts about God and life in ways that it never could before.

That’s a lot like what God does with people. He finds us, remakes us, and gives us a new purpose—His purpose. Our new lives, which are possible because of Jesus Christ’s work in us, are infinitely more satisfying than what we could have imagined before. As Jesus Himself says in John 10:10, “… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Making it real

If I put into practice the calls of Psalm 96 this year, I believe this will be the start of the Roaring Twenties for both my creative and my spiritual life. So my goal is to offer God my creative projects (like this blog) in new ways this year—offering them for His purposes to share His works and His message. Exactly what that looks like, I can’t say at this point, but I want this year to be productive and full of praise for the ultimate Creator.

How about you? Would you like to start your own Roaring Twenties this year?

Why not join me in meditating on Psalm 96 this week and think about how you might put some of those calls into action. I’d love to hear your ideas! You can always reach me by email here. I’ll return to this topic in future posts to consider what some of the calls from Psalm 96 look like in practice. For instance, singing to the Lord sounds easy enough, but what does the “new song” refer to? How, exactly, do I give God the credit He’s due, or tell others about His marvelous works?

Stay tuned!

New Song is now in the Inspiring Handmade shop, ready to inspire in a new home.

New Song sculpture detail
Detail of New Song, by Stephen Rountree

Share your thoughts on Psalm 96. What would your year look like if you put some—or all—of those calls into action?

Plastic peace?

Snowman family at dinner

Artificial, plastic trees. Artificial icicles and artificial snow. Maybe even artificial smiles amid the stress of the holiday season? And all of it with the goal of somehow generating genuine peace.

But all the plastic, and glitter, and presents in the world can’t conjure up peace at our dinner tables or in our own homes, much less for the whole earth. There is someone, though, who is able to bring real peace. Angles announced His birth more than 2,000 years ago with the proclamation, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).

This second week of Advent focuses on peace, but not the plastic, artificial peace we try to create for ourselves. The advent—the anticipated arrival—of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Prince of Peace, changed everything and opened up the way for us to experience real, lasting peace.

Isaiah 9:6 from the King James Version says it the way most of us remember it: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

We can start the celebration of Christmas as early as we want to and drape our homes in enough lights to be visible to the crew in the space station, but until we know and trust in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the best we’ll have is plastic peace.

If plastic peace isn’t enough for you, hear the definitive words of Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

That’s the real peace and praise of Christmas and the real reason we celebrate. With Christ’s arrival at Christmas and His death on the cross at Easter, which secured our forgiveness and tore down the wall between God and us, we have been offered a gift. Romans 6:23 describes it like this: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life—and peace—with God instead of eternal suffering separated from Him and His love and blessings—now that’s something to celebrate all year long.

If you’ve never trusted in Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and you’re tired of artificial peace, drop me note using the contact below. I’d be happy to share with you how you can know genuine peace by knowing the Prince of Peace. What better Christmas gift to yourself?

A hippopotamus for Christmas?

Remember that song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”? It was a novelty song written by John Roxby. The version most of us know is the original recording by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey, which climbed to number 24 on Billboard magazine’s pop chart in December of 1953. Through the years, the song has been covered by a wide range of entertainers, from The Three Stooges to Captain Kangaroo to the Jonas Brothers.

As I’ve been thinking about this first week of the season of Advent, a hippopotamus, of all things, has been on my mind. I’ve started sketching what I think she looks like. She’s not the one Gayla sang about, though. This hippo’s name is Hope. I’m calling her, “Hope, the Hopeful Hippo.” And she reminds me of the season of Advent because it’s a season of hope.
From children hoping for that special gift, to parents and grandparents hoping to gather far-flung family members home for a visit, hope is a central theme of Advent and the Christmas season.

But the deepest hope of Advent is not the common, sometimes vain, kind of hope that we experience every day, as in, “I hope it doesn’t rain before I get the grocery shopping done,” or “I hope this checkout line I’ve committed to will move quickly.”
No, it’s an expectant hope, anticipation rooted in trusting that something wonderful is about to happen. Do you know the kind of hope I mean?
The deepest hope of Advent is based on the promises of God. Bible scholars have identified more than 500 verses that refer directly to a promised personal Messiah. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah contains several references to Him. The promised arrival of a Savior, a Rescuer of God’s people is one of the primary themes of the Old Testament. The revelation of Jesus Christ as that Messiah—Emmanuel, God with us—and the invitation to trust Him for this life and life in eternity is the message of the New Testament.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Our Rescuer, in John 10:10

Through Jesus, God has rescued us from our rebellious natures. The guilt and shame of our past—every decision, action, and careless word that we regret—all those and more are no longer counted against us at the very moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, our Rescuer. At that moment God declares us “not guilty!“ And at that moment, hope, the surest hope in the universe, comes rushing in.
Did you know that godly Hope also has a twin sister? Her name is Assurance. And they’re inseparable because wherever godly Hope is, you’ll find Assurance. So when Hope moves in at that moment of our renewal through Christ, Assurance is right there with her—Assurance of forgiveness; Assurance of eternal life; Assurance of God‘s power through the Holy Spirit to help us live the life He intends for us. Assurance that God loves us—so much.
And if you want proof of that love, look no further than a lowly manger where, more than 2,000 years ago, God sent his one and only gift of supreme love, special delivery, to light up a dark world. That’s the Hope—and Assurance—of Advent and the Christmas season.

Well, if you’ve got that hippopotamus song stuck in your head now, you might be interested to learn a little more about how it came to be, and what Gayla Peevey did after her big hit. You can do just that at her website (which may be in the running for the world’s longest URL): www.iwantahippopotamusforchristmas.net. You can also see 10-year-old (and the more current 73-year-old) Gayla performing the song in the video below.

Hope, the Hopeful Hippo just might break out of the sketchbook to become a carving in the same family as Percy the Perserving Rooster. Stay tuned!


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Art that connects with The Creator

Kristi Nash Harrison says she’s an attention deficit artist. “I jump from one thing to the next,” she told me when I caught up with her this week as she was preparing for what’s become known as “the most anticipated little craft show in Mechanicsville.” That would be The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House at my Inspiring Handmade partner in art, Patti Jones’ home and studio: 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. This year (the show’s 17th) the fun begins Friday, Nov. 22, at 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and continues Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

For years, Kristi and Patti have joined their friends and fellow makers to create and show original art and crafts. And while her interests may be many, Kristi, a long-time local artist, and art teacher, says clay and paint are her mainstays. “Over the years, my art has evolved,” she said and explained that it always reflects various facets of her life. The crabs and water themes, for instance, are inspired by her mother’s love of life on the water.

glazed pottery cup with a crab
A sculpted crab crawls among sand and grass on a glazed cup. All glazes are lead-free and safe for everyday use with food and drinks.
Wonderfully illustrated crabs congregate on glazed plates. Pile them high with Christmas cookies and even when the baked goods are gone, these plates look amazing.
Whimsical dragonflies dance along the top of a glazed tumbler. Who wouldn’t be inspired by taking a sip or using a pen kept in this work of art?
A dragonfly prepares to light on a flowered lilypad on this glazed bowl. Want to make someone feel special? Serve them their favorite ice cream in what will surely become known as “the dragonfly bowl!”

This year Kristi’s also showing one-of-a-kind glazed bowls illustrated with majestic night skies.
“When I take my dogs out, Kristi explains, I love to look at the heavens and the stars. The heavens declare the glory of God,” she says, quoting Psalm 19. As an artist, she’s drawn to the sky and thinks of the northern lights and the array of colors you see in a sunset.
“I’ve also been inspired by the works of artists Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse,” she says.

Glazed bowls illustrated with a gorgeous night sky.
A crescent moon rises through a wondrous night sky draped in the Aurora Borealis on this glazed bowl.

As important as the art is to this creator who holds a master’s in art from Virginia Commonwealth University, Kristi’s work is about more than the image.
“I love sharing Scripture that’s a part of my life to help bring peace and inspiration to others,” she said. That’s one reason why her work has been so popular all these years. She said one woman who purchased a piece of her pottery told her she keeps her keys in it so that she’s inspired by it every time she leaves the house. “People have told me that they keep my work where they can see it every day and be reminded of God and their blessings. It helps them stay positive.”

You can see (and purchase) Kristi’s gorgeous pottery (all safe to use with food) and other work at this year’s The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House starting this Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and finishing Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. Long-time fans of the show will tell you to get there as soon as possible Friday to get your choice of the art, crafts, and delicious baked goods.


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True colors

I love autumn. It’s my favorite season. Most of our family birthdays, along with our wedding anniversary, are in the fall. But in addition to all that, one of the things I love the most is the changing of the leaves. And I’m not alone.

Every fall thousands of people trek up to the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains of Virginia, enjoying Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, and other areas. When we go, we’re hoping for that perfect day, when the air is crisp, the clouds are few, and the sunlight is plentiful, so we can take in one of the most spectacular scenes in nature—gorgeous fall foliage.

Various species of trees change color at different times as we march toward winter. We might begin to see the first spots of red in the forest in September as the black gums announce that change is on its way. They’re quickly followed by the black walnut’s leaves turning yellow and the dogwood’s turning red. Soon the hickory begins to change to a deep yellow. By mid-late October, depending on the year, there’s a wash of color from the hills to the flat land, which we usually call the “peak season.” That’s when we see the brilliant oranges and reds of the sugar maples, reds, and yellows of the red maple, and all the colors of the oaks and other species. Finally, toward the end of the season, the last show of color is provided by the yellow poplar. Beyond mid-November, the forest is generally shades of browns and bronzes with a few remaining color splashes here and there.

… we pat ourselves on the back because we put men on the moon, but we can’t figure out precisely how God gets a green leaf to turn brilliant crimson in the third week of October.

According to the Virginia Department of Forestry and National Park service, color change in leaves is not fully understood and remains a mystery. Imagine that—we pat ourselves on the back because we put men on the moon, but we can’t figure out precisely how God gets a green leaf to turn brilliant crimson in the third week of October. The master Creator can humble us in many ways.

But we do know a few things about leaf color: Forestry professionals (of which my father was one during his career) tell us it involves sunlight, moisture, temperature, length of the day, chemicals, and hormones—not unlike teenagers.

A green leaf is green because of the presence of a group of pigments known as chlorophyll. Reaching back to high school biology, you may remember that chlorophyll absorbs light to provide energy for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is active during the summer growing season, capturing the sun’s energy and using water and carbon dioxide to make simple sugars. These simple sugars are a tree’s food. All during the summer, the chlorophyll is constantly being produced and broken down, creating food for the tree, and as a side-effect, keeping the leaves green.

But it turns out that all that green actually is masking the leaves’ true colors. As autumn approaches, weather changes somehow signal a slowdown in the production of chlorophyll. The green begins to fade and the masking effect disappears. Other colors that have been in the leaf all along begin to show through. Some pigments give us the yellows, browns, and oranges. Others give us reds and purples. Supposedly, the brighter the light (the fewer cloudy days) during this late summer period, the greater the production of these pigments and the more brilliant colors we see come Fall. Somehow that has to be balanced with enough rain to keep the trees healthy.

So we might sum up what we know about leaf color like this: During the growing season, chlorophyll production keeps the leaves looking green. As nights get longer in the autumn, chlorophyll decreases and eventually dies off completely. Only then are the pigments in the leaf unmasked to show their colors.

And so, what we realize is that all of us who travel every fall to the mountains are really going to see just one thing—a bunch of dying leaves.

We don’t go to the mountains in the summer just see the leaves when they’re full of their own life when they are supplying their own needs with their own chlorophyll. No, we go when they’ve run out of their own resources when they can no longer feed themselves when they have come to the end of their own leafy strength. No longer are they green and proud, supplying the food for their mighty oak, or majestic maple. Now they are dying. And it’s only now that they’re at their absolute most beautiful. Only now are they seen painted in the true colors their Creator designed them to show.

It’s only when the leaves are dying that they’re at their absolute most beautiful, painted in the true colors their Creator designed them to show.

And all that makes me think of God’s Word in Romans chapter 6. Here, Paul writes in verses 6-8: “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.”

So each fall, I think of the many people drawn to see dying leaves. Leaves, which after a season of self-sufficiency, are finally showing their true, beautiful colors. And I’m reminded that God has designed me to die to my natural self-centered ways and to show my true colors as well—colors that are true of anyone who has new life in Christ. We see what a God-colored life looks like in Galatians 5:22. What shows through is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

But I can’t show those colors when I’m living for my own selfish desires, in my own strength. Those God-colors are only evident when I’m dying to those things and living for Christ.
A pretty inspiring lesson from a bunch of dying leaves, I think. Are your true colors showing? Are mine?

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