In January, we celebrated Tu B’Shvat, the “New Year of the Trees” which began at sundown on Tuesday, January 30 and ushered in what is known as “The Season of Harvest.”
Tu B’Shvat or the “birthday” of all fruit trees, is a minor festival but has deep spiritual prophetic meaning. The name is Hebrew for the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat.
In ancient times, Tu B’Shvat was a date on the calendar that helped Jewish farmers establish exactly when they should bring their fourth-year produce of fruit from recently planted trees to the Temple as first-fruit offerings. Early Zionists seized upon Tu B’Shvat as an opportunity to celebrate their tree-planting efforts to restore the ecology of ancient Israel and as a symbol of renewed growth and flowering of the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland.
At the Bethany Center, we were beginning our annual tradition of following a biblically based nutrition plan for 110 days—eliminating sugar and eating the traditional foods of Tu B’shvat indigenous to the land as written in Deuteronomy 8:8. Don’t miss this month’s Precious Gems article where I will discuss deeper spiritual meanings of this important holiday.
The period of 110 days between Tu B’Shvat and Shavu’ot is the time when the seeds of trees and grains break underground and begin their slow but steady ascension toward the warmth of the sun. For those seeking to understand the Hebraic roots of our Christian faith, this is a season rich with prophecy and possibility. A season my natural family and ministry family always look forward to.
It was Thursday, the day after Tu B’Shvat when I found myself on my back looking up from the ground in my backyard at the sturdy branches of our towering cedar trees as they swayed briskly above me. I had finished a late lunch with several Bethany Center team members a few hours earlier. We stood that day, shoulder-to-shoulder and served lunch at the Samaritan Inn, Collin County’s only homeless shelter program. During our team lunch afterwards, there was a collective feeling of appreciation for all our blessings—as well as for the ability to give back to our community. When we left the restaurant, I was feeling the love of God, family, and friends in a special way.
Now, from this unusual ground-level perspective, my mind flashed to John 15:12 where God’s Word says that every branch in Him that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Although the sweeping branches above me lacked fruit, I couldn’t help but think how like God to teach such a visual object lesson. Having just celebrated Tu B’Shvat, the day that commemorates trees; and the fruit that God has given man, I prayed…
Lord, please let me bear more fruit, I’m not finished with the work You’ve given me to do…
A few minutes earlier, as I fell to the ground from the treehouse high above, I wondered if I was going to live or die. It was like everything was happening in slow motion, even the sound of my breaking bones. Yet, in that instant there were a few things I was sure of; one, that God was sovereign and two, that I was His child. I was acutely aware of all the blessings in my life. I was thankful for the grace of God over my soul, for my beautiful and precious family, my dear and treasured friends, and the many opportunities God had given me to bless Him back.
The afternoon had certainly taken an unexpected turn.
As I laid there taking an inventory of the damage in my body, it was His Words of promise and purpose that gave me strength to reach my left arm over my twisted body and wrench my impossibly angled right arm into a position that wouldn’t frighten my two young grandsons who stood nearby crying. It was God’s strength that enabled me to talk calmly to these precious little boys who became Nana’s life-saving soldiers that day.
I lifted up another prayer that seemed to blend in unison with the sound of the wind whispering through the tree limbs. It was as though the towering tree became my guardian and our shared prayers seemed in agreement. I was flooded with a spiritual comfort that trumped the physical, emotional, and mental discomfort that was pushing its way to the surface. With the cold earth beneath me and a stillness in my spirit that belied the fact my physical body was most likely going into shock—I couldn’t help but appreciate how God’s Word flooded my mind and heart.
It’s been a little over a month since I fell about eight feet from my grandchildren’s elaborate tree house in my backyard, cracking my sacrum, breaking my wrist in three places and fracturing my humorous into at least 17 pieces.
Few of us have reached adulthood without hearing the age-old adage of how quickly life can change—how we must never take anyone or anything for granted. Years ago, I lost my newborn son and clinically died in the ICU, but God miraculously raised me from the dead.
Once again, God was faithful.
I fell, and He raised me up.
Another miracle. Another chance.
What an awesome God.