Olive Trees For Sale

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We practically drink olive oil in my household. My husband believes it is the secret to making most food taste just right (well, that and cumin). He will drizzle olive oil over the top of every soup, salad and pot of beans he makes, and somehow it always ends up tasting amazing. It could just be the visual experience of watching him pour it with a crafted artistry and passion, but he has managed to convince me that the golden oil really is the difference maker in most of what we eat.

Eating is something we’ve been doing plenty of during this shelter-in-place period. Not just eating, but eating well. Making good, healthy food and sitting down to eat it together has become again a sacred part of our lives. We enjoy the food before us and the family beside us, and in the midst of this simple act, a deep bond of connection is being restored.

A well-known leader of our nation once wisely said that all great change in America begins at the dinner table. I would expand upon that and say this applies to the whole world, since the beginning of time. Time together, around the provision of what nurtures and sustains, is and has always been something that draws our hearts back to humility and connection, and re-centers us around the things we can’t live without: food, each other, and the God Who has given us both.

I do, however, struggle sometimes to appreciate the process that this kind of connection and re-centering requires.  I pour the golden oil and consume without giving a thought to the dirt and mess and time and labor it took to get that bottle to my table.

“Fast food” – not so much the content but the concept – is appealing to me because of the many responsibilities I carry. This, of course, is a matter of choice, but in our fast-paced world, it sometimes becomes a complicated choice that I can’t seem to unhook from. I find myself often having to re-evaluate the responsibilities I am carrying, and seeking to find ways to reorder my priorities because I feel overwhelmed and under-supplied. I have often cried for God to give me more help, when in reality He is looking to give me less burdens.

In keeping with the dinner table/olive oil metaphor, I understand the value of a good meal, prepared painstakingly with love and the choicest ingredients. But I have learned to live without it in favor of a quicker, more convenient option….in the name of efficiency and the accomplishment of more (though not necessarily always better). This is a common theme in our world. Many have forsaken the hearty and wholesome, which necessitates a simplifying of our lives and desires, in favor of the pre-packaged promise of room for other things that, in the long run, have only served to weaken our focus and deepen our deficiencies.

This, I realize, is not just a food issue. It’s a life issue – a heart issue, really. Sheltering-in-place has provided the time and space to see some things it has been easy for most of us to either overlook or justify, and I (we) have the unique opportunity to look a little closer and dig a little deeper during this time. The hope in doing so, of course, is to grow. And to go back to where we were always meant to be – living from deep connection and indulging in life-giving (instead of life-draining) things.

I took a scenic drive the other day and passed a roadside sign that read, “Olive trees for sale.” My first thought was, “Who in the world would want to buy olive trees (especially in a time like this)?!” This was a free clue to the overrun state of my heart, but I missed it. In God’s providence, however, I had to take the same scenic drive again yesterday, and the same sign gave me another opportunity to consider the reality that God is seeking to gain my attention about something.

While many are in a state of panic-driven acquisition of basic necessities we fear we can’t live without, God has His eye on a different kind of storehouse. It dawned on me, after some pondering with the Lord, that the people who want to buy olive trees are the people who love the oil they produce, and want to ensure there will be a plentiful flow of it. This revelation forced me to stop and consider what I am pursuing in my life, and whether I am willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get it.

In our consumer-minded culture, it’s so easy to just go to the grocery store and grab a bottle of oil from the shelf and use it up without having to participate in any of the process it took to cultivate or produce that oil. I like the simplicity and convenience of this reality. However, this reality has bled over into the way I think about and do family, life, and a whole host of other important things. I want things to come quickly and easily, with little or no investment of my time, energy, creativity, or resources. This is the way our world works today, and as much as I seek to live set apart, by standards more aligned with God’s ways, I am freshly recognizing my tendency to subconsciously adopt the current cultural norms in much of my life.

For instance, I look often at pictures of “happy” families, where everything is polished and presented for a social media platform that collects the adoration and affirmations of its viewers. I want that picture. I want the family that is smiling and happy and thriving, no matter what’s going on in the background.

I have that picture on my bookshelf. But the story behind the picture is quite different than the image it portrays. There is pain behind that picture, and brokenness we are still trying to fix. I want the happy family picture without the hard work of tending to the roots of what threatens to disconnect us from one another and from God. I want the oil to pour from the store-bought bottle we get at church and fill our bellies with a sensational experience, but when we get up from the table, I see us all wander off into separate corners and separate inner worlds that don’t really connect at all. I go back to the bottle of oil that I bought from someone else and wonder why it didn’t work, and all the while, God is wanting to sell me a tree of my very own. A source of that oil that will not run dry after our dinner-table, temporary connection.

I saw another beautiful picture this past week, of a flock of sheep resting under a tree, with a sheepdog lounging nearby, keeping his watch. That’s how I want parenting to look. They just come and graze under the tree, and I sit and watch them, satisfied and at rest. We are all doing our jobs – me leading from rest and them following happily and finding satisfaction in what I’ve led them to. But in order for that picture to become our reality, I need an olive tree.

Instead, parenting often looks like chaos in my world. I am leading alright, but more from worry and fear than rest. I’m trying to drag them to the tree I’ve found (in truth, the tree I believe God has led us to, in terms of church community), but they are not always happily following, nor are they finding great satisfaction in what they’ve been led to. Rather than lounging nearby, I’m usually working myself into a frenzy trying to “bring them back” to the tree, so we can sit down peacefully together for a little while and hold up the appearance of being a happy, connected family.

The tree we sit beneath together is meant to be a place where we collect seeds, and those seeds are given in the hope that we will take them home, plant them in the soil of our own hearts and our home and family, and grow our own olive tree. The goal is that we will cultivate our own relationships with God, and our own lives full of His presence. That takes a great investment of time, energy and resources. And while I often think I’m engaged in this work, forced stillness has exposed my tendency to still want things the easy way.

Not everything about life with God is hard, please don’t misunderstand. After all, the tree He is wanting to sell us is the one He bought with His own blood. It’s free, for Heaven’s sake – literally. But bringing it home and tending to it, and waiting for its fruit, is a labor that requires much patience and devotion. It requires a lifestyle exchange.

I heard someone talk about getting this oil in their lives the other day – pursuing the presence and fullness of the Holy Spirit. He said it did not come easy. He tried to read and pray and fight his way through to the place where it freely flowed, but it took years of showing up and sitting down at the table with God when He walked away feeling as if nothing was digested. He was sure he would have to resign himself to just borrowing someone else’s oil because he couldn’t cultivate his own, but he continued to show up anyway, graced by the Spirit of God, and eventually that hard labor of cultivating his own tree has yielded a flow of oil that draws people from around the globe to taste and see the value of getting their own olive trees.

What does this look like in practical terms for you and me? It looks like going back to the drawing board, the dreaming board, with God – for our lives, our families, and our destinies. It means returning to the visions God had when He made us and brought us together. It means unhooking from the fast food, pre-packaged models of the “good life” and the family model most of society has accepted, uprooting the “convenient and efficient” goals, and putting new seeds into the soil of our home and hearts. It means adjusting our focus and intentions from merely consuming what’s prepared for us (in terms of the Word of God) and learning how to work it into the fabric of our lives, our homes and our families. It means making His presence the central point of our existence again.

It means there is work to do, where I’ve often been willing to let someone else’s work suffice. It means there is more than just a table before me – there is a field, waiting to be sown. It means I was meant to be more than a consumer of others’ ministries and missions (though they are often helpful and appointed, for a time and purpose). I am – we are – meant to produce something that others can benefit from and enjoy, as well. It means rolling up my sleeves, setting aside my picture, and becoming willing to devote myself to the family God wants to feed and draw closer to His heart.

When I think of buying olive trees, I think of making daily, even hourly choices to invest in the health and future of my life and family. I think of devoting time and space and resources to the cultivation of a life that will produce something lasting, something that will draw our future generations around a common purpose and pursuit. I think of slowing down and changing value systems – of treasuring the process of life together rather than aiming for a checklist that gets accomplished. I think of hearts that are not just fed, but fed with the finest ingredients, drawn from the field I have been assigned to cultivate.

God is dreaming over us, and His dreams are going to require more than a cheap bottle of oil we can pick up from a second-hand source. We can’t get the fullness of the Holy Spirit quickly or cheaply. What God is envisioning for me, and for us, requires an original work, starting from the inception of the seed that grows into the tree, which must be tended to and harvested, and the fruit then crushed and poured out into the golden gift that blesses all who come to partake of it. It requires a process we are committed to, and a setting aside of the agendas that would cut it short.

Ultimately, the “olive tree for sale” is a picture of our lives, surrendered to God’s plans, slowed down and stripped of all the pre-packaged methods we’ve collected for growth. I know who wants olive trees: God does. He is looking to produce the glorious fruit of His Spirit in us and among us, and to preserve it for the generations yet to come. As we slow down and learn to drink deeply and delight again (or maybe, for the first time) in what He is setting before us, I pray there will be a shift in our hearts which leads us back to the intentions He has always had for us.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, we are breaking through barriers right now, in this forced hour of stillness. When we move too fast, we miss too much, and sacrifice all the wealth of the soil God has given us for growth. He desires that we grow into healthy and productive sources of His love and grace and blessing, but that requires our willingness to partner with Him in the cultivation of such a life.

Is your ear open to hear Him speaking right now? Can you see the space He is opening up for you, the space in which you will be able to plant your olive tree and ensure that there will always be oil flowing for your heart and household? Are you willing to partner with God as He prepares you for a time when the pre-packaged and pre-prepared oil will cease to flow, and only those who have cultivated the trees in their own gardens will thrive?

Now is the time of invitation, to know more and grow more deeply in God. Supply is transferring from outside sources to inward reserves. If we have not invested in olive trees for our own lives and families – if we have not cultivated an intimacy and reliance upon God – we will never see the things we desire to see, the things we have been promised.

God has promised much, but those promises don’t come just by quoting them. We must have good soil in which they can grow. We must choose to invest our lives in the cultivation of His presence and His purposes. We must choose to provide for our households by planting the tree of life right in the middle.

May we learn from the 5 wise virgins whose lamps were full of oil when the Bridegroom came for His bride. And may we be warned by the 5 foolish ones, who thought they could borrow or buy from the wise, but were sent off to find their own oil, and missed the coming of their Beloved One.

We must know Him and grow in Him, each for ourselves. And we must prepare our households for His coming. In order for our lamps to be full of oil, we must get it from the source. God has made the tree available. May you choose to bring it into the center of your life and family, and to gather around and draw from it regularly together.

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

 

 


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