To Share with Your Children at Christmas – “The Tale of Three Trees”

“Now I shall be made into a beautiful treasure chest,” thought the first tree. “I shall hold marvelous treasures!”

Sharing a precious memory of Christmas past on this Christmas morn.

When our three children were very young, we would read children’s books to them each evening before bedtime. “Story Time!” always created excitement and had become a tradition that started with our first-born child Brian, as he grew old enough to listen, and in the following years with Daniel and Katie. Cindy and I were blessed by such times, and we knew the children enjoyed the stories. There were many, many books that we collected over time such as “A Giraffe and a Half”, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and “The Enormous Crocodile”. Yet there was one story that held special significance for us at Christmas and again on Easter – “The Tale of the Three Trees”.

It is a tale of dreams held, of dreams shattered, and of dreams realized. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the story:

Once upon a time, three little trees stood in a forest high on a mountain, dreaming of what they would be when they were grown.

The first little tree looked up at the stars twinkling like diamonds in the night sky. “I want to hold treasure,” it said. “I want to be filled with gold and decorated with jewels. I will be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

The second little tree looked down the mountainside at the ocean far below. “I want to be a strong sailing ship,” it said. “I want to travel mighty waters and carry powerful kings. I will be the strongest ship in the world!”

The third little tree said, “I don’t want to leave this mountaintop at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me their eyes will raise up to heaven, and they will think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world!”

Source

Thus the dreams of the three trees are made known to the reader. But then woodcutters came up from the town and their dreams were shattered one by one. The first was felled and fashioned, not into a treasure chest, but into “a simple feed-box.” The second was felled and fashioned, not into a strong sailing ship, but into “a simple fishing boat.” And the third that dreamt of never being cut down was instead felled and then cut into rough-hewn beams and laid aside.

But though the trees dreams were shattered, the story goes on to talk about a feed-box being used as a cradle that held “the greatest treasure in the world.” And a small fishing boat that would not “travel mighty waters” but would carry “the King of heaven and earth.” Finally, the story tells of beams of wood fashioned into a cruel structure onto which a man was nailed by his hands and feet. Yet the earth would tremble as the man died and then three days later “the earth knew that God’s love had changed everything.”

This simple, touching story has been illustrated by more than one person, but the book that we read to our children was “The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale” by Angela Elwell Hunt, with illustrations by Tim Jonke. We think the illustrations are wonderful.

You may perhaps find the book at your local library, but we encourage you to buy a copy at your favorite bookstore or at an online source. We pray it blesses you and your children as it did our family.

Fight the Good Fight, Finish the Course, Keep the Faith

Why then do we insist on trying to go it alone?

No matter our determination, our drive, or our desire, there are times in which we know we have reached the limit of our ability to continue in a pursuit or a dream. We absolutely know we can’t do it. We don’t have the skill, the strength, or the wisdom needed. It is exactly at such times that we must look outside of ourselves for additional strength, new ideas, new ways in which to continue moving forward. Why then do we insist on trying to go it alone?

To “finish the course”, as Paul wrote to his dear friend Timothy, we have at our disposal the wisdom of the ages through libraries of books. Many of these are available with a simple Google search on the Internet. The one book, however, that speaks directly to our heart is the Word of God in the Bible.  We also have our friends, family and our community of people who care for us. We can reach out to them for help and assistance. But even more, if we have faith in Christ, we have the unlimited power, strength, and wisdom of God at our side to carry us forward.  Through prayer and reading His Word, we are often able to find answers to the most difficult problems facing us at any moment.

Reach now for your Bible and read Philippians 4:13. It doesn’t say “There is a chance I might be able to do it with God’s help.” Rather, it saysI can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

All things? Is that really true?

Read again the scripture at the top of this article. It ends with “I have kept the faith”. There were just a handful of common men that Christ sent out into a hostile world to spread His good news, His gospel. In some cases, they were fishermen or tax collectors. How then, is it even possible that now, according to the Pew Research Center, there are over 2 billion Christians in the world which will grow to 3 billion by the year 2050?

Cindy and I pray you don’t give up when you “hit a wall” as the saying goes. Instead, you may find the power to continue forward simply by falling to your knees in prayer.

Photograph by John J O’Leary

Knowing Not Defeat or Fear

Faith that brings the triumph

“Oh, for faith that brings the triumph
When defeat seems strangely near!
Oh, for faith that brings the triumph
Into victory’s ringing cheer–
Faith triumphant; knowing not defeat or fear.”
  ~ by Herbert Booth

About the Author
Herbert Henry Howard Booth (26 August 1862 – 25 September 1926) was a salvation army officer. He was the writer and director for “Soldiers of the Cross”, a recruiting show that featured stories of early Christian martyrs.
Source

May our faith never waver, never falter, never fail.

“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
~ 1 John 5:5

Photograph by John J O’Leary

The Reasons Why

Oftentimes He does not reveal His reasons to us.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:9-13

The poem “The Weaver” by B.M. Franklin has wisdom drawn from this section of scripture. When Paul, the author of this first of two letters to the Corinthians in the Bible, states: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” it is similar to the following section in the poem:

“Oftimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.
Not till the loom in silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.”

If you have ever looked at the underside of a tapestry, you may see many threads and loose ends that obscure the pattern that is only visible from the other side. We may wish to know more about God’s reasons for what He brings into our lives, but oftentimes He does not reveal them to us. It is part and parcel of our need to trust in Him, even in difficult times. By doing so, we open ourselves up to the blessings to come.

Photograph by John J O’Leary

Tribulation Brings About Perseverance

”And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
~ Romans 5:3-5

This scripture verse was written by the Apostle Paul to the young church in Rome.  His words outline a chain of events, starting with tribulation – difficult times in our lives. These are the “dark threads” that God weaves into our lives.

Perseverance is to be our response to such difficulties. To persevere means to persist in anything undertaken; to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; to continue steadfastly. The key here is “in spite of difficulty”. We don’t give up! It’s obviously easy to persevere when times are full of sunshine, warmth and laughter. But we grow by persevering when the fiery trials come. It builds “proven character” which leads to “hope”.

Our prayer is that you face tribulation head on, persevere and look forward to the blessings that will come when you do.  Turn to Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior, for help when you feel you no longer have the strength to continue.  He is an ever-present source of strength to those who believe in Him.

Photograph by John J O’Leary

When Your Heart Is Pierced With Pain

And a stricken soul was singing, with its heart against a thorn.

The Thorn Bird

Once I heard a song of sweetness,
As it filled the morning air,
Sounding in its blest completeness,
Like a tender, pleading prayer;

And I sought to find the singer,
Where the wondrous song was borne;
And I found a bird, quite wounded,
Pinned down by a cruel thorn.

I have seen a soul in sadness,
While its wings with pain were furled,
Giving hope, and cheer and gladness
That should bless a weeping world

And I knew that life of sweetness,
Was of pain and sorrow borne,
And a stricken soul was singing,
With its heart against a thorn.

You are told of One who loved you,
Of a Savior crucified,
You are told of nails that held Him,
And a spear that pierced His side;

You are told of cruel scourging,
Of a Savior bearing scorn,
And He died for your salvation,
With His brow against a thorn.

You “are not above the Master.”
Will you breathe a sweet refrain?
And His grace will be sufficient,
When your heart is pierced with pain.

Will you live to bless His loved ones,
Though your life be bruised and torn,
Like the bird that sang so sweetly,
With its heart against a thorn?

~ by an unknown poet

This poem, although tinged with sadness, has a message that resonates in the heart of a Christian. The poet compares a bird pinned down by a cruel thorn with Christ pinned to a cross by cruel nails at Calvary. Yet the “song of sweetness” is the message here, it is not the sadness of Christ’s crucifixion. The blessings that poured forth from Christ’s sacrifice are likened to the sweet song of the bird, in spite of its deep pain.

The crucifix was the prelude to the greatest event in human history, Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Christians around the world have been singing of this event for over 2,000 years.  When He rose on the third day, after taking on His shoulders the weight of the sin in the world, He did so out of love for us. It is true there is great suffering in this world, yet will we not look for ways to be a blessing to others in the midst of it? Can we not, in our suffering, sing out a sweet refrain?

We pray that you will find in your heart room for others, even in the midst of suffering or loss.

Photograph by John J O’Leary

“The Weaver”

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”  ~ Luke 6:12

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oftimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.

Not till the loom in silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

~ B.M. Franklin (1882-1965)

This poem has a very special meaning to Cindy and me. We placed it on the prayer card of our son, Brian, at his funeral in 2003. We gave a print of it in a framed shadow box to the family of the young woman who was involved in the accident that took our son’s life. And we have a print of it framed and hanging on a wall in our home. For we clearly saw God’s hand in the midst of our deepest sadness. We saw threads of silver and gold which brought us bittersweet joy even as we lay awake crying in bed the night of his funeral. Not even the darkest threads can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
~Romans 8:35

Note that, although some have attributed the poem to Corrie Ten Boom, she was not the author. B.M. Franklin is the author.

Photograph by John J O’Leary

Welcome to “The Weaver’s Hand”

My wife Cindy and I have experienced deep, personal loss.  The loss of a son. The loss of a brother. Watching relatives’ lives devastated by drugs. Yet through God’s grace and our belief in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have weathered these and many other storms. We are experiencing His joy in our daily lives.  He has given us the strength needed to persevere during trials and tribulations.

The scriptures teach us that persevering in difficult times is the way to grow one’s character and faith. We have created “The Weaver’s Hand” to encourage others through such scriptures and through the experiences of others. We will share personal stories of how God’s grace strengthens those who put their faith in Him.

Let us know your story. How has the Lord carried you in the midst of storms in your life? Your comments and suggestions will also be welcome and we pray that this site will be a blessing to you!

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:3

Psalms 23:2
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

Photograph by John J O’Leary