The Christmas Gift that Keeps on Giving

In Christmas, Contemplation, Discipleship, Formation, Habits, Love, Purpose and Meaning, Soul-Care, Spiritual Formation by Bizgainey1 Comment

The tree in this picture is growing in our backyard.

I call it our Christmas pine.

I named it that because it was left on our front porch a few years ago.

No name.

No note.

Just a simple Christmas wish.

An unsolicited Christmas blessing that provides joy, daily.

Christmas Gift that Keeps On Giving

For a couple of years, I couldn’t see it because the hedge blocked it from sight.

So, in order for me to know if it was alive or dead, I had to walk around the hedges and get a close-up view.

Early on, we nearly lost it.  So, I started paying more attention to its health.

I kept the grass away from it, providing it room for the roots to receive nourishment from the sun, wind, and rain.

I juiced the soil with protein and nutrients.

Over time, the root system grew strong.  As the roots became strong, the tree began to grow.

Nearly every morning I peek out our patio window and enjoy the sight of this tree.

It’s amazing that such a simple thing can bring me so much joy.

The Christmas Gift and Core Convictions

This morning, as I stood, transfixed on the tree, I was reminded of a central truth – one that I carry with me these days: healthy growth takes place over a long period of time, through a series of disruptions, because of intentional care and nurturing.

We want growth to come quickly and easily, at no cost to us, demanding very little of us.  It just doesn’t work that way.

Yet, healthy growth is also not too terribly difficult to sustain.  We, in fact, are made to be healthy – to flourish.

As you head into this final week of Advent, I am going to leave you with a few nuggets I’ve discovered along the way.  You might call these nuggets The Requirements of Growth.  Perhaps in one of them, you will find a gift that keeps on giving.

I hope they encourage you on this journey and bring hope and light to the places of despair and darkness.

The Christmas Gift that Keeps on Giving: Requirements of Growth

  1. Attentiveness to the nutrients and conditions that nurture the soul and encourage growth.

    • Participate and contribute to life-giving (rather than toxic) relationships.
    • Examen (with much grace) the patterns of your day – where and with whom you spend your time and energy.  Do you find that you are nurturing healthy soil or soul-sapping soil?
    • Explore the reality that you may not even know what provides nutrients.
    • Develop a relationship with a spiritual companion, director, advocate.
  2. Openness to disrupting unhealthy soil and root systems to make room for new ones.

    • Many of us have developed addictive behaviors or unhealthy thought and life patterns that resist disruption.  Things like control, power, pride, rage, etc.  Be open to the natural force of disruption that healthy growth provides.
    • Once you identify the old root systems and dry soil, surrender them to the newness of growth.
  3. Practices or rhythms that breathe fresh oxygen into the soil of life and energize and animate growth.

    • Daily rhythms of life-sustaining growth are vital.  A few I enjoy are:
      • Slow or contemplative Bible reading.
      • Fixed-hour prayer.
      • The Examen.
      • Exercise or physical exertion.
  4. An Awareness that growth is a slow, steady, walk (filled with fits and starts) toward a deeply rooted life.

Oh well, I could go on and on but I have to go pick up my oldest from the airport.

He’s flying in for the Christmas break.  When I see him I am going to see the combination of the man he is becoming and the boy he once was.

He will be – in real-time – an example of the vivid truth that growth takes place over a long period of time, through a series of disruptions, because of intentional care and nurturing.

It’s one thing to spot such growth in a tree planted in my backyard.

It’s another, and far more beautiful, thing entirely to spot it in a child, spouse, parent, friend, and loved-one.

Disrupting to Renew (and Merry Christmas)



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