Prayer tree redux

Hey all,

So as you might recall, I made myself a prayer tree several years ago. You’ll find more info about that in my original post on it, but the basic concept is to draw or paint (or tape, a la Alma style) a tree on your wall and then add paper leaves or fruit for your prayers, either leaving them up to see your prayers over time or taking them down when they’re answered. For mine, I labeled my branches with general categories (Family, different friend circles, causes, gifts, etc.), then drew leaves for the specifics within that (specific family members or friends, etc.), using the fruit to represent my prayers for them. I labeled the fruit with the date I put it up and the request (color-coded by type), and then would add the date I took it down later. My goal was to be able to hold in my hands the tangible results of my prayers and see over time different areas in which God had moved.

Now, several years down the line, I think it’s time for a redesign.

Just some of the fruit of God’s labors.

Part of this is because I’d stopped really using it. I cleaned it off the other day and realized I hadn’t put up any new fruit for over a year. I was able to pull down a lot of fruit for various reasons, and many of them had really miraculous resolutions, so as a way to remember and be thankful for God’s faithfulness, power, and provision the tree definitely works, but there are some problems with its current design that I’d like to tweak.

One, making it smaller and less specific. It’s overwhelming to have something with so many leaves, some of which might have several prayers layered one on top of the other. It’s also hard to figure out what I’m supposed to be praying for if there are a lot of prayers stacked on each other, some of which might be the same color, long-standing, or obscured by other prayers. Making the tree smaller and putting up fewer, more refined pieces of fruit should help. Putting more time into considering what I want to use my tree for (personal meditation and prayer, a prayer “tracker,” something else), should help with that as well.

Two, changing the leaves. Like on most trees, some of mine need to change. I originally did my tree in pencil on my wall, which as some of you might know, is not the easiest thing to clean or change. Many of the branches on my tree have leaves for people I don’t see as often anymore or activities in which I’m no longer involved, and while I might still pray for those people/things, there are other leaves I might want to add instead that I don’t necessarily have as much room for now either.


To that end, I’m planning on removing the specific labels on the leaves. Rather than being so specific, I want to have something that is more stylistically appealing and then put the fruit up in general areas for each category. This should help with the overcrowding and let me see what kind of prayers are where and read them more easily.

For the artistic style itself, I haven’t quite decided what it will look like. I’m intrigued by the idea of using something removable so I could change it up every once in a while (maybe different kinds of trees?), but with my life pretty constantly on the lip of transitions, it’s hard to say with any certainty where I’ll land. I like the idea of doing something along the lines of a tree of Gondor, but when the major features of my room are a 1940s style pair of paintings, a TARDIS bookshelf, and a Lichtenstein-style painting, I’m not sure adding another visual style would work. It’s also hard to determine what the size would be, or if it should be 2D at all. Maybe just doing a bonsai tree with some ribbons would be a helpful reminder. Talking to God is the end goal after all, so if I hang up handfuls of leaves or a photo or anything else, as long as it reminds me to talk to Jesus, I guess it’s doing it’s job.

Anywhere, that’s where I am in the redesign process. If any of you have had success in creating/using a prayer tree or have any other helpful design tips or inspiration, please let me know below (pictures welcome)!

Thanks for reading!

My current tree, after the harvest.

Falling in love with the Word

Hey all,

I have been falling in love with the Bible recently, and it is changing my life.

It started on DTS. Well, I’m sure it started earlier than that, but perhaps it’s when I most acutely started to notice.

I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to stay on for more time at my base. It had been one of the most difficult seasons in my life already, but I thought perhaps God wanted me to stay longer, to persevere or adjust my attitude or push through or, well, something.

That’s entirely a different post.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out what God wanted me to do with my life, a “calling,” as it were (a term I increasingly dislike, but that’s another post as well. I digress). And I wanted to know what God wanted me to do, but I was also terrified that He was going to make me stay longer when I really wanted to go home. So, what did I do?

Googled it, of course.

Not what God wanted for me specifically obviously, but articles on calling or how to know what God is saying to you. Every quiet time I had, I was searching the web, trying to find something that God would use to tell me what He wanted. I had been afraid for a while that if I read my Bible I would just find something else I was doing wrong. I would read sections on the wicked or those with false intentions and think it applied to me. I was going to be the one gnashing my teeth out in the dark, the one Jesus never knew. And even though I knew staying longer at my base might just be me trying to earn grace, to prove I loved God enough, I was also frightened of what might happen if I was too “weak” to stay.

In case you haven’t picked up on it already, that wasn’t what God was trying to say, and the true source of those thoughts was not a good one.

In any case, I knew that no matter what I chose, I couldn’t keep avoiding my Bible forever, so I pushed through my fear and started to read.

Lo and behold, there wasn’t a verse in there outlining my life plan and everything I was doing wrong to prevent it from fruition. In fact, the more I actually read my Bible, the more I realized how misguided my whole understanding of the situation had become. And, the more comforted and confident I became of following my heart and going home.

And, as I have already mentioned elsewhere, I’m so glad that I did.

Phase one of learning to love my Bible and actually go to it directly, check.

Phase two began with the Bible Project. I’ve mentioned them a couple times already, but they’re a non-profit dedicated to teaching about the Bible and revealing how it all points to Jesus. And while I love their explanatory videos on the Bible’s different books or themes, some of the most valuable takeaways I’ve gotten from their work have been lessons in learning how to read my Bible. Some of that involves the different types of literature in it, some of it in how the historical context affects things, structure, finding themes, and even literally, how to read it. Mainly, out loud and in large pieces. I’ve also realized more fully that it’s okay to wrestle with the Bible and its beautiful complexity as a literary work. Two particularly useful analogies that have helped with this have been the concept of the Bible’s structure as a grocery store (just as you can get a general sense of where things might be in relation to each other in the aisles, so too with themes or topics in the Bible), and the idea of reading over your Bible with the same mulling intensity of a bear with a good meal (I don’t remember when or how this idea came up, but both are featured in recent episodes of their podcast), specifically as the noises a bear makes while enjoying food relating to our reading the bible out loud and taking the same pleasure and nourishment from it.

All of this has radically changed my relationship with my Bible, and God. In the past, I would look up other people’s opinions on how God works and speaks and struggle to read my Bible for fear that it would just tell me what I was doing wrong or that I wouldn’t feel or sense enough. I would assume I already knew what it had to say, so I wouldn’t read it at all, or at least not to any great depth.

Now I approach it knowing that I really don’t know everything it has to say. I know that if I want to hear from God reading the Bible is actually the easiest way to do it. I know it’s not only okay, but a pleasure to work through what it’s trying to say, and I no longer read it expecting condemnation, but love, and am seeing it in the words. I am no longer afraid to suddenly find out that God has the characteristics I most fear He might have, but am finding Him more and more attractive the more I read. I get more out of my reading, am challenged in healthy, uplifting ways, and am learning to really cherish and take pleasure in the time I get to spend with Him.

Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 “…It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” I thought about that verse while reading my Bible today, and was so glad to be fed.

So, what’s your journey with the Bible been like? Have you ever wrestled with it, or avoided it? When have you been surprised by it or realized you had things wrong? Have you ever had misconceptions about God, His character or how He speaks? How did you turn around or realize? Who’s helped you on the way?