A beautiful Ugly Tree I See

It’s my favorite tree in the fall of the year. I step out the front door and a splash of multi-color maple leaves against a backdrop of green oak leaves framing the maple. All framed by the sky and whatever the weather is doing at the time. A photogenic maple, in the fall only. Take a peek.

See what I mean? It’s just started to change color and it does it in sections. Reds, yellows and greens here

Each day I seem to enjoy a little more red or a little more yellow.

I must admit, I am partial to the reds in this maple. What a splash compared to all the other fall colors.

There is one glitch though. I find this tree hard to capture in a photograph. The look I want is hard to get. I have to frame sections of this spread out tree so I take many different pictures, framing them just so and cropping parts out I don’t want. take a peek at a few different angles of the tree.

Now on to the ugly part of the tree (in comparison). Right now the tree stands almost empty of leaves. So far I have refused to take a side view picture of the tree. It’s an old maple, leans and the body of the tree is crooked and unbalanced. It only looks good from the front. I have framed the tree in pictures to make it fit my purposes.

I was setting up my camera on a tripod with a big lens for a close up photo and a not so comfortable insight tapped me on the head, right through my thick stocking cap (and yes my thick skull). I do that with God. My perspective of God changes with the seasons and with the circumstances all too often. Somehow, when my perspective changes, I think God is the one who has changed.

When life is going really well, God is a good and beneficial God. God is with me at all times and is answering all kinds of prayer. When we were life flighting my daughter, God didn’t seem to want to be hear our pleas or even get on the plane (from where I sat). God is a God of little miracles. He will help a relative find their Contac lens in a miraculous way. God has saved our daughters life so many times but not healed her of the cause in her crippled body. God let a saw blade fly off a machine and cut both my arms to the bone, and then he saved my life. And, so, I frame God from my perspective. As a young boy trying to get my fingers to work after all the nerves in my arms were cut off, others could trust God wholeheartedly because they only saw the front view of God. Yet, God was an old leaning tree to me at the time.

Our perspective means everything and we trust our perspective. If we think our perspective has not been framed by any one or any thing but us, we are very wrong. The game in politics is to raise the most money for “framing” one’s great “colors” while discoloring the opponent. Advertising is a trillion dollar framing business in “brand recognition”. I have the best looking maple tree every fall and I frame pictures to prove it. Jesus just comes along and says “follow me”. We have had some very lopsided conversations on how he has framed my life. His answer is the same “follow me. I did and I have.

My wife and I had a rare glimpse of God’s framing when Our daughter was three. She went into septic shock. Her last words as we were going out the door to Emergency “mommy the lights went out”, then she went unconscious. No blood pressure, not enough blood to brain, c-scan ordered, The mobile unit c-scan came (his choice as he didn’t have to). Mobile unit guy thought the little girl would die in his unit so he made a bargain with God. “God if she lives, I will take my family to church in the morning”. She lived, the four of them went to church (of all places our church and they were praying for our daughter). They heard the gospel and turned over their lives to God, all four of them. Those in on the story being lived out by us, took a peak of life from God’s perspective. Sometimes that looking glass is quite foggy. Sometimes, more like most of the time, that view is beyond our eyesight. Jesus still offers the best framing from an eternal perspective and says “follow me”

When the back side of life is ugly and we cannot frame nice colors anymore, when beautiful people are finding Contac lenses in miraculous ways while our loved ones are losing their memory or in chronic pain or fighting to stay alive. Remember the one who framed our sin on a cross. Follow Jesus and let him frame life’s circumstances, events, issues and relationships. Know him through his word (the bible) and know him personally through his life in you. A living breathing relationship with our creator. The same one who made those red leaves and put them there. He then gave me the artistic desire and ability to frame so carefully and think I’m good.

This old guy can still dress up nice but I don’t stand as straight and I lean to the left and am not as balanced as before…Good one God.



35 thoughts on “A beautiful Ugly Tree I See

  1. Your message, in a nutshell, is that God is good, all the time. It is our perspective that can change and distort the view, but God remains the same. I thank God for you Gary, for letting me see Him through your life. Thanks for putting it out there so that others can see Him too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the encouragement Robert. I sometimes struggle with perspective and the goodness of God yet knowing the answer, the truth, the reality that God is good in spite of our limited view which seems contrary. I watched a dying teen (a stick figure on oxygen) next to me sing with a face full of tears in church about the goodness of God. Sometimes life’s storm rages so intensely it’s hard to see and trust the lighthouse is not just a mirage.

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  2. “Jesus still offers the best framing from an eternal perspective .”

    This is the truth of your thoughts in a nutshell, brother Gary.

    How much light from God does one need? The answer is, just enough to see the next step. Yet I find myself looking for flood lights.

    Yours is a thought provoking post. As you can tell from my theological rambling.

    That old maple 🍁 is still pretty—from any angle.

    God Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is David. I like trees but I do feel for this one. It’s tall, old and gangly. Maple seem to be able to live against all odds. I know God loves us whatever way we come with all our weaknesses and oddly formed thoughts.
    As long as the sap runs they put out leaves on those branches. We should learn from the maple. The sap is sweet for making syrup. another quality we get from the main trunk while we are the branches.


  4. Gary this truly illustrates things perfectly, both visually and in your words and the testimonies. Thanks for a rawly honest post that gives much to chew on, as I’ve been looking at the scraggly leaves a bit too much lately!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jo. I sure like the autumn leaves, and many are scraggly from all the weathering of the season. There is so much raw truth illustrated by a leaf falling to the ground. A few even look perfect yet, but yet they fall too. The “trust in Jesus” bar keeps getting raised and God seems to say “put it higher” by life’s events. someday we get more than a glimpse from his vantage point of eternity.

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  5. Thank you Crissy. One should not reduce our struggles and victories or God’s trustworthiness with sound bytes as we mentor or share testimonies with others. I hope all is well on your front.


  6. What lovely Sunday morning metaphors. The framing of Christ’s story in Holy Scripture begins with trees in Genesis, ends with trees in Revelation, with the cross and thorns as His intersection and joining of both. Your photos and story are beautiful, because overcoming doesn’t always seem an easy or light yoke to bear. We step outside the frame at our peril, but thankfully God is faithful even when we are not. New leaves can return after a long winter and blaze brightly in autumn.

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    1. So True Mary Jo. It has been a life long pursuit of mine to get life’s framing right and in league with God’s. I want to see how and what he sees knowing I just get tid-bits, very small pieces to the puzzle makeup of the grand scheme of things. What doesn’t make sense to us we have to trust makes sense to God. We do have his promises which cannot fail.

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  7. What a beautiful, bittersweet post, Gary!!!!! I have the chicken bone in my throat, but no tears. God is good, this life isn’t easy and as we know it’s even harder in our own strength. The beautiful ugly trees have character, even if it’s our own perception of beauty. I am reminded almost daily that God doesn’t always call us to Himself physically whole. He will make us spiritually whole in the midst of our limitations, frailties and as you said reframe our faulty perceptions. Gary, your wisdom, insight and authenticity is such a gift to me. Thank you!

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  8. What an incredible story of an entire family coming to Jesus in the midst of your terrible circumstances. It’s like the tree you mentioned…hard to capture it’s entire beauty. Where is the beauty in rushing your 3 year old child to the hospital? But when you frame sections of the tree, you get that brilliant red. And when you frame the part where this family got saved, I can almost imagine the brilliant red of Jesus’ blood being poured out for them. Yes, even in the midst of your pain, his purpose prevails. Just amazing!!!

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    1. And, what can you say to God in light of this? eternal things trump everything that could possible happen. We will understand long before our first million years in heaven.


  9. Such depth and truth to this. I’m so, so guilty of framing God, and at times, trying to crop out the parts I don’t want to see. I’ll be pondering on this entire post today, Gary. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So much of my framing is automatic and that’s not a good thing always. I frame like my friends or how my parents did. I might frame an issue as told on the TV or I heard something somewhere. Sound byte framing. It goes on. I just need to spend time in the word and ask God to help me to see. really see within his framework.

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  10. Wow Gary! I’m just letting it all sink in- the points, perspective, and testimony of this post. “Jesus still offers the best framing from an eternal perspective. . . Follow Jesus and let him frame life’s circumstances, events, issues and relationships.” As I was writing out this comment, the song came to mind- “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” It’s so humbling and reassuring to reflect on how our lives, for those who choose to follow Him, is framed not by our perspective but between our Savior’s unchanging and everlasting arms. As the song goes, “Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, Leaning on the everlasting arms. . . What have I to dread, what have I to fear, Leaning on the everlasting arms”

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    1. Wow Beth, that is a great song in this context of framing. God really does want to make the frames and put them around the things he wants us to see and how to see him, each other, life’s circumstances, his thoughts and his ways. In all we lean on him.

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    1. I appreciate the encouragement Wayne. I know that you know what it’s like feeling like a bent or gimpy tree. Life… we only get one shot at it and then eternity. Here is to living and loving God, his creation and even some of the ornery people around us.

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  11. Gary, thank you for sharing your gifts, talents, and pains with us through your photography and writing. This post resonates with me. I’m too often distracted by the ugliness. I must focus on Jesus who framed MY sin on a cross, to capture a bit of God’s picture perfect framing.

    God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I know Manette. Sometimes God need to take me by the head with both hands, swing me around to his view and say “Look here”. Somewhere in the middle of every picture is the cross and something representing eternity…what a context for living, looking and seeing

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  12. God is good and He is good all the time. He does not change and as scripture promises, His mercy is new every morning. When we remember that as the framework of our lives, we are able to lean into Him for understanding. On our own, we are helpless. Isaiah 55:9: ( His thoughts and ways are above our own.)

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  13. I know it in my head Linda. When crunch times come, I sometimes find my framework wobbly even though God’s promises are not. He still works with weak vessels, which is a really good thing. Yes, God is good, all the time.


  14. As I read this my thoughts turned to the man who was 40 years old and born blind. The disciples asked who sin. Jesus said the man was born to show the glory of God. Then Jesus healed the man. For your daughter she bore the glory of God to a complete family. Another unusual perspective. One day here or in the future Jesus will heal her and share his glory forever with her. May the Lord be the strength and continued glory of your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a good way to look at it. With all that has happened down through the years, I have come to the conclusion that somewhere in all of this, she has been on display for God’s glory. She knows this time down here is a short time compared to eternity where she will run and jump for awhile. It could happen here but hasen’t. It’s bottled up until it happens.

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  15. Exactly. One day she may feel something, get up from her chair and do the walking, leaping and praising God dance. Meanwhile, that is how we pray and trust God for what comes and goes…any direction.


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