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Little Trees – Daily Devotional by Mary O’Connor

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.   James 3:2

Here we are at the end of June. We have the fears of the pandemic and all kinds of national trouble; and in addition – we have weeds.
That blizzard of “whirly-birds” or “helicopters” that gushed off the maple trees a few weeks ago are now unfurling all over our lawn and garden. Life feels stressful enough without having to eradicate the green umbrella party exploding in every sidewalk crevice.
But now is the time.  Years ago, I didn’t realize that the bigger those little plants get, the harder they are to pull out.  Eventually, they become what they were meant to be — trees!  Unless I don’t mind living in Sleeping Beauty’s overgrown palace, they have to go.  
So I bend to grip the small plants and gently wiggle to loosen, then pull.  If I just grip the leaf and pull fast, the root stays in the ground, and I will have to come back and do it again, but it will be harder next time.
Weeding those tiny maples always makes me think of the way our culture, our own sin nature, and the devil himself scatter the seeds of sin into our lives.  It always takes effort to root them out, and this year, with the added stresses of COVID-19 and racial unrest, they seem to pop up everywhere. Speaking for myself, I’d just rather ignore the little transgressions in myself and others, or I’m too harsh in dealing with them!
How can we gently move the saplings of sin and pull them out by the roots?  Well, gently is such a nice word.  I had a paradigm shift in my parenting when I realized I could get my way by a bad mood or anger, but that it wasn’t right – it was self-centered and manipulative. I could get the behaviors that I wanted, but the roots of sin stayed.
Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.   Ephesians 6:4 
Let’s not be harsh with ourselves or with others.  Rather than beating ourselves up for our failures or accusing and belittling others to get quick results, let’s remember that God is kind and He graciously forgives.  

Perhaps a child is giving you a hard time.  Why not share your own struggles in that area and remind them (and yourself) of how God helped you in similar situations?  As James wrote in chapter 3:2 ..we all stumble in many ways…
Acknowledge the circumstances that the child is experiencing – boredom, loneliness, missing activities, missing friends. These are not excuses for sinful behavior, but can help a child find better ways to respond to the many disruptions and disappointments in this unique time.  We need to stay in touch with the circumstances that cause us to let down our guard as well.
Pulling out the sin by the roots takes the training and instruction of the Lord.  God is so faithful to show us our iniquity when we read His Word.  It also requires some appropriate consequences.  Some pain.  For your children, clearly communicate what that will be and then follow through.  
To root out our own sin, thorough repentance is necessary.  A sincere apology – to God and anyone we hurt – is a pain that will help us think twice before sinning that way again.  (If you think it sounds easy, just try it).  A great piece of advice my husband gave me long ago is never to mix asking for forgiveness with pointing out the sin of the other person involved.  Now that’s painful – biting our tongues usually is!
I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin. Psalm 38:18

Going through this summer will present challenges.  Let’s not let little sins take over the landscape of our lives.  Be humble, be kind, be gentle…enjoy the beautiful moments with love, joy and grace.

Mary O’Connor


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