We heat our house partially with wood, which I love for a number of reasons.  It gives me a good excuse to be out in our 30-acre wood, getting Rocky Balboa style exercise and fresh air while thinning out trees, opening the canopy to sunlight, allowing bushes to flourish, drawing in birds and animals – and saving a little money on utilities as the end result - really feeling like I’m caring for our forest.

I also collect odd-ball tree stumps, gnarly roots, vine twisted trunks and branches, beaver-gnawed sections of tree, etc.  I keep the tree in this picture next to our wood-burning stove. I was looking at it one morning as I was stoking the fire, remembering when I cut that tree down.  It was a tree growing along our 600 foot driveway which I keep manicured – I call it Rocky’s Parkway.  I needed to remove it to open up around a Dogwood Tree that I wanted to highlight.  I remember that there was nothing unusual about the tree as I looked at it.  But, after I cut it down, I dug around the base to cut it off below ground level.  Because it was on a rather steep slope, it had about 12 inches of leaves piled up around the base.  This is what I found buried in the leaves; it tells the tale of a difficult start in life.  Something had caused this tree, as a sapling, to twist and turn to get up to the sky.  Once it grew out of that difficult path, it straightened up and grew just fine.

As I looked at this stump that morning, I was reminded of a philosophy that I really believe, called Response-Ability.  What that philosophy says is that no matter how you were raised, no matter how difficult your youth, you reach a point in your adulthood when you have the responsibility and the ability to respond to the world around you as you decide to, not as your troubled youth might dictate – hence the double entendre in the name ‘Response-Ability’.  This tree demonstrated the philosophy perfectly, and I just decided I wanted to share that with you.

We all come from unique upbringing, some tragic, no doubt.  And, it’s easy to develop the attitude that difficulties we have had to overcome somehow give us a pass - an excuse - for how we live as adults.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Only by growing beyond those difficulties can we contribute positively to the next generation, helping them to avoid having to go through the same things, which may require help and mentoring from people who may have gone through the same things.

Once you have victory over your past, you have a unique testimony which only God can reveal to you.  Ask Him about it; ask Him to help you be a better person for having gone through what you have, and ask him how you can use your testimony in your personal ministry to people who need to hear just what you can share, just as we see in Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

What you’ve been through will give you a compassion for others going through the same thing. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”

– 2 Corinthians 1:3-7