Posted by: Philip Rushton | August 29, 2011

Alder Slashing

On Saturday, a group of men from the church had a work day at our churches tree farm. In 1965 Francis and Nellie Clark deeded this 80 acre tree farm to the church. Their desire was that the church would use this land to support Christian ministries both through our church and around the world. Originally the board did not know what to do with this gift. A farm this big requires a lot of management and upkeep. They originally thought of selling this land for 17000 dollars. Thankfully, the leaders recognized that this would be an important resource to hang on to, so they found creative ways to manage the property. In the last decade alone the farm has produced over half a million dollars that allowed us to restore and fix our 80 year old building and support various ministries. The farm has also allowed us to provide wood for fundraisers and for people who need help heating their home.

This weekend I was given a crash course on forestry management. A group of us spent the day ‘alder slashing’ in the young part of the tree farm. This involves cutting down young alder trees that are growing too close to the douglas fir trees that have been planted. The douglas fir trees are more valuable and so it is important to cut down the alder trees that will cramp their space and prevent them from growing.

It felt very counter-intuitive to go around cutting down live trees. It seemed like we were ruining a number of valuable resources. However, Patrick Allen (our resident forestry expert) continually reminded us that forestry is all about thinking long term. He pointed us to the 40 year old section of the tree farm and showed us how those trees would not have been able to grow had they been planted too close together. In order to get the most out of the tree farm we need to clear out those things that prevent the douglas firs from flourishing. In the forestry business they rarely talk about the next quarter, they are already planning for 40 years from now!

This struck me as a profound metaphor for the Christian life. As I spent the day rooting out young alder trees it got me thinking about what things I need to cut out of my life if I want to grow and flourish. We often associate spiritual growth by taking more things on. Growth means joining another group, or taking on an extra service project. To be sure, that is sometimes what we need. Sometimes we do need to take on more activities and exercises in the Christian life. Yet, sometimes I think we need to focus on cutting things out of our life. Life can get so cluttered and busy that we are not able to grow in our faith. The demands of our busy modern world can easily crowd out the voice of God.

I was reminded on Saturday of the verse in Hebrews 12:1 where it says, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The reality is that there are many things that hinder our growth. It could be the distractions of modern entertainment or technology, an overcrowded schedule, or as the author of Hebrew says, “the sin that so easily entangles.” What sort of things do you think you need to cut out of your life so that you might flourish and grow?

My experience at the tree farm suggests that this process of cutting things out is not easy. It requires that we look long term. Like a live alder tree, the thing we are called to cut out might seem good in and of itself. Discernment gets tricky when we have to choose between two good things. In this situation we need to follow Paul’s advice and “determine what is the best” (Phil 1:10). In the long run, what is going to help us mature in our faith?

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Responses

  1. Challenging and wise….

  2. Sometimes people really stretch to make an analogy but this one is very good and thought provoking.

    • Glad this passed the analogy test! I hear you though – they can definitely get stretched. I find this is especially the case when we move towards allegory. Just for fun – how could we stretch this image? Maybe the alder tree could represent a friend who is a bad influence and by keeping them too close they prevent you (the douglas fir) from growing up. 🙂

  3. This clear-cutting metaphor speaks directly to my life and the “good” things that are crowding out the best parts. I find it quite amazing that God is speaking so clearly to me through this post, and also the music, message, and prayer during worship.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Victoria. Blessings as you continue to discern God’s call on your life!

  4. Oh my, during a time when my life is in full growth and expansion mode, this is a lesson to stop and reflect on. You can be sure I will be doing just that during the next days and weeks! Thanks for your insight!

    • Hi Valerie,

      Your comment is a good reminder that what we are called to do may depend on the season we are in. Sometimes we are in a season where we are called to take more things on and expand our horizons, other times we are more in a preparatory mode which involves weeding things out and so on. The verse in Ecclesiasties 3 comes to mind, which reminds us that there is a time for everything – “a time to plant, a time to uproot; a time to tear down a time to build up; a time to scatter stones a time to gather them. . . ” Blessings as you seek God’s direction in this time of life!

  5. If an anology is spoken in the forest and no one hears it ……………Good stuff Phil, and there in lies the problem. A simple life, even a simple Christian life , is not going to be a popular topic in our culture. So, when is LCC going to start a commune?


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