Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I remember it as clearly as if I were sitting there today. It was a majestic tree, standing tall and always pointing upward. And the view from the top of that Evergreen tree was spectacular.

And despite having nearly fallen out of my perch at the top on a couple of occasions, the view—and more—made it worth the climb. Because for a seven-year-old the “more” was that it was a safe place, a place of hope. Up there, other than perhaps a fall—no one could hurt you. Up there the world looked different; it even seemed like a better place. Up there you could sense the presence of something or someone safe. Something almost sacred.

In the top of that Evergreen tree.

At the top, seventy-five feet in the air, I could see for miles across the rooftops in the distance stretching beyond the two-story house and lot it was located on, owned by an aunt and uncle on Long Island, New York. Off to my right, about a half-mile away, was the Knickerbocker Brewing Company. Directly across the street were the woods we sneaked into despite the “No Trespassing” signs and the gnarly old owner whom we were certain would see to it that we never ventured there or anywhere else again—if he ever caught us. Down the street, and off to the left, was the home of the kind elderly lady who always gave me a piece of bread spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Funny, but I always felt safe there—with or without the sugary treat.

I’d spend hours up in that tree, just lying across a friendly branch. The air smelled cleaner, fresher up there. The sky was bluer and the breezes cooler. But more importantly, it was the only place where I knew I would be safe, away from all those on the ground, away from a world that didn’t seem fair and always seemed scary. At least that’s what it felt like to that little boy.

Way up high in the Evergreen tree, I planned great things for my future—and dreamed how one day my family would be re-united and I would be a great baseball player and everyone would love me. In the top of that tree, I found the strength I would need to withstand the world I would have to face again when my feet inevitably hit the ground—because I would eventually have to come down. My Mother was gone, taken away in the dead of one night. My Dad was too busy to care, and living somewhere else.

So there we were, my sisters and me, as their slightly older seven-year-old brother, at our aunt and uncle’s place. They were some of the “people on the ground” who made us feel like, well, like intruders really. We earned our keep by washing their dishes, cleaning their house, doing outside chores which their children, cousins by birth, didn’t have to do anymore, because we were there. Dessert for us came after their family ate it, because we were assigned to wash the dinner dishes first—before our dessert. Maybe that’s why I still feel a tearful twinge of connection and sadness when I watch Cinderella with my two precious Granddaughters. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t like my aunt and uncle very much.

But then I always had that Evergreen tree.

Things always seemed better when I got to the top of that tree. No one dared to climb up to bother me or get me down. I liked to think that no one was as brave as I was. And so, even though I paid the price later for not coming down soon enough, my time at the top of the tree was always worth it. It seemed to strengthen me for what was to come. There was something I found hopeful and encouraging in that view from the top of the Evergreen tree, with the wind blowing through my hair while gently rocking the trunk of my sacred childhood sanctuary slowly and rhythmically back and forth.

Those retreats high into the air sustained me through the times on the ground. The rejection and fear on the ground was still real and ever-present. But the view from on high, with all its possibilities and hope, remained so etched in my mind, that I could still feel the cool breezes blowing through the branches touching my spirit—even on the ground. From the top of that tree the world seemed more peaceful. From up there it seemed as though you could become whatever you wanted to be. From up there everyone had a chance to be all they were created to be.

And as things in my life got worse in the coming years, my thoughts would carry me back to the top of that tree. I always felt a bit safer, stronger, just from the memory of those moments. I even felt hopeful that maybe one day everything would be alright. I still climb up there now every now and then, at least in my mind and spirit. It’s a nice return and reminder of God’s presence even in the midst of whatever you face.

Perhaps you need an Evergreen tree to climb to the top of today. Perhaps you need a bit of hope and encouragement for tomorrow, and a cool breeze blowing through your hair today. Perhaps you need a clearer, fresher view of all the hope-filled potential of your life and the days ahead, with a fresh and limitless perspective beyond the problems and mistakes of your day.

The climb to the top may not always change the reality on the ground. It may not take away the pain, heartache, rejection or uncertainty about tomorrow you feel, but it will always calm and strengthen your spirit. You may even notice that you feel a bit closer to the One who—as I know now—was always in the top of that Evergreen tree with me.

And when you get to the top I guarantee that you will find renewal, restoration and the strength to regroup for those moments when your feet hit the ground again.

Those times at the top of the tree will carry you on toward that day when hope does arrive, when it really is safer on the ground, when there really are those around you who care about you and will seat you for dessert with the rest of the family.

And in that you will see the future He has planned for you—with Him.

In the top of the Evergreen tree.

Go ahead—enjoy the view.

In His Name—Scott

Copyright 2012. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.