About three years ago, my wife and I visited the California Redwoods near Yosemite National Park.

When one of those giant old trees falls, the caretakers will cut the log near the bottom for a smooth surface, then mark a few of the rings with the most significant years of the life of that tree. There are many of those great trees that were standing at the time Jesus Christ walked the earth, and are still standing today.

It really made me think about the things those trees have seen in their lifetime; countless wars and conflicts, births and deaths, economic highs and lows, times of greatness and times of great sorrow.

Yet, the trees had no control over what was happening. They were planted in that one place. Unless human hands or equipment move a tree, it will live its life and die in the exact same place.

The tree cannot run from danger; fires, violent winds, tornados, and ice storms have taught us that. The tree does what it was created to do; generate oxygen, give shade, and manufacture new soil, for as long as it lives.

Even when a tree is cut-down, it can give life back by creating heat on a cold winter night, or the lumber to build a table for future generations to dine from, or to construct a home for a family.

The tree does not know the good years from the bad and does not feel pain when it is harvested or falls victim to a storm.

We are not as fortunate. We do remember the good years and the bad. We can run from trouble, and we can feel pain. Often we do not do what we were created to do, that is, give and receive love.

Some of the rings of our life are reminders of pain and loss, others are reminders of great happiness and accomplishment. Many times, events beyond our control bring trouble into our lives. Other times, it is our own decisions that result in pain and loss.

Unlike the tree, we have the God-given freedom to decide how we will spend our life. We can stand still and hope that the storms of life will not break our branches, or we can move ahead, working to strengthen our mind and spirit by connecting with the Spirit of all creation.

One thing is certain, our lives will unfold whether we waste our time or make the most of it. It is our prayer that you will make the most of your life by cultivating a relationship with our Creator and Savior.

I am not talking about empty words or make-believe Christianity. I am talking about cultivating love for God, neighbor, family, and community; and learning to like yourself, because you are wonderfully made. Every day is filled with possibilities for greatness, thanks be to God.

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31a, NRSV)

Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at frdavid@standrewsgrove.org.