The Sacrificial Leaf


 by Lori Wildenberg

It would be easy to miss the small number of yellow leaves scattered among all the green leaves in the mangrove. But our captain made certain to point them out.

My daughter, Courtney, and I were on an Eco-Cruise while on a family vacation in the Florida Keys. Our boat launched from the north side of Islamorada. This Key is situated between the Everglades National Park and the deep blue waters of the Florida Strait. The Atlantic was to our south, while the gulf waters lapped the north shore.

The saline or brackish water near the shoreline is home to the mangrove forests, a type of tropical or subtropical vegetation. Mangroves, along with sea grass beds and coral reefs, create a system that keeps the coastal zones healthy while providing habitat for a variety of species.

The green mangrove forests look like shrubs on stilts. They randomly and plentifully pop out of the water. By design, they support each other.  Their tangled dense roots allow the trees to hold firm to the muddy soil during the daily rise and fall of the tides.  

A variety of birds like brown pelicans, blue herons, and great egrets nest in among the mangrove forest. Many other species of birds depend on the mangroves for their seasonal migration. The mangrove system provides shelter to a wide range of living creatures from deer to honey bees.

The forests stabilize the shoreline, prevent erosion, protect the land, filter nutrients and pollutants from storm water, and reduce the chances of flooding. Our boat hugged the shoreline and slid through the narrow channels created by the mangroves.  We moved effortlessly through the backcountry shallow waters and pockets of mini-islands created by mangrove trees and shrubs.

While cruising the bay, we saw lots of tropical birds, plants, and a few crabs. The intricate and strong root system was the first thing I noticed about the mangroves. However, the thing that made the biggest impact was the smallest thing we saw, the thing our Captain pointed out. “Notice the yellow leaves. They have a specific and special purpose. There is one yellow leaf on each tree. These leaves are an integral part of each mangrove tree’s salt filtration system.”

According to our guide, this leaf soaks up the salt water the plant’s roots take in. This absorption allows the tree to survive, even thrive. That one leaf makes the difference between life and death of the mangrove tree. Its sole purpose is to take on the salt and die so the rest of the tree can live.

It is appropriately called the sacrificial leaf.

God often uses nature to reflect His glory and to draw us to Himself. The Lord wants to be known and wants us to know His son. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 NIV).

I have shared the story of the sacrificial leaf many times since Courtney and I took that Eco Cruise. I thank God for the sacrifice His Son made for me while he hung on a tree. Jesus sucked up all my salty sin so I could live.

Jesus, like the sacrificial leaf, sacrificed his life for me, my family, and for you. He died for me; I will live for Him.

Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com .

Join the conversation: What does the sacrifice of Jesus mean to you?

What the World Needs Now

by Christina Rose

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness
.” Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

Our world needs everlasting love and unfailing kindness more than ever as we face the fear of the global pandemic. Having faith during this time is a protective shield against the waves of panic that threaten to steal our peace. We take comfort in knowing that God will never leave us or forsake us.  When we trust that He loves us with an everlasting love, it cancels out all fear.  How can we fear when we believe that God is sovereign and rules above it all? By walking in God’s love, we can help everyone around us to choose faith over fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love  (1 John 14:18 NIV).

My journey to find peace was long and tumultuous, yet I am grateful to share my testimony. My parents married young and came from broken homes. They had the best intentions to create the healthy, loving family that they never knew, but our lives were marred by the damage of their unresolved childhood wounds. Abuse, addiction and abandonment were constant themes in our family. I learned that hurting people hurt other people, yet God is the restorer of the broken. Nothing is impossible for Him; not only can he restore anyone and anything, He will bring you out better than before. As I learned to turn to God for guidance during my trials, I found peace in nature where I felt enveloped in His love and greatness. Hiking, camping and surfing in God’s magnificent creation makes me feel free and safe. 

Now that I work at home, I have time to enjoy a daily two hour walk around the nearby lakes. In the last three months four geese couples have given birth to a total of 9 goslings. I marvel that both parents never stray from their babies as they continuously nurture and protect them. In the almost 200 times over the last few months that I have strolled around the lake, I have never seen either parent take a break to wander off on their own for a swim or to feed. Both parents work together as a devoted team to care for their babies.

When the geese enter the lake to swim, the moms lead the babies while the dads bring up the rear, always on the alert for a predator. The moms teach the babies to feed while the dads stand protectively by, standing guard. While each of the four geese couples gave birth to their goslings in different parts of the lake, recently the little families found one another and are now inseparable. They feed, nap and swim together in perfect harmony. I have never witnessed competition or quarreling among them, just perfect peace and serenity. They intuitively know that they were designed to live together in harmony and cooperation.

God shares beautiful stories like the geese family to show us how he intends love to be and how we are to take care of one another. Just like the geese families seek other geese families to create community, God created us to seek one another for community. He created us to live in peace with one another and to love each other the way he loves us. Demonstrations of God’s everlasting love and unfailing kindness are all around us in his perfect creation.  When we walk in the perfect love of God, we cast out fear wherever He may lead us.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

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What the World Needs Now – encouragement from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina rose

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer, and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino- loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs, as well as auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening, redemption and restoration. Christina hopes her story will encourage others who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: Have you seen other examples in nature that demonstrate the love of God?

Seeing the Invisible

by Crystal Bowman

Growing up in West Michigan, summer was always my favorite season of the year. I was never a fan of cold weather, and in Michigan we got plenty of that! I loved the warm sunny days when I could play outside with my neighborhood friends, run through sprinklers, and eat popsicles. I also spent many days at our family cottage, baiting hooks with worms to catch perch or bass for dinner. Summer was all about outdoor living and enjoying God’s creation.

My favorite activity was taking a drive to Lake Michigan to watch the sunset. The vast open sky above the sparking blue water was breathtaking. The swirling hues of orange and yellow, red and purple, were indescribable. As a young girl, I felt the presence of God when I gazed at the sky. I always believed in God, and I knew he was real. But there was something extra special about observing his artwork. I knew only God could paint something so majestic and glorious. Watching the glowing ball sink into the multicolored horizon made me feel closer to Him. In my young mind I wholeheartedly agreed with the Psalmist who wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1 NIV).

Nature is one of the ways God reveals himself to us. All of creation speaks of his glory. Day and night, the skies put on a show, letting the world know that our Creator lives. Day and night the sounds of nature create a soothing backdrop of melodies orchestrated by the divine conductor. In Romans 1:20 (NIV), the Apostle Paul explains: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Without excuse. A bold but true statement to all of humanity. We do not have to search for God. All we need to do is open our eyes and ears to experience his presence. We can see his beauty as brilliant sunbeams poke through an opening in a cumulus cloud, like a spotlight from heaven to earth. We can listen to the coo of a mourning dove singing praises to its Maker. We can feel gentle breezes waft across our cheeks as we go for a morning walk. And on a starry night, we can stand amazed at the One who calls each star by name.

God’s divine nature is clearly seen—and heard and felt. It surrounds us every day. No matter where we live, all of creation declares the glory of God. May we—who are without excuse—also give praise and glory to his holy name.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
 and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11 NIV).

Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is an award winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children including Our Daily Bread for KidsM is for Manger, and Does God Take Naps? She is a speaker and mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and teaches at writers’ conferences. She is a regular contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. Crystal lives in both Florida and Michigan, and when she is not writing or playing with her grandkids, she loves to sneak outdoors to walk and talk with God.

Join the conversation: What around you speaks of God’s existence and presence?

Photo by Lili Kovac on Unsplash