Why I Will Not Set My Mind on Things (Too Far) Above

Apr 8, 2014

Today, I glimpsed the first haze of pink on the old magnolia tree that towers over one corner of our yard. It is a magnolia tree worthy of a fairy-tale palace, but it presides over a chicken coop and a child’s yellow plastic swing. In summer it becomes the world’s largest shade umbrella, but in April it is a miracle. Too impossibly beautiful to be true.

I have witnessed this tree in bloom only once. I have waited eleven months to bear witness for a second time, but I am scheduled to leave town tomorrow for five days.

I can hardly bear it. Five days of good books and good talk and good friends, but I would trade all of it to be there the very moment the first pink flower opens. I imagine that if I am there I will finally solve a great mystery. If I stand still, and I do not blink, perhaps I can determine once and for all whether the flowers open or whether they alight on the branches like a flock of pink birds.

Last year, I blinked and became sure a great crowd of delicate rose-tinted wings had settled in the branches overnight.


Painted in Waterlogue


Set your mind on things above. Those were the words I remember printed on the postcards and posters, magnets and bookmarks in the Christian bookstore I used to visit as a child. I do not remember any books in that store. But I remember Precious Moments figurines, and I remember those words.

Even as a child, I mistrusted them. And not only because they showed up on magnets meant to secure grocery lists to refrigerator doors.

They are good and true words. They are Scripture words, but they seemed at odds with my own way of seeing. As long as I can remember, I have been taken with the miniature flowers blooming in the crack of a sidewalk. With acorn caps like fairy hats. With the hollow spot in the trunk of the mulberry tree, just the right size for my small china dog.

In other words, I have always seen worlds at my feet. I have always seen infinity under a magnifying glass.

And if this great “above” is the blankness of the sky, if it is only a screen onto which I project my preconceived ideas about the Christ who is holding everything together, then I will stick with the things below. Not money or plans. Not ambition or to-dos. But the things we pass by in our rush toward all that does not matter.

Dead, brown grass beginning to creep with green.

Daffodil leaves like bunny ears reaching just a bit higher every day.

And even the heartbreak of tulip leaves chewed to the quick by hungry deer.


If I must set my mind on some thing above, I will not let it float too high. I will set it just there, no higher than the highest branch of the world’s most beautiful magnolia tree.

I will set it there, and remember what the stories say. That we began to walk with God in a garden. That Jesus the Christ gave the thief on the cross a great promise: Today you will walk with me in a walled garden, a paradise.

And I will turn my eye toward eternity in the very spot where eternity begins.

Which is the ground, the ever-flowing, ever-renewing, ground beneath my feet.


Painted in Waterlogue



  1. Sarah

    I think the very first thing I ever read of yours was last year’s post about the beautiful blooming magnolia tree. There’s just something about spring and blooms that testify to the love and greatness of God.

    As a head-in-the-clouds kind of girl, I like the connotation of keeping my mind on the things above. Glad to read your alternate perspective. Perhaps I’ll walk the rest of my day with my eyes exploring what’s right below my feet.

  2. Kelli

    So much to love in this post. Beautiful.
    And I love the photos-turned-watercolors! lovely!
    Do you mean to tell me that I might get to see the magnolia in bloom? Truly?!? I’m dying.
    I’m seeing the next Purifoy family photo already…

  3. Grace Hunt

    I love this! Set your mind on things above BY looking down in the dirt.

  4. Sue Tell

    So honest; so refreshing; so thought-provoking. And I too love the photos turned water colors. In Florida as I type I hope when I get home my pink blossoming tree will be blooming.

  5. Diana Trautwein

    Amen, exactly, just right. “A new heaven AND a new earth. . . ” this earth is the shadow of heaven I think. I also think that heaven is likely right in front of our noses and we can’t quite grasp it yet – though occasionally, we get a tiny glimpse. Like that tree.

  6. James Patterson

    There is an apricot tree of this stature in Santa Fe. I can see it in my memory, all the way from an island eight miles west of Seattle. An island full of blossoming plums and cherries.

  7. Larry Ebaugh

    Hi Christie, I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen a magnolia tree in real life. But after reading what’s on your heart, now I feel I’ve seen one.

    I hope this adds my photo this time. Thanks again for your help with that. God bless . . .


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