The View from the Tree

Okay, so it’s been a while. Thanks, dear readers, for following this blog; I really appreciate you and hope that you continue to be inspired, challenged and encouraged by these musings. Recently, I’ve been working on some new projects and thus, I have not been posting here. Look for some exciting news in the near future and more posts! Including podcasts…

Anyway, let’s get on with it. I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective change and how easy it is for us to get caught up in the routine of societal life and to forget that we are constantly changing creatures. I mean, every day is an opportunity to learn something new, reinvent yourself, leave behind something old/from the past. We are meant to be adaptive and evolving people.

But it’s difficult sometimes, isn’t it?

Mostly because society doesn’t really encourage us to reinvent ourselves periodically. In fact, we are conditioned to believe that “staying the course” is what we ought to do and that any type of transformative change in our identity and perspective is nearly impossible once we pass into adulthood. So we stay embedded in the deep forest of society and routine and unfortunately we start to fear losing things rather than believing that change isn’t about loss but about gaining a larger perspective and emerging each day as a new human being.

So what if we climb a tree?

Resultado de imagen para sycamore tree

This is a sycamore tree. It’s just waiting for you to climb it. Now I don’t necessarily mean you should physically climb a tree [though if you’re able it is pretty great]. Of course, I’m speaking in metaphorical terms. Climb a tree. Get above the treeline. See farther. See things differently.

Now some of you may have heard of a story about a man who was “short in stature” called Zacchaeus. I was raised in a Christian home and thus I grew up hearing this cheesy song: Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he…he climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see…

Resultado de imagen para zacchaeus funny

Yeah, I know. Cheesiness aside, it’s a pretty good story. Here it is, from the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Luke 19:1-10

To sum up, a “hated” Jewish tax collector [the name Zacchaeus means pure by the way] climbs up a tree above the crowds in order to spot Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus spots Zacchaeus and invites himself over for dinner. The crowds mumble and complain that Jesus plans to hang out with a sinner like Zacchaeus. Jesus begs to differ and holds up the hated tax collector as a clear role model for others.

So what gives?

Details, details. First, Zacchaeus was hated by his own community because he worked for the Roman empire. He collected taxes. So he was considered a traitor, and therefore a sinner. He was marginalized. But…Zacchaeus just happened to be giving HALF of what he earned to the poor. So…basically he was using the Roman empire’s money to balance out the corrupt system. Also, if Zacchaeus discovered that he had wrongfully charged someone or made a bad business deal, he would pay them back four times what he owed.

Okay, so I’m going take a wild guess that none of the grumbling people who called Zacchaeus a sinner were giving away half of their money to the poor or four times the reparation monies. Also, may I add that the common, “traditional” teaching of this story is that Zacchaeus was indeed a sinner and a bad guy and then Jesus came along and saved him. Conversion.


Why do we always want there to be a “bad, sinful” person who then converts or is saved by some religion? Zacchaeus, according to the actual Greek text in Luke, was already giving to the poor. So this story isn’t about religious conversion.

This is about new perspective. See, Zacchaeus was hated and marginalized. He went up in the tree to SEE Jesus. In doing so, he was invited to see himself differently. What if we he wasn’t the traitor and sinner that people made him out to be? What if he was, as per his name, a pure of heart person, and “blessed” like Jesus once said in the sermon on the plain? Blessed [which means fortunate] because of his humility, generosity, and compassion? Suddenly, the “wee little man” isn’t so small after all, huh? Jesus gives Zacchaeus a new narrative about himself. Climbing the tree in order to see.

Julia Butterfly Hill atop Luna

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Julia Butterfly Hill [she now goes by just Julia Hill]. Some of you may be familiar with her story.

For 738 days she lived in the canopy of an ancient redwood tree [1000+ years old], called Luna, to help make the world aware of the plight of ancient forests. Her courageous act of civil disobedience gained international attention for the redwoods as well as other environmental and social justice issues, which is chronicled in her book The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods.


Thanks to Julia and other environmentalists, Luna still stands and is protected. I encourage you to read more about Julia’s story and how living atop Luna for 2 years changed her life and her perspective. I also applaud Julia for being open and honest about her struggles once she came down from Luna. Sought after by so many for speaking engagements and appearances, overwhelmed with requests to help this cause or the next movement–Julia got burned out. Julia needed to not be Julia Butterfly Hill. She was still changing, adapting, evolving. While Julia’s and Luna’s story is powerful, the story doesn’t end there. Julia’s story continues in a new way, just as she changes.

I hope you can climb a tree, friends. I wish for you the change in perspective, the freshness of transition, the freedom to be a new you–whatever that means for you today. We don’t have to be stuck. We can climb, we can see.

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Josh grew up in the Midwest before completing a B.A. in Theatre at Northwestern College [IA] and a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ [UCC], Josh has lived and worked in the Midwest, East Coast, Hawai’i, and Mexico. He is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Welcome Project PA, host of the Bucks-Mont PRIDE Festival, and he is Pastor of Love In Action UCC, an open and affirming congregation featured in a Vox Media episode of Divided States of Women with Liz Plank and in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Josh has 20+ years of nonprofit experience, including leading workshops and training in corporate, medical, and academic settings, focused on diversity & inclusion, grant writing, fund raising, and program management. Josh is a fellow of Interfaith Philadelphia, and designs and coordinates HS and University student groups for interfaith immersion service-learning weeks. Josh also co-facilitates Ally trainings for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and interfaith cooperation. He is a founding member of The Society for Faith & Justice, and a Collaborator for Nurturing Justice, and a member of the Driving PA Forward team via New Sanctuary Movement. He also performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, and has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in religious and secular settings. Josh also enjoys running, singing, traveling, learning languages, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philly.

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