Yesterday was a nice day, especially for December. The temperature was above normal and the Sun was shining bright, so I stretched out my hammock in the back yard and enjoyed a rare December day, relaxing on the hearth of God’s bright, enormous fireplace. While listening to the birds singing joyful thanks to the Creator for such a beautiful day, I looked up at the trees that were holding my hammock. I realized that the same trees that provided shade from the Sun in the Summer were now clear of leaves so that the Sun could shine through and warm the Winter ground below. What a marvelous design. And believe it or not, while laying there in the hammock, I actually got to talk with the Designer.
Sam and I went for a hike in the National Forest yesterday. Since it was a beautiful day at a popular spot, the trail was pretty busy. We met several interesting characters along the way, but one of the most interesting was a rather old looking individual that was standing beside the path.
As we walked past the spot where he was resting, we commented about how large, strong and tall he was. I did a double take then recognized him as one Mr. Oak Tree. Sam, being the friendly guy he is, stopped and struck up a conversation. “How long have you been resting here?” he asked.
“A lifetime,” said Oak with a playful rustle.
Sam and I glanced at each other with a quizzical look of disbelief. This character had to be at least 100 years old.
I turned to Mr. Tree and suggested he might want to move along the path and see more of the world, to which he replied, “The Creator instructed me to wait here, so that’s what I’m doing.”
We stood and stared for a moment, but Oak didn’t seem to mind. As a matter of fact, I think he almost enjoyed the attention. After I took a picture, we turned and headed on down the path. Looking at Sam I commented, “Don’t you wonder what made him so big and strong?”
Oak can evidently see and hear a lot from his height because he heard me and replied with a windy, one-word sigh, “Obedience.”
There is a tree in our back yard that makes a mess. It covers our deck and fills our pool with gooey dead blooms. It drops little bitty leaves like confetti, and occasionally lets go of entire dead branches. It grows super fast, sticking its branches in unwanted places, like into the side of my house, above the chimney, or right over the pool. It causes so much shade in places that it nearly kills the grass.
It is a troublesome tree. I have to trim it back every year, yet I still tolerate it. I tolerate it because I love it. I planted it when it was just a baby. I have watched it grow into a giant shade tree that makes a wonderful cool shade in the hot summer. Its blooms provide a colorful splash of pink against the sky, drawing hummingbirds to the big dinner table above the rooftops. Below it is my wife’s garden bench, a place to sit and rest a while. A swing hangs from one of it’s large branches. I love the tree, despite it’s faults.
Except for one who walked this earth over 2000 years ago, nothing in life is perfect. Not a tree, not a person, not a church. Too often I concentrate on the faults and problems and ignore the beauty in life. I could cut the tree down and save myself some mess and trouble. I could move to a place where there are no trees. I could spend my life trying to rid myself of anything that causes me pain. But I would miss a place to hang my swing. And the beauty of the tree.
The tree is gone. The big hackberry tree. The one that lived and grew in my back yard for 30 years or more. The one that provided so much shade. The one that provided food for the birds. The one that held the rope swing that we all enjoyed, flying through the air in long swooping arcs, toes pointed to the sky. The tree is gone, and I will miss it.
We had to cut it because it had begun to split and crack from it’s aged and weakened forks. It seemed we were only one gusty thunderstorm away from major backyard disaster. I was afraid of how it’s frailty might cause me harm, so we did away with it before it had a chance to collapse.
Sometimes I feel like that tree. Weak, barely holding it together. Starting to crack and split apart, I feel like just one more storm might do me in. I wonder why God doesn’t just take me out before I fall apart and do great harm in the process. But I suppose He has more patience than I. And I suspect He knows a bit more about how to deal with such things. Perhaps He has a bit more knowledge about holding weak trees together . . . and a lot more strength to do so.
A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; And in His name Gentiles will trust.”
– Mathew 12:20-21 NKJV
Sam and I played “disc golf” yesterday. For those of you who are not up on the latest sports, disc golf is like regular golf except you throw a Frisbee to a basket instead of hitting a golf ball to a hole. It’s fun, cheap, and good exercise. (I know of no disc golf course where you ride your lazy butt around in a cart.)
The course we played yesterday was in the woods. There were little cleared paths along the route. I guess if you could throw really straight, you would be fine. Sam and I are pretty new at it so we spent a lot of time in the weeds, mostly after bouncing the disc off a tree. We had fun anyway. Whenever we would hit a tree, we would just pick up the disc and throw it again. We went through all 18 baskets that way.
When we left, the trees along the course had quite a few more dents than when we started. Our discs are now sporting a few more nicks, chips and scratches too. It’s all just part of the game. With determination, perseverance, and a good attitude, we made it to every basket, finished the course, and went home happy.
That was Sunday afternoon. Today is Monday, and it still feels like I am spending a lot of time bouncing off trees . . .
I suppose this post is a bit silly, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Anyway, as I thought about it on the way to work this morning, I couldn’t help but sing the Michael Frye song: Jesus, Be the Center.
With apologies to Robert Frost . . .
Whose woods these are I think I know
It’s not the man who lives here though.
Who owns this poor trees destiny?
The devils who make electricity.
What is the moral from this poor sight?
What can we learn from this tree’s plight?
Watch where you’re planted and guard your feet.
Don’t plant yourself near the worldly street.