Giving Thanks for a Tree

Written by Dr. Rev. Linda Hollies

I think that I shall never see

A  poem as lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

(By Joyce Kilmer)

Driving to the highway the other day, I spotted a beautiful tree!  The tree has obviously been there for a number of years, for she is tall, full and stately.  Trees give shade, provide oxygen and offer an anchor to the landscape.  I have passed this tree many times, but on this day, I saw that tree.  I saw her in her fullness.  For that tree is dying and it is at its most lovely state.

This tree stands tall, almost alone, as it is changing colors.  At its most low spot it’s a vivid green, as if it’s yet drawing fresh sap from the trunk.  But as she lifts her arms to God and rises towards the sky, it is yellow and gold, even changing to a majestic multi-colored red at the tips.  All of the colors that we drive along the highways to view during the fall season, is represented in this one tree.  The majesty, the wonder and the mystery of God are all embedded in this one dying tree.

The tree must shed its leaves and die in order to rest through the winter and be ready to bud in the spring.  Next summer, this tree will give it’s new self to us as a gift.  For this is part of the mystery of God that we cannot explain.  We don’t have words to accurately describe the mystery of life.  For God cannot be explained, programmed or controlled.  Without any human help—without any human assistance—without any human design, God has exhibited the entire realm of life in a tree.

We all have stages.  We all have seasons.  We, like this tree will all face death as part of life’s mystery.  None of us have escaped the pain of death’s mystery.  And, we recognize that those who have died in God have entered the gateway to new life that will last throughout eternity.  However, there are many types of death that we have to face.  This week’s Sunday School Lesson is about the death of a relationship with God that led the Hebrew people off into captivity and severe lament.  "By the rivers of Babylon set we down and wept when we remembered Zion."  (Psalm 137: 1)

Programmed into the seedling of every tree is the cycles of its life and the cycles of death.  Biology seeks to give us a sense of understanding—botany and even a science of forestry, try diligently to explain the mystery of growing things in nature.  But the truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the mystery of God.  We don’t know how a maple never gets confused with an oak or how a hemlock knows not to try and become a willow.  In their very “issness” is written the stages of life.  And, just like the leaves of a tree, we too will fade and we too will die.  And, death, like the tree is a mystery.

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree that is dying right before our eyes.  And, the death of a tree is a signal for each one of us that a shift is coming, change is underway and a different season is approaching.  Death causes all of us to change, ready or not.  For death engulfs us into God’s greater mystery.  Death comes as an interruption in our lives.  Death is a separation of close relationships.  And, death is a great equalizer that has no respect of persons.  Death comes to every nation, every tribe, and every gender.  Death came to call upon the nation of Israel and their grief was heavy as they remembered what "usta be"!

Too many of us are like the people of Israel, we don’t value relationships until it’s too late and they are absent, gone and missing from our lives.  This is a serious call to each one of us to handle the people of God, the things of God and our relationship with God in a caring manner.  The people took God for granted.  The people refused to obey, to keep the Covenant and to follow the will and the way of God.  When God withdrew and allowed the nation to be separated, divided and taken into slavery, the people "remembered".  Somebody said, "We don’t miss our water until our well runs dry!"  This is not a smart move!  We need to remember and to appreciate the well while the water is running!

In a couple of weeks or so, that beautiful tree will be standing stark, naked and fairly ugly!  All of those awesome leaves will have been either blown or rained away!  And, there is something here that we need to note.  "Gather ye the rosebuds, while you may."  Oh, the days of high school and poetry do return!

While we have the opportunity of a Thanksgiving holiday lull, let’s make that phone call, send a card, go make the visit and have that necessary talk.  Invest in a relationship this week and give thanks that God allowed you the time.  Put something in place that will allow some special individual to know what they mean to you and to your life.  This is a significant way to celebrate the holiday.  Don’t allow anyone special to you to die without hearing from you.  For when death comes, it’s too late!  The season of relationship will have passed.  And, sitting under a naked tree, weeping and wailing will get you nothing but a snotty nose and red eyes.  So, put down this paper and get busy!

Until we meet again, keep a dance in your heart, a lovely tree upon your mind, a smile on your face and words of encouragement to share with all those you meet along the journey.  A safe and blessed Thanksgiving yall!  Shalom, Tree Watchers!  God’s best Shalom!  Sista Linda           

The Rev. Dr. Linda H. Hollies, Pastor

Calvary Church
925 Backus Street
Jackson, Michigan 49202

(517) 782-0543
(517) 782-0561 Fax