Hugging Trees and Thanking God

Hugging Trees and Thanking God

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

Do you remember when you first discovered that the world, the earth is a beautiful place? Perhaps you were on a family vacation and you were gripped by exploding autumn colors in the Great Smoky Mountains. Or you hiked with your parents to a waterfall and for the first time were overwhelmed as the mist enfolded you and the water thundered down. When was it that you discovered the beauty of creation? Staring at Orion galloping across the evening sky or peering through the telescope to see the craters of the moon?

Early in college I took an interest in ecology and the environment and found myself accused of being a tree-hugger. Well I must confess I am. I love trees. Many mornings you might see me walking around this campus admiring the stately live oaks, redbuds, and Japanese Maples that mark our church grounds. With great affection I remember the first tree I fell in love with when I was a boy. It was a giant sycamore that to this day still looms over a creek through the pasture bottoms where the dairy cows graze before the afternoon milking. When we were small children my daddy and grandparents would take us to that spot to play in the sand alongside that sycamore whose roots reached beneath the creek itself and the massive limbs shaded us from the scorching summer sun.

This time of year trees around us are shaking off winter’s sleep and opening up delicate new leaves for the year. I have a maple tree in our front yard given to me as a seedling six or so years ago by Jack Thompson, a church member who loved beauty through nature and architecture. He died four years ago about this time of year but his gift to me lives on. It is growing a fine canopy of leaves and the limbs may be sturdy enough to hold a bird house this year. Jack gave me the gift of a tree whose shade he would not live to see.

I wonder what gifts I am leaving behind that will give shade to the weary and inspiration to the seeker? Will it be words spoken or written? Will it be laughter or integrity or a hopeful attitude? What gifts will live on when I am gone? Surely, hopefully, prayerfully it will be something more than just “stuff.” What about you?

Gifts that live on are part of the larger narrative of Easter. Easter is not simply a celebration of a particular Sunday once a year. Liturgists remind us that Easter is a season that carries us into the year. Even now God is offering new life to all who are willing to receive it. There are more gifts to behold and accept and so life can begin anew today, right now. And not only are there gifts of grace that are waiting for you, you too have the chance to bless, to care, to love, and to show mercy. These are the gifts that truly live on when we are no more on this earth.

The silence of Holy Saturday is broken by the Alleluia of the One who makes all things new. May this be for you a promise realized.

Shaded by peace,

Greg