I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
against the sweet earths 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.
I grew up with this poem. At one time I could recite it without even thinking. I am not so sure my memory would allow that now! I also had the wonderful pleasure of growing up on a farm with a small apple orchard. In addition to all the apple trees, our farmhouse was surrounded on two sides by huge maple and pine trees. My bedroom was in the corner of the house and during lazy, hot summer nights, I would go to sleep with the sound of the wind rustling through the branches of the trees. I always felt like my bedroom was almost like a treehouse surrounded as I was by trees. If you haven’t guessed by now, I love trees.
Trees also play a prominent role in the Bible. I know what you are thinking: Trees? Really? A prominent role? When God created, he made a beautiful garden and in the center of the garden he placed two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One of those trees, the tree of knowledge, got Adam and Eve into a lot of hot water and ultimately thrown out of the beautiful garden. In the New Testament, Jesus, on the night he would eventually be betrayed, would go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where surrounded by olive trees, he would pray that this cup might pass from him but only if it was God’s will. And in Revelation the tree of life returns and is seen on both sides of the river of the water of life: “And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelations 22:2) Boy do we need that tree now!
The passage I find interesting is back in Genesis 21:33. In this verse we are told Abraham plants a Tamarisk tree in Beersheba and then he calls on the name of the Lord. He is marking a treaty, one that has been made between himself and Abimelech and Phicol and the tree bears witness to their treaty.
Today we plant trees that bear witness to the many events in our lives. I know when my own children were born, I planted a tree for each one. As far as I know they are still growing and standing testament to the births of each of my children. Trees are some of the oldest living plants on the earth and they have born witness to many events during their great life spans. I sometimes wish trees could talk so they could share what they have seen.
People have used trees in various ways throughout time. Trees have been used build and then warm our homes, but people have also used trees for lynchings. People have used trees for shade, to find respite from the heat of the day. Unfortunately, trees have also been used to burn people at the stake. Trees have witnessed the good and the bad, the beautiful and the profane throughout human history. And yet trees keep on giving. Giving shade, fruits and nuts, even the very oxygen we breathe. Trees also point us ever forward through their growth as they mark the seasons of the year and the passage of time.
I would like to encourage each of you to emulate Abraham. As you celebrate a significant event in your life or maybe you just want to honor or remember someone special to you…plant a tree. A tree that will stand witness to the event or person you want to give tribute. If you don’t have a place to plant a tree then I would like to suggest this website: https://www.alivingtribute.org/ They will plant a tree or even a grove of trees in a national forest in honor or memory of someone. A lasting and living tribute.
In memory of the four children killed yesterday (6/11/2018) in a hostage standoff in Orlando, Florida, I have had 5 trees planted.