May 2 2010

The Giving Tree

backyard 177b

“They are strong, like a tree planted by water…” (Psalm 1:3)

This past week numerous trees were planted around the world. This occurs each year as part of Arbor Day. Many of those who participated probably didn’t realize that by  planting trees we join with God in the work of Creation.

Trees play an important role in the Scriptures. In the opening chapters of the Bible God creates trees. Adam and Eve are charged to tend to or care for these trees. At the end of the Scriptures we find a description of the Celestial City. John tells us there will be trees there that bear fruit perpetually. Between Genesis and Revelation there are numerous other references to trees.

For me trees reflect something of the character of God. It would seem that trees, by their very nature, are givers. They give shade. They give fruit. They give oxygen. They give pleasure. When they shed their leaves they give back to the earth. Like God, they are always giving.

Seeing trees can serve as a reminder that we, too, are supposed to be givers. Far too many people live their lives as takers. I’m convinced life has far more meaning and joy when we give.

To be givers we must have resources to give. Here, too, we can learn from the trees. They all have roots which take from the soil so that they can be able to give. We, too, must have something to draw from. Actually in our case it is Someone. As we allow our roots to grow deep into God and His Word we are enabled to be the givers we were created to be. Just like the trees…


(The image above was taken behind my house a couple of weeks ago.)

Oct 21 2009

The Smells of Nature

Yellowstone NP Giant GeyserIn my last blog I wrote about how my experience in nature goes well beyond the visual realm.  I noted how important sounds were as well.  To this I would also add smells.  Although all the scents of nature may not be pleasant, there are many which have added immensely to my enjoyment of nature.  I even buy candles with some of these scents to remind me of being outdoors or in special places. 

I love the smell of sagebrush and always look forward to catching a whiff of sage when I travel west.  I love a lot of the woody scents—balsam, cedar and pine.  Other favorite scents include honeysuckle, eucalyptus trees, the ocean, tilled earth, and any number of flowers.  Even though I don’t particularly like the sulfur smell one encounters in Yellowstone National Park, that scent also helps to make Yellowstone special to me. 

The sense of smell is important to us.  Interestingly enough, the Bible indicates that God has this sense as well.  Nearly forty times in the Old Testament reference is made to God smelling the pleasing odor of a burnt offering.  There were various aromas associated with the sacrifices used in the worship of God.  Aromatic incense was also used in worship.  Incense eventually came to be associated with prayer.  In Psalm 141:2 David asked “May my prayer be set before you like incense…” (see also Revelation 5:8)  In the Gospel of John there is a beautiful story of a woman who poured out “a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume” on Jesus feet.  This costly act was, likewise, an expression of worship. 

Sunday I wrote about how the sounds of nature join together in offering praise to God.  Would it be going too far to say that the smells of nature—both the good and the bad—are likewise a part of Creation’s worship of the Creator?  Personally, I don’t have a problem with that at all. 


 (The image above is of Giant Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.)

Aug 5 2009

Shall We Gather at the River

Cascade-Creek-009Most people know that the Bible begins with a picture of a beautiful garden.  The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis remind us that God created a wonderful place marked by trees and rivers.  What many Christians are not as aware of is that a similar picture is painted in the very last chapter of the Bible.  I was reminded of this recently when I was in a service where we sang “Shall We Gather at the River.”

This hymn, penned in 1864, has been sung at countless baptisms.  I guess the imagery of water makes that appropriate but the hymn’s writer, Robert Lowry, was not thinking of a baptismal scene at all.  He was envisioning Christians gathering in heaven at “the beautiful river…that flows by the throne of God.”  The biblical basis for this vision is Revelation 22 where John writes:  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

What a beautiful picture John records!  An unpolluted river—the river of life–flows through the heavenly realm and we find there, as in the original garden, “the tree of life.”  I have studied the Book of Revelation enough to know that the language used is typically symbolic in nature.  For that reason I’m not so sure that we can expect to see in heaven literal streets of gold, pearly gates, or even an actual river.  Still, there is for me something both comforting and encouraging about John’s imagery.  We have obviously made a mess of God’s original creation but here is a vision of creation restored, of a place where things are as God intended for them to be.

Sometimes I imagine heaven looking like the picture that appears above (taken at Yosemite National Park).  But regardless of what we shall actually see, I look forward to that day when we shall gather at the river and worship our Creator and God.  In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the rivers and trees we have here and strive to honor the Lord through my work and photography.