Yesterday I went out and did some tree rescue work. Many of us felt compelled to get out there, I think. To see these tall and gentle giants who have given so much to all of us bend over with the weight of 24 inches of heavy snowfall has been hard on my soul. And by the posts I see on Facebook and Twitter, I’m not alone. As I went out with my broom and tried to “shake off” the snow from these friends, I had kind of a religious awakening. I felt like a tiny garden mouse trying to cut the net away from a lion caught in a snare!
Being in the PNW now for coming on 3 years, I can’t tell you how spiritually fed I’ve been as I have witnessed the grace and quiet beauty of the forests here! Coming from the prairie where trees are either “non-existent” or often stunted by lack of water, the spiritual presence of the community of trees here has been nothing short of life-changing. In fact, Emerson, my grand-daughter and I, have actually been known to “hug” trees on our walks around our neighborhood. I know I sound like a “hippie” whose off the grid, but give it a try sometime…it almost feels like you’re hugging God! Seriously! To come up under one of these majestic pines and peer all the way up, maybe 100 feet or more, to the top of these majestic wonders and then to contemplate all that these trees have heard and witnessed and given in their life is indeed to encounter something greater than any of us.
As I ventured outside to help my tall friends, I paused a moment and… as the snow from one of the shakings gently fell on the back of my neck and melted… I listened. And in the space between I think I heard them sigh in relief. There in the quiet of the winter snow I heard scripture come to life! Romans 8:26 to be exact: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes[a] with sighs too deep for words.” How wonderful to be a part of the living word today! I watched with tears in my eyes as my friend’s limbs, bent over with burdens too many to carry, sprung back into life with a few well-placed taps of my broom. What a privilege it was to give back life to these great givers.
As I shook and rescued, I pondered all the “bent over” souls I have had the privilege to minister to and with. I remembered Hannah Tronvold, 98 years old. I used to see her weekly in her daughters’ home (she had twins who were so faithful in caring for her). I had no clue what I was doing back then. I was so new to the ministry. I remember looking at her in her bed and saying with a way too enthusiastic voice, “Hannah, you look great today!” And she would look at me with her stoic Norwegian jaw set and say: “Well if that’s true, then looks are deceiving…I feel like you know what!” And then she’d smile a smile that would melt even this snow. I found that going to Hannah’s every week gave me more than I gave her! She was the one who ministered to my “bent over” soul just by gently receiving what I had.
And in so many ways, that’s what happened to me yesterday as I went out to rescue these trees…I found myself revived and renewed. Isn’t that the way it often is with authentic ministry? And so, today, after being fed once again by the gentleness of these friends, it is with a renewed step, a new sense of joy and reverence for life, that I carry on in ministry and in wonder. What a privilege to be in ministry with all of you. May I enter these next years with just a slice of wisdom and a whisper mercy and the quiet reverence that comes with walking among God’s trees.
And if I listen, maybe at the end of this race that I hope I run well, I might here a gentle, quiet, amen.
Your friend and pastor, humbled by the whispering wisdom that comes from walking between the limbs, Brook