The Lesson of the Evergreen Grove

(Author’s note: This post first appeared several years ago, before the lights were changed to white, before the hospital was updated, back when there was a Christmas truce in wars. But despite change, I think it bears repeating.)

 

They stand near a busy intersection in Pratt, America. Just north of the empty, snow-dusted swimming pool, they serve as a stepping stone in a path of parks stretching from the highway that borders the south edge of town to the capstone park adjoined by Highway 54 as it cuts Pratt in half. They must be visible from some of the hospital windows, just above them on the hill, these seven stately evergreens, each wrapped in a different color of festive lights.

As I drove past them last night, intent on just where on the racks and shelves of the busy stores I would find each item on my list, I was stopped short in my mental rush by the simple beauty of the arrangement. Each tree is unique in its own right. Though all are old and tall, some tower above the others. Some are full and round, others tall and spindly. Some cluster together, but two stand aloof at opposite ends of the grove. Some have branches that drape down, others’ branches sweep upwards as if in praise. Each is a testament to the glorious diversity of evergreen trees.

Then the lights — white, yellow, red, orange, pink, green, blue. Some are spaced precisely around the trees, others splashed on with a hurried hand. The orange lights blaze out for all to see. The blue ones are so subtle, they can’t be seen until night is well advanced. Together they present the same colors that make up the spectrum and the rainbow.

Shopping finished and more at peace, I drove back past the lights — and there it was. Glorious diversity. God made each of us as unique as this grove of evergreens, the tree that symbolizes the never-failing quality of His love for us. Some of us are round and full, others tall and spindly. Like the trees, some of us gather together, while others stand aloof. Some of our shoulders droop, while others of us lift our hands in praise. We are covered in many colors of skin, just as the trees wear different colors of lights. Yet each of us is a testament to the glorious diversity of the world we live in.

As this Christmas season rushes by us so fast that the bright colors begin to blur, I hope we can take the time to appreciate the world God made for us — the glorious diversity and the marvelous complexity of it. Each year near midnight on December 24, the entire world does seem to pause, to hold its breath for just a moment. Warring guns fall silent, and people around the world stop. Some give thanks that a baby was born nearly 2,000 years ago, just so He could die for us. Some people may even look heavenward, wondering when that bright star may come again.

Until it does, maybe from time to time we can remember the lesson of this grove of evergreens. Although each of them is different, they draw their nourishment from the same source underground, where their roots intertwine to help each of them stand. They all draw warmth and life-giving light from the same sun. They’re not so very different from us, this grove of trees. And as they stand together to celebrate this season, their lights send a message to all of us.

Unanswered Prayer

This morning when I woke up and looked out the window, it was another glorious spring day—in February! Crocuses bloomed in my flower bed and it promised to be a great day for a walk. And that made me think about how often we pray for weather (let it be cold, let it be warm, let it rain, let it not rain). Personally, I like the warm winter we’ve been having, but there is a down side to it. Some plants need a certain number of cold days to bloom properly in the spring. If we don’t get enough cold days, we’ll have more bugs of the annoying kind. We could take it further to the economic impact of those who depend on selling items needed in cold weather. There’s also the problem that the warmth fools plants, animals and insects into believing it really is spring and then—whammo. Kansas weather changes hit, and it’s below freezing for a solid week, killing the tender buds and baby animals.

We plead for outcomes all the time, even for sporting events. I can imagine God saying, “Really, you want that team to win?” Yet, how many times has God provided not what we want, but what we NEED. For instance, seventeen years ago, I prayed that God would hold my marriage together, despite our problems. Yet God provided what my husband and I needed, not what we wanted. Neither of us would have grown as persons had we stayed together. We had become like an ill-fitting shoe and a sore foot. It was time to change.

Twelve years later, when my new-found love Charles was facing leukemia, I prayed he would be healed, that we could share our lives for many years. God healed him—by taking him home, and we had only five months. Yet both of us learned profound truths in those five months, and we lived our many years together in that short few weeks.

A few years ago, a spring blizzard we didn’t believe would materialize dumped 28 inches of snow on our town, and led to our mad rush stopping for three days, as, trapped in our homes, we marveled at this reminder of Who is really in charge.

Sometimes I have prayed to be spared certain experiences, and yet, those have often been the very experiences I now cherish. As Garth Brooks sings, “Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayer … Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” When has God not answered your prayers the way you wanted, and you later gave thanks for that?