Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God. And only he who sees takes off
his shoes. –
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
So once more glorious
April arrives. And I am present to witness the magic of resurrection, here midway
between the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge, high on the Massanutten ridge to behold distant mountains turning green, hear
birds in chorus in the forest that surrounds the chalet, and exult in the good news that ‘God is in His heaven and all
is right with my world’ -- whatever the clamorous voices and events elsewhere.
This time of Lent brings memories of wisdom blown to me from
earlier Easter seasons. Watching the forest now awakening from the dead reminds
me of the wondrous blessing God has provided from trees. So much I learned about
them when I lived at Arbreux, the name I gave to my place near Orkney Springs, the French word for “a wooded place.” Not only do trees provide food, clothing, paper products, fuel for warmth, medicines,
tools, furniture, and numerous other essentials for living, but God gave us through forests earth’s oxygen factories,
absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, vital for human life and energy. Likewise,
God provided trees to clean the air we breathe. Research shows that a single
100 foot acorn tree can remove thirteen tons of dust and gases each year, purifying the air and creating a micro-climate and
habitat for all of God’s creatures. Moreover, trees bring protection from
the elements by offering windbreaks, preventing mudslides, and reducing soil erosion.
Bayer drew from the willow tree the essence of aspirin used by millions to relieve pain.
From Genesis to Revelation, God spoke of trees through the
written Word as illustrations of wisdom. First we read of the tree of knowledge
and evil in Genesis 2:8,9, the drama of man’s first sin; God’s subsequent judgment symbolized the tragedy of man’s
fall. Mark tells that leaves of palm trees were strewn in our Lord’s path
on that fateful Good Friday. The Creator Himself, who lovingly planted the trees
for mankind, chose to die upon the tree of Calvary -- the symbol of our redemption and God’s amazing grace. In Revelation, John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, is given a vision of the tree of everlasting life, a
glimpse of heaven. My shoes are off….
C. S. Lewi, with hesitancy, tried to articulate
his vision of heaven, too:
“In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now,
I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one
of you--the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism
and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of
it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we
desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience.
We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of
a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter....The books or the music
in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through
them was longing. These things--the beauty, the memory of our own past--are good images of what we really desire; but if they
are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the
thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country
we have never yet visited.” [The Weight of Glory, 1949]