O Christmas Tree…your boughs can teach a lesson

Friends went out recently for their annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.  There is so much debate today about whether the word, Christmas, and it’s celebrations are politically correct for the world we live in today.  I’m not going to settle that one, but as my daughter and our woodcutter friend were collecting firewood this week for an upcoming snow in Colorado, I paused to reflect on a few things.

As Jason picked up the 8 foot logs he had cut, hoisting them over his shoulder, I was caught by the power it takes to lift this awkwardly long piece of pine and load it on the truck. Rachel and I took the less heavy ones and they were challenging.  We loaded up about a cord and I could hear my shoulder beginning to cry, “uncle!” as we finished the last few.  As I watched Jason, though, I thought how did Yeshua carry his cross down the streets of Jerusalem?  Beaten beyond recognition and craving rest and water, he walked barefoot down the pebbled street to his crucifixion.  I have had others in a bible study nail the sins of the flesh to the cross and the nails required to hold human flesh to wood…unimaginable.  I bought what looked like railroad spikes and I’m telling you, I can’t imagine having it driven through my flesh.

I have a crown of grapevine thorns hanging in my solarium and I used to keep it in a hatbox for our own protection, but now it hangs on the wall.  I have pricked my fingers or accidentally brushed my hand across it a few times and it is memorable.  But, until now, I hadn’t really put a tree on my shoulders and carried it.  I stopped in the forest for a moment to stare up at the most beautiful lodgepole pine. The bark is a silvery white and they stand so straight with branches spread out and airy and topping at about 30 feet around here.

Did he know when he prayed in the Garden that night that he would soon carry a tree upon his back and it would lift his beaten body up for all to see?  As he looked into the faces of the ones he loved, was his heart heavy for what they were also about to face?  Did he grieve when the soldiers gambled below him for the scraps of clothing removed from him?

I know I have fought many a physical battle in elementary school at the hands of those who hate something or someone different.  I survived to fight another day.  I was a frail, petite asian american and against 5 others, pretty much beaten before I began, but somewhere within me resounded a righteous anger against those who exert power because they can and use it to force others to submit to their tyranny.  Kids can be cruel when there is no authority to inhibit the confusion and anger and loneliness they feel.  Unfortunately, many are left drowning in the pool of hatred brought on my differences.

So as I reflect on the celebration many are preparing for this holiday season, I find myself so grateful that there was another who fought bigger battles, physical beatings, emotional trauma, and did not seek to understand the whys, just resting in the power of the One who sent Him and trusted Him to complete His journey despite the abusers, moneymongers, religious right, betrayers, jealous, ignorant creatures of His time.  He focused instead on those who were suffering under the rule of those in power:  the broken, the sick, the fearful, the grieving, the pure, outcasts, the condemned….all of us who are seeking in this world for the one thing that will fill a void that is always there no matter what gifts, lovers, money, friends we have.  He walked as one of us and I am so grateful He calls me His beloved.

Life begins from the ground up

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with a friend on building a bunk bed from pine.  He has been a woodcutter a long time and it has been an amazing journey as we went out to select our trees.  I didn’t know that pines grow straighter in the gulleys. Why?  They’re reaching for the light and so there are less limbs because they must use all their energy to push toward the light.

I learned to use a draw knife to strip away the bark and then watched and waited for the sap to ooze out of the half frozen logs and ran my hands down them to seal them in.  We measured and cut and began to piece the bed together.  Jason was able to share a particular log with me from an Aspen he’d been eyeing for a while. It had mountain lion claw marks running up it and we used it for the upper fascia to cover the long board across.

As we worked, we talked, we laughed and sometimes….we cried.  It’s been two years since Jason’s father died and the saw mill was one he bought for his dad and him to build a house together with a special room for his dad.  Through family battles after his father’s death, his inheritance was stolen from him and there are a few things that remain important to him.  He learned much from his grandfather and father and his desire to create things the old way is one of those gifts.  The bed will take longer than expected as Jason finds inspiration as the bed goes up and the plan gets more customized.

I will treasure the adventures we have taken into the forest, searching for just the right trees, finding hidden surprises as a mama rabbit ran and Jason tried to teach me how to throw his jacket over her and she would freeze.  Alas, she ran too quickly, but I learned much that day.  The scars on the aspens from animals seeking food (supposedly an aspirin-like compound beneath the bark they like) drip with their life-giving blood, the few rose hips, ripe and red, left behind from the scavenging birds and wild animals, and the trees once laden with beautiful leaves of gold now standing white and tall and surrounded by the evergreen pines.  The gift of pine pitch, resin forced into the bottom of a tree when struck by lightning of fire, in an effort to save it’s life-giving source and the wonderful symbolism of the largest organism on the planet all interconnected by one male that clones itself and creates an interwoven web of life that stretches across wide sections of the earth.  The beauty of trees, all standing amongst one another, all reaching for light and all serving a purpose for the world around them as a source of food, medicine, shelter and warmth.

It reminds me that we are all connected to one male, one savior, who we attempt to be like.  We attempt to reach for more light and grow straighter, providing food for the hungry, healing for the sick, shelter for the refugee, and the warmth of a love that is unconditional and extends beyond prayer, embracing another who needs love as we are also embraced by His love like the trees reaching higher toward the light and yet always planted firmly in the ground.  A source of strength, power, simplicity and inspiration.

So tonite, I reflect on those strong trees in our own life that reached for the light, pulling themselves out of the gulleys of darkness and loneliness to serve a greater purpose.  So when my grandson lays down on his ‘big boy” bed one night, I pray he will sense that strength and friendship and love and light that built his bed; all working together to produce something greater in life.

Dirty Hands

This year Colorado is unusually warm and without it’s blanket of snow.  I am closing down my solarium for the season but a few plants continue to peak out new buds despite the brevity of sun and cooler temperatures in the mountains.  Many containers are now empty, having their dirt emptied and retired to the shelf for next year.  I will never cease to be amazed at how a plant will literally twist itself toward whatever light it can find.

They all reach upward, seeking that source of powerful energy that will ensure a future for them.  I will miss the aroma of fresh earth as I place it around a sprig of green and watch it come forth.  Some are in pots now, bulbs holding an invisible power that will erupt amidst the snow of spring and promise a colorful rainbow of purples, yellows, and pinks with a veil of icy white powder sprinkled over the earth.

So as the time for planting has passed and my solarium seems spacious and yet empty, I will await the promise of new life with each passing day as the nights will grow shorter and the earth will begin to breathe slowly, deeply, until life awakens within her.

Just watching one of those Christmas movies on the Inspiration channel, the Christmas Tree, and the nun says to the man too busy to stop and smell the roses….”Just hug the tree!” He pauses, hugs it and feels something.  She explains it as, God.  And so as I walk amidst this mountainous beauty, I will stop to hug one of my trees and breathe in the essence of life.  Life connected and grounded and strong.  Winter may be approaching, but we can still stop and smell the roses, hug the trees, and take a walk in the snow and breathe in deeply as we feel the warmth of sunshine upon us!