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Live oak

Live oak

This is the tree I’d be.

I stand with my grandson, looking at the spreading tree before us.  It is beautifully backlit by the sunlit morning sky over the low, inlet horizon.  We have been talking about the process of noticing.  He has informed me – to my great pleasure – that noticing involves more than just seeing.  A boy after my own heart.

So, we stand, and look and listen to the birds in the branches.  We feel the breeze coming off the water.  And we enjoy the beauty of the intricate tree.

I mentioned in the last post that I’d come back to a tree as a symbol.  It’s the predominant image in the passage I quoted from Psalm 92:

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Meaning no disrespect for a cedar of Lebanon (which I haven’t seen) or a palm (which I have), I must nominate a live oak as the picture-perfect example of a healthy spiritual life.  For me, the long, twisting branches exemplify a life of unexpected events, both downturns and upturns, met by faith.

And the long, horizontal reach of the tree seems to defy reason and gravity.  Not to mention provide shade.

A little way off, an elderly man sits, reading, in the shade of another live oak.  He is a good reminder to me that the flourishing of the tree depends upon it being planted in the house of the LORD.  Its vitality is dependent on the life-sustaining presence of God.

Early today, I found this dead tree, silhouetted against a gorgeous sky.  These verses above are promising more than just a long life.  The promise is that we will flourish into old age.  Continuing to produce fruit.

As the great philosopher, Spock, instructed, the hope is not simply to live long.  But also, to prosper.

I want this kind of productive longevity.  To have a sense of purpose and a be a blessing to those around me for as long as I am here.  The psalm envisions the tree being planted in the house of the LORD – in other words, living in continuous worship.  Enjoying the presence of God.  Each day an uninterrupted basking in the sunshine of all that he is.

I lift my grandson into the fork of the live oak.  He stands for a few minutes in the heart of the tree, feeling its strength around him.  I suppose this is the “fruit” of a live-oak believer – giving shade and strength and encouragement to those who come within reach.

It all starts with where we're planted.

Lord, make us these kind of trees.  Planted in your presence.  Bearing fruit throughout all the days you grant us.  To your glory.

Reader: that’s my nominated tree.  What’s yours?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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