Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Virgin forest covered the hill leading down to the ravine where wedding guests waited amidst the soft strains of guitar music. Most were able to catch glimpses of the bride’s white dress through little gaps in the lush greenery covering the hill; her attendants, dressed in tree-trunk brown, preceded her slow, regal journey toward the altar.
It was a hot day in September, one of those leftover days of summer when humid warmth penetrated the ravine’s shady canopy. Still, a slight breeze tossed the leaves in the upper branches of the towering trees, whispering to those of us seated below them on wooden folding chairs.
This outdoor sanctuary seemed encased in green, growing things. An altar, a simple hand-made table, stood next to the trunk of a wizened old sycamore. The bride approached her groom as the attending trees again sighed in the wind.
Simple frosted glasses on either side of the altar held flowers that could have been snatched from a garden. Red, yellow, lavender, orange, white – they seemed to punctuate the setting with a vibrant call to life.
The pastor spoke clearly of the uniqueness and giftedness of both bride and groom, and of their desire to serve God. He explained how they orchestrated their wedding out of a deep love for His creation. As requested, he also shared their theme verse: “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).”
Both bride and groom knew the Lord had healed their rocky beginnings and was now joining them in a way that would produce fruit and give glory to Him.
Occasionally during the service a yellow leaf fell to the floor of the ravine. Soon the trees would shed their plumage and the floor of this outdoor sanctuary would be covered with red, brown, and gold. The seasons would come and go here in this place, just as they would define the future of this new couple.
Weeks have passed since that wedding day. The air seems crisp and dry rather than sultry, and scattered leaves tumble across my yard.
“Scritch, scratch, scritch…” Together, my husband and I rake a huge pile of oak leaves onto a big tarp.
Acorns hide everywhere, peeking out from underneath leaves. Some try to resist the rake’s claws by snuggling into the grass or hopping to either side like popping corn. I hand pick these stragglers and throw them on the tarp along with the chocolate brown leaves.
Still holding an acorn, I lean on my rake and peer skyward, pausing to remember. The tree trunks point to the endless blue sky; their barren branches sway methodically in the wind.
“They will be called oaks of righteousness…”
The sun breaks through the clouds, diverting my gaze to the single acorn still nestling in the palm of my hand. The rake falls to the ground.
“I’ll be back in a minute. Need to take a…break.”
I have to find something.
Once inside the house, I stare at the acorn. “It seems a miracle that a massive tree might actually come from you,” I whisper. It also seems a miracle that such dramatic growth is possible – even promised – in the lives of the recently married couple.
“Now where is it…hmmmm…maybe in those papers…”
There! On the back of the wedding bulletin I find the inscription:
“Our relationship is about God’s ability to take an imperfect relationship between two broken people and to make each whole again. We pray that God will grow us up, that it may be said of us, ‘They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor’.”
I toss the acorn up and down - rub its stubby cap, pointed tail, and smooth skin - and let it roll around in the palm of my hand. Then I carefully place it on my dresser next to a picture of my daughter and her new husband. They must all depend on God’s provisions - soil, sun, and water for the acorn, the gracious presence of Holy Spirit for the couple - to grow into powerful witnesses to The Giver of Life.
A gust of wind suddenly splatters dry leaves against the window.
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