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Life Notes

Old Prayers

There was a tree at the center of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew strong, its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant, and it provided food for all. The animals of the field found shade under it, the birds of the air nested in its branches, and from it all living beings were fed. Daniel 4:10-12 

An ancient chant begins: Silence my soul, these trees are prayers. I have had a life-long love affair with trees. I climbed them as a child, built tree-houses in their branches, swung from their limbs, and researched them in college. I have admired, planted, and cared for trees all my life. I love gazing through their branches and watching the sunlight dance from leaf to leaf. I love the sound of the breeze meandering through them. I am spellbound, walking through forests of trees. I am in awe of the stark contrast their dark, barren branches create against the cold blue of a winter sky, like cracks across a plate of glass. I love trees, but I have never considered them prayers.

And so, when I read the chant: Silence my soul, these trees are prayers, I was intrigued by the possibilities. First of all, I associate trees with silence. Certainly, many trees grow in noisy environments, but they rise above the noise and bustle of the lives they cover. They stand still, unnoticed, watchful, and mostly unaffected by the chaos below. Second, trees – particularly old trees – reach up to the heavens, weather storms (although most bare scars), and meticulously record and secure each year of their lives in the rings of their wood. They provide shade and shelter for all types of living creatures. We say of old homes, “If these walls could talk…” The same can be said of trees: “If these trees could talk…” If these trees could talk, we might hear an old prayer.

What would the prayer of a tree sound like? I suspect it would include the passionate promises of young lovers and the wordless grief of the widow. Such a prayer would stretch across years and generations, and so capture moments measured in decades, not minutes. The prayer of a tree would not be caught up in the now, but in the then and now. It would be a long, deliberate prayer, and it would resonate with a timeless beauty. To hear such a prayer would require listening with the heart and not with the ears…

Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.

I asked the tree, ‘Tell me about God;’ and then it blossomed.

Come home to church this Sunday. You may hear a tree blossom.

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