Pastor Tia’s Devotion for August 26, 2020:
Ever since we came to California, I have fallen in love with redwoods. I never used to be a “tree person” before. I don’t get excited over vegetation as much as meeting new people. But redwoods are special, they really are.
When we first moved here, we checked out the “must see list” within one hour and of course ended up going to Muir Woods. A pretty ambitious bus driver on a windy road made us sick to our stomachs. When we entered the woods, I was mostly trying to feel better before hopping on that bus again. I remember walking that one loop everyone takes, looking up at trees, thinking: Ok, well, it’s trees. I liked what I saw but wasn’t sure about the hype. Half a year later at Yosemite and Stanislaus National Forest we started learning about holy trees deeply cared for by Natives and we read about the Californian Lumber businesses that had cut gigantic trees without thinking twice. We crawled through a huge, hollow trunk and climbed a big root. And slowly, slowly, I fell in love with these giants from times long ago.
So, this summer we visited them again, this time in the Redwood National forest and the Humboldt State Park. We camped under young trees and balanced on fallen trunks. The kids found caves and build their forts in trunks. It was the perfect playground (and also the only open one, of course). We snacked inside a tree and played hide and seek. And I got to sit among the trees and just enjoy my life.
I fully felt at peace in those moments, protected by the “grandmothers” and “grandfathers” of the forest, symbols of God’s everlasting love. By trees that had seen fires and wars and humans and had survived them all. Sure, they have some scars and burn marks, but they survived.
It’s no surprise at all that those redwoods to Natives are holy trees. The tallest trees on earth growing over 300 feet in height that interconnect heaven and earth. Rooted widely in the soil, stretched towards the heavens. While their roots aren’t particularly deep, they are extended up to 50 feet from the trunk, intertwined with other trees’ roots. Redwoods aren’t loners, that’s for sure.
And redwoods are among the oldest trees, some being over 2000 years of age. They were already here when Jesus Christ was born, imagine that. They survive most fires due to their thick bark filled with tannin. They are resistant to insects, fungus and disease. Their deaths right now in the devastating fires mean that we really messed things up. It so hurts to see them burning.
The bible wasn’t written in California (surprise!), so it doesn’t know about redwoods, but it does have holy trees. Cedars are named “trees of God”: tall, trees with firm roots that make excellent building material. They grow despite the surroundings of harsh climate. Sounds familiar, right?
And the biblical authors felt the same way about their cedars Natives feel about redwoods here. These trees served as great examples for how one should live. The righteous man would “grow like a cedar”, says Psalm 92.
“Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green,
To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalm 92:13-15)
In these challenging days I pray for us to become like redwoods. Widely rooted in our communities and our faith. Growing towards the heavens to bring back blessings to our neighbors and friends. Having a thick skin that protects us from despair and great anxiety and that fights off the fires of exhaustion and hopelessness.
Wishing you roots and spread-eagled branches to survive whatever may come,