by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
I woke in the middle of the night, to the rustling of backyard trees.
I waited for sleep, but sleep wasn’t waiting for me.
So I tiptoed into my kids’ bedrooms to whisper prayers over them. That’s when Psalm 1 came to mind, and I personalized it in prayer for each of them.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.
But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.
Years ago, we memorized this little psalm as part of our homeschool curriculum. I bought a wall decal of verse 3 and hung it over our living area.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither–whatever they do prospers.
I hadn’t thought of these words in a while, but trees had been falling all over the news for days. I’d just watched a Florida tree on the Weather Channel, uprooted and tossed like it was nothing. Nothing but the power of a storm.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
And so I prayed for my kids (and their parents) to have deep roots and to drink from living water day after day. To be nothing like chaff that the winds blow and scatter. To be like trees that stand and grow beautiful fruit, all the way to the end.
I prayed we’d be like trees who look to God all day and lift their leafy arms to pray.
The next morning, Hurricane Matthew had cancelled school, so we sat around the breakfast table, a little flashback to how we began our homeschool days. I told them about my prayers, and we talked through Psalm 1 again. Then we opened up to the book of Matthew, which we’d started reading together (in bits and pieces) the week before.
In Matthew 3, we read about people confessing their sins and chaff being burned in a fire. About producing fruit in keeping with repentance.
We read that the ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
We talked about how God loves us and wants us to prosper, how He both warns us and encourages us like a good Father.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NIV)
Sometimes He wakes us in the night to renew our urgency about what matters most.
And sometimes, to do this, He employs trees.
Stare at a tree long enough to learn something, and write what it teaches you.