You’re a Tree Replanted in Eden

heartlandtree-crpalmer

As a literature major I am learning so much about the functionality of the elements of a poem, a story, or a novel. All of that information translates beautifully to Biblical literature. Consider Psalm 1, the classic Hebrew poem about the blessings of a godly person. The fact that this Psalm is poetry matters. (The Literary Study Bible is great for highlighting the importance of reading the Bible in its true literary context.)

1Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. 4The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

The literary style of Psalm 1 uses contrast and imagery to point toward a desireable quality. Hebrews 11 is the famous Hall of Faith in this style. Psalm 1 contrasts the godly person and the wicked person through the imagery of a tree. (I love this rendering of a tree in my neighborhood. It was created by my cousin Caleb.)

When it comes to poetry, Hebrew poetry is quite different from anything we read in English. This is when Bible translations are really important. I like to read Eugene Peterson’s The Message for poetry because he is a poet who also translates the Bible. It makes a difference. Peterson’s version of Psalm 1 is here.

Culturally, it is also important to note that any mention of a tree in Biblical literature is significant because the bible lands are not a heavily forested area. When a Hebrew reader read the phrase “You will be like a tree planted by streams of water,” the image from Genesis of the Tree of Life was an inevitable connection. God had to hide that tree away from humankind after Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He couldn’t let us live in our sin forever. He wanted to give us a way out.

That Tree of Life shows up again at the end of the Book. It is a symbol of the health and vitality of a life reborn, a forever in perfection and productivity. Revelation 21 is one of my favorite books of the Bible because it reminds me that I’m living for more than just this life.

In between these fruitful, leafy images is another tree: the one Paul and Peter both refer to as the tree where Jesus died for our sins. The tree that makes it possible for us to get back to the Tree of Life. These are the kinds of thoughts that should go through our minds when we read about the blessings of the person who “delights in the law of the Lord.”

The contrasting image is of chaff – the leftover material after the heavy grains of wheat fall onto the sifting pans. Chaff is the flimsy, puny material that gets burned up in refiner’s fire or blown away in the wind. It is plant material, similar to the material of that tree, but it is useless and weak. Contrast those images: chaff and a tree. That choice is pretty clear, which is the whole point of the poet in the first place.

Happy Birthday, Ada Jewel!

Dear Ada,

Today is your fifth birthday! This is a picture of you around the time when we all started calling you “Ada Bean” – do you think you look round and cute like a little bean? That’s what we all thought.

adaNow you don’t look at all like a bean. You are tall and slender and graceful. You still walk on your tip-toes like a dancer. You love dance class. You also love school. For your birthday you asked for a white board for your room so you can play school. You tell us that when you grow up you want to be a doctor and a police officer and a mom. I think you will be great at whatever you want to be!

Your real name, Ada, means “beautiful addition”. Daddy picked that because we were a little surprised when we found out you were going to join our family but we knew it was going to be perfect. I picked your middle name, Jewel, and I was right: you are a treasure!

You are the second mama around here. Your Daddy and I love to watch you trick Macy into eating her Cheerios. I think the way you help Claire off of her tall chair after supper is so nice. You are a good little sister, too. Jesse likes telling you jokes and playing games with you. You are good company for him.

I love it best when you sing songs that you make up yourself. They are always wonderful songs about love and happiness. I hope you never stop writing songs and singing them for us!

Well, it is finally your special day. We’ll eat pizza and decorate a giant cookie with red frosting and heart-shaped sprinkles. I think you must be one of my favorite 5 year-olds EVER!

ada4Love,

Mom

Tree Worship

I’ve written about pruning before (and it was strangely related to my dog), but it is a topic that really interests me. Maybe because Jesus talked about it and used it as an analogy… you know how I love a good analogy!

Yesterday as I was pulling out of my driveway I heard the unmistakable sound of a chain saw and was horrified to see a group of nursery workers methodically chopping up our favorite tree near the lake just a few blocks from our house. This tree is rumored to be over 100 years old. It is HUGE. You can see part of it in this picture my friend took a few years ago:

tree

Now it’s gone. All that is left in its place is a big pile of wood chips.

We all knew that tree was dying. We were prepared for the worst even though the trauma of it actually happening was a surprise. But even after the big tree was down, I could still hear those chainsaws. Traveling around the lake to work I noticed small piles of branches laying at the base of our small trees. Several freshly cut nubs were visible up the sides of these babies and I knew: pruning time. Here is one of those trees from our yard last Spring before yesterday’s event (plus a really cute wide receiver).

tree2

I was surprised at how many small branches were cut off the bottom level (imagine almost half of the branches on that tree laying on the lawn). And then, of course, the analogy hit me. And it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. I’m a busy person … busy, busy, busy. Usually doing for other people, working my job, fixing problems within my power to fix. But I realized looking at the change in the little tree’s shape that if I don’t surrender to pruning, I’ll be growing in the wrong direction. Those spindly branches at the bottom of the tree will keep going out – out – out, but they won’t be able to go up. By cutting off about half of the bottom branches (that weren’t very healthy looking anyway) the pruners sent that tree growing back in the right direction: UP!

Literary Friends

I’m enjoying Jane Eyre for my Victorian British Literature class. Taught by one of my favorite professors in one of my favorite literary styles, this class is my happy place right now. Early in the book, young Jane is befriended by a slightly older girl named Helen Burns. I thought I’d share some of narrator Jane’s descriptions of Helen and see if you think she would qualify as a Rare Rock. I mean, in the literary sense, of course!

Describing Helen’s unusual beauty when she discussed important things:

“– a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot tell:”

Later, Jane describes Helen as the best kind of friend:

“she was qualified to give those who enjoyed the privilege of her converse, a taste of far higher things.”

I would certainly love to hear such comments made about me! (Oh, the beatiful language in this book will make you WANT to be a better person!) Jane learned much from her faithful friend Helen. Do you have favorite literary role models? Who would make your list of literary Rare Rocks?