Friday, May 2, 2014


Whoa! What happened to that gorgeous tree beside the path I walk so often through the woods to my son's pond? 

I was startled recently to discover that it had fallen straight down the steep hill toward the pond, naked roots unearthed leaving a gaping hole. On the way down it took out some smaller healthy trees as well as ripping off the branches of several others. Birds nests and a large squirrel nest came down with it.

It must have made an awful crash! (I thought of the old question: does a falling tree make any noise if there is no one there to hear it??) What caused it to fall so suddenly? On closer examination I saw that the invisible center of the tree where the sap runs was full of dry rot. In places the exposed trunk was merely a shell. That unseen deterioration must have been going on for a long time. That prompted me to go online to find out how apparently healthy looking trees could collapse so suddenly.

I learned that before the dry rot is even seen on the outside, microscopic spores can be insidiously at work at the heart of a tree. In a short time the creeping process reduces the strength and internal support of the tree. Older, weaker trees are more susceptible to such assaults. The spores can enter through wounds and scars to the tree resulting from outside circumstances. As the deterioration progresses, limbs fall down first because they are unable to get enough sap to support their own weight. Branches become stressed by big onslaughts like high winds, heavy rains, snow and ice, lightning strikes, and also by little things like insects. 

What affects one tree can spread to a whole forest. Orchard fruit trees require outside human help to keep them vigorous and protected from injuries and disease. Wild shoots and dead wood must be properly pruned away and the limbs propped up if necessary.

Psalm one declares that the righteous man is “like a tree.” “Like the palm the cedar....” reminds Psalm 92. In chapter 17 of Jeremiah he echoes that the man who trusts in the Lord “will be like a tree....” I can discover some warning analogies for the Christian life from this fallen tree.

We can get something like wood rot in our spiritual lives. Microscopic sins, failures to obey God's voice, lax discipleship, spiritual negligence, and loss of “first love” for the Lord put us at risk. We don't realize how vulnerable we have become until a big wind comes along to knock us over. If we are not on our guard, small openings and excuses can allow evil tendencies to enter our hearts. Other people may not be able to tell how weak we have become until our witness falls off and we are silent when we should speak for the Lord. We can't hide our spiritual illness from God. And before long our collapse would surely affect others unless we take care to discover and root out any dry rot before it enters our heart.

For our spiritual health, let us keep short accounts with God and come often into His presence to let Him examine our lives for mold, unhealed wounds, and spiritual termites. Let us allow the Lord to prune our dead wood and wild shoots so we can remain “full of sap and very green” to bear fruit in every season of our lives. 

Lightning strikes, hurricane winds, and severe winters may assault us as part of the natural order of things, but if we “guard our heart with all diligence” dry rot won't affect us.

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