In Israel, they plant a tree to bless and remember their loved ones. At the Holocaust Museum, there is a section called the Grove of the Righteous that honors and remembers those who aided the Jews during the holocaust. In the United States, many of us plant trees for all sorts of reason: ornamental, environmental, and yes, in memory of loved ones gone.
In the Bible, there is the image of the Tree of Life – a gift from God that supports and nurtures life. There are the classic stories such as: The Giving Tree, The Three Trees and of course, The Lorax. Well now that you know I have a soft spot in my heart for trees, I want to tell you why I believe that God has called us to plant trees, among many other things he calls us to do, in stewarding the earth.
Last month was Earth Day, April 22, and also Arbor Day, April 28, which - by the way - has its origins in Nebraska. Both days for me represent life. The life that God has given to us on this planet, a life we have been called to take care of for ourselves and future generations.
I have planted thousands of trees. I am quite proud of that, can’t you tell? But that is only a part of my role as a stewards of God’s creation. How I use the gifts of this planet, its resources, water, air and land are just as, and maybe even more, important than my tree planting passion. For you see, I plant trees for the future, but I consume the resources of this earth now. If I don’t take care of what I use presently it may, in fact, defeat my and many other folks’ efforts in creating forests for future generations.
You have heard of the city of Jericho, Palestine, one of the oldest and longest inhabited cities in the world. It used to be a fertile oasis, but now it is a desert. Instead of fresh flowing water, lush vegetation and sycamore trees, it is a wasteland of poverty and sand. This was because of human beings who wasted the water, cut down the trees and over cultivated the land.
Here in North America and particularly Nebraska, we have been blessed with incredible resources of land and water. How we take care of them and what we put back into them, can be a determiner of how our children and grandchildren see us. Will we give them a world that has the blessing that God has given us, or will we squander those gifts? Do we take the time to recycle or do we just use it and throw into the landfill? Do we retrain our water use, plant appropriate trees and plants that use water moderately and are habitats for pollinators? Do we think through what it means to be caregivers to this earth that a life giving God made for us?
Earth Day is the same day as my granddaughter Ella’s birthday. The gift she is to me is precious and I want to make sure the world she lives continues to be an earth that is life supporting. “I believe that God created the heavens and the earth.” I believe it is our job to take care of it, bless it as praise to God and preserve it for our children’s children.