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The Rev. Jon Browning: Shade trees

I try to walk five to six days a week. Even though I go early in the morning, the sun is already shining bright and the heat index rises so quickly.  The asphalt from the road makes the heat even more intolerable, but there are wonderful reposes of shade along the sun-scorched road. As we pass through life, we enjoy the momentary shade relief brought to us. Trees are a special element of God's creation. A tree serves so many purposes.

We become weary of life's journey and any pause of refreshment is so welcome. We like to stay a while and rest. Shade trees are a picture of God's favor upon us. True the road is hot and rough, but trees give a cooling spot to help along the way.

When I think of a true shade tree, my mind goes to a large field. In the center all by itself is this large spreading tree. No matter how sturdy we are, we all need shade relief.

There are different types of shade trees in the Bible, though not all the literal kind. For example:

There is the shade tree of God's promises.

In a world so upside down, when all seems lost and hopeless (and many times justly so) we have our Bibles that contain truths to take refuge in. For the grieving there is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15. God's grace is found in John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-13. For the discouraged there are the Psalms. For the wisdom seeker there is Proverbs. When we come to a weary stead, God gave us His Word as a picture of what is to be that we might have hope and consolation.

There is the shade tree of God's person.

Though no man has seen God, He lets us know about Him through His Word and the Holy Spirit whose very name means Comforter. We can know God real and personably by seeking Him. We can speak to God and He to us through prayer. We can trust His provision and His counsel. We can rest in God's presence as He is with us in times of distress. God hides not Himself to those who seek refuge in Him. Moses told the camp of Israel that if they would seek the Lord with all their hearts they would find Him. David says in the Psalms, "with my whole heart I will seek thee." Its always a relief to see a familiar person in a sea of unknowns; it gives us rest. That is the shade tree of His person.

There is the shade tree of God's praise

How wonderful it is to sing praises to God! Praise is beautiful for the upright says the psalmist. We all endure the hardships of life, but in such, God will receive and welcome His praise. We lift up our voices both small and great, melodic or not, to praise Him. This is sometimes not all easy, but when we rest under the shade of praise, we find relief as our hearts and minds are no longer focused on us but on Him. Liberated is the soul that praises the Lord.

There is the shade tree of God's home

How welcome home is to a weary traveler. No matter what wondrous sights they have seen, home is the best! Home with God is the ultimate shade tree. As Christians we yearn for our heavenly home where rest is evermore. Heaven is not a place of sleep and relaxation only.  Heaven is a place of familiarity though we never have visited it before. We can take refuge in the shadow of the pinnacles of glory, but the real relief is that it is where the King dwells and that so, our shelter is much sweeter. What we shall rest in is God's Word now no longer faith but clearest sight. As a matter of fact, Revelation describes the New Jerusalem as having a river (another symbol of rest) lined with trees that bear 12 kinds of fruit for the healing of the nations! What food a good apple tree gives, what better fruit as one that heals! Oh how rest shall be welcomed from the heat of sin's curse we battle day by day!

In conclusion, I saw a woman once planting a tree with her family. Trees are also a memorial of love. Trees are to spark remembrance of someone's love as they know that when they are gone, the tree they planted will continue on to provide relief. The Father intended you and me to be such. Indeed, we should think of all the saints gone on whose lives still impact us daily.

Be a shade tree.


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