Forts, falling leaves, and other acts of faithfulness.

Growing up, we had two massive trees in our front yard. They were great for playing hide and seek behind, for showering us with fort-building materials in the fall, and providing some much-needed shade in the middle of scorching summer afternoons spent playing outside. Sad were the days when first one and then the next had to come down, morphing our front play space into an area much easier to play catch in, but more bland as well.

One day toward the end of grade school, though, they handed out trees to all of the students to take home and plant. I proudly claimed a tiny little sapling, excited about the idea that I could fill what had now been empty for a couple years. My parents, being the kind-hearted people that they are, let me plant it right in the middle of our front yard, barely taller than an angry weed.

I don’t know what I expected to happen…if I thought perhaps that in just a year or two I would be cavorting about under new-found shade, or peeking from behind a trunk before dashing for home base. A year or two later, the dang thing barely crested my knees. In fact, I’m fairly confident that for the first few years, my growth spurts through middle school beat out my tiny tree friend’s growing speed.

Now many years later, my tree proudly stand at attention on a street which has lost most of its stately older trees.  It’s still a young buck, but there’s shade underneath it in the summer, plenty of fort material in the fall, and soft, pleasant sounds when the wind teases its branches on late spring evenings as it brings forward a new harvest of leaves.

Beyond looking good, trees actually add value to your property…by as much as 10%. Why does something seemingly so static provide so much additional worth? My friend, Reuben observed this: “The reason they are value able is that they take a long time to grow. I had never really thought about this until my wife and I were considering building a house on some property with no trees. I was thinking, “Well, we can plant trees and…by the time we retire we will have a little bit of shade!” The shade, the beauty, the diversity of landscape, all of these create an environment that’s enjoyable.

Reuben later commented this: “I think we need to recognize and value the oaks of righteousness in our faith communities.” Deep roots and massive trunks, the kind that can support the network of branches and leaves to provide shade, forts, and hiding spots, take time, energy, and faithfulness to develop. I’m as eager as the next young leader to blaze new trails and explore new potential, but I also see incredible value in the faithful servants who have lived as the church through growing seasons and dry seasons, through good and bad.

This week, take a moment to find a solid oak in your community and to thank them for the refreshing shade of their advice, for the times that they’ve shielded you from challenges, and for the faithful provision they’ve supplied by serving your community so faithfully. One day you, too, will hopefully be such a stout tree and it will be largely due to the influence of these legends that have travelled before us.

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