Of Trees and Timeouts

by Rev. Dr. Rachel Coleman

In a recent devotional reading, I ran across a detail that I’d never really noticed before. In Genesis 21:33, as part of his growing relationship with God and as a tangible reminder to himself of covenants and commitments, Abraham plants a tamarisk tree. Perhaps this detail stood out to me because trees have been a significant “visual aid” on my recent journey into deeper places of prayer.

One of the disciplines I am trying to incorporate into life is a mid-day “stop and sit.” The goal is simple, just to be present with Jesus in an intentional way, whether any words get said between us or not.

Now that the weather is good, I’m often sitting on my front porch for those quiet moments of intentional presence. Since we live in an urban area, “quiet” is a relative word—the city noises and the buzz of traffic are incessant. However, this is an old neighborhood, so there are huge trees all around. From my porch rocker, there’s a slice of sky visible behind several giant evergreens and summer-green trees. Those trees, with their gently waving foliage and whispers of wind-music, are keeping me focused on just being present and helping to shut out the press of other thoughts and responsibilities. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s really hard to “stop and sit,” to let go of the pressing demands of the day and the chatter of the internal and external voices that insist on being heard. Keeping my gaze fixed on those trees helps me to do that.

I find I’m noticing new things about those trees—the ever-changing shades of green, the hummingbirds that flit in and out of the pines, the squirrel antics taking place in their branches. And right along with that developing “tree attention,” a deepening awareness of Jesus’ presence is also beginning to take shape. Some days he just enjoys the porch swing while I rock, and there’s a companionable silence between us; other days, he speaks a word or two deep into my spirit, and my day is transformed.

I am grateful to whomever planted those trees so many decades ago–maybe they were someone’s reminder of God’s faithfulness, as the tamarisk tree was for Abraham.



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