Our Eyes Were Opened

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Tribute to a Magnolia Tree

Every morning when I wake up, I open my curtains and crawl back into bed to read, write, or simply let my mind wander. As I do these things, I look at the magnolia tree outside my window. Because of my sight angle, I can see only leaves just above the roofline of the screened porch. I can not see the trunk near the ground.

The tree is a magnificent tree. It is huge with a trunk diameter of eleven feet. It is an old tree, likely eighty to ninety years—the age of the house. Because the tree hugs the screened porch on the back of the house, the porch is about ten degrees cooler in the summer than the rest of the yard. The tree also often protects the porch from rain and wind.

The tree has its challenges, however. It drops things three seasons of the year. In the spring it drops its leaves…certainly not all of them but it’s a large tree with lots of old leaves to shed. Once the leaves begin to slow down, then the furry protective coating of the buds and the flower petals fall. Next comes the seed pods in autumn, called grenades by energetic little boys who love to use them as ammunition. To enjoy being in the yard requires raking and raking and raking to remove leaves that can become breeding ground for mosquitoes. Raking next gathers flower petals that are slippery, slimy, and dangerous after getting rained on making casually walking in the yard dangerous. The final raking of the year involves getting up “grenades” that provide ample opportunity for turning an ankle.

But for all the complaining about the challenges of the magnolia tree, it reminds me constantly of God’s love and care for me and indeed for the world. The tree’s branches that embrace everyone in its presence remind me of God’s love and grace and care. Just as the tree shelters birds and squirrels, it also shelters me. I immensely dislike the squirrels in the tree because of their propensity to get into the attic and make homes and families there. But that’s God…calling me to love those who aggravate me or threaten my sense of security.

The tree is steadfast. It has stood and grown taller and taller through the decades. It was willing to shelter boys determined to climb to its top and build a treehouse. It kept them safe even when I feared for their lives. The tree withstands heavy winds, rains, and snows. It is a constant.

The tree also demands my attention and care. I cannot ignore it because it drops leaves, petals, and pods. God, too, demands that I pay attention to my relationship with the Holy One and what is going on around me. My attention pulls me to get involved. God calls for me to take action to make sure that others are not harmed by what’s going on in life. When I don’t rake or find someone to do the raking, my neighbors can suffer the aggravation of leaves in their yard or and even illness caused by mosquitoes. God, this God of justice whom I worship, seeks the same from me and all God’s followers. Care for others. Take steps to nurture justice. Pay attention. Love God.

And the tree overloads my senses with the scent of the big, plate-sized flowers in the summer. The love of God can overwhelm me, too, with its headiness, its beauty, its surprise appearance when not expected.

I love looking out my window every morning and being reminded of God’s love when I look at this big old magnificent tree. I don’t always appreciate it and what it offers for my life. And that I must confess is true of my relationship with God, as well.

Not everyone appreciates the magnolia tree. They see it as simply a nuisance. But this tree reminds that life is bigger than I expect and that God is with me, day in and day out. Alleluia!


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Hawks and Doves

Hawks and Doves

This week, a parable took place right in front of me with a hawk and a dove. I’m talking real birds here, not symbols.  It seems timely since it happened the week leading up to the celebration of Independence Day.

We’ve had a dove couple nesting in the upper corner of our front porch. One of the birds, we assume the mother, is always on the nest, sitting very calmly. She looks at us when we come and go. We greet her. She does not blink, just notices that the people who live near her nest accept her chosen birthing place.

We did not realize when the babies hatched because they, too, were very quiet. Eventually, we could see them peering over the nest, surveying this world into which they were born. Of course, the world they saw involved four porch chairs, some plants, and a Carolina wren appearing every so often. We never heard a peep.

Occasionally, we’d see a gathering of dove friends in our front yard. They might chat with each other a bit but were not as comfortable with our intrusion as our resident couple was. But we’d hear the coo-coo sounds of the doves’ conversation.

As I took the garbage to put in the can that I’d already pulled to the street for the City sanitation staff to empty, I heard THUD!!! I wasn’t sure what the noise so I turned to see what caused the sound.

I saw a large hawk swooping across my porch. It paused briefly on the empty window frame that defines the border of the porch nearest our neighbor, and flew away. I stood there with my mouth open. After noticing a bloody splat on the outside of my storm door, I immediately went into the house and told my husband that he would not believe what had just happened. I went back outside. That’s when I saw it.

A baby dove that was just getting its feathers was lying on the porch floor with the back half of its little body ripped off.

The doves had lived peacefully for several weeks on our porch. They asked nothing of us and did not make a mess. The bird couple occasionally sat together on the edge of the nest minding their tiny family. And then, with absolutely no warning, a powerful bird decided that it would take life so it could have a meal. But the hawk flew off, having mutilated a family, without even eating the baby. It had killed for nothing.  The dove family is now gone. I don’t know what happened, if they left of their own accord or were driven away by power and death.

Our country is living in a time of hawks and doves. Some take and possibly destroy while others go about life, trying to take care of themselves and their families.

Is a country of hawks and doves really the country we want to celebrate?