Over the past four nights, we have been hit with the typical summer monsoon storms common in late summer here in Arizona. These storms come with huge micro-bursts of strong wind, heavy rains, and sometimes even hail mixed in. It seems impossible it would hail when it is 110 degrees outside, but low and behold the stuff comes! Many are still without power in various portions of the various cities surrounding Phoenix, struggling to regroup after not one, but four storms of severity significant enough to rip power lines from their place in the ground and overflow storm drains and retention basins alongside the road. My brother is tending his generator and living with the heat right now to keep the refrigerator and freezer running so they don't lose all their store of fish, game, and the like he puts away each year. As I make my way to work each morning, I encounter new patches of muddied pavement where gushing waters have washed dirt from the yards into the streets. I also pass many a downed tree, twisted and tattered by the strong winds of the night before. As I pass these trees, sometimes huge in size and hard to imagine the force it must have taken to split 8-10 inch limbs from their hold, I am reminded again of who it is we hold to in the midst of the storms in our own lives - Christ and Christ alone.
Be rooted and built up in him, be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught. (Colossians 2:7 CEB)
The Palo Verde is a large green barked tree common to our area. It is often planted along the streets as it requires very little water and is easily maintained. I have noticed something though about the various trees planted along the roadways - some are uprooted while others just lose a limb or two. The Chinese Elm, although growing to nice proportions in a short period of time, are easily uprooted. The eucalyptus is huge in comparison to the elm or the palo verde, but it is also found uprooted, often with 8-10 foot root base exposed when it topples to the ground. The palo verde, on the other hand, is still rooted. Although a portion of the limbs may be splinted and fallen, the tree remains upright and solidly rooted. Is there a lesson for us in these trees?
I think of the elm, growing quickly, giving much needed shade under the expansive boughs it boasts. I ponder the eucalyptus growing taller than the houses, sending branches high into the sky. Then I see the palo verde, prickly with those bright green thorns, festooned at times with bright yellow flowers, and with long, narrow leaves which provide shade, but not like either of the other trees. What allows the palo verde to withstand the winds? I think it may be the root structure - but I think it could just be how it was created. The palo verde wasn't created for the lush river banks or beach fronts of this world. It wasn't created for the parks where picnickers will spread their blankets and luxuriate in its shade. It was created to withstand the times of drought and the tests of strong winds!
Some things you might not know about this beautiful green tree:
- It is totally green. Bark and leaves are this beautiful bright green color. At first this may not seem important, but the bark of this tree can do what other tree bark cannot - it can photosynthesize. Why does this matter? It allows the leaves to be smaller - something the other trees struggle with because those larger leaves allow moisture to evaporate, making them less drought tolerant. What the palo verde lacks in "big leaves" which give the appearance of lushness and "promising growth" it makes up for in the adaptability it boasts! Maybe there is a lesson for us there - not to focus so much on the leaves as a sign of growth, but how adaptable (or teachable) one might be when things get tough!
- It sheds its leaves and even allows a few branches to die off in order to continue to grow when dry seasons affect it. The palo verde will shed the leaves, allowing all the water it can obtain to go to the sustenance of the roots and trunk of the tree. It will even allow some of the branches to die - knowing it can send off new growth when the rains return. This may not seem too significant at first, but when lean times come, if all we do is focus on making everything look "normal" in our lives, we will be frustrated and exhausted by the work it takes to maintain "normal" in our lives! We might do well to be more concerned with where we find our "center" and less concerned with what onlookers might think when they see us.
- It provides shelter for the smallest of life. I have some of these trees in my neighborhood and love to watch the hummingbirds and finches each year returning to nest in their branches. The consistent strength of this tree provides shelter for those who seek the stability and structure for their protection in times of even the worst of storms. Yes, it may lose a limb or two, but the growth of the tree is preserved despite the forces which seek to take it down, making this a great place of refuge for those who seek its shelter!
- It is easily grown. It is a prolific tree, sending off seed pods each season, with seeds being carried by the winds and birds into the next place it will take root. It doesn't need lush soil, or the raging sources of water. It needs a rocky crag, or a tiny crack in the parched earth - then in those seasons when the rains come, it takes quick root, beginning the rapid cycle of change and growth which make this tree seemingly "spring up out of nowhere" in our desert lands. Maybe there is a lesson for us there, too. Maybe we think we need the best of conditions for our growth to be the deepest and most "lasting", but maybe we'd do well to consider what the "not so optimal conditions" may just produce when we are correctly "adapted" for the place we are planted! Just sayin!