Friday, July 10, 2020

Sequoia and Red Woods

Sequoia and Red Wood trees are the oldest and largest living things on earth. Towering three hundred feet above the forest floor and drinking 800 gallons of water a day and living thousands of years they are the subjects of legends.

One story is that a well-hidden Giant Sequoia that outsizes the General Sherman Tree has been discovered in Sequoia National Park California, making this mystery tree the largest living thing on Earth. This tree towers some 378 feet and is thought to weigh over 2.7 million pounds. Interestingly this giant “Garganteum Sequoia,” that grows along the foggy coastal areas of Northern California is a different species than the highlands Red Woods.

I know that you can drive a car through one of the trees and a football team can’t join hands and reach around the largest, but for me this is not the lure. It is the awesome presence, the silence of a Red Wood grove.  It is like entering the sanctuary of the Most-High God. Actually it is far more overwhelming for me than the giant cathedrals of Europe, even with the brilliant color display of the stain-glass windows. These relics are dead and in most of the world lie empty, unused to worship God and sing His praises.

Entering a grove of  Sequoia takes me away to a far off, yet intimate place with God. It is one of His most magnificent creations, given to us to remind us of His grandeur and grace. In the silence and solitude of the forest we can find peace in the secret place of His presence. This peace transcends all understanding, as we trust in Him.

The path of peace that meanders through miles of undulating heaven-like cloisters brings out creativity. One of my favorite Psalms read, “In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). This is the feeling I receive when in His presence in the Red Woods. Genesis 2:9 talks of that “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. I the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).  We know this story as it is the beginning of mankind’s separation from God because of the disobedience of the first couple. Even so man has continued to reach out to fill the hole in our hearts.

Trees like the great Sequoia played a part in the building of the temple by Solomon in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  The Cedars of Lebanon were the largest and most beautiful trees in the Middle East. This cousin of Red Wood formed David’s Palace as well and was greatly prized.

The Psalms are my favorite part of Scripture bringing intimate descriptions of every emotion with metaphors like Psalm 1 begins speaking of the man who walks in the counsel of God. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:3). In Matthew 12:33 Jesus tells us “a tree is recognized by its fruit.”  God wants us to bear fruit in our lives as we “abide in the vine” (John 15:5).

Where can I go from your presence is a question King David asked of God in Psalm 139 saying, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me” (Psalm 139:7-9). This plea and praise is not one attempting to run from God like Jonah. It is an adoring description of how God is always with us, guiding us as we seek Him in His faithfulness. This description is a simile for me of the presence of God in the Red Wood forests of California. It is as if these trees speak life into me as I walk by and touch them, as I sit on the giant trunk and meditate on their immensity. I stare upwards into the lofty spires, the misty rays of the suns brilliance shooting warmth through the branches and above the cobalt blue heavens. This cathedral is indeed alive with God’s awesome presence and enrapturing hand holding me tight.  To me it is like the description of the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15, "But while he was still far off, this father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). I have experienced this feeling once palpably as I prayed for the love of the father in my secret space. I am reminded of how He lifted me off the ground and held me tight for what seemed an eternity, His warmth and love sourcing through me- it was ecstasy.
So is the glow and love of the Red Wood forests of God.

The next writer in the woods put it exquisitely as he wrote about the experience of the sanctuary.

My heart soars as I write and re-experience the full sensual nature of this sacred walk that I have so often taken with my wife Pam. It is her favorite place to be or next to the sea, where the breakers overwhelm and fill us with His coursing love and life. The sight of the trees rising to the heavens breaks into smells of pine-like incense that wafts from the trails. The embracing warmth of the suns rays searching us through the towering branches just seems heaven sent and not of this earth. Sound? It is silent and there is solitude standing small amongst such greatness. Who am I as David said to Saul and Moses to God that He would consider us? It is a time to meditate on that thought of a Creator God who would stoop down to save and lead us through the forests to a place of safety in His sanctuary. “I am who I am,” God told Moses in Exodus 3:14. He wants us to feel peace and uncountable joy in His presence. He provides us with living sanctuaries that we might find a more intimate understanding of Him and His powerful presence. 

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