Field Notes From A Prayer Warrior

Talkin’ to the Cottonwoods…

-Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches.

–“When I am among the trees” by Mary Oliver

-Their massive size makes them out of scale for all but the largest landscapes.

–“Planting Cottonwood Trees” from gardeningknowhow.com

-“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

–Jeremiah 17: 7-8

As I packed for a visit to Mom up north, John grinned and said, “Oh, boy…I know you’re gonna be talkin’ to the cottonwoods…”

On our farm, planted by pioneers past, are scores of cottonwoods; fast-growing and prolific, they provided, with amazing rapidity, the shade and shelter essential for survival in the variable and unforgiving climate. To me, as a child awestruck beneath their immense height and girth, they had been the guardians and protectors of my family for generations. I will be forever grateful for the foresight of those early settlers, even as branches drop at the hint of a storm and the cotton pods pinwheel and cluster on the ground, stubbornly evading any attempt to be corralled or contained. Despite their innate flaws, these cottonwood trees remain my enduring sentinels of truth and peace.

In one corner of our yard stands a ring of five of them, forming a mini-cathedral that reaches up to the Lord and the vast prairie sky…and in the center is a spot just big enough for a teenage girl full of angst to fit. When the world would attack with its big, bad relentlessness, I would race to that retreat, collapse in a heap, and offer up all the important existential questions…

“Why is ______ so mean to me?!”

“Why don’t my Calvin Kleins make me look like Brooke Shields?”

“Why am I here? What is the point of all this? Is it EVER going to make ANY sense?!?!”

They would stoop and listen patiently, like the Ents from the Lord of the Rings, alternately creaking and emitting root-deep chuckles, finally enfolding me in a bark-and-Spirit-covered group hug. Once released, I would sit, silent and still, to be caught up in their unique song, that distinct, gentle roar of the wind in their leaves, a sound that soothed and strengthened my overwhelmed soul…

Hands down, my favorite voice of God.

In the ensuing decades of “talkin’ to the cottonwoods,” He has been ever-generous with His love and counsel, and today He had this message to share…

“We’re doing our job. Now you do yours. Like us, you were created for a purpose. Though your bark grows weak and limbs are rendered useless, still He holds you up…to stand tall, reflect His glory.”

Reflect My glory.

Psalm 19:14–Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.

Go out.

“When I am among the trees,” by Mary Oliver-“It’s simple,” they say, “and you too have come into this world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”

Shine.

Matthew 5: 14-16–“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

He doesn’t want me to be a cute, little “ornamental” follower.

He wants me to be a great and mighty warrior…

Standing tall above the landscape…

A cottonwood for Christ.

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