I’ve been staring at the tree outside my frosted window; stark, desolate, fruitless. Barren, except for one shriveled, orange-brown leaf that clings stubbornly to the tip of a fractured twig lifted heavenward. No, wait. Today, even that final remnant has loosened its grip during last night’s temperature plunge.
Why do I sense I’m gazing at a self-portrait?
Why can’t I shake this palpable feeling of vulnerability, nakedness, insecurity, loneliness?
Memories of past seasons of verdant, leafy, fruit-laden limbs offering food and shade to passersby give me no succor.
I closed my eyes. And then, with those other eyes we all have, I saw.
I saw Winter’s tree-sap flowing in the deep, hidden places; nutrient-laden waters streaming into and inhabiting every cell of root, trunk, limb and leafless branch. Every fiber brimming with a mysterious source of sustaining life. Every branch-tip lifted upward, pointing skyward, revealing to me a pattern of humble dependency. Unpretentious confidence and hope and knowing that this isn’t the final story.
I looked again and I saw an elderly, frail, bent, white-haired man tipping back his head to draw in a thimble-full of wine. The richest of fare. Surely this gentleman has a story of past accomplishments, but today he silently parsed for me the difference between season-dependent fruitfulness and never-ceasing flourishing.
God and man, at table, are sat down.
Take a Deep Breath of Remember:
Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.”
“I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me.”
Hosea 14: 1-2, 4-8 (NIV)
 From the Hymn, God and Man at Table are Sat Down, Dr. Robert J. Stamps, 1972.
Photo Credit: Ron Silflow