Friday, April 26, 2013

Our Right Condition

The Legend of the Dogwood

When Christ was on earth, the dogwood grew
To a towering size with a lovely hue.

Its branches were strong and interwoven
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen. 

Being distressed at the use of this wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good: 

"Never again shall the dogwood grow 
Large enough to be used so 

Slender & twisted, it shall be 
With blossoms like the cross for all to see. 

As blood stains the petals marked in brown 
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown. 

All who see it will remember me 
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree. 

Cherished and protected this tree shall be 
A reminder to all of my agony."

The first ones I remember seeing, were outside of our kitchen window in New Jersey.   Between the house and the hedges, they created a blossom-filled canopy - fraternal twins of white and pink.  Dogwoods.  I loved them then; I love them still.  

So, I was thinking about dogwoods as I was walking out to the end of my driveway today.   We have about five of them in our little woods between the house and the road.  I wasn't sure if we had any when we moved in, because it was Fall and the beautiful blossoms I had so loved from my childhood had long dropped.  The four-petaled flowers that distinguished the tree for my eyes, from my memory, that sit - eager-to-please - on top of the spreading limbs were gone.  I wouldn't recognize the trunk, or the shape of the fall-colored leaves.  I didn't know if we had any dogwoods.  But I hoped.

I remember driving through Missouri one Spring, on the way to my parent's home.  There were woods lining the roads.  The leaves had not yet opened completely - the trees were still in that should-I-or-shouldn't-I stage of budding too early.  But I remember the dogwoods.  Peeking through the trees - like the forest was showing its undergarments to passersby.  Perfectly placed.  Lacy, delicate, ruffly and white.  They reminded me of anticipation, of looking forward, of the promise of green things to come - Spring and then Summer.

I was still thinking about dogwoods as I was walking back from the end of my driveway today.  The few that we have look lacy, delicate, ruffly and white.  I was wondering how they can be so showy with those beautiful white blossoms, those cross-shaped, thorny-crown-in-the-center four-pointed petals - when they are placed beneath the shadow of taller trees.  Don't they need the light?  I looked it up - googled it.  "In the wild the dogwood is commonly found as an understory tree growing under hardwoods and pines. Growth problems are more likely in hot, dry exposures. On the other hand, planting in dense shade will likely result in poor flowering."  So, yes, they need light - but in moderation - as an understory tree.

Hmm... Here's the thing.  With too much light and heat, dogwoods die.  It was too much for the Israelites when they were exposed to God in Exodus - On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  Exodus 19:16-17.  God, in all his glory was too much sun for them. 

With dense shade, dogwoods do not do well.  Like us.  It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.  John 11:10.  

But dogwood trees do flourish in a variety of places.  Like us.  With the right conditions.

Jesus is our right condition.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

God in heaven, thank you for Jesus.  Thank you for your light, that came down to us, that comes down to us - your truth, your life, and your way.  And God, thank you for dogwoods.

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