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Tree by Vicky Brago Mitchell

Tree hugger has become, in some circles, a euphemism for left-winger or environmentalist or maybe “commie-fascist-pig.” It’s that bad. Tree huggers are seen to be superfluous and extreme, as though they care more about trees and mice and rivers than they do about oil and energy and pragmatism. Ironic, how many times scripture compares a blessed person to a tree. And one of the most important symbols is the “tree of life.” But of course, that must be different. Or is it?

Psalm 1:3
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

It’s a good thing, then, to be compared to a tree. Perhaps it came out of the climate where trees were appreciated. I remember my first trip out west by car and how we looked and look for a shady tree to stop for lunch. Another time, I booked a tent site in a camp ground near the beach. It never occurred to me that the site would have no trees. The “gorgeous” weather proved to be monotonous without the blessing of natural shade.

Our current house backs up to the woods. It is the reason we wanted this piece of property (although my big dream is to live near water — river, ocean, lake, etc.); the next best is trees. They are in constant motion really through their partnership with the wind. They are a nesting ground for all kinds of animals. They are part of the cycle of life and clean air. I have never told anyone before, but within days of our move-in, I felt compelled to do something very “new agey” and thank the trees for their sacrifice since hundreds were downed and destroyed in the name of our suburban sprawl. It just seemed right.

One of my favorite nature images is a winter tree silhouetted by the setting sun. I can’t explain that. So, yes, I really am a quiet advocate for trees. And yet, I am also careless as most urban dwellers. I use a lot of paper (it doesn’t look like a tree) and I enjoy the gifts of wood from floor to ceiling. I even live in a wood house.

Maybe that’s the real problem. I like the “idea” of trees; I like them conceptually. It’s not too different from liking the idea of being a follower of Christ. I can romanticize that too. I can sing all the right songs and wear the right jewelry. I can roll out a few scriptures, and I can pray a good prayer. I am a cross hugger about as much as I am a tree hugger.

But just as the rainforests are being systematically destroyed God’s natural world is being polluted, so are children of God starving around the world. . . starving for food as well as spirit. People are dying by violence and neglect. A monthly check to one organization or another is no longer enough.

Save the trees :: Save the people.

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