North Santa Rosa

Living With Purpose 

    In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an Arbor Day proclamation to all the school children in the United States. Arbor Day exists to celebrate trees and educate people concerning their importance to our health and the environment. I’m not sure what schools are teaching kids these days concerning the importance of Arbor Day; but it’s worth the effort in my opinion. Perhaps this column would have been better suited for the month of January. By writing it at this time I hope to bring an anticipated public awareness of the next Arbor Day in Florida (January 19, 2018).    I recall one day being in an Arbor Day program as a student at Jay Elementary School. After it concluded, the Student Council, along with our sponsor and principal, planted cedar trees on the front lawn. The trees were lined up one beside another and we had a string of 12-13 of them. I was proud of them and felt we had done a civic duty by planting trees in the school yard. My sentimental nerve was touched through the years as I watched them grow. They grew to be fine healthy trees and they became a natural barrier to the busy highway in front of the school. Several years after graduating from high school and college, it saddened me to return that way one day to see they had been cut down and replaced with a chain-link fence. But that’s progress I suppose.

    I’ve always been thankful for my rural upbringing and trees contributed to that gratitude. Growing up in the country I developed an affinity for the great outdoors, especially the woods, the creeks, and the red dirt roads. To this day, as I run or hike through the woodlands of my home town, the trees that surround me seem to be companions and friends to me. I remember when fishing with my grandfather we hiked and waded through the river swamp and came upon a grand stand of tremendous oaks. The acorns were almost as big as golf balls and I can remember standing at the base of the tree and looking up with awe and admiration. It was as if the tree tops grew straight into heaven.

    The quaint piece of land my parents purchased as a young family had numerous trees on the property. And there was a certain big oak I was particularly fond of. It stood on the east side of the old home place where I would always go on Saturday mornings. I considered it my base camp where I’d make my plans for a full day of adventures. I revisit that tree in my memory and think of the poem, “Woodman, Spare that Tree” written by George Pope Morris: “When but an idle boy, I sought its grateful shade; In all their gushing joy, here too, my sister play’d; My mother kiss’d me here, My father press’d my hand—forgive this foolish tear, but let that old tree stand!”

    Trees are usually considered in the Bible as good things, and are used as a symbol of plenty. The psalmist says, “The godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they’ll remain vital and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).

    In Isaiah 55:12-13 it says, “The trees of the field will clap their hands. Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grow, myrtles will sprout up.” The Lord is always offering to trade with us like that. When we yield to the temptations of the evil one and do wrong things, we become filled with thorns and briars enter our thoughts and conversations. As a result, we become uncomfortable, unpleasant, and hard to live with. But God promises if we will forsake our sins and ask for His help, He’ll take away our thorns and briars, and make us like the cypress tree, with its sweet-smelling balsam and its beautiful feathery sprays. He can help our attitudes be more attractive like the myrtle tree with its lily white flowers and fragrant berries. How strange it is for anyone to refuse such an advantageous bargain like that!

    In order for trees to grow strong and tall they must have plenty of moisture for the root system. The writer of the first Psalm compares the people who delight in the law of the Lord, and who meditate on His Words day and night and try to please Him by their conduct, to a “tree planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:2-3).

    Sometimes there’s a tree which has every chance but yields nothing but leaves every year. Jesus told a story about a tree like that, and how the owner of it was discouraged and told the gardener to cut it down and burn it up. But the gardener pleaded for it, and said if the master would let it stand another year he would give the tree special care and see if it would not bear fruit (Luke 13:6-9).

    Let’s all ask ourselves the serious question, “Do I bear any fruit that’s pleasing to Christ?” It’s a personal question we can only answer for ourselves. Choose to commit to it, stand tall for Christ, weather the storms and strong winds that beat against you and in so doing you’ll glorify our Father which is in Heaven.

• This bi-weekly column is written by Matthew Dobson. He’s a teacher, U.S. Army Chaplain, and the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York Community. His “Living With Purpose” Book series can be found and purchased on www. You can contact him at:

Posted by on Sep 17 2017. Filed under Church News, Churches, Living With Purpose, Local, Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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