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Southern Oak

It’s been said that it will kill the tree - the lazy Spanish moss that drapes itself over the Southern Oak towering across the street. I walk, feeling the Florida evening air blow around me, it’s humid in it’s breath, with just a whisper of cool -- and I listen while the setting sun plays kaleidoscope as it glints through the branches.

Then I hear the words.  “You are like that tree. “ Five minutes earlier I was talking on the phone with my best friend and teasing that my cell phone would die soon. “Oh, no,” I said.  “I’m about to be alone with my thoughts, this is an extroverts worst nightmare!” But, I know it needed to happen. I knew it was time to hear.

You are like that tree.

Southern. Stout. Proud. Strong. Firm Foundation. When the wind blows you easily sway, never rocked at the roots. You are like that tree.

However, Life -- Life is the Spanish moss.

Wrapped around your limbs, pulling at the branches. Growing, stretching, and yes, sometimes even sucking the very essence of being out of its host.

Spanish moss only grows in trees that have an abundance of leaves. It doesn’t cling to trees that grow only straight up. It’s needs a reach that’s long, and wide, and able to bring in all the nutrients it needs to live. Spanish Moss is about survival.

It’s a parasite – leeching off another to grow. Swinging from branch to branch, sprawling itself out like your sister-in-laws ex-boyfriend on your sofa that time you let him live with you.

It doesn’t take no for an answer – the tree has no choice but to entertain the moss there, pushing aside its place in the sun so that the moss has full access to the warmth.

Yes. You are like that tree.

You don’t need the moss to live. But, the moss needs you.

The oldest boy wakes up for the hundredth time tonight. Clinging to you, wrapping his skinny arms around your neck and holding on for dear life. “Mommy, I need you to warm me up,” he says.

The e-mails stack up one by one. They beckon an answer -- begging you to breath life into the work you’ve been given.

A life of opportunity – foliage in full bloom. Husband, kids, ministry, travel, and more – the leaves grow and grow and grow. And the moss works its web through the boughs, filling in the gaps and spaces until some days you can’t even bend for all the burden.

But, you are like the tree. And the tree – Oh my God, is it beautiful.

If, for one moment, you removed the long, flowing, moss from the branches all that would be left would be twigs and sprigs – a half full tree.

But – it’s the moss – the way it lingers and lounges across the full breadth of the oak that brings the real beauty. It’s the deep crevices covered with wisps of jade braided through the boughs that makes people stop, stare, and admire the tree for all its abundant worth.

It’s the way the sun, as it sets on the day, winks through the leafy chaos – to reveal the majesty of a life well lived.

Yes. You.

You Are Like That Tree.


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