Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Psalm 1

The Apple Tree

I want to be a poem tree. Reaching out and up to the heavens, blown by the wind of God’s Spirit, sheltering birds, bearing fruit, sinking roots deep into the ground, soaking up water, thriving in sometimes hostile circumstances. The kind of tree Psalm 1 describes.

A tree planted by living water
That brings forth its fruit in its season.
Its leaves don’t wither;
Whatever it does, it prospers.

Poem trees (surely you’ve seen one) don’t have only one way of communicating. Yet their impact is simple. They point to the inexplicable. The way a life sometimes can.

Which reminds me of Jesus of Nazareth. Not just as a human being and God’s beloved son-child, but as a tree. What kind of tree was he?

I think he was a poem tree. Pointing with ordinary words to the inexpressible, to what we discern through and beyond spoken or written words. The truth about God and about us. Grand, yet simple.

As simple and grand as a common, ordinary apple tree. Known and loved worldwide. Dependable, not full of exotic promises about heavenly hybrids that may offer curb appeal, but end up being a disappointment or just another pretty ad.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. I first heard this song in the 1980s when I was studying theology. The lyrics captivated me. I can’t be Jesus Christ the apple tree. Nonetheless, I want to be a poem tree with a small resemblance to the simple, poetic significance of this one life. I also want to rest a while, a very long while, beneath its shade.

To hear a performance of Elizabeth Poston’s haunting tune, click here. It takes only 2 minutes, 42 seconds. Well worth a listen!

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

* * *

Lyrics published in Divine Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1797,
written by Joshua Smith/William Northup

Tune by Elizabeth Poston, 1905-1987, sung here by
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, about 1993.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2015, edited and reposted 20 July 2021
Photo from chiefrivernursery.com

To the Gardener after reading Psalm 1

Your words, so beautiful to read,
Crush me beneath the weight of
Life already lived – a great muddle
Of garden-rich vegetables plus toxic
Stew of tongue and cheek hurled
My way, often from my own mouth.

At this age I’ve little left but memories,
Plus ever-present directives from
Well-meaning people and ill intentions
From the other kind. To say nothing of
My own sometimes distressed mind
And body seeking solace and reassurance
That I matter to somebody if not
To myself.

Here, then, is my request:
I long to start over as a small tree
Planted by rivers of clear, pure water,
Guarded and pruned by Your hands
Alone. If this is not possible, I would
Also settle for a long and lovely
Winter’s nap.

From one of Your elderly fans,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2019
Image found at JackMaxwellArt.com

After scanning today’s headlines —

A rude and rootless nation
Sits in the seat of scoffers
Indignant and outraged
Lock her up!
Lock him up!
Lock them up!
And throw away the key!

Chaff tossed on winds
Of overwrought words
Ruthless and homeless
We drift toward destruction
Lost in the wilderness
Of our own undoing

I’ve almost always read Psalm 1 with my life in mind. It’s a Psalm about choosing the way of wisdom, rather than the way of folly. I still think that’s a fair way of reading it.

Nonetheless, it’s also a Psalm directed to a nation of human beings with human leaders who make choices both wise and foolish. Not that everyone agrees to go one way or the other. There’s more than enough folly and wisdom to share on all sides.

It seems our nation is drifting down the path of folly. Often following in the footsteps of leaders who say and do foolish things. Or who respond to one kind of foolishness with another kind. Equally unrestrained and destructive.

Hence this reading of Psalm 1 as a cautionary tale. If we aren’t part of the wise resistance, we’re in danger of finding ourselves headed downhill along the destructive path of fools. Also known as the wicked who are like chaff driven by the wind. Drifting toward our demise. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 October 2018
Photo of winnowing wheat taken in Iran by David Murphy, fineartamerica.com

Politics on my Mind

I woke up today with politics on my mind. Actually, with Psalm 23, Isaiah 53, Psalm 1, and Martin Luther’s theology of the cross on my mind.

It started when I went to sleep last night with a problem on my mind.

  • How am I to live as a citizen of the USA in a world that feels increasingly hostile, thanks to things happening right here in the USA, not simply ‘over there.’

Yet my problem isn’t the USA. This isn’t about my country right or wrong. It’s not even about this or that political party right or wrong. It’s about me as a follower of Jesus.

So here’s where I am this morning.

Psalm 23 reminds me that my Creator is my shepherd—one of the lowly, despised, mocked ‘lowlife’ who remains focused and loyal to the flock no matter what. Through thick and thin. Trusting. What a foolish thing to do, right? We all know the enemy is lurking.

Martin Luther’s theology of the cross reminds me that the cross is not a beautiful piece of art or jewelry. It’s real. It’s bloody. It’s lonely. It’s brutal. And it happened to the best of persons. Only by way of crucifixion do we see the cost, determination, love and steely focus of this man Jesus of Nazareth. The embodiment of a despised, loyal yet betrayed shepherd. Not simply betrayed by Judas, but by every one of his hand-picked disciples.

Isaiah 53 reminds me that all of us despised him, turned on him, esteemed him not. Especially when the going got rough. And he opened not his mouth. What a coward, some would say.

Psalm 1 reminds me that I’m not necessarily one of the trees planted by rivers of water. I’m also tempted to join up with the wicked. This isn’t a sad psalm. It’s cautionary. It lets me know my path isn’t automatically the path of the righteous. Especially if I call myself a follower of Jesus. It challenges me to stay rooted near a living stream of water. Especially but not only in times of drought.

We’re in a drought. The USA as I experience it is a strange land becoming stranger by the minute. Not because of immigrants or white supremacists, but because of deeply rooted polarization that tears people, families and communities apart.

So here’s where that leaves me, with some degree of certainty.

  • Following Trump, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Independents, the Green Party, the flag, the Constitution or any other national symbol or institution will not save us in the end. Nor will it move us forward.
  • Moving forward begins in our hearts. We need each other, battered and broken. Maybe all that means at first is learning to resolve problems in our increasingly isolated communities, families, and houses of worship.
  • And what are the problems? For me they have nothing to do with national or international politics, and everything to do with learning the hard way (by making mistakes and starting over) what it means to honor other human beings within our current circles of friends, strangers and acquaintances. Loving our neighbors doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s time for humility, not glory. Especially if we’re afraid for our reputations or even our lives. Like it or not, we’re already at risk of worse than social disapproval or being voted out of our favorite clubs.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 August 2018

The Apple Tree

Apple Tree DSC_0611

What kind of tree am I? I don’t know for sure. I’d like to be a poem tree. Reaching out and up to the heavens, blown by the wind of God’s Spirit, sheltering birds, bearing fruit, sinking my roots deep into the ground, soaking up water, thriving in sometimes hostile circumstances. The kind of tree Psalm 1 describes.

A tree planted by living water
That brings forth its fruit in its season.
Its leaves don’t wither;
Whatever it does, it prospers.

Something like that. I don’t think there’s a blueprint, or that I would look like every other tree.

Poem trees—surely you’ve seen one—don’t have just one way of communicating. Yet their impact is simple. They point (like a good sermon or lesson) to the inexplicable. The way a life sometimes can.

This brings to mind Jesus Christ. Not just as a human being and God’s beloved son-child, but as a tree. What kind of tree was he?

Maybe he was a poem tree. Able to point with ordinary words to the inexpressible, to what we discern through and beyond spoken or written words. The truth about God and about us. Grand, yet simple.

As simple and grand as a common, ordinary apple tree. Known and loved worldwide. Dependable, not full of exotic promises about heavenly hybrids that may offer curb appeal, but end up being a disappointment. Just another pretty ad.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. I first heard this song in the 1980s when I was studying theology. The lyrics captivated me. I can’t be Jesus Christ the apple tree. Nonetheless, as a poem tree I want to bear a small resemblance to the simple, poetic significance of this one life. I also want to rest a while, a very long while, beneath its shade.

To hear a performance of Elizabeth Poston’s haunting tune, click here. It takes only 2 minutes, 42 seconds. Well worth a listen!

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

* * *

Lyrics published in Divine Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1797,
written by Joshua Smith/William Northup

Tune by Elizabeth Poston, 1905-1987, sung here by
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, about 1993.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2015
Photo from ashridgecider.co.uk

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