When I see that first, minuscule, curled pale green wisp of a sprout
poking up between a couple of grains of vermiculite, I hear God speaking.
Babies, little green babies, miracles of soil and seed are bursting forth from earth’s womb even as winter approaches. And as always I find the potential for life that exists in something as small and seemingly lifeless as a seed mind boggling. Equally astounding is the fact that stored within each tiny seed are enough nutrients to spark life in the seedling that will ultimately grow from the embryo, an embryo which has two points of growth. From one end of a particle sometimes as small as a speck of dust emerges a stem and from the other emerge roots. As if all this is not enough to inspire complete and utter amazement, the process of germination certainly does. Germination is a reactivation of metabolic pathways that depends on the right temperatures, the right amount of oxygen and water, and sometimes the right amount of darkness and light. But wait all this is not really the best part! The most impressive thing is that the entire process of seed to plant to seed, from beginning to end, can and frequently does occur without a human hand ever entering the process.
Jesus made clear that the Kingdom of God is organic and not organizational. It grows like a seed and it works like leaven: secretly, invisibly, surprisingly, and irresistibly. ~Os Guinness
Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of earth. You have made heaven and earth. ~Isaiah 37:16 ✝
How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.
-Elsie N. Brady, poet
As Brady points out, when leaves “come to rest upon the ground,” it is a completion, but the work of fallen autumn leaves is far from done at that point. As they “rest upon the ground,” besides being a warm blanket for what lies beneath them and a life-saving provision for the trees, they become food for a host of soil organisms that are vital to the overall health of ecosystems. As time moves on and the leaves decompose, they restock the soil with nutrients and they make up a part of the spongy humus that absorbs and holds rainfall. At last “with the arrival of warmth and spring, insects, bacteria, and fungi gear up! Leaves are chewed and rotted, releasing nutrients for plant growth.” So it is that with another round of plant growth, Creation and its inhabitants are guaranteed what they need to survive until the recycling process begins again the next fall. How comforting it is to know that the Hand of the Almighty is always near! For, you see, it was after a stroke threatened my life and wholeness a year ago yesterday that the Lord’s mighty hands performed the necessary miracles to grant me another year of health and life.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. ~Psalm 40:3a ✝
And this our life,
exempt from public haunt,
finds tongues in trees,
books in running brooks,
sermons in stones,
and good in everything.
Standing beneath the Shumard Red Oak made me feel like I was standing in a temple of the Most High. The breeze was ruffling its leaves, and they in turn were prompting sacred tongues to utter incantations of their divine purpose. For though the leaves face eminent extinction and expulsion from the branches, in their dying they’ll fall and create warm blankets to cover the ground. In so doing they will protect the life that lies beneath the surface during winter’s cold, cold days. Even at the close of winter their goodness will not be at an end for as they deteriorate, the remaining bits and pieces will add nutrients to enhance the soil. Thus goes the circle of life and the interdependency of all things.
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. ~Job 37:5 ✝
For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together.
For nature, it is a time of sowing,of scattering abroad.
~Edwin Way Teale
Like Teale I knew that autumn’s winds were scatterers and sowers, but until I did some research, I didn’t realize how much the autumnal shedding of leaves accomplishes. For the sake of the sod, the fallen leaves cover the ground like a protective blanket. It’s also easier for leafless trees to conserve much needed moisture in their branches and trunks, and since cold, dry winter winds strip moisture from trees through their leaves, losing their leaves is self-protective mechanism. It would also be very costly energy wise for trees to keep their little leafy food factories up and running with less light and heat. Because the transport of water from the ground into the trunk and leaves would be a damaging drain on a trees’ limited resources, the loss of leaves puts trees into a state of dormancy thereby reducing the amount of energy they need to live. When leaves “come to rest upon the ground,” their work is far from over. As they lie there, they become food for soil organisms which are vital to the overall health of ecosystems. In addition the decomposing leaves restock the soil with nutrients and make up a part of the spongy humus that absorbs and holds rainfall. And finally with the arrival of spring and warmer temps, bacteria, fungi, and insects come into play because the fallen leaves are chewed and rotted which in turn releases nutrients for plant growth.
“For the wisdom that fashioned the universe and can be read in earth’s dark depths and in heaven’s infinity of lights thanks be to you, O God.” ~John Philip Newell