Trees for Tomorrow

A 200 year old hickory tree

A 200 year old hickory tree

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6

My husband Charles grew up eating hickory nuts. Hickory trees grow in parts of Wisconsin and there must have been some on one of the family farms because his mother always had hickory nuts to bake into brownies or sugar cookies, and he loved them.

As an adult, now in his fifties, Charles has lost both his parents. But he has not lost his love for hickory nuts. So, a couple years ago, he ordered ten hickory tree starts from a nursery. He cleared a piece of brush-covered land about 3/4 mile from our house and put them in the ground, a long ways from any water source. He encased them in little cages to keep the deer and bunnies out. All summer, we empty 5 gallon pails of water off the back of his truck to water the starts when the weather is dry. All winter, he looks across the pastures and wonders if those little trees have become snacks for hungry wildlife.

After we planted the hickory trees, we did some research and discovered they are slow to mature, but he expects that, if they survive cold winters and dry summers, they will begin producing nuts in about 40 years. Yes, 40.  He will be in his 90’s then. Hopefully, he will still have a strong set of teeth.

In an interview, a faithful church leader once said this to me: “My period of leadership is ending soon, and I sense that my church is in decline. What can I do now to leave a legacy that will help them get through this phase and move on to a better future?” One hunch was that she could help train younger and newer members with leadership skills. She also had a wonderful, “non-anxious presence” that served as a model to others, and her encouraging leadership style was infectious.  That’s a great legacy!

Whatever that leader leaves behind, she is asking the right questions. How can we be useful now in ways that pay off in the long term future? It sometimes seems we are casting seeds in the desert, unsure whether anyone will come behind us to water them, whether those seeds will be allowed to grow up as wheat among the tares, or ever produce a harvest. But seeds are seeds. It’s up to us to plant, and it’s up to the next leader, and God, to make them grow.

What has God given you the capacity to plant, or to water, in your faith community today so that it may still bear fruit in the distant future?

*Photo by G.W.  Bill Miller

 

 

 

 

 

5 responses to “Trees for Tomorrow

  1. Nancy Hoxworth

    What you have written is food for my soul after a sleepless night of questioning the value of seeds I’ve planted, watered, or just observed with love. Life can be a hard nut to crack, but time is the tool that reveals the richness inside. Thank you, Gail, for voicing hard things. Love you!

  2. Many children are growing up to be better people because of you, Nancy. Take heart!

  3. Gail, so glad to have a chance to read this after having heard you speak it at our meeting. Important ideas beautifully stated.

  4. Hi again. Hope you are doing well. I am enjoying reading your writings. I especially like this one as I move into the last decade or so (Lord willing) of serving Jesus as a Pastor. No matter the size of our church or the ministry we carry out all of us should pay attention to preparing leaders for the future. I will be ordering your book…and can say I knew you when you were just starting as a writer! Blessings to you!

  5. Thank you, Steve! And I can say I knew you when you were first discerning your call to ministry. Babies in the faith, but we inspired each other!

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