Sometime last week someone placed a printed notice on a tree a few yards down from our drive on The Old Walk. It was a notification from the council that the tree was to be removed. I realised then the tree in question was dead. Walking around the area I found more trees with the notice on them; some were dead and some diseased. They, the trees, have now been removed.
In Genesis we read:
“And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.”
God is interested in appearance as well as usage and that says much about the God we worship. Everything God has created has a purpose: there is nothing in creation which is not an integral part of creation and is useful for something. That doesn’t necessarily mean useful to human beings.
Once after a particularly miserable Army exercise, I was left wondering what possible use leeches could be and why God had created them. Then, ‘coincidentally,’ I watched a programme about leeches and discovered how important they are in medical treatments for blood clots and cardiovascular disease. Pharmaceutical companies use them in producing treatments for hypertension.
God created a wonderful world and he wants it to be enjoyed for what it provides and how it appears. I don’t think God is into utility: functional rather than attractive. He’s into both.
Through lockdown using Zoom, and watching programmes where commentators are zooming in their reports from home, it has been informative to see inside other people’s dwellings. One MP appeared to conduct his interviews with reporters from inside his broom cupboard. Most others choose somewhere to display their homes in a more pleasing light. Appearance matters.
The notice on the tree at the top of the drive reminded me I should consciously take note of what is around me: and then give thanks to God for what he has provided and the pleasure they bring. Saying grace before a meal is a valuable thing to do. Giving thanks for what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch is all-important. It is too easy to go through the day busy, with all the things that need to be done and not notice what surrounds us: this includes people we encounter.
People I know who make thanksgiving to God a significant part of their prayer lives have a wholly different response to the troubles life throws their way. They seem more conscious of what God has created, what he has given them, other people, life itself.
I’d like to suggest we all make a point of beginning each day with prayers of thanksgiving and then continue through the day consciously, deliberately thanking God not just for what He has done; but for who He is.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Psalm 100:4