Thursday, February 8, 2018

Parable of the Aspens

This winter, terrible blizzards in our northern states have frequently been in the news. One especially caught my attention: in early December 2017, a snowfall of 10 inches per hour (among the most rapid rates of snowfall ever recorded anywhere) in Thompson Pass on the Richardson Highway to Valdez, Alaska (where Bob and I got married). Buried in 20 feet of snow, the road to Valdez was closed for nearly a week.

Clearing 20 feet of snow from Thompson Pass
Courtesy of
My Grandpa Personeus shoveling snow in Valdez
Valdez, a town of about 4,000, is no stranger to big snow dumps. Sitting in a cove on Prince William Sound, it is considered the snowiest town in the United States, averaging 300 inches per year. Thompson Pass, at 2,678 feet above sea level, is the snowiest reporting station in the nation, getting between 600 to 900 inches per year.

Due to lake-effect snow, blizzards are common occurrences in New York State (where I  now live) too. But the Blizzard of 1996 lives in my memory. It began to snow in the Mid-Hudson Valley on the first Sunday of January as Bob and I candidated to be called as pastors of Phillipstown Assembly of God.near Cold Spring, NY. We were elected in a business meeting after the morning service.

As soon as the vote was announced, we all dashed to our cars and plowed through rapidly deepening snow to get home, where we were snowed in for several days. After the snowfall of about two feet, the weather suddenly warmed up. It rained--hard, accompanied by strong winds, melting much of the snow very quickly.

Outside our apartment's balcony, several tall aspens lay uprooted, one narrowly missing our apartment in its fall. Driving down the road from our apartment, we were surprised to see that an entire forest of tall aspens on one hillside had been laid out flat all in the same direction, as though a huge hand had swept over them and pushed them down.

Aspens on a hillside in fall
Courtesy US Forest Service
Why were the aspens uprooted, while many other tall trees still stood?

While aspens grow tall quickly, they have a shallow though interconnected root system. The snow and rain loosened the soil, and the strong wind easily toppled them because their roots did not grown down deep enough to hold them upright.

The aspens teach us a spiritual lesson. In addition to providing nourishment, roots provide trees with stability. When roots rot or are too shallow, a tree becomes prey to disease and weather. The aspens appeared to be tall and sturdy, but their heart-shaped leaves waving cheerily in the breeze were deceptive. When the rains and winds came, they fell.

Paul wrote to the Colossians admonishing them to
In corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer, we grow spiritually. Christ's teachings nourish our souls and strengthen us so we can stand firm and tall in the storms and adversities of life.

Jesus told a parable about a man who built his house on the rock, and another one who built his on the sand. When the storms came and beat upon the houses, the one built on the rock stood firm, but the one on the sand had a great fall. 

Growing up in coastal Alaska, I often observed trees growing out of great cliffs. Though buffeted by even hurricane-force winds, they stood tall and strong. When a tree's roots grow into a rock, the tree is more stable. Jesus is the Rock on which we need to build our lives.

What do you need to do today to let the roots of your life "grow down into Him"?

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