Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“God is our Refuge and Strength, mighty and impenetrable to temptation, a very present and well-proved help in trouble.”
“He’s helping me now – this moment,
Though I may not see it or hear,
Perhaps by a friend far distant
Perhaps by a stranger near,
Perhaps by a spoken message,
Perhaps by the printed word;
In ways that I know and know not
I have the help of the Lord.”
Annie Johnson Flint
Today’s Study Text:
“And (they) shall be like trees firmly planted and tended by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season: its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything (they) do shall prosper and come to maturity.”
Psalm 1: 3
“The Tabonuco Forest”
You lowered a bucket into my well of despair and brought me up to where it was sunny.”
How have I been supported and encouraged in my daily journey?
As I look back over my life, who are the individuals who have helped to hold me up when I couldn’t stand on my own two feet?
In what ways have I assisted others when they were struggling?
“When I was at the end of my rope, the people of St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on. The church became my home in the old meaning of home – that it’s where, when you show up, they have to let you in. They let me in. They even said, ‘You come back now.’”
“By compassion we make others’ misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also.”
Sir Thomas Browne
For the past three years, I’ve begun our devotional series each year with a story about “The Tabonuco Tree.” The reason is because Transformation Garden, in my humble opinion, is a lot like “The Tabonuco Tree.” In case you aren’t familiar with “The Tabonuco Tree,” I wasn’t either, that’s until my sister sent me information about four years ago, regarding these unique warm-climate trees which create a forest specifically found in Puerto Rico and many of the Caribbean Islands.
The Tabonuco tree grows in stony, rough soil on the sides of mountainous areas of land. It is certainly no easy life for the Tabonuco tree. These trees are frequently found on the “exposed” side of hills and slopes. And this is an important fact for us to remember for when hurricanes hit the islands, as frequently happens, these trees, which aren’t really known for their great beauty, take a major beating.
Now for three years, I’ve written to you about these trees, never really expecting that a huge hurricane would nearly destroy the island of Puerto Rico as well as other islands in the Caribbean. But this is exactly what happened in September 2017. And to this day, over 1/3 of the island of Puerto Rico is still without electricity.
When the monster hurricane struck Puerto Rico, I quickly began to read everything I could about what was going on in the mountain region of the country where “The Tabonuco Trees” are a major tourist attraction. It is in the region where these trees are abundant that all of us receive a tremendous up-close and personal look at how critical our natural world is in taking care of not just one species of trees, but multiple species of life. What I’ve learned and witnessed over the past few months has only underscored what I shared with you for the first time 3 years ago.
As I wrote in the past, “How do these trees survive to become what is known as the Tabonuco Forest?” Well, it’s quite simple! The trees grow together by sharing their root system. It’s called “root union.” In the face of violent storms, horrific hurricanes, and fierce winds, the shared roots, found underneath the earth, give the trees above an incredible strength. And soon, with this intertwining root system, a forest develops and the sturdy, well-grounded trees, become an umbrella of cover for what are called “understory” plants – over 170 other species grow within the protective covering of the Tabonuco forest association. But this isn’t all. The nutrient rich soil and ground cover which appears at the base of these trees contributes to a wide range of animal life that uses the trees for shelter and food as well.
Sadly, the violent hurricane this past year took a terrible toll on what has been a much appreciated and much visited tourist region of Puerto Rico. Being rather ignorant regarding the rebirth of forest areas which are ravaged by hurricanes, I found with some study, I had a lot to learn. In fact, there are what I call, three qualities that are found in the Tabonuco trees after any hurricane but especially one as massive and widespread as Hurricane Maria.
Quality #1: Resiliency – Defined as buoyancy or the ability to regain your shape after being bent, stretched or pressed.
Quality #2: Perseverance – Steadfast adherence to a course of action, belief, and purpose.
Quality #3: Endurance – The act of withstanding stress. Going forward for the duration despite hardships.
Maybe you are wondering why I’m sharing this information about forestry response to severe weather events. Here’s something I found that really encouraged me. In Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest, which the Tabonuco trees and their “root unions” are part of, “photos that emerged after the storm, of downed trees, defoliated canopies (think Tabonuco trees and their forest canopy), and battered infrastructure, painted a bleak, almost apocalyptic picture. But strange as it may seem, scientists expected the forest to bounce back.” And even in only 8 weeks, much to everyone’s surprise, that was exactly what happened. In fact, I found a picture of trees stripped of all leaves and yet around the roots of one of the trees, there were tiny plants which were topped with bright pink flowers with perfect petals – indeed, new growth that came forth from the resilience, perseverance and endurance of the large root system that was found underneath the earth. Ariel Lugo, director of IITF noted that after Hurricane Hugo, “researchers measured the fastest productivity rates ever in El Yunque, the National forest where the Tabonuco trees grow. And then he made this statement” “All this speaks to be incredible resilience, the bounce back.”
As I continue to read about the rebirth of The Tabonuco Trees in Puerto Rico, it reminded me of the needs so many of us have for resiliency in our spiritual walk; for the heavenly ability to persevere no matter how tough our road; and for the daily desire to endure no matter the storms and trials that hit us. In the words of Jesus to His disciples when He was on earth: “But those who do not waver from our path…those among you will be saved” (Matthew 24: 13, Voice). But he (she) that endures unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24: 13, K.J.V.). Let us purpose to make 2018 a year of the Tabonuco Tree, here in Transformation Garden.
“O Lord, baptize our hearts into a sense of the conditions and needs of all.”
“Lord of the universe look in love upon your people.
Pouring the healing oil of Your compassion
on a world that is wounded and dying.
Send us out in search of the lost,
to comfort the afflicted, to bind up the broken,
and to free those trapped under the rubble of their fallen dreams.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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