ADVENTURES IN TILLAMOOK COUNTY CONTINUED

 

In my previous post, I spoke of some of the adventures we had in Tillamook County, Oregon several years ago.  I did not include one of the most interesting aspects of our visit, specifically it was having the opportunity to get up close and personal with The Octopus Tree.

This tree is located just a few hundred feet from the Cape Meares Lighthouse.   It is a massive Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) that has multiple monikers, including:  The Monstrosity Tree, The Candelabra Tree, The Council Tree and The Octopus Tree. 

 

Oregon 2009 434 (C) Octupus Tree at Cape Meares State Park near Tillimook Oregon
The Octopus Tree, Cape Meares State Park, Tillamook County, Oregon

The tree is certainly not hard to miss – it has a 50 foot base, it reaches upward over 100 feet.  Its most incredible characteristic, however, is that it has no central trunk!  Instead of growing straight up from the trunk, the limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning heavenward. This gives it the appearance of an inverted octopus. 

Oregon 2009 435
The base of The Octopus Tree showing no central trunk but sturdy branches growing horizontally.

 

It is impossible to determine the tree’s actual age because, to do that, we would need to cut it down and examine the rings.  No sense in destroying such an incredible living thing simply for that purpose. But, it is believed to be 250 to 300 years old, which would date the tree at the time when the Native American Indians lived in the area. In support of this theory, rumors exist that the Octopus Tree got its shape from being used to hold their canoes with their dead in them.  In other words, it is believed that the tree was a sort of burial site or a site used for sacred purposes. 

Octupus tree looking up Oregon 2009 436
The beautiful limbs soar overhead.

The tree’s limbs towering overhead are beautiful in their strength and dignity.  It would appear that the tree is thriving, notwithstanding its unique formation at the base. 

For more information I would encourage you to look at the following websites provide a great deal more information about Tillamook County, Oregon.  I would then encourage you to visit the area itself. 

http://gotillamook.com/things-to-do/sights/cape-meares-octopus-tree/  and https://theoregoncoast.info/OctopusTree.html 

Beside from being an interesting place to visit, what does the Octopus Tree have to do with me?  Or with you?

The Octopus Tree provides us with an example of God’s creation extolling His greatness, even if distorted or disfigured through time or by the acts of others. 

Paul says this about the condition of His creation after sin entered and broke the relationship between the creation and the Creator:

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Romans 8:19-22 ESV

When sin entered the world, everything changed.  Instead of love reigning and instead of walking in fellowship with God, mankind now spoke of hate and walked in opposition to His Creator.  That continues even to this day.  A brief look at the news headlines confirms that the world is in the grips of sin and that evil rules almost without opposition.

How many of us have been abused as children; have been in destructive relationships; have been addicted to drugs or alcohol or have endured any of a multitude of other addictions?  How many of us have been in poverty, have been hungry, have been sick and hospitalized?  How many of us have been subjected to these conditions because of the actions of others?

That is the story of The Octopus Tree.  It was misshapen and became a tree unlike any of those surrounding it in the forest.  Whether forces of nature changed the tree’s shape or whether it was the result of being used in some sort of religious rite, the result was disfiguring of the beautiful tree.  But it still stands, growing in God’s sunshine, honoring the Creator by reaching to the heavens. 

So to, when we have been subjected to hard times, trials and the evils in our world, we may well become misshapen, scarred, and have hurts that are too deep to even mention to our loved ones.  We know they are there nonetheless.  No matter what has happened to and/or through us, we can still stand in the grace and power of our God.  We can honor our Creator by looking to Him, reading His Word, surrendering our will to Him and living for Him as guided by the Holy Spirit.  We can grow in His Son-shine, the Light of the world, Who shines on us and infuses His light into us so that we then can brighten the darkness we find around us. 

You can be The Octopus Tree in your neighborhood.  If you are misshapen and scarred, that adds character and strength to your witness of God’s goodness, love, mercy and grace.  Share your witness and the Word with those around you – God will use it for His purposes, you can be assured of that!

By all means, if you are in Oregon, take time to visit Tillamook County.  Open your eyes and open your heart and hear your Creator speak to you as you see the sights and hear the sounds around you, both in Oregon and wherever you call home.

 

Father, I pray that You would empower me as I live my life, scarred and misshapen though I am.  I pray that I would bring You honor and glory and that Your Word would be on my tongue as I spread Your truth to others.

 

GIANT SEQUOIA TREES ILLUSTRATE PERSEVERANCE.

After going to the Maricopa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park, I have a tremendous amount of respect for these gentle giants of the forest.  Their size can only be described as gargantuan and their age makes Methuselah sound like a teenager!

But one of the characteristics I note with particular interest is what I would call “perseverance”.  Now, I know that the trees have no awareness or sense that they have persevered through difficult times.  But, the fact remains, that there is evidence on many of these old creatures of significant trial, especially by fire.

Giant Sequoia fire scar with seedlings nearby.
Giant Sequoia fire scar with seedlings nearby.

 

These are two of the Giant Sequoia Trees which show the fire scars as evidence of the trees’ perseverance through ferocious wildfires through the centuries they have lived.

Fire scar completely through the base of Giant Sequoia Tree
Fire scar completely through the base of Giant Sequoia Tree

God, in His ultimate wisdom, created these trees knowing that they would be around for a long time and that, in the natural order of things, fire would destroy some of the forest ground cover as is necessary for a healthy forest environment.  So, God gave the Giant Sequoias the ability to survive severe fire damage, this being, according to the National Park Service, “a remarkable characteristic of the Sequoia.” I spoke of this characteristic in a prior post, “Difficulties Can Produce Beautiful Fruit” posted August 19, 2015.

The focus here, is not so much the physical fact of their survival, but the concept of perseverance … or, as is applicable to Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, perseverance of the saints.

I realize that the trees can’t just pick up and move when the going gets hot.  They are “stuck” there, so to speak.  Notwithstanding this truth, consider what is visible from the trees pictured below — above the top of the fire scar there is green growth and abundant branches.  The trees are not just alive; they are healthy, surviving and flourishing.  They endure the flames and then survive and keep on prospering, right where they are.

Yosemite Sequoia Tree tops showing growth despite the fire scar.
Yosemite Sequoia Tree tops showing growth despite the fire scar.

God knows me, too.  He knows that trials will come and the heat may be intense.  He also knows that I cannot face it alone.  In His grace He has not left me alone – He has provided a way for me to survive, not through a layer of cambium but through Jesus Christ as my Savior, the Holy Spirit as my Companion, and the Body of Christ, the Church.

Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!
Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

Whether grandiose and ancient as seen in the 1,400 year old Canterbury Cathedral, or small and rustic such as the historic Cades Cove Church in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the church building is the meeting place for the Body of Christ.

Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Believers, themselves, are the Body of Christ when they work together for the spreading of the Gospel of Christ and in support of each other as the family of Christ and children of the Living God.

When Daniel’s three friends, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar and refused to bow down to him, they told the king that they would only worship their God.  In rage, the king threw the three men into the fiery furnace, but when king looked into the furnace, he saw four men in the fire.  Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego were retrieved from the furnace and they were not burned or singed and they did not even smell of fire.  See Daniel 6:23-27.  God walked with them in the fire, and they were unharmed because they persevered in their faith and in reliance upon God.

I have the same God who went into the fire with His children as recounted in Daniel chapter 6.  He is the Great Healer, my Companion and my Guide. He has given me His Word (the Holy Bible) and He has ordained that the Body of Christ, the visible church on earth, be available to me as a believer in Christ for support, prayer, strength, encouragement, and help in time of need.  This does not mean that struggles will not come, or even that I am guaranteed that the struggle will not be stronger than I am — but it does mean that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from the love of God that I have through Christ Jesus.  Read Romans 8:35-39.

God's roadmap for our lives, steering us directly to Him -- the Holy Bible.
God’s roadmap for our lives, steering us directly to Him — the Holy Bible.

In short, He has provided the way and the strength to persevere through the trial so that, at the last day, I will be able to stand before Him, clothed in the righteousness of His Son and be accepted by Him as His child.  My obligation is to joyfully take advantage of the strength He has provided when difficult times come.

James writes in his letter that we should “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4.

I don’t know about you, but I normally do not consider it “pure joy” when a trial comes my way.  No one wants hard times – but hard times do not play favorites. Jesus promised that there would be hard times for the Christian … it is not a matter of IF there is a trial; it is simply a matter of WHEN the trial will arrive.  Perseverance in our Christian walk comes as a result of enduring the testing of our faith, and the result of perseverance is maturity in Christ.

The Giant Sequoia tree reminds me that perseverance is possible.  The Lord has provided these trees with protection and healing after a fire.  He has provided me with the Comforter who is with me not only for healing after the fire has passed but the Comforter is with me even during the trial, giving strength, encouragement and, yes, comfort.   And He has provided the Body of Christ, the Church, for my support, encouragement and aid.

Thank you, Father, for sending Jesus Christ into this world as the atonement for my sin.  Thank you also for providing means of grace so that I can persevere when difficult times assail, thank you for the Holy Spirit present within and the Church present without for strength and encouragement, prayer and praise, help and aid during times of testing. Help me to be of encouragement to your children through your Spirit and the Word.  Rather than fighting the test, Father, help me to embrace it and persevere through it so that I will be mature in my faith.  Thank you for being with me, even in the furnace of testing.  I praise your name and glorify you in all things.

BOO-BOOS AND PRIDE!

Boo‐boos.  That is one of the terms for that time in a child’s life when they hurt themselves. Children from time immemorial have scraped, cut, and bruised themselves by running without watching where they were headed, focusing on playing with some toy while they are walking around, jumping off a ledge onto a hard surface, or perhaps playing with a sibling and coming out on the short end of the stick!  Whatever happens, when there is an injury, the child comes running, crying, to the parent or caregiver, pointing to the newest boo‐boo.

Boo-boo with fancy Band-Aid!
Boo-boo with fancy Band-Aid!

All of us hope and pray that the injury is not serious enough to require emergency medical attention; and, for the vast majority of boo‐boos, we are correct.  The kiss from Mom or Dad, the hug from Grammy or Papa and a decorated Band‐Aid will usually take care of the hurt.

Then too we have the child who gets injured and for whom medical attention is required.  Broken arms and legs do not heal well on their own – they need the expert guidance of the physician to set the bone and secure it until the body is fully healed.

Little boy's cast after breaking his leg.
Little boy’s cast after breaking his leg.

While adulthood gives some perspective to hurts and difficulties of childhood, simple aging does not eliminate the existence of boo‐boos nor does it stop the creation of new ones.  Now, most of my boo‐boos do not result in physical injuries or marks for which a colored Band-Aid or designer cast is the remedy.  [Okay, I did break my ankle when I fell on vacation in Alaska and that resulted in surgery with scars on both sides of my foot … so some of my boo-boos are actually physical, but the majority are notl]

Oh no, most of my boo-boos are much more subtle.  They are much more longstanding, and they have significantly greater consequences if left to fester without repentance.  And, they usually cannot be healed by my actions; rather, they need the expert hand of the Great Physician to attend to the wound.

  • The temper flare‐up when I feel that I have been misused.
  • The gossip passed from my lips under the guise of enlisting prayer partners.
  • A sudden fit of blindness when I fail to lend a helping hand to someone in need and who is plainly in my field of vision.
  • Doing something good but then being upset when I think that I have been ignored.
  • And countless others … need I go on?

I expect that your boo‐boos are not the same as mine – we each are unique in our ability to err and not follow God’s will for our lives.  But, I suggest that, ultimately, for each of us, it comes down to pride.   Are we going to submit ourselves totally to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?  In all things?  At all times?

The goal of the Christian life is that we live so that we are transformed into the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  While that is the goal, Jesus knows we are human and that we cannot live a life without boo‐boos.

In Jesus Calling, Sarah Young provides thoughtful daily devotions that are written as if Jesus is talking to us directly.  For the devotion for May 9, she refers to Romans 8:28 and Micah 7:7 and then says:

Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes.  Thinking that you should live an error‐free life is symptomatic of pride.  Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses.  Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me. I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes. Trust Me and watch to see what I will do. [Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004.]

Yep, it all comes back to pride.   I want to do it my way – or I don’t want to do what He commands – or I think I can accomplish it in my own strength – or … well it comes back to the focus on I/ Me/ My rather than Him.

All we see are the minute details of our own lives.  We don’t see the effect our actions have on others.  We don’t know how our words affect others for good, or bad, and we cannot anticipate what the future will be for anyone.  We see our mistakes and lost opportunities, and sometimes we see good things that happened along the way.  It is as if we are seeing the fabric of our lives on the backside of the fabric, the side where the knots are.  (The picture below is of one of the quilts on display at the DAR Museum in Washington D.C.;  it is a floral applique quilt that was created in 1840-41.)

Floral Applique Quilt [circa 1840-41] on display at DAR museum in Washington, D.C.
Floral Applique Quilt [circa 1840-41] on display at DAR museum in Washington, D.C.
God, however, sees the front of the fabric and sees the pattern that He has created for each of us.  Read Psalm 139, especially verse 16, where the Psalmist is describing God’s intimate knowledge of him and saying:

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Our days were written in God’s book even before we were born.  Clearly, our lives are the design that He created for us, and He will develop our lives according to His plan, including our boo-boos. In fact, sometimes what we may consider a boo-boo is transformed by God into the door to greater blessing than we could ever have imagined!

Praise the Lord that He is able to take my boo‐boos and use them for my learning, growth and ministry to others.  He promises to take both our good and bad choices and use them as part of the fabric of our life in Him.  (Picture below was taken at the Homestead Museum of the spinning wheel and quilt reflecting life on the Homestead in Cumberland County, Tennessee.)

Quilt and spinning wheel on display at Homestead Museum, Crossville, Tennessee.
Quilt and spinning wheel on display at Homestead Museum, Crossville, Tennessee.

Praise the Lord!  The sinless One cares for me and He helps me overcome and heal from the boo‐boos of my life.  There might be a scar or two, but that’s alright.  Jesus has scars too, and His were from the nails that were meant for me!

Praise the Lord for His unfathomable love and grace.

Father, thank you for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sin.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your obedience to the Father’s will and for your atoning sacrifice for me.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for quickening my heart and for your presence with me to guide and direct as I live for my Lord.  Forgive the boo-boos that I have created and grant mercy as I continue to live my life so that I may bring glory to my God and my Savior

DIFFICULTIES CAN PRODUCE BEAUTIFUL FRUIT

I was in prayer this morning asking the Lord for comfort, strength, peace, healing and His presence for several of the people in our church who are going through very difficult times. I truly believe that prayer is the “best thing” that we can do for others, and as I was considering the various situations facing these brothers and sisters in the Lord, I was reminded of a video‐essay I saw about Yosemite National Park. This program captured my attention because my husband and I had been to Yosemite several years ago and we found it to be an awesome manifestation of our Lord’s creativity and beauty.

What really captured my attention was the discussion of the Park’s Giant Sequoias and the role that fire plays in their sustainability. The Narrator discussed fire in the Park as being a necessity for the forest, and I recognize this as a correct generalized proposition that is true of any forest woodland. Without fire, the underbrush would become so dense that seedlings would not be able to take root, etc.

Fire scar completely through the base of Giant Sequoia Tree

This is a picture that we took on our visit to the Park which shows a fire scar that is so severe that the inside of the tree has been burned out and the tree resembles an old‐time wooden clothespin, perhaps for Paul Bunyan’s laundry! The Narrator of the video-essay stated that the Giant Sequoia tree’s bark was extraordinarily thick and the cambium layer, just beneath the bark, has fire resistant properties to enable the trees to survive severe forest fires.  This statement is consistent with one of the plaques in the Park.

Giant Sequoia Tree plaque for the tree Tennessee Tree, with explanation about cambium layer beneath bark that enables trees to survive forest fires.
Giant Sequoia Tree plaque for the tree Tennessee Tree, with explanation about cambium layer beneath bark that enables trees to survive forest fires.

The Narrator continued to describe how the Giant Sequoias cannot survive without periodic fires. I thought I misunderstood what he said – why would these majestic trees require fire for their survival – they might successfully endure the wildfire, but to say that they require it is an entirely different proposition, and one which surely must be incorrect!

I was intrigued by this statement and, after doing some research, I found that one of the primary requirements for Giant Sequoia seedlings to grow is full sun. A glance at the forests in which these trees thrive reveals that, while the mature trees have full sun due to their towering height, there are multitudes of trees around them which, although dwarfed by the Giant Sequoias, are tall trees in their own right. The result of this, of course, is that the Giant Sequoia seedling is beneath the neighboring pines, oaks, and whatever – without the benefit of full sun.

In short, the Giant Sequoia Trees require periodic wildfires so that the underbrush and smaller tree vegetation can be cleared so as to provide the correct environment for successful germination of the sequoia seeds in full sun.

Giant Sequoia fire scar with seedlings nearby.
Giant Sequoia fire scar with seedlings nearby.

But, as the television marketer says, “Wait, there’s more!”  Not only does the wildfire provide the open nursery for the seedlings, the fire actually is required to release the seeds from the cone in the first place. It is no secret that extremely hot air accompanies a forest fire; for me, the surprise was that the hot air in the canopy of the massive trees dries and opens the trees’ seed cones causing the release of large numbers of seeds to the forest floor, which, because of the clearing accomplished by the fire, has been transformed into the optimal seedbed for the seeds to take root and grow into images of their ancestors.

Seedlings in Yosemite National Park
Seedlings in Yosemite National Park

Also, the Lord provided even more help for these seeds to grow to maturity. The post‐fire loose ground ash operates as a blanket to protect the seeds from ultraviolet radiation damage. [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoiadendron_giganteum accessed 8/28/2013]

Besides being an interesting aspect of the Lord’s natural world and besides showing the care that He took to insure the sustainability of His creation, the soul‐searching began when I considered the illustration provided by the Giant Sequoia Trees in the connection between the fire and the resultant beauty.

It made me consider how I respond to the fire circumstances in my own life? Am I able to look past the immediate pain and difficulty so as to see the beauty ahead? Do I endure the difficulty with anticipation for the good that our Lord will accomplish through it? Or, do I, like Jonah, run in the opposite direction so that I avoid the problem and pain? Do I even recognize that there is a cost for avoiding the trial … lost lessons learned and more agonizing trials ahead for which I could have been prepared, or perhaps which could have even been avoided, if I had paid attention to the initial difficulty?

Do I say what Joseph said to his brothers?

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “… And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.… But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Genesis 45:4-7. Or, as my own paraphrase would render this passage, you may have meant to hurt me, but actually you were fulfilling God’s plan to provide a way to protect you and your families from the death that would surely have come during this severe famine.

When we are in the midst of the maelstrom, when we can’t see where things are going, through faith we can have confidence that God is sovereign and that He is working things out for His purposes and the Christian’s ultimate good. Even if scars remain, there will be beauty that will come.  The nail piercings in our Lord’s Hands reflect just some of the excruciating suffering He endured for us on the cross, but they are beautiful for those who believe in His Name for salvation.  But for what those scars represent, we would not have His righteousness to cover our sins and we could not call God “Abba Father”.  Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6.

God is sovereign in all things. He provided for the Giant Sequoia Trees, and He will provide for His children. See Luke 12:22-31.  Praise His Name as we trust in Him and in His unfailing grace, even as we go through the flames of trial that confronts us, by whatever name it is called.

As the Psalmist said: “Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 106:1.