While driving into the new town, I noticed a group of large trees bending in one direction. The branches and leaves appeared to almost touch the ground and they were all leaning in the same direction. I thought, we must be driving into a strong storm but, no, the sky was bright blue with no clouds in sight!

I found out later the trees are called windswept live oaks, permanently shaped by the strong, prevailing, southeast winds from the ocean. In other habitats they would have grown up straight, spreading their mighty branches to provide shelter for birds and squirrels and shade to those who seek to enjoy a cool respite from the sun.

This area lays claim to another tree, the “Big Tree” located in the Goose Island State Park. The Big Tree has been featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. A coast live oak, it is more than 1,000 years old. It has a trunk circumference of 35 feet; diameter of more than 11 feet and is 41 feet tall with a crown spread of 89 feet. The park brochures proudly say this tree has survived prairie fires, the Civil War, and hundreds of hurricanes! The tree is magnificent, a beautiful specimen of grandeur.

What a comparison; the tree that stands straight and strong despite tremendous odds and the windswept oaks that have been negatively impacted by the elements. I had to ask myself, how do I deal with difficulties?

The news this year has been filled with story after story about wild fires and drought; wars and terrorism; storms and floods. The heartache, fear, and economic loss is staggering. How should we react to our troubled world? I found my answer in Jeremiah 17: 7 – 8.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

The Lord is our hope, comfort and strength. But don’t overlook the last line of the verse, “neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” God has a purpose for each one of us, and that is to yield fruit! The “Big Tree” has survived and now provides a home for wildlife and shelter from the sun for all. We, as Christians, have the words of life. In these chaotic times, we have an even greater opportunity, and responsibility, to share with the world that Christ Jesus is our hope!

I invite you to join me in praying as these tragic events unfold. Have a happy new year!