Scripture: Psalm 1
Key verse: (3) “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not whither.”
Reflection: As I mentioned Sunday, I spent last week in the wilderness of Western Alaska on an amazing fishing trip. Much of the landscape in this part of Alaska is tundra. It’s the Arctic’s version of a desert, receiving very little snow or moisture through the year. Here’s a panoramic picture of it:
The word “tundra” comes from the Finnish tunturi, meaning “treeless heights.” The name certainly fits as the defining characteristic of tundra is the lack of trees. Scientists cannot point to a single factor that limits tree growth; rather it is a combination of factors: growing seasons that are too short for plants that produce wood, strong persistent winds, permafrost that prevents roots from reaching deeply enough into the soil to provide support, and cold soils that slow decomposition and nutrient cycling. What does grow on top of the permafrost are lichens and mosses, as well as a surprising number of other plants. The propensity of lichen and moss makes tundra very spongy. I described it as “nature’s tempur-pedic mattress!”
In the background, you can see trees in a line. Those trees are not on the tundra. They are formed around the Nushagak River, because by the river there is a supply of water to sustain the trees. Here’s what it looks like on the river — very different from the tundra:
“Happy are those,” writes the Psalmist, “who delight in the law of the Lord, who meditate on it day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water.” For the Psalmist, the Torah is as life giving to us as water is for trees on the tundra. Sometimes life can feel like a tundra. Good times don’t seem to last very long — like growing seasons to short for anything to grow. Winds can keep us fighting to move forward in life. It can be impossible to get below the surface of things, preventing any roots from growing in our relationships with one another. Life can be a tundra.
God’s word can be like a river of life flowing through that tundra. There are some passages of scripture that can melt the coldest places in me. Romans 8:31-39. Psalm 139. Philippians 4:4-7. John 15:15-16. Psalm 23. Psalm 46. Psalm 121. These passages provide me sustenance in those wilderness seasons of life.
What are some of yours? If you don’t have any, I recommend finding some, and memorizing them. Meditate on them. Let their words roll through your soul. By so doing, as the Psalmist promises, you will yield fruit in your season, your leaves will not whither, and you will prosper — even through the tundra times.
Prayer: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path,” like water in the wilderness sustaining me through each day. Give me the word I need this day, O God, and let me meditate on it day and night that I may be like a tree planted by streams of living water. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].