A Bump on a Log

Bumps on logs intrigue me. To be technical immediately, these bumps are burls. Find them on limbs and trunks of trees. Burls are formed from changes in the growth hormones of the tree. These changes occur from a number of factors. They originate from bacteria, a virus, a fungus, or even an insect.  The most common bacteria responsible for most burls is the crown gall bacterium. Scientists have discovered that crown gall bacterium carries with it extra DNA identified as plasmid. It causes the tree to produce extra amino acids and new growth regulators which cause the burl to grow. The burl appears be the preferred habitat for the bacterium. It is remarkable that the bacterium which begins the burl has usually disappeared long before the burl becomes large.

DSC_0066_1553sigA burl on a log appears useless. It does not move, its inactive, it breaks the uniformity of the tree trunk or limb on which it grows. On the outside is seems useless. The surface appearance of a burl does not fit the contour of the trunk or limb it grows on.  A derogatory statement about people relates to the burl. Know that being referred to as a “bump on a log” is not positive. It means you are not contributing, even worthless. Being a bump on a log suggests a laziness of heart, mind or body. There are few times in life when being a bump/burl on a log is a good thing.

Yet, the dense wood of burls may have great value to woodworkers. The wood grain found in burls is twisted and contorted. Its deformed nature creates a grain woodworkers call “figure.” Normally grained wood generally follows parallel lines. The grain of a burl is comparable to a ball of twine, twisted and wrapped together. Beautifully crafted pieces of art, furniture and sculpture are created from tree burls. Large burls have significant value. Because of this, the theft of burls on trees in parks and private property occurs. While a burl remains on the tree there is little damage. When a burl is removed disease is more likely to follow.

Burls teach us a spiritual lesson. Humans get burls. You can not see them on the outside as on trees. Inside every human there are “burls”. We are born with them. They are not benign. In trees burls are caused by bacteria. The bacteria in humans is sin. It is not a topic any of us enjoy being reminded of. Human burls cause jealousy, envy, striving and contention with others. Human burls are the cause of wars, murder, and sorrow and grief of all kinds. Whether we are willing to acknowledge sin in the life of every human, it exists. It is the unseen “burl.” In contrast to tree burls, human sin is deadly. Unless sin is dealt with sin in the life of a human condemns all to righteous judgement-from God.

Sin “burls” in the human heart are terminal.

Just as a burl can be turned into something of beautiful by a skilled carpenter, there is a way to turn the burl of sin to something beautiful, something perfect. All it takes is a Master. Jesus is that Master. As a boy and young man, he learned to work with wood. He was a carpenter. I have a friend who calls Jesus “the big carpenter.”  We do not need his carpentry skills here. The sacrificial death of this Carpenter gives every human who believes in him permanent “burl” removal. The blood of Jesus cleans the “burl causing bacteria” of sin from every human. The Psalmist knew how to be cleaned of sin. In Psalm 51:2 we read, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Only Jesus, “the Big Carpenter” can do that. He takes our sinful burls and turns them into a beautiful work of art, a human no longer sentenced to death, but cleaned of sin.


Boone’s Morning (conclusion)

Boone’s Morning Conclusion

Boone scanned the woods as he slowly made each step. He had learned the art of feeling the earth before he put his full weight on it. If a twig or branch was beneath, he moved his foot to the side. There was no sound of twigs or branches breaking when Boone walked. The leaves were something else. The carpeted the floor of the woods. He could not avoid them. He could pick up his feet and place them gently on the leafy mat which was part of the woods. He did not mind that walking took longer this way. Being quiet was his goal. He intended to see things.

He had walked 100 yards when he came to the small flow of water. Crossing a stream was a delight. This one had ice on the edges and Boone’s alert eyes noticed the movement of the water beneath the crystal-clear ice. Water moving under ice was a favorite sight of his. He paused. His eyes took in the liquid beauty flowing silently below him. He looked up and picked his crossing place. Deer had crossed here too.DSC_0025_1068sig

As he reached the top of the little stream bank he took a long look to the north through the woods. It was easy to see ahead. The trees in the woods were thick but with the leaves down the late fall view was uncluttered. Nothing moved. He was reminded then of the strength of the south wind as a fresh gust bent the tops of the trees. He could hear it growl as it tore through the limbs above his head. He knew his scent went before him. He resolved to be more careful, even more quiet. He began to look for a place to sit.

 He chose another landmark in one of the trees to the north. This time it was a large cluster of basswood, the only one like it. Quietly, with care he moved northward to the trunks bunched like only basswood can. He noticed the near perfect rings of holes drilled by a Sapsucker Woodpecker in the trunk. He liked the symmetry found in the woods too. Finding it many places was one of the other pleasures of being in the woods. Soundlessly he moved to the north side of the basswood. He saw the trunks made a perfect spot to sit. They would make a great backrest. But the ground was bare. He decided to pick up a handful of leaves to pad his seat and keep him dry. Even with the wind noise, the rustle they made disturbed the deep stillness. He did not pick up any more. DSC_0094_1081

Quietly he sat down, his back against one of the basswood trunks. He was on the south side of a bowl like dip in the forest floor. He could see everything to the north. He would sit here; and watch. Sitting outside always relaxed him. As the minutes passed Boone became drowsy. But he did not let himself sleep. He’d been quiet. He’d traveled slowly observing while he moved. Perhaps there was a deer standing nearby. Slowly, he swiveled his head from east to west, then back again. Nothing moved. The gusting rumble of the south wind continued. He waited eyes open, and alert. He felt alive. Adventures like this he could picture himself doing over and over. He watched and listened. Still nothing. He knew he needed to keep moving. He was not sure how much farther to the north the lake was.

Softly he rose from his leafy seat. He picked another clump of basswood trunks visible across the bowl before. His northward steps were silent with only a slight leaf rustle. Boone had learned much about travel in the woods. The lake was ahead. He was eager to see it.DSC_0040_1071sig

After reaching the basswood clump, a burl on a birch tree led him further north. Reaching the birch, he glanced north. He could see the blue-gray color of ice on the lake. He did not pick another north facing landmark. He silently made his way to the lake. Just before reaching the downslope towards the water he crossed two deer trails. He had not seen any on the way to the lake. Yet these two paralleled the lake shore and they were only a few yards apart. He did not dwell long on the deer trails. His eyes were pulled the vista of the lake before him. He was amazed at the small hump of land that formed an island in the lake. It was entirely tree covered. In the mid-morning sun it glowed. Movement on the north end of the island shifted his gaze. A bird of prey drifted southward against the wind. He watched as the wind lifted it westward and behind the island out of sight.

He lingered on the edge of the lake for a few moments. The hike had been worth the effort. His reward was not the sighting of a deer, mink or even the fisher he knew lived in the park. His reward was something he knew he would picture again over and over in his memory. The lake pristine, its shoreline undeveloped and the feeling of wildness were his rewards. He made plans to return, for a longer hike next time. It was time to meet his grandfather. He knew the way back and how long it would take him. He turned and faced into the wind. He still hoped to get a glimpse of a whitetail deer. Boone resolved he could come back. There was much more to learn about this place. It was a better than usual morning.DSC_0119_1092


Time to shift your mental thoughts to action. Turn on your reasoning and logic. No grousing, thinking is beneficial for us. Systems are our new topic. A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. Consider this definition with me. A system is a group. Things in this group interact. That means there is interrelationships, cooperation. Things in a system relate to one another. They intermingle and work together. There is independence and community in a system. The last statement to make about a system is this. A system is intense. It is complex. The things forming the system are multifaceted. There are many layers in a system. A system is intricate and complicated at the same time.


On this earth there are countless systems for us to consider and understand. All of them are complex, and interactive. All are intense.

One of my favorite systems is a hardwood forest. Deciduous forests perfectly fit our system definition. Complexity is everywhere in view and everywhere unseen. The whole of a hardwood forest is intensely complex. It is also intensely beautiful. Yes, we must not forget the beauty of thousands of trees interacting with thousands of other life forms. Beauty is a clue to the answer for this complexity.DSC_0040_1071sig

 We declared  the obvious life forms, the trees. Contemplate the trees found in a hardwood forest. First a list of them: Basswood, Ironwood, Maple, Aspen, Burr Oak, Birch, Red Oak, Ash, and Hackberry are found in the forest of my example. There are other species which grow in other hardwood forests. In the large system of forests found in North America there are 950 species of trees in 81 plant families!

 Complex? Think about the root systems of the trees interlinking in the forest soil. Different species are connected by uncountable roots. More complex is the activity each of these trees must undertake to live during the growing season. Photosynthesis takes the idea of system complexity to staggering. Trees in the forest now are linked to the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the sun itself. While we have written documentation of each of these systems and their functions-but the complexity is overwhelming actually. Have you considered how complex the world we live in is?DSC_0053sig

 Trees? They are the big life forms. Our eyes are drawn to them. But, the point of discussion about systems has been made: a forest is a group of interrelated but independent life forms interacting to form a complex whole: a deciduous forest. There is another consideration in wrapping up this dialogue about systems, the OTHER living things found in the hardwood forest. Dwelling with the trees-in systems are birds, migratory and year-round, mammals, insects, other flowering plants much smaller than trees, lichen, fungi, and microbes in the soil. There are reptiles and amphibians too. Yes, my limited mind has missed many other life forms found in the complex system of a hardwood forest. I did mention beauty.DSC_0016_1066sig

The purpose of this flow of information is to cause your thinking to center on the term “system.” To lead you to grapple with the immense complexity of any system in nature. Then to ask the question, “How is such intricate complexity possible?” There is a one-word answer


Use your logic, use critical thinking, or do some research. It is possible for a forest system like the one in our example and photos, to organize itself? Is there enough time in eternity that trees could organize to use sunlight, water, minerals from the soil and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make their own food? No grousing now either…think this through. The benefits of a correct answer are eternal. Consider this closing question and answer from Isaiah. Here is the ultimate way to comprehend the complexity of earth systems

Isaiah 40:28

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.


1 Tree for You- The Same for Me

My thoughts have wandered often to trees today. My mind plays over and over two things significant about trees and human life. All day, to this moment my breaths have been regular. Each breath brings life-sustaining oxygen to my lungs. You’ve been doing that too. The tree in the photo is almost ready to shed its leaves. Since late April this Maple tree has produced oxygen as a bi-product of photosynthesis. What it really needs is the carbon dioxide you and I have been breathing out all day. When its leaves fall off it will have produced enough oxygen for you and me-for a whole year. This has been on my mind all day. DSC_0120_661
This is the other thing. We have established that the maple in the picture has produced enough oxygen for you and me, what about all the other people in the world? The other thing that has played over and over today is how many trees scientists estimate are growing now, today on earth. This is the number which came up more than once during my search: 3 trillion…3 with 12 zeros trailing it! This last truth just drops me. Divide the total number of people on earth into 3 trillion. The answer is how many trees there are for EVERY person on earth.
Its 400. 400 trees for you, 400 for me and 400 for every other person-on earth! What have we been discussing here- trees, oxygen, you and me? What we haven’t discussed is abundance. There is an overwhelming abundance of oxygen available to you, me and all of our fellow earth dwellers. Is this abundance an accident? Did this balance of life come from self-organization of earth biomes which over time balanced with human life? Inconceivable. No need to hug a tree for this marvelous gift of abundant oxygen. Fall to your knees and thank God.DSC_0108_655sigDSC_0177sig

Trees-More Than Wood

Imagine this earth without trees. No trees on any continent, any island, any place on earth. Possible? Perhaps, but would you be willing to do without all of the things that make life easier because there are trees on earth?

We humans are tree dependent. Trees provide shelter, cook our meals, provide us with nutrition and significantly more. As many as 5000 products are derived from or contain wood. Even exotic things such as camera cases and nail polish contain wood fiber. Humans have walked on floors of wood for centuries. Yet wooden floors while adding comfort in homes are a mere detail in the human interaction with trees. Wood from trees enables the manufacture of tools for almost every human industry. Understanding the human bent for greed and covetousness we comprehend how wood was then and now is used for war. Wood has been used for wheels, ships, wagons, even in early automobiles as we humans move about the earth.

Would you be willing to do without shade on a hot summer’s day? No more apple pie, no pecans, no pistachios, oranges, or peaches, how would that suit? Trees scent our air with sensory pleasures. There would be no pine scent, and the fragrance of Christmas no more. Is there an anxious feeling welling within your heart and mind? What, no trees?!! The request was to imagine a world without trees. No world tree removal mandate has been set-or will be.

There is one more important category which impresses upon us the significance of trees. They are magnificent. Beautiful places exist in our world because trees grow there. One of my personal favorite dimensions of tree beauty is the immense diversity found in trees. First there is shape, from the pointed spires of towering pines to the symmetrical domes of Sugar Maples, tree shapes are both inspiring and fascinating. The leaves of trees, each a miniature food factory, are a delight in shape and color. Summer winds make them sing. Change of season makes them stunning. Few humans fail to pause in awe and wonder at the magnificent yellows, reds and oranges of leaves which develop as fall progresses. Examine the accompanying photos of tree bark. Each tree is distinctive and unique. There is beauty in bark. Beneath the bark more beauty is hidden. The dense fibers of wood are arranged in such beautiful patterns that we adorn our homes with wood from floor to ceiling.

Trees do another thing for humans, they point us to God. Stop a moment, consider the number of different tree species. How do we explain that a by-product of tree food production (photosynthesis) is oxygen? Is it a coincidence, an accident? Oxygen is just what we humans need for life, and trees are significant oxygen producers. “A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.” There are estimated 23,000 different tree species on the earth. That is the equivalent of over 3 trillion trees! Based on our current earth population that figure provides 400 trees for EACH person-on earth! How do we explain such abundance, such provision? It comes from God. No human industry could generate oxygen at this level. No gradual process over time could develop such balance.

Pause one more moment after you read this. Find a tree to look at. As you examine it, you are gazing at living evidence of God’s presence and power on earth. On the third day of creation God spoke these words; “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:11)

Can you imagine an earth without trees? A tree was even used as part of God’s plan to save the world from sin. As you fix your eyes on that tree, remember the Savior who was nailed, for our sins-to a tree. (Hebrews 12:2)  

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