by Christine Sine,
Last week after I wrote about Building Resilience and the lessons we learn from winter, a couple of people asked me Is resilience your word for 2023? As I thought about it I realized I really have two words for this year yes resilience is one of them, but adaptability is the other. As you can imagine they go hand in hand. To be resilient we need to adapt to the changing world around us. To adapt we need resilience.
Today, I want to talk to you about Psalm 1. It is a psalm that speaks to me of both adaptability and resilience. It is one of my favorites and in the aftermath of the horrific floods over the last month and the intense heat we experienced llast summer, it has taken on new meaning.
What delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways!
He won’t walk in step with the wicked,
nor share the sinner’s way,
nor be found sitting in the scorner’s seat.
His passion is to remain true to the Word of “I AM,”
meditating day and night on the true revelation of light.
He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree
Planted by God’s design,
deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss,
bearing fruit in every season of life.
He is never dry, never fainting,
ever blessed, ever prosperous.
When I think of a tree planted beside a stream, I think of this painting which stands in the corner of our living room. It depicts a very typical outback Australian scene, with an Australian red river gum prominently in the foreground.
Red river gums are common in Australia, especially in the dry interior and they form an iconic image of many on Australian painting. They always grow along the banks of water courses some of which dry up periodically and then are inundated with flooding waters. Red river gums are amazingly resilient and adaptable. They can withstand both drought and flood – being able to stand up to 9 months of emersion in the flood waters.
This tolerance is because of their extensive root system. In drought, they reach down, sometimes 30 to 40 feet, to the subterranean water systems below. Some of their roots also contain a spongy air-filled tissue that accumulates and transports oxygen in waterlogged soils.
Red river gums grow huge and can live up to 1,000 years. They often provide shelter from the heat for both animals and humans and one of my childhood delights was to come across a herd of kangaroos lounging in the shade under the canopy of one beautiful old and gigantic red river gum.
Their roots really do go down deep. They are resilient, they adapt and because of that they provide shelter and nutrition for other animals and often for people too. In the painting there is a group of aboriginals enjoying the shade of one of the trees in the background.
My hydrangeas on the other hand, have shallow roots that probably remain in the top 6” of the soil. They do better in shade than in direct sun and as you can see, this one did not do well when the heat hit. Such a vivid contrast to the trees in my painting.
We all need deep root systems like the Australian red river gum. We need to be able to survive in times of drought as well as flood when we feel inundated by the world’s problems and the challenges of our own lives. In Australia, drought is often followed by flooding rains, as we have seen in this last year, so being able to survive in both situations is essential.
These last few years flooded all of us with downpour after downpour of rain and in its aftermath, we feel dried out as though we are in the middle of a drought.
So as I sit here today contemplating this painting, I wonder, “What helps build my root system so that it goes deep into the hidden sources of God’s water beneath me? What within me stores oxygen for those times when I feel flooded by the challenges both of my life and of our world and cannot find air to breathe?”
Three things come to mind that I do on a regular basis and you are probably sick and tired of me talking about them, though I feel we can never remind ourselves too often.
- Morning contemplative practices like breath prayers, and meditating on my contemplative garden. I never get tired of sitting in my sacred space in the early morning drinking in the presence of God in the stillness around me.
- My awe and wonder walks both around the garden and through the neighbourhood. Absorbing the beauty and wonder of God’s created world enables me to worship God with all my senses both growing deep roots and storing oxygen for those torrential rains.
- Regular retreats. Nothing is as soul renewing for me as the quarterly retreats that Tom and I take. Like most of us, I lead a busy life and the busyness alone can flood my soul with negative thoughts and emotions that dry me up inside. Without these retreats, I would not survive. Our last retreat to Anacortes was particularly renewing. Even though it rained most of the time, we still walked on the beach and around the town. The cold rainy wind was quite invigorating. (Check out this post to contemplate the wonder of rain).
I love to see the scriptures come to life as I examine them with real life examples from God’s created world to bring them into the real world, as I was able to do with Psalm 1 today. I love the imagery of a tree deeply rooted by a stream where it can grow down to the deep subterranean water sources. Whenever I see a red river gum on my trips to Australia, Psalm 1 comes to mind. It is such a wonderful connection that helps deepen my faith in surprising ways.
What about you? What have you seen, or heard, or touched or tasted this week that connects you to the imagery of the Psalms or other scriptures? In what ways has this experience strengthened your faith and your connection to God? How has it helped build resilience and adaptability in your life? What kinds of practices do you perform on a regular basis that encourage you to strengthen you faith in this way?
This week I am trying something different – I am sharing the meditation both as a video and as a written meditation. A few years ago when I created my Psalm 91 meditation garden and shared it as a video I asked if people would like to see more videos and the resounding answer was yes. I have not done as well at this as I hoped, and have mainly created short instagram reflection videos. Hopefully this year I can make these longer meditation videos a regular thing too. Please let me know what you think of it.
Want to experience more of the awe and wonder that God offers us? Check out the Gift of Wonder Online Retreat by Christine Sine. This retreat allows for 180 days of access for only $39.99 so you can move through the sessions at your own pace.