Dead Trees

6 04 2011

The Great Smoky Mountains are beautiful. The horizon is painted with deepening bands of blue as the mountains frame the distance between sky and ground. The upper elevations still have snow and ice clinging to the crevices of the cliffs. The wind blows across the summit as visitors crowd to the edges of the overlook to take in the deep beauty of the mountains.

Trees cover the peaks. Each level of elevation plays host to different variations of vegetation, supporting ecosystems that nurture plant and animal life. As we crossed the Newfound Gap, it was the hemlock trees that caught my eye. Hemlocks are amazing trees. They are called “the redwoods of the east.” They seem to grow straight out of the rock, anchoring their roots in the craggy stone of the sides of the mountain. They look sturdy and strong, able to withstand the wind, rain, and snows that pelt the mountains.

Instead, the mountain was covered with dead trees. They hadn’t died in a winter storm. A fierce wind hadn’t been able to knock them over. They were dead because of an insect. A little bug, the hemlock woolly adelgid, has moved into the neighborhood and the results have been devastating. The insect injects the tree with toxins as it feeds on its sap. The toxin blocks the path of the nutrients through the tree, causing the needles of the hemlock to die. The trees literally starve to death because of a little bug.

If you were to take a guess, it would not seem like an insect no bigger than the end of your little finger could do any damage to a tree that can grow more than 150 feet tall. Yet today more than eighty percent of the hemlock trees are dead.

The hemlock trees remind us of a sobering truth. Sin works like the hemlock woolly adelgid. It seems small and harmless, yet attaches itself where we are most vulnerable. It can interrupt our connection to Christ, leaving us to slowly starve to death.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be on the lookout for little things that can have a big impact. I want to be aware that every choice has the potential to draw me closer to Jesus or open my heart to a little bit of sin’s toxins. It may not seem like much in the moment, but once the bug takes hold, it has the power to bring down even the mightiest tree.


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7 04 2011
Oleta Coleman

How very true, Casandra. We have seen complete mountain tops covered by dead pines in Northern New Mexico that was the result of a particular insect. We weap for the hemocks, we weap for the pines — but oh how much more should we weap for the dead and dying souls all around us. AND be ever vigilant that we ourselves are not already infested by our own particular variety of deadly sin. Thanks for pointing out that because of Jesus, we have a sure cure! Bless you and your work.

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