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“Leaning Trees” from Deep Roots

A word from Curt

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It’s the truth: with God, the best is always yet to come.

That doesn’t mean life gets easier.

Aging normally means life becomes more difficult.

That can be, and often is, true.

But as our Jesus-Walk deepens,

The way is sweeter.

And beyond this life, we have a Hope.

A Hope that is steadfast and sure.

 

 

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Leaning Trees

“When I observe a young person I experience two strong emotions. First, I feel great affection for the young person they are. Then secondly, I feel a deep respect for the adult they will one day become.”

-Louis Pasteur

 

On the morning before Hurricane Rita arrived, I made one last survey of my tree farm. Sadly, I knew it would never look the same.

In our part of Louisiana, there are thousands of acres of pine tree plantations, or tree farms. Grown in rows for future harvesting, they are the backbone of our economy. Most tree farms are large and owned by forestry companies. Others, like mine, are small and owned by private landowners.

I’d pampered my fifteen acres of slash pines since their planting seven years prior. I’d bushogged among them, killed the invading tallow trees, and faithfully plowed around the perimeter yearly protecting them from fire.

My fear had always been damage from a storm. Slash pines grow fast and make good trees but have a weakness at a young age if they encounter an ice storm or hurricane. They were at the most vulnerable age, and I worried that many would not survive.

The storm arrived during the night. At our Church Camp we were so busy with three hundred evacuees that I didn’t have time to worry about my trees. Our guests were a blend of Katrina evacuees and coastal residents who had fled this new storm. This night together was long, memorable, and one I hope never to repeat.

Daylight on Saturday revealed unbelievable damage on the campgrounds. Trees were broken and splintered and electrical lines were down everywhere. Finally, the wind subsided and it was safe enough to drive home.

A lump was in my throat as I approached our house. The smallest pines were in the front section of my tree farm. These three-year-old trees were about six-feet high. Many are bent over, leaning toward the northwest giving testimony about the ferocity of the hurricane that battered Dry Creek during the night.

Happily, the larger rows of trees in the back field have come through the storm well. Some are leaning and others are broken off wherever there was a weak spot, but overall they are fine. However, my smaller trees look beyond help and I begin mentally planning on cutting them and starting over on this section.

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Two weeks after the hurricane, State Forester Paul Frey spoke in DeRidder. His words, quoted in the Beauregard Daily News, caught my attention:

“I urge you timber owners not to give up on trees that may be leaning but are still firmly rooted. Don’t give up on them. From previous history and previous experience, they will eventually straighten back out. Don’t give up on eighteen years of growth and lose the investment you’ve made.”

His words echo in my heart. “Eighteen years … of growth … don’t give up … and lose that investment … they will straighten up if that root system is firm and rooted.”

Suddenly, I’m not thinking about pine trees and hurricanes. I’m thinking about teenagers. I’ve worked with young people all of my adult life, first as a teacher and coach, later as a school principal, and then as administrator of a church youth camp,

I’ve seen my share of leaning teens, I mean trees . . . no, I really do mean leaning teens. The teenage years are difficult years for a young person as well as those around them, especially parents. Many times, just like my wind-ravaged pines, they lean badly and seem damaged beyond recovery.

But teens, like trees, are resilient, especially if their root system is firm, deep, and strong. Don’t give up on them. There’s a lot of future growth and good return ahead.

Here’s a word for any discouraged parents: Don’t give up on a leaning teenager. Just help ensure their root system is strong and firm.

Look down the road to the future—don’t count them off as a loss and lose your “future investment.” I’ve seen it many times—leaning teens later becoming strong and secure adults.

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land of the pines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of leaning teens, Vance comes to mind. Now, Vance was never a bad teenager, but he did lean some during his high school years. I was his basketball coach and he will always be one of my favorite players. His play on the court was signified by passion, a slashing style of play that was sometimes reckless, but always joyful to watch.

That passion was reflected in his personal life. In addition to his athleticism, Vance was, and is, a master musician. He has a rich baritone country voice and guitar playing style that touches anyone who hears him.

In his years after high school, his music led him to play in the honky-tonks and bars, where his style and songs made him popular. Vance would be the first in admitting he did some leaning away from the Lord during these years. Then, just like my young pines, he began a straightening process.

Not an overnight change, but a gradual, steady, and lasting course correction from the Lord. A process of becoming the man he is now.

The only leaning Vance does now is leaning over during church and saying to the other musicians, “The key of G on the next song.” Every Sunday he is on stage using his marvelous gift for God’s glory.

Sitting at my drums listening to the heavenly guitar playing coming from Vance’s fingers, I’m hearing living proof of the importance of not giving up on leaning teenagers.

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In the weeks after the hurricane, I studied my bent pines. Amazingly, most of them slowly but steadily began straightening up. Time, patience, and the wonderful combination of nature, sunlight, rain, and nutrition made the difference as they once again reached for the sky.

A few pines are broken and will need cutting. Others will always have a lean, but that’s O.K. They will serve as “testimony trees.” Driving by my tree farm, fathers will say to their children, “When I was a boy, Hurricane Rita came through here. That tall slash pine there is now about forty-years-old. It was small when the storm hit and still has a slight lean—Rita did that. Yep, that was one bad storm.”

 

Lessons from my tree farm.

The many lessons from a storm,

from a destructive hurricane named Rita:

The strong firm foundational lesson

of not giving up on leaning trees.

 

Train up a child in the way he should go,

and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

-Proverbs 22:6 KJV

 

 “Leaning Trees” is from our eleventh book, Deep Roots.

Deep Roots contains short stories that inspire, encourage, and inform
Deep Roots contains short stories that inspire, encourage, and inform

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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