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Down by the Riverside


     When I was walking on the nature trail at Hudson Mills Metropark, I saw a sugar maple sapling bent over by a dead tree that had fallen across it. The slender trunk of the maple had been forced to arch all the way to the ground.
    Walking head down at the end of a rainy hike, I might have passed by without noticing. Except that the maple's yellow leaves shone brightly in the wet woods.
     I grabbed the end of the dead tree and heaved it off the sapling. The dead tree thumped on the ground. I shook the trunk of the sapling lightly, hoping to see the tree straighten. It sprung back some, but not all the way.
     It may be awhile before it stands straight again, I thought. If it does. This sapling may always bear the shape of having been bowed down.
     But then I noticed something else. The very tip of the tree turned at a right angle away from the bent-over trunk. I smiled. Though trapped under the weight of the log, the branches of the tree still reached for the light.
     The sight reminded me of the story of how Jesus healed the bent-over woman. Crippled for 18 years, she was, as Luke tells us, "quite unable to stand straight." When Jesus saw her in the synagogue, he called her over, even though men in that culture were not supposed to speak to women in public. Jesus said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." She stood up straight and began praising God. Jesus healed, and she spoke, despite objections from the ruler of the synagogue.
     Like that dead log on the sapling, many things may bow us over and weigh us down. Family conflicts. The memory of childhood abuse. Regret over years lost to addiction. The intransigence of racism.
     Yet I believe God is always at work to help us stand stall. Sometimes we experience God's love through someone who comes by and lifts the log.
     Today may you feel a weight released. Whatever your circumstance, may you shine in the wet woods. And may you always reach for the light.


"Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?" Luke 13:16 (NRSV)
Playlist: "I Am Light," India.Arie, SongVersation: Medicine, 2017

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