Under the Oak

The Woods by Lake Valentine at Bethel
The Woods by Lake Valentine at Bethel

A couple weeks ago my sermon got pretty personal. I shared honestly about my feeling distant from God, a bit “cold” in my faith,  and in need of rekindling. I shared how I retreated from my routine to a sacred place in my life — an old oak tree back in the woods at Bethel Seminary on Lake Valentine. I jokingly referenced a poem I wrote about that place back in my college days when God met me there like a burning bush so many years ago. (You can listen to sermon entitled “Smoke Signals & Burning Bushes” here.)

Well, in case you want to journey back into my past, I wrote a journal entry about that day as a kid just out of college trying to find his way in this world, and seeking God in a moment of despair. My journal entry includes the poem I wrote about that sacred place. What a treasure to have journaled a bit during those days. Enjoy!

April 1, 2003

Not much fooling around on this April Fools Day.  I awoke in an uneasy spirit of discontentment.  Feeling the purposelessness of my life right now.  I am 23, blessed with an expensive college education, gifted with knowledge and abilities to succeed, but lacking the drive and courage to compete in this rat race world of “survival of the fittest.”  I feel worthless with my huge debt of college loans and no steady income to show for my education.  I am trying to substitute teach but receiving no calls the past few days.  I can’t afford NOT to work.  Flustered and emotionally disheartened by the last conversation with [a girl], I am just not happy.  

So, today I truly RAN TO GOD!  I left home and drove to Bethel and after taking care of some application procedures for Luther Seminary, I wandered off into the grassy hills and lakeside oak trees and found myself under a tree seeking the arms of a loving and compassionate God.  Many times I have wandered through these trails alongside Lake Valentine and felt the warm embrace of God.  I knew I would find peace and comfort there.  

Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of a crazy, ruthless world, I found hope and reassurance in signs of another springtime in the making — my own springtime of the soul.  Birds chirped, geese fluttered about in the freshly thawed waters, and the grass showed its brown complexion from several months buried beneath the suffocating snow.  In this place of comfort I let my mind wander and attempted to jot down some thoughts as they came to mind.  Upon my scrap of paper, this is what appeared:

Here again I sit where I feel most free, 

Down by the Lake under the old oak tree. 

The gentle breeze reminds me of You.


Nature’s steady course shows me you still care,

With the turning of the season,

new beginnings fill the air.

The grass lies dormant and flattened by winter’s peril,

Just as my soul feels so dead and so sterile.

As surely as the grass knows of April’s life giving showers,

My soul knows You will come and make my frozen heart flower.

The many storms and winters this old oak has seen,

Yet no doubt plagues its consciousness it would seem.

It has come to trust the lessons of the past,

That life has a meaning and God’s good purposes come to pass.


Until every flower blooms and morning bird sings 

the Song of the Lamb, the Song of the Redeemed,

All creation joins together in glad expectation,

to see all things new, a sinless creation!


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