Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Tale of Three Trees

A Tale of Three Trees
(Revised by Denny Hartford)
And Performed by Quint and Carol Coppi and the Hartfords
in a Toy Theater, December 15 2008, for the Omaha Chesterton Society.

Once upon a time, in ancient Palestine it was, on a distant mountain top stood three little trees, dreaming of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

The first little tree looked up at the stars with a soaring heart and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'd love to be made into the most beautiful treasure chest in the whole world!"

The second little tree, bothered by being so fixed, gazed longingly at the stream bubbling by on its way to the ocean. "My dream is travel down mighty waters and across great oceans. I'd like to carry powerful kings. I'll be the strongest, greatest ship in the world!"

For his part, the third little tree looked down into the valley below and saw men and women hard at work in their fields and in the bustling little town nearby. They were so taken with everyday matters that they never looked up at the beauty on the hills, let alone the splendor of the sky beyond. The third tree said, "I never want to leave this lovely mountain top at all. I want to stay here, put down deep roots and grow so tall that the people will just have to notice me. And looking at me, their eyes will be drawn inevitably to heaven and think of God. Yes, my dream is to be the tallest tree in the world!"

Well, many years passed and the little trees did grow firm, and straight and tall. And one day they stood out so dramatically from the other trees on the hillside that three woodcutters who had climbed the mountain gave them their attention.

One large, rough woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is truly beautiful. It is just perfect for me." Then, without any more words, the man took a few well-aimed swings with his axe… CHOPPING…and the first tree fell. The tree could feel that its dream was about to come true. "Oh yes! Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest. I shall indeed hold wonderful treasure!"

The second woodsman looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is surely strong enough for me. I choose this one." He too reared back and swung his mighty axe...CHOPPING…and the second tree was down too. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall most certainly have my wishes realized and sail to the world's end as a royal man o' war!"

The third tree, the one whose dream was only to remain where it was where it could draw men's thoughts to God, was horrified when the last woodcutter looked its way. The man grumbled, almost under his breath, "Any kind of tree will do for me." And with a few blows of his axe...CHOPPING…even this, the tallest and most beautiful tree in the forest, fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought it to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree…SAWING AND NAILING…not into a treasure chest to hold jewels and coins but rather a homely feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not destined for expensive glory after all; and before long it was filled instead with dry hay for hungry farm animals to eat. So much for the dream.

The second tree had also felt high hopes when its woodcutter hauled it into a bustling shipyard. However, its fate was not to be part of a royal man o' war. No, its end was to be… SAWING AND NAILING…a rather small and quite simple fishing boat. Too small to ever be trusted on an ocean or river, the boat was taken to an inland lake and entered into a family fishing business. So much for the dream.

The third tree was deeply grieved to have been cut down at all. And it was confused and disoriented when it was taken to a lumberyard and roughly cut into heavy beams... SAWING…"What happened to my dream?" the once tall, stately tree wondered. "It was a good dream, even a righteous one for all I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point men and women to God."

Well, many more days and many more nights passed. So many that all three of the trees nearly forgot their dreams. But not completely. And that was a wonderful thing because one strange night, the first tree, the one that had been made into an animal's feeding trough felt golden star light pour over it as a young woman placed her newborn baby in its sturdy frame.

The tree heard the man accompanying the woman say, "I wish I could make a cradle for him." The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the uniquely wondrous starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful and strong. It is good." she said. And suddenly the first tree knew his dream had come true, more than he had ever imagined for not only was he holding the greatest treasure in the world; he was holding the greatest treasure of the world beyond!

The second tree? No, we haven't forgotten it. For one evening not too many years hence, the fishing boat it had been made into bore on the waters a tired traveler and his friends. The traveler, a man unlike all others the boat had ever carried, fell asleep as they quietly sailed out into the lake. But suddenly a thundering, thrashing storm arose and greatly troubled the waters. The little tree shuddered for it knew it didn't have the strength to bear so much weight in such a fierce storm. But just when the waters threatened to engulf the small boat, the tired traveler awakened, stood up, stretched out his hand and said, "Peace!" The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. Suddenly the second tree knew its dream had also been realized for it was carrying not just a king but the King of all Kings, the very King of heaven and earth!

And finally, one Friday morning in that ancient land of Palestine, the third tree from our story was startled when, after many years of despondent neglect, its rough-hewn beams were yanked from the wood pile of that lumberyard. It instinctively flinched as it was carried by cursing men through an angry, jeering crowd. It shook with fear and shame when soldiers cruelly nailed a man's hands to it….NAILING…It felt ugly and harsh and helpless. It heard the cries of the crowd about this man they called King of the Jews and heard the mocking of his prophecies of resurrection. The man suffered and bled and finally died upon her. The third tree was horrified at what it had been forced to do. So much for the dream.

But on that Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath it, the third tree somehow understood that God's love had changed everything and that the Man it had borne was exactly who it had suspected. And it gave the third tree peace and hope and the satisfaction that its dream had been realized beyond anything it could have ever imagined. For it knew that it was able to point the way to heaven after all and that from that time until time meant no more, whenever people looked at the cross that the third tree had been made into, they would indeed have their minds drawn to God. Yes; that was quite certainly better than being the tallest tree in the world.

And this ends the story of the Three Trees.