The Ugly Tree

Our new home is beautifully landscaped with an unending display of flowers, shrubs and trees. All my favorites are here: the Japanese maple, roses, daisies, petunias, snapdragons, flowering vines, iris, daffodils, several varieties of flowering ground cover, columbine, lilies and more I have yet to identify. The tapestry of texture and color is ever changing and breathtaking to behold. All except one.

On the corner of the house is a weeping evergreen which reminds me of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Well, perhaps a bit fuller than that as it at least has leaves, but it is still skimpy compared to the divine silver spruce in the back yard.

My husband and I began plotting this tree's demise the moment we bought the house and have been pouring over gardening books looking for a replacement. 

This morning, however, I've had a change of heart regarding this less than perfect tree. Well, let's say God changed my heart.

For reasons I cannot fathom, birds love this tree. I'm not sure what the attraction is as its branches are not full enough to offer much in the way of protection. There are many other trees in the neighborhood, of all shapes and sizes a virtual wonderland of foliage for feathered friends, and yet this thin little tree is one of their favorites. 

Every morning before the sky begins to lighten, this little tree holds a chorus of birds. Robins, sparrows and doves sing beside my office window.  Today I realized what would be lost if we cut down the ugly little tree. 

This time the usual moral about not judging on the basis of looks was not the lesson God intended. He had a deeper thought. I opened a new devotional on the art of contemplative prayer by Thomas Merton. He talks about the joy of prayer while in the midst of God's paradise, stilling all outside noise and listening only to His symphony - just like the one outside my window right now, a symphony for my heart, my mind and my senses.

These little carolers sing beside my window for several hours until the sun is well up and I am rushing onto the day's tasks. I think Merton and God are telling me there is always time to stop, to listen, to pray and slow life's hectic clock down for a time, and what better way than to contemplate and pray in union with sweetly sung praises for a new day.

It is the same in the evening. The chorus returns at night, singing another song of praise and thanksgiving. I can follow their example and do the same. As my readings from Merton's Book of Hours suggest, I too can find Paradise right here, right now, right outside my window and inside my heart.

While I can't say the little tree looks any more attractive from a visual point, it does have significant beauty when I look at it with my heart and not my eyes. The same can be said of others things in life. Our heart often sees the beauty beneath the unattractive, we just need to listen a little harder and not be so quick to judge and replace.


  1. Thomas Merton is a favorite author of mine. He had a gift for teaching us how to see with the eyes of our heart. Lovely post!

    1. Richard Rohr quotes him a great deal and a friend sent me about 5 of his books, which I am really enjoying. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  2. I am running into Merton's name on a constant basis lately. I have to get his books! I had to giggle a little at your post. I once wrote The Charlie Brown Tree. When we moved into this house, I begged hubs to chop down the silly looking spindle of a tree. And I asked and asked. Zip. Nada. No removal. Finally, I gave up and that pine tree is now about 50 tall! So I loved your post! :D

    1. Wow, The Charlie Brown Tree and the Ugly Tree, what a coincidence. Sounds like yours was only an ugly duckling. Mine won't get much taller or fuller. It's one of those new designer trees, a weeping evergreen. But, I sure love the birds! At this moment the chorus is in full swing, even though it is still dark. Hubby agreed, the tree stays. He loves the birds too. I am really enjoying Merton's books. A whole other way of looking at prayer and scripture reading. I highly recommend him. Blessings to you, Lynn.

  3. This is what I miss, because it speaks straight to my spirit and my soul. Your journey to have a home speaks hope to one who still can't buy one, the birds speaks to my soul also, because nature refreshes me. The like me, speaks to my spirit, God isn't finished with me yet, and even if I look bad, maybe I provide a place for birds to rest and sing. May I follow their example with praise.


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