The pine trees shade the walk as I step out of the courthouse, the fragrance from the needles amplified by the heat of the day. A short walk down the alley to the library and I’m now beneath the palm trees with their green fronds far overhead, lying still in the noon air.
This is life in California. Long-needled pines and stately palms grow side by side with lawns and roses and chaparral and ivy beneath, depending on the mood of the gardener.
Then there is the abundance of fresh produce: more types of berries than I can count, stone fruit of almost infinite varieties, squashes and row crops and orchards of nuts and citrus. Dairy and poultry and cattle and sheep and all manner of animal growing around me wherever I look.
And the seafood! I can’t tell you how many types of fresh seafood we are blessed with here, but I can tell you that I ate my share and then some as I grew up in California. Dungeness crab, goose neck clams, salmon and sturgeon, halibut and cod and abalone for crying out loud! I grew up along that wonderful coast and ate my fill.
Speaking of the coast, the natural beauty of California is a wonder. I spent day after day on my bike riding up and down the miles of coastline that stretch my hometown along the Pacific. We’d take visitors on short cruise rides on San Francisco Bay. Yosemite Valley and the Sierra peaks, Death Valley and the Mojave Desert, we spent time in them all plus the active volcano that is Mt. Lassen, and the rushing rivers sweeping down the mountainsides, and the seemingly endless miles of oak woodlands that stretch along the foothills that run almost the entire length of the state.
I took all this for granted when I was little. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate it and enjoy it, because I did. It’s just that I thought everyone lived like this. It turns out they don’t.
An Abundance of Creation
My walk under the palms and pines at lunch today got me thinking about God’s creation, especially the new creation.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2.)
The flowing river nurtures the tree, a tree abundant with life, so abundant that its very leaves are for healing. This tree with its unending fruit grows in the midst of a city full of God’s wondrous creative beauty:
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:10-11.)
A high and majestic mountain, a city that shines clear as crystal with the glory of God, a river – again clear as crystal – that flows from the throne of God and feeds the tree that heals and feeds forever. This is a scene that makes all the wonders of my home state fade into the background.
Which brings me back to my childhood thought: can everyone live this way, can everyone look forward to an eternity in this new creation? In Jesus they can, whether they grew up in California or not.
It’s clear as crystal.