Ancient Trees and Ancient Stars

We’d been to the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains before. Mike, David and I took a rough, dirt road into the National Forest, straight up a steep mountain. We walked the Patriarch Grove at 11,000 feet marveling at the stark beauty. Some of the trees in that grove are over 3,000 years old. It is humbling to stand next to something that old that is living.

That night in the campground, an amateur astronomist had his telescopes out. He let us look through the big one at three amazing sites: an expanding star, the Ring Nebula (an exploding star) and the shock wave of a super nova, the Veil Nebula, which also happens to be in our Milky way galaxy. All three of these “events” happened thousands of years ago, maybe even when the ancient Bristlecone pine trees were seedlings.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands:” Psalm 8

As people, we tend to feed ourselves on the stuff that maintains our sense of superiority more than our sense of humility. As people of faith, however, we are mindful of our place in the cosmos, reminded we are in a place of privilege and responsibility, not of our own cleverness, but because of God’s generosity.

Regular reminders of this privilege and responsibility keep us humble. Standing by a tree that has lived longer than numerous civilizations and looking at the evidence of ancient cosmic power were two powerful reminders to me of my place in God’s vast creation. How blessed am I to bear witness to the wild vitality of God’s creative power.

Jeff, the astronomist, was kind enough to give us this photo, among others. He stayes up most of the night and morning to record images from space. You can find more of his images at


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