Evidently, it was on April 10, 1872, when Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska of all places. From the Arbor Day Foundation:  

As pioneers began moving into the Nebraska Territory, the lack of trees was felt deeply. Not only did the new residents miss the trees they left behind, they were also left without the trees they needed as windbreaks to keep soil in place, for fuel and building materials, and for shade from the hot sun.

Nebraska newspaper editor — and resident of Nebraska City, NE — J. Sterling Morton had an enthusiasm for trees and advocated strongly for individuals and civic groups to plant them. Once he became secretary of the Nebraska Territory, he further spread his message of the value of trees. And on January 4, 1872, Morton first proposed a tree planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture.

The celebration date was set for April 10, 1872. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals for the largest number of properly planted trees on that day. It was estimated that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.

In due time, the commemoration was pushed to later in April in honor of Morton, who was born on April 22. Now, I’m sure I was taught all this in school at some point along the way, but had completely forgotten about…pretty much all of it. I know some seeds and trees were planted along the way, but Arbor Day was rather…boring for younger me.

Except, as the years went by, I began to realize how special some of the trees were down on the farm in my growing up years. There was that one massive tree by the side door and garage. It would always have a wide wooden swing hanging from one of its mighty arms. Family of all ages and sizes would sit there from time to time. The surrounding area beneath that taken-for-granted-part-of-the-Creation would always be the perfect shaded spot for the long-sought-after summer breeze (especially in our pre-A/C days).

There was also another tree in our center yard: a most precious apple tree. Us children did our fair share of climbing on that adventure plant, as well as our fair share of fruit-picking-upping. Unfortunately, there was one rather intense storm that took it down (but couldn’t take down the memories, of course).

Finally, there were those two towering pines out front. Although they were a nuisance to mow around (when I had to start doing that…lovely chore later in my youth), it’s as if they were our own natural pillars of strength, standing the test of time in spite of breath-taking summer lightning and thunder and rain combinations and everything-shut-down winter snowfalls. Through it all, they’re they stood (and still do), while also serving as almost the living welcome greeters to the rest of the farm, our own humble outpost of the beauty of the earth at work.

So, I suppose Arbor Day serves as a reminder that trees are more than just helpful in terms of oxygen production and clean air enhancement or whatever else in that environmental protection sense. They also serve as beautiful expressions of God, in their own heart-warming way. This God who will hold us throughout all our age and changes in body and mind along the way. This God who will encourage us to venture through all the grace and mercy and hope God has to offer us, while nudging us to share our own fruit of such love with the world. This God who will stand firm for us, no matter what happens in our own personal life or whatever else ensues throughout the entire universe. There’s something to be said about being a bit more attentive to the trees and all of Creation for that matter. God seemed to think it was worth caring for from the beginning, and God most certainly still does. After all, it remains one of the most wondrous connections we have with this God beyond our wildest imagination. Thanks be to God, indeed!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad

Feel free to visit the Arbor Day Foundation website: