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Devotion: Roots

This devotion was shared by Zack Carlson, a first-year member of the National Lutheran Choir's bass section, before rehearsal on January 14, 2014. During this cold, dormant time of year, Zack invites his fellow singers to take time to reflect on their roots.

Growing up on a dairy farm in Northwest MN taught me to have a deep respect for Mother Nature and the fruit that it brings forth. I remember many occasions when my Grandpa would get upset with us for pulling branches off trees, or ripping leaves off of them if we didn’t need them. This instilled in me an even higher respect for trees and although they are dormant right now, we know that there is steady heartbeat beneath the wrinkled bark. As you examine a great Oak Tree, or a Weeping Willow, you can see tremendous roots breaking through the soil before they descend dozens of feet to anchor the trunk. These roots are what keep the tree alive. They nurtured it when it was just sapling, provided a strong foundation when storms would bear down on it, and ensured the tree would grow tall and strong.

Maybe we don’t have roots physically, but I’m confident that we have spiritual and family-based roots. New roots can manifest themselves in new friends, partners, communities, or even choirs. This ring that I have been wearing for 6 years now says, “Remember Me” in Hebrew. This means a lot of different things for me. It reminds me of where I come from in a geographical sense and how to remember the sunsets on the open prairie. It reminds me of the experiences I’ve had growing up in Northwest Minnesota, when I went to school in Iowa for two years, and Duluth for the last three. Even though I experienced a paradigm shift and am a completely different person (IV-I), I wear this ring to remember who I was before and how much growth has taken place. The idea of this ring keeps me grounded and reminds me of my roots.

For one of my projects for an Education Class I took last semester we were asked to write an “I am from” paper. We reflected on where we grew up and how the good and bad experiences shaped us. Three of mine read:

  1. I am from the Farm. This instilled in me a hardworking attitude and love for nature, animals, and hotdish. I will always call this ‘home’.

  2. I am from the Melo’s pew. Being raised in a country church in rural Minnesota called Melo Lutheran made me feel safe. Mother was the church musician and I learned to sing there.

  3. I am from the back row. I have been singing as long as I can remember and as a bass I sit/sing in the back row. This experience is likely to continue and has made me feel like a part of something bigger. The sum of all singers is greater than the voice of one.

Where are you from? If you had to jot down three places or experiences that have shaped you what would they be? We come from good and bad experiences and they are equally significant to we grow. It is my Scandinavian instinct that tells me to ignore the not-so-good things, but I must resist that temptation. Without darkness we cannot experience light and without light we cannot experience darkness. As we journey through January I’d like to encourage you to think about where you are from. Take a few minutes on your walk into work, or when you’re brushing your teeth tonight to take a moment to reflect on what and who your roots are.

     “Again, again, we come and go,

     changed, changing. Hands

     join, unjoin in love and fear,

     grief and joy. The circles turn

     each giving into each, into all.”

                              –Wendell Berry