A couple of weeks ago I walked through an area of ancient Caledonian forest. I generally love trees, but for me there is something extraordinarily special about visiting an ancient Scots pine woodland, especially when the sun brings out the wonderful colours of the bark.

Thin soil

Walking in this woodland was not easy because the roots of these trees, which can grow to 35m in height, are exposed on the surface of the ground. The soil is so shallow that rather than roots going deep to give stability, strength, and nutrients, the roots spread out laterally near or on the surface. So, why don’t these trees just blow over in the near hurricane winds they face every year?

Anchors & Interconnections

I’m not an arboriculturist, but it seems to me there are two reasons: anchors and interconnections. The thin soil is full of rocks and boulders, but rather than stop the trees from growing these rocks form anchor points for the roots to wrap around and fix themselves to. The other thing the roots do, to gain stability and strength, is the roots of one tree interconnect with the roots of the surrounding trees. By weaving their roots together in this way, the trees quite literally provide support to each other.

Life in thin soil

Life in general, but particularly during these COVID months, can feel like being planted in thin, shallow soil. Moreover, like the beautiful Scots pine we are buffeted by the strong winds of life – loss, sadness, injustices, loneliness, anxiety, and so the list could go on. However, just as the environment in which the Scots pine helps create and shape its beauty, so lives of beauty …lives full of joy are shaped by the winds the buffet us and the soil in which we grow.


On Sunday we are going to think about joy as a rock to which our roots can anchor. We will also think about how it interconnects with other emotions to form a web of roots so that even when we are planted in thin, rocky soil, we grow and flourish. Joy not as contrived happiness, nor as putting a brave face on life’s trails, but joy that is so substantive it allows us to live honestly and courageously in an unpredictable world that constantly throws new challenges at us.

Luke 10:21 – 23

To help us think about joy we will read and reflect upon Luke 10:21 – 23 where Jesus is described as “full of joy through the Holy Spirit”. Why don’t you, in preparation for Sunday, read this passage and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you and also to fill you with joy as Jesus was filled with joy?

You might also find it helpful to think about the following questions:

  1. Happiness is good and so is joy, but what makes joy different from happiness?
  2. Our feelings give us important information, so what does joy tell us?

Looking forward to being with you on Sunday.