Pru- wot? What’s with the Latin gobbledegook? Why have I raised the name Almondtree as my banner? It is meaningful to me because of this conversation:

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The word of Yahweh came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

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“Ah, Sovereign Yahweh,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But Yahweh said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares Yahweh.

Then Yahweh reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to build and to plant.”

The word of Yahweh came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

Yahweh said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

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It’s the start of the life-story of Jeremiah. Once when I was a teenager I read this and God spoke to me powerfully through it. He was saying he wanted me to speak to the world. I see this blog as part of my home church’s tagline: living the word in the world.

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The almond tree reminds me of God’s plan for my life. In the original Hebrew, God’s making a play on words. Shaqed שָׁקֵד means almond tree and shoqed שֹׁקֵד means watching. Ho ho.

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As for the binomial nomenclature, Prunus dulcis is the scientific name for the almond tree. The genus prunus includes almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums. Indeed the Latin prūnum comes from the Greek προῦνον prounon, or plum. Plums evoke for me a great book I read as a child, called Dudley in a Jam.

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All this fruitiness reminds me of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Bitter almonds

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The words almond and tree have several resonances for me:

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Almond-

The almond tree is small, deciduous and native to the Middle East. There’s a small one in my garden at home. The eye-shaped fruit looks like a nut but is actually a drupe. There are two kinds: sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Both are edible. Sweet almonds can be used to make marzipan and amaretti. Bitter almonds can be used to make cyanide.

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To the Chinese almonds symbolise enduring sadness and female beauty. In India, almonds are meant to be good for the brain. A good source of yummy protein and unsaturates, almonds lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. They’ve also got plenty of sensible body- constructing doodahs like vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium and phosporus. You can scoff them and not get fat.

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Among the Hebrews, the almond was a symbol of watchfulness and promise due to its early flowering in spring. It was a warning that God’s judgment is coming. The menorah, that rococo candelabrum with seven branches that is the emblem of Judaism, was modelled in gold with candle cups like almond blossoms. It represented the burning bush where Moses spoke with Yahweh.

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Christian symbolism often uses almond branches as a symbol of the virgin birth of Jesus; paintings often include almonds encircling the baby Jesus and as a symbol of Mary. In the Bible, Aaron is chosen among the other tribes of Israel by a rod that brought forth almond flowers.

The Italian word mandorla (almond) is used in art to describe the lens-shaped aureola drawn around Christ. This bright frame represents his glory or the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is drawn with a vesica pisces, the mathematically-interesting overlap between two intersecting circles of equal radius.

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The Greek for ‘almond’ or ‘tonsil’ is the root of the word amygdala. Amygdalae are almond-shaped basal ganglia in the medial temporal lobes of the brains of complex vertebrates. There are four in each cerebral hemisphere. They are part of the limbic system. They are a blob of grey matter in the roof of the lateral ventricle of the brain. They’re involved in the processing and memory of emotional reactions, especially anger and fear.

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Trees are plant royalty. They are long-lived. They stand like men with their arms raised to heaven. Trees know that to get big, their roots must be strong. They need sunlight, water, air and soil. There’s a parable in there somewhere. Trees hold together an ecosystem, producing oxygen and absorbing CO2. They harbour animal life on and around them.

Dendrites

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Trees feed, they clothe, they shelter. They give fuel. They add colour, movement, shade and seasonal change to a window’s view. They have lots of children, multiplying themselves. Like most people, they wrinkle and widen with age.

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The Greek word for tree, dendron, gives us dendrites, tree-like projections of the neuron. The arbor vitae (Latin for tree of life) is the cerebellar white matter, so-called for its branched appearance. It brings sensory and motor information to and from the cerebellum.

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‘Tree’ denotes ‘family tree’, that cascade of individuals whose histories link to and produce my own. Eventually all people, all life is in my family tree, going back to God.

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On the third day, God made trees. On the sixth day, God gave the trees for food to the animals. In the garden of Eden, God made all kinds of beautiful, edible trees grow. He planted in the middle of the garden the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. People were free to eat from any tree in the garden, except the latter.

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Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a miniscule mustard seed, which when planted grows to become the largest tree in the garden. He says every tree that doesn’t bear fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. He says every branch that does bear fruit will be pruned so that it will be even more fruitful, as long as that branch remains in him.

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Post-Pentecost, Peter spoke boldly of Jesus, saying, “They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen…”

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Describing his vision of the new Jerusalem, John said, “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.”

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That’s the thinking behind Almondtree. Welcome. I’m blogging about: stories, science, news, books, film, politics, space, culture, history, F1, spirituality and people.

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