by Matt Schur

We call them Larry One and Larry Two. 

Two trees. Oak trees. Chinquapin Oak trees. 

My wife Karin and I bought these two trees in 2006 and 2007 at the Lutheran Center Wood Auction. They were tiny saplings then, and had been carefully and meticulously hand planted and grown by Bud Dasenbrock, using acorns he had hand-picked from another tree. 

To say that Bud was a green thumb is an understatement. For many years, he was the director of landscape services at UNL, overseeing all aspects of tending the grounds both on City Campus and East Campus. I remember talking with Bud after Karin and I had bought that first Chinquapin Oak at the Wood Auction. We had started discussing the logistics of getting it planted in my yard, but eventually the conversation turned theological. 

Bud told me that for him, caring for plants was a spiritual practice. He mentioned the creation story in Genesis, where God tells humankind to tend the garden, and later to be stewards of all creation. He also said that gardening reminded him of how Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches, as well as all of the ways Jesus used plants and growth as part of his parables and teachings. The trees themselves were donated in memory of Rev. Larry Meyer, a former pastor at The Lutheran Center, and Bud told me with a twinkle in his eye that he had chosen that specific type of tree for a reason. It wasn’t just any old tree and not even any old oak tree. 

“Not many people would know this,” he told me, “but the scientific name for the Chinquapin Oak is Quercus muehlenbergii. It was named after Muhlenberg, a German Lutheran pastor from Pennsylvania. Since Pastor Larry was German, a pastor, and stubborn like an oak tree, I thought it would be perfect.”

He was right, of course. 

This past week, like many others who knew him, I was shocked and saddened when I heard that Bud Dasenbrock had died. That afternoon, I looked out my back window at the trees he had donated to the Lutheran Center Wood Auction, remembered our conversation from 14 years ago, and gave thanks for Bud’s legacy of gentle generosity.

I remembered how tiny those trees were when I first got them. Skinny. Just a few leaves. Now they’re as tall as my two-story house. They shade our back deck in the summer, their branches provide homes for birds, and the acorns provide food for squirrels. And I remembered another parable Jesus told that involved plants and growth. 

Jesus once compared God’s reign to a mustard seed that begins small but grows into a great tree. Isn’t that how generosity is, too? Whether it’s our financial resources, our talents, our time or energy, our compassion … whatever small seed that we have to give for the sake of others, God makes it holy, sets it apart, tends it, and makes it grow. Our acts of giving often grow far beyond our ability to see their effects — their ripples travel far beyond ourselves, and often grow far bigger than we could ever imagine. I get the chance every day to see two very tangible illustrations of God’s work through generosity. Two chinquapin oak trees. 

We call them Larry One and Larry Two.

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