Captured by Seaweed

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Reference: Jonah 2:5

The story of Jonah is about disobedience and redemption. Most children know that Jonah disobeyed God when God told him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to the city. Jonah didn’t want to go there, so he got on a ship bound for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Jonah believed that if he left the land of the Israelites, he could escape God.

A huge storm occurred in the Mediterranean Sea. Even the experienced sailors were frightened. They decided to cast lots to see who had disobeyed their god and brought the storm on them. The lot fell to Jonah. He admitted that he was disobeying God and recommended that the sailors throw him overboard. Reluctantly, the ship’s sailors threw Jonah overboard. Once Jonah was off the ship, the storm abated, and the ship proceeded on its way.

A large fish swallowed Jonah. Jonah’s prayed and called out to God while he was in the belly of the giant fish. Later Jonah wrote about the experience (Jonah chapter 2) so we read what happened to him and what he thought. Jonah described how the sea waters closed over him and sea weeds wrapped around his head.  Jonah noted that he was at the roots of the mountains in the ocean suggesting that he fell to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.  Jonah remained in the belly of the fish three days. Then, the fish vomited up Jonah onto dry land. (Ugh, I bet he was slimy). The land was on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, not all that far from Nineveh. When Jonah went to Nineveh and preached repentance, the Ninevehites repented.

Sea Weed

The Bible referenced seaweed only once (Jonah 2:5, NIV). Although the New International Version translated the plant that wrapped around Jonah’s head as seaweed, other sources translated it as “weed” (ESV) or as “eelgrass” (Douglas & Tenney, 2011). I have a problem with the translation of eelgrass because eelgrass is generally confined to tidal water and grows out to a water depth of 35 feet.  A close reading of Jonah chapter 1 suggested that the ship Jonah was on was away from land and out into the Mediterranean Sea when the storm hit.

My research indicates that the seaweed referred to by Jonah may have been the Macrocystis pyrifera also known as brown seaweed. It is a marine alga and known as the Sequoia of the sea because it can grow 45 meters (about 147 foot) in length.  It grows in the Mediterranean Sea. The stalks are thin and readily float through the waters. It could have easily wrapped around Jonah’s neck. Currently, it is eaten as a good source of minerals.

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Symbolism:  Captured

Perhaps the type of plant is not as important as what it symbolized. The sea weed captured Jonah. Capture means catching, winning, or gaining control by force. Capture is exactly what the seaweed did to Jonah. He was captured so that the giant fish could swallow him.

I have been captured, or caught, by Christ and I am so glad. Now, I have to stop struggling and let God control my life.  The problem, or perhaps not so much a problem, is that God won’t control me by force. Bummer, I wish God would just “make” me do the right things. But, He doesn’t operate that way. I have to willingly give my life to Him.  That is really difficult for me to do because I have been used to controlling my own life and future.  You know:  “I am a self- made woman.” “I can do it myself.”

Reflection: What about you? Are you willing to let God capture you? Will you willing and totally yield to God?

Copyright: January 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for other information: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Hand Me Downs

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Initially I was just going to post this cartoon by Dave Coverly. I felt sorry for Cain having to wear only a fig leaf apron. Then I got to thinking about “hand me downs.” Most of us — at least in my generation — wore hand me downs from siblings, cousins, or friends. Looking backward, that doesn’t seem optimal because it meant we were too poor to buy clothes. That was definitely true for my family — we were major poor.

But, now the idea of “hand me downs” doesn’t see all that bad. I love hand me downs in that I love the traditions that came from the apostles. Those traditions which were handed down in the New Testament church are for real. No wrapping an idea up in 21st century political correctness but the reality of Christ’s birth, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Reflection: Let’s give a shout out to the church traditions handed down from the apostles.

Copyright: January 10, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

If would want to learn more about plants in the Bible check my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

 

 

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Growing Faith

St. John Lutheran Grows Faith Through Bible Garden

From: Roanoke Star newspaper

Flowers and Verse
Flowers and Verse

Over 125 plants are named in the Bible; however, most individuals have little idea what they are, what they mean, and how they were used by ancient peoples. Last year St. John Lutheran Church started a garden designed to showcase Bible plants. Currently, the church Bible garden includes about 70 plants such as the rose of Sharon, fig tree, black mustard, and lily.

The garden is the brain child of Bruce and Carolyn Roth. Both Bruce and Carolyn are Roanoke Tree Stewards and Carolyn is a Virginia Master Gardener. They spend about two hours each morning tending the garden.

According to Mark Graham, senior pastor at St. John, “The Bible Garden helps people connect the beauty of God’s Word to the beauty of His work of creation. It’s become one of the most appreciated and enjoyed features on our church grounds.”

Each Bible garden plant is labeled with its name and one reference where the plant is identified in the Bible. The Bible verse promotes connections with God’s creation and his written Word.

St. John children’s ministers, Dale and Rosalind Stanley, are enthusiastic about the garden. Dale said,  “This garden brings to life what was once merely words on a page and creates connections not only between the plants in the Bible and in the soil, but the promises from the Book to each child himself or herself.”

Carolyn and Bruce hope to expand the number of garden plants. They completed two trips to Israel and Jordan to study plants that grow there. In one visit, they stayed on a frontier kibbutz in Israel’s Negev Desert and consulted with a botanist at Ben Gruion University. The Roth’s admit that finding Bible plants that grow in the Roanoke Valley is a challenge. At times they use the American plant that best corresponds to the one that grows in the Middle East.

The Bible garden at St. John church is the only known Bible garden in southwestern Virginia. Jim Forney, president of St. John Council, noted that the Council supports the garden because it is both a witness to the Lord’s handiwork and spiritually enriches church members.

St. John Church welcomes visitors who want to view plants. The church address is 4608 Brambleton Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24018. No appointment is necessary; however, if visitors want personalized tours, they should contact the church office (540-774-0712) to schedule a time.  Parishioners are available to give talks on Bible gardens and plants to churches and civic groups.

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Jerusalem artichokes

39484220 - jerusalem artichoke, helianthus tuberosus, sunroot, sunchoke, perennial herb with elongated tobers, green alternate leaves and yellow terminal heads, tubers used as root vegetable

39484220 – jerusalem artichoke, helianthus tuberosus,

Adapted from Mortal Tree

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), we call them Sunchokes,  are not so much a stable ground cover as masterful bed builders. They don’t just block, but obliterate grass lawn, taking the place of bed building mulch  if handled correctly.

Its home is the American prairie, where it stretches for sun among massive grasses and other very competitive plants. Placing it in the standard lawn, full of short European grass species, or even an overgrown field is like releasing a saber tooth tiger into a playpen with modern house cats. It’s a brute.

It begins by pumping nutrients from deep in the soil to power billowing clouds of leaves rambling up sometimes 15ft tall stems. Every year it sends out runners. To unleash the beast, get a bucket of the tubers in fall, and with a shovel, make little slits in the ground about one foot apart, inserting the tubers deep enough they aren’t exposed, and walk away. The days of the nearby plant residents are now numbered.

28174029 - topinambour helianthus tuberosus plants

Jerusalem Artichoke sprouts

Don’t worry next spring when the tubers don’t sprout early. Jerusalem artichokes don’t like frost, and wait until late in the spring to pop up their furry little heads. I have planted these into completely unamended yards where lawn grass wasn’t even happy, but the ‘chokes still grew well. Later, in a very dry year, Jerusalem artichokes were the lushest plant in my food forest to feed my rabbit. She liked them, so I would snap off the growing tips, let the plants branch off to the side, and snap of the side branches to make rabbit happy. I started this when the plants were about 5ft tall, leaving about 4ft stems that in turn could return their nutrients to the tubers. Nevertheless the plants that normally topped ten foot came up the next year anemic, and dwarfed, barely reaching three feet.

35172408 - jerusalem artichoke flower in garden

Symbolism

As I read my friends description of Jerusalem artichokes, my reaction is that they were hearty – lived over the winter, produced when it was hot and dry.  I stay alive in cold, blustery times by hunkering down; it is like I go into hibernation. But in my hibernation, I don’t read my Bible, meditate, or pray. Usually, I watch television or read novels – not really the way to get through a rough patch is it? To paraphrase St. Paul, I do things that I don’t want to do and neglect those I should be doing. Oh wretched me, who will save me from myself?  The answer is Christ, Christ will save us from our self.

Reflection: When life is cold, tough, overwhelming and miserable, spend only 5 minutes a day not just emoting to God, but praying for His intervention in your life.

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Beauty in Aloneness

flowing-creek-jim-forney

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, – Matthew 14:23 (NIV)

Jesus was always connecting to his heavenly Father in prayer. The gospel accounts record that he would often be found in a lonely place praying. The pattern is pretty clear—Jesus found renewal in prayer. As Christians, why would we think any differently? We are quick to do bible studies—even studies on prayer—but do we pray? To walk in the ways of Jesus is to seek God in prayer (David Whitehead).

Reflection: If Christ needed time alone with his father, surely we do also.

Another photograph by Jim Forney.

January 5, 2016

Sourwood Tree

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The sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboretum) is native to North America. It is one of our endemic trees that is not found on other continents unless planted. The tree has no related species. A medium-sized tree, the sourwood thrives in hardiness zones 5–9. This tree shines in summer and fall. Its midsummer flowers appear like lilies-of-the-valley, are highly fragrant, and contrast nicely against the green foliage. Then in the fall, leaves turn beautiful shades of brilliant crimson, purplish-red and sometimes yellow. And its flowers are a favorite of pollinators for honey production.

Something sour turns our stomach. Often children spit sour food out of their mouth with an “ugh.”  Although the wages of sin are often sour, accepting and following God — the real true God — is not sour.  When I was a pre-teen, I believed that Christians had no fun and their lives were sour and dour. Wow, was I ever wrong. As a more mature Christian, I know that living with and for Christ makes me radiant and joyful, not sour.

Reflection: If you are a sour, dour Christian, rethink your relationship with Christ. Consider that it might not be as right as you think it is.

Copyright December 22, 2016: Carolyn A. Roth

Check my website at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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Attention-grabbing cabbages

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For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior,.– Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)

 The supernatural outcome of seeing the power of the cross is an eagerness to do good works. We are not doing things to get God’s attention; we serve others because we HAVE God’s attention. That attention unleashes God’s grace to us that sets us on a path toward restoration and redeeming the world around us. In other words, grace will produce faith, and our faith will be seen by what we do for the betterment of those around us (David Whitehead).

Ornamental Cabbage (of all things!)

It is the middle of December and in the mountains of Virginia, very few plants  bloom. Those which do, get our attention. For the past several years, I’ve planted ornamental cabbages in the fall. They are early winter hardy and give interest to a winter garden. This year I added about 5 to our Church Bible garden. As the cold weather increases, the  tops become a more vibrant purple.

Application

As cold — stress, persecution, health problems — occur in my life, my thoughts turn to a cabbage. Under cold weather, I can die off like my zinnia blossoms or even go into hibernation like my primrose. Or I can show a more vibrant color to the world.

Cognitively, I know which option I prefer — to become more vibrant. To evidence more love and more understanding, just as Christ did under the severest stress. The only way for me to be more vibrant — like the cabbage top — is to spend time with Christ every day in my devotions.

Reflection: What helps you be become or stay vibrant? Are you getting attention from others for the right reasons?

Copyright December 16, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth, updated November 27, 2016

Please visit my website to learn about other Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Poinsettia, Symbol of Purity

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The Poinsettia is known as a Christmas flower, but it didn’t grow in Judea at the time of Christ’s birth. Poinsettia is native to Mexico where it was a symbol of purity to Aztec Indians. Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the flower into the United States. While Ambassador to Mexico, he had poinsettia sent to his home in Greenville, SC. He distributed the flower to botanical gardens and to friends interested in horticulture.

Today, poinsettias occur in different colors, e.g., red, pink, white. There are mini poinsettias to large specimen tree-size poinsettia. Their stems are woody and they tend to quickly drop flower petals.  The poinsettia is not only the most popular Christmas flower, but the number one flowering potted plant in the United States. My brother had a poinsettia for about 7 years. Every year it blooms around Christmas. He started to decorate it like a Christmas tree.

Every Christmas, members of my Church can donate a poinsettia to decorate the altar.  I suppose the reason is the beautiful color of the plant — I’ve never heard any discussion about the flower being symbolic of purity.  In the future when I see a poinsettia at  the  church altar, I am going to think about the purity of the Christ child who came to earth.

Reflection: If you receive a poinsettia for Christmas, enjoy it and don’t forget to think about ways you can be a pure light in a darkening world.

Copyright: December 17, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website to learn about other Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Not So Christmas tree

Cedar of Lebanon from Noet Kedumin, Israel, 2012

This particular specimen of cedar tree is in the Biblical Landscape Preserve in Israel.

When I think of Christmas, I imagine a cedar tree. In the Bible, the cedar had nothing to do with Christmas. Rather, its wood was used by King in the Temple (1 Kings Chapter 5-7 and 2 Chronicles chapter 2-4).

In the fourth year (960 B.C.) of Solomon’s reign as king over a combined Israel and Judah, he started to build a Temple to God.  Several types of wood were used in the temple construction, e.g., cedar, pine, algum, and olive.  The temple was decorated with plant motifs, e.g., pomegranates, lilies, palm trees, and gourds.   The outside of the Temple was made of stone; however, the interior walls were made of cedar board covered with gold.

Solomon contracted with King Hiram of Tyre to supply the cedar and pine logs from the forests of Lebanon.  In exchange for the wood, Solomon provided Hiram’s court and servants with food during while the timber was cut and transported.  The timber was transported by rafts from Lebanon at Joppa, the port for Jerusalem.   Solomon conveyed the wood from Joppa to Jerusalem.

The Cedar Tree

The scientific name for the Lebanon cedar is the Cedrus libani.  It is a protected species in Lebanon. The most venerable representatives are 1,200–2,000 years old and grow in the Besharre region of northern Lebanon.  Cedars are an evergreen tree with trunk and older branches silvery and cracked.  Leaves present as silvery-blue needles arranged in clumps on short spur-like projects from branches. The flower is a cone. Seeds germinate best in the cool temperatures of high hills and mountains.  It takes centuries to produce a majestic cedar.

Cedar wood was and is used in edifices constructed to last centuries, even millennia. Cedar is durable, free from knots, and easy to work.  The heart wood is a warm red and beautifully grained.  Cedars exude a gum or balsam which gives the tree an aromatic scent in which people take delight.   In contrast, most insects dislike the smell and taste; consequently, they do not attack the tree.   The cedar is resistant to fungal disease so dry and wet rot rarely occur.

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This little deodor cedar is growing in SJLC Bible garden.

Symbolism: Firm, Firmness

The Hebrew word for a cedar tree is ʾerez a word derived from the primitive root ʾâraz, meaning to be firm as in the case of a cedar tree (Strong, 2010).  The cedar tree was firm because of its tenacious root structure, its long life in nature, its resistance to insect infestation, and its endurance as a building material.   The adjective firm, means securely or solidly fixed in place; having a structure that resists pressure; and well-founded.   The opposite of firm is weak or uncertain.

Old Testament Perspective on Firm

Fifty verses in the Bible address firm or firmness, 29 in the Old Testament and 21 in the New Testament.   In the Old Testament two themes emerged in relation to firm.  The first theme was that God is firm in his purpose (Job 36:5), plans (Psalm 33:11), love (Psalm 89:2), and statutes (Psalm 93:5).  The second theme was that if God’s people stood firm, God would deliver them from their enemies, e.g., Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13), Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:17), and from wicked men (Proverbs 12:7).  At the same time, God warned Old Testament Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).   If Israel succumbed to the life style and pressure of surrounding nations and their faith became weak, then they would not stand as individuals or as a nation.

Christ’s Perspective on Firmness

In four places in the New Testament, Christ said that if followers stood firm to the end, they would be “saved” or have “life eternal” (Matthew 10:22, 24:12-13; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:19).   But, in the same verses Christ warned his followers that wicked/worldly men would hate them because these wicked men hated Christ.  Christ described ways hate would become visible, e.g., brothers would betray brother and fathers their children, and children would rebel against parents.

My Pastor’s Perspective on Firmness

Several Sundays ago, our Godly minister distributed a handout that said we live in a “post-Christian” society.   A post Christian society is one in which the majority of individuals are not Christians.  They do not follow the moral-ethical statutes and laws of God.  We see evidence of this post-Christian modernism in efforts to remove the 10 Commandments from public buildings, eliminate prayer and after school Bible study from public schools, turn college religion courses into philosophy courses, and forbid Christian prayer before public meetings.

My Perspective

Until recently, when I read Christ’s descriptions of brother betraying brother or parents betraying their children, I always thought of Nazi Germany, Communist countries during the cold war, or Christians in China.  More and more, I acknowledge that hate and betrayal of Christians occurs daily in the United States.  The result may not be that the life of a family member or dear friend is forfeited; but mental or spiritual death and physical illness can occur through betrayal and neglect after family members or friends embrace Jesus Christ.

I am very uncomfortable with the disconnection between our government and God’s gracious loving principles for our lives.  Removing God from in our nation’s public life and symbols, means the United States no long affirms God and Christ.   That leads us back to Isaiah’s warning to the nation of Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand firm at all”  (Isaiah, 7:9).

Prayer.  Help us to believe and act like we live in a Christian nation.  Help us to stop being afraid to speak and write about Christ. Amen.

Copyright 12/15/16; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website to learn about other Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Christmas: Always New

Top aglaonema

The aglaonema (Chinese evergreen, Firecracker) is a newish Christmas plant and an alternative to the poinsettia. It is less woody than the poinsettia and doesn’t have flowers; however, it is almost as colorful. Although there are over 40 types of aglaonema, red aglaonema is seen during the Christmas season. Red aglaonema’s foliage lasts longer than the typical poinsettia. 2014 was the first time, I saw aglaonema sold in nurseries in the Roanoke area. It was even sold in K-mart and Lowes.

Meaning of Aglaonema

Traditionally, aglaonema is associated with good luck or something auspicious. The whole idea of luck troubles me. I couldn’t find the word “luck’ in the Bible, in Strong’s (2010) Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, or in Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2011). Luck is ancient pagan concept. For me to say “Good Luck” to someone is denying that God is in control of their lives and they have to rely on capricious Lady Luck, whoever that is.

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Don’t refuse to purchase and enjoy a plant because superstitious individuals associate the plant with some idea or concept, e.g., luck, triumph, love. Buy it, and praise the Creator for the plant’s beauty.

Care for Aglaonema

If you purchase an aglaonema, don’t put it in direct sunlight. Rather, place it 6-10 feet from a window or glass door. It needs only 1-3 hours of indirect sunlight a day. Some nurseries identified that aglaonemas were a good plant to place in an internal room, e.g., a bathroom or study because plants preferred low-level lighting. Water aglaonema when the soil is dry when you touch it with your finger. Never let aglaonema stand in water or dry out completely. Feed the plant about every two weeks to keep it looking optimal. Aglaonema doesn’t tolerate a temperature of less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set it out in a shaded area in the summer and in very warm climates plant it outdoors. USDA shows the plant as growing year around only in Florida.

Reflection: Consciously, I have tried to omit the words “good luck” from my vocabulary. Words that I substituted are “best wishes,” and “blessed.” Think about and respond to this blog with Godly hope/wishes to substitute in place of “good luck.”

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: December 27, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth, All rights reserved.

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