Wandering Wisteria

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I love wisteria. I first saw them when we moved to Charleston, SC. In the country area, the vine would grow up the trees. In spring, the beautiful lavender flower would hang down from the vine. Seeing them made my heart celebrate the beauty of God’s creation. This year I bought a garland of fake wisteria and have it wrapped around the candles on my hearth.

In Southwest Virginia, we are in a mountain valley. You can see wisteria plants about April and May growing along country roads. Wisteria wanders up a tree, out on limbs and sometimes even across the road on electrical wire. I always think of them as “wandering wisteria.”

In the Trilogy of the Rings, Tolkein wrote that, “all those who wander are not lost.”  That may be true; certainly in Tolkein’s book, Aragon wandered but was not lost. When the Israelites  wandered 40 years on the Sinai Peninsula, they were not physically lost. They were, however, lost psychologically, because they neither had confidence in themselves or in their God. Only after the slave generation that lived in Egypt died, was God able to use the new generation of Israelites to conquer the Promised Land.

Right now I am wandering  — roaming around not doing much productive — in my relationship with God. I’m busy, but not content. But, God created and planned for me to do work here on earth (Ephesians 2:10), so somehow I need to get my life gear out of park (idle) and begin to move forward again.

Reflection: Are you wandering aimlessly? Read Ephesians 2:10 and think about what God wants you to do.

Copyright March 17, 2015, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

 

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The Rose of Sharon

Tulipa sharonensisSong of Songs describes the love between a man and a woman; the reference to Rose of Sharon is in chapter 2.

The book Song of Songs is also called Song of Solomon and the Canticles. The title, Song of Songs, is a Hebrew idiom meaning “the most exquisite song” (MacDonald, 1995).  The Song is a dialogue between the Beloved (a maid) and her Lover (Solomon), with minor input from Friends.  An advantage of reading Song of Songs in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) is that each speaker is clearly marked.  Song of Songs includes erotic analogies that can be uncomfortable if considered outside the belief that sexual desire is God-given, beautiful, and to be celebrated in the context of a heterosexual, committed and loving relationship.  According to Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote the Song in his youth prior to becoming entangled in polygamy and concubinage.  This traditional view is consistent with Song of Solomon chapter 2:3 in which the Beloved compares Solomon to other young men.

The name of the Beloved is not given and her lineage is unclear.  In one place Solomon refers to her as “O, prince’s daughter!” (Song of Songs, 7:1); however, this reference could allude to the nobility of her beauty and character rather than her birth.  In another place, Friends call the Beloved a Shulammite (Song of Songs 6:13).   Shulammite could indicate that the Beloved was from Shunen, a territory allocated to Issachar in the division of tribal lands (Joshua 19:18).  Alternatively, Shulammite could be a feminine form of Solomon in which case the Friends named her “Solomon’s girl” (Song of Solomon 6:13).  Finally, possibly Shulammite does not refer directly to the Beloved; but to a type of dance in which two groups of dancers weave in and out with one another.

The Beloved called herself a rose of Sharon.  The Sharon Plain was located along the Mediterranean Sea south of Mount Carmel.  Sixty miles long and 10 miles wide, the Sharon Plain was one of the largest valley-plains in ancient Israel. In the time of Solomon, the Sharon plain was well-known for its fertility, beauty, and majesty, having many flowers and trees.  Clearly, the Beloved adored her Lover (Song of Songs 1:4).  At the same time, she did not underrate herself.  In giving herself, she offered her Lover the most perfect flower known — a rose of Sharon.

Rose of Sharon

          In the United States scholars have debated the exact Rose of Sharon flower.  The popular Rose of Sharon bush (see above)  is the Hibiscus syriacus; however, the hibiscus is not the ancient Israel Rose of Sharon.  Past professor of Biblical Botany at the Hebrew University, Dr. Ephraim HaReubeni claimed that the Rose of Sharon was a tulip. Most likely the tulip species is the Tulipa agenensis subspecies sharonensis, also known as the Sharon tulip and sun’s-eye tulip.

In Israel the Tulipa agenensis is considered a wildflower and at one time grew abundantly across Israel. Now, because of real estate develop, the Sharon tulip is harder to find in the wild. The Sharon tulip is salt resistant and prefers a neutral to acid soil and full sun.  It thrives where summers are dry and winters are cold. It grows 8-12 inches tall. The  Sharon tulips color and shape make it unique and add to its seeming perfection. Outer petals are longer (up to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide) and more pointed than inner petals.  The outer surfaces of tulip petals are uniformly red.  Inside, the tulip petal has a distinct black area at the base that extends about the half way up the sides of each petal.  A yellow halo surrounds the black on most petals.  In most cases tulips spread through asexual reproduction with bulbs producing small bulbs or bulblets.

Symbolism:  Perfection

The rose of Sharon refers to perfection.  For the ancients a rose – in this case a tulip – was the most perfect of all flowers.  Perhaps not inconsequential, the tulip is a perfect or complete flower having stamens and pistils on the same flower.  When flowers or persons are perfect, they lack no essential detail and are without fault or defect. Although the Beloved identifies that she is dark skinned from working outside in the sun, nonetheless, she is perfect for her mate.

My husband is the perfect husband for me and I am the perfect wife for him.  After 20 years of marriage and continued reinforcement from Bruce, finally I believe he sees me as perfect.  In the 20 years, I have acquired wrinkles and sags, but to him I am still perfect. His unswerving love and belief in my perfection gives me security even with characteristics the world identifies as defects.  Because Bruce views me as perfect does not mean that he doesn’t gently coach me when I am moody, or whiny, or my thinking is off track.

God is perfect and his ways are perfect (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:32; Matthew 5:48).  When Christ lived on earth, he was without fault or defect and lacked no detail in his personality to be the perfect human (Hebrews 4:15).  Because I have been redeemed by Christ, when God looks at me, he sees Christ’s perfection, not my defects.  Even more than Bruce seeing me as the perfect wife, God sees me as his perfect child.

Saint Paul talked about perfection in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 3:10-14).  He wrote how much he wanted to know Christ and become like the perfect Christ.  Paul admitted that he was not yet perfect, but he was going to keep trying to be like Christ.  Paul believed it was important to forget what he was like and did in the past and strain forward to what was ahead.

Paul seemed to have a keen understanding of perfection in the Christian life.  It means being committed fully to Christ and modeling our lives after Christ’s life.  Perfection is about forgetting past inadequacies that the devil gleefully uses to keep us feeling insecure in our relationship with Christ.  Perfection focuses on the present and future.  For Christians the future is home with Christ in heaven.

Reflection:   Reflect on your perfection in God’s sight.  Doesn’t is allow you to take a deep breath and relax securely in His care?

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: January 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth; Update March 26, 2017

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Grape Hyacinths- Volunteerism

Grape HyacinthThis beautiful little flower is about 2-3 inches tall. It grows from tiny bulbs (culms). In the fall the green leaves come through the soil and stays that way all winter, creating a carpet of green.  Spring (April in southwestern Virginia) brings a plethora of light blue to purple flowers. Flowers are fragrant.

You will notice that some leaves and even some stems look chewed on.  Blame the deer; deer foraged everywhere this winter. Should I be annoyed that deer ate my hyacinth plants? Or should I be happy that I had them available for deer to eat? I don’t know the answer to that question, do you?

Originally, a hyacinth was a precious stone that ancient people called the sapphire. Hyacinthus orientalis is native to the Mediterranean region. I didn’t plant any hyacinth in St. John’s Bible garden, because the hyacinth isn’t mentioned in the Bible; however, they naturalized over winter in the grass in front of church garden beds. Possibly, some tiny bulbs were carried in plants transplanted from home to church.

Symbolism: Volunteerism

That leads me to think about volunteers. If you are a gardener, you are familiar with the word “volunteer” from your garden. Weeds continually volunteer in the church Bible garden plots. When we volunteer, we initiate or take on a task. My husband and I volunteered to plant and maintain the church Bible garden. We get a lot of compliments on it and we even received a national award. But, I have to admit that sometimes volunteering to maintain the church garden just seems like work.

I’s a little worried about my attitude. If I volunteered to plant and maintain the Bible garden, should it seem like work?  Should I resent the time it takes? Or should the gardening be joy? I am going to have to spend time in prayer about my thoughts, emotions, attitude.

Reflection: Do you think carefully of the time involved before you volunteer for an activity? If your volunteer effort something particularly at your church, you should follow through; at least I think you should. Love to read your input.

Copyright: May 5, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth; Updated 3/26/17

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Radiant daffodils

I have never read about daffodils in the Bible. Bible writers missed their chance to refer to or identify a beautiful flower. In March, we had about a week of unseasonably warm weather and the daffodils started to bloom across the Roanoke Valley. Daffodils say to all of us:  “see me, it’s spring!” as they give off their radiant yellow color.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8 (NIV)

God’s laws were never meant to be burdensome. They were given to us to create life and light. So when we are weary from reading Scripture the problem is not the Bible—it is with our hearts (ouch!!!). Yet this is good news, for the Bible not only exposes our hearts, it can also encourage and even transform our heart. The Scripture will reveal and equip us to work on the attitudes that we all struggle with (adapted from David Whitehead).

Note: the Bible mentions the narcissus; that is a close enough flower to the daffodil.

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Wealth and Lukewarm Christianity

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Revelation 3:17 (NIV)

Prior to this passage the writer John calls this church lukewarm. How did they get lukewarm? By trusting in their wealth. They thought that money brings security, We are not to confuse what the world calls wealth with what God calls wealth (adapted from David Whitehead).

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Rejected by God

Photograph of a growing barley

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)

God rejected Cain’s offering of grain, yet He accepted his brother Abel’s offering of a lamb. It is easy to see why Cain became angry, but that was because God’s preferences contrasted Cain’s inclinations. Yet God loved Cain so much that he tried to reason with Cain. What happens to us when our will is crossed by God’s will in Scripture? Do we get angry as well? Our reactions are more of an indicator of our heart than any inconsistencies on God’s part (David Whitehead).

Millet berries and flower

Disobedience Consequences

 

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”– Genesis 3:19 (NIV)

Ruling and subduing the earth was given to us before the fall of Adam and Eve, but our rebellion against God turned that work into a drudgery. Now what was created to be satisfying takes a toll upon our body and our mind. Yet even in the curse of toil God gives Adam the perspective that there is more to this life than what we do. In other words, our dignity does not come from our work but from the breath of God that separates us from dust. Our value is far greater than our efforts, and the dust reminds us of a day when our labor will cease and we shall experience peace in a way that we only knew in the Garden of Eden (David Whitehead)

 

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For-sightful Forsythia

Forsythia

The forsythia (Forsythia europaea) is an ornamental shrub; a member of the olive family of plants. There are about eleven species. Most are native to eastern Asia and one native to south-eastern Europe. Some gardeners refer to forsythia as “Golden Bell.”

Forsythias are an early-spring flowering deciduous shrub. Back home in southern Pennsylvania, our forsythia bush bloomed in April, generally the earliest flower to bloom. Our forsythia bush grew on a trellis and was about four feet tall; however, forsythia bushes can grow up to 20 feet tall. Forsythia also makes an attractive hedgerow if you are willing to prune them repeatedly. The deeply four-lobed flower are medium, the petals joined only at the base. Petals become pendant in rainy weather, shielding reproductive parts. Flowers appear before leaves.

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Low hanging forsythia often take root in the soil, and can be removed for transplanting. Commercial propagation occurs through cuttings, taken from green wood in late spring to early summer after forsythia flowers. Alternatively, cuttings may be taken between November and February.

For the longest time, tradition advocated that forsythia flowers produced the milk sugar (lactose). Lactose rarely occurs in other natural sources except milk. However, the presence of lactose was never confirmed.

Christian Fore-sight

I’m multitasking, writing this column and watching a popular news channel. A woman, who wrote a book, claimed Radical Islam wants to create an Armageddon-like situation in the Middle East. Their approach is to kill any group who disagrees with them, even peace-loving Muslims. For any group to aspire to such a goal is mind-boggling.

St. John wrote about Armageddon in Revelation. If you have never studied Revelation, now would be the time. St. John foresees the end times (the end of the known world) and a huge battle which includes the world’s superpowers. The battle ends with blood, destruction, and death of millions.

Seeing and writing about the Battle of Armageddon his battle must have been difficult for the sensitive apostle. I don’t know what will happen in the Middle East; however, I do believe in the end-time prophecy fore-seen by John. But, I am not spending my time working for it or praying for it to come. Instead, I am praying for the salvation of souls, even of the jihadists.

Reflection: What about you? Do you remember to pray for salvation of the terrorists who are inflecting inhumane atrocities as well as their victims?

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: March 1, 2015 by Carolyn A. Roth; Updated March 6, 2017. all rights reserved.

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Rooted in God

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Choices, Choices!

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Cleveland select flowering pear.

The pear tree produces beautiful white blossoms that delight our eyes early in spring in the mountain valleys of Virginia. They are blooming all over the Roanoke Valley. Often we call them the Bradford pear or Callery pear. The flowers are produced in early spring before leaves expand fully. They are white, with five petals, and about 0.79 to 1.2 inches in diameter. Flowers have a sickly-sweet smell. The fruit is small, hard, and almost woody until softened by frost. Humans don’t eat them, but birds consume them enthusiastically. Bradford pear trees often push out native American plants and trees. On the Bradford pear tree, limbs grow upward from the main branch at an angle so narrow that hard winds break limbs from the tree. Rarely, will you see an intact mature Bradford pear tree.

Today, many municipalities and individuals who want the spring-time beauty of a flowering Bradford tree buy and plant the Cleveland Select pear tree. Cleveland Select pear tree is a genetically-improved variety that grows in a uniform globe shape. The Cleveland select tree is strong because of its limb structure. It withstands ice on branches and/or strong winds without breaking or coming apart because limbs grow at an optimal (45-60 degrees) – rather than a too narrow (5-15 degrees) – angle from the trunk or central leader (limb) of the tree.

Application:

When something is optimal, it is best, ideal, finest, or most advantageous. The opposite of optimal is worst. On a continuum between optimal and worst Christ-like behavior, there are a lot of points, i.e., a lot of distance between optimal and worst. Unlike the Cleveland Select pear tree limbs that are strong because they are at a larger angle from the tree’s main leader, Christians aren’t stronger when there is a lot of distance between them and God. Closeness counts in a relationship with God.

Words from today’s church liturgy were: “Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth: You have given us the spirit of discipline, that we may triumph over the flesh and live no longer for ourselves but for Christ.” Aren’t they food for thought? God has given us a spirit of discipline. We have the choice to exercise or not exercise that spirit. No one can say, “The Devil made me do it.”

Reflection: What kind of limbs do you want to grow on your tree of life?

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 3/5/17; Carolyn A. Roth

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