Christmas is a Holy Time

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It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas. Time for holly. These pictures are of the beautiful American holly tree (Ilex opaca) that grows in southeastern United States. This one is in the St. John Church Bible Garden. It is evergreen. These picture were taken on December 12 when the temperature is freezing at night.

Don’t confuse this tree with the holm tree in the Bible. That tree is an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Both species take their name from the pointed leaves.

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If you want to grow holly trees you need a male and a female. Only the female tree produces the beautiful red berries.

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Reflection: When I see, or hear, the word holly, I always think of holy. God is holy–pure, just, kind, bright–and I am not. If I were holy, I would want to be like the colors of the holly tree, e.g., vibrant, pleasing to look at, even colorful. I would want people to look at me and smile, as I do when I look at a holly tree.

Copyright: December 13, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

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/

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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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Advent is Approaching

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The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.  Psalm 85:12-13 (NIV)

Advent started on November 27, 2016. From now until 25 December, we prepare for the birth of Christ.  Advent is a season of hope filled waiting. We are waiting for God’s intervention in our land; we are waiting for God to give what is good. The recent horrific events that have occurred in our nation are a prayer point that God is preparing our nation for righteousness. May our prayers be filled with hope filled waiting as our society continues to face the reality of sin. God is preparing the way for his steps (David Whitehead).

The Amaryllis has become a popular Christmas flower, offered for sale in all the catalogs and stores. Interestingly, I buy them but they rarely flower until January. Perhaps that’s what is to occur — we wait for the flower to bloom as we wait for the birth of Christ.

Amaryllis is showy and brilliant and puts plants with only green foliage to shame; but they should never be ashamed.  After all, Christ was described as having no physical beauty. Plants with only, or mostly, green foliage have great value. It is the green-foliage in plants that gives oxygen into the atmosphere and adds appreciable to the pleasing environment of our homes.

By the Way: If you are growing amaryllis, be sure not to let the water level go above the top of the root bulb. I’m sure  there is a lesson in Christian living in that; such as don’t drown when you can walk on water with Christ.

As we walk for Christ in 21st century, most of us aren’t showy or even brilliant; we tend to be more quiet and  simple  as we live each day. That doesn’t make us less valuable, it just makes us what we are: a Christian who does his or her part daily for Christ. We raise children in a Christian home, we are a witness in the workplace, we let a driver into the traffic lane in front of us.

Reflection: Perhaps it is more important to walk day-by-day, year-after-year for Christ than  have a brilliant flare.

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 2/14, Updated 11/28/16

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Happy Thanksgiving, 2016

Fall foliage, Blue Ridge Parkway

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name –  Psalm 100:4 (NIV)

Psalm 100 is one of the songs of  ascents—or a Psalm that was sung as the Jews entered Temple. It tells us that thanksgiving and praise has little to do with emotions; they are choices that we make as we prepare our hearts for worship.

Reflection: Take a moment now and ask yourself: What can I be thankful for? How can I praise God’s name today? Don’t be surprised to see your heart change as you do, because praise and thanksgiving is designed to take our eyes off of ourselves and place them on the One who has the power to change us.

This meditation is adapted from David Whitehead (2016).

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Fall in Roanoke

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Another Jim Forney photograph. I talked with him and his wife, Rhea, last Sunday at church about sharing these photographs. Generously, he is allowing me to share them where and whenever. I am so blessed to have him in my life.

Rhea laughingly told me that when the family is driving down the road, suddenly Jimmy will stop the car, jump out, and start to take pictures. Jimmy and Rhea have two children which they bring to church every Sunday. When I seem them, my faith in the next couple of generations is renewed.

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Believe it or not, Jimmy takes all these photographs with a cell phone camera!

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Pistachios in Canaan — the Best

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Bible Reference:  Genesis 43:11

I admit it, I have a new addiction. It is pistachios. There is always a container setting on the counter in the kitchen. Most times when I go there, I stop and open several shells and eat the nuts.

In the Bible, pistachios are mentioned only once. Jacob told his sons to take them as a gift to the man (Joseph) in control of the Egyptian food supply. The background of the story was that Jacob’s sons made a previous trip to Egypt to buy food after a famine hit Canaan. There, Joseph (the same Joseph that the brothers sold into slavery) met with his brothers; but they failed to recognize him.

Joseph told his brothers that he would sell them additional food if Benjamin came with them when the brothers returned to Egypt. Jacob was reluctant to allow his youngest son to leave Canaan and go to Egypt with the older brothers. In Jacob’s mind, Rachel’s first son (Joseph) was dead and he had only Benjamin’s Rachel’s youngest son left alive.

Judah persuaded Jacob to allow Benjamin to accompany the brothers to Egypt lest the entire family starve. Jacob gave Judah the direction to take pistachios to Egypt to give to the man in charge of selling food. Jacob identified pistachios as one of the “best products” of Canaan.

Pistachios

Pistachios are a two-sided small greenish seed that grows in a whitish-brown hard shell. Pistachio trees (Pistacio vera) were cultivated in Israel for 4000 years. The modern pistachio tree, P. vera, was first cultivated in Bronze Age Central Asia (Uzbekistan).

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Pistachio trees are a desert plant and highly tolerant of saline soil. Trees can survive temperatures ranging between −10 °C (14 °F) in winter and 48 °C (118 °F) in summer. They grow poorly in high humidity. Pistachio tree are susceptible to root rot in winter if soil is not free-draining. Long, hot summers are required for proper ripening of the fruit.

Symbolism: Best

Remember in grade school you learned that something could be “good, better, or best?” Pistachios were one of the “best” products of Canaan. According to the dictionary “best” means “excelling all others.” Over time, I’ve learned that I cannot be “good” in my own strength. Believe me I tried – hard! Further, I should not compare myself with other Christians and attempt to be “better” than they. There was always someone “better” than me.

Instead, I should work at being the “best” Christian I am capable of being regardless of what others are doing or where they are in their walk with Christ. God wants me to be the “best” Christian “me” that I can be.

Reflection: How do you evaluate your Christian walk?

Copyright November 7, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

I love studying plants in the Bible, even the relatively uncommon ones. If you are interested in learning more about Bible plants, check my website www.CarolynRothMinistry.com. I have a store where you can purchase books on Bible plants.

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What does God require?

Jim Forney posted this photo along with the question from Micah 6:8. Take a look at God’s answer.

Mulling over Malvas

Out of all the plants you can grow for luscious leafiness, Malvas are the best. Some even surpass lettuce in my opinion, since they don’t get bitter in heat. When you add on the perennial nat…

Source: Mulling over Malvas

Zestful Life in God

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Bible Reference: In Revelation chapter 18, cinnamon is mentioned as a valuable spice.

The Story:  When John wrote Revelation, he prophesied the end of Rome and the Roman Empire. At the same time, John was writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit; therefore, his writings could refer to world systems which operate today or in the future. From this perspective Revelations 18 could predict a future collapse of the commercial-economic systems of the world from the perspective of world leaders, merchants, and individual involved in commerce on the seas.

These verses demonstrated the inter-connections of politics and trade, with an immediate application to shipping. All countries are connected by shipping, e.g., the United States gets oil from the Middle East, clothing from China, and ships food to African countries and coal to Asia. The fall of naval commerce will have national and worldwide effects. Within each country, individual jobs and buying power will be cut. Taxable income will be reduced, national debt will increase, and banks will fail. Private industries, e.g., the health care industry which consumes about 15 percent of the U.S. gross national product, will be curtailed severely. Eventually, governments will collapse.

John prophesied that when commerce failed, there would be no cargoes of cinnamon and spice. Most of us could get along without spices; it is difficult to imagine why cinnamon was mentioned in a list of valuable cargo items. Yet, in the Biblical world, the cinnamon trade was huge. Tons of cinnamon used for rituals, medicine, and everyday purposes. Egyptians used cinnamon in embalming potions. Cinnamon was a key ingredient in the Tabernacle anointing oil (Exodus 30:23-25). Medically, cinnamon was used to reduce inflammation, promote menstruation, and stimulate the urinary tract. Along with other perfumes, cinnamon was used to perfume bed linens and clothing (Proverbs 7:17). Cinnamon was used to mask smells. In the first century Pliny wrote that the market price for an Egyptian pound (350 grams) of cinnamon was over 1000 denarius or about 2.5 years wage for a typical Hebrew worker.

Cinnamon 

Bark, Cheekwood Garden

The Bible cinnamon was Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also known as Cinnamomum verem. Cinnamon is an aromatic tree bark used as a spice. The cinnamon tree was native to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and the southeast coast of India. Today, all commercial cinnamon grows in plantations. The cinnamon tree does not grow naturally in Israel; however, in 2012 the Jerusalem Botanical Garden we saw small specimens in the Conservatory.

The cinnamon tree is a small, bushy, and evergreen. It grows 30-40 feet tall, often with wide spreading branches. Young branches, or shoots, are crimson often with dark green and orange spots. As bark matures, it turns pale brown (ash). Mature bark is rough to the touch because it is covered with raised dots, scales, and points. Cinnamon trees are harvested in their third year of growth. After two years, the tops of trees are pruned. The third year, small shoots appear. These shoots are stripped and the thin inner bark is peeled from the tree. During the peeling process, the inner bark curls into the “stick” shape associated with cinnamon.

Symbolism: Spice, Zest

Arguably, cinnamon is synonymous with spice; certainly cinnamon is the definitive spice. The archaic meaning of spice is a small portion or quantity, a dash; or something that gives zest, i.e., to food or life. In the end times, commerce will cease. An imported product, cinnamon will be unavailable for cookery and for perfumes that scent candles, potpourri, and individuals. This dash or bit of zest will be absent from our individual lives. Christians may or may not be in the world when the commerce-economic systems fails; however, to Christians having or not having cinnamon, luxury items, or even the basic necessities of life is not as important as having Christ. Christ is not just a small portion, or dash, of spice in Christian lives. Christ is omnipresent. For Christians, Christ is their world view.

Reflection: Is your life zestful?

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: November 8, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth.

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Autumn in the Mountains

Jim Forney is the photographer. He lives in Roanoke and is a church friend. On his Facebook page, he continually publishes photos of this quality. Awesome.

When I look at this photograph, I see God’s glory in nature. Importantly, we are not to worship nature, but worship the creator-God of nature. Honestly, I do not believe that the beauty we see in nature or in each other are products of evolution. Do you?

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