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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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