Epiphany Gift of Frankincense

Frankincense 2The story of the wise men offering frankincense to the Christ child is told in Matthew 2:1-18. This post is appearing a few days late. Traditionally Christians celebrate the date the wise men visited Jesus on January 6, Epiphany Day. The Epiphany season last from Epiphany Day (January 6) until Ash Wednesday.

When Christ was born in Bethlehem, Judea, wise men came from the east to worship him.  Bible scholars believe that the wise men were from Persia.  The visiting wise men were astrologers – they followed a star that first appeared in the east. They believed that the star was a sign that a Jewish king was born. Not surprisingly, the wise men went to Jerusalem, capital of the Jewish nation, and ask King Herod to see the newborn king. Herod learned from Israelite priests that the promised Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Herod shared this location with the wise men and requested that they contact him after they found the child. Ostensibly, Herod wanted to go and worship the new born babe.

The wise men left Jerusalem and followed the star to Bethlehem where it stopped over the home where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived. Seeing the Christ child, the wise men fell on their knees and worshiped him. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Frankincense

The frankincense of Matthew 2:11 is the Boswellia sacra plant, also known as B. thurifera and incense. Both the plant and its resinous product are called frankincense. It is native to the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the north-eastern regions of Africa. In 2013, the Boswellia sacra plant was not present in three Israeli plant databases. Almost all frankincense is harvested from wild trees. Frankincense is hard and resinous and can be an opaque, white or yellow crystalline. Generally frankincense is described as smelling like aromatic pine.

Known as the King of Oils frankincense is incredibly versatile. Its unique scent is distinctly known and is prized for its many health benefits. Frankincense has been used for thousands of years and is one of natures most valued gifts.  Frankincense has many health benefits including support of the nervous system, cellular health, respiratory function, digestion and it’s great for the skin. It’s no wonder why it’s the King!   If used on the skin as part of your daily beauty routine and it can help to reduce the appearance of blemishes and rejuvenates the skin.  Topical use of the essential oil includes applying directly to a specific area of concern, or on the bottom of the feet. 2-3 drops is all you need, and regular routine use is recommended.

Emotionally frankincense is the Oil of Truth. It is a grounding oil and when used aromatically can promote feelings of peace, satisfaction and an overall sense of mental wellness.  Diffusing frankincense can also promote healthy lung function.

Symbolism: Sanctity, Saint

Frankincense was used in important religious rituals and occasions from the time of the Tabernacle to the present. So complete is the link between frankincense and religious occasions that frankincense is known as the “odor of sanctity” and associated with sainthood. Sanctity implies a holy life and character, a life worthy of religious veneration. Sanctity encompasses reverence, respect, and inviolability.  A saint as a person who is faithful to the Lord (I Samuel 2:9 study note). From the time of Christ’s birth, he inspired individuals to live reverent, respectful lives. That’s why we have saints. 

Christian denominations place different emphasis on saints. Our Roman Catholic brethren have a formal recognition system for sainthood and believe saints can have a significant influence on the lives of the faithful. Often there are statutes of saints in Catholic churches and buildings, i.e., hospitals.  Christians who are faithful to God are saints have been given instructions on how to live.  God’s saints are to fear and love the Lord, to sing to the Lord and praise his name, and to rejoice in the Lord (Psalm 30:4; 31:23; 34:9; 149:5). God expects us to love and pray for the saints (Ephesians 1:15, 6:18). When Paul wrote to Philemon, he noted that Philemon’s love refreshed the hearts of the saints (Philemon 1:7). Many times we do not think that our love is refreshment to a hurting heart or to a person under stress.          

Saints are recognized in both the Old and New Testaments. God knows his saints and watches over them. The Psalms aver that God delights in the saints (Psalm 16:3), preserves them (Psalm 31:23), and that they lack nothing (Psalm 34:9). Samuel wrote that God will guard the feet of the saints (1 Samuel 2:9). The Holy Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints so their prayers and actions will be consistent with God’s will for our lives (Romans 8:26-27). Loving words from God are, “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalms 116:15).  

Reflection. In one of Saint John’s visions, he saw 24 elders around the throne of heaven (Revelations 5:8).  Each elder was holding a bowl full of incense. The incense was the prayers of the saints! Amazingly our prayers are incense – sweet aroma – to God.

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/. Linda Sable, Wellness Advocate with DoTerra supplied the information on use of frankincense oil.

Copyright January 3, 2018; carolyn a. roth

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Christmas Holly = Holy

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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. My friend told me that he goes out in the church garden, cuts springs from the holly trees there, and uses them for garland in his home. I think that this holly tree is happy to be used in this way.

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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A Christmas carol is The Holly and The Ivy.

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.

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 13, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Poinsettia, Not a Christmas Flower

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The Poinsettia is known as the Christmas flower but wasn’t 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. The poinsettia is not only the most popular Christmas flower, but the number one flowering potted plant in the United States.

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 it 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.

If you received a poinsettia for Christmas, enjoy it.

Copyright December 20, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Origin of the Christmas Tree

Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas tree wasn’t adapted from ancient European pagan beliefs. The Christmas tree had a more recent history than pagan practices of first-through-third centuries when pagan Germanic and Scandinavian tribes used the hawthorn or cherry trees or branches in their celebrations. Varieties of both hawthorn and cherry trees common to northern Europe were often deciduous, not evergreen, trees.

Most likely, use of Christmas trees started with medieval plays, popular from the early middle ages (476 AD) to the beginning of the Renaissance (c 1400 AD).  Initially called morality, miracle, and mystery plays, these plays began in churches and taught Bible lessons for everyday life; that is, the plays had a moral. Plays that celebrated Jesus’ birth were linked to the creation story, primarily because Christmas eve was the feast day of Adam and Eve.

In nativity plays, the Garden of Eden was symbolized by a Paradise tree. Paradise trees represented both the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life (Holy Trinity Church). Paradise trees that symbolized the Tree of Knowledge were apple trees or decorated with apples to represent the forbidden fruit. While a Paradise tree that symbolized the Tree of Life was decorated with sweets; sweets round pastry wafers (cookies) symbolized the bread of the Eucharist. Because apple trees were deciduous trees and lost their leaves in winter, the tree evolved into being an evergreen tree.

Over time, the plays became raucous and were moved out of churches into public squares or town centers. Finally, when morality plays were suppressed altogether in the 15th-16th centuries, Paradise trees were moved into homes. Over time red balls substituted for apples, lights were added, and a Star of Bethlehem placed on the tree top.

Traditionally, the Christmas tree was set up on Christmas Eve and taken down on Twelfth Night, the Vigil of the Epiphany. Part of the reason keeping the Christmas tree up for only 12 days was to differentiate the Christmas tree from pagan trees, which often were planted in boxes and remained inside the home the entire winter months.

Christian scholars and historians aren’t sure when evergreen trees were first used as Christmas trees. Evergreen trees retain their green or blue-green color throughout the year, rather than changing color according to the seasons. In cold, snowy, dark winters in Europe, evergreen trees were a sign of everlasting life with God. By the end of the Middle ages, a common legend some Christian’s believed was that when Christ was born, near the shortest day of the year (December 25), every tree on earth produced new green shoots despite their ice and snow coverings.4

In 21st century United States, popular choices for Christmas trees are fir, pine, spruce, cypress, and cedar. Churches that understand that Christmas trees are distinct from pagan worship often include a 15–20 foot tree in their sanctuary. Below the evergreen tree are placed red poinsettia. What we think of as flaming red petals are poinsettia leaves. Poinsettias are a recent addition to Christmas decorations; but, perhaps, 100 years from now they will be part of Christmas traditions.

Reflection: Are you okay with having a Christmas tree in your home during Christmastide? What about having one in your church sanctuary?

Copyright 11/15/17: Carolyn A. Roth

http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Christmas Aglaonema = Luck

Top aglaonema

At Christmas, aglaonema (Chinese evergreen, Firecracker) is 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 being sold in nurseries in the Roanoke area. It was even sold in K-mart and Lowes.

Meaning of Aglaonema

Traditionally, aglaonema has been 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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Care for Aglaonema

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. If you purchase an aglaonema, you do not want it to have 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 aglaonema were a good plant to place in an internal room, e.g., a bathroom or study because of the plants perchent for 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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Squill in Israeli Culture

This article was adapted from one written by the noted Israeli botanist: Prof. Avinoam Danin Published: January 17th, 2010 | Updated: 17/01/15

Squill should be regarded as a “regular” plant and not a “special” one because it is widespread and prominent in various seasons. It is found in all the 31 geographical districts of Israel and Jordan. It has many special “personal” features. It is one of the most prominent flowering plants in Israel and appears in many poems.

The plant was studied by Efrayim and Hanna HaReubeni, who saw in the plant many natural phenomena and close cultural links with the entire Middle East. In autumn, the sea-squill (Urginea maritima) terminates the growth cycle of a stem that started its development and leaf activity at the beginning of last year’s winter. It invites and hosts many insect pollinators in a season poor in flowers.

The plant’s name in Hebrew (HATSAV) is derived, according to HaReubeni (1941), from the similarity of the developing leaves as they sprout from the bulb at the beginning of winter, to the stone-cutters’ chisel. The word HATSAV in a Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary may surprise the reader (many are surprised at this): in addition to a plant, this word means a big jug or pitcher for storing oil or water. Think of the farmer plowing his field and uprooting a squill bulb with its leaves. He may hold the narrow part between the bulb and the leaves. The similarity between this and holding a jug by its “neck” is strong. The squill excels at developing large groups of bulbs (which will be called here “squill families”) and the development process of these “families” is poorly known to most people. Q

According to the Reubenis, the Hebrew name of the sea squill (HATSAV) derives from the sprouting leaves (left) which look like the chisel of the stone-cutter. In Hebrew-Hebrew dictionaries HATSAV is also a big jug or pitcher used for storing oil or water.

Squill sprouts after the summer drought dormancy. A few of the leaves are at the chisel stage, while others are already at the jug stage.

Symbolism:

Before I discovered the Israeli squill, I was ignorant (unknowing) of its existence and its characteristics. My ignorance didn’t harm or hurt the squill; it was still there and with the same characteristics. Many individuals in the world are ignorant about the Triune God. Their ignorance doesn’t mean He is not there or does not exist.  In this scheme of things, my being ignorant about squill has little impact on me or the plant. In contrast to the squill, if individuals are ignorant about God, their eternal destiny will be impacted. In reality, each of us has a responsibility to tell others of Christ as our Savior.

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, November 10, 2017

Please check my website for books about Bible plants to include parables illustrated by plants.

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Oleander, A Bible Rose

References: Sirach 24:18; Sirach 39:13; Esdras 9:26

The Plant:

The website “Flowers in Israel” noted the following references:

  1. 2 Esdras 9:26: So I went my way into the field which is called Ardath, like as he commanded me; and there I sat among the flowers, and did eat of the herbs of the field, and the meat of the same satisfied me.
  2. Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 24:18: I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho.
  3. Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 39:17: By a voice he saith: Hear me, ye divine offspring, and bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters.

These references are from the Apocraypha, an addendum to the Bible which most Protestants don’t adhere to, but Catholics fully embrace. In these books the plant named is the “rose;” botanists translated rose as oleander. In Sirach 39:14 the section is identified “In Praise of Creation.”  Indeed, many individuals perceive the oleander as one of the more beautiful blooms in nature. H.B.Tristram in The Natural History of the Bible ” wrote that the oleander is unequalled for the gorgeous beauty of its flowers, which shed a glowing sheet of pink over the fringe of every lake and water-course for several weeks in the early summer.”

The oleander (Nerium olander) is a broadleaf evergreen plant that grows well in Plant Zones 8–10. I live in Zone 7. After two years of vegetative growth each summer, my oleander has yet to produce flowers. Perhaps the climate is just too cold here in Roanoke. The oleander received its name from the leaves looking like olive leaves.

The Oleander grows up to eight feet tall and horizontally to five feet. Supposedly it is a seasonal bloomer with blooms pink, purple, or white. Blooms have five petals and the flower is funnel-shaped. The oleander should grow and bloom in full sun to part shade. It requires little maintenance and is drought tolerant. Supposedly, oleander grow well in tubs which are taken indoors in winter. Promptly deadhead spent blooms to prevent seed pods (very unattractive) from forming.

Symbolism: Sin

All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous if ingested. Plant saps can cause allergic skin reactions in some people. Smoke from burning plant material can be toxic. Ponder that something (the oleander plant) this beautiful to the eye is toxic to mankind. The oleander plant reminds me of many types of sin in our world. So many sins, i.e., beautiful, sleek, fast cars; seemingly glitzy life styles of the rich and famous; sumptuous banquets with an overabundance of rich foods to include desserts, are attract the eye but when consumed are poisonous.

Reflection: Just as the oleander plant is poisonous, so are certain sins that we encounter daily. The oleander plant is a lesson for Christians.

Copyright: November 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

For more information on Bible plants, visit my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Passion Flower and Fruit

Passiflora edulis commonly called passion flower, grows prolifically in Israel. It is a perennial vine with tendrils that help the vine to climb over trellis, fences, and sides of buildings. Passion flower is herbaceous and in colder climates dies to the ground. Supposedly, it grows in Plant Zones 5 – 9 in the United State. Passiflora edulis is thought to be drought tolerant and attracts butterflies therefore has the potential to be a popular plant. It grows in full sun to part shade.

In the United States, this passion flower is native in southeastern states. Although here in Virginia the Passiflora flower is purple, my friend in Missouri has a plant which looks identical and is named Passiflora incarnate and the flower is white. The fruit from the flower is named Maypops because it gives forth a popping sound when stepped on. Maypops are green in the summer and became yellowish in the fall. They are edible. When opened, the Maypop fruit is comprised of opaque, white, little balls. The little balls are juicy and taste like lemons. If used to make lemonade, the ade will taste like it has too much water. The taste of the maypops is very light.

Symbolism

Passiflora was a name given to this showy flower when it was first described by missionaries in South America (Brazil, Paraguay). These missionaries believed that they saw various aspects of the passion of Christ immediately before and after his crucifixion. The coronal threads were seen as a symbol for the crown of thorns; the curling tendrils as the cords of the whip used to scourge Jesus. The five stamen were identified with the wounds that Christ received at his crucifixion. The three large stigmas for nails on the cross (one for each of his hands and one where Christ’s feet were placed one on top of the other and a single nail hammered into both of them. The five petals and five sepals of the flower refer to the 10 “true” apostles. Neither Peter who denied Christ and Judas who betrayed him were considered “true” apostles.

Reflection

Before I read about the symbolism of the passion flower, I thought it was beautiful to look at, both in its purple and white colors. Now, I look at the plant and see the passion of Christ. Possibly, I was happier when I could just enjoy the beauty of a flower without attempting to see the various allusions to Christ’s passion in the flower’s beauty. What about you? Do you sometimes just want to enjoy the beauty of a plant and omit the deep symbolism of it?

Copyright: October 29, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please visit my website: www. CarolynRothMinistry.com to see books which contain plants in the Bible.

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Obtuse Maple

Scripture: Genesis 30:37

The Story:

In New International Version Study Bibles (NIV) and in the English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible, Genesis 30:37 reads: “Jacob, however, took fresh cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.”  In contrast to these Bible translations, the Darby Bible (DBY) recorded the same verse as “And Jacob took fresh rods of white poplar, almond-tree, and maple; and peeled off white stripes in them, uncovering the white which was on the rods.” In Darby’s translation, the plane tree was translated as maple.

The Tree:

In present day Israel, only one type of maple tree grows, the Syrian maple (Acer obtusifolium, Acer syriacum). The Syrian maple is considered a Mediterranean tree. In Israel, it is present in woodlands, shrub-lands, and around Mount Herman. Most likely, Jacob would have had access to the Syrian maple tree if he opted to use it as he attempted to control the color of flocks. At the time Jacob was living in an area which today is most likely part of Syria. Looking at the photograph of young Syrian maples, it is easy to see why Jacob could have used the Syrian maple if he wanted spotted flocks.

In Latin, the word for maple is “Acer,” which means sharp, irritating, and pungent. Romans used the wood for spear shafts. The Latin word “obtusifolium” is translated as blunt, obtuse, or dull and folium as leaf.  Obtusifolium means this maple tree has a blunt leaf.

Leaves are green and in pairs on opposite sides of a stem. This tree sheds its leaves during summer months when weather is scorching hot in Israel. Flowers, which appear on the Syrian maple in April, May, and June are greenish cream. Flowers turn into seeds which are startling in their pinkish red color.

Symbolism:

 The more I learn, the more I could get confused about some of the technicalities of the Bible. For example, did Jacob use a maple or a plane tree? The answer is that the Bible was not written as a book for botanists (as much as I would have liked that). Rather, the Bible was written to disclose the Triune God. Studying God is a better use of our time than trying to figure out the exact species of tree used by Bible characters.

US Equivalent:

In the United States, the maple tree is the Acer saccharinum (Silver maple). This beautiful tree can grow to 100 feet tall. It has high wild-life value and is loved by birds, squirrels, fox, and other small mammals. In springtime, flowers appear before leaves and are a welcome harbinger of warmer days.

Reflection: When you read the Bible do you get bogged down in details such as the one in this blog, or are you able to concentrate on God and his Son’s redemptive work on the cross?

Copyright September 26, 2017; all rights reserved.

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible consider purchasing my two books on Bible plants from my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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De-LEAF

1-DSC05874Leaves drop  from trees in the autumn season. We used to call them “fall leaves” because trees dropped them mid-to-late autumn or fall.

At one time, children raked leaves; however, now leaves are blown onto a pile and vacuumed into a truck to be dumped in the land fill!

If leaves didn’t fall, then trees would have no space for new leaf buds  in the spring.

Perhaps our lives are the same way, i.e, if parts of us don’t die and fall off,  there is no room for new growth.

Reflection: Do you want new growth in your life? If so, what are you willing to let fall or give up?

Copyright December 11, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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