Tag Archives: God as a Gardener; Carolyn Roth Ministry

12 Days of Christmas

Primary school students learned the Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It has a jaunty tune and repeats information which appeals to these students. Most students and holiday revelers had no idea that the popular carol was a hidden catechism for Catholics. For about 300 years (1558 – 1829) during a time of severe persecution in England, Catholics used this carol to transmit the Catholic faith from one generation to another. In the carol, basic tenets of the Catholic faith were symbolized.  Here are the verses of the song:

The Carol and Interpretation:

  • On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree. Me refers to all baptized persons, and more specifically, to all Catholics. A partridge in a pear tree refers to Jesus Christ. A pear tree references the wood of the manager.
  • On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. Two turtle doves refer to the two parts of the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
  • On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Three French hens are the Trinity: God, Son, Holy Spirit.
  • On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Four calling birds are the four Gospels.
  • On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Five golden rings are the first five books of the Bible.
  • On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Six geese a-laying are the six days of creation.
  • On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Seven swans a-swimming are the seven sacraments of the Catholic church.
  • On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Eight maids a-milking refers to the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).
  • On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Nine ladies dancing refers to the eight levels of angels.
  • On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Ten lords a-leaping is the Ten Commandments.
  • On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Eleven pipers piping refer to the eleven apostles (minus Judas).
  • On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Twelve drummers drumming refers to the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed.

Be Watchful

 

 The Word of the Lord: The first time the almond tree is named in Genesis, the setting is Paddan Aram. There, Jacob used almond branches to attempt to influence the color of animals in his flock.  Genesis 30.37-40: 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. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.

The second time the almond tree is named the setting is Canaan. Jacob directs his sons to take almonds, one of the best products of Canaan, as a gift to the Egyptian in charge of selling grain. Genesis 44.11: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.

Meditation: Few plants have the important symbolism of almond trees in the Old Testament. Almond trees encompass buds, flowers, and fruit (almond nut).  In addition to the two Genesis examples, almond tree products appeared elsewhere in the Bible. In the Tent of Meeting, the original menorah had almond buds carved on its branches and central stem. Aaron’s staff budded, bloomed, and produced almonds after a night in in front of the Ark of the Covenant.

When Jeremiah was called to be God’s prophet, God showed Jeremiah an almond branch and asked Jeremiah what he saw. Jeremiah answered God that he saw an almond branch. God commended Jeremiah’s response and said that he was watching to see that his word is fulfilled (Jeremiah 1.12); thus, almonds are associated with God watching mankind. Job called God a “watcher of mankind” (Job 7.20)

Application: Daily new events bombard our world. Currently, a worldwide viral pandemic is occurring. How rapidly the virus spread over the globe. Each day, there are more diagnosed cases and deaths in the world and in my country. Hopefully, we have all read Revelation sufficiently to not be surprised. Pandemics, reduced commerce, and collapsed economic systems are signals God gives us so we  repent and turn to him.

As the almond tree demonstrated in biblical times, God is watching to verify that his word is fulfilled on earth. What  occurs now in the world is an example of God word being fulfilled.

One part of Jesus’ message causes me sadness: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24.12-13). Each of us must work so that our love for others—regardless of country, race, gender, sexual preference, etc., doesn’t  grow cold.

We need to monitor our hearts and evaluate how we behave. About 30 years ago, I realized that I had a hard, even callous,  heart. I prayed that God would soften my heart. Since that time God changed my heart of stone to a heart filled with compassion.  My husband often comments on what a compassionate person I am.  Yet, decades ago he never made that comment about me. You can offer God the same prayer— to soften our hearts—God answer that prayer.

 Reflection:  How are you keeping your love for others warm? How do you continually evaluate your love for others?

Copyright 10/25/2020; Carolyn A. Roth

Exfoliate Ourselves

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 30.37-40: 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. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.

 Mediation: After Laban agreed to Jacob’s proposal to grow his personal flock by Jacob keeping only spotted or striped sheep and goats, Laban moved animals with these characteristics three days away from Jacob’s location.  That left Jacob with only solid-colored animals. Laban believed that no or few future offspring in Jacob’s flock would be spotted or multi-colored. Laban believed that once again he outsmarted Jacob.

Normally, the oriental plane tree that Jacob used to influence the color of his flocks doesn’t grow in the United States. Jacob used it in Paddan Aram that is now in Syria. The tree’s bark exfoliates naturally giving the tree a spotted black-white appearance.

Exfoliate means to cast off in scales of thin layers. Plane trees cast off pieces of bark, so the trunk and branches look spotted.

Most of us wish we could exfoliate, cast off some of our foibles and quirks like the plane tree sheds its bark; however, just the opposite occurs. The parts of our character and personality that we want to get rid of, are those parts that seem to cling. I’ve concluded that  trying to get rid of the un-beautiful parts of my being is part of Christian maturity, i.e., becoming progressively more like Christ.

Some days we want to rush forward toward Christ likeness so we can become pure and clean. But total purity and cleanliness aren’t going to happen on earth no matter how much we shed old behaviors and put on new ones. We’re human, which means that we will never reach perfection in this life no matter how smooth our skin appears.

God expects us to struggle as we move forward, as we move nearer to Christ. Do you ever become impatient with yourself and ask, “Why don’t you just make me righteous, God? I’m willing. Just do it, God, so I don’t have to expend all this effort.”

Reflection: Ponder why God doesn’t make us, force us, take all actions necessary to achieve the character of Christ here on earth.

Copyright 10/15/2020; Carolyn Roth 

Live Long and Prosper

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 14.13:  Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram.

Genesis 18.1: The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre.

Meditation

Abram traveled through Canaan and settled at the great trees of Mamre near Hebron. The great trees at Mamre were most likely Palestinian oak trees. The oak trees would have provided shade for Abram’s tents and individuals in them.

In the Bible, oaks were associated with power, strength, and longevity in the sense of a long life. The great oaks of Mamre symbolized Abram’s long life. A Palestinian oak near Hebron, named Abraham’s Oak, is thought to be over 850 years old.

God promised that he will be with his servants through life, even into their old age and gray hairs (Psalms 71.18). Christians don’t have to worry about what they will do in retirement. They can use Abram as their role model. God called Abram to a new adventure when Abram was 75 years-of-age.

If you are retired, think about adventures you have  experienced since retirement. What are some of them? How did they enhance your life? Do you anticipate new adventures in your life going forward? Adventures can include ministering in your home church and community as well as travel.

The religious order that I belong to includes women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. At monthly meetings, women report the numerous activities they are involved in. Each is totally excited by what she contributes to the church as well as to her community. An Israelite proverb is that the fear of the Lord adds length to life; but, the years of the wicked are cut short (Proverbs 10.27).

Reflection: Is having a long life important to you? How do you think a long life is related to fear of the Lord? Is a long life span more important that what you do with that life span?

Copyright 6/19/2020

Are You Trash?

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 3.17-20: To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 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.”

 Meditation

 God cursed the ground because of Adam’s rebellion. Thorns were a result of God’s curse. Throughout the Bible, thorns don’t have a good reputation. Frequently, they are symbols of desolation and devastation.

The Hebrew word for thorn is shayith which often translates as trash.  Trash is debris (often from plants) worth little or nothing, and often thrown away or burnt.  Trash is an excellent symbol for men and women who reject Christ’s atoning work for the trash of their present lives.

The Palestinian buckthorn was a bush that grew in the ancient Middle East. The buckthorn grows as an evergreen shrub with a many-branched, tangled form, and velvety, thin thorns. Young stems and thorns are green. As bark matures it becomes gray.

Most gardeners don’t plant buckthorn. It’s an unattractive shrub that normally doesn’t grow in cultivated gardens or fields. Buckthorn grows well in poor soil that is gritty and highly eroded.

Along with the thistle, the buckthorn is the last species to disappear when livestock over-graze an area. The Mediterranean buckthorn has no value for mankind or livestock. An ancient strategy to remove buckthorn was to burn the land.

At times in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, we have referred to individuals as “trash” or “trashy.” From God’s perspective none of his creation—including buckthorn, you, me—are trash. Each person is worthy. God put each person on the earth for a purpose. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2.10).

Reflection: Name some aspects of God’s laws you treat as trash. You know the ones I mean—the ones that you think are outdated or don’t apply to you.

Copyright: 6/16/2020

 

Crocus in the Desert

White and purple crocus flower | GardenersPath.com

Bible Reference: Isaiah 35.1.

The Bible named both crocus and saffron, an edible spice of crocus. Currently, true crocus doesn’t grow in Israel. The flower named “crocus” that grows there has harmful effects. Here’s what the Bible says about crocus and saffron:

“Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron” (Song of Songs 4.13-14 NIV).

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35.1 NIV).

In this Song of Songs’ passage the Groom lauded his Bride by comparing her to sweet-smelling flowers and fruits. Despite the Groom’s charming description, I resonate more to Isaiah’s description of the desert blooming with crocus (plural croci). In my Bible (NIV), the title of this Isaiah chapter is “Joy of the Redeemed.” That’s me—I have been redeemed from my previous sinful, self-centered life by God. Instead of thorns, thistles, and weeds, I burst forth as a crocus blooming in the desert.

The name “crocus” is often used to describe two unrelated plants. The true crocus belongs to the iris family of plants. In Israel, another plant, colchicum (Colchicum troodi, C. tunicatum), is a crocus relative. The confusion between the true crocus and colchicum is fostered by laypersons naming colchicum as “autumn crocus.” Appendix A, Table 3 contains the differentiating characteristics of crocus and colchicum.

The true crocus includes popular spring-blooming varieties that mark winter’s end, fall-blooming species, and saffron crocus (Crocus sativum) used in cooking. The saffron crocus blooms in autumn. Saffron is an expensive spice; over 90% of saffron is produced in Iran.

Early spring saffron crocus

Several varieties of colchicum grow in Israel. The colchicum (autumn crocus) bulb contains a poison (colchicine).22 Colchicine poison symptoms include burning in the mouth and throat, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting, and ultimately kidney failure. These symptoms can progress to multiple organ failure. There isn’t a specific antidote for colchicine poison; rather, symptoms are treated, i.e., anti-emetics for nausea and vomiting and intra-venous fluids for kidney failure. If patients don’t die, recovery starts in six-to-eight days.

Reflection: Prevention of colchicine poison is better than treatment. What in your life is poisonous? More importantly, how can you not plant or nourish poison in your own life? Would increasing your service to God be valued in your community? In the USA?

Copyright 12/18/2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for more information on Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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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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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