“O the green things growing, the green things growing,
The faint sweet smell of the green things growing!
I should like to live, whether I smile or grieve,
Just to watch the happy life of my green things growing.”
~Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ~Romans 12:12 ✝
White. . .is not a mere absence of colour;
it is a shining and affirmative thing,
as fierce as red, as definite as black. . .
God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously,
I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.
~G. K. Chesterton
Mother nature’s portrait of life on planet earth begins each spring with brushstrokes of vibrant color that little by little cover over winter’s drab canvas. Appearing in gardens along with the vibrancy of bright colors is the “shining and affirmative” whiteness of which Chesterton spoke. White, often chosen as the color of wedding gowns and christening gowns, has perennially spoken of fresh beginnings, and so I think it is fitting that many of the Lord’s flowers appear in shades of white. In some riots of white the posies are marked with smidgens of contrasting colors which seem in early spring to foreshadow the glorious pigments yet to be dragged off the Master’s palette. So notable and stunning are the images depicted on earth’s canvases that down through the ages many references to gardens and white have been made in prose as well as music, art, and poetry. One line in particular was penned by Walter Bellingrath who rightfully noted that a garden “is like a beautiful woman with a different gown for each week of the year.” And I think that when dressed in gowns of glistening white, these ladies of the garden are especially powerful and inspiring muses.
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. ~Ecclesiastes 9:7-8
It was not that the jagged precipices were lofty,
that the encircling woods were the dimmest shade,
or that the waters were profoundly deep;
but that over all, rocks, wood, and water brooded the spirit of repose,
and the silent energy of nature stirred the soul to its inmost depths.
Sometimes one just has to go “where the wild things are” in order to have the senses put in order and life put in perspective. Such a place exists for me in southwestern Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains. These mountains began forming approximately 500 million years ago and are ranked among the oldest ranges on earth. However, down through the ages climactic forces have chiseled and sculpted them until “all that remain now of once lofty escarpments are weather-reduced knobs and domes.” Even so one can’t help but stand in awe of what remains as well as the forces it took to thrust, in some cases, amazingly huge pieces of granite upward from the bowels of earth. In addition, amid the beauty of those remaining “knobs and domes” are 13 artificial lakes and a 59,020 acre refuge which “hosts a rare piece of the past–a remnant mixed-grass prairie that escaped destruction because the rocks underfoot defeated the plow.” The “refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer who were all once in danger of extinction. Texas longhorn cattle also share the Refuge rangelands as a cultural and historical legacy species. In addition more than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on the refuge.” So it is that in this piece of Creation, relatively untamed since the beginning of time, I find more than enough wildness to hear the voice of God murmuring among the profusion of rocks, speaking softly over the flowing waters, and whispering across the waving prairie grasses.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness. -Psalm 29:2
The Lord gives strength to His people;
The Lord blesses His people with peace.
The “Passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion. So it is that I offer up this passionflower from my yard to the risen Christ and ask that He draw near all those suffering losses as a result of the recent devastating tornados. I lift up also all the responders who give of themselves and their skills to help these victims. May all of these people and their families draw strength from You, Jesus, and may they find comfort and rest in the shelter of Your loving holiness.
Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones,
and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.
~Henry Ward Beecher
Rain’s “soft architectural hands” were made by Him who made the earth and blessed its inhabitants with life-giving waters. All forms of moisture bring the stuff without which there is no life, the stuff in which life is formed, the stuff of which life is sustained. Wetness was felt on the face of Adam and Eve in the beginning, and now eons later rain continues to move in its seasonal cycles to insure the survival of the planet and humanity. It kisses the earth and then returns to the clouds to be carried on to other destinations. Through the millennia it must have been carried on journeys that have taken it all over the world again and again. Oh how I would love to hear the tales the rain could tell if it had the gift of speech.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. ~Psalm 19:1 ✝
Everything is blooming most recklessly;
if it were voices instead of colors, there would
be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
If our hearing were finely tuned enough, I wonder if we could really hear colorful flowery “voices” shrieking in the night as Rilke suggests. This photo taken on a spring day as it wound down is just one of many that testify to that possibility. Although the light was quickly slipping away, the colors were not going into the night in quiet abdication of their thrones. If anything, as the warmth and light diminished, some of the glorious hues actually deepened in the cool darkness. Decades ago after consistently wandering the garden at night, I began noticing that vivid flower colors are still visibly vibrant even though they lack luminosity. In fact in the deepest hours of night they seem to hold a bit of light within themselves, a phenomena not unlike the perpetual light that shines in the countenance of a human who has allowed Christ to come and dwell in his/her heart.
I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells. ~Psalm 26:8
God waits to win back His own flowers as gifts from man’s hands. ~Rabindranath Tagore
I do love many things, but it’s flowers and colors that speak to me most and in ways like none other. Since childhood both of them have fueled my spirit, and now that I’m coming to know the Lord more and more, they encourage me to empty my mind of all that limits God and His divinely inspired possiblilities. The Irish poet and teacher, John O’Donohue, asks us to “take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention, ” and to that end I began planting and celebrating a host of colorful flowers long ago. Now when I pull back the blinds to let in morning’s light, what I see in the garden almost takes my breath away. I struggle even to whisper words of gratitude and praise, and for some time afterwards I want nothing more than to stay in Eden and linger in the Lord’s holiness.
Keep the eye of your spirit ever upon the Lord, the window of your soul open towards Him. You have ever to know that all things are yours–that what is lovely He delights to give you. ~Anonymous
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. ~Exodus 15:2
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers?
Because they touch us not only with visual beauty but also often with a fragrant vitality, over the centuries many if not most gardens have had an herb or two or more in them. Herbs have long been valued for flavor, scent, and other properties and so continue to be used in cooking, as medicines, and for spiritual purposes. The herb mustard was praised by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, and it is one that Shakespeare referred to as a desirable condiment in several of his plays. Chamomile has long been used in teas, and nasturtium flowers have frequently been added to salads. Fennel is yet another long-in-use desirable culinary herb as is borage herb (photo above) which has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Mints had their beginnings early on in history. For example, the leaves were bruised by ancient Greek athletes and used as an after-bath lotion. Then in the Middle Ages mint was important as a cleansing agent as well as being used to purify drinking water that turned stale on long ocean voyages. For a time mint was also given mystical powers used to neutralize the “evil-eye” and to produce aggressive behavior. Lavender, a member of the mint family, is one of the holy herbs used in the biblical Temple to prepare the holy essence. Nard which is what the ancient Greeks called lavender is also mentioned in the Song of Solomon. In the Bible herbs were actually prized by many as can be seen in Matthew and Luke where one finds references to tithes being paid with herbs like cumin, mint, and other valuable herbs. Herbs like all else in the circle of life are a gift from God, and as Timaeus of Locris said, “God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere.”
He (Jesus) told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” -Matthew 13:31-32