Bloom Where You’re Planted?

Photo by Jim Black on Pixabay

Some say you should “bloom where you’re planted.”

You can get all manner of products printed with this slogan: T-shirts, mugs, posters, and notecards.

But is that always the best advice? Maybe not. There’s something to be said for not staying in the same place for too long.

Your garden will tell you that if you plant the same type of vegetable in the same plot year after year, you’ll notice that the health of the plant and the yield it produces will begin to suffer. The plant will be attacked by more diseases and pests, and the nutrients in the soil will have been depleted by past crops of the same type.

The answer to this problem? Crop rotation.

Don’t plant the same type of vegetable or crop in the same location several years running. Mix it up; plant something new in that spot.

What about in life?

Does God intend us to stay rooted to the same location for much of our lives?

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A Special Kind of Faith

Tulip bulbs at a flower market
Photo from Pxhere, Public Domain

They say that planting seeds is an act of faith.

I think that’s true: you put seeds in the ground in spring, hoping most will germinate and grow into a plant. If you’re lucky, you might see hints of growth in a few days, but often it can be weeks before a little green head pokes its way out of the soil.

If planting seeds takes faith, then I think it takes a special kind of faith to plant bulbs in the fall.

In the fall, you know the days are getting shorter and colder. The leaves are dropping from the trees, and tender plants are beginning to die from early frosts. You know that snow will soon blanket the garden to the depth of a couple feet. You’re heading into a barren season.

The precious tulip, daffodil or hyacinth bulbs that you’ve just planted will disappear from your view for many months. You’ll have no indication that they’re all right, let alone any guarantee that they’ll eventually bloom. They may fall prey to rabbits, squirrels or deer. Who knows what will happen to them?

And yet you still go ahead and plant fall bulbs, trusting that they’ll survive the frigid winter and bloom later in spring.

Some things in our lives take special faith to trust for, too, don’t they?

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A Gardener’s Worst Enemy

Garlic Mustard
Photo by Simone VomFeld on Pixabay

Gardeners may not realize it, but they’re a bit like soldiers in wartime. Their enemies aren’t people, of course, but an even more insidious foe:

Weeds.

Weeds infiltrate our gardens like enemy invaders: dandelions, nettles, thistles, couch grass and garlic mustard, to name a few. They may seem innocent enough when there are only a few of them, but make no mistake: their ultimate aim is to take over and occupy your territory.

One vanguard weed may sneak in and settle, and you think nothing of it. If you’re not vigilant, though, that lone plant will soon multiply into an overwhelming host.

Or you pull up a dandelion and think that’s the end of it, but unless you’ve been very thorough, part of the taproot remains deep in the soil. The weed will come up again long after you thought you’ve eradicated it.

The seeds of weeds may stay in the soil of your garden and remain viable for years. They lie in wait like sleeper agents, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to spring up and attack.

The mission of weeds is simple but deadly: to compete with other plants for light, water and nutrients and crowd them out so they die. They’re dastardly adversaries, often needing less sunlight and water than other plants to survive.

And the worst part of it is that they’re very hard to kill.

Weeds are sort of like sin, aren’t they?

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The Language of Flowers and the Language of God

Say it with flowers!
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA-2.0

Flowers speak. Not just through their fragrance or their beauty, but with secret codes, too.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “language of flowers” popular during Victorian times? This enchanting symbolic language enabled suitors to send coded messages to their paramours, ones that couldn’t be spoken aloud. The message depended on the particular flowers and colours chosen for the bouquet. An entire conversation could be carried out solely through flowers, with no words employed at all.

We all know that red roses symbolize true love, and we’d rightly guess that the forget-me-not begs that the giver be remembered. But did you know the following flower meanings?

Red carnation: My heart aches for you
Hyacinth: Your loveliness charms me
Canterbury bell: Your letter received
Yellow rose: Jealousy
Butterfly weed: Let me go
Weeping willow: Sadness

The Victorian language of flowers is a cryptic tongue. Most people only see the surface of the flower and not the symbolic meaning hidden within it.

God has His own “language of flowers,” but it actually encompasses all of creation. God is continually speaking to us through nature:

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20 NLT)

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1 NLT)

If we listened in to what nature was saying about its Creator, what messages would be revealed?

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Blue Roses and Black Tulips

Photo by Faye Mozingo on Pixabay

For generations, gardeners have been trying to achieve the impossible: to breed a truly blue rose or a perfectly black tulip.

These two flowers have so intrigued people’s imaginations that they’ve entered both lore and literature.

Blue roses are often used to symbolize mystery and a longing to attain the impossible. Some cultures even say that whoever holds a blue rose will have his or her wishes granted.

Black tulips were featured in an 1850 novel by Alexander Dumas called what else but “The Black Tulip.” This swashbuckling tale of love, murder and greed centres on the quest for a unique jet-black tulip.

The problem is that blue roses and black tulips don’t exist in nature. Roses lack the specific gene that allows for a “true blue” colour. It’s the same story with black tulips: optically black flowers are virtually unknown in nature.

Plant breeders have come close to achieving a blue rose through hybridization, but the “blue” is often closer to lilac or mauve. To produce a bluer flower, they’ve had to resort to dyeing or genetically modifying the plant.

As for tulips, the “black” ones are usually a deep eggplant or plum colour. They give the appearance of being extremely dark, but are not optically black.

Maybe this is a hint that we were never meant to find perfection in this world.

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Focus on the Best, Pluck Out the Rest

Photo by Joffi on Pixabay

If you have a vegetable garden, what you’re probably doing about this time of the summer is pinching suckers off your tomato plants.

“Suckers” are the little growths between the main stem of your tomato plant and the lateral branches. These side shoots may be healthy and vigorous, but letting them grow would only rob the tomatoes themselves of growth potential. Better to pluck off the suckers in order to direct all the plant’s energy into ripening the tomatoes.

An extreme example of this practice can be seen in the growing of prize-winning pumpkins. The farmer or gardener will pluck off all but the most promising nascent pumpkins, sometimes leaving only one growing on each vine. The plant is forced to pour all its photosynthesis power into producing one massive pumpkin. World-record-setting pumpkins have weighed over 2,000 pounds!

There’s something to be said for focussing on the important things, isn’t there? It can produce astounding results.

Maybe there’s a lesson here we can apply to our own lives.

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Give It Time

Handkerchief Tree photo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you get the feeling that society is becoming too impatient?

We seem to expect instant results these days: immediate responses to our texts or emails, same-day delivery for things we order, instantaneous loading of videos or web pages. In fact, a study showed that a YouTube video that loads slowly will start losing viewers after two seconds.

The problem is that sometimes our impatience with technology gets applied to people, too. We expect people to change quickly, and if they don’t, we lose patience with them and give up on them.

This reminds me of the tale of the handkerchief tree.

Called the dove tree in its native China, it became known to Western visitors in the late 1800s, who were entranced by it. The handkerchief tree features stunning white bracts surrounding its flowers, which resemble doves, ghosts or fluttering handkerchiefs, hence its name in the West.

European botanists in China collected the seeds and brought them back home, keen to grow such a gorgeous tree. One gardener planted the seeds, but was disappointed to find after a year that they hadn’t sprouted into seedlings. Figuring that the seeds must be no good, he discarded them by dumping them onto his compost pile, then forgot about them.

To his surprise, two years later he saw a bunch of seedlings on the compost pile. They were from the handkerchief tree. They had sprouted after all!

What he didn’t know was that seeds of the handkerchief tree have what’s called a “double dormancy”: they require two years to germinate, unlike most seeds which will sprout within the first year.

He had written them off too soon.

Don’t we do the same with people sometimes?

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Consider the Lilies

Pink Tiger Lily photo from Pxfuel

Many of us fret about our clothes. We worry that they aren’t stylish enough, or that they make us look fat, or that they’re last year’s (or even last millennium’s) fashions.

Some of us even worry that we won’t have enough money to buy the basic clothes we need.

But we shouldn’t be anxious that God won’t provide for us. After all, look how He’s clothed the flowers.

Have you ever marvelled at the rich “vestments” some flowers are clad in?

Look at the iris attired in silky frills, the peony robed in ruffles, or the delicate tracery of Queen Anne’s lace. The sumptuous, constantly unfurling petals of the rose boast the finest tailoring. Some flowers are decked out in speckles, mimicking the polka-dots on a dress; others are costumed in stripes, like a crocus. Even the common petunia can have petals that resemble luxurious velvet.

Red Rose photo by AliceKeyStudio on Pixabay

God hasn’t stinted on giving flowers rich colours, either. What about the intense blue of lobelia, suitable for any royal robe? Or the bright yellows of daffodils, the vivid oranges of marigolds, or the saturated reds of poppies? On the paler end of the spectrum are the shy blues of the forget-me-nots and the delicate ballet-pinks of some tulips.

Some flowers even have names which relate to clothing: bachelor’s buttons, lady’s slipper, Texas bluebonnet, foxglove, lady’s mantle, and monk’s hood.

And how about those lilies? In fact, I seem to remember a Bible verse which talks about the beautiful garments lilies wear:

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This Is Who We Are

Canadian Flag Photo from PickPik

In a few days, Canada will be celebrating its birthday. July 1st is Canada Day, a holiday on which we have parties, set off fireworks, and wave the flag.

We’re all attached to our national flags, aren’t we? Each is beautiful in its own way. Some flags have blocks of colour, some feature significant symbols, others have patterns of stars and stripes. A handful of countries depict plants or trees on their flags, mine among them.

Canada’s flag has a maple leaf at its centre. In fact, the nickname for our flag is the Maple Leaf. As a nature lover, I’m proud to have a symbol of a plant on my national flag, and especially pleased that it’s a leaf from one of my favourite trees.

Growing up, I loved maple trees: I climbed them, enjoyed the sugar and fudge made from their sap, collected their red and orange leaves in autumn to press and even jumped into raked-up piles of them.

I’d venture to say that all Canadians love maple trees. The trees themselves are beautiful and stately; the wood harvested from them is so strong it can be used as the flooring for bowling alleys; we harvest precious sap from them to make sought-after products; and the leaves turn gorgeous colours in the autumn.

The maple leaf is the emblem of Canada. It symbolizes who we are as a people: hardy, strong, nature-loving northerners.

Just as the maple tree is important to Canadians, there’s another tree which is very important to a certain group of people:

It’s the tree Christ was crucified on.

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Don’t Just Sit There…

Spaniel Photo from Pxfuel

I received an alarming notice in my mailbox from my neighbourhood association recently.

It informed me that there was an infestation of “dog-strangling vine” in the area. Dog-strangling vine is an unwanted, invasive plant that can choke out native species. The leaflet told me what steps to take if I saw this plant in my yard, and who to report its presence to.

Inexplicably missing from the notice, however, was the answer to a crucial question:

Will the dog-strangling vine actually strangle my dog?

I’ve conducted some research on this vital issue for readers of The Faith Cafe and can assure you that this crafty vine likely won’t strangle your canine. Unless, of course, he sits next to the vine and keeps perfectly still for several weeks. But if your dog isn’t in the habit of sitting motionless next to murderous flora, he’s probably safe from this vicious plant.

I’m being facetious, of course, but perhaps there’s a lesson here for us when it comes to sin:

If we just sit there and take no action to avoid the temptation, we’ll get into trouble.

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