It seems like marriage proposals these days are a competitive sport.
It used to be that a man would propose to his beloved over a romantic dinner, with flowers on the table and perhaps some violins playing. He would get down on bended knee, present a ring, and ask for her hand in marriage.
Apparently, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Now, proposals have to be over-the-top. They might feature anything from fireworks to skywriting. A will-you-marry-me moment nowadays might involve a scavenger hunt, a fake movie trailer, a full orchestra and choir, or a ride in a hot-air balloon.
More adventurous grooms might enlist a celebrity in the proceedings, hire a flash mob at Times Square, or arrange to appear on the Jumbotron at a sports game.
And then there’s the man whose proposal took an entire year to create. Unbeknownst to his girlfriend Jennifer, each day for 365 days Dean Smith videotaped himself proposing to her, every time with a unique message. On the 366th day, he showed her the completed video and finally proposed in person (she said yes).
Why do people go to so much trouble?
Because they want to show their intended how much they’re loved.
Did you know that God has done the same for you?
He loves you deeply and He wants you to know it!
Let’s see how God stacks up when it comes to showing love.
If you’re a gardener, you probably have a stash of seeds tucked away.
I certainly do. I have a special bin in a cupboard where I store all my seed packets:
Envelopes containing seeds I’ve harvested over the years from plants in my garden. Seeds that friends have collected from their own gardens and then passed on to me, along with handwritten notes about the plants.
Packets of seeds I’ve bought the Botanic Garden’s seed fairs that look intriguing: seeds of rare plants, unusual colours of better known plants, or hard-to-find heirloom varieties of vegetables or flowers.
I have a veritable treasure trove of seeds in my cupboard!
There’s only one problem:
Those seeds are doing me absolutely no good sitting in a bin on a shelf.
I may take the packets out from time to time and look rapturously at the photos on the front. I might imagine how nice it would be to grow such gorgeous flowers or unusual veggies.
But until I put those seeds in the ground, all they are is wishful thinking and pretty pictures.
If I don’t take a step of faith and plant my seeds, I’ll never get a harvest.
Similarly, we sometimes leave our dreams and desires on a shelf, so to speak.
These flowers are among those from which we can easily extract essential oils. These substances can then be used in products ranging from perfumes to scented soaps. If you love the smell of these flowers, you have all manner of ways to experience the scent. You can do so directly, by smelling the flower, or secondhand, as it were, through items made from their oils.
But some flowers don’t produce enough usable essential oils.
My favourite floral scent, lilac, is one of them.
Unfortunately for me, the aromatic compounds in lilacs are nearly impossible to acquire. Trying to extract the fragrance through steam distillation can end up destroying the scent profile. And the tiny amount of essential oils that may result are so expensive to produce that it’s not economically worthwhile to bother.
The end result is that you can’t buy true lilac essential oil. Perfumers may be able to mimic the scent of lilacs through synthesis, but the resulting fragrance hasn’t been distilled solely from the actual flower itself; it’s merely an approximation, a blend of other floral notes. No chemist can authentically capture the unique scent of the lilac.
If you want to experience the true fragrance of lilacs, there’s only one way to do it. You have to experience it “live,” by smelling an actual cluster of flowers.
Likewise, if we want to experience Jesus, it has to be “live.”
If something doesn’t fit your idea of a garden, is it still a garden?
I must confess to having trouble warming up to Japanese gardens. They often feature distinctive elements such as conifers and moss, gravel raked to suggest waves in water, stone lanterns or water basins, and perhaps a bridge.
But to me, a garden isn’t really a garden unless its primary focus is an abundance of colourful flowers.
So are Japanese gardens still gardens? Very much so!
They still celebrate nature, even if some elements are suggested rather than incorporated literally. They still reflect the beauty that God has placed on this Earth. They still have the essentials down pat.
I guess I need to expand my idea of what a garden is.
We shouldn’t look askance at the way others have created their gardens. God smiles on them all.
Perhaps this is a lesson we can apply to the Christian life, too.
Is it just my imagination, or do weeds actually grow faster than the flowers I’m trying to nurture?
Gardeners will know what I’m talking about. Weeds seem to be gifted with internal steroids that accelerate their growth, outpacing the delicate flowers that we’ve brought home from the garden centre.
Weeds don’t seem to be affected by lack of rain or by intense heat. They’ll grow just about anywhere. They’re speed demons of growth compared to the flowers we try to baby along with regular watering and fertilizing.
I looked into this crucial issue on behalf of readers of The Faith Cafe, and found that weeds do have some competitive advantages.
Weeds which are perennials have the benefit of established root systems that have been alive for many years; these dormant roots have a lot of stored energy. Perennial weeds grow faster and are harder to kill than annuals.
Weeds are already acclimated to the region’s soil, and are highly adaptable. They’re usually native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, unlike plants from the garden centre which may be non-native and need time to adjust.
Weed seeds are already present in our garden soil. They bide their time until the right conditions present themselves, and then race out of the soil. They’re often excellent self-propagators and are opportunistic growers.
All these things give weeds a head start over the flowers we favour.
This got me thinking:
Why do the “weeds” of our character grow better than the fruits of the Spirit?
Are there lessons we can learn from the natural world?
Some flowers have a trick up their sleeve (or up their petals):
They’re able to change colour.
I recently noticed a beautiful flowering plant heavy with pink blossoms in a neighbour’s garden. When I walked by several days later, I saw that some of the flowers had turned a lighter creamy colour as they matured. I did a double take and had to make sure I was indeed looking at the same plant as before.
Other flowering plants have the same ability to surprise us with shifting colours.
Among them is the aptly named “yesterday-today-and-tomorrow” plant. This tropical shrub has short-lived flowers which change colour as they age. They start out as purple, then shift to lavender and finally fade to white before dropping from the plant.
While flowers that change colour can delight and surprise us, sometimes we need something unchanging and constant in our lives.
Isn’t it good to know that we can count on God to always remain the same?
Have you ever noticed a flower growing in a peculiar spot in your garden and wondered, “How did that get there? Did I do that?”
You might see a rogue tulip popping up incongruously in the middle of your lawn.
Or you do a double-take when you see a cluster of flowers flourishing in the corner, but you have no recollection of having planted them there.
In some cases, squirrels might be the culprits. They’re notorious for unearthing tulip bulbs and burying them someplace else for future consumption, only to forget about them.
At other times, you might have tried growing something yourself from seeds but they never seemed to germinate. You give up and completely forget about them. A few years later, however, flowers are blooming in that corner after all, to your great surprise.
The same dynamic is sometimes at play when we plant “seeds” in someone’s life.
Sometimes nature can be a bit unpredictable—things happen in an order we wouldn’t expect.
Normally, plants put forth leaves long before they produce flowers.
But some trees and shrubs flip the script, so to speak.
With certain plants, the normal sequence is reversed: the flowers come first, before the leaves have developed.
A good example is the beautiful redbud tree. It puts forth gorgeous pink flowers on its bare branches in early spring, when none of its leaves are yet in sight.
The forsythia shrub bears its bright yellow flowers in advance of its leaves, and the lovely magnolia presents its pink or white blooms before the green foliage appears. Some maples and oaks also exhibit this flower-first behaviour, although with less showy blossoms.
All of these plants give us a treat in springtime when we’re starved for colour. We get the flower first without having to wait for the leaves.
Why do some plants reverse the normal order of things?
Some trees are wind-pollinated, so put forth flowers before their bulky leaves get in the way. The same goes for flowers that need extra sunlight. Other plants produce a mass of conspicuous flowers first, unobscured by leaves, to better attract the attention of pollinating insects.
Did you know that God also flipped the script and gave us the flower first, so to speak?
It can be hard to hold on to hope when winter is coming, can’t it?
The trees and shrubs seem barren of any evidence that life will ever reemerge. It can be rather depressing.
But if you look closely at certain plants during winter, you’ll see something exciting:
Yes, some plants, such as magnolias, actually set their flower buds for next year during the previous growing season. You can see these buds on the branches all winter long.
In the case of magnolias, the buds are encased in a hairy protective scale to insulate them from the cold, almost like a silvery fur coat. When the time is right the next spring, the flowers are all ready to burst open into glorious bloom.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that the promise of next year’s flowers is already there during the bleak winter?
In the same way, the seeds of your comeback are forming deep within you.