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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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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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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What’s in a Name?

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pixabay

As a gardener, I must admit that I prefer using the common or folk names for flowers. These sometimes-ancient names are often whimsical and enchanting, like “Miss Willmott’s Ghost,” whose origins we explored last week.

Who wouldn’t love calling flowers by such names as cherry pie plant, lady’s slipper, love-in-a-mist, baby blue eyes, bachelor’s button, quaker ladies, whirling butterflies, johnny-jump-up, busy lizzie, or candytuft? It makes the heart sing to use endearing names like these.

The scientific or botanical names for flowers, on the other hand, can seem daunting. They’re usually derived from Latin, and while they can give a more accurate description of what a plant’s nature is, they can sound a bit intimidating to my ears.

In fact, some botanical names actually sound like a disease:

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got Scabiosa again.”

“That’s nothing! You should see my sister’s Myosotis: it’s rampant.”

“You don’t say! But did you hear about Kelly? She’s got Nepeta nervosa.”

“No! Is she seeing a psychiatrist for that?”

(In case you’re wondering, Scabiosa is the botanical name for the pincushion flower; you might know Myosotis better as the little blue forget-me-not; and Nepeta nervosa is a type of catmint.)

I’m so glad that we have the opportunity to use informal names for the flowers we cherish.

In the same way, believers have been given the great privilege of using a remarkably intimate name for God: “Abba Father.”

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The Sweetest Perfume Can’t Be Bought

Vintage perfume bottles
Photo by domeckopol on Pixabay

We humans can’t help but react instinctively to a beautiful smell, can we?

In my last post, The Perfect Recipe for Bread, I mentioned how wonderful the smell of freshly baked bread is in your own home. The same is true when you bake a cake, cook a roast, light a scented candle, or when you bring a bouquet of flowers inside: the aroma fills the whole house and gives you a deep sense of pleasure.

You get the same pleasing effect when you take a walk in your neighbourhood and can detect cooking smells emanating from houses as you pass by: here someone’s making a rich stew, over there a spicy curry. Even better is strolling by someone’s garden and being enveloped by the scent of the lilacs or roses growing there.

But what if a beautiful aroma could permeate an even bigger area?

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Orchestra In Your Garden

Snowdrops, one of the harbingers of spring

Finally! At long last we’re starting to see signs of spring here in Toronto.

There’s still a bit of snow on the ground, but the tiny snowdrops in my garden are already shyly blooming. The tulips are just starting to poke the tips of their leaves above the ground like a periscope, as if checking to see whether it’s safe to emerge.

“The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.” (Song of Solomon 2:12 NLT)

After a long winter, it makes my heart sing to see the beginnings of spring.

But do the flowers and trees themselves sing? And if they do, what is their song telling us?

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Promises of Good Things To Come

Vintage seed catalogues from the 1890s.
(Publicdomainpictures.net)

When winter still has us in its icy grip, it’s hard to imagine that it will ever let us go. There seems to be no end to the frigid temperatures and snowstorms, and it can really get a person down.

What can we do to give us hope during a bleak, cold winter?

A favourite thing that gardeners do is to curl up indoors with some seed catalogues. They read about the promise of future luxuriant flower gardens and abundant crops of vegetables. It lifts their spirits and helps them hold on until spring comes.

Let me show you what I mean:

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An Unexpected Friend

Last summer, I had an unusual visitor. A lady I didn’t recognize came to my front door and rang the doorbell. I’d never seen her before, but she was clearly from the neighbourhood, as she had come on foot.

She said she had come to apologize to me.

I was mystified. This lady was a total stranger: why would she need to apologize to me?

“What on earth for?” I asked her.

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