It’s been said upon taking a late-night stroll, white roses tend to glow in the dark offering a natural, but romantic atmosphere. Unlike some plant life, roses stay open all day and all night. The white rose symbolizes purity, innocence, and spirituality while providing an alluring aura. Although all roses enrapture us, perhaps the white rose beckons a higher calling of beauty and splendor. Scientifically, the color white encapsulates all the glorious colors of God’s rainbow. It also could poetically symbolize the utmost radiance of His glory. Moreover, a rose, in any color, shape, or size displays the master gardener’s splendor.
“I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to nations. To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison.” Isaiah 42:6-7
Likewise, our purpose is to display our Master Gardener’s splendor by being the attractive white rose growing and glowing in a dark world lost without God’s light, without God’s Torah as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23). Whether we are living in an urban city, like the City of York, Pennsylvania (the rose pictured above is called such), living in the suburbs, living in the countryside, or even living on a sailboat as I once did, as Abba’s roses, we are to bloom, for His glory, where we are planted!
Once a rose has bloomed, its goal is to reproduce. To accomplish such a task, the blossom extinguishes its petals, and if pollinated by a bee, bird, or human, it will eventually transform into a rose hip. The rose hip is essentially a pod of rose seeds fulfilling the plant’s purpose of being fruitful and multiplying. However, if the gardener snips away the spent bloom, also known as “deadheading”, then the plant redirects its energy to produce yet more blooms. Various rose bushes, such as the floribunda variant, tend to produce multiple clusters of glorious blooms. Should one rose blossom and fade yet still is left amongst the plethora of other blooms, the spent bloom demands energy that could otherwise be redirected towards the remaining blooms in the cluster. Alternatively, the gardener could simply snip the spent rose so the energy is redirected to the remaining thriving buds or blooms. On a hybrid tea variant, the gardener could potentially remove all the budding blooms while leaving only one to flourish. The remaining bud will then produce a larger and more beautiful rose than if it was left to compete with the other burgeoning buds.
“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” Psalm 119:2
As I have evolved in my Biblical studies and come into understanding more and more of God’s holy word, I realized I have been exposed to and believed in many fallacies over the years. Ultimately, after grieving such popular deception, I opted to “deadhead” those spent blooms so my energy could be redirected to produce healthier and more spiritually accurate, full blooms. In doing so, I learned to alter and prioritize in my life what is important according to God’s word instead of what some may teach or assume is truth. I ultimately carefully examined my heart, my mind, my lifestyle, then accordingly, repented, and redirected myself to love the Lord with all of my purged heart, mind, and being to the best of my ability. I realized the more I come to know Abba Father and His word, the more I realize I know nothing at all!
“With my whole heart I have sought You!” Psalm 119:10
Moreover, I found myself relating to David’s many psalms, particularly Psalm 119 as he embraced God’s instructions instead of rejecting them. David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), goes on to scribe in verse 34 of Psalm 119, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
In time, I discovered the secret to producing a beautiful spiritual garden while being fruitful and multiplying isn’t necessarily producing multiple seeds or nourishing a plethora of blooms unknowingly propagating lies and error; rather, when we become aware and are willing to deadhead all the unnecessary deceptions and distractions, redirecting our energy on meditating on Abba Father and His Word while keeping His commandments, we then find ourselves ever-blooming, despite life’s prickles.
Have you ever noticed how climbing roses produce far more shoots and consequently, stunning clusters of blooms when forced horizontal? As a rosarian, I’ve learned if I gently bend the rose’s cane while fastening it securely with string, the cane will produce significantly more blooms than if I let it grow as it pleases. I have to be careful though as the pliable and tender canes can snap. Equally important is the tension of the string. If the string is too loose, it defeats its purpose of guiding the growing cane. Conversely, if the string is too tight, it can pierce the tissue of the cane causing damage or complete destruction. Ultimately, I have the authority as the master gardener to sculpt each cane as I see fit.
“My body and mind may waste away, but Elohim (God) remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever.” Psalm 73:26
Similarly, once upon a time, this frustrated cane found herself no longer free to grow or go wildly as she pleased. Instead, Abba Father, my Master Gardener, placed enough strings to tenderly, but securely force me horizontal through intense back and joint pain preventing me from escaping my bed. Much to my despair, in a matter of weeks, my full-time income rapidly dwindled to part-time income, then unemployment. My financial stability was seemingly ruined! But God delivered and worked everything out for my benefit similar to the Biblical accounts of Joseph, Job, and Esther. Consequently, those difficult days produced a soul harvest I would not trade for any paycheck or even my health.
“I have riches and honor, lasting wealth and righteousness. What I produce is better than gold, pure gold. What I yield is better than fine silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, on the paths of justice, to give an inheritance to those who love me and to fill their treasuries.”Proverbs 8:18-21
Though uncomfortable, OK, frankly it was miserable at times, I blossomed spiritually and emotionally. Through that season of physical pain, this life slowly but surely surrendered to Abba’s nurturing as He wasn’t hesitant to tackle my prickly thorns one by one. His strings were His boundaries inviting me to grow according to His purpose for my life. I could have rebelled against His plans and His boundaries or I could cooperate. The choice was mine. Thankfully, whether vertical or horizontal, I decided to grow with God’s flow!
Where a glorious rose bloom, a gregarious weed burgeons! A rose garden would not be complete without its share of weeds anxious to suck the life out of sprawling, flourishing canes. All rosarians accept the tedious reality that weeds will inevitably compete with their darling rose bushes. With a variety of means to thwart such attacks, the gardener must carefully select the most advantageous yet scrupulous methods for in doing so may cause greater harm than good. Commercialized weed killer sold in franchised home improvement stores worldwide could seriously hamper, if not utterly, destroy a rose bush. Instead, many gardeners choose to place rolls of landscape paper down or newspaper with layers of mulch or wood chips on top to prevent weeds. Some choose gravel while others prefer getting on their knees and either individually hand plucking the weeds or using a hoe to do their dirty work. Regardless of the gardener’s preferred method of defense, every rosarian knows there will be annoying weeds, which must be prepared for and appropriately addressed.
Upon entering my mid-thirties, I decided to use my experiences to help other hurting women by founding a non-profit faith-based domestic violence ministry. Although most welcomed a rare jewel of a ministry, I found myself ill prepared for the weeds that would pop up attempting to choke out my flourishing ministry. Naturally, or perhaps supernaturally, I expected some obstacles and negativity, but was rather surprised by spoken word curses spewed from select family, friends, and even those of faith. Much of the negative responses spawned primarily from ignorance and fear. After all, domestic violence is sadly a taboo subject within the faith community. Although, thankfully, many are diligently working to break such traumatic and oppressive barriers to cultivate healthy, thriving households.
Meanwhile, I suspect other negative responses were stirred from jealously and competition. Isn’t it sad when ministries, people of faith, or families strive to compete with one another or oppress one another instead of embrace and support each another? How we respond to one another’s strengths and weaknesses as well as all life presents reveals the burgeoning weeds taking root or lack thereof in our hearts and homes.
“Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.” Genesis 50:20
Consider the Biblical character, Joseph, and how his family could not appreciate his gift of having prophetic dreams and being able to interpret such peculiar dreams. Instead, the weeds of jealousy developed in the hearts and minds of Joseph’s siblings attempting to choke out his gifts from God. For many years, it appeared their negativity indeed hampered Joseph’s God-appointed gifts, but God merely allowed all of the adversity and affliction Joseph encountered to cultivate a greater good for not just Joseph, but his family, Israel, and all of the surrounding nations including Egypt all the while indeed manifesting Joseph’s earlier prophetic dreams. Even more revealing was the gracious response Joseph had for the brothers who betrayed him.
As you embark on something special whether it may be a career move, adding a new member to the family through marriage or adoption, going back to school, writing a book, or going into ministry or simply walking along your custom God path, be prepared for various weeds to sprawl up and out intended to trip you or hamper your growth as you evolve into the person God intended. Like any gardener, you may need to be creative in how you protect yourself from invasive weeds that manifest in others or even how to best uproot weeds manifesting within you as God cultivates new blooms in your garden. Create appropriate barriers to remove them from your garden of life and recall what others perhaps meant for harm, God uses for greater growth!
I usually putter amongst my small but flourishing rose garden monitoring and pruning away the dried branches, weeds, and spent blossoms. One particular summer though, my attention focused elsewhere as I failed to keep a careful watch over my beloved buds. In my goings to and fro, I noticed one or two Japanese Beetles enjoying the fruits of my labor as they nestled on my bud’s petals and her leaves. Unfortunately, I was too consumed in my own world to pay attention to the destruction right beneath my nose! Over time, my rose bushes were devastated and apparently well known by the JB community as the all you can eat smorgasbord. Consequently, I realized that I needed to regularly monitor the activities lurking in my garden if I was going to ward off such damaging predators in the future. In fact, to do so, I filled my little Tupperware container with soapy water and went hunting! Time to enforce my garden’s much needed boundaries! Beetle-hunting is quite easy actually and surprisingly fun. All you have to do is look closely at your rose buds, find your enemy lurking underneath, then tap the branch and catch them as they land in the soapy water. Once you’ve trapped these pesky pests, you’ll experience a strange sense of relief as you watch the enemy drown. Clearly, my burgeoning buds must be examined should I hope to rescue them from the evil anxious to devour them. Interestingly enough, though one bush may be purified, the nightmare could still show up yet again in another unsuspecting bush.
As I set out to continuously conquer such small but damaging insects, I thought how similar sin is in our own lives. Often sin starts off quite small and unnoticeable as we go about our busy lives. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it surfaces enough to nearly ruin our lives and once it’s done so, it proceeds to affect those around us also.
“Let us look closely at our ways and examine them and then return to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40.
The Japanese Beetle teaches me to daily and carefully examine the garden of my heart so as to seek out and destroy any pests hiding within my budding soul for it is only then those around me will smell the sweet aroma of my lifestyle as my form of a daily sacrifice (Numbers 28).
After an unexpected summer storm struck my rose garden, I reflect on the weighted canes drooping with defeat. The once glorious petals litter the ground crying out for vindication. Though not entirely destroyed, each bush whines in the aftermath as they obviously would have preferred a slow steady rain than a fast and furious gusty storm. Given some time, I’m confident such defeated canes will overcome the unexpected afternoon flash. Although they can’t appreciate the drenching rains now, the hot boiling sun will soon stir thanksgiving as they draw on the well saturated roots beneath the steaming heat.
Just as our roses can experience an unpredicted and drowning storm, we too are taken by surprise when Abba Father allows fast and furious storms, like betrayal, abuse, lay-offs, cancer, or death to brew in our garden of life. Upon such devastation, we often whine in their aftermath, “Why me?” or “This isn’t fair, God!” But what if instead, we could raise our canes in praise and say, “I don’t know what You are doing, Abba, but I trust You!” What if despite such heartache, we could cling to the words of Isaiah 26:3-4, “With perfect peace you will protect those whose minds cannot be changed, because they trust you. Trust in the LORD forever, for in Yah, the LORD is everlasting strength.” Other translations say the “Rock of eternity”.
Sometimes I bravely praise my “Rock” in such storms while other times, I’d rather hide under a rock in my anxiety. I may even look for temporary relief of such unexpected sorrow by hiding in my isolated, secret garden. But during such harrowing times, I am tenderly reminded, “I alone am the one who comforts you. Why, then, are you afraid of mortals, who must die, of humans, who are like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12). Whatever tragedy you face, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:11 or 46:10 in the Christian Bible). After all, our God, our Creator, our Aleph and Tav, knows our beginning and our end and every purpose in between. Breathe in the smell after a saturating storm and choose to trust that Abba Father’s still got this.
After a few seasons of tenderly caring for my roses, I was puzzled to discover a white powdery substance coating my babies as I had not experienced this dilemma thus far. Initially, I thought little of the matter until the next day when I noticed the powdery film quickly oppressed most of the bush. Even more distressing was realizing the powdery mildew also spread to a nearby bush!
Naturally, I quickly took action by researching how to eradicate this infectious disease before it was too late. I learned a simple concoction of baking soda, dish detergent, and water would remedy the issue. Neem Oil or a sulfur-based fungicide would be sufficient as well.
For weeks I carefully monitored the situation to ensure the white powdery mildew did not haunt my garden once more. I now know powdery mildew thrives in warm dry days followed by cooler humid nights. Without swift action, its toxic spores easily transport wreaking havoc on a once thriving rose garden.
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Leviticus 19:2
Are the conditions dry in the well of your heart? Are you or your congregation ignoring fungi like sexual immorality, abusive people, deceit, or practicing other unholy ways?
As painful and delicate as the matter may be, Abba Father instructs His people to not adopt the ways of the world, not to worship Him like they worship their gods, or associate with those who claim to be of Him or sent by Him, but behave otherwise (Deut.12:29-13:18, 18:9-14; Jeremiah 10). Could it be Abba Father understands without His standards or boundaries within one’s heart, home, and congregation, a devastating fungus can kill the beauty in Abba’s developing garden? After loving many, “boundary busters”, I learned by setting appropriate boundaries with the offensive party, I am in fact loving them. Moses and other Prophets both enforced boundaries and interceded to the LORD on the people’s behalf.
We can intercede in prayer while also establishing and enforcing boundaries to protect ourselves and others from sinful disease while demonstrating tough love. After all, tough love is true love. Many need to suffer the consequences of their choices before repenting and reaching out for the hand of God’s redeeming grace.
In the meantime, understand there is a fine line between enabling grievous acts and exhibiting gracious ones.
Did you know what we commonly refer to as thorns on rose bushes are botanically speaking actually prickles? Thorns run deep within the sap of a branch whereas on a rose, the prickle is just along the surface of the rose’s bark and can be snapped off. Nevertheless, the purpose of the prickle is to protect the rose from predators. Various animals including rabbits, deer, and even horses would find roses a delicious snack if it weren’t for protective prickles. The piercing prickles also protect the plant from caterpillars and other insects that would welcome the climb up with a leafy treat as its reward.
“…God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.”2 Chronicles 32:31
As a young woman, I discovered evil can sometimes manifest in the likes of wile handsome devils looking to devour your heart, or more accurately stated, your undergarments. After I found myself divorced, sexual temptations only grew worse within my wanton heart. Feeling defeated emotionally, physically, and most definitely spiritually, I decided I needed to stop “playing the harlot” and get it together! Lo and behold, if a so-called angel of light didn’t come across my path just in time to save me from my new found resolve. You guessed it! A gorgeous man pursued me like no other despite my repeated refusals. In one of my rejections, I explained my commitment to work on an important area neglected in my life… my soul! Shortly thereafter, in yet another persistent attempt to win a date, the devil-in-disguise craftily confessed he was in a Bible study earlier that morning. With this tid-bit of knowledge, my young naïve heart perked up questioning my harsh judgments against his sexy self. Needless to say, when you combine good looks and God talk, with promises to take care of me, I was SOLD! Wish I could say it was a dream come true, but with all the drama this guy brought, I needed Triple A to help me deal with his Triple A’s: Addictions, Affairs, and Abuse! You see, had I been strong in my relationship with Abba Father, bound and guarded with His truth (Proverbs 3), or prickles meant to protect, I would have seen that predator coming! The latter verses of Deuteronomy 12 into Chapter 13 warn that God will test us to see if we will choose Him and His Torah or choose to follow other false gods, false messiahs, or people in error. Instead, I found myself picking and choosing which of God’s boundaries I was going to hop on over like fornication or mingling with false people rather than binding God’s instructions to me to help me remember His Torah, which is His Voice, His Word, His Way, His Truth. I failed to realize as people commissioned to be the light, that the light is living God’s Torah, a set-apart lifestyle.
”For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life…” Proverbs 6:23
The truth is, beloved, spiritual captivity often leads to some form of physical captivity. Just read the accounts of the wicked kings reigning over the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and their outcomes found in the Hebrew Bible to verify. Or, you could erroneously have weak boundaries and consequently rebel against God’s boundaries while falling in lust with addicted, abusive, player type of men like I foolishly did and you too will glean this wisdom soon enough.
If rose bushes aren’t covered in prickles, they would be devoured by all sorts of pestilence and predators. Likewise, do yourself a favor, get rooted in God’s Word and grow some prickles for you too will be tested!
Near the base of a rose bush you may discover what’s known in rose parlance as the “bud union”. The bud union is a marriage of two different roses for the purpose of providing a hardier and more stable bush. Typically, a bud union can be found on a hybrid tea or floribunda variation plant.
Commercial rose breeders mass produce root stock in their fields and then later graft in another rose variant to create the hybrid tea, for example. Most root stock in the USA is known as “Dr. Huey”, which if left to grow, produces a maroon colored rose. Dr. Huey is a climbing bush with much strength and aggression. Think of it as a rose bush on steroids! Assuming the graft is successful, a bud union will solidify and the intended design will eventually flourish. Consequently, many roses in our gardens today have a Dr. Huey lurking beneath. Frequently, Dr. Huey will present a “sucker”, or random cane emerging from the soil but not connected to the bud union base. Such a random cane is known as a sucker because it will suck much needed nutrients from the intended plant. If left to grow, the sucker’s canes, leaves, and blooms will be noticeably different than the rest of the intended bush. Also, if you experience a harsh winter and your bush consequently perishes, Dr. Huey, or whatever root stock that was used to design the plant, may emerge from the depths.
Just like all people have pros and cons, both grafted and own-root roses have pros and cons. A further disadvantage to purchasing a grafted rose bush is the fact that some may be infected with the Rose Mosaic Virus, which is different than the Rose Rosette Disease. If the root stock is diseased, it will only be a matter of time before the virus destroys the entire plant. A plant may actually perform rather well for a season or two, but the Rose Mosaic Virus is systematic as it works through every crevice of such a union. Before purchasing a new rose bush, look for a certified virus free one!
“And you shall be holy to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy, and I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine.” Leviticus 20:26
As a single woman, particularly in my roaring twenties, I settled for what you may label an “unbeliever” in a bud union of our own. But like an infected rose bush, our marriage only thrived a season or two. It would seem my stable and hardy Dr. Huey was more like an aggressive Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!
God commissioned Israel, who eventually became known as the Jewish people, to be the light to the world (see Leviticus 25:55; Isaiah 42:6-7; 49:3,6). Additionally, the Israelites, or Jewish people, were instructed, warned, and reprimanded by God for forming romantic relationships with those not of Israel (see Numbers 25, 36; Deuteronomy 7:1-11; Nehemiah 13; Ezra 9-10, as a few examples). Perhaps Abba Father knows it is hard enough to cultivate a healthy, lasting, loving marriage without the added difficulties of differing cultures and faith.
Or, to put it another way, just like there is clean and unclean meat, there are clean and unclean men or clean and unclean relationships. I know as single women we sometimes feel like we are sojourning along a wearisome wilderness wanting companionship, marriage, and babies. The temptation to settle for someone outside of our faith, whatever faith that may be, lures our easily deceived hearts. May we be careful not to forget or forsake our devotion to the One True God exchanging our eternal relationship for other lovers (Hosea 2-3). Should we intentionally forsake Him and His will for us, we may be purchasing a virus infected plant rather than looking for the manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit as evidence in our “certified virus free” mate! Daughter, beware! Should YOU operate outside of God’s instructions regarding a “bud union” of your own grafting, you may end up being the “sucker”.
After selling our sailboat we lived on for a couple of years in Texas, I gave away many of my plants, but some are traveling with us as we sojourn to Maryland. My back seats are folded down so I could bring two potted rose bushes (significantly pruned to fit), some herbs, succulents, a watering can, my Felco pruners, synthetic oil just in case and some clothes and cleaning stuff too. The rest of our belongings have been shipped. Meanwhile, due to COVID19, I’ve been disinfecting each hotel room’s remote, light switches, door knobs, etc and watering my plants at rest stops. Free puppy pads are underneath the plants so they don’t drain on/in the car.
Just like you don’t leave your pets behind when you move, you don’t leave behind your plants either…especially roses!