A couple of weeks ago, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the day God defines your upcoming year, I accidentally discovered a large lump in one of my breast. It was early in the morning and my breast itched. While laying there and upon scratching my breast, a large, hard lump made itself known. This upcoming Monday, October 5th, during Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles, which is all about depending on God during our wilderness journey as well as our eternal home, I have my first of presumably several doctor’s appointments.
Perhaps it is a large cyst, perhaps it is benign, or perhaps it is cancer. Regardless, I have learned to praise my Abba Father, the One in complete control, the One who ordains each day, each trial, and each triumph. I trust Him and His will even if it doesn’t align with my own.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month as well as Domestic Violence Awareness. I have already overcome one and helped many others. Perhaps I will be overcoming another. No matter what the doctors, mammograms, and tests say, I have learned to praise God in all circumstances for in doing so, I have experienced peace, contentment, and even joy. That is the real, eternal miracle. Be ever-blooming despite the prickles! If you pray, I appreciate them on my behalf.
Happy Rosh HaShanah… Good year…May you be ever-blooming throughout each season of the new year! White is a traditional color used in this holiday to symbolize purity, forgiveness, and fresh beginnings or mercy. The rose featured in this photo is ‘Pristine’, a white hybrid-tea with hints of pink.
While puttering about my urban rose garden one Spring day, I discovered a hollow and dying cane on one of my hybrid teas. Though small and usually unseen, the rose borer impacts the life of a rose’s cane and possibly the entire plant. The rose borer is a worm like larvae that typically digs into and hollows out a freshly cut cane. They also target young more pliable canes to dig in to and set up their nests. A rose borer could be labeled as a good bug as it eats its share of aphids. However, the rose borer could easily be labeled a bad bug as well for it causes canes to wilt and die. Furthermore, some borers just keep digging until they reach the bud union at the base of the rose bush potentially causing the entire bush to perish.
To protect your roses from borers, seal off freshly cut canes with a dab of Elmer’s multipurpose glue. Refrain from using Elmer’s school glue as rain fall or watering your roses can wash off the sealant. Also, in a pinch, you could drop clear nail polish on the end of a freshly cut cane, but be advised chemicals in the nail polish could damage the cane, which defeats the purpose. If you notice the damage of a borer, go ahead and cut back the cane until you reach the healthy filling of a cane. Upon doing so, seal off the end of it. With each cut you make of your canes, dab on the Elmer’s glue so the borers will eventually run out of options.
“Bind this warning, ‘Seal the Torah within My disciples’.” Isaiah 8:16
The internal damage an unsuspecting rose borer does to a rose bush reminds me of how easily the unrecognizable sins of unforgiveness and bitterness creeps within the canes of our soul. I have noticed in my own life, I tend to forgive others for their harmful behavior towards me, but often I fail to forgive myself for some of my own harmful and impacting decisions. Without even realizing it, hints of bitterness borrow deep into my canes. Nightmares and other circumstantial triggers clued me into such a wilting and potentially devastating issue hidden within my heart. Despite knowing Abba Father (God) forgives those who repent (Psalm 103; Isaiah 1:16-20, 43:25), I would walk around with self-imposed shame, guilt, and condemnation. While I realize I cannot control the actions of others, I can control my choices. Unfortunately, we must live with the consequences of our choices and one particular decision haunted me for years.
Thankfully, upon realizing our Father’s love and lavish mercies, I could cut out the bitterness and unforgiveness bored deep within my soul, while sealing my heart and mind with His commandments like we seal the freshly cut cane with Elmer’s glue preventing further damage. When I reflect on His forgiveness, love, and instructions for living, I am free to flourish producing “ever-blooming roses”.
Nearly every morning I inspect my rose babies looking for damaging insects such as aphids, sawfly larvae, Japanese beetles, and thrips. Thrips, though terribly difficult to see, as are most of these critters, leave obvious evidence on fragrant or light-colored rose petals. By their very nature, thrips thrive by sucking the life out of the rose bud and its petals if they are even able to bloom. This summer I added the wonderfully fragrant, lavender colored Memorial Day rose to my garden. Just a few feet away I also planted Oregold, another hybrid tea rose, which produces a lovely bloom in vibrant yellow. Unfortunately, Memorial Day suffered from thrips. In a short amount of time, my Oregold rose also succumbed to them. I hadn’t known such microscopic creatures even existed until I noticed my Memorial Day rose petals had a bizarre brown edging. I hoped this delightful smelling rose bush was suffering from heat exhaustion. But even after thoroughly watering the bush in addition to the temperatures subsiding, shades of brown still smothered her every bud and bloom. Shortly thereafter, my Oregold, who once provided large layers of glorious yellow petals, now was hampered by dilapidated edges of brown or petals that appear dry and shriveled as well as buds that won’t open, all of which are common side effects of thrips.
Consequently, I went to the trusty internet to determine what is plaguing my newly adopted roses. After doing a little research, I took a closer look at my roses and could identify them. Yikes, it’s thrips! To determine just how bad the rose bushes were infested, I took a white piece of paper and tapped the blooms over the paper. Sure enough the once nearly invisible thrips were now clearly visible though ever so tiny! To ward them off, I hosed them down with water and then gave them regular dosing of neem oil. I prefer to use more organic measures than resorting to systematic insecticide. The infestation of thrips proves yet another example of why beneficial bugs like ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings are desperately needed in a garden as they love to feast on such devastating creatures.
“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 the 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
As I went about decontaminating my roses, I pondered on the simple fact that a light colored and or fragrant rose attracts such insects. Light, in general, attracts bugs. How interesting that sometimes though as we may live out a lifestyle of worship as the light of the world and emit a sweet aroma as daily living sacrifices, we too can attract pestilence in our lives. It would seem the more you blossom as a fragrant, light colored rose in God’s garden, those who choose to reject Him or merely believe in God but don’t live according to His instructions, find themselves harboring contempt towards you. Perhaps they don’t understand or more specifically, don’t want to understand. In fact, to them, your decision to obey God and His Torah, which is defined as light (Psalm 119:105-106; Proverbs 6:23) and to live a lifestyle that reflects His light, may be more like a stench in their nostrils than an inviting fragrance.
In particular, have you ever overcome something horrific while giving God all the glory for helping you be victorious? Some would have preferred to see you suffer or succumb to the thrip infestation as it sucked all joy from your petals of praise. Instead, you were willing to be anointed with God’s neem oil or you chose to bask in His light rather than the darkness seemingly attacking you. You chose to thrive despite the thrips. You overcame your enemy and walked out of that battle with the enemy’s goods because you, through God’s grace, turned the experience into something beautiful as it molded your character. By doing so, you are emitting the sweet fragrance God enjoys as you triumphantly obey Him through thistles, thorns, and even thrips!
One may think bugs, any and all bugs, are pesky nuisances invading our glorious garden, but the truth is without many of them, our garden wouldn’t thrive. Not only do insects, such as the honey bee, provide important roles, but they provide a variety of products as well like certain medications, candles, cosmetics, furniture polish, and of course, honey! Other insects, though ugly and inconvenient, provide proper nutrients to the good insects our garden needs. Often found roaming around our rose gardens are beneficial bugs like lady bugs, hoverflies, and lacewings. Conversely, bad bugs for our roses are aphids, thrips, and sawflies to name just a few. But are they really all that bad? After all, without the “bad” bugs the good bugs would have nothing to sustain them. Did you know just one adult ladybug can devour 50-60 aphids in day?
Most gardeners just want the bad bugs gone without considering the overall environmental factors. While you could spray your rose bushes with insecticide to kill off the bad bugs, you’ll also harm the good ones. Other organic methods include purchasing neem oil concentrate from your local nursery. Be sure to carefully follow the mixing directions though and only apply neem oil during the early morning, evening hours, or on an overcast day as spraying neem oil on your rose foliage during high heat days will burn the leaves. Another option in preventing bad bugs like thrips and the dreaded Japanese Beetle from infesting your rose plants would be to release Heterorhabditis Bacteriophora Nematodes into the soil. These small worm like creatures will seek out and destroy many annoying and dangerous threats to your rose garden before they have a chance to be seen!
Moreover, assuming you will want your rose garden to thrive for years to come, it would behoove you, the Master Gardener, to be a good hostess by creating an inviting environment for the beneficial bugs to reside. In some ways, bugs are much like us in the sense that they need food, shelter, and water. They also appreciate convenience.
By providing a steady food source, you’ll keep your lady bugs, lacewings, and hoverflies happy. But before the aphid buffet shows up in the Spring, you’ll need to provide plant life that will nourish your good bugs earlier in the season. By planting herbs that bloom early and also provide good nectar, the good bugs will want to move into the neighborhood! Herbs such as mustard, dill, and parsley will be sufficient. You many also want to plant lavender, but leave room for growth as lavender tends to consume much space. Mint and thyme will provide a soothing smell to your garden while Angelica, is not just the name of my youngest daughter, but an herb that especially attracts ladybugs – bonus!
In addition to the herbs, you’ll also need a bird bath, water feature, pond, or other water source free of chemicals like chlorine. Apparently, even bugs get thirsty and need a bath now and then! Once you’ve created such a welcoming open house, or rather, open garden, it won’t be long before the good bugs set up a nursery of their own by laying their eggs on
our rose foliage. But when the weather turns cooler, don’t let your hard work go to waste, be sure to provide them with ornamental grasses and soft wood twigs and branches, like willow, poplar, and ash for them to stay cozy throughout the winter months. Whether you are a novice gardener or expert, your roses will appreciate your efforts as you build an inviting and thriving rose garden.
“For I know the thoughts that I think about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And you shall call Me and go and pray to Me, and I will hearken to you. And you will seek Me and find [Me] for you will seek Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.” Jeremiah 29:11-14
When I compare the similarities of our garden to our lives, it’s interesting to note how God allows the bad bugs in our garden of life to manifest something spectacular in us as well as God’s heartfelt intention towards us. So often we blame evil or Satan, as the source of our troubles forgetting that even Satan had to seek God’s approval before doing any harm to our garden (see the book of Job). In other words, God, as the Master Gardener, recognizes the bad bugs, but perhaps He’s allowing them in our garden for a reason. Perhaps the reason is to discipline us for our disobedience or perhaps He is developing us into the fragrant, beautiful, disease-resistant rose He intended with no actual wrong-doing on our part such as the accounts of Joseph, Job, or Esther. However, other times, the unfortunate turn of events may actually be a result of our own unrighteousness. In the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet repeatedly warned of the Jewish people being taken captive should they continue to live as they desire rather than live as God desires found in the Torah. The Prophet Jeremiah foretold the Jewish people would be taken captive by Babylon for 70 years, but in the end, that God was using it all to cause them to repent, to seek Him with their whole heart, and in turn God will gladly regather them and bless them while continuing to teach them His ways and will for them as the light to the world. Interestingly, this same prophetic word is applicable to the future of the Jewish people and others who keep God’s holy covenant eventually being gathered to Jerusalem, Mount Zion, in Israel as a light to the world one fine new day (see Jeremiah 29-31; Isaiah 51-56, 60-62, 65-66; Ezekiel 36-37; Hosea 14; Zechariah 8-10, as a few examples).
I want to reiterate the fact that often the seemingly bad bugs attacking us as rose plants could have been released for the sole purpose of teaching us how to reflect our Master Gardener’s glory and splendor to a dark world needing to be enlightened in God’s light and love. How even more glorious and brilliant and yet challenging it is to be ever-blooming, testifying of His love, His wisdom, His justice, and His will when you are currently living amongst the pestilence of life!
In a perplexing manner, God is being a good host as He continues to develop His righteousness in you. He is busy creating a holy, eternal garden or environment where you and others may indefinitely thrive by allowing not just the good experiences or good bugs to benefit from you, but by equally, if not more so, using the bad and down-right ugly experiences to also cultivate beauty.
In doing so, His intention is to develop an ever-thriving, ever-rejoicing, and ever-blooming garden of God within you during the good, the bad, and the bugly. How we respond to such pests and said treatments remains to be seen.
“For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9-10
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!
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).