Wildflower teaches love for neighbor

VIRGIN’S BOWER Clematis Virginiana
Clematis Virginiana

By Orrin Morris

The concept Jesus taught us when instructing us “to love our neighbor as ourselves” is of divine dimensions. We are to relate generously, putting the well-being of those who are the objects of our love above our personal desires and pleasure.

To love them includes making an effort to meet their needs and providing security, spiritual growth, self esteem, and emotional maturity.

On the other hand, much of what our culture means by love is self-gratification, lust and shallow manipulation.

May we put feet and hands to our words of love. May the examples of Christ in the Bible be the motivating force that breathes new life into our world.

Virgin’s bower is a climbing vine in the buttercup family. It is a native perennial that loves to climb on fences, or intertwine in shrubs up to about ten feet high. The vines do not have tendrils as grapes do, but the vine itself wraps around objects for support.

The 1-inch flowers pictured are males. The female flowers are less decorative until pollinated, when they look like the frayed ends of a ball of yarn. Each vine is either male or female.

Virgin’s bower needs to keep its “feet wet,” that is, if you want to find this midsummer wonder, check out moist ditches along our roadsides or around creek banks. This beautiful wild white clematis is a little hard to find compared to honeysuckle. Diligence is required to find virgin’s bowers during the blooming season: July, August and September.

The blooms are very fragrant and can cause problems for people who are allergic to airborne irritants. Further, people with sensitive skin often get dermatitis from handling the plant. Nevertheless, herbalists use a mixture of leaves and blooms to relieve severe headaches.

The broad diversity of plants in the wildflower kingdom is evidence of God’s love. I have documented over 300 different species since I started this column in 1997. They range from the tiny blooms of the pool sprite at the horse park to the giant 10-inch cotton rose. Some wildflower plants stay earth bound like bluets, while others, like the invasive kudzu, reach skyward. Each species is a blessing and a curse.

The fascinating diversity of the wildflower kingdom is paled by the diversity of humankind where there are over a thousand languages and dialects. The wildflower kingdom’s diversity is paled by humankind’s cultural styles and family practices including the range of male and female roles, the values placed on male infants versus female infants.

Whereas there seems to be natural factors that guide the wildflower kingdom, in the world of humans where we are called to “love our neighbor” is chaotic. Wealth and corresponding personal power over neighbors — whether family, employees, community, state, country or other nations — is the dominant value, even if it requires armed intervention.

Into this milieu of human chaos, God sees beauty in the hearts of 7.3 billion people (John 3:16-17). The simple three-word phrase “love thy neighbor” calls for an immediate and serious commitment because this very day there will be 68,000 more deaths and 162,000 more births.

May we put feet and hands to our words of love. May the examples of Christ in the Bible be the motivating force that breathes new life into our world.

This article is reprinted with permission.

Published by Joe LaGuardia

I am a pastor and author in Vero Beach, Florida, and write on issues related to spirituality, faith, politics, and culture.

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