God’s Mercy Lasts Forever

CYPRESS VINE Quamoclit pennata

CYPRESS VINE
Quamoclit pennata

By Orrin Morris

Psalm 107 begins, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever” (KJV). This verse reminds us of God’s mercy. It is not temporary, that is, here today and gone tomorrow. It is applied to all sins, not favoring one infraction over another. It is available to all, not to only one nation or culture but to all people. God’s grace and mercy is available forever to everyone who will yield to His love and forgiveness.

The wildflower for today is one whose blooming season endures over many months, even until today.

Another name for the cypress vine is the humming bird vine. I like that name because it has became a major attraction for humming birds on my garden fence.

Cypress vine blooms are very similar to the red morning glory, but smaller. The primary difference is the leaves. The cypress vine has a delicate leaf structure that reminds me of miniature palm tree fronds, as illustrated. Technically they are called “even pinnate leaves.”

Cypress vine is a tropical plant imported for commercial distribution. As a very hardy species of the starglories in the Convolvulaceae Family, it soon went wild. This is not a recent phenomenon since one of my resources, copyright 1931, documents this fact (Seymour).

The flowers are scarlet red stars with a 1 1/2 inch tube, proportionately long for most similar shaped blooms, such as trumpet vine, yellow Jessamine, and dame’s rocket.

The vines are thin and twining. They may be as long as 15 feet or ascend to that height if an appropriate host is available. The preferred habitat is waste places where they may bloom from July to October. If you find one of these plants don’t try to cultivate it. It likes to be left alone, and when so treated rewards the owner generously.

The seeds may be taken to start a new vine but don’t make a fuss about it. Cast the seeds at the base of a fence and forget about them. It is highly likely you will have a cluster of vines with beautiful scarlet blooms next summer. However, one word of caution, the cypress vine can become invasive and difficult to eradicate except with a strong herbicide.

Remember again the Psalm, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.”  Mercy is unmerited favor and God offers forgiveness to all who call upon His name. May you express your thankfulness for God’s mercy in a place of worship this Sunday.

Snakeroot highlights on God’s diversity

WHITE SNAKEROOT Eupatorium rugosum

WHITE SNAKEROOT
Eupatorium rugosum

By Orrin Morris

Some of us find joy by taking time from our busy lives to observe the fascinating creation God has provided. From the wildflower for today we can observe the great diversity of God’s creation and how we are enriched by that. Diversity as a given in nature should lead us to recognize that the diversity of cultures is God’s way of enriching our lives socially, also.

White snakeroot fits the “sinister” image of the season around Halloween. Imagine the reactions of a group of young children approaching a door around which hangs a large glowing white snake. That would definitely be a spooky scene!

There is much more to consider about this wildflower. Not only does it have a sinister name, but it is highly toxic when one drinks milk from cows that have eaten snakeroot. Cattlemen in the east could not allow their cattle to range as freely as originally done in the west because of this and similar toxic plants. One writer noted that Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from drinking “toxic” milk.

The white snakeroot grows to a height of 3 feet. The stem is stiff and the leaves are opposites. The fuzzy white flowers are small, less that 1/4- inch wide, and appear in relatively flat-topped clusters, as pictured. The leaves are coarse and sharply toothed.

White snakeroot can be found in the woods and thickets from late summer and until frost. The Native Americans used the juice from the root to counteract the poison from snake bites, thus the common name, snakeroot. (Adams and Casstevens)

The extravagant abundance of wildflowers is a mere hint of the abundant grace God desires to pour upon us. “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you? (Matthew 6:30).”

Finally, the delicate beauty of wildflowers is a symbol for us of the beauty God wishes to create in those who practice what Jesus taught when He said “Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).”

The sacredness of space, and the writing life

sacredspaceBy Joe LaGuardia

It has been some time since I last wrote an article.  I no longer write a weekly column for the newspaper, so that has not helped my cause.

I also moved to a new state, started pastoring a larger church, tried to figure out how to get around town, and sold one house only to purchase another.  Life has not been easy; writing has been harder still.

My hectic schedule and lack of routine is no excuse.  I was just as busy in my old life in Georgia, but still managed to write two or three articles on a good week.

What is an excuse, however, has to do more with preferences than priorities: I don’t have a sacred space in which to write.

I believe it was Anne Lamott who once said that every writer has a talisman that helps inspire the muses.  Some have a special pen or brand of pencil; others use a particular sized notepad.  Barbara Brown Taylor writes everything in longhand; movie director Quentin Tarantino types scripts with a 30-year old Smith Corona; Annie Dillard locks herself in cells and cellars.

For me, spaces have always served as talismans.  One space was in my old house, a writing desk across from the foot of my bed.  I’d wake up early in the morning before the children arose and started typing away.

Another space consisted of the second to the back booth at my favorite chicken wings eatery, where I often read The Christian Century or innumerable books that provided fodder for article and sermon alike.

Moving to a strange land and living in a strange place (we are privileged to stay in a furnished condo until we close on our new home), I have not had a dedicated writing desk set up yet.  I have not found a local restaurant to call home.  I am still waiting for the good folks at The Christian Century magazines to change my mailing address (thank goodness the secretary at my old church loves me enough to mail me back issues!).  I can hardly write.

I may seem odd, but I am not alone in considering the sacredness and utility of space in the grand scheme of practicing my spiritual disciplines, writing included.   In fact, Christians have always considered the importance of sacred spaces.

The earliest space God in-dwelled was a garden, a very fit environment for a Creator whose greatest contribution to time and, well, space is the very act of calling things into being, some of which put us humans here in the first place.

Next was a tabernacle–God’s “throne room”– that was nothing short of a tent that moved with a nomadic people who escaped Egypt and ventured towards– you guessed it– a “promised land”.

In the person of Christ, God chose to “tabernacle” and live among us, declaring that even humans are sacred enough to call home: “And the word became flesh,” John’s gospel reminds us.

“Churches” grew soon after Christ’s death and resurrection, first in the homes of believers (Acts 20:20 tells us that the early Christian movement grew “from home to home”), and then to meeting places throughout the Roman empire.

Brick-and-mortar Churches resulted from a greater concentration of wealth among Christians.  The earliest edifices started as simple stone structures and then evolved into elaborate cathedrals still celebrated today.

Some Christians, tired of being too wealthy and privileged, chose to abandon their belongings and city life for the deserts of Egypt and Arabia.  These desert mothers and fathers noted that the very wilderness in which they sojourned merely reflected the wilderness of all our hearts–sacred spaces were just as important in the “interior” of the soul as exterior spaces were for gathering believers who longed to worship God.

Perhaps the creepiest spaces that Christians occupied were the catacombs of Europe in the darkest ages of Christian history.  Persecuted Christians took up residence among the buried dead to sing praises and proclaim a hope in the resurrection of the Lord.

Now, Christians have diversified sacred spaces so much that people forget the importance of space altogether.  Christians meet in bars, bookstores, coffee shops, cigar shops, beaches, abandoned banks, and “auditoriums.” Even then, regularly scheduled gatherings of believers only prove how ambiance shapes faith communities.

Spaces, whether we recognize it or not, have a sacredness to them that sometimes go unnoticed.  Just try to move states, sell a home, miss a favorite eatery, or close up a church and you will quickly understand how much space creates a place to belong as well as intimate settings where people meet God, hear from the Spirit, and find hope for a new day filled with ever expanding frontiers begging for the Gospel’s invitation.

I was lucky to write this article–I’m still not in a permanent home yet, and in many ways we are homeless until that time comes (but, lo, my cat still found her way onto my laptop keyboard, trying to get a backrub and leaving a wake of odd letters, numbers and symbols on the computer monitor…).    Yet, it helps to note that when we appreciate the spaces that are special in our lives, we can always make room in our hearts to help us along the way when we find ourselves “in between” those times and places most sacred in our life.

After all, we don’t invite Jesus into our houses.  We invite him into our hearts, for each home is where the heart is.