Rugged Diamorpha inspires a rugged faith

DIAMORPHA diamorpha smallii

DIAMORPHA
diamorpha smallii

By Orrin Morris

Many artists are fascinated by the sunrise and sunsets in the Rocky Mountains. Shadows, silhouettes, cloud formations among peaks, and bright reflections provide spectacular scenes to draw and paint.

We live in a unique area, too. We are surrounded by the largest number of granite outcroppings in Georgia. Within the area from Stone Mountain to Panola Mountain, to the Georgia International Horse Park, and on to Loganville there may be as many as 100 outcrops.  Granite was created by magma and thus contains many different combinations of crystals. A wide range of plants grow atop or in close proximity to the outcrops. However, early settlers found farming very difficult.

The thin layers of soil were sandy, thus causing major crop losses during dry weather. Furthermore, large sections of a person’s farm could not be used and runoff from heavy rains washed trenches through adjacent plowed fields.

Was poverty the norm? According to urban observers, the answer was “yes,” but to the locals, the norm was adaptation, and survival techniques abounded. Rock quarries and gristmills dotted the area making the most of the natural resources.  But churchgoers found the Biblical account of creation hopeful.

Genesis 1:12 reads, “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”

Survival was possible because God said it was good.

Our wildflower for today will soon appear on most outcrops and will inspire a faith that has survived in times of both poverty and plenty: Diamorpha.

The diamorpha is red in February and March but when it actually blooms, the flower will be white.  During the winter, patches of diamorpha appear in the indentions atop the granite outcrops in our area.

One Sunday in February, I visited a nearby outcrop and inspected the red patches where thousands of 3/16-inch ball-shaped plants awaited longer daylight and warmer breezes. By April, a second visit revealed white blooms had begun to appear, as sketched.

Diamorpha, also called elf orpine, when springing to life, causes stems to rise 3 inches. The light red stem has deep red 1/8-inch leaves that alternate for about 2 inches, after which branching occurs. The tiny leaves are oval-shaped, thick and have the appearance of little hot water bottles.  Along and at the ends of the branches, tiny white blooms (1/4-inch) form. These have four petals, eight stamens and a pistil. When the buds first open, four of the stamens are attached to the center vein of the petal. The pistil looks like a fuzzy white ball in the center of the bloom.

As the flower matures the stamens seem to pop loose, scattering pollen. Within a day or so the pistil splits into four seed cases (carpels). Shortly after this the petals drop and the plant dies.

Throughout summer and fall the tiny stem stays erect to hold the seeds aloft. The granite becomes heated and the summer showers that occasionally fill the indention with rain quickly evaporate. The tiny stems gallantly hold the seeds high to prevent their germination.

As winter approaches, the stems collapse and the seed cases discharge the seeds. The late fall and winter rains cause the seeds to sprout what appears to be tiny red balls and the cycle begins again.

As the economy has shifted from agriculture and cattle to manufacturing and service industries, the outcroppings offer us a useful venue for nature excursions and study. Some, like the one I frequently visit, unfortunately have been sites for dumping garbage and other waste.

God did not just create the world and walk away. He is still at work, lovingly watching over His creation. Not even a sparrow falls without His awareness. (Luke 12:5) More than that illustration, God watches over us and surrounds us with love. We would do well if we were better stewards of these outcrops.

Take time to be with loved ones

Japanese MapleI have spent a lot of time in gardens this year, more time than ever before.

One of them was a large garden–Gibb’s Gardens up in Canton–and the others were gardens of those who attend my church.  At church, we have been working on a prayer garden of our own for our 30th anniversary as a congregation.

Each garden I visit, I have to remind myself to slow down, enjoy the view, smell the flowers, and appreciate the beauty and wonder of all that God has created.

The other day, for instance, I was visiting Fox McCarthy’s garden.  You may know him as the man who ran a Japanese Maple nursery in town.  He must have upwards of 100 Japanese Maple trees on his land right now, and for almost every one of them he stops and says, “Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”

Before, I would have simply said, “It looks just like the last 99 trees you showed me;” but, now, I have learned (and the secret to enjoying a garden is learning and listening!) to see every tree and every flower as unique and beautiful, a result of mother nature and God in partnership with one another.

It was during this same trip that Fox and I were remembering some people who passed away this last year.  His wife, one-time county commissioner Barbara McCarthy, and my father died within 8 months of each other.  (This Saturday would have marked my parent’s 44-year wedding anniversary.)

We recalled the great things we remember about their lives, and we recalled all of the people that we’ve met at the different funerals and memorials we attended.

Fox asked a question I won’t easily forget: “At these memorial services, you meet all of the people who were touched by the lives of the deceased.  Why haven’t we met half of them before that day?”

In other words, why do we turn out in droves when someone dies and come together as a family only after someone leaves our presence on this earth?

I thought about this more, and I realized that the very same patience with which I enjoyed those gardens is the same patience I need in the relationships I have in my life.

My family should not have to wait for me to die in order for all of us to enjoy the company of good friends and family no matter how much distance separates us.

We need to put our relationships with others back on our top-priority list.  If you’re like me, you’ve been working too hard and for too many hours to spend time with loved ones.  You make excuses, and you let days or even years pass before you call a cousin or a friend with whom you needed to connect.

Ever since my father’s passing, I have made an intentional commitment to spend more time calling my cousins, siblings, and family or by writing letters to them every so often.

There is something special and intimate when you take time to write or call someone just because you are thinking about them.  On holidays, such contact is expected; but, on ordinary days like today or tomorrow, it comes off as a real blessing.

As Fox and I stood in the midst of those uniquely, well-adorned Japanese Maples, I realized that I stand in the midst of people whom I have failed to keep in touch with.  I have failed to encourage people and remind them of their unique beauty in the Lord too.

The poetic, Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes encourages readers to enjoy one another and let tomorrow worry about itself for “two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up the other” (4:9, 10).

As we enjoy all that spring and summer affords us, let us foster the friendships and family relationships that have long been torn asunder by time, distance, and seasons of separation.

 

Master Gardeners Contribute to Creation Care

gardenWhen God commanded people to have dominion over the earth in the very first chapters of Genesis, he meant for us to take this very seriously.

Our ability to be stewards over all creation, to care for all God’s earth, is but a testimony of our love for God and neighbor.  Psalm 24 puts it well: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it; the world, and those who live in it” (v. 1).

We here at Trinity Baptist are honored to have folks who care for God’s earth by way of farming, gardening, and even the creative arts.  We recently installed a prayer garden that we hope to finish within the next few years, and ours has always been a family-friendly campus for all to enjoy.

This care for creation is not specific to our church; in fact, our county is privileged to have many stewards of God’s creation volunteering, working, and laboring for the beautification and health of our community.

The Master Gardeners of Rockdale County is one such group that is committed to providing a vibrant environment for all of us to enjoy.

Whether it is the prayer garden at Lighthouse Village (off of Sigman Road) or the one in Old Towne and the public spaces in between, the Master Gardeners have given thousands of hours to be stewards over God’s creation.  We should be thankful and continue to pray for their efforts.

Yet, what the Master Gardeners provide in our little neck of God’s woods is more than mere beautification and a partnership with our world.  It is just one avenue by which God’s justice is realized in our midst.

It was theologian Patrick McCormick who argued in his book, God’s Beauty, that creating public spaces for all to enjoy brings about God’s vision for a healthy, collaborative world.

Consider the price of beauty in most venues: One must pay to see beautiful works of art at a museum or to purchase a ticket to the aquarium or zoo.  Entrepreneurs and corporations make a large profit by monopolizing those very things–from music to masterpieces–that others find valuable and enriching.

There is nothing wrong with this business model, and it provides many jobs.  However, not everyone has the ability to afford ticket or concert prices.  It has always been a part of city and urban planning to incorporate free, public spaces for all to enjoy without an entrance fee.

McCormick argues that this access is important for improving both community and inhabitants.  It improves people’s lives and it allows families–children in particular–gain access to something that encourages them to see the world as a positive, beautiful place to reside.  It promotes ownership of our planet and connects us with something beyond ourselves.

That’s the Bible’s view of creation in a nutshell: A beautiful, well-tended earth is the stage whereby we worship God.  Creation bears witness to God’s power and encourages us to look heavenward to he who created all things.

The Bible says, “Lift up your heads, O gates…that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7, 9).  I am grateful to our Master Gardeners and so many others committed to creation care who help all of us experience God in unique and profound ways!

As a final note, I want to invite you to an event happening at the arboretum at the Horse Park this Friday at 11:30 AM.  The Master Gardeners are honoring late Barbara McCarthy by dedicating a tree in her memory.  It will be a reminder to us all of Barbara’s commitment to bettering our county, the Gardener’s work on our behalf, and our continued commitment to nurturing all of God’s creation.