Hawkweed reveals God’s unforeseen gifts

YELLOW HAWKWEED Hieracium gronovii

Hieracium gronovii

By Orrin Morris

To me, one of the most moving accounts of Jesus is found in Luke 8. A woman who had hemorrhaged for many years was following Him amid a large crowd. She reached out and touched the hem of His garment in hope of being cured. At that moment, her flow stopped.

Several things stir my heart about this scene. First, this was a woman whose condition meant whomever she touched would be “unclean.” Furthermore, she would be prohibited from worship at the Temple until her hemorrhaging ended and a stated period of time passed.

Second, note her desperation and determination. To have gotten close enough to touch Jesus’ cloak, she had to push through an enthusiastic crowd of healthy and strong people, mostly men. After she touched Jesus’ hem, He asked, “Who touched me?” The disciple replied noting the crowd had always been pressing about Him.

Then the woman, knowing she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at His feet. In the presence of the crowd, she told what she had done and why. Obviously the crowd was shocked, but Jesus lovingly said “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Matthew 9:48).

This statement communicated three things: full acceptance when He called her “daughter;” spiritual insight when He said “your faith” has made possible your healing, not His garment; and the benediction of “Go in peace.”

This was a scene where a culturally insignificant person, with an ailment that was a barrier to worship, had caused the “defiling” of many, including Jesus. His response ignored all the cultural baggage of His day, to set her free.

One of my students enjoys reminding me that the wildflowers I draw are “still just weeds.” She’s joking, but there is a truth in how we look at certain situations. To many that day 2,000 years ago, the woman was a “defiling weed” but Jesus saw her as a daughter.

This week’s wildflower, the Yellow Hawkweed, was a puzzle to me for several years. It blooms amid the cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata) but its color is a lemon yellow rather than the yellow-orange of its more abundant neighbor.

This wildflower is in the aster family, but unlike asters which bloom in the fall, it begins blooming in the summer. It seems to be light sensitive as daylight gets longer and temperatures rise. All summer the flowers are seen in the mornings but disappear, or close, by noon. As fall draws near, the blooms stay open later.

As with the cat’s ear, one common name is tall dandelion; however, some botanists prefer queendevil as a more common name for this wildflower.

Yellow hawkweed differs from cat’s ear in several important ways besides the shade of yellow. The hawkweed flower petals are less numerous and the ends are boxy and indented, as pictured.

Another distinction for identification is the leaves. Cat’s ear basal leaves are shaped like those of dandelions. The hawkweed leaves are thin and alternate up the stem. Finally, when the seed are borne off by the wind, the sepals turn downward as pictured.

For some gardeners, these plants are cursed weeds and to others they are another example of the gifts of beauty from God. The incident between the woman and Jesus reminds me to keep looking, especially in the mirror, and to ask myself, “Those people whom I regard as bothersome, are they weeds or are they God’s test of my sonship as a child of God?”

Do I share the godly passion as a member of Christ’s work on Earth?

Word and love of God are as sweet as honey

SOURWOOD Oxydendrum arboreum

Oxydendrum arboreum

By Orrin Morris

The most cherished words ever uttered are, “I love you.” They express the ultimate devotion of two people. The Psalmist had that phrase in mind when he expressed praise to God in Psalm 119: 103, “How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

God had expressed His love to Abraham and all his descendants many times. He urged them to show their love by devoted obedience to the law. When the law failed, God gave the message again as, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)

He made the ultimate statement of His love for you and me on Calvary. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only son…” Those are the words of love that are “sweeter than honey.”

When I, a city boy, attended junior college, it was in Appalachia on the border of Virginia and West Virginia. My roommate, a mountain boy, introduced me to “the best honey in the world,” so he said. I grant you, it was delicious, produced by honeybees who fed from the blooms of this small tree, the Sourwood.

Sourwood grows into a small tree that occasionally reaches 60 feet. One such specimen graced the south side of Sigman Road, just east of the new expansion of Rockdale Medical Center. It was cut down when the road was widened in 1998. Its twisted form is in the background of the sketch. Its massive and radiant display of red leaves are sorely missed each fall because many of us passed it daily.

Ten years later, I was introduced to a local wonder that erased my sense of loss. State horticulturalists have officially designated a huge sourwood tree on Pleasant Hill Road in northern Rockdale as the largest sourwood in the state.

Most of our remaining sourwoods are the height of shrubs along our highway embankments. I watch for them every year, especially along Sigman Road. When fall arrives I watch for the brilliant crimson display as the long, narrow leaves prepare to drop, as illustrated.

I have placed this sketch here because the blooms are whitish-yellow, but they are of little consequence, compared to the crimson display in the fall. The 1/4-inch blooms are bell-shaped with five lobes. Each bloom has 10 yellow stamens and a single pistil. Thirty to 50 blooms are present on each raceme, the long drooping branchlet.

Sourwood is in the heath family of flowering plants that includes rhododendron, azalea, laurel, blueberry and cranberry.

The common name, sourwood, was given to this plant because of the sour taste one gets from chewing on a twig or branch. One should be careful because the leaves and bark contain a toxin that drastically reduces blood pressure, but no caution is needed when eating the honey.

Truly this is another illustration of God’s grace and mercy as He has doubly blessed us with beauty and food.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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.