“Plantings of the Lord” is one way the Scripture refers to us human creations of God. We find many such horticultural analogies in both the New and Old Testament. We are said to be like vines, trees, plants, grass, flowers and other growing things in nature. I highlighted two of nature's plantings to provide the theme for my collection of vignettes focused on wisdom in one of my recent books titled Sage Brushings: Painting with Words.
What does the title mean? I don't claim to be a sage, but it's my ambition to be wise at this latter season of my life. The brushings? An artist picks up a brush to paint masterpieces; I make my brush strokes with my fingers on the computer keyboard where I “paint with words.” This book includes short, literary sketches I call “vignettes” (pronounced 'vin-yet') around the pursuit of wisdom through a variety of spiritual topics each complete in itself.
The following is an excerpt: Good plant/bad plant. Three cheers for the sagebrush—but not so much for its cousin, the promiscuous tumbleweed!
Contrary to what we may think, the sagebrush is not a useless plant stuck way out in dry, arid places. It has much to commend itself. The fact that it's so common doesn't diminish its value. Related to the daisy family, it has a not unpleasant, although pungent aroma. In the lonely desert with no human beings to appreciate it, it persists in being beautiful with lovely yellow flowers and evergreen foliage. Although it lives in a dry land, it's extensive taproot finds water deep beneath the sand. Its surface roots gather water from the sparse rains; whatever the conditions, it can survive.
The many-branched bush offers a shady shelter and hiding place for both small and large animals; its silver-gray foliage provides a welcome camouflage. The sagebrush isn't going anywhere—it is soundly anchored in the desert. It can be depended on to grow where it is planted and fulfill its purpose. Native Americans use the ample foliage, when applied topically, for medicine, healing infection and in the treatment of many illnesses.
But there is a sagebrush copycat! In my research I found an impostor to the worthy sagebrush. The tumbleweed in its growing stage imitates the sagebrush plant. Equally beautiful with pink and white blossoms, the shrub looks much like the sagebrush and thrives in the same arid, sandy soil areas. Several species were brought over from Ukraine in about 1887 first to South Dakota along with a flax seed shipment. Often called the Russian thistle or “wind witch,” it gradually took over the barren landscape as the Kudzu plant did in other areas. During its green growing season, it can easily be mistaken for the sagebrush. In late summer, however, its branches dry up, the plant dies and seeds are produced which are poisonous and distasteful to animals; they stay clear of the tumbleweed. A single plant may grow up to 3 feet and bear 250,000 seeds.
The strong, hot winds force the tumbleweed to detach from the soil, leave its roots behind, and abandon its birthplace to take off to parts unknown, rolling and tumbling like an acrobat wherever the whims of the wind carry it. The loose plant readily disperses its seeds to produce more tumbleweeds. The seeds are short-lived so germinate rapidly wherever they land. When the dead tumbleweeds bump into each other, because they are thorny, they spontaneously entangle. These collections of trouble-makers become so monstrous they can no longer roll. They block highways and impede cars. The wind piles them high in huge stacks against fences and even houses and buildings where they obstruct entrances. The dry plants are flammable, a formidable fire hazard. The tumbleweed is said to have no redeeming value.
Jesus taught in parables of nature. In one story He contrasted two other look-alikes in nature, the wheat and the tares. The Lord of the Harvest offered Divine wisdom—let them grow together until the Day of Judgment. Seeking for a spiritual analogy between the worthy sagebrush and the useless, dangerous tumbleweed is not difficult between these two “look-alike” plants. We can recognize ourselves in their characteristics.
Some Christians find themselves planted by God in literal or virtual isolated, forsaken, dry and arid places even while living in densely populated urban areas. Spiritually, we may perceive our environment to either be like a desert place or a steaming jungle. Whichever venue is our reality, God wants us to be content, satisfied, and fruitful wherever He plants us. Jesus is with us in each locale, never forsaking us. We are to blossom for Him under both extremes, in the dense, tropical rain forest or in the seemingly forsaken, scorching, water-less desert. Strikingly beautiful and fragrant flowers bloom for their Creator in both places whether or not there are human eyes to see them or noses to smell them. Those who are “in Christ” are His precious desert flowers existing for His pleasure and glory. We may be planted where rain is scarce, but like the sagebrush, we know where to find Water; we point our roots to the deep Underground Rivers of Living Water. Having received that Divine Water, we are to share it and bear it to others.
Sagebrush people are “sage.” They don't whine or complain, “Why Me?” The answer is no secret. They identify their calling—to provide generous shade, encouragement and shelter for others. They sacrifice their “leaves” for healing and restoration. Our environment may be no picnic in the park. It may involve getting sand in our shoes, dry mouths and sunburn from the scorching heat. The first chapter of 2 Corinthians sets forth our clear agenda. God has a purpose for wherever He has planted us: first, to prove Him sufficient for all our needs, and second, to comfort and strengthen and encourage others in the same or similar situations.
Isaiah 58:6-11 becomes even more specific: We are to spend ourselves sagely for others and in so doing, we will be like a well-watered garden, an ever-flowing spring, an oasis to point to Jesus. We are not to demand a change of venue but be content to remain anchored by our roots.
The impostor tumbleweed person allows his roots to be severed with any strong gust of wind and is likely to take off on a whim. He becomes “driven and tossed by the wind” as James 1:6 describes. Such people in their restless blowing and tumbling about easily get entangled with others like themselves; together they become a formidable threat and danger to others. They spread “seeds of malcontent” which they reproduce in others.
As Jesus so often reminded, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” So let us “Make your ear attentive to wisdom [be sage!], incline your heart to understanding” (Proverbs 2:2).
HURRY AND ORDER!
During the month of June 2019 only, Leona's 200 page book Sage Brushings
is discounted to $12 plus postage!
No limit on quantity. Buy for gift giving.
Order through Bookstore at www.leonachoy.com or email: [email protected]
Leona's blog posts during June will be adapted from this bookas in the excerpt above.
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