F.C. Wren Window: Winged Lion of St. Mark-Faith, Hope, and Charity-Winged Man of St. Matthew”

IMG_2631(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on July 8, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the fifth in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield. My sources are listed at the end. Much of this information is from “FUMC Winnfield: Christian Symbolism and History” published in 2012. I decided to publish in case some were absent and would like to read my message.)

Introduction

Wren 1Today we will focus on Window Number four in honor of Dr. and Mrs F.C. Wren.  Funeral services for Dr. Floyd Carr Wren, prominent retired dentist and civic leader, were held at 3 p.m. Friday, February 10, 1967 in the First Methodist Church of Winnfield with the Rev. Richard Walton, pastor, officiating. He was assisted by Rev. Fred Flurry, Sr., and the Rev. R. H. Staples, former pastors.  Dr. Wren died at 12:20 p.m. Thursday, February 9, 1967, in a Winnfield hospital following an apparent heart attack. He was 87.

A native of Webster Parish, Dr. Wren received his degree in dentistry from Vanderbilt University, and first located in Jonesboro, where he served as Mayor while also practicing dentistry.  He came to Winnfield in 1916 when he became a part of the religious and civic life in the community being active until the time of his death.  He practiced dentistry until his retirement in 1945. At one time during his career he experienced an arthritic condition and operated a Winnfield dairy until his recovery.

Dr. Wren was Winn Parish registrar of voters from 1940 to 1948, and served as chairman of the Red Cross for 12 years. He was also active in the Salvation Army and other civic movements and was honored by the Winnfield Jaycees and Woodmen of the World for his vigorous activities as a senior citizen.  A charter member of the Winnfield Rotary Club, Dr. Wren also served on the City Council and was a member of the local school board in the early years.  He served as Sunday School superintendent for 30 years and was a retired steward of the church.[i]

wren 3Funeral services for Mrs. Leta O. Wren, 87, of Winnfield, were held at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 5, 1970 at the First Methodist Church of Winnfield with Rev. J. C. Skinner and Rev. Robert Gage officiating. Mrs Wren died at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, June 4, 1970, in a Winnfield hospital. She was a native of Caldwell, Ark., but lived in Tennessee during the early years of her life.

The widow of the late Dr. F. C. Wren, a Winnfield dentist, Mrs. Wren was an active and devoted member of the First United Methodist Church where she taught for many years. She held other offices in the church, including the presidency of the W. S. C. S., a women’s organization of the church. She was also a member of the Reader’s Review Club.[ii]

Dr. and Mrs. Wren were survived by; a daughter, Mrs. Thomas H. (Margaret) Harrel, Sr. of Winnfield, and two grandsons, Thomas Harrel, Jr., and George Harrel, all of Winnfield.  They were preceded in death by a son, Floyd C Wren Jr, who died in a fire in August of 1953.  The Wren’s were pillars of the church and were often relied on by the pastors.  Dr. Wren was a fine Christian man who rarely uttered a cross word and actively gave out tracks to talk to others about faith.  Their grandson, Tommy, described Dr. Wren as one of the greatest men he has ever known and is still his hero to this day.  The Dr. Wren Sunday School classes was started and named after him in his memory.  Dr. Wren wrote much of the original history of the church that I am using as a source for this series.  The Wren’s and their family have passed a great tradition of faithfulness to us, as well as a wonderful gift in their beautiful window.

Body

A: The Lion of St. Mark

img_2632.jpgThe lion, as king of beasts, represents the royal character of Christ and refers to the opening verses of the Gospel in his reference to John the Baptist, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness . . .” The halo of light, the nimbus, behind the head denotes sanctity.

Who was St Mark? While we are not certain, most scholars believe St. Mark the Evangelist was most likely a Hebrew and likely a priest of the tribe of Levi (as St Bede the Venerable teaches). Most scholars believe that St Mark did not know Christ during his earthly life but was converted to the faith by St Peter some time in the first years after Pentecost. This is the most natural read of Scripture, when St Peter testifies that St Mark is his spiritual son (“Mark, my son”, 1 Peter 5:13).   He accompanied Peter to many places, even to Rome. Later, he was sent by St Peter to preach the Gospel in Egypt and was Bishop of the Church in Alexandria. Here he gave witness to Christ through martyrdom.

Why is St Mark pictured as a lion?

The images of the four Evangelists are taken from Ezekiel 1:5-10 and Revelation 4:7-8 and in large part from the manner in which they begin their Gospels. In Mark, interestingly, there is no birth narrative of Jesus or description of his early years.  Instead, the Gospel of St Mark opens with the mighty roar of St John the Baptist’s call to repentance.  So the gospel of St. Mark is often pictured under the powerful image of the lion.  St Mark is also thought of as the founder of monastic life and of the desert fathers. Since St Mark is the father of the Church of Alexandria and this Church produced the great movement of consecrated religious life as hermit, anchorite, monk, or nun, St Mark is rightly considered by St Jerome and John Cassian to be the founder of monasteries and hermitages. Therefore, the image of the lion calls to mind St Mark’s connection with Alexandria and his role as the spiritual father of religious life in the Church.[iii]

The Lion of Saint Mark, is the symbol of the city of Venice and formerly of the Republic of Venice. It appears also in both merchant and military naval flags of the Italian Republic. The Lion of Saint Mark is also the symbol of the award of the Venice Film Festival, the “Golden Lion”, and is prominently featured in the city of Venice.[iv]

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus’s rejection by humanity while being God’s triumphant envoy. Probably written for gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark’s Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a “scandal”: a crucified Messiah.[v]  The lion of Mark is the roar to repentance by John the Baptist and throughout his gospel.

B. Faith, Hope, and Charity

Faith, Hopimg_2633.jpge, and Charity are referred to by Paul in I Cor. 13:13- “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”KJV Faith is belief and trust in the triune God; Hope signifies our promise of eternal life and triumph of truth and justice; Charity, or love, is the center of our religion as taught by Jesus in many ways.

Faith

Representing faith is the cross. We spoke quite extensively about the symbolism and meaning of the cross last Sunday.  Often when faith, hope, and charity are shown together the cross often stands taller than the other symbols.  Faith is also the confidence and the strength to complete a larger task. The symbols of faith, hope and charity together in harmony remind us that God is there to help us each and every day.[vi]

Hope

The anchor represents Hope. It was a relevant popular symbol at a time when seafaring meant that a loved one may never be seen again.  The anchor to moor the ship gives solace and comfort to the wayward ship, as it finds a home. Hope is fundamental to the principals of what it is to believe in a better future.  At a time when danger was typical for travel, the anchor represented hope for home in this life and in the life to come.

Charity

Charity is often represented by the heart, though in our window it is symbolized by an open Bible.  Charity is a derivative of ἀγάπη (agapē), the word used by the English translation of the Bible in the 16th century. It was only in the Challoner Douay Rheims Bible of 1752 and the King James Version of 1611 that the term ‘charity’ was used for the similar ideal of Christian love.  Today, many modern translations use the word “love” instead of charity.  Charity represents the idea the believers should strive to love God and to love others as God loves them. Charity symbolizes the desire to love everyone, including one’s enemies, neighbors and the poor. The three symbols are bound by charity. Charity cannot be achieved without faith and hope because charity is love for all.[vii]  Faith, hope, and charity go together to teach us about our faith and the way that we should live.

C: The winged man of St. Matthew

img_2634.jpgMatthew traced the human lineage of Jesus; therefore, the symbol used for him is a winged man. He emphasized the humanity of Christ. Here again is the nimbus of sanctity.

St. Irenaeus saw Matthew as corresponding to the man’s face because the gospel opens with a human genealogy of Jesus and because, in the view of Irenaeus, Jesus’ humanity is emphasized throughout the book.[viii]

Matthew, meaning gift of God, was a common Jewish name after the Exile. He was the son of Alphaeus, and was a publican or tax-gatherer at Capernaum. On one occasion Jesus, coming up from the side of the lake, passed the custom-house where Matthew was seated, and said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew arose and followed him, and became his disciple (Matt. 9:9). Formerly the name by which he was known was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27); he now changed it, possibly in grateful memory of his call, to Matthew. The same day on which Jesus called him he made a “great feast” (Luke 5:29), a farewell feast, to which he invited Jesus and his disciples, and probably also many of old associates. He was afterwards selected as one of the twelve (6:15). His name does not occur again in the Gospel history except in the lists of the apostles. The last notice of him is in Acts 1:13. Although traditionally regarded as the author of the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, modern scholarship questions this attribution. Matthew’s symbol as an evangelist is a man, and in art he is often depicted with sword and money bag.

What happened to Matthew after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension we have only legend. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years, and Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue. Ancient writers are not consistent as to the countries evangelized by Matthew, but almost all mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), and some Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.  There is a disagreement as to the place of St. Matthew’s martyrdom and the kind of torture inflicted on him, therefore it is not known whether he was burned, stoned, or beheaded.

His Gospel was probably first written in Aramaic and later translated into Greek.  Since Matthew was a Jew, he wrote with other Jews in mind. His gospel spends much time discussing the Old Testament prophecies and pointing out how Jesus fulfilled them.  Mathew’s gospel contains more than 130 Old Testament quotes and allusions[ix].  The man of St.Matthew reminds us of Jesus’ humanity and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.

Conclusion

We love our stained glass windows and we should. But this song from Johnny Cash reminds us that they are not the most important things.  God Ain’t No Stained Glass Window God never keeps His window closed.  What about us?  Do we keep our window closed or allow the light of Christ shine through?  The lion of St. Mark reminds us of his roar to repentance by John the Baptist.  Faith, hope, and charity are central themes to our faith from 1 Corinthians 13.  The man of St. Matthew reminds us of the humanity of Jesus through his grand genealogy and fulfillment of scripture.

I close with this editorial by George Larson, editor of the Winn Parish Enterprise.  “Dr. F.C. Wren is gone from this earth but the memory and influence of this rare man will live long in this community and wherever his life touched other people.  He lived unselfishly and fully, holding fast to high principles in every endeavor he undertook.  He was a true Christian, a ‘prince of a man and a great man’ as Rev. Richard Walton of the First Methodist Church described him.

Dr. Wren’s kindness to all men was one of his outstanding traits.  Always interested in his community and its progress, he never ceased to talk and write about its good points and its future possibilities.  He had the courage to speak up for what he believed, whether it concerned a political question, a local bond proposal, or some other controversial issue.

Dr. Wren’s life really centered around his church, to which he gave a lifetime of service in nearly every capacity a layman could fill.  Living, working, and serving were joyful to him.  He was a participant and not just a spectator.  He remained young at heart.

He died as he wished it- being useful and active until the last days of his 87 years.  His passing leaves a void, but his life will always be an inspiration to those who knew him.  Dr. Wren was a great and good man.”  The Wren window reminds us of their faith and generosity.    The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?

[i] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/25613536/floyd-carr-wren

[ii] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62098564/leta-wren

[iii] http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2016/04/who-was-st-mark-and-why-is-he-pictured.html

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_of_Saint_Mark

[v] https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-mark/

[vi] https://artofmourning.com/2014/12/25/faith-hope-and-charity/

[vii] https://www.reference.com/world-view/symbols-faith-hope-charity-e40cce894175cf56

[viii] http://www.moodycatholic.com/Saints_Symbols_of_Gospel_Writers.html

[ix] https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/gospel-of-matthew.html

Dickerson Window:(Dove with Olive Branch- Bible over Cross- Easter Lily)

 

IMG_2377(Author’s note: This is the manuscript for my message on July 1, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield and is the fourth in my “Windows to the Soul” sermon series expounding on the Christian symbolism present in our church buildings and sanctuary windows at FUMC Winnfield. My sources are listed at the end. Much of this information is from “FUMC Winnfield: Christian Symbolism and History” published in 2012. I decided to publish in case some were absent and would like to read my message.)

Introduction

Today we will focus on Window Number three in memory of Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Dickerson.  John Joseph “J. J.” Dickerson was born October 6, 1824 in North Carolina and died August 9, 1913 at the age of 88 in Winnfield.  He is buried in the Winnfield Cemetery.  Because of the age, I was unable to find an obituary for Mr. Dickerson but his wife’s obituary also tells us about him.

dickersonHis wife, Mary Margaret Jackson Dickerson died at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 19, 1925, age 90 years.  Mrs. Dickerson was born in Tennessee February 25th, 1835, moved in early childhood with her parents to Spanish Lake, Natchitoches Parish, where they lived until they moved to Winn Parish, La., in 1859.

On February 5th, 1861, she was married to John J. Dickerson, who soon after the marriage enlisted in the Confederate States Army and served faithfully and loyally during the four years of the Civil War.   Mrs. Dickerson joined the Methodist Episcopal Church South at the age of nine years and gave eighty years of her life in service to Christ and His church. Those who knew her well know that hers was not a profession without possession, for every day of her life was a testimonial that the spirit of Christ filled her soul being daily reflected in her Christian living. The Dickerson home always had a preacher’s room in it where the preachers were received and entertained, such godly men as John Hearn, John F. Wynn, Eddie and Albert Galloway, Dan C. Barr, and others down through the years. Hers was a consecrated, Christian life, opposed to sinful worldliness, in dress, in speech, in manners or any form, always striving to influence those with whom she was associated to lives of simplicity and holiness.

After funeral services at the Methodist Church conducted by her pastor, Rev. P. M. Caraway, assisted by the Presiding Elder Rev. K. W. Dodson, and a former pastor and special friend, Rev. Dan C. Barr, of Oak Ridge, La., her remains were buried in the Winnfield Cemetery amidst a host of grief stricken relatives and friends. The abundant and beautiful floral offerings attested the high esteem in which she was held in the community.

The Dickerson’s were survived by their children: Mrs. H. L. Brian of Verda, La., Mrs. G. M. Wyatt of Couley, La., M. M. Dickerson, Mrs. J. R. Hall, Mrs. B. W. Bailey, and William F. Dickerson, of Winnfield, La.  Published in The Winn Parish Enterprise (Winnfield, LA), May 21, 1925.  The Dickerson’s and their family have passed a great tradition of faithfulness to us, as well as a wonderful gift in their beautiful window.

  1. Body

A: The dove with the olive branch

IMG_2371The dove with the olive branch depicts peace, victory, and the expectation of new life. This symbol comes from the account of the cessation of the flood recorded in Genesis 8:11 (Noah sent out the dove to see whether the flood was receding. When the dove returned with a “freshly plucked olive leaf” in her beak, Noah knew that the waters were receding). Hence the olive branch may be said to symbolize deliverance from the hardships of life and a peaceful life with God in the world to come.

The dove and olive branch is one of the most ancient symbols of peace.  We looked at the dove a few weeks ago in the Hyde window, so this morning, I will focus on the symbolism of the olive branch.  The olive branch symbolizes deliverance from the hardships of life and a peaceful life with God in the world to come.  The olive tree was so important that the reward for winning an event in the ancient Olympic Games was not a gold medal, but a wreath of olive leaves with which the winner was crowned.  The olive also appears in many ancient texts in relation with peace. In Virgil’s Aeneid, for instance, the main character holds an olive branch to offer peace, and in other texts there are records of Roman generals holding up an olive branch to ask for peace after being defeated in battle.

Extending an olive branch meant the ending of hostilities between two parties and signaled the end of the conflict. The United Nations flag contains an olive branch for this very purpose; to end all hostilities between waring nations.  It’s also found on many of the nation’s symbols, like in the 1885 Great Seal of the United States.

In an olive grove, called The Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. The name Gethsemane means “olive press” and there Jesus had all the world’s sin all pressing down upon Him, as if to crush Him. Here it was that Jesus, “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).  It’s as if the olive press was squeezing Jesus by the weight of all of the sins of humanity that have ever been committed and will yet be committed. Olive oils are extracted from olives when they are pressed and Jesus was hard pressed in a garden of olives which are pressed or crushed to produce oil. In this same way, Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).  The dove and olive branch remind us of peace, victory and new life.

B: The Bible and Cross

IMG_2373The Bible and the Cross go hand in hand—both represent knowledge of God’s redeeming love. Bible is Greek for “book” and is accepted by Christians as inspired by God with the divine authority on which the Christian religion is based. With 39 Old Testament books, 27 New Testament, it has been called the window through which we see God and the mirror that reflects our true selves. The cross is the focal point of the Bible—everything before Christ set the stage for His coming; the deeds thereafter pay tribute to His power on earth.  We spoke extensively about the Bible in the Hyde window.  I will focus on the cross this morning

What is the meaning of the cross? Simply put, the meaning of the cross is death. From about the 6th century BC until the 4th century AD, the cross was an instrument of execution that resulted in death by the most torturous and painful of ways. In crucifixion a person was either tied or nailed to a wooden cross and left to hang until dead. Death would be slow and excruciatingly painful; in fact, the word excruciating literally means “out of crucifying.”           Using the cross as a symbol of Jesus is like using a gun to symbolize John F. Kennedy.  The cross was the instrument of Jesus’ death, yet it is the nearly universal symbol of Christianity.

Why did Jesus have to die?  To redeem us. In Genesis, God created a perfect heavens and earth, yet because of sin, our relationship with God was broken and marred.  God the Father sent Jesus to take on human flesh and to be the Savior of His people. Born of a virgin, Jesus avoided the curse of the fall that infects all other human beings. As the sinless Son of God, He could provide the unblemished sacrifice that God requires. God’s justice demanded judgment and punishment for sin; God’s love moved Him to send His one and only Son to be the sacrifice for sin.

The cross not only describes Jesus, but his followers who Jesus called to take up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). This concept of “cross-bearing” today has lost much of its original meaning. Typically, we use “cross-bearing” to denote an inconvenient or bothersome circumstance. However, we must keep in mind that Jesus is calling His disciples to engage in radical self-denial. The cross meant only one thing to a 1st-century person—death.  There are places in the world where Christians are being persecuted, even to the point of death, for their faith. They know what it means to carry their cross and follow Jesus in a very real way. For those of us who are not being persecuted in such fashion, our task is still to remain faithful to Christ. [i][ii]  .  The Bible tells us the story of the cross, of Jesus’ sacrifice for us and call to take up our own cross

C:  The Easter Lily

IMG_2375No specific scriptural justification is found for using the Easter Lily but it does aptly describe our hope in the resurrection. When the bulb is buried in the earth, a rebirth comes forth in the beauty of these white lilies with a new bulb for future”

The Easter Lily is the traditional flower of Easter and is highly regarded as a joyful symbol of elegance, beauty, spirituality, hope, and life. The lily has come to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus because of its delicacy of form and its snow white color. The popular Easter lily we use today to celebrate the holiday is referred to as ‘the white-robed apostles of hope.[iii]  Their color symbolizes the purity of Christ, who was free from sin. In many paintings, the angel Gabriel is depicted as handing Mary white lilies, which symbolizes her purity as well. The trumpet shape of the Easter lily represents a trumpet sounding the message that Jesus has risen, and the nature in which lilies grow is symbolic of the resurrection as well. From ugly bulbs that are underground for three years or longer, they become beautiful flowers. This process is reminiscent of Jesus’s brutal death and holy resurrection. Thus, lilies represent rebirth and hope, just as the resurrection does in the Christian faith.

Although Easter lilies are symbols of new life and purity, their history of getting to America is actually rooted in war. Following World War I, soldier Louis Houghton brought a suitcase of lily bulbs from Japan back to the U.S., specifically to his home state of Oregon. Houghton gave the lily bulbs to his horticultural friends, and soon enough, the area along the California-Oregon border, which happened to have prime growing conditions for the flowers, became known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese shipment of Easter lilies was cut off, which brought high demand to the Oregon and California growers, giving the flowers yet another nickname—White Gold.

Oregon and California now produce the majority of the world’s Easter lilies, although there are only about 10 growers left. Easter lilies are difficult to grow, and the process to the final product is a long, precise one. The bulbs have to be cultivated in fields for at least three years, during which they require care, moving, and tending as they progress through growth stages. Once the bulbs are ready to be shipped, they’re placed under strict temperature restrictions to ensure they bloom on time for Easter, which can be a gamble, considering Easter doesn’t fall on the same day each year. So when you pick up an Easter lily at the store, keep in mind the years of work that got it to you.

The following poem by Louise Lewin Matthews captures the spiritual essence of the Easter Lily:  Easter morn with lilies fair  Fills the church with perfumes rare, As their clouds of incense rise, Sweetest offerings to the skies.

Stately lilies pure and white Flooding darkness with their light, Bloom and sorrow drifts away, On this holy hallow’d day.

Easter Lilies bending low in the golden afterglow, Bear a message from the sod To the heavenly towers of God.  -Louise Lewin Matthews[iv]

  Conclusion

People are a lot like glass.  Glass can reflect, like a mirror, or transmit light, like a window.  Our windows are at their most beautiful when they permit the light to flow through them.  The light also shows the flaws and quality of the glass.

Like glass, we need to have the light of God shining through us.  Like glass, we can merely reflect, or transmit light.  Jesus offers inner light to those who accept him.  He is the light of the world according to John 1.  We can accept the light, or reject it.  If we believe, that inner light becomes ours.

We love our stained glass windows and we should.  But what do people see in us?  Does the light of Christ shine through?  The dove with the olive branch reminds us of peace, victory and new life.  The Bible tells us the story of the cross, of Jesus sacrifice for us and call to take up our own cross.  The Easter lily reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus following his death on the cross.  The Dickerson window reminds us of their faith and generosity.    The question is will we allow the light of God to shine through us as brightly as it does these windows?

 

[i] https://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-of-the-cross.html

[ii] https://www.crosswalk.com/special-coverage/lent/what-is-the-meaning-of-the-cross.html

[iii] http://www.dgreetings.com/easter/easter-lily-history.html

[iv] http://www.appleseeds.org/easter-lily.htm

New Every Morning

daylily collage

A few pictures of the author’s daylilies from the yard.

Gardening has been a part of my family’s life for as long as I can remember. Some of my best memories took place in a garden, picking carrots, blueberries, blackberries, pears, and many other fruits and vegetables. We also spent many hours fertilizing, spraying, and caring for flowers like roses, calla lilies, and many other varieties.

Gardening not only connects me to my family, but also to my faith. The creation story in Genesis takes place in a garden (Genesis 2-3). The night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed in an olive garden, the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Following his crucifixion, Jesus is placed in a tomb in a garden (John 19:38-42). After his resurrection, Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener (John 20:11-18). In Jerusalem, I visited the Garden Tomb, which could be the place where Jesus was placed, and where people from all over the world gather to worship. In death, many caskets and funerals, are graced with stands, sprays, and wreaths of flowers or live plants as a symbol of life even in the midst of death.

I have several plants in my garden. Roses, bearded irises, Louisiana irises, lantana, gladiolus, and annuals such as zinnias and salvinia to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. But my favorite is the daylily. I like dayliles for several reasons. First, they are tough. My daylilies have survived several moves, transplants, and other challenges that would kill many flowers. Often, they have bloomed in the boxes or bags in which I moved them! They grow almost anywhere, in almost any soil, though they do best with lots of sun. Second, there are many varieties and variations. If you don’t believe God likes variety, look at the daylily! Daylilies can be found in almost all shades of the rainbow (except blue). Some are small (as small as 2 inches), others are large (as big as 10 inches), while most fall somewhere in between. Daylilies have many forms.  Some have eyes or colored edges, others have rounded forms or long, spindly arms (usually called spiders). Daylilies have many varieties and variations.

My favorite thing about daylilies is that they are new each day. The scientific name (hemorocallis) literally means “beauty for a day.” And that is what they do. Bloom for one day. Only. Then they die. When I walk through my garden, one cultivar that was a beautiful flower yesterday is now a dull, lifeless husk. Conversely, one bud that yesterday was only the promise of a bloom has blossomed into a beautiful flower. Here today, gone tomorrow. Just like life. Just like us. The daylily reminds me of what lasts, and what does not. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” Isaiah 40:8. I am reminded, that like the lilies are new every morning, so is God’s mercy. “22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

The next time you see a beautiful daylily, beautiful for only a day, think about what lasts and what passes away. Maybe, like me, you will find a blessing that is new every morning.

Putting Down the Pen . . . and Picking it Up Again

After my trip to Israel last month, I was asked to share my pictures and experiences.  I replied that I planned to put my daily journal that I wrote while on my pilgrimage and some of my favorite pictures on my blog.  “Good,” he replied, “I noticed that you hadn’t written anything for a while.”

fountain pen on paperHe was being kind!  When I looked back, I realized that I had not written anything in over 10 months!  Maybe there was not much to write about, I thought.  No, that was definitely not true.  I had seen God working all around me and had plenty of things that I could have written.  No, I had just put down my pen and had not been disciplined enough to pick it back up again. I had become busy and had not taken the time needed to practice the discipline of writing.

Isn’t that just like what happens in our spiritual lives?  We have good intentions about how we are going to go to church, read our Bible, spend more time in prayer, even spend more time writing, but life breaks in and all of our good intentions are set aside.  These things that keep us connected to God are not particularly difficult, but they must be practiced regularly for maximum effectiveness.  I wonder if these simplicity of these practices may actually impede consistent exercise of them.  “I can read the Bible tomorrow, today is really busy” we think.  Or “It’s already Sunday!?  I’m tired.  It’s been a long week. I think I’ll just sleep late instead of attending church.”  Using these practices is like strength training for Christians.  Maybe that is why they are called spiritual disciplines.  Because it takes discipline to make the things of God something we attend to regularly.  If we are not careful, intentional, and disciplined, in approach to spirituality and Christianity, then before we know it, months have passed and we have not attended to our spiritual lives.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was very disciplined in his life and practice.  He wrote many books, but maybe his most amazing work was his journal that includes almost daily entries from October 14, 1735, to October 24, 1790.  In case, like me, you are not a math major, that means that Mr. Wesley wrote in his journal for over 55 years!  I am amazed and astounded at the discipline and commitment it takes to do one thing for over 55 years!  I dare say that there are very few things in our lives that we will do for that long!  Of course, John Wesley was disciplined in his life and faith in many more ways than just his writing, that’s how he came to be called a Methodist.  Even today, those of us who seek to follow Jesus in the footsteps of Mr. Wesley are still called Methodists, though I sometimes wonder how methodical we really are, but that sounds like a topic for another day.

So following Wesley’s example and inspiration, I have put down my pen for far too long.  I pick it up again to follow his example and hopefully to be more disciplined in my writing and my faith.  The good news, for me and for all of us, is that Wesley was a staunch proponent of God’s grace, grace that gives us a new start, grace that is present even when we aren’t looking for God.  So claiming that grace, I pick up the pen again, hoping and praying that I will have the discipline to attend to the things of God consistently and praying God will use what I write to impact your life and faith.

By the way, if you are interested in reading more of John Wesley’s journal, you can find it to read online or download to your e-reader at John Wesley’s Journal at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Things to consider:  When is the last time you have attended to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship attendance, and other things that keep you in touch with God?  How can we be more disciplined in practicing the disciplines of Christianity?  What disciplines have you set aside that you need to pick up again?