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?