Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mother's Day

Especially Gardenias

The sweet aroma of gardenias on a warm summer day takes me back to a little house in South Carolina where my grandmother once lived.  The yard of her cottage style home nestled in the Carolina pines, was filled with flowers. To this day, flowers remind me of her. Sometimes the smell of pine trees, or roses, or camellias will take me back – but especially gardenias. 

My grandmother was born in 1890. Not even five feet tall, she was a petit beauty with deep blue eyes and a contagious laugh. Once while visiting a zoo; she drew quite a crowd when she laughed at a parrot who parroted her laughter back at her. This caused her to laugh all the more causing the parrot to mimic her again. The cycle continued for quite a while. They were the zoo’s biggest attraction that day.

In 1911, she married my grandfather, a country doctor who could not afford an engagement ring. His bride wore a plain gold band. Twenty one years later he surprised her with a diamond ring. He had scrimped and saved for years!

Life was not easy for her. Her oldest child, a son, became progressively crippled. No one knew why. Even his father, the physician, was stumped. My grandmother watched as her first born began to decline as a teenager. She stood bravely beside him, as he lost his ability to walk, became wheelchair bound, and eventually died at the age of 28. Later, her husband too died from a heart attack leaving her a widow with one child still at home. 

In 1956, my parents became foreign missionaries to Africa. Shortly afterwards, my grandmother was diagnosed with a serious disease. When, I was born and given my grandmother’s name, there was no quick way to get news from Africa to the US in those days. But the news arrived at the best possible moment.

She was lying in a hospital bed. Her usual chipper, in love with life, personality was uncharacteristically despondent. She was alone when there was a knock on her door. In walked a nurse with a letter in her hand… from Africa! Her mood lifted immediately and she made a decision. To that baby, born half a world away in the jungles of Africa, her namesake, she would leave her diamond engagement ring.

I have vivid memories of this lovely woman for whom I am named. I remember her laughter. Visiting her was a delightful treat! She told stories, read adventure books, sang songs, and let us push her wheelchair around her beautiful, flower filled yard. And Oh! – The flowers! Roses, daisies, carnations, camellias, and gardenias – especially gardenias!

As I write this, I look at my ring. It’s a brilliant cut diamond set in an antique, “Old Mine” setting. I look at the ring and think of the woman who gave it to me. And then I remember her laughter and her flowers – especially gardenias!




Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Those Who Fear God

Reasonable People

“But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever.”

-Daniel 4:24 (NAS)

What do reasonable people look like? This passage in Daniel sheds light on that question. The passage begins with King Nebuchadnezzar bragging to himself. He boasts that the great city of Babylon was built by his mighty power and for the glory of his personal majesty.  What an audacious claim!  Immediately, God struck King Nebuchadnezzar with a mental disorder, causing him to leave his glorious palace and live in the fields. For seven years Nebuchadnezzar wandered aimlessly, eating grass like a cow. 

Then in His timing, God removed the king’s mental disorder. In verse 34 of this passage, Nebuchadnezzar is a very different man. Look at what he says, “…my reason returned to me and I blessed the Most High and honored Him who lives forever.” What a stark contrast this verse presents when compared to the first verse in this passage.

 We can conclude then, that a person who honors God is a person with a sound mind. We see this truth in the New Testament too. Mark tells of a demon possessed man who lived among the tombs crying out and cutting himself with stones. Then in Mark 5:15 we read that after Jesus had cast out the demon; the man was clothed, in his right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus.

 The world may try to say people who honor God, bless His name, and sit at the feet of Jesus are religious fanatics but the Bible says otherwise. The Bible tells us that such people are in their right mind and thinking clearly.