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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hibiscus blooms at Longwood Gardens
Hibiscus blooms at Longwood Gardens

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Today's Brooksyne is writing and I'm editing. Last Friday, as a gift to her, I took her to Longwood Gardens.  Since I felt my impatience might hinder her enjoyment I dropped her off in the early afternoon for a long purposeful walk through the beautiful and expansive grounds of the Pierre S. du Pont Estate. 

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"

"Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land" (Song of Solomon 2:12).

Gold Finch 5/13/10Peering outside my office window this morning I am watching the purple finches, goldfinches, cardinals and chickadees flitting about as they encircle the birdfeeder.  They quickly stuff their beaks with breakfast seed and some fly off to places of safety where they pound the sunflower seed on a hard surface. Voila, the wonderful meat is theirs to feast upon!  And then they come back for a second course and so forth all throughout the day.

Over the last eight years I have taken a great interest in flowers and birds – they seem to go hand in hand, as seen in our text from Solomon.  When we moved to our present location eight years ago our yard had a perfect layout for flower and vegetable gardens.  About twenty five years ago our plot of ground was fertile Lancaster County farm land so the rich soil has contributed to making my gardening a delightful success. 

Growing up in Oklahoma where temperatures and humidity soared my gardening chores as a youngster in a family of seven did not leave me with pleasant memories. It occupied our entire summer as we tended a huge garden, sometimes planting an entire acre. I never thought I'd find myself voluntarily digging dirt, watering plants, fighting off disease and harmful insects, weeding, and getting terribly excited about walking through plant nurseries.

Garden plaque

But the beautiful results bring about great reward.  The ladies from a church we served in an interim pastoral role several years ago presented me with a garden plaque that now hangs on my deck saying, "A Garden Always Gives Back More Than It Receives" and that for the most part is definitely true!

We're now entering the fall season but Solomon, ever the romantic writer, is giving us a picture of the spring season in our daily text.  It's as though he's flipping a page on the calendar that turns the previous month of a bleak winter landscape into the new month that bursts forth with signs of spring.  Let's look at the warming signs one phrase at a time:

Garden plaque
"The flowers appear on the earth."  All gardeners and those who enjoy the beauty and color of flowers get excited when the crocus or daffodils and other spring bulbs break through the last remnants of snow.  After months of seeing the dull gray of winter the visual beauty of a flower bursting up through the ground lifts one's spirit and reminds us that there is much more beauty to come – the buds on the trees, the grass turning green, bunny rabbits populating the landscape, the shedding of winter coats, etc.

Yes, spring is romantic and always full of life – Easter, celebrated each spring, is a marvelous reminder of new life, the resurrected life of our Lord Jesus Christ. John Wesley writes, "The communications of God's grace, the gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit, are vouchsafed unto, and appear in believers, as buds and blossoms do in the spring."

"The season of singing has come."  The sun has now returned with its bright reflection and warm influences.  It not only influences the plant life but it warms our souls and brightens our outlook as well.  How can we not burst forth into song or whistle a tune as we begin to spend more time outdoors enjoying the beauty of God's creation? 

Mourning dove in snow
"The cooing of doves is heard in our land." How perfect that Solomon would refer to a mourning dove (some versions read, "turtle dove") rather than a remote bird that we can no longer see or identify.  Mourning doves are very common small doves that can be spotted all around the world so our international readers will also be familiar with this beautiful bird. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments and can actually be a little frightening if unfamiliar with their song.

When I was young I mistook the cooing of a mourning dove for a crying baby.  Songbirds are one of the most pleasant sounds that fill the spring air. We awaken to their songs as they begin singing about 5:00 AM where we live.  They have to rise early since their days are filled with finding mates and constructing their homes from nesting materials.  So we rise with them as we're reminded that we have many duties that fill our day as well.

I'm thankful for the four seasons where His wonders are displayed in a variety of ways, each unique to that particular season. I will admit to enjoying the spring season when I plant seeds and watch for their germination much more than the fall season where the blooming is over, the vegetables are spent, and I have to pull plants and store their buds or winter-over plants for the cold months.  It's a little like the anticipation of a long-planned vacation vs. the drudgery of unpacking and washing the dirty clothes after it's all over.

Yet "there is a time for everything", as Solomon writes, in Ecclesiastes 3:1 "and a season for every activity under heaven." So let's gear up for the fall season and enjoy the activities that comes with the great harvest and cool nights. Let's give thanks to God who doeth all things well in His time, in His way, and in His season!  

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, we are in awe of Your gifts to us.  The domain of Your universe is vast and far beyond that which we can see over a lifetime, but our lives are greatly enriched and blessed as You fill it with individual gifts of beauty we can touch, see, smell, hear, and taste. For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light.  We raise to You our hearts which are filled with unending praise.  Amen.

Longwood Gardens

Entrance walk at Longwood Gardens
Entrance into the beautifully manicured Flower Garden Walk which takes you to the main exhibits. These flowers vary seasonally.
Fountains at Longwood Gardens
Pierre du Pont loved fountains and this is evidenced all throughout the gardens.  Before his death in 1954 he admitted that he still got excited turning on a faucet just to hear the rush of water! 

Waterfall at Longwood Gardens
Another waterfall, this one gushing!

Coleus leaf at Longwood Gardens
There were a variety of coleuses which I enjoy growing as well.
This looks like a flower bloom but is actually the beautiful foliage!  This is one of the only flowering plants I can think of where the flower is not pretty and is usually pulled off when visible.

Topiary at Longwood Gardens
The topiary garden.

Bonsai tree at Longwood Gardens
One room in the conservatory was filled with bonsai trees.  This particular tree was trained in the bonsai fashion in 1909, so it is at least 101 years old!  I found that fascinating, and also that these bonsai trees respond to the seasons just like the fully grown trees.   Some of the trees had foliage starting to turn colors and their leaves were already dropping.

Ornamental peppers at Longwood Gardens
Beautiful ornamental peppers.  Unfortunately the sheen on the peppers did not come out well in the photograph.

Model railroad at Longwood Gardens
This photo I took for Stephen as he enjoys trains, mostly the full-size.   But they had a great display of a miniature railroad, whistles and train sounds, that made for an enjoyable sight among the mums and other green foliage.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"  Video  Barlow Girl with vocals (This is the traditional tune.)

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"  Video  Instrumental, with outstanding photos!  

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"  Video  Paya Lebar Methodist Girl's Choir again with outstanding photos!

"My Redeemer Lives"  Video  Nicole Nordeman.  This is a great song set to a video of the Hoyt Team, a dedicated father and disabled son, who run in marathons and triathlons. It is really touching!  We recall seeing the Hoyt team on Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon many years ago. That for me was one of the most memorable times of all the sporting events I have witnessed in my entire life.

"I Know That My Redeemer Lives"  Video
   This is an outstanding version of a grand old hymn with scenes from "The Passion Of The Christ". This hymn was written by Samuel Medley in the 1700's.

"Even The Wind Bows Down"  Audio came across this song by an musician named Pete Hayes.

Longwood Gardens official website
  Longwood Gardens today consists of 1,050 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows; 20 outdoor gardens, 20 indoor gardens, numerous fountains including the Main Fountain Garden near the Conservatory.

Location of Longwood Gardens  (Google map)

Brooksyne took a lot more photos than we display today as Longwood Gardens has a lot to photograph! Here's a collection of photos taken at Longwood Gardens.
The easiest way to view the photos is to start with the first photo and click on the link to the next photo.  Enjoy your virtual visit to Longwood Gardens!

History of Longwood Gardens

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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