God’s Garden of Gladiolas

I spent the afternoon in a garden of gladiolas. A floral array that created a botanical masterpiece. Gladiolas are perennial plants known for their tall floral spikes and large, colorful blooms. Each blossom is composed of multiple flowerettes creating one flower that bursts forth from a sturdy green stalk. I was enthralled by the beauty surrounding me. I felt like I was surrounded by God’s presence portrayed through posies. In my spirit, I sensed multiple multicolored messages.

Botanically, gladiolus originates from a Latin term meaning sword. This flower is sometimes called the sword lily. It is described as a plant with unbranched stems having several narrow, sword-shaped longitudinal grooved leaves enclosed in a sheath. From within these green leaves, funnel-shaped irregular flowers emerge on slender stalks. I thought about the sword of the Spirit that is part of God’s armor. Ephesians 6:17 says, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The botanical spires inspired me. The gladioli, commonly known as glads, seemed to echo Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”

Each flower reminded me of the steeple of an old church. Each blossom pointed to God in heaven. I felt like I was in a cathedral of living stained glass windows. So many flowers! So many colors! Ruby red – coral – pink – yellow – white – lavender – deep purple.

The stalks talked to me of God’s goodness. Psalm 25:8 declares, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways.” Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” God is good!

Some gladioli were standing up straight declaring the glory of God. I Chronicles 16:24 says, “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” Other floral stems appeared to bend lowly in humility. Psalm 95:6 invites, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Through the magnificent beauty of the flowers, I experienced the fulfillment of Isaiah 33:17. Your eyes will see the king in His beauty and view a land that stretches afar. Psalm 90:17 NKJV says, “Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us.” I also was aware of a sweet perfume in the air. It was the fragrance of the flowers! In Ephesians 5:1-2 we are encouraged to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God.” II Corinthians 2:15 NIV says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” The New King James version translates it, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ.”

Each cluster of blossoms appeared to symbolize a choir of trumpets. I sensed that the gladioli, or trumpets, were declaring a chorus of triumph. Psalm 98:6 NLT says, “With trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn, make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!” A cacophony of praise was being declared by the colorful trumpets. God’s greatness and grandeur was being portrayed and proclaimed. Psalm 47:1 NKJV says, “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!”

Throughout the afternoon, I was encircled by a floral hedge. Psalm 135:9 NKJV says, “You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.” I was captivated by more than splashes of color. My spirit was communing with the God of all creation. Revelation 4:11 declares, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.”

Trinity – Trilogy – Triplet

Trinity – Triune – Trilogy – Triple – Triad – Triplet

All words signifying three.

Let’s begin with Trinity – the term used to describe our God. He is one God yet three persons. God the Father – God the Son – God the Holy Spirit.

Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. We skip a few verses and read Genesis 1:26,Let Us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness.” “Elohim” is the Hebrew word for God in both verses. Elohim reveals that God is the majestic ruler over all. It is a plural word and is used as the first name of God placing Him high above all other gods. It also foreshadows the later revelation of the triune Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

My favorite scripture revealing the trinity of God is Matthew 3:16-17. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” These verses specifically name the three persons of the Trinity. Jesus, the Son, is water baptized. The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, descends upon the Son. God the Father declares Jesus as His Son.

I think of the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
who wert and art and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye made blind by sin thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea;
holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

I have highlighted “trilogy phrases” within this hymn. It begins with the repetition of “holy” three times. This is a literary form of emphasis that accentuates the holiness of God. There are several other “three phrases” within in the hymn.

““Wort” and “art” and “and “evermore” can be stated in more common terms “was” and “are” and “forever.” Whatever the choice of words, it reminds me of Hebrews 13:8. Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Heber refers to the perfection of God in “power, love and purity.” Another trilogy is found in “earth and sky and sea.” The conclusion of the hymn emphasizes the blessed Trinity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three yet one.

I think God knew it would be hard for us to grasp the concept of His being “three yet one.” Consequently, He has surrounded us with examples of “threes.” Let’s look at numerous triad references found in scripture and our surroundings. Although none of the following triplets give us a 100% accurate description of God, they are helpful reminders of His nature.

Remembering that God said He made us in His image, we find our first illustration of “three in one” within our makeup. Human beings have a body, soul and spirit. Another triad is reflected when we describe our soul as being our mind, will and emotions. Even our ears have three parts: outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.

When explaining the Trinity concept of God to children, we often refer to an apple. An apple is one piece of fruit yet it has three parts. The peal, the flesh and the core or seeds. These three parts are found in all fruits.

A family is a unit of a father, mother and child/children. One group with three individual identities.

Within the Holy Trinity, the Son is known as Lord Jesus Christ. Lord is His title. Jesus is His name. Christ, Anointed One, is His role. Philippians 2:10-11 says, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.One person with three names. Most of us have a first, middle and last name.

Every 24 hours we encounter triplets. Morning – Noon – Night. Or, we might prefer to say Morning – Afternoon – Evening. One time period yet three parts.

The government of our country, reveals a triad through the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the one government over one nation. As I look at our nation’s flag, I see three colors. Red, white and blue.

Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

In music, a triplet is three notes given one count or rhythmic beat.

As a child, I remember having a puzzle with three pieces. Each piece was a primary shape: square, triangle or circle. One puzzle. Three pieces. Three in one. Even the triangle piece was formed of three lines.

I see a triad symbol when I look at the lights above our bathroom mirror. One light with three bulbs. 

A traffic light is comprised of three separate lights.  Each light gives a different directive.  Green tells us to go. Yellow wars us to slow down. Red commands us to stop. One traffic light with three colors giving three instructions.

Deuteronomy 6:4 that says, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The word “one” comes from the Hebrew word “echad” that means “united one.” This supports the fact that God is three in one.

None of my illustrations are perfect. They are simply reminders of the Holy Trinity. My list is certainly incomplete. I challenge you to look for your own triplets in your surroundings and scripture. Whenever you find a “three in one” symbol, take time to remember the unique nature of our God. Take time to praise God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!

Hemmed In

You hem me in behind and before,
and You lay Your hand upon me.
Psalm 139:5

The phrase “hemmed in” caught my attention. What does it mean to be “hemmed in”? Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition is “to surround in a restrictive manner – to confine.” I’m not sure it is a good thing when I first think about it. I need to unpack the meaning more thoroughly.

In Psalm 139, David begins by expressing God’s omniscience and omnipresence. Then, he reveals how God chooses to hem him in with His hand. This suggests that being “hemmed in” by God is good. David asks in verse 7, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” The answer is “nowhere” because he is hemmed in by God. That is something positive to meditate upon!

Those who trust in God are like Zion Mountain:
nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain you can always depend on.
Mountains encircle Jerusalem,
and God encircles His people – always has and always will.
Psalm 125:1-2 MSG

Another word for “hemmed in” is encircled. Jerusalem was “hemmed in” by mountains. In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene H. Peterson points out that geographically Jerusalem was the safest city because it was surrounded by mountains that functioned as a protective fortress. Peterson also compares the geographical world and the spiritual world. Spiritually, we benefit from the safety and security of being hemmed in by the Lord.

When the Lord’s presence hems us in, we have more security than what is provided by mountains. Psalm 46:1 MSG says, “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need Him.

The angel of the LORD encamps around
those who fear Him, and He delivers them.
Psalm 34:7

Here is another picture of being “hemmed in”. Encamps often refers to establishing a military camp. In this verse, it refers to spiritual warfare and deliverance by the Lord’s angel. Like the phrase “hemmed in”, encamps suggests an extended time of help and protection.

He will cover you with His feathers;
under His wings you will find refuge;
Psalm 91:4

I am not sure of the exact image the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote these words. However, I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:37 as He laments over Jerusalem. He says, “I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” While growing up, I lived on a farm. I remember a mother hen quickly gathering her brood of chicks under her wings whenever anything disturbed her. With her wings, she pulled them close to her and then held them securely. Under the cover and protection of the Lord’s wings creates a loving image of being “hemmed in”.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
Proverbs 31:25

When I was a child, the circle skirt was a popular clothing style. It was a circle of fabric with a waistband in the middle. My mother made one for me. The last part of the sewing project was to put in the hem. Mom folded the raw edge of the fabric so there were no loose strings. With needle and thread, she secured the fabrics. No unraveling could occur. She “hemmed in” all the loose threads.

I loved to twirl around while wearing this skirt. I laughed as I watched the fabric fan into a circle. I was “hemmed in”! I felt like I was clothed with dignity. My mother had hemmed the skirt with needle and thread. When I wore it, I was physically “hemmed in” by the skirt. As I think about it, I find a spiritual picture. God is the master tailor who “hems in” His creation with His presence. The Holy Spirit is the needle who pierces our hearts. With our hearts pricked by His presence, we are ready to have the thread of the Word sewn into our inner being. I am reminded of Hebrews 4:12. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

We are clothed with strength and dignity when we are “hemmed in” by God. Our lives will not become unraveled when the Holy Spirit attaches the thread of the Word to the fabric of our lives.

You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7

According to this verse, we are “hemmed in” with songs and shouts. An online commentary highlights this verse. “What a golden sentence! The man is encircled in song, surrounded by dancing mercies, all of them proclaiming the triumphs of grace. There is no breach in the circle, it completely rings him round; on all sides he hears music. Before him hope sounds the cymbals, and behind him gratitude beats the timbrel. Right and left, above and beneath, the air resounds with joy.’” A beautiful description of being “hemmed in” by God who is our hiding place!

“Hemmed in” now creates a positive picture in my mind. Hemmed in – surrounded – encamped – encircled. Let us be thankful that God is active in our lives and works to “”hem in” all who believe in Him!

Repair Work

Harsh winters in New York state leave their mark upon the roads. Potholes abound by the time spring arrives. It appears that a car could almost fall into some of these holes and never reappear. These holes have the potential of damaging a car. Or, the potholes can cause a driver to lose control of the car. Potholes must be repaired. So, throughout the summer we contend with maintenance work upon busy streets. Delays and detours can be frustrating. However, there is a purpose.

Potholes emerge during the winter season but they are not repaired until warmer weather in the summer. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” This is true naturally and supernaturally.

Spiritual potholes occur when we encounter bumps in the road on life’s journey. Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Isaiah 40:3-4 NLT says, “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, ‘Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!’ Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.’” Spiritually, we may encounter curves in our lives that need to be smoothed out. Rough potholes in our souls may require filling.

God promises that road repairs will be made. The psalmist says in Psalm 71:20, “Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” I ponder the phrase “Out of the depths of the earth.” Could this phrase describe both physical and spiritual potholes? There is also the promise of being brought up – sounds like being rescued from both kinds of holes.

Natural and spiritual roadwork may cause some detours and delays. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” This causes detours. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” What we consider delays may not really be delays. God knows where we are going and how long it will take us to get there. We may not get “there” as quickly as we like but it will be in God’s perfect timing.

While traveling the rough roads of life’s journey, we must cling to God’s Word. God will make a way when there seems to be no way. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declares, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Romans 8:28 reminds us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” “All things” includes not only the potholes, but also the delays and detours.

Road construction and reconstruction is an ongoing process. We, too, are under construction until the day we die. God is not finished with us. We are still works in progress. Sometimes we encounter potholes and rough spots during our journey. However, we are promised in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Isaiah 6:7 NLT concludes that God does what is right, and smooths out the path ahead of us.

We will encounter potholes but we also have the promise of God’s presence. Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Detours and delays will be experienced, but we are not to be discouraged. Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 says it well. The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.