A Bouquet of Lessons

I watched her for over two years before stopping at the roadside stand. She toiled six days a week, often under a scorching Texas summer sun, tending her garden. I long admired her beautiful and simple flower arrangements. The collection of colorful daisies, zinnias, and other floral accents brightened the long trip from our Cross-Dubya ranch to the city.

Weeks ago, on my way back home, I finally stopped. A hot summer’s day, I pulled onto the roadside and walked back to her flower stand. Awash with color, it stood in stark contrast to the browning pastures, cattle-dotted fields, and nests of modest homes that line the highway between Cooper and Sulphur Springs. As she wandered out from her flower garden to greet me, the weathered and slightly stooped dear sported a broad smile that said “Welcome.”

As we spoke, I learned a bit about her flowers. I noticed the new building under construction at the back of their lot. Would it become a potting shed, or perhaps a meager dwelling? I didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. What I knew was I was intent on purchasing one of these bouquets for my waiting bride.

After inquiring about the cost, I purchased two. Arranged skillfully, the simplicity of the vase only enhanced their presentation. Not a fine crystal vase that comes from the florist, but a small glass bottle that was repurposed to make a fitting container. It’s what you would expect from the country folks we live among. After some “Jesus talk” as I like to call it, I thanked her for the beautiful flowers, skill at arranging them just right, and promised I would be back.

Grateful for the unexpected gift, Ms. Diane placed one near her workspace and the other became our kitchen table’s centerpiece. I love being able to brighten someone’s day with a simple act of kindness or acknowledgement. That day, I made my very best friend’s week. We both enjoyed their fragrance and beauty as we went about our days.

A small act of kindness often shows the love we have inside. Click To Tweet

As cut flowers do, they start losing their luster after a few days. And even though you replace the water, add part of a crushed aspirin, and keep them out of the direct sunlight, the leaves and petals wilt within days. Sitting down for lunch almost a week after bringing them home, I noticed the pretty flowers weren’t as colorful and were drooping. As God so often does, He used that moment to give me pause for reflection and learning.

Lapping up my heated leftovers, my eyes kept drifting back to the dying floral arrangement. I hadn’t even noticed my wife had tossed the ones on her desk two days earlier. As my mind recalled verses from John 15, I knew a lesson was coming.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me,
and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is
withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire,
and they are burned.”
(John 15:5-6, NKJV)

Yes Lord, speak to me, I thought as I closed my eyes in prayer. As my heart listened, I heard, “Like these flowers, when My people cut themselves off from me, they wither and die.” “Why are you doing this to yourselves?” Tears flowed as I realized that while I had thanked God for leading us back to corporate worship with other Christians, I had failed to lament the cost. During the pandemic, which still feels like an endless attack to cause fear and panic, I kept my family home. We watched several Sunday morning programs (Pastors Stanley, Jeremiah, and others), and we attended virtual church via Facebook Live events. Oh, we kept up on daily devotions reading, prayer life, and study of God’s word, but felt something was missing. That something was fellowship with other Christians as part of the body of Christ.

We are not meant to live the Christian life in isolation. Click To Tweet

The words of Hebrews 10:25 ring true as much today as when written. It is in the act of fellowship that the family of God comes together to bring out not only the best in ourselves, but in others. Our Pastor calls this “doing life together”, and I can’t think of a better way to describe true Christian fellowship.

Have you made it back to church yet? Click To Tweet

Thinking about what God was showing me led me to pray His redemption of time lost and praise Him for leading my family back into sweet fellowship with others. Even though Ms. Diane is through her medical issues and surgery, and is continuing to recover well, we still exercise some caution. I want to point out that fear and caution are not synonymous. Fear is an emotion, based on the worst possible scenario our mind can think of. Caution is the purposeful exercise of care and protection to avoid fear.

Something that has been weighing on my heart for some time now is how fearful many Christians (and others) are over Covid. Is it a terrible illness/disease that has the potential to take lives? Absolutely. A statistic seldom shared though is that Covid deaths in 2020 were far behind those attributed to heart disease and cancer, both here in the US and around the world.

Many have allowed the fear of this latest virus to keep them from living their lives. If you’re in this category, and please know I’m not judging or suggesting your fears are unreal, I encourage you to ask yourself this question. Do you believe that any illness or disease will take your life one millisecond prior to the time God ordained before you were born? Whether Covid-19 or a cement truck running a traffic light, your life will not end any sooner than God has determined. Let us once again live our lives with #FaithGreaterThanFear and rejoin the body of Christ in the fellowship we need to navigate and prosper in this world.

God’s blessings,

 

Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

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51 thoughts on “A Bouquet of Lessons

  1. I love how God can use a bouquet of flowers to remind us of His love and how to show His love to others. Alan and I have returned to in person church services on some Sundays and other times, we can watch service online. We continue to pray for everyone. Have a blessed week dear friend.

    1. Amen Ms. Melissa. I’m glad you and Mr. Alan have returned, as often as you can. It’s a difficult decision to make, and it’s one that is deeply personal with many levels and facets to consider. For my family, we decided the need to worship together with others, in a safe and respectful manner, outweighs the risk. For us “mature” folks, who may have numerous risk factors, I applaud the exercise of caution rather than living in fear. I worry though, there are many who fit in that “low-risk” category who have gotten far too comfy spending Sunday mornings in their PJs and fuzzy slippers. The privilege of attending church services should never be considered an “inconvenience.” God’s blessings sweet sister in Christ; and thank you for your encouraging comments.

  2. I have been longing to get back to corporate worship, J. D., but the Sundays when we could, before the Delta variant appeared, were consumed with looking after my mother during her illness. Like you, Danny and I have done the reading, the praying, etc., but there is that element of fellow Christians missing. Hoping and praying we can soon return to our church full throttle.
    Blessings!

    1. I will join you in prayers for your return to worship soon Ms. Martha. I understand that some churches have still not re-opened, which is a sad thing, but it’s not our place to judge the heart of others. My heart breaks though for those in other countries whose churches have been fenced off, locked up, and even their pastors arrested for attempting to worship. I firmly believe, in these cases, it is a form of Christian persecution. Every person should have the right to choose when and where they worship; and it’s important to preserve our Christian liberty. Will be praying your return; I’m certain you are greatly missed, and emails, Facetimes, and Zoom meetings just aren’t the same. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am.

  3. Amen and amen! I love this post, J.D. We as the body of Christ need each other more than ever these days. God in His wisdom made us a family, His family, and our love for one another is nurtured when we’re together.

    1. Not sure how wise I might be Ms. Yvonne, but I’m very glad God deems me worthy enough to spend time helping me move toward His goal for my life. God’s blessings my Okie friend.

  4. There’s a mighty good reason (several, actually) why God told us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves. The Christian life is more than Bible teaching, prayer, and singing worship choruses. It’s serving each other, learning from each other, working together. It’s almost impossible to do all these things while isolating ourselves. To experience the fullness of the life God intended His children to live, He intended us to live it TOGETHER. Thanks for the perfect illustration of this, J.D. God’s blessings to you and Mrs. Diane!

    1. Awww… you’re such a blessing Ms. Lori. Thank you ma’am. And you are so right, we are meant to “Do Life Together” as the body of Christ. Amen ma’am. Such kind and encouraging words.

  5. Your blogs are always so encouraging! I enjoy how you use everything in God’s creation to teach lessons that we need.
    You are so right about needing to be back in church! We stayed out for a long time because of Covid, but also because of my husband’s physical condition. We are hoping to get back soon!
    Blessings to you and Ms. Diane!

    1. Not as much as I enjoy the way God is using everything He’s placed around me to teach me His lessons my friend. 🙂 I’m so very glad you enjoyed Ms. Edwina; and I’m praying both for your husband’s improved health and that both y’all make it back to church to share in the sweet fellowship. God’s blessings my friend.

  6. From acts of kindness to fellowshipping and worshipping with other believers, you packed a lot of truth into this bouquet of encouragement. Corporate worship and Bible study add an extra measure of value to our Christian lives. Thank you, J.D. for sharing messages the Lord gives you.

    1. Yes they do Ms. Jeannie. It’s when we can participate in all three (Study, Prayer, and Fellowship) that we find the greatest satisfaction in our Christian journey in faith. Amen my friend; and thank you!

  7. Thank you, J.D. for this timely lesson from the cut flowers on your table! We do so need to be connected to our Lord Jesus and with other Christians to be able to grow in faith!

    1. Yes ma’am. I’m so very glad we are able to connect here. It isn’t the same as sharing fellowship at an Enrich or other writer’s conference with you, but our connecting here does help to keep us connected with others my creative friend. God’s blessings gentle lady.

  8. My enthusiasm over the “flat screen church” thing dissipated very quickly. The essence of your teaching in this post is precisely the reason why – I was a flower wilting on the sofa, longing to be in physical communion with the rest of our people. Fear feeds right into the enemy’s agenda. Whether I die from something like COVID or an overabundance of Peanut M&Ms while crafting latest fiction or pass away warm in my bed at a ripe old age, I am assured of my destiny. May we all live free from fear and strengthen one another collectively in worship each week and in daily communion with God. Thanks for blessing the roadside flower vendor, JD.

    1. So very true Ms. Mary. We felt that very same way. For many years I’ve said, “If I’m not taken in the rapture first, I pray I drift away peacefully in my sleep.” Your comments has caused me to change that. I’m going for the peanut M&Ms. 😀 God’s blessings my friend; and thank you so much for the great comments.

  9. Your thoughts reflect my own on the basis of God’s sovereignty which must be the foundation of our faith. As a corollary, I love to teach that there’s a difference between fear, concern, and worry. Fear may be reasonable along with concern. If there’s a bear running toward you, please be afraid and run! But worry is when we are no longer trusting God.
    As always, J.D., you share deep thoughts and beautiful flowers! Thank you.

    1. Amen Ms. Kathy! I love your definitions ma’am. Fear causes us to run away when a bear is coming at you. Caution is remember to pack bear spray when you walk. Concern prompts us to become aware. Worry, as you so eloquently state, is when we no longer trust God to deliver us. Great definitions! Thank you so much for sharing with us ma’am.

  10. I love the comment you make about the difference between fear and caution. There is an acronym that might be helpful to allaying this taunting spirit. F.E.A.R – False Evidence Appearing Real. With media hyping just about everything – especially Covid – we need to sort out what might be false evidence, and take to heart the more than 365 verses in the Bible about not fearing. Caution is using God’s wisdom, which you explain so well. May the flowers of fellowship continue to blossom in yours and Miss Diane’s life.

    1. Thank you Ms. Kathy. It’s sad to think how so many people have become so afraid of things. I think this mass hysteria/insanity has been coming for some time as people have been slowly saturated with ideological changes across society. It seems a concerted effort to remove God from the public eye and replace Him with government handouts, more free stuff, deception, and lies. I wonder if this isn’t the great falling away of the church that has been prophesied; and I pray for strength each day to endure to the end. I feel strongly that this is exactly why it’s so very important that we Christians stand with each other in true fellowship, both with each other and with God. Together, we can endure the coming trials. God’s blessings sweet friend.

    1. Tis I that thank you Ms. Tammy. As I often say, “You get what you give in this life.” I am grateful for the many blessings you and your words have shared with me. Am honored that I was able to return one this week. God’s blessings ma’am.

  11. Our churches are filling up again, (hallellujah!) and I appreciate in-person worship more than ever. Your post gives me pause because the answer to your question is “No.”

    I’ve been thinking of cancelling a couple of events due to the COVID variant. One a football ballgame and the other a highly-anticipated trip to Yellowstone in Oct. But you’re absolutely right – fear shouldn’t be allowed to rule my life. Gonna study and pray on this decision some more.

    1. Thank you Ms. Candyce; and it is indeed good to see more folks slowly starting to return to our churches. I respect anyone’s decision to hold off if they’re in that “high risk” category, as I consider that an act of caution and not fear. Fear is the young man in Wal-Mart’s dairy section who screamed “Don’t come near me, you might have Covid” when I was masked and merely wanted to ask if they had any butter in the back they hadn’t brought out yet as the shelves were bare. I will join you in prayer that God leads you and your family to make the right decisions for you. I applaud your efforts to not allow fear to rule your life. God’s blessings sweet lady.

  12. Well done, J.D. You know that I think flowers brought inside make for a cheerier atmosphere, even if they do die in the vase. But they die outside on the plant too. You’re so right about us not dying “one millisecond prior to the time God ordained.” This is our comfort and confidence. I admit some fear during this pandemic, due to some friends’ experiences with it. And I hate all the conflicting “information.” I can only trust in God’s sovereignty.

    1. I think we’ve all experienced some fear and apprehension about a new, potentially deadly disease. And while it’s sad that any person has to die from this virus, it is more sad to see the fear in the eyes of some folks. We should not have to live this way, especially Christians, but I must remind myself that we are still human and prone to the same fears, diseases, worries, and concerns as everyone else. Eventually though, our faith kicks in and life can begin again. Will live be different post-COVID (if there ever comes such a time)? Certainly, I suspect I’ll continue to live more cautiously. We can’t stop living though. God’s blessings Ms. Dottie; and thank you for commenting ma’am.

  13. I agree, J.D. Fear and caution are so different. We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. We need sound minds to live in this world. We need fellowship to hold each other up and stay strong in the Lord. Thank you for the reminder! I am glad your beautiful bride is healing well!

    1. Amen Ms. Stephanie. Again I say, Amen! Today, perhaps as much as right after Christ’s resurrection, we need to stand together as a body of Christ and lift, implore, and exhort one another. God’s blessings; and than you for the good wishes for Ms. Diane. We’ve had a few rough days this week, but God is seeing us through.

  14. JD,
    I just love wildflowers in my house. They make me smile. I certainly cannot wait to be back in church. Because of the cancer and my compromised immune system, I haven’t been able to attend. As God is bringing His healing, I’ll be back soon.
    I agree with you: faith over fear!

    1. You’re not out of church from fear Ms. Beckie, but exercising sound judgment and caution as you work with God to get through this trial. I look so forward to the day of joyously celebrating with you one day as we worship our King dear friend.

  15. As a fellow-lover of cut, fresh flowers, I agree that their color and fragrance bring so much joy and beauty into our everyday lives. These days I cherish slices of life that distract momentarily from our unprecedented health and political problems. I live in faith, not fear, no matter what may come. Returning to church to do live worship is something I cherish like never before. I guess we must come close to losing what is precious in order to realize its great value. Thanks for another thought-provoking post, brother J.D. Blessings to you and Ms. Diane.

    1. Yes ma’am Ms. Karen. We all need to free our minds from all the chaos and nonsense going on in this world. I do that by sitting with my livestock or listening to instrumental hymns from years ago as my heart and mind sing along with the music. I call it “Resting in God”, as it feels like I can crawl up into Abba’s lap and escape all that surrounds me, all that’s expected of me by the world, and all that tries to envelop and overwhelm me. I think you’re right about “coming close to losing the opportunity to fellowship as body of Christ.” I believe we are still precariously close to this nation becoming a God-hating hoard that drives the church underground. God’s blessings gentle friend, and Ms. Diane and I can’t wait for it to get cooler so you can come visit our Cross-Dubya one weekend.

  16. Simply beautiful and powerful writing, J.D. You are brilliant at stirring my soul and tugging on my heart strings. Your description of the flowers and how they soon lose their luster and former glory is a great analogy to staying connected the the Vinedresser. Then His glory is seen in us and remains in us.

    1. You are much too kind, and I am oh so appreciative of all your encouragement Ms. Karen. It’s so important, especially in today’s world, that we stay in constant contact with “the vine of life” and we surrender to the will of the Vinedresser. So well said ma’am. God’s blessings.

  17. I agree, my friend, Christians are not meant to live and worship in isolation. I am glad we are back to in-person worship at my church. We are still being cautious and careful, not because of fear, but because of love for our neighbor. However, I don’t believe fear deserves all the blame for isolation. Those of us being careful to protect small children or those with chronic diseases, do so out of love for others. Perhaps we fear for their safety, but it all comes back to love. May God bless you all at the Cross-Dubya and keep you safe.

    1. I could not agree more Ms. Katherine. As I attempted to impart, caution is our response to combat fear. While fear may prompt our need to be cautious, that purposeful exercise of care and protection to avoid fear, the fact that we do employ caution is indeed an act of love. Should we be careful and cautious in these times? Most certainly. I don’t believe we need to allow fear to control our lives to the point that it prevents us from living. Very well said my friend.
      There are some, however, and I remind myself often it’s not my place to judge, who appear to be using fear as a “crutch”, as they’ve become far too comfortable sitting at home on Sunday mornings rather than joining in worship. I think some of these same people are the ones who came to church with dusty, unopened Bibles and spend two-thirds of the sermon/lesson looking up the referenced scripture verse. If there is genuine concern for safety, then by all means be safe. Let us not, however, allow fear to control our lives. God’s blessings dear friend.

  18. You always have a lovely bouquet of lessons to share, my godly rancher friend. One of my favorite things about your blogs is how you are attune to God’s voice speaking to your heart and/or pointing things out. You see God in everything as do I and a prayer is often on your lips or in your mind. I think it is sweet how you stopped to purchase flowers, do some Jesus talk, and present your gift at home. Your flowers remind of the ones I often see on my Mama’s table every Thursday when I visit. She often tells me the story of how God dropped them into her large flower pot outside through the birds. She never planted the seeds for these lovely flowers to spring up. I think she may be on to something!

    1. Thank you for your kind words Ms. Karen. Your comments about your blessed mama brought tears to my eyes as I pictured her sharing that story with you during one of your Thursday visits. I wondered, like I used to with my dad, “How many times have they told that story?” As I suspect it is with you ma’am, the more times we hear it, the sweeter it becomes. Thank you for lifting my heart with your words this day sweet friend. God’s blessings.

  19. Thank you for this, J.D. It has been frustrating for our family because we had to leave our church just as covid started, and God brought us on a round-about adventure while we sought our next church family. We’re still journeying, but we’ll land soon, I believe. In the meantime, He has shown us the joy and peace that can come from worshipping with other families in other churches. What a big, beautiful Church He has created! New to your pages, but I’m thinking I will become a frequent visitor. 🙂 God’s continued blessings, my friend.

    1. Welcome my portrait writing friend; we’re so glad you have joined us here ma’am. You’re right, leaving a church family and finding a new one is challenging, but if you approach each church you visit with an open mind, and open heart, there’s great fellowship to be found. My wife and I have experienced the same in the past year, and the key was to be ourselves, plug in, and let the Holy Spirit lead. When it’s right, you’ll all know. 🙂 Praying your journey ends with a new church home filled with love, learning, and great fellowship. God’s blessings ma’am.

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