SPANISH MOSS

Bellingrath Gardens, moss covered trees (C)
Moss covered trees in Bellingrath Gardens

One of the beautiful creations of our Lord, at least in my humble opinion, is the Spanish moss that covers trees in the Southeast United States.   I love to look at it, to walk beneath it, to savor the peace that it seems to bring to the trees from which it hangs.

Ulele - Tampa6
Garden and grounds outside Ulele Restaurant in Tampa, Florida

Actually, what we call Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is really not a moss.  It is a bromeliad, from the same family as succulent house plants and pineapples. 

Also, it is not a parasite that takes nutrients away from the host tree.  Rather, the plant lives on rain and fog, sunlight and airborne or waterborne dust and debris.  (If that was my diet, well … I digress!)

The plant further has a name that is really irrelevant to its character since it is not from Spain.  It actually is native to Central and South America, as well as the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean.  It grows wherever there is a healthy tree in a tropical swampland. 

The fable of the origin of Spanish Moss tells the story like this:

Gorez Goz was a bearded brute who bought a beautiful Indian maiden for a yard of braid and a mere bar of soap. The mere sight of the Spaniard so frightened the girl that she ran away from him. Gorez Goz chased right behind her, until at last he climbed up after her to the top of a tree. The maiden dove into the water and escaped, but Gorez Goz’s beard got hopelessly entangled in the tree’s branches. There he died, but we can still see his “greybeard” on trees throughout the Lowcountry—as the Spanish moss out on the limbs.

[This information was found at http://mentalfloss.com/article/67807/10-things-you-should-know-about-spanish-moss  accessed October 9, 2017]

Spanish moss, to me, is beautiful in its silent adornment of the branches of the host trees.

Beauty is a characteristic that is hard to define.  What one person believes is beautiful, another person would pass by without even a notice.  So, not everyone would agree with my opinion that Spanish Moss is beautiful.  But, external beauty is not the paramount criterion for a finding of beauty. 

Scripture talks about beauty on multiple occasions, and, when speaking of mankind, it always involves not only physical beauty but spiritual beauty.  For example, Peter writes to the women in the church:

“Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV

Appreciate beauty.  Be in awe of how God supplies the needs of even the insignificant Spanish moss as it grows without harming its host tree, decorating and adorning it with beauty.  Be thankful for the beauty of the earth, of music, of nature and its ways. 

Here is John Rudder’s beautiful version of “For the Beauty of the Earth” on the album Gloria, Sacred Music of John Rudder.  It is my prayer that it would speak to your spirit and brighten your day.

Now praise our God that He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  Let your soul swell and your spirit sing as you consider our Mighty, Loving and Saving God.

Father, Thank You for Your creation that speaks so eloquently of Your grace, might, provision and wonder.  I praise Your Holy Name for all your marvelous ways. 

UNRUFFLED AND SIDELINED … A LESSON WHILE HEALING

Bellingrath Gardens long bridge and swan (C)
Long bridge with beautiful swan at Belingrath Gardens, Alabama.

 

There are times that nature moves quickly and with an intensity that man can only watch and admire. But, nature can also move slowly and with a deliberation that allows us peace and unruffled living. The swans at Bellingrath Gardens, in Alabama, provide a peaceful scene in which quiet contemplation is possible.

The swan must exert herself under the water so that she can majestically glide over the water, but she is able to do it with truly “unruffled” feathers.

Swan
The majestic swan — unruffled even while working!

How do we respond to things that upset our schedule or which create a problem for us to overcome? Do we have peace? Are we unruffled? While we might have to work at the response to the situation, do we worry and fret all the while?  What about while we are at work or have family troubles, do we stress and complain or do we have peace, even in chaotic circumstances? What about healing? Do we squirm because we are not as physically able as we want to be? Are we willing to submit to His loving care and see what He has for us, even if that includes physical pain?

The past two years have been an exercise in waiting for me.  I retired so that we could have time to do things like travel and visit family around the country.  Nine months later, I had a left ankle break that required surgery and over 9 weeks of non-weight bearing; then there were months of physical therapy as I healed from that event. I then had meniscus repair surgery to my left knee with resulting physical therapy, and I am just now beginning therapy after having surgery for a total right knee replacement. Each of these medical situations has found me, at times, accepting and, at other times, frustrated.

My schedule was stopped cold. Now all I had to do was to heal.  Wait, and yield to the caregiving provided to me … frustration and humiliation at not being able care for myself, even in fundamental ways, had to be let go so that I could appreciate the effort and care being rendered on my behalf.

As an example, I came home from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day and the next day my daughter Liz and my daughter-in-law Mandi prepared an incredible Thanksgiving Day meal for 12 people, served in our dining room, and all I had to do was to get up the steps and walk to the table. This was the first time that I had relinquished the holiday meal to others.  I praise these two wonderful women for their efforts which were absolutely successful, and I am thankful for the great celebration we had together. (The day of our Thanksgiving Day meal was our wedding anniversary, so it really was a celebration!)

Then too there is the wait for the doctors to practice their skill with still more waiting for the healing to come. Multiple doctor office visits and many more physical therapy sessions, with even more to be scheduled and endured. Wait, be calm and do the therapy so that healing will be complete.

There have been times when I wanted to scream “Doesn’t God know that we had plans?  Doesn’t God know that this is messing with what I thought He wanted me to do?  Doesn’t God care …?”

Of course, the answer is that “Yes, God does know. In fact, He knows everything!” That is the very definition of omniscience! What I need to know is that He is sovereign and He is in control of everything. That is the definition of omnipotence!  And, God does care — the cross is our confirmation of His love, mercy and grace for us.

                 What I need to remember is that I am not God.

This time of testing has a purpose, unknown to me, but important to God. Perhaps He has something that I am to learn about Him, about my life in Christ, about myself and the best way for me to do that is to experience this diversion that I would not have selected on my own.

In Mark 4:39 Jesus was with His disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose. His disciples were terrified and they woke him pleading that He help. Scripture says:

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

This became a teaching moment for the disciples! It should also be such for us, for me.

The Almighty God who spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1) and His Son, Jesus Christ, who could stop the storm instantly by commanding “Peace,” has promised to provide peace to us in our time of need through the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 26:3 instructs:

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”

Jesus promised that we would have divine help through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:25-26.

We are not guaranteed a life of ease as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, but we are guaranteed eternal life with Him and His presence through the Holy Spirit in the here and now. Such peace will transcend the frenetic pace of the world and calm our hearts if we read His Word and listen to the Holy Spirit’s instruction. If we turn our eyes upon Jesus, He will help us to learn the lessons that He has ordained, and He will encourage and support us even as we go through the difficulties attendant with those lessons.

Blessings to you. May you find Peace through your relationship with the King of Peace, Jesus Christ our Lord and may His Spirit reside within you to comfort and strengthen during difficult times, even physical therapy!

Father, thank you for loving me so much that you are working in my life to transform me into the image of Jesus. Forgive me when I rebel and don’t want to go down the road you have ordained. Help me to remember that I am yours and that you are sovereign and in control of all things. Thank you Heavenly Father for your Son, my Savior and Lord, and thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to instruct, guide and comfort as we go along our way, even if it is to physical therapy.