Spring Beauty All Around!

This is the time of year when everything bursts
into glorious song and bloom!

Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.

The rebirth of life in springtime is both
majestic and mysterious!

It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently
for water to open up.

And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings
coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!

Robins are busy rearing their broods,

and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak)
come to our feeder every day!

This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined
to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!

Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.

This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!

Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests
dotted with tiny woodland anemones

and later covered with bright bluebells!

Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills
covered with bright orange poppies,

and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!

Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!

How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
(—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.

Refrain:
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

2 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, [Refrain ]

3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]

4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]

(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)

The Uniqueness of God’s Corpse Flower

The Amorphophallus titanum/aka “corpse flower,” native only to rain forests of Sumatra and Java, is among the world’s most fascinating plants. It has a humongous  bract that makes it look like the world’s most gigantic flower. By botanical definition, however, the Rafflesia arnoldii (known as the “corpse lily” and also native to Sumatra) actually holds the world’s record for plant with the largest flower (as opposed to a bract), which can be 3+ feet in diameter.  Still the corpse flower definitely holds the world’s record for the largest corm (339 pounds in Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) and the largest “unbranched inflorescence” (a group of flowers arranged on a single, central stem), which can grow up to ten feet high!  These amazing plants became known in the Western Hemisphere about 140 years ago, and since that time, there have been some 100 cultivated blossoms around the world, mostly in botanical gardens.One of the locations is our own Meijer Botanical Garden, here in Grand Rapids, and we enjoyed following the progress of our garden’s corm, affectionately named “Putricia” ( due to the terrible odor reminiscent of rotting meat, which Putricia proudly produces while in bloom to attract unwary carnivorous insects into helping out with her pollination). Putricia was planted at Meijer Garden 18 years ago, and this past July (2018) was the first time she bloomed!  In fact, corpse flowers usually only bloom about once every ten years, and when they do, the full bloom only lasts one day! When I first heard about Putricia, I wondered if one “stinking” flower could be worth all the bother, but after six months, I’m still thinking about her and have decided that seeing the corpse flower was worthwhile . . . and unforgettable!Why? Because it reminds me that no matter how large or small . . . how long lasting or short lived . . . how fragrant or odoriferous . . . I am—and we all are—unique creations of God intended for His pleasure. It doesn’t matter if people come from all over the world to see us . . . or “the world” never takes note of us at all! It doesn’t matter if we’re like an ever blooming rose . . . or bloom like clockwork once a year . . . or if we’re only in full bloom for one day each decade.No matter who we are, we are God’s unique creation, made as He designed us. He takes delight in us, especially as we trust in him. (“The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” [Psalm 147:11].) As this new year begins, may we commit ourselves to resting in being the unique and wondrous blossom that God has created us to be, even though we’re flawed, imperfect, and feel insignificant. Let’s worship Him, reflecting His love and light.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Photo Credits: I took five of the photos on the day we visited Meijer Garden. The photo of the butterfly on an ivory-colored peony was taken in my front yard. The rest were found as follows:

Blooming Corpse Flower photographed at the New York Botanical Garden on June 27, 2018 by Sailing Moose. Found on Wikipedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amorphophallus_titanum_(corpse_flower)_-_2.jpg

Rafflesia arnoldii and black and white photo of corpse flowers found on Wikipedia.

Four side-by-side photos of Putricia courtesy of Meijer Garden’s livestream  found on WOOD TV: https://www.woodtv.com/news/kent-county/meijer-gardens-corpse-flower-nearing-bloom/1290512106

Leaving Mormonism but Growing in Grace

Although I virtually never read books that counter other religious viewpoints, I have begun reviewing books for Kregel Publications. I think they produce some outstanding Christian resources, and their recent release, Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds, intrigued me. The few Mormons I know are clean living and service-minded. In fact, there are many Mormons who serve in our military, and my military kids have become good friends with several because of their moral standards and family values. Therefore, I wondered why four Mormon scholars would take such a strong stand against the teachings of their church.

When Mitt Romney was campaigning for the Republican presidential ticket, I remember sharing the gospel with a Mormon gentleman on a flight home from the West Coast. He expressed such warm agreement that I assumed the Mormon church must have changed a lot in the past forty years. Perhaps it wasn’t a “cult” after all. Perhaps it’s just another branch of true Christianity. Or, so I thought!   The book is deep and wide. I was blown away by how much I didn’t know. Each of the four scholars trace their own life experience of loving the Mormon Church  (some whose lineage can be traced back to the times of Joseph Smith) but growing into such an appreciation for the Bible as the true Word of God (which they go to great lengths to support) that they could no longer believe Mormon doctrines. Why? Because at their heart, many Mormon teachings run contrary to what the Bible says. Consider just a few essential doctrinal contradictions:

“The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself” (Brigham Young).

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (The Bible, Revelation 4:11).

“The Spirit of God fell upon me to a marked extent and the Lord revealed to me, just as plainly and the sun at noon-day, this principle, which I put in a couplet: ‘As man now is God once was; As God now is, man may be'” (Lorenzo Snow, Latter Day Saint (LDS) apostle and prophet for three decades).

…we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge” (The Bible, 1 Corinthians 8:4-7).

A “plurality of gods exist…There is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods” (LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie).

And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he” (The Bible, Mark 12:32).

“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (LDS apostle and prophet for four decades, Spencer W. Kimball).

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As Cory Miller points in the book, “One can be wrong on every other nonessential Christian doctrine and still go to heaven. But no matter how sincere one is, if one is wrong on the doctrines of God and salvation, one could be sufficiently wrong to lose one’s soul. In this Mormonism does not provide a path to the reality of the good life, eternal happiness in the knowledge of God.”

Leaving Mormonism not only lights the way for understanding the clear teachings of the Bible about the person of God and the way of salvation, it’s also one of the most scholarly books I’ve read in recent years on apologetics,  defending of the authenticity of Scripture and the reasonableness of faith in God no matter who you are. So, if you are a Mormon, love a Mormon, or are interested in sharpening your own spiritual sensibilities, please consider reading Leaving Mormonism!

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).