Friday, June 25, 2010

The Beautiful 'Bonica' Roses

In June, the roses in Central New York come into their glory. Whatever the type, hybrid or not, roses seem to peak around Father's Day each year. Some last until the first heavy freeze, while others last just a few weeks. But it seems appropriate that the rose, in some ways representing the deep and profound love between God the Father and Christ the Son, would be seen best at Father's Day.

As Caretaker of the Gethsemane Prayer Garden at Faith Chapel, I often have the opportunity to tell and show people about how the flowers can take on special meanings. Many times, people encouraged me to write this down, so finally in the fall of 2009, I wrote "A Garden of Love." The following is an excerpt from that book which uses the 'Bonica' rose for its subject:

Oh the exquisite rose! I take such pleasure in how the hue changes on each flower as it matures – intense colors when they first open, leading to muted but still beautiful tones over time. Through the rose, possibly more than with any other flowers, God's awesome love extends, reveals, and touches us in greater intimacy with him.

Bonica rose The Jackson-Perkins catalog describes their roses as stunning, striking, luscious, fragrant, elegant, graceful, dramatic, captivating, fabulous, vibrant, exceptional, long-lasting, delightful, and irresistible. These same words could be applied even more to Jesus.

The roses are the stunning centerpiece of the garden: the pink ones remind us of his softness and gentleness; the white ones bring to mind his purity and elegance; and the red roses remind us of his unfailing love for us. Our perfect rose, "crucified in weakness" (2 Cor 13:4), without spot or blemish, was jeered at, mocked, beaten, flogged, and tortured. He loves us that much.

He is also loved by his Father that much. Immediately after Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy" (Matthew 3:17). The same words were spoken at the Mount of Transfiguration where Peter, James, and John heard God's voice from a bright cloud: "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him" (Matthew 17:5). God spoke of his great love of Jesus, his Son. Here are some other verses to consider:
"The Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing" (John 5:20).

"The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded" (John 10:17,18).

[Father,] "you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. … you loved me even before the world began!" (John 17:21,24).
Collectively, these verses assure us of the true and deeply intimate love relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son, even before the world began. The love relationship that was established between God and his people began as he created the world – the profound love between God and his Son began even before that.

Love is contagious – this love does not end with the Father / Son, for it includes us:
[Father,] "I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me" (John 17:22,23).
Bob Sorge, in his marvelous book "The Fire of God's Love," describes God's love:
The most sublime theme in all of Scripture is the love of God. There is nothing higher or nobler toward which we can direct our meditation. God's love is altogether wonderful, beyond our complete comprehension, and entirely inexhaustible in its scope and intensity.
Many of the attributes of the rose help remind us of these same attributes in Jesus. He is infectiously beautiful and his love is contagious beyond all measure. His love is profuse and his love is profound.


Copyright © 2009 Bible Discernments


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End Note: The overall theme for this series of articles is flowers and plants, showing how they point to love. Sometimes I write 'how to' do something, other times the emphasis is a status update, or the article will be about how a plant or flower touched my heart. All of these writings are based on plants from the Gethsemane Prayer Garden in Syracuse, NY. Please consider some of the other blog articles: Index of Articles About the Gethsemane Prayer Garden.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Start of the Gethsemane Prayer Garden



The Gethsemane Prayer Garden was first envisioned independently in 1999 by two people: Pastor Lee Simmons, founding pastor of Faith Chapel, and Alice Soule, a member of the church body. The garden was seen to be a quiet place of refuge and peace; a place similar to the garden in Jerusalem where Jesus offered his cup before the Lord in prayer; a place to have an encounter with the Lord.

Four years later, under the direction of Pastor Lee Simmons, the garden began development as a result of an initial bereavement gift. First, the gentle 'Bonica' roses were added, followed in subsequent years with a stone altar, then several privacy berms, the addition of a trellis, and finally the relocation of a large number of shrubs and trees. As each area was developed and as finance permitted, perennials were brought in and walkways were added to create a cohesive and flowing effect.

Today, this two-acre site has expanded to include twelve beds (12,000 sq. ft.), sixty perennial flower varieties, and several hundred shrubs and trees from forty species and subspecies. This prayer garden is open to the public and has no admission fee. While this garden presents the beauty of the landscape, many have commented on the serene peace that this garden offers.

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End Note: The overall theme for this series of articles is flowers and plants, showing how they point to love. Sometimes I write 'how to' do something, other times the emphasis is a status update, or the article will be about how a plant or flower touched my heart. All of these writings are based on plants from the Gethsemane Prayer Garden in Syracuse, NY. Please consider some of the other blog articles: Index of Articles About the Gethsemane Prayer Garden.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Layout of the Gethsemane Prayer Garden



Some gardens start with a grand scheme, a vision, a great idea, a landscaped scheme that appears beautiful on paper. Some have no apparent purpose or plan as they seemingly place plants arbitrarily here and there, like a five-year-old artist that throws paint onto the easel. The Gethsemane Prayer Garden in Syracuse is neither of these, yet there are aspects of each.

Pastor Lee Simmons, a visionary pastor with grand ideas, approached me with a fresh opportunity in 2003. Someone had donated a large sum of money to the church in memory of his wife that had just gone home with the Lord. The two men agreed that the money would be used to start a landscaped garden for the purpose of meditating with God – it was to be a prayer garden.

With the help of many from our church, I had coordinated the landscaping around the church building in the spring and summer of 2000. It was a new building, and we planted two hundred shrubs and trees around the property. The foundation plantings were simply placed with a mix of varieties based on a the limited budget, and most were commonly available shrubs.

This garden was to be much different. We had planted a pin oak and a cutleaf purple beech in the lawn with no particular plan in mind, and it was decided to turn these into the corners of the first section of the garden. A professional landscaper was selected; soon we had two beds of lucious pink 'Bonica' shrub roses along with many other July and August flowering plants: stately purple coneflowers, flowing Russian sage, and pinkish autumn joy sedums.

The next year, I was asked to be the Caretaker – so it has been for the last seven years. The garden has grown in size each year having expanded from 800 to 8,000 square feet. There are nine flowering beds that are intermixed with shrubs and trees.

Each time we expanded, the Lord gave me a planting scheme for each bed with the interweaving of fine sand gravel walkways that curve between adjacent plantings. First would come the center plant or plants as the extremities of the bed were developed in my mind. If a sketch was made, it was never exactly followed.

I am well convinced that plants, both large and small, are best placed by careful examination by eye. The sketch may be helpful and can sometimes avoid problems down the line, but we don't really know until that plant is stood up in its proposed location. By considering the ultimate height of all the plants, sometimes significant adjustments become obvious. Looking from many angles, pacing off the size with our feet, soon we begin to see it come together. We plant it, and then move on to the next largest or next most showy.

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End Note: The overall theme for this series of articles is flowers and plants, showing how they point to love. Sometimes I write 'how to' do something, other times the emphasis is a status update, or the article will be about how a plant or flower touched my heart. All of these writings are based on plants from the Gethsemane Prayer Garden in Syracuse, NY. Please consider some of the other blog articles: Index of Articles About the Gethsemane Prayer Garden.