They have appeared along with rivers and ponds I walk and ride. The pastel beauty of phlox in lavender, purple, pink and white festoon the roadside in a garland heralding the ending of winter. There are 47 varieties of this perennial. I love them because they grow between the lilacs of lavender and honey suckle pinks, both offering scents that perfume the air in pleasing ascent to the brown Milwaukee River and the flooded woods with stagnant waters. It is spring and the world is coming alive with new life. You can pick them, but soon you will be disappointed as they droop. These flowers are meant to beautify God’s creation.
This short essay joins some 33 others in a collection I have gathered called River Road Reflections. They hide in a file to be published some day probably posthumously. You see as I ride my bike even at dawn in the spring and summer I am privileged to view flowers, clouds and sunrises of gold, azure and purple coloring the landscape. It brings me to sing songs to God for His luxurious brushwork. I choose this pastoral scenery over that of the squalid political landscape that more resembles riding my bike behind a manure spreader. Gone then are the sights and smells of God to be replaced by the digested waste of animals after chewing their cud. It is only good for fertilizing the fields.
You could say, this does not preach well. I would say there are 13 fascinating Bible verses with dung and manure. In Deuteronomy 23:12 we read of God’s desire for us to go outside the camp with a shovel and bury it. Jesus was violently crucified outside the city, as well as bodies burned, not to stain the inhabitants. "Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.” Jerusalem had a “Refuge Gate” just for this purpose as we read in Nehemiah and elsewhere. Throughout the Old Testament we can read of how enemies’ bodies were thrown on the fields like manure. The evil Jezebel was one of these bodies and so were all the kings that disobeyed the Lord. There were only five good kings in Judah and none in Israel, so a lot of manure was spread.
I hear a lot of manure being spread on the airwaves today. The new movie about Shakespeare’s last three years, All is True, reminds me of many brilliant thoughts for contemplation. From Hamlet we hear, ‘To thine own self be true.’ Pilot asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Today it seems it is whatever we want it to be. One of Shakespeare’s friends said “I don’t let the truth ruin a good story.” Is that true of you? Do you have a source of truth? Perhaps you believe the pundits on TV? Many are the bazaar musings reminding me also of Hamlet saying,‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ He also said we have seen better days and brevity is the soul of wit and this is very midsummer madness. But enough of the playwright, lets go to a 17thcentury Bishop or the Kings of France, Marquis Antoine de Fenelon. He would tell the king, “Perhaps you think too much of thyself, give yourself completely to God.” How about, “A humility that is still talkative does not run very deep.”
We must be very careful when speaking at all. One verse often falsely attributed to Francis of Assisi is “Preach the Gospel at all times and if you must use words.” I haverealized that I talk too much and now have adopted James 1:19, “Let everyone be quick to hear (listen), slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
I was going to talk more about the black and white contrast of presidential candidates political talk, but it threatens my sanity and serenity I find along the River Road. So
back to the magnificent Phlox et al.
We just returned from the Audubon Center where Phlox and other wild flowers abound. It was very refreshing by our inland sea. As I gazed over the glistening water I thought of Psalm 97 to bring refreshment:
“The Lord reigns, let the distant shores rejoice; let the many coastlines be glad. Clouds and thick darkness are all around Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries all around. His lightenings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles…The heavens proclaim His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory…O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of His saints; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:1-4,6,10,11 ESV). Go to the rivers, lake bluffs, forests and fields to drink in His wonders to proclaim!