The Garden is Ablaze with Color
These days my garden is blooming with color-reds, pinks, yellows, and especially purples. These warm days of June bring such bountiful beauty I can sit in my rose garden for hours contemplating the mystery of God’s creation around me. The tomatoes have not yet formed. The eggplants and peppers are hopeful flowers blossoming on young plants in delightfully cool mornings awaiting the buzz of bees to bear their fruit in fall. The basil is reaching upwards toward the sun, not yet ready for my Friday pizzas. It is here with the sun on my face, sitting at my garden table, with the breeze dancing among leaves of the cottonwood trees that I feel at peace, a sense of ONENESS with God and the world. This is sacred Sabbath time.
The Diversity of the Human Family
Last week I traveled to Connecticut to be part of an Interfaith Leaders Diversity Training at Hartford Seminary. There among Jewish Rabbi’s, Muslim Imams, Christian Ministers, and Buddhist Pastors along with Peacemakers from around the world, I relished in the diversity of our human family—not unlike I relish in the diversity of life within my own garden. When I returned, like a mom reuniting with my kids, I took a walk in each of my gardens to get reacquainted with my friends who stayed behind firmly rooted in the good earth I tried to provide for them.
The Fragrance of God
After long days in conference rooms filled with tables and chairs, projectors and notepads, I found myself taken over by the aroma of life around me. The pink lilies bloomed for the first time in my garden, what an incredible sight! The roses and lavender captured my gaze and then their fragrance captured my heart. We have a lovely large double red hybrid tea rose, with single blooms as big as my hand. Its beauty is admirable, but if you take the time to introduce yourself to her, take a moment of time to lean into the blossom, you can smell the fragrance of God within her petals. It is as I imagine what heaven smells like.
Lavender Bundles & Baths
And then there is the joy of harvesting lavender! It is when you disturb their tiny purple blooms that they relinquish their scent. As I cut their stems and rub their flowers between my fingertips, their essence fills my mind with compassion and love. In India there is a special bath ritual that mom’s perform with their children on special occasions. In Tamil it is called “nalunga”. On their birthday children in India receive a scented oil massage from their mom. On these festive mornings in preparation for my kid’s birthday bath, I take the bundles of lavender and infuse their essence into warmed oil. Filled with compassion, I then massage the scented oil into their hair, and on their arms and legs. The scent of the lavender fills the bathroom while my children anticipate wearing their favorite new clothes after their bath. On these days I can, without their pubescent protests, lovingly touch my children, hug them, and even kiss them without being shunned by their cries of “Mom!” For thirteen years I have used bundles just like the ones I made this week for their ritual oil baths. The aroma of lavender reminds me of the loving care God wishes for each of us, as our Divine mother she caresses each of her children with sublime devotion.
What is the Fragrance of our Lives?
Fragrance is the most powerful of the senses. Studies have shown that scents can trigger memories long forgotten. It is no wonder then that fragrance has always been used for worshiping God. In Exodus we read,
The Lord spoke to Moses: Take the finest spices…and a hin of olive oil; and you shall make of these a sacred anointing-oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing-oil. You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, in order that they may serve me as priests. (Exodus 30:22-25; 30)
Within Christian and Jewish, Muslim and Hindu traditions we have each sought to praise and worship God with incense and oil, flowers, and the fruits of our labors. As Christians we are reminded that throughout our life we spread the fragrance of our faith to others. According to 2 Corinthians “we are the aroma of Christ to God”. Hmmm, I am an aroma to God? That is a sobering thought.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God… (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)
A Sweet Reminder of God’s Love
Our lives then become a sweet reminder of God’s love at work in the world. Or could our lives be a rather unpleasant smell to our Creator? Could our life be filled with the scent of decay from unopened gifts, talents unshared, hope and dreams left in the closet of our fears. When we walk into a room are people uplifted and filled with possibility of making a difference, or are they left with the worries and concerns of our life lived during this age of anxiety? The question becomes, what is the fragrance of your life? Is it generosity? Compassion? Perhaps it is service or devotion? Could it be joy, love, or laughter? May the fragrance of your life be pleasing and acceptable to our God and may the fragrance of God fill the garden of our lives.
Peace and Love,
PS: To listen more about the Fragrance of God you can check out “Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter” on Krista Tippet’s NPR program On Being, or read the author Vigen Guroian’s book The Fragrance of God.