Friday, February 21, 2020

Hyacinth: Thoughts about Lent

As soon as the “Produce Junction” greenhouse put the hyacinths on their flower table, I had to have one.  It is still winter but seeing the spring bulb plants spoke to me of the coming of Lent.

Lent is the season of the church year in which we ponder the suffering and death of Jesus, strive to repent of our sinful ways, engage in acts of holiness in spirit and truth, and look forward to the celebration of Easter.  Hyacinths are always an object lesson for me.

I paid my $2 and came home with this little plant.  I picked one that had not yet bloomed so I could watch it slowly blossom. Prior to its sprouting, it had been a dead-looking brown bulb. The power of the resurrection gave it life and it began to grow in the winter soil.

Death and life, sin and repentance, despair and hope stand side by side.  During the season of Lent, we must ponder this reality that “we are dust and to dust we must return.”  But we are also called to new life in Christ, both here and in the eternal home to come.

The name of this plant “hyacinth” comes from Greek mythology. The young prince Hyacinthus was killed by a discus thrown to the back of his head. As the story goes, wherever his blood drops flowed there grew a hyacinth flower. He was ultimately resurrected by the Greek god Zeus, and he obtained immortality.

This resonates with the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, in Christ we receive the forgiveness of our sins through confession and belief, and all may obtain the resurrection through him.  Jesus’ blood was shed for the world that God loved so much.  “Sorrow and love flow mingled down” in this eternal truth of salvation.

However, the main reason I had to have a hyacinth was for its fragrance. Nothing speaks “spring is here” to me like the pleasant smell of those curly pedals of a hyacinth.  It is better than any perfume money can buy, in my opinion.  The Apostle Paul speaks of spiritual fragrance as he writes to the Philippians who sent a generous monetary gift to him: “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)

During Lent we often engage in some kinds of personal sacrifice: giving up chocolate, giving up coffee, giving up whining, etc.  A better way to observe a holy Lent would be to sacrifice our time, talent and treasure to perform or support good works in the world.

Instead of “giving up,” we should “give out.”  “Give out” assistance to those in need. “Give out” of our abundance to others in sacrificial ways. “Give out” of our hearts because of our deep love and gratitude for Christ.

My hyacinth is finished blooming now; and yet the promise of another flower next spring is hidden in its little bulb.  Life is tenacious, as it is the very Spirit of God. Life and love are stronger than death and hate. No matter the present darkness or death around us, ultimately there will be life and it goes on and on forever.

Observe a holy and sacrificial Lenten season!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


As we celebrate Black History Month it should be noted that trailblazers were a significant part of the Civil Rights movement in this country.

Had there not been courageous people who took a stand and moved forward in the face of discrimination and hostility, we as a nation would never have made any progress. It is true of every social justice movement in all of history. Such was the case of a 14-year-old girl named Carlotta Walls.

In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled in “Brown v. The Board of Education” that there must be integrated public schools. Carlotta was the youngest member of the “Little Rock Nine,” a cadre of brave, black students who volunteered to be the first to enter Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas’s capital city, in 1957. 

In her book Worn on This Day, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell explains that Carlotta’s great-uncle gave her money to buy new clothes for her first day of school. She went to a downtown department store and found a matching blouse and skirt with an alphabet print, to signify her love for learning. That outfit was likely one of the only bright spots amid the shadows of hatred that Carlotta and the others would face in the days to come. 

On the first day of school a mob of segregationist protestors accosted the nine students. The National Guard had to escort them to class. They were not allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities and were constantly harassed in lunch lines and in the hallways. 

Officials actually closed the school for a year, trying to circumvent the court order. However the following year Carlotta and her brave companions continued to attend Central High School. She finally graduated in February of 1960, but her family’s home was bombed a few months later. 

So acrimonious were the protests against these trailblazing young scholars that Carlotta’s father was unable to find employment, and the family had to move out of state.

How sad, how mean, how painful was this dark chapter in our nation’s history! And sadly, discrimination and segregation is still a harsh reality in our society today. But progress has been made. It happens through the courage of trailblazers, who are armed with determination and reliance on God’s Holy Spirit.

In the history of the church we know of similar egregious stories of discrimination and persecution against those striving for basic human equality and also equity. Victory comes when people of faith are willing to face with integrity the rejection and pushback they face and the stubborn resistance to doing what is right.

They continue on with their mission without giving up. And they depend on God to guide and care for them in the storm. 

I salute Carlotta Walls during Black History Month in February. She was one of many trailblazers for civil rights and equality. Behind her came many others who had an easier way because she pushed open the door.

Where can you be a trailblazer for justice for those who need you now and for those will come behind you?

Want to know more?
Learn more about Carlotta Walls Lanier and the Little Rock Nine school desegregation experience from this video, Carlotta Walls Lanier Tribute, produced by Justice High School, and from Lanier’s own account in A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls Lanier and Lisa Frazier Page.

United Methodist Black History Quiz

Test your knowledge of black history in the UMC with the United Methodist Black History QuizToo often, the accomplishments of African Americans have not received adequate notice in U.S. history books and classrooms. That is why historian Carter Woodson first proposed a weeklong focus on black history in 1926. The first U.S. celebration of Black History Month happened decades later. 

UMCom invites us to take a short quiz about African American history in the U.S. and in The United Methodist Church and to also share the link with others and compare scores! After you take the quiz, review the complete answers and learn more. Download, print and share this Black History Quiz with your church, family and friends!