Jesus’ parables and the power of story – Part One

Jesus often spoke in parables, which were stories developed out of a simile or a figurative saying. So basically, one image is compared to one reality, and a narrative emerges. A parable is not just “a story” and Jesus wasn’t just an ordinary storyteller.

A parable was always told with the knowledge that an explanation would be required. Jesus wanted his dedicated followers to probe deeper and ask questions.This process weeded out true followers from those merely seeking entertainment.

And speaking of weeds…this picture reminded me of The Parable of the Weeds. I was walking beside a road one day and came across some flowers, so I took a picture:

Weeds 1

I was trying to improve my photography technique, so I knelt down to shoot from a different perspective. This is what I saw…

weeds 3

Whoa! I couldn’t even see the weeds from my first perspective and that’s when this parable came to mind:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’  

‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”

He told two more parables after this one, then he left the crowd and went into the house. The Bible says His disciples came to him and asked him to explain the parable of the weeds.

But what if you were in the crowd while Jesus told this story? What would you do and what would you ask? I’ll go first: I’d follow and ask him “Why do the weeds get collected and bundled first?

            Okay now it’s your turn – I’d love to hear your questions!

A Legacy in Bloom

One of my earliest memories of flowers comes courtesy of my father. When I was ten-years-old, he bought our first house in a place nicknamed “Azalea City.” Spring was ushered in with waves of show-stopping color. Every home on our street had azaleas in their yard and cars filled with gawkers cruised up and down our hilly neighborhood streets. Each year my dad would take his trusty garden book and select the plants he wanted to buy from his favorite nursery. I hated going with him, but it was not negotiable. In my adolescent mind, garden centers were BORING. I was in charge of pulling the wagon full of plants behind's garden bookOne day everything changed. I was unloading trays of flowers and shrubs from the car when suddenly, I really noticed them. Boring became BEAUTIFUL. It was such a weird feeling – a harmony created between us.I asked my dad if I could help plant them and he let me. I never minded the garden center after that year. Because of this, the azalea has a special place in my heart and my father’s passionate legacy lives on in me. Today, I live in a town that celebrates a legendary Azalea Festival. In the spring, over 200,000 people descend on our city to celebrate these blossoms and the festival events around it. Hundreds of passionate gardeners go on the garden tour to drool over gorgeous displays in the yards of select homes in and around our town.

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My dad passed away twenty five years ago, but the blooms of spring are a vibrant memorial of a man who gave me his gift of gardening.

What about you? Are there any plants that remind you of someone special?

Outdoor Jesus

By Erika Rizkallah

For the last twenty years, I’ve been on a spiritual journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. Living as a Christian woman in the 21st century can be confusing and conflicting. We’re taught to live and love like Jesus in a world filled with sin, danger and hatred. It sounds kind of crazy to think that we can have a relationship with a man who walked the earth over two thousand years ago.

Jesus knew it would be hard and that we’d need strength to help us remain faithful to his calling. But he promised to be with us and sent the Holy Spirit to help. He knows the trials we face and the difficulties we have to overcome.

One time, when he was alone with twelve of his followers, he cautioned them by saying, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd (wise, wary) as snakes and as innocent (harmless) as doves.”  (emphasis mine)

He was a storyteller and often spoke in parables using common language and word pictures for the ordinary folks living in the Ancient Near East. Luke 8:10 explains why, but I won’t go into that right now. Just trust me when I tell you that his stories had purpose; they were his way of weeding out those who believed what he was saying, and those who didn’t.

And speaking of weeding, Jesus also loved nature.

He taught on the side of a mountain near Jerusalem and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means “oil press” and though I didn’t see it during my trip to Jerusalem, I had an Arabic taxi driver take me to an olive grove when we were in the West Bank. It looks familiar because it’s my blog header. This was such a peaceful place and I wish I’d spent more time roaming around.

Olive grove in Ramallah, Palestine
Olive grove in Ramallah, Palestine

Our Lord enjoyed spending time with people outdoors and I connect with that aspect of him. I adore being outside and am most at home when my hands are gritty with soil. I’m an avid gardener and I hope to share my passion for flowers and gardening with you. Since we’re not ancient farmers, I’d also like to clarify some of those tricky agricultural scriptures for us.

This is going to be fun!

Peace to you, Erika