#133 Blessing with Zinnias


Photo by Trevor Rapp

For years, my dad grew zinnias for me every summer at our family farm. Dad and I would go to the farm nearly every week throughout the summer and harvest the zinnias. I had bouquets of these colorful flowers in my house and in my office. The flowers made me smile. When I looked at the zinnias, I was reminded of my dad and also of my heavenly Father and His beautiful creation. My dad passed away the last week in October in 2016. It was the last week of the zinnia harvest. We cut a final bunch of zinnias to be displayed at the church at his funeral. He would have loved that.

My dad and I were very close. We were both dentists and practiced together for years. I have missed him terribly since the day he died, but as summer approached, my grief rose to a new level. The family farm was sold in June. My dad was gone, the farm was gone, and there would be no zinnias this year. But then our church announced the need for volunteers in the community garden. I asked if I might have a row in the garden to plant some zinnias and was permitted to do so. Two months later, hundreds of beautiful zinnias were blooming in the garden.  

There were so many flowers! We wanted to share! The church gave me permission to cut the zinnias to share with residents at a local nursing home. At first, I just made flower arrangements for the dining room and common spaces. But then I found out from our church care team that there were a few residents in local nursing homes that had requested visitors. The care team suggested that I take some of the zinnias to these residents.

My children went with me to take the flowers to the first nursing home resident on our list to visit. We walked down the long corridor of the nursing home with a beautiful bouquet of zinnias, looking for her room. We finally located her room and peeked inside. Sitting beside her bed was a woman I had known for many years. She was a dear friend of my father’s! She and her sister, who was the resident we were delivering the flowers to, grew up in the same small community with my dad. She was thrilled to see us! She introduced all of us to her sister. “This is Bobby’s daughter and grandchildren!” Her older sister smiled. She had suffered a stroke and was not able to communicate, but her twinkling eyes said it all. I put the flowers on her bedside table and held her hand. She smiled at me with a knowing smile. Her eyes locked on mine, and then with a frail hand, she reached up to touch my hair.

We stayed a bit and visited. As we left, I thought about what had just happened. The first person to receive the zinnias we grew in memory of dad was someone who grew up with him in his small community many miles away. Because she couldn’t communicate, I would have never known that she knew Dad if her sister, my dad’s dear friend, hadn’t been visiting her at the moment we arrived with the flowers. God was in that moment.

Since then the flower ministry has blossomed and God is blessing many nursing home residents with beautiful bouquets of flowers. But I will never forget the first resident that we visited and the connection to my dad. What a gift it was to me to give the flowers to someone who knew and loved my father. He would be so happy that this dear woman was the first recipient of the zinnias we grew because of him!

I am so thankful to God for providing the opportunity at our church community garden to grow the flowers and share with others as this has provided much healing for my grieving heart. I am also so thankful to my Heavenly Father for the gift of my earthly father and the hope through Christ of someday being with him again. 

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#126 Journey to Jordan: God Is Love

Photo by James Ramos

It was golden hour, sunset in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. Our small group of Christian pilgrims traveled over sand dunes in the open bed of a small pick-up truck at a speed that both terrified and thrilled me. The sun was hot on our faces, sand beating and stinging our skin. My eyes wanted to close to shut out the sand, but I didn’t want to miss a moment of this otherworldly place, the indescribable beauty of it. The truck stopped and we got out to watch the sun melt into the vast, orange, sandstone mountains. I felt so small. Praise for God, who created this great cathedral of sand and stone, rose inside of me.

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

Psalm 90:2

Darkness fell and we continued our journey to a Bedouin campsite. In the distance, white lights twinkled from the caves in the side of the mountain, homes to some of our Bedouin hosts. Bedouins are nomadic people who raise livestock in the deserts of the Middle East. They have inhabited this land for over 2,000 years. These kind, hospitable people prepared a feast for us—meat and vegetables cooked in a pit three feet under the earth, coffee brewed with cardamom over an open fire, crackling in the cool desert night. After dinner, we wandered beyond the campsite into the black darkness of the night, nearly bumping into a camel resting nearby. We laid down in the sand and gazed at the splendor of the night sky. I have never seen such a sky… so clear, so vast, so many bright, twinkling stars, even shooting stars. And again, I felt so small. A great sense of awe came over me, a deep appreciation of God as Creator of the universe.

Over and over while on this trip to the Holy Land of Jordan, I have asked God to reveal to me what it is that He would have me to learn about Him. What I have felt as I have traveled this beautiful Holy Land is a deep sense of His greatness and power. Although our human minds are unable to comprehend this completely, God has given us a glimpse of Himself in His creation.

And God has also revealed Himself to us in the life of His Son, Jesus. When we visited the baptismal site of Christ at the Jordan River, an expert explained the history and geography of the area. He shared that the place where Jesus was baptized, where He began His ministry, is the lowest place on earth. Of all the places Jesus could have begun His ministry, why the lowest place on earth? Perhaps to show us there is no depth that He will not reach to find us, to love us, to save us. No one—NO ONE—is so low that Christ cannot save him.

Lowly seems to be a theme throughout the life of Jesus. He was born in a lowly stable among common farm animals, the child of poor parents who fled with Him to become refuges in a foreign land. At the end of His ministry, He took on the lowly posture of a Gentile slave, humbly washing the feet of His disciples, providing a model of humility and service for us all. He was unjustly treated as a lowly criminal and endured a humiliating and excruciating death for our sakes because of His love, God’s love for us.  

As I leave the Holy Land, I am struck by the contrast of God’s greatness and the humble life of His Son on earth who came serving, healing, and saving us. “Who are we Lord that You, in your infinite greatness and power, are mindful of us?” (Psalm 8:4). Perhaps the question is not who are WE but who is HE? And the answer I believe is this: GOD IS LOVE, and this too is so vast, so great, so powerful that it is beyond all human comprehension.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38–39

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#69 His Artistry Is Unparalleled

Photo by Ashely Brown, Shining Light Photography 

It is October now but the roses are still blooming. My dad always loved roses, and I can never remember a time when he didn’t have roses planted outside of our kitchen window so we could see them when we sat down to eat or talk at the kitchen table.

Dad is dying now, and I am his caregiver—trying to make this time as comfortable and peaceful as possible. I share his love of roses and have tended them in the months that I’ve been staying with my parents. I try to have a freshly cut rose in the house at all times, taking care to choose just the right one that he would think is the most beautiful.

Dad is getting worse, but he can still make it to the kitchen table. Yesterday, I cut the most beautiful coral rose in full bloom and put it in a crystal vase in front of him on the kitchen table. Even through his pain, his exhaustion, his shortness of breath—there it was . . . AWE! His eyes lit up and he said, “That doesn’t even look real!” For a moment, gone was the ugliness of the cancer, the chest tube, the pain. Forgotten… as he stared with the wonder of a child at the beautiful, perfect rose—God’s creation, God’s gift to him and to me.

A reminder to us that God is good and gives us beautiful, free gifts to enjoy. His artistry is unparalleled. If there is such beauty in this imperfect world, how much more beauty there will be in a perfect heaven. I thank God for the beautiful roses He created. I thank God for my dad and that I can be with him now. I thank God for heaven where there will be no pain, no tears, and unimaginable beauty. 

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.