How wonderful the infusion of scent, beauty and blooms to the frazzle of my day! Take me away, dear garden, dear God; refresh me in the reality of your ways and breakthrough webs of worry with your brilliance. Our daughter was headed home from her college semester, and I wanted to greet her with the embracing joy she always beams with…a quick scamper to the garden ought to produce something for sprucing up my heart and my not-quite-yet-planned welcome home dinner.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7
Yes, hyssop! You all know I have planted hyssop in our garden. The gentle gesture of soft, green sprigs would grace our table in spice-jar vases, composing petite, God’s Word garden bouquets, connecting even a last-minute meal to the history of God.
Forgiveness, the hyssop reminds us, in its herbal horticulture and pairing with being washed clean, is that history.
Picking a few more flowers and foliage, the more obscure botanicals pictured here seeped hidden treasures of the Scriptures as well. Star of Bethlehem, a flower grown from bulbs, priced outrageously in the troubled times of ancient Israel, signified a great hunger to be delivered from inflation, scarcity and siege.
There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods [star of Bethlehem bulbs] for five shekels. 2 Kings 6:25
Artemesia’s silver-like foliage, cousin to wormwood, filled out the vials. Wormwood represented the bitterness that fills the void of God’s sweet love and presence when we turn away from him to other gods, to any other thing that may seem to squelch anxiety but has no power to bless.
Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison [wormwood]. Deuteronomy 29:18
A message in a moment, these garden delights gave an epic reminder in diminutive jars of God’s forgiveness and the sweetness of being truly delivered from strife. Hyssop then made it into our meal-enjoy the recipe below, paired with garlic chives, a safely edible echo of the Liliaceae lineage of star of Bethlehem.
O Lord, you have been so good to overcome my siege of distraction with your reminders of all that will always be true, from your ancient Word to my garden today: You are the One who forgives and delivers, who ensures that we eat and thrive (Deuteronomy 31:20). May I never turn away.
Rice with Hyssop & Chives
Hyssop dresses up steamed rice in a simple dressing, adding the delight of cooking from the garden.
1 c. rice (or other grain such as quinoa or barley)
handful of fresh hyssop leaves, chopped
handful of fresh garlic chives, diced
2 – 3 T. olive oil or butter
salt & pepper to taste
Cook rice or grain according to package directions without optional butter or oil.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet and add fresh leaves, salt and pepper. Stir frequently as ingredients sauté, turning down heat to allow flavors to release without burning. Cook approximately 5 – 7 minutes; then keep warm until rice is ready. Toss with rice for a flavor infusion.
One cup uncooked rice yields four servings, so multiply quantities as needed for additional servings or to have extra dressing to drizzle over the meats or vegetables of your meal. We served this dish with grilled salmon and roasted asparagus. Refrigerate leftovers for lunch!
In the NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, read about hyssop, Origanum syriacum, on page 643; wormwood, Artemisia judacia, on page 244; and star of Bethlehem, Ornithogalum species, on page 426.