Sunday, June 30, 2013


(To read part 1 of this post, please scroll down to the post below) 
One morning after I noticed the first signs of incipient blossoms on my coffee tree, I was sitting by my coffee tree and reading one of my favorite chapters of the Bible: Isaiah 35. There is one particular word in that passage that is sometimes translated as desert, but the version that I was reading that morning instead used a word that was closer to the original text. The first verse begins like this: “The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom” (Isaiah 35:1 NAS).
It was the word Arabah that I noticed. The word usually is used in the Bible to refer to a wilderness of some sort or even, as we see in this case, a desert. However, it also was an region of the Middle East. Of course it is not difficult to see that this is where the Arabic people derived their name, as well as the noble Arabian horse and many other things. Another item that derives its name from that portion of the world is the plant, Coffea Arabica, the very plant under whose leaves I was sitting.
And my Arabic plant was blossoming!
Of course, I understand that this is not what Isaiah meant when he wrote that the Arabah will rejoice and blossom. Nevertheless, I thought it interesting that I was reading these words right at that moment.
However, in light of our recent history in the Middle East and what has been called the “Arab Spring” in regards to the people of many of the Arabic lands rebelling against the dictatorships ruling some of their countries, it is interesting to read these words from Isaiah. He was writing about a time that will exceed all of these events of our own time. He is speaking of an Arab Spring when even the desert places, and the dry and desolate places, will blossom! Here is some more:

The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom like the crocus.
It will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.
Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come.”
(Isaiah 35:1-4a NAS)

The prophet continues by saying that part of the coming of God will be with vengeance against all who oppose him. As of the present, there is an offer of grace to his opponents, but that offer of grace is not limitless. There will come a time when God will give just recompense to the ungodly.
However, the main message of Isaiah in this passage is one of comfort for the people of the Lord. Even though vengeance will come, Isaiah tells the people of God that God will save them.

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah.
And the scorched land will become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water. (35:5-7)

The Arab Spring of current events that we have witnessed beginning last spring may have resulted in the ousting of several dictatorial rulers, but it has not resulted in true godliness in the way that Jesus Christ taught us. Indeed, it more likely seems to have resulted in a furthering hardening against the teaching of Jesus.
What Isaiah is talking about is a springtime blossoming that will result in true godliness. He is talking about, but he is talking about the True Arab Spring!

A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it…The redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (35:8-10)

This is the Arab Spring that I truly await.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


My coffee tree is beginning to blossom! There is a bit of history behind this tree, so please bear with me as I relate a little of it.

When we lived in Guatemala, we had a coffee tree that grew just in front of our condominium. About five years ago, when we were in the process of moving back up to Wisconsin, that tree was full of coffee cherries (that’s what they are called). On a whim, I picked a handful and put them in my suitcase to put in planters in Wisconsin. I knew that they could never grow outside of course, but I thought they might make a good house plant.

When I arrived at our home in Wisconsin that spring with my handful of coffee seeds, I planted them in peat pots. However, since Vivian and I were not ready to actually move home for a couple of months more, I asked our son Nathanael, who was living at home at the time, to keep them moist. This he did faithfully, but when Vivian and I moved up, nothing yet had emerged from the soil.

“I don’t think those coffee seeds are going to germinate,” Nathanael told me.

I thought probably that he was right, but I didn’t want to give up on them yet and asked Vivian if she wouldn’t mind watering them when she was taking care of the other house plants. She watched them for another three months, but finally she also thought that nothing was happening.

Well, I could not ask my accommodating family to indulge my whim any longer, but I didn’t want to give up on my little coffee seeds quite yet. The reason for this was that, when I looked at the peat pots, I thought that I could detect a slight swelling on the surface of the soil in a couple of them, like there was a little plant that wanted to emerge. I took over the care of them.

Within a week, a little coffee plant began to make its way through the soil surface. The coffee plant emerges from the soil much like a bean plant. Like the bean, the coffee seed is a dicotyledon, meaning it begins its growth with two embryonic leaves. 

When it grows out of the soil, its stem emerges first, bent
over and with the seed head still in the soil. After a few days, the stem straightens out and the head pops upright. From this head the first two leaves appear and the growth starts from there.

Soon I had a tray full of young, little coffee trees growing in the sill of our south window. I did not want that many trees, so I started giving them to friends, saving three of the healthiest looking ones for

myself. Those three grew nicely all of that year. I kept them by the same window all winter. By the next spring, they were about eight or nine inches tall. After most threat of frost was over, I put them outside in the sun dappled shade of larger trees, just like they are grown in the mountains of Venezuela and Guatemala.

You will notice that I said that I did this when most of the threat of frost was over. It was not completely over. Some nights, when the temperature dipped low, I brought them into the house. One night, however, I forgot.

When I awoke in the morning, my first thought as I opened my eyes was, I wonder how cold it got last night! I hope my coffee plants are alright!

I looked out of my window and could see that frost covered the valley floor in front of our house, but there seemed to be no frost up on the hill, where our house sits. Nevertheless, I ran downstairs to get my three little coffee plants. Actually, I wondered if the plants might perhaps be able stand a little frost, since I knew that it sometimes got quite cold in the mountains of Venezuela, where we used to live. We never got frost right where we were, but I wondered about higher in the hills. I thought it might have been possible to get an occasional frost there.
However, that morning I learned that coffee plants can tolerate absolutely no frost. I would think that it could not have dropped a mere degree below frost that morning, and then not for very long. But my three little trees all succumbed to the cold. They were dead.

As it turned out, that was the year we were called to move to New Zealand, where we lived for about three years. We had not planned this move, but because of it, even if my trees had remained alive, my coffee growing enterprise probably would have come to an end anyway.

I also learned from most of the friends to whom I had given the plants, neither did they have a successful experience growing their coffee. Out of all of them that I had given away, I knew of only one plant that had survived. Our eldest son Jesse and his wife Lisa had it in their living room, where it was growing healthily. In fact, it was growing so large that one day last autumn, Jesse asked me if I wanted it (as many of you know, we are now back in Wisconsin). Jesse and Lisa had so many other plants growing that they needed some room. I think that they also knew that I admired their coffee tree. I eagerly accepted.

The coffee tree is really a very beautiful tree. It has very

dark and rich leaves that stay green and glossy all year around. I put my new tree by the same south-facing window where it had first popped up its head. All of last winter, I sat by it as I read and drank my morning coffee. It is where I would always in the mornings. No matter how cold and blustery it was outside and no matter how deep the snow, as I sat under my coffee tree, I felt like I was sitting in a coffee plantation in Venezuela or Guatemala.

In the afternoon, the sun shown through the window and the leaves of my tree dappled my chair with little bits of coffee-leaf shade. The tree continued to grow throughout the winter, and seemed happy in our house. I saw new leaf buds emerge and then the tiny leaves unfold and grow on the end of the branches.

Then suddenly one morning, I noticed something different happening. There was growth that was beginning not on the end of the branches where the leaves developed, but along the length of the branch, right at the base of each leaf stem. My coffee tree was starting to show the first signs of developing blossoms!

Growing coffee, I have learned, must require a large amount of patience. Any seed that takes five or six months to emerge from the soil would teach us that. The blossoms also were very slow in coming.

What is the hurry, after all? In Wisconsin, our apples and plums must put forth their blossoms, get pollinated and develop fruit all before the autumn frost ends the growing season. But where coffee is grown, this is not a problem. There is no need to rush the process along. Nevertheless, the blossoms did come, one by one, lily white flowers among the dark green leaves.

In Venezuela they have a saying about a man who is has

This is not my coffee tree. I got this photo from the
internet, but it shows the coffee plant in full blossom.
The blossoms on my tree are still in bud form and I
am sure that they will not come in so full as these

reached middle age, saying that “his coffee is in bloom.” They say this because gray hair has begun to emerge among the dark hair that is common the Latin people. I have always liked that illustration, and now, my coffee also was in bloom. Actually, speaking of my own hair, my coffee has been in bloom for some years already.

By now you must be saying, “All this is very interesting” (or not), “but what does it have to do with The True Arab Spring?”
This, I will let you know in a few days.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Thanks to my sister Jennifer for bringing this little poem back to my memory. Our mom used to recite it every spring in a way that only she could do it. (All of us children know how that was and it brings us happiness just to remember it). 

Here is the poem:


We have a secret, just we three,
The robin, and I, and the sweet cherry-tree;
The bird told the tree, and the tree told me,
And nobody knows it but just us three.

But of course the robin knows it best,
Because she built the—I shan't tell the rest;
And laid the four little—something in it—
I'm afraid I shall tell it every minute.

But if the tree and the robin don't peep,
I'll try my best the secret to keep;
Though I know when the little birds fly about
Then the whole secret will be out.

I'm not sure why Jennifer took a photo of only 2½ eggs

 The Golden Book of Poetry (1947)