Rhymes and Roses: A Personal Testimony



In my garden, I recall,

In the waning days of fall

My tea roses bloomed the most

Just before a killing frost.

Why it is I can’t explain:

Rhymes and roses flood my brain.

God ordains. I want to say

The metaphor’s untimely.

The back story:

Item #1. Thirty eight years ago, a move from Chicago to Florida ended my rose garden hobby. I had 59 unique plants—hybrid teas, floribundas, and climbers, all with individual name placards, a special underground watering system, and Styrofoam cones to protect them through the Midwest winter. They were labor intensive—a labor of love.

Item #2. Last summer, my literary endeavors began to rhyme. Perhaps it’s my DNA.  My mother wrote lots of poetry and I still have much of it in a three ring binder somewhere. Around the turn of the year, the periodic trickle of poems became a gusher, one or more a day some days, and all with a strong Christian message. Quality aside, I keep asking myself, why is this happening.  If my sphere of influence as a writer/witness for Christ is the metaphoric equivalent of a baseball (and that may be an exaggeration…), the potential for my poetry is the equivalent of #7.5 birdshot. I content myself with the thought that it is a good dementia antidote in my codgerhood. Most importantly, it causes me to focus more on the paramount priority of life—my relationship with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. There really doesn’t have to be any more reason than that.

Item #3. Last fall, a Mayo Clinic doctor told me that my TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack with no permanent damage) was a precursor of a major stroke—a one in three chance within the next year. Well, that has a way of upping the motivation to live coram Deo, though certainly none should be required beyond God’s promises in Holy Writ. I am praying that if and when it happens it is a life-taker, not a vegetable-maker. And I think it’s a very good thing to live each day consciously aware that it may be your last, at any age. Since my days as a young combat fighter pilot, I have not feared death, looking with gratitude on my life as borrowed time, each day a gracious gift from a Sovereign God. With the passing of my beloved, godly brother last year-end, I find myself envious of his state. I so look forward to the day when I can be with Jesus and John and a couple of other famous John’s of the Bible, and other loved ones.

Item #4.  Between 3 and 4 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 10, 2016, in the twilight zone between asleep and awake, that 38-year-old memory of my rose garden came to mind, specifically the season mentioned in the first quatrain of the poem. My first thought was…bizarre! I began to construct it in my mind in poetic terms. Then that memory melded with items #2 and #3 and suddenly I was wide-eyed awake. Is this a metaphor for my stage of life? God talking? A premonition of my demise? Or just paranoia?

I got up, turned on my computer and both quatrains of the poem came together on my screen in not much more time that it took to type it. Extraordinary. I was standing at my stand-up/sit-down desk, and when I reread what I had written in a frenzy, I needed to sit down. I tweaked it a bit to make it a little less morbid, let it age two days, and posted it on Facebook February 12.

Time always adds perspective. A few days later I’m still here and thinking that one-in-three chance mentioned above means there’s a two-in-three chance this is paranoia. An objective observer who knows me might put the probability higher. But our Sovereign God laughs at statisticians.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The Apostle Paul spoke much more to the truth: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5) One of my favorite Puritans, John Bunyan, made this impassioned plea: “Reader, whoever thou art, think of this, it is thy concern, therefore do it, and examine, and examine again, and look diligently to thy heart in thine examination, that it beguile thee not about this thy so great concern, as indeed the fear of God is.”  In the providence of God, I read that Bunyan quote the same morning I wrote the poem!

So, with a cloud of witnesses of that caliber behind me, I’m not calling this providence paranoia or even idle introspection. My self-examination leads me to credit Rhymes and Roses to the Holy Spirit that dwells within, inclining my will to live more coram Deo. I’ll get that confirmed one day, when faith becomes sight. Maybe the poetic metaphor is untimely. Maybe, at age 72, it is not. My Sovereign God knows.

That is how 8 rhyming lines of 7 syllables per line came to be. The Westminster Confession, Chapter Three, paragraph 1, declares “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass …”   Soli Deo gloria. 

2 Responses to “Rhymes and Roses: A Personal Testimony”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    JD what a blessing you have been and still are to so many people. Just last week I was asked if I had any more “No One ” books to give. I just mailed my last 2, still have the one you signed for me. The lives you have touched through your life, witness and words are in measurable. Thank you for the privilege of calling you friend and brother in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jdwetterling Says:

    God bless your heart, dear!


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