Mississippi is known far and wide by people who’ve never even visited her as either the Hospitality State or the Magnolia State. We have long since been known as the hospitality state and hopefully we continue to be people with that kind of congenial, warm spirit that makes everyone who comes through our borders, into our state to spend a day or a lifetime, that they will experience sincere, Southern hospitality. The other designation – the Magnolia State – comes because of the magnificent magnolia trees all across our state. Our major entry points into Mississippi, our highways and interstates, have planted all along the sides magnolia trees that will in time be ten to fifty times larger than they are right now. People will see these gigantic, green leaf trees as they drive into our state.
They are beautiful trees when they are just green, but when their blooms are opening up in the springtime they are beauty beyond description. The problem is that a magnolia bloom, though it may be large, is probably something like .01% of the entire tree and maybe less. They are large blooms but nothing compared to the size of the tree. The reason I point this out is because if you just pass by a magnolia tree at seventy miles an hour, you may only see a flashing white spot on these huge green trees. You will miss one of the magnificent, beautiful, floral presentations that God ever made. With that in mind, let me give you three things of which you need to take hold in order to enjoy God’s beauty.
The first thing is time. Years ago at our home, I planted some magnolia trees. They don’t grow extremely fast. These seemed to be growing even slower than usual. Five years, ten years, fifteen years, no blooms on the magnolia tree — but one day this year my wife asked me, “Have you seen the blooms on the magnolia tree?” I said, “No, I haven’t.” I had been by them, but I hadn’t stopped to pay any attention to any blooms on there. They hadn’t been blooming. She said, “Well, they are beautiful.”
I made my way outside into the backyard to see the tree that I had been missing and sure enough, there all around the tree were these beautiful presentations of God’s handiwork. I just hadn’t taken the time to stop and notice. As I stood there, I realized that there were some blooms on the tree in the late stages of life. The outer petals were beginning to turn brown. I realized I had missed some things because I didn’t take time to see them. The truth is there are probably easily a dozen areas of life that all of us could think about that we didn’t take the time to get the blessing. It may be that you haven’t had time for your mate or your children or your friends or your church or your favorite sport or a neighbor with needs or a childhood friend you haven’t seen for decades. Oh, the things that you may be missing! I understand. So take time.
The second word is to be tenacious. The blooms on a magnolia tree are small in comparison to the tree. You’re going to have to look. At first glance, you may not see it, but if you are tenacious, you can see great wonders. Magnolias grow rather slowly. You have to stay on guard or the day will come, as with me, that the blossoms burst out and you haven’t even paid attention because you haven’t paid attention for the years preceding because it seemed like nothing was happening, but things were happening. It just hadn’t come full bloom yet.
I guess that’s the reason we miss so many good things because we aren’t as tenacious about seeing the good as we are the bad. The bad things, the garbage heaps, the vile things, seem to make a lot more racket, call attention to themselves more, demand that you look and get caught up in seeing and smelling and sharing about the things that don’t seem to bring much joy to life.
Today, make a commitment in your own heart to be tenacious about looking for the good, even to find the good in someone that you don’t think is good. Even to find the good when you’re experiencing the bad. It will bless you if you will be tenacious about it.
The third thing that I would give you that would be helpful is to experience the transformation. What do I mean by transformation in looking at a magnolia blossom? There’s no doubt you’ve seen many paintings and pictures the subject of which are magnolias. They’re stunning. If you will stop and look at one, the real bloom, the silky white petals, the full spread of the flower, you will have imprinted on your heart and mind an image on which you can reflect for days, maybe months, maybe a lifetime.
The fact is that beautiful image printed on your thought process is not just about a blossom — it’s the amazement of you. That you could find and take in the wonder of a blossom that will stay with you maybe forever. I think about that day Jesus took three of His disciples up a mountain and there He was transfigured before them, the Bible says. A transformation took place as the glory of God wrapped in human flesh broke through to where the disciples saw Jesus in all of His glory. His raiment became as white as the light and there was an iridescent glow about Him. The transformation took place not only in and through Jesus but in and through His disciples.
Open your eyes today. Watch for the good. See what our good God will do in and through you. Enjoy the magnolias while they are in bloom.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral