Lessons from Yellow Trout Lilies: Watch for the Unexpected

I was startled one March morning to notice a massive buttery spread of thousands of flowers along the tree-studded ridges where I had walked daily. How had I missed hints of this development? Had it occurred last spring as well? Even the carpet of green blotchy foliage which precedes the blooms and was so obvious the following years, had gone unnoticed. Further investigation revealed that this was an endangered woodland plant: yellow trout lilies (erythronium americanum), that grew in colonies and could take up to eight years to reach maturity and bloom. Once established, the colonies of plants could live for hundreds of years. A quick chat with a neighbor verified that, indeed, our neighborhood and in particular, our property had a large well-established colony. Over the next couple of weeks as I walked through a private acreage of ant pollinated blooming jewels, my previous oblivion of this enormous, gorgeous botanical stand prompted me to wonder what other beauty I had missed because of my limited awareness.

For a couple of years I had daily walked through this slice of land with the misguided impression that I was very perceptive of the environment. Knowing the types of trees, plants, and animals that shared this space with me, I had watched for the predictable changes of mudslides, broken branches, and springtime flooding of the stream. I knew the ebb and flow of blooming dogwoods and deciduous trees. But the sudden awareness of my having missed what was now obvious, brought several life lessons to mind.

The first lesson is to note that the Lord may be working with people in ways that will catch me unaware. As I had been startled by thousands of plants, a shocked Elijah had no idea that, indeed, there were 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed to Baal. Feeling alone, Elijah had soldiered through harrowing experiences, with no conception that he might have kindred spirits in the land. Surely, it will be a beautiful thing to watch the Master Conductor reveal his varied players, as He orchestrates a final demonstration of His character of love, unmasking the ultimate depravity of the evil one.

Faced with the reality of my blindness to this mass of beauty last spring elicited a feeling of modesty in my ability to fully perceive. A wise person would nurture this humility. It is easy to feel as though one is fully aware of society, and for example, to construct with zealous confidence an apocalyptic prophetic scenario. Just as it was impossible for me to have known the existence of these thousands of lily plants before the appointed time of bloom, it is impossible for us to know which forces for good and evil might emerge from unexpected places at surprising times. While confident in the Lord’s faithfulness, it would be wise to maintain a humble stance when assessing and speaking about complex situations.

Lastly, I thought about how one’s emotions and defense mechanisms can deprive us of a true appraisal of the reality around us, including goodness that may be percolating out of sight. Apparently, I had missed the yellow springtime show for one season. In my daily walk I had been so wrapped up in my own goals of maintaining sure footing and sampling podcast menus that I had neglected the discipline of broadly surveying my surroundings. A nature lover, I thought I had already inventoried the environment and thus developed a false confidence in my own perceptive abilities. Had I continued with a daily narrow focus I would have missed what is probably the best flower surprise of my life. A person’s emotions can be self-referential, misleading and blinding one to actual issues and events. Awareness of this ubiquitous tendency and an intentional turning of our cognizance to the Other in front of us will reveal the splendor that God has created.

So, in this season of Thanksgiving, let us vow to broaden our focus, allow for the unknown, and with gratitude watch for the unexpected gracious bounty from Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Carmen Lau is a board member of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Ryan Hodnett

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7210

excellent, excellent thoughts - definitely worth waking up this sabbath morning to read and ponder…


Lovely and spiritually illuminating!!


Spiritually refreshing prose. We often miss the beauty of the natural world, kind acts from Christians and non-Christians, the smile of a little child or the unconditional love of an animal. The 7,000 Israelites exist (symbolically) all over the world.

For example, three thousand Syrian refuges will arrive in my home city very soon and thousands more will be resettled all round the country. Several churches and secular organizations have been quietly preparing for waves of refugees since the rise of Isis and they are ready for action. The baby birds are settled comfortably in our garden and come to greet us of a morning (it is spring here). My neighbour’s child hugged me the other day. Much is being done, and much more could be done if we only appreciated what we had and were willing to share with those who have nothing. Rene Gale


Carmen Lau said: “So, in this season of Thanksgiving, let us vow to broaden our focus, allow for the unknown, and with gratitude watch for the unexpected gracious bounty from Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

Thank you Carmen for being positive and wise in a very timely way. Coping with loss during the holidays is not easy and can take time. It can be especially challenging when loss is cumulative and comes from high spiritual expectations. Rather than falling into patterns of isolation, distraction and escape, move towards authenticity. As one of my good friends is known to say, walk toward the light.

When we are honest with ourselves, acknowledge what we are experiencing, give ourselves time to adjust and connect with our own compassion, we fare far better. By recognizing that the “ideal” life our friend or neighbor portrays on Facebook (increasingly so during the holidays), or the proverbial Christmas letters and cards, are but a snapshot of one moment in time, we can more readily refrain from making unrealistic, unfair and generalized comparisons.

When approaching the holidays after experiencing a loss, perhaps the greatest gift can come by honoring our humanness. By respecting the situation as it is today and having hope for a better tomorrow, we become more capable of learning from our lessons and appreciating our blessings. And as Carmen said “with gratitude watch for the unexpected gracious bounty from Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

Thank you Carmen, That in itself is a gift.


The forensic stories of the forests are not the momentary colorful bio-diversity looks but bold of beautiful decays shaped by seasonal composting slow cooker crock. The organic hunger for the unexpected humans to jump out on to their feet wade through the thicket hugged by stillness halls of watchful hungry eyes - for examples, the Yellow Trout Lilies, they stand still unafraid, of God tends Himself as a gardener– He removes the dirt from human eyes made the lilies visible bold rings of yellow. They belong to humans since God’s creation. Humanity just hasn’t noticed they are missing. Quickly enjoy the affectionate moments, time passes this way but once; before darkness replaced the rings of Yellow Trout Lilies tomorrow with the rings of Crimson Toad stool. Yes, the forests have their moments of good, bad and ugly daily walks. Thank you Carmen Lau to your timely sermon.


If it wasnt for the dying and death in the forest we would be missing a lot of beautiful things.
Leaves falling off in the fall, changing over time to new top soil.
Decaying trees fallen to the earth.
These are places for new organisms to find homes. — moss, toadstools, mushrooms, other beautiful and odd shaped fungi.
Places for lizards, salamanders, millipedes, and other creatures to find homes.
Acid soil for wild blueberries, mountain laurel, rhododendron.
Some plants only grow in the sun. Other plants require the shade and moisture the forest provides.