Hello! Welcome to Feels and Flowers!
This week we are talking about putting faith into action. In this instance, it is in following the call of God to go wherever He leads you. To do so we delve into Genesis 12 when God calls Abraham (then known as Abram) to leave his land, his people, and his family to go to a new place that God would give him.
The flower of the week is Frankincense, which isn’t a flower, or a plant, or a fruit rind, but an aromatic resin rich in history. Learn about it, its uses in aromatherapy, and also why our desire for it is endangering this precious commodity that has been around for more than 5000 years. Yikes!
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In case you’ve ever wondered, this is how you become an illegal immigrant.
— [THEME MUSIC] —
Hi! Welcome to Feels and Flowers, your antidote to toxic Christianity and general negativity. It celebrates beauty in all its forms, and simply focuses on love: Love God, love yourself, love others. Full stop. All of this in addition to flower trivia and essential oil use…because why not? I am your host, Paula Perez.
We are going through the book of Genesis, discovering the loving character of God in the most surprising places, and seeing how in this ancient story there is so much evidence of the fact that we are beautiful, we are loved, and we were made with a purpose.
Since the fall in Genesis 3, the narrative has always made sure to not only tell a story of the Children of God and how God singled them out and saved them, but also made sure to recount their lineage in great detail. Genesis is all about our origins, because roots and identity were as important to God’s people as is it to us, as our origins often give us clues to where we are going.
Anyway, it is interesting to note that after all that God did and said, after all the ways He manifested Himself, heck, even after cleaning the world and starting again, when it came down to it, His chosen ones (which actually aren’t those that are chosen by God, but rather, those that chose God… see episode titled “The Favorite”) God’s chosen ones were always the vast minority of the world population.
Such was the case when God called Abraham, who was to become the greatest patriarch of them all. But when we first meet him, he is called Abram. He is 75 years old and, sadly, has no heir. His wife Sarai is 65 years old and is remarkably beautiful. She also has an adventurous spirit. Theirs was a love match. They are also very wealthy, and I suppose they are happy enough in their own way with all their relatives in their homeland when one day God calls Abram and promises him the world.
So let’s dive into what happens when you are called to step out of your comfort zone to go in search of a promised homeland. But first, the essential oil of the week: Frankincense.
— [FLOWER MUSIC] —
So I switched up how I usually do things at Feels and Flowers. Usually I pick the essential oil of the week and put a teaser on Instagram Stories and ask you to guess what it will be before the episode drops. This time around, I let YOU guys choose this week’s essential oil. I narrowed down the choices to Myrrh and Frankincense, and Frankincense won about 70% of the votes. So here we are.
Frankincense is not a flower. It’s not a plant or tree either. So where does Frankincense come from? Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from a small, hardy, unimpressive-looking tree of the genus Boswellia that is native to North Africa. Yet from that scraggly tree, the precious “pearl of the desert” is extracted.
It takes 25 years for a Boswellia tree to produce its first Frankincense harvest. Once it is mature, harvesters tap, or make incisions into the trunks starting at the dry season. The bark is shaved off to form a circular wound about 1 or 2 cm wide, and up to 1 cm deep; more than 3 tapping spots can be made depending on the size of the tree.
Now, this tapping is a cyclical operation that is repeated every 15-20 days after the first tap.The tapped trees exude a white sap which is allowed to harden into tears. The wound is refreshed and slightly widened every few days allowing for the tree to give off more of its sap. This continues until the onset of the rainy season. The tears are then seasoned, or dried, to be used in incense or distilled to produce the essential oil. Or as I read somewhere while researching this, chewed like gum–Because why not? It’s good for digestion!
From Rome to India and beyond, Frankincense has been used and loved for more than 5000 years. It was deemed essential for a host of uses ranging from religious to cosmetic to medicinal. Due to its demand, a complex trade network evolved to transport the priceless resin from the remote regions where it was produced to the markets where the wealthiest vied for the precious pearl of the desert.
Today, With the increasing importance for herbal and natural treatments fuelling demand for essential oils, the demand for essential oils such as Frankincense is just as high, if not higher. The market for essential oils, which was worth more than $7 billion in 2018, is expected to double by 2026.
And it shows. Thousands of tons of Frankincense are traded every year for a wide variety of purposes, sourced from Boswellia trees in North Africa, India, Oman, Yemen, and western Africa. Unfortunately, some scientists fear that the demand may be causing the Boswellia tree population to crash, though because the trees grow in such remote regions, it is hard to ascertain the extent of the damage.
The main problem is over-tapping. The trees should be tapped in no more than 12 places in a single year (this number is for a medium tree. Smaller trees can be tapped only in 6 spots, and larger trees, 16 spots). Sadly, in several places where locals need the frankincense trade for their livelihood, a single tree may be tapped up to 120 times over the course of only a few years, resulting in lower-quality resin that is too fine or dusty. Additionally, overtapping affects the tree’s vitality and interferes with its reproductive biology. This kind of sourcing is not sustainable and is now putting the Boswellia trees at risk.
Therefore, while I encourage you to use Frankincense essential oil, do be sure to get it from companies who have responsible sourcing practices. Learn my favorite ways to use Frankincense essential oil at the end of the podcast. But before that, let’s go back to Genesis 12 and Abram.
— [FLOWER MUSIC FADES OUT] —
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you. I’ll make you a great nation and bless you. I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse. All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.”
So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound. Abram passed through the country as far as Shechem and the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites occupied the land. (Genesis 12:1-6)
It was a beautiful land: “a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil, and honey.” (Deuteronomy 8:7, 8)
Yet, Abraham struggled with a sense of unease. You see, he was a stranger in a strange land–an immigrant. He’d expected the challenges of relocating his family to another place. But he had hoped for the place where he was to settle to be uninhabited or sparsely populated for them to have a fresh start.
Instead, God led them to a region full of great cities with mighty fortresses. And people. So many people. Was this to become his new home? How was he to claim this land and be a new nation if it was already taken? Additionally, he hadn’t failed to notice that among the beautiful hills and groves were also numerous temples and altars for all kinds of pagan gods. It must have been disheartening for this man of God to know that he’d left his idol-worshiping country and family just to come to yet another country full of idol-worshippers.
But the story continues:
God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Thus assured, Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him. He lived there for a while before he moved on southwards. And everywhere he stopped he made sure to build an altar to God for worship. There, among the Canaanite, was to shine a light of truth: The God-fearing sojourning family.
In case you’ve ever wondered, this is how you become an illegal immigrant.
Make plans for your life. Marry the love of your life. Have kids. Live contentedly enough where you are, ignoring that little voice in the back of your mind that tells you that yes, you are happy, but are you really content?
You can’t ignore it for long though, and you find yourself thinking, is this all there is to life? Is this really it? Have a conversation with God. Actually–no. Have MANY conversations with God and tell Him that you want Him to use you to preach to others. Tell Him to lead you. You naively tell Him that you will follow Him no matter where He may lead. He leads you to evangelize to your neighbors. Keep praying to God, keep his word with steadfastness. Keep worshipping. Keep teaching your kids to do the same. Make plans.
Go to sleep safe and content, imagining that that’s all God has in store for you.
Wake up one morning to calamity. You don’t know it yet, but you will soon: this is God’s call for you to take flight. This is what he’s been preparing you all your life for.
You struggle against it. It’s only human after all to try and try and try to save yourself and look for solutions to deal with the crisis. But you can’t do anything as you watch all the things you thought kept you safe and stable vanish one after another: your business, your investments, properties, friendships.
Your home is threatened.
Then it’s your freedom.
You’ve been agonizing and praying and fighting God all this while, but once this happens you don’t wait for your family to also be threatened. You finally, finally, recognize that it is time to take flight. In hindsight you marvel at how everything fell into place once you had determined to leave your land. It was, no doubt, the will of God opening doors you thought could never be opened.
You ask for signs and evidence at every step of the way and God never fails to give you every bit of evidence you ask for. It is the equivalent of him screaming at you that yes, leaving your country is indeed what you need to do.
God knows how passports and visas are attained in such short notice. And as you sketch plans for your new home and new life abroad in the most powerful country in the world, you hope that it’s a far enough place to keep you and your family safe.
You leave your home at dawn. Get to the airport, ask for tickets. Your shoulders sag when they tell you there are no flights going where you’re going…no–wait! YES. There ARE tickets, But only 3, and only in first class.
You don’t hesitate. You simply take them.
One of you must remain behind, though. Only for a little while–but still. There are no guarantees you’ll see each other soon.
Say goodbye. Cry. Make promises.
One last hug.
One last kiss to break your heart.
Ah, no one ever thinks of the untold number of hearts that have been broken and seas of tears have been shed on the way to the land of plenty.
You board the plane. You fly into the unknown, over the sierras and scorching deserts, and over the sparkling blue expanse of the Sea of Cortez, not knowing how things will go with you and how long you’ll be away–only knowing that all this while God has been pointing you to take this decision, to leave your country, your family, and your home for purpose that God will show you in His good time.
You never imagine just how much God is going to test you and bless you. You never dream of the things you and your children will get to do, the things you’ll learn, the people you’ll preach to, how thousands will listen to your preaching, and how you’ll be an instrument to help broken families heal.
You never imagine as you fly on that plane with the eagle insignia on the side, that God himself will carry you through the harshest of trials and keep you safe through it all. You have no idea of the miracles you’ll experience first-hand as a sojourner in a strange land.
No. You’re too numb after all the crying to think much beyond the near future. Close your eyes. The journey is long, but God is in control.
As you dreamily look out the window at the expanse of clouds below you, you begin to count the days until you find yourself back at home once more among all those you left behind.
When you finally return to your Homeland.
Many are still tested as Abraham was. Ellen G. White, one of my favorite writers, says that
Many of us do not hear the voice of God speaking directly from the heavens, but He calls us by the teachings of His word and the events of His providence. You and I may be required to abandon a career that promises wealth and honor, to leave congenial and profitable associations and separate from our family, to enter upon what appears to be only a path of self-denial, hardship, and sacrifice. God has a work for us to do. He may call you away from human influences and human help so that you may be able to feel the need of His help, and to depend upon Him alone. In this way He’ll reveal Himself to you.
Who is ready at the call of God to renounce all their well-laid plans? Who will accept the call for Christ’s sake counting his losses gain? He who will do this has the faith of Abraham, and will share with him that “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” with which “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared.” 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18. (Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 127-128, paraphrased)
The call is for everyone, not just for a select few. We tend to think that the great work is reserved for men and women who are more important, more learned, better connected, more mature, more faithful, more prominent, more righteous people than ourselves.
Well, that’s not true.
God’s call for you to follow him to a land that He has for you can take on many shapes. You and me, and everyone else who claims to be a Christian, have been called to be a kind of missionary on this earth. Missionaries are sojourners and foreigners wherever they are sent. They are not meant to get comfy in their new land.
Where will you be sent? It could be that maybe you’re not sent anywhere too far from where you already are, but God will have you follow him into a place that will be far enough away from your comfort zone that you will need to rely on God’s help like never before. Or who knows? Maybe, just maybe, you, like me or like Abraham are called to leave home and country behind for the sake of God’s call.
Whatever the case may be, may your faith be strengthened so that you say “yes” to God’s call. Say “yes” for the sake of reaching that unknown place that will one day become your home.
Like Abraham, who left his homeland in faith for the sake of an unseen city with real, eternal foundations, Let’s keep our eyes on that City designed and built by God. A city which by faith is already ours.
Our heavenly home.
Thank you for listening. Before I go, I’d like to briefly tell you about Frankincense essential oil and my favorite way to use it.
First a laundry list of benefits:
Frankincense is diuretic and antiseptic, and good for use in urinary tract and genital infections. It is antibacterial and helps with skin conditions like boils, wounds, and ulcers. It is a skin toner, balances oily skin, rejuvenates aging skin, and is good in an anti-wrinkle serum. It helps your respiratory system by loosening congestion, helps with asthma, cough, bronchitis, and shortness of breath. Frankincense just smells so freaking good too.
My favorite use of Frankincense is as a beauty oil. Most of the beauty serums i’ve made for myself or others include a bit of frankincense, and the result is a lush and luxurious blend worthy of a queen…like you!
You can find this and many other blends at feelsandflowers.com. Additionally you can find episode transcripts and extras like citations and links to learn more on the post for this episode.
Send me flowers! If you’d like a shoutout or you just want to say hi, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can also follow me on IG: @feelsandflowerspodcast and Twitter @feelsandflowers. If you enjoy Feels and Flowers please be sure to leave a rating and subscribe on Apple podcasts or whatever podcast platform you use. That would really help a lot.
Love you! Until next time… please remember that you are beautiful, you are loved, and you were made with a purpose.
Links for further reading:
Atlantis of the Sands: https://archive.archaeology.org/9705/abstracts/ubar.html
Tapping and Post-Harvest Handling: https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep02126?refreqid=excelsior%3Afd2c8c10adab676fec14996b9074d39d
Nat Geo: Declining and overtapping of Frankincense trees: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/12/frankincense-trees-declining-overtapping/