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Orrin Morris debuts two-volume work on wildflowers

Citizen columnist Orrin Morris has just published a two-volume set of "Consider the Lillies," which will be for sale at the Olde Town Fall Festival on Oct. 20.

Citizen columnist Orrin Morris has just published a two-volume set of "Consider the Lillies," which will be for sale at the Olde Town Fall Festival on Oct. 20.

Orrin Morris debuts two-volume work on wildflowers

There are Master Gardeners and then there are gardeners for the Master. Orrin Morris is an expert to the first group and a tireless worker in the second. After 11 years of toiling in the field, so to speak, this ordained minister of the Gospel has just released a two-volume set of meditations on local wildflowers.

Featuring words of wisdom based on the Scriptures that Citizen readers have come to know from his newspaper column for the past 15 years, accompanied by full-color pictures of his detailed artwork, Morris' "Consider the Lilies" is an inspirational effort that began more than a decade ago.

While the seed was planted 11 years ago for Morris' first book, his roots in the ministry go three times deeper than that. He retired in 1992 after 31 years with the Southern Baptist Convention, having served as director of research and producing more than 1,500 studies of religious, demographic and economic trends. He has brought that attention to detail and his research background to Consider the Lilies.

An avowed perfectionist, Morris said it took a full year from the time his book was finished until it was published because he kept tweaking it and working with the printer in refining the use of colors and contrast in the artwork.

"The researcher kicked in," Morris said of his work on the book. "You've got to do the research, document and do the bibliography. I just can't help it... I'm a perfectionist. That's why it's taken a year."

When asked if it was finally a relief to have the book finished and printed, Morris said, "Relief is an understatement."

"Consider the Lilies" brings together all of Morris' passion, skill, talent and knowledge to create a sermon from every flower.

In writing about the climbing milkvine, Morris says, "This lowly milkvine reminds us that nature blesses us with blooms that are not always brightly colored and big. In the same way God's love extends beyond the privileges of a long heritage to the alien, the fatherless and the widowed. May we be good stewards of our wealth and learn generosity at the feet of our sacrificing Lord."

In the chapter on wisteria, Morris tells how it often takes several years to establish a root system, during which time it appears to be stunted, showing little upward progress.

"But don't be deceived," he writes. "Once the roots are established underground, the vine begins climbing and branching. There seems to be no upward limit except the height of the host tree...

"In spite of the negative aspects of the mighty wisteria, when it reaches its full growth, it is awesome. Likewise, when we allow the living Lord to have free reign in our lives, we soar to new heights of service, bring beauty into all our relationships and provide joy to our community wherever our shadow is cast."

Becoming a newspaper columnist and author is as much of a surprise to Morris as is his exceptional and professional career as an artist and art teacher. He said when he retired from the Southern Baptist Convention, he envisioned himself serving as an interim pastor.

But God had other plans.

Born in Omaha, Neb., Morris graduated from the University of Virginia before going to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans. From 1958 until late 1960, he pastored a church in rural Mississippi before moving to Atlanta and working with the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board.

An artist since he was a child, Morris was asked to teach a three-hour art class in Conyers one Saturday in 1990.

"It went OK, but I was iffy about it," he said. "Then I started doing more work with adults in 1991 (teaching art) through the Rockdale Center for Higher Education. I had one -- sometimes three -- classes a week. I started through the Rockdale Arts Council and summer program for children in 1999. By 2001, I was teaching 15 to 20 kids. It went up from there. I had about 80 kids in 14 classes.

"...I had an argument with the Lord. I felt like teaching kids was nice for a grandpa, but it was as if the Lord said, 'Do it.' An art teacher? Please. The Lord said, 'Do it.'"

The interim pastor plans went away and in place of it Morris has become a respected artist, author and beloved mentor to many.

"I've got kids all over the nation," he said of his former art students. "We stay in contact. Some are in college teaching art. Some are in industry using their art. When we do the windows (for the holidays) in Olde Town, I'll have six or eight kids from college or work to come in and paint windows and then we'll go to a pizza place."

Morris writes about local wildflowers as if they too are friends to cherish and whose company he enjoys.

He began studying wildflowers at the urging of his wife, Margaret, who also helped him edit "Consider the Lilies." The couple lives on a hilly, 5-acre tract overlooking the Big Haynes Creek and at least 150 of the wildflowers featured in his book exist on his land.

He has combined his interest in wildflowers and his talents as an artist to create an information-packed book, complete with illustrations, flower facts, and Christian messages, designed to encourage and inspire the reader.

Morris is already working on a third volume of wildflowers and enjoying spending time with his family, which includes sons Jonathan and Bryan, three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. He also continues his work at The Sketching Pad, his art studio on Commercial Street in Olde Town Conyers. He and his wife also attend Trinity Baptist Church in Conyers.

The two-volume set of "Consider the Lilies" features more than 280 full-color drawings by Morris in two 8 -by-11-inch paperback books with more than 150 pages each. Each volume sells for $34.95, plus tax, and will be available this weekend during a book signing on Saturday at Nature's Scene in Olde Town Conyers during the Olde Town Fall Festival. The signing will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Copies of "Consider the Lilies" are also available by contacting Morris at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com, or calling him at 770-929-3697.

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Loganville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.