Monday, April 29, 2013

Plant Wisely and Grow with God's Grace

"So neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but (only) God Who makes it grow and become greater" (I Corinthians 3:7).

This spring I've had my first experience with growing tomato plants from seed. I've always admired how people have grown massive tomato-bearing behemoths from tiny seeds; I've always made myself content with buying a more mature plant at the garden store that, many times, had small yellow blossoms already. My fascination with watching them grow from "little sprouts" to the more mature plants was increased ten fold last year when I bought a tiny plant and brought it to my little greenhouse. Given its size, I had no idea if it would even survive, much less grow into a healthy fruit-bearing plant. I watered it, put it in a big pot to match the size I hoped it would achieve before planting it in the ground once the dirt warmed, and then tried to be patient. That plant grew almost before my very eyes. It was incredible how it grew each day.

I was hooked.

This spring I had every ambition to start from scratch...or seed, as the case may be. I knew how well the plant enjoyed  and thrived in the greenhouse environment, so I knew that seeds would find the perfect environment for germination and becoming healthy seedlings.

Then the greenhouse was destroyed.

I found myself with a bunch of "orphaned" tomato seeds and little good experience with growing anything indoors. In the past, I would have lots of good intentions and leggy, thread-like wisps of seedlings that never survived. This time I needed to grow more wisely. So, I read a good book on germination and seedlings, bought some decent germination trays and planting medium, and invested in a good grow light. After following the directions carefully, the seeds did germinate, and they did grow under the encouragement of the glow of the grow light. In fact, they grew out of their little germination squares pretty quickly.

I was in new territory again.

So, back to the research and the wisdom of others who suggested I "cook" some dirt to sterilize it, and then transplant the tomato plants. I had read originally that the roots of a new plant are exceedingly delicate and the transplant process can destroy them. Apparently, leaves grow back freely...roots, not so much. So, I took the greatest care I could in separating the "twins"--the two germinated seeds originally planted together  that had both grown into seedlings. So delicate, so tiny… Into the new planting medium they went in their new "homes"...the peat pots. Each were carefully watered and placed back under the grow lights to get accustomed to their new growing environment. The next morning I hesitated to look at them, fearing that I would see wilted little green messes rather than the healthy little plants I'd seen the night before.  Happily, they were all still standing and looked worse for the wear.

A pretty humbling experience…

We can plant, we can water, we can feed...but it is ultimately God's incredible wisdom and grace that makes anything on this glorious planet truly grow and thrive. And, it's kind of the same way with all of us. We can plant the seeds of faith, love, and trust within ourselves and then share with our neighbors, but it will need God's consistent input to make it truly blossom into the healthiest  kind of harvest.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Love for our Enemies

Luke 6:27-36: "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

It's been a tremendously rough week on a lot of people. I'm writing this as I watch Bob Sheiffer and "Face the Nation"--not my usual routine, but it's not exactly been a "usual" week, either. There is, of course, a great deal of coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings as well as the gun control vote this past week. Two extremes in our country with, what would seem to many, mind-boggling outcomes. In one report, we  now know that an American citizen and his younger brother did the unspeakable by killing and maiming just plain folks who were out on a spring day to participate in an innocuous event. In another report, we have our own Congress voting down any measure of protection for our citizens in violent outbreaks; in a discussion, three family members of three of the deceased at Sandyhook Elementary were feeling very betrayed by the representatives of their own country.

Our country is hurting...hurting...hurting…

What a paradox we face--in our gut, we want to lash out at the three men who caused unimaginable pain in these two incidents; yet, as Christians, we are called to a higher command: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

The first response will be that they should be tried by our courts--I agree. That's how we handle the earthly transgressions in our time. However, the greater test is for us individually. We have been commanded to love our enemies. This great challenge is where we need to not divide as Christians, but unite...we NEED each others' support for this one! I invite you to join me in being very careful in what is written, posted, or said about these tragedies. It's extremely easy to make it our mortal battle without  heeding Jesus' words. I need to constantly remind myself that it's not my plan, it's not my rules, it's not my say, it's not my planet...I'm just here for a visit. It is, however, my call as a follower of Christ to follow his words. Not always easy, and, for the most part, I'm guessing I do a pretty lousy job...but to know the peace of Christ makes it all worthwhile. 

Peace be with you.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Good Tired

"The old has passed away; behold, the new has come"--2 Corinthians 5:17

Happily, happily spring has arrived for real. Coats are being shed as the sun gives us some warmth...what a treat! Yesterday was the first real work day in the gardens and around the yard. Limbs to be hauled, flowers to be transplanted, garden beds to get ready. It's incredible to see everything coming to life, yet, by the end of the first week, it becomes pretty overwhelming to keep up with the pace. There's always something needing attention, and a finite amount of time in season to get things going before the weather gets too hot to do what is needed. Besides, after a winter lay-off from physical labor, it's just plain tiring to dig, hoe, haul, and keep moving all day. This wonderful feeling has its price.

As I was getting ready to head out to transplant some huge chunks of day lilies I dug up yesterday, it occurred to me. how our spiritual lives can emulate our first days of emerging from the winter season. When we are immersed in God's perfect love, we are exhilarated...we feel fresh energy and ageless...we soar with happiness. Then, once we get bogged down with our daily routine, we begin to feel somewhat overwhelmed with this wonderful gift. We have a misunderstanding here, an uncomfortable decision to make there. We start to feel the enormity of the gift. Will we ever get things done in our finite time here on earth?

In gardening as well as in life, probably not. But I think it's okay.

As we start getting a little dirt on our jeans and on our shovels, we get into a smoother routine. We realize that there doesn't need to be the frantic rush; what will get done will get done. Anything that we get accomplished toward growing those beautiful plants is a good thing...there will be a payoff of good eating in a few weeks. We can relax and enjoy the experience. We can share the fruits of our labors with others. The same applies to our freshening of the soul...we can share our love of God and all His creation with others. We're not going to be perfect at being a Christian--but it's gloriously okay. During our finite season during our lifetimes, we can expand God's garden of nurtured seed at a time. Do we get tired? You bet. But, in both cases, it's a good tired.

Peace be with you.