Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

If you're coming here because we mentioned this in the bulletin....

...welcome. Please stay a while and enjoy. If you'd like to be an author on this here blog, please let me know in the comments.



Thursday, October 11, 2007

If you have Faith as a Morning Glory seed....

I know that isn't the scripture.

We've lived in our little house for about 4 or 5 years now. Like so many people who are excited about home ownership in the beginning, I wanted to work in the yard and plant flowers. And so I did, though if you've been to my house lately, you'd never know that. The exterior of our home is pretty shabby looking. There's the desperately overdue painting that needs to be done. There's the out of control weeds in the yard, and the gulley that we are obliged by the city or LES or whomever to maintain. Shrubs that have never known the pruning hook. Patio furniture in disrepair and unfinished projects everywhere you look.

I am not keeping good faith with my house. I did in one of those first couple of springs though, make a pledge of faith by planting flowers. I love old-fashioned favorites. I planted bachelor buttons, which have rewarded me with perennial action for a few years now in spite of the 'annual' label on the seed packet. I planted cosmos in shades of white, pink and vibrant fushcia. Those too rewarded me the next summer with a few volunteers. The Four O'Clocks that I planted with reminisces of my grandparents summer yard also sent up a handful of repeaters the next July. There were Canterbury Bells that were supposed to be biennial, but which never even set out seedlings. I transplanted hearty perennial standbys from scattered locations (The middle of the lawn, really? Not where *I* would plant iris...) to the modest reclaimed 'flowerbeds' that lay along the south foundation of our house. I moved those iris, tulips, grape hyacinth, and crocus to a place where they would be safe from the lawnmower and plodding feet. I cleared leaves and weeds from the beds. I went to the very folksy neighborhood hardware store and bought a small inexpensive trellis. And I carefully soaked and scored the seeds of two packets of morning glories. One packet of the traditional blue-violet and white variety called 'Heavenly Blue'. The other was an heirloom variety known as 'Grandpa Ott'. I planted the seeds one evening as a spring mist soaked the earth, and myself. I did not see the bumper crop of morning glories that I'd hoped to have climbing that southern wall of my dining room. There were a couple that came up, twined about half-way up the trellis, put out a few blooms and apparently ran out of steam, or whatever it is that makes them go. They scorched and died in heat of summer, but not before I was captivated by the ruby-throated deep purple Grandpa Otts. I took one fast fading bloom to the office where my coworkers marveled at it's lovely color. And when it died I didn't think too much about it after that.

2007 has felt like one blurry streak... like watching a freight train move west next to your eastbound passenger car. More than ever before, my poor yard and house have taken a backseat to the other exciting things happening in my life. Babies, it turns out, are nearly all consuming. This summer, my brother proposed an exchange of labor for using our computer, high speed access, printer, paper, etc. for his schoolwork and I readily accepted. He did some very necessary work in our yard... mostly pulling bind-weed and cutting out all the elm trees that seem to be very attracted to my flowerbeds. He was pretty thorough. I don't know how he missed one twining vine that was twirling it's way through the underbelly of my flowerbed, dancing over iris leaves and eventually climbing up the stubborn remnants of one of the cut back elms. But then I didn't notice it either until about a week and a half ago. I was on my way to a mid-afternoon appointment when I saw the beautiful flashes of plum-y purple and raspberry veining. It stopped me in my tracks. I paused with my young son in my arms to admire the lovely Grandpa Ott morning glories. Some two or three years after the seeds had been planted, and it's cousins long perished, here emerged the radiant evidence of some past labor, long dismissed as fruitless, or at least I believed it had borne all it would.

And so it is. We can never know when or what a long-ago act of faith will yield. When we become discouraged that 'things' are not happening as fast, or as big or as often as we would like, it is this kind of moment that God gives us, a tiny miracle in the grand scheme of the Universe. What kind of faith did that seed have? It was prepared for planting, but maybe it needed a little longer to work it's way through the hard outer shell of the seed. It was watered and tended, but needed time to grow. Maybe it was waiting for the right combination of moisture and temperature to venture out. It somehow escaped the weeding. Maybe it was afraid. In a time and place where it was as unexpected as rain in the desert, the morning glory acted on faith. Whether mine or it's own I will never know.

We continue to wonder about the future of the church. Imagine if you will, that my flower garden is like a church. There are perennial members... they just keep coming back season after season, Sunday after Sunday. Some like the bachelor buttons are seeds that started in our community, some like the irises and hyacinth were transplanted perennials that needed a safer place to flourish. Either way, they need very little tending to keep on growing, or even spreading! Others, like the cosmos, will come back a few times and then less and less until they don't come anymore at all. Some seeds we plant and plan for but never come to fruition. Others, like Grandpa Ott, make a false start, and then later surprise us by flowering long after we've given up hope. We must continue to act in faith. It truly is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Without that faith, we would be paralyzed with fear of whether what we were doing was the 'right' thing, or if it would give the 'right' result and so do nothing and die. Good gardners know to plant a variety and tend each according to it's needs. Or they discover by accident that it is a very handy strategy.

In the rush of our lives, we must take time to ponder the little miracles. Rejoice in surprise of faithful flowers. Pause and say "Look what God has done!" These are the tiny reassurances that God is working in our lives, and that our efforts are not in vain, whether in the garden or in the world.