Sunday, January 04, 2009

Failed Fruit

Late last spring, my husband and I created a raised bed garden. We filled a wood frame with fresh dark soil, stirred in bags of rich manure and mulch such as coffee grounds, grass clippings, and egg shells. We planted tomatoes, onions, herbs, squash, and flowers. We watered faithfully every day and kept the ground free of weeds.

In early June, the wildfire season started with a bang. Lightening started wildfires spread all over northern California and the smoke ominously snaked over the Sierra mountain range and settled in our valley. Smoke permeated everything. It seeped through the cracked open windows and into our homes. It was hard to breath. We felt suffocated by the heavy air and depressed by the prolonged exposure to haze and ashes. That annoying group of people who are optimistic in the most challenging of situations stated that sunrises and sunsets were more spectacular during those weeks of dark and greasy smoke. Pessimists such as I were not as perky. "This cannot be good for our health", I mumbled in despair. The fires started in June and lasted well into the last weeks of July.

Meanwhile, back in the garden, my tomatoes just didn't seem to take off. They stayed green and hard. The basil remained a stunted plant, and the squash plants bloomed half-heartedly but didn't produce fruit. I scratched my head, knowing that I nourished the soil and watered often. During harvest season, we picked a few tomatoes here and there, managed a good pesto sauce now and then, and didn't expect a thing from the squash plants. I had never had such a dismal garden in my life.

In early September, our school traveled to a large farm for a field trip. The students studied plant cycles, fed chickens, and were allowed to pick produce, including fresh red raspberries. The tour guide said something that stuck in my mind. She stated that the raspberried had ripened a good couple of weeks later than anticipated. When I asked about her theory for the delay, she answered that the farm crew determined it was due to the smoke that hung around for half of the summer. All of a sudden everything about my garden made sense! I provided everything that my garden needed for growth. I provided good soil, lots of water, mulch, loving care, but I could not provide what the garden needed most of all to thrive. I could not provide the sun. My plants were duped by a smokescreen. The smoke slid in and stole life from plants which would never grow to full maturity as a result. I might as well have purchased Emerill's tomatoes instead. So, will I attempt a garden next year? Of course! In some things in life, it pays to be an optimist.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why I Appreciate My Pastor

I haven't blogged in months. It took a challenge to post about our pastors that encouraged me to post something that means a lot to me.

I appreciate my pastor because he is passionate about the truth of scripture to transform our lives. He has enabled our church to be an orderly, reverent, and committed group of Christians. He has the help of godly men who make up elders and deacons and who stay close to the vision of the Church. When we sing hymns and spiritual songs, the magnitude of worship resides in voices and not so much in instrumentation. It is a rousing lifting up of voices in praise.

Our children stay with the parents, and I have never experienced a quieter group of children as our pastor preaches and they take notes or rest in their parent's arms.

I guess the most touching testimony of the committment of our pastor is the fact that he blew out his back and was in intense pain the summer before this past summer. He painstakenly hobbled up to preach with a wide back brace, still passionate about preaching the Word of God. Sometimes our other pastor and the elders stepped in to preach, but we knew that it was hard for our pastor to give up his pulpit.

Our church is set in a valley surrounded by ranch land and a strand of the Sierra Mountain Range to the west. We drive an hour to go to our church, and others drive up to an hour and a half each Sunday. The church is the hub and gathers folks from all four directions. We have tried to visit churches closer to our home, but none can compare in our mind to ours, mainly because of the sure foundation set forth by good preaching, and a pastor who loves the Lord so much.

Since he appreciates John Piper and quotes from him occasionally, I sure would love to surprise him with tickets to the Desiring God Conference.

Ok. I will go back to my occasional pasttime of posting comments on OTHER blogs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Perhaps an Enema Will Help

I read a great quote today in the

The great challenge of the preacher is to follow Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:5, "What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake."

But there are more ways to preach ourselves than one might think. This word from James Denney has exerted a sobering effect on me since I first read it in 1982. He had these words framed and posted in the vestry of his Scottish church.
No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.

There is a great discussion over at Pyromaniacs about Legalism and one of the quotes I enjoyed was this:
But it is obvious to everyone around him that he is not really holy, he just needs to take an enema.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Shift of Spring

Peter's boat curves to a point
The inside is hollow.
Tiny shells roll to and fro
on the silt bottom of the lake.
Peter imagines skimming the floor
sifting, trying to find Jesus,
clutch his hand to pull him back.
Sand, the boundary for blue-grey, dark waters,
shifts endlessly, reminding Peter
that just two days ago he said three times,
"I never knew Him!"
He used to notice tumbled rocks on shore
harboring windblown seeds,
cumulous clouds promising rain.
Now he doesn't see a thing,
rubs his sour knotted fishing net
between calloused fingers,
wishes he had been stronger.
How can he know in this dark time
that a few days from now,
a familiar figure will rise
from the sun-bleached shore,
hold out his hand,
and call to him across salty waves,
algae turning,
schools of fish flashing,
nets suddenly full.
Peter will say three times,
"Yes Lord, you know I love you!"
Lift his head at the slow exhale of spring,
new life from clefts and cracks of hard places.
"Yes Lord, I love you!"
Sand gently shifts,
waves are silent.
Morning moves slowly.
A fisherman weeps.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Christian Reality in Sudan and Kenya

Yesterday in our school, we had a missionary couple tell us about their ministry in Kenya and Sudan. They work at an orphanage of over 300 children who have lost their parents because of war or other circumstances. The husband is actually Sudanese. I asked them to speak specifically to my class of fourth and fifth graders after our assembly. I have been honest with my students about the suffering of Christians in other parts of the world and I wanted the husband to share with us what his life was like in Sudan. He told us stories about how his village was bombed up to three times a day. Planes would roll out large barrels filled with nails and shrapnel and children would hit the ground in a flat position to avoid the flying nails and then run for shelter. He saw his best friend die beside him. He finally fled his village at the age of 19 because Muslims would take teen boys, train them to be soldiers and then send them back to fight their own people. They also kidnapped children and women to be sold as slaves in other countries. In order to prevent people from escaping, they would cut their achilles tendon. Ramsey did say that Christianity is growing stronger in Sudan, but now he and his wife (who is American and here on furlough), are worried because they have a home in Kenya. They are not sure how dangerous it will be to return home after their furlough, since Kenya has killed thousands of people since their elections earlier this month. The new president is apparently closely tied to Islam. It was a sobering time of questions and answers in my classroom, and my children then prayed for the missionary couple for safety, and that their needs would be met.

My church also has a lady who is a missionary in Sudan. She was on vacation in Kenya for Christmas, because Kenya was the safe country for Christian organizations. She was still in Kenya during the elections and our church received word of her experience in the midst of chaos and people being hacked and killed in the streets.

She wrote:
Today I worshiped in a church with a thousand plus Kenyans from all different tribes and tongues united in one voice crying out to God. Do you know what their cry was? It was not "God bring peace" or "God, change the hearts of our leaders" or even "Why?" Instead the cry was "God, forgive us for we have forgotten to love our neighbor as our self. We have allowed this hatred to grow and create a divide that none can bridge, but Christ." One man prayed the whole of Psalm 51. Young and old shared in these prayers of repentance and the call for strength to return evil with good and hatred with love.

It is a different world in Kenya and Sudan and it seems we are so insulated from such difficult circumstances, and yet I believe storm clouds are on the horizon for us in North America as well. I am blessed by the humility of the man from Sudan who softly told us about his life and sufferings, and sang praise songs for us in his native tongue. I am blessed that he is an example of patient endurance in the midst of difficult circumstances in his life.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Everybody Smile Now!

I find this photo rather funny.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The New Job

I havent been able to post much lately because I have been working at a new and demanding job. I work in the billing office of a doctor office, and it has been many years since I have worked in such an office. It is very high paced and I have to do billing and insurance verification and other sundry things. I am interviewing for another teaching job, so perhaps this is just a season at the office. It has been very stressful and I wanted to share some of that stress with you, the "monsters" of the billing world so to speak.