Deadheading is for the Birds

I don’t usually upload two posts in a day but this is an exception – tomorrow’s post is being uploaded early because tomorrow my blog is moving and I will not be able to add content. Hopefully those of you who visit the blog will not notice any changes – except that by the end of the day there should no longer be advertisements at the end of the posts. If you do have problems please bear with us – we hope that the change will make it easier to expand the resources available on the site and give us more freedom in what types of files we are able to upload. The url will change to http://godspace-msa.com but if traffic will continue to be redirected from the old site.  So with that preamble….

Dahlias in the garden

Yesterday morning I shared about spirituality and gardening in a class at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. It was a beautiful morning and we were able to wander in the local pea patch for part of the time. Beautiful dahlias are still in bloom and the fragrance of roses wafted on the air. Rosemary, thyme and oregano waited to be crushed in hands to share their fragrance as well. But in the midst of the beauty there was also brokenness and death. Giant thistle seed heads ready to blow away on the wind. Piles of dead leaves, and much to our disgust dirty syringes and broken bottles.

thistle head

Our instinct was to  pull out the dying plants, deadhead the summer blooms and “tidy up”. We don’t like untidy spaces and we like even less, the brokenness it sometimes uncovers. We wanted to throw away the syringes and pretend that the brokenness of the city had not invaded this tranquil space.

But is that really what we should be doing? Evidently those untidy and seemingly dead flowers are an important source of nourishment for the birds over the winter. And the corners full of dead leaves provide warm hiding places for insects, frogs and other garden animals.

Maybe the brokenness of our world has a purpose too we speculated. Perhaps as the birds find nourishment from the seemingly dead flowers, we too find nourishment in the midst of the death and brokenness of our souls. And maybe those “dead leaves” are good places for us to hide too so that we can be protected from the wounds still too painful to bear. If we clean them up too quickly before they have done their winter work maybe our lives will suffer.

We grow closer to God in times of sorrow and heartache then we do when everything is going well. We find healing more rapidly when we recognize and face our pains and brokenness then we do in the height of “summer” when everything in our lives seems as sunny as the weather.

This wander in the garden provided some encouraging and challenging lessons for me. I know there are still broken areas in my life that I would love to tidy away right now. And as I look at my loved ones and my friends I see places in their lives I would like to tidy up as well. But God says be patient, make sure you nourish and protect them until God says it is time to tidy up.

Advertisements

Unexpected Surprises – Blessings From God We Rarely Notice

Autumn beauty

This morning was garden morning at the Mustard Seed House. Unfortunately none of my usual helpers were able to come, but as this was my first time out in the garden for a week I was still eager to get out there.

First I wandered round our side garden where an amazing variety of greens – zen, mizuna, arugula, bok choy, spinach, collards and some that I think may have cross pollinated – have self seeded from last year’s compost. Yes I know that means it doesn’t get hot enough but to be honest I kind of like this unexpected bonus and they tend to be the healthiest greens in the garden at this season.

pansies

Then I explored the front garden where I planted pansies last week. This too is thriving. The leeks and chard are the best we have ever grown, and thanks to Kristin Carrrocino’s encouragement we have a new crop of cauliflowers, broccoli, kale and spinach slowly moving towards harvest.

Autumn hydrangea surprise

 

Last I headed to the back garden where I planned to plant garlic. It almost didn’t get done because I was inspired by the unexpected surprises of autumn colours, not just in the leaves but in the beautiful changes the hydrangeas have undergone in the last few days. I soon had my camera out exploring all the amazing and surprising changes in the garden. Not all of them are good unfortunately, the slugs have had a hey day in the hostas and the morning glory is taking over but these surprises seemed trivial compared to the awe inspiring sense of entering int the presence of God I experienced.

planting garlic

 

last week I wrote this prayer about pausing to look and see God in the moment. I was reminded of it this morning as I too paused to breathe in the presence of God around me.

Lord Jesus Christ,
May we pause to look
and see you in this moment.
Mountains red and white with morning sun,
Quiet gaps between traffic flow,
Smiling faces welcoming the day.
Lord jesus Christ,
May we draw breath,
and reflect on your presence,
enlivening all things,
sustaining all things,
transforming all things.
Lord Jesus Christ,
May this moment call me to respond
with just living,
generous giving,
grateful actions.

My unexpected surprises were not finished there though. Having planted my garlic I wandered inside for a cup of coffee and my attention was caught by this amazing orchid.

flowering orchid

It is at least 10 years old and every year I tell myself – I must repot it, it is so pot bound that there is no way it will flower this year. Yet it does. This year 16 flower spikes so far and still counting. This too is an unexpected blessing from God, a surprise that I almost missed because I was eager to move on to my next task.

How often do I miss the unexpected surprises of God because I am too busy, too distracted, too focused on work? How often do I fail to pause and breathe in the presence of God they reveal? And how often do I fail to respond with praise, with thanksgiving and with generosity towards others out of those blessings?

Gardening is always a good reminder to me of my need to pause and enter the presence of God. What provides that much needed prompting in your life?

When Things Go Wrong Can We see the Beauty?

Today Tom and I were supposed to go up to Camano Island to begin roofing our first building at the Mustard Seed Village. Things did not go as we expected. We arrived to find the lumber had not been delivered and the lumber yard was closed. Frustrating yes but the day was not wasted. We returned home and I planted pansies and bulbs instead. And now I have just watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen for a long time.

How often I wonder do we miss the breathtaking beauty of God because we are all set on doing the wrong things – wrong at least from God’s perspective. So I hope that you will enjoy this sunset with me and spend some time thinking of the beautiful things you could easily have missed in the last few days if God had not redirected your footsteps.

Beautiful sunsetBeautiful sunset Beautiful sunsetBeautiful sunsetBeautiful sunsetBeautiful sunset

A friend just commented on Facebook that this reminded them of the song from Garden State Beauty in the Breakdown. And I agree with him it does seem appropriate so I thought I would add it here.

 

Looking for Harvest Prayers – Try these

Carrying wheat to church

Lots of people are looking for resources for harvest festivals and worship services. Here are some I have found recently that might be of use.

1. I have just discovered this excellent list of harvest resources from Christian Concern for One World and thought that some of you might be interested. The organization is based in the UK so the resources all come from there but It gives some great suggestions for us to consider no matter where in the world we are.

2. Lord’s Prayer has some good resources from both Catholic and Anglican traditions as well as some prayers and craft suggestions for children.

3. My friend John Birch at Faith and Worship has this resource list as well as this great Harvest Thanksgiving liturgy. 

4. This resource is from 2007 but I still think it has great relevance

Or perhaps you might like to use this beautiful prayer of Gerald Manley Hopkins

SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

–Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

Soil Sacrament and Harvest

Abundant tomatoes for BLTs and salads

Abundant tomatoes for BLTs and salads

It is harvest season. I am frantically drying, preserving and freezing the abundance of apples from our trees, making green smoothies from the delicious salad greens and indulging in wonderful tomato salads and sandwiches.  It seems fitting that I am in the midst of reading Fred Bahnson’s delightful memoir Soil and SacramentI was particularly struck this morning my his comment:

Our ecological problems are a result of having forgotten who we are – soil people, inspired by the breath of God… in St Augustine’s phrase, terra animata – animated earth.

Drying apples

Drying apples

So as we contemplate this day and this season may we indeed remember who we are and who God has made us to be. Last year I wrote this liturgy for the harvest season. I decided I could not improve on it this year so add it again here as a way to draw all of us into the blessings of this season.

God we thank you for a harvest of plenty,

Small seeds that multiply to feed many,

Trees that blossom and produce abundant fruit,

Tomatoes that ripen on the vine with sweet flavour.

God we thank you for abundance overflowing,

Enough for our own needs and an abundance to share,

Enough to feed the hungry and provide for the destitute,

Enough to reach out with generosity and care. 

God we thank you for seeds you have planted in our hearts,

Seeds of righteousness yielding goodness and mercy,

Seeds of love yielding justice and peace,

Seeds of compassion yielding healing and renewal.

God we thank you for the bread of heaven,

Christ our saviour planted in our lives,

Christ our redeemer growing in our hearts,

Christ your Son making us one with you.

God we thank you for the gift of life,

Like water poured out on thirsty ground,

Spring and autumn rains that revive and bring life,

A river that flows from your heart and out into the world you love.

Amen

Preserving the harvest - Canning Tomatoes

Preserving the harvest – Canning Tomatoes

For other posts on harvest season you like might to see:

2011 I wrote this reflection: The Harvest is Plentiful But the Labourers are Few;

2010 I posted this: Praying for an Abundant Harvest

2009 I wrote this litany: God of the Bountiful – A Harvest Prayer

And my first post on this theme in 2008: The Generosity of God – Fish and Loaves for all

 

Five Business Lessons From the Garden

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Gomphrena pink zazzle shoing tiny yellow flowers

Many of you know that I have been reading a lot lately about Social entrepreneurship, business and imagination. Lots of new and stimulating books out there but probably the greatest lessons I have learned in this regard come from the garden, and as I read some of the books on my pile it seems that many of them just reiterate what I am learning:

  1. There is no failure in the garden – if something doesn’t work this year, try again immediately or next year or plant in a different place in the garden. One of the primary tenants of social entrepreneurship is fail well, some even say we need to become masters at failure. (see Imagination First 187) Failure is not disaster it is a learnable skill that is necessary for success.
  2. Plan for surprise – there is nothing more wonderful than going out in the garden and discovering something totally unexpected. Developing a business is a little like that too. Routine can stifle our imagination. We need to regularly rinse out our expectations (Imagination First 158) and allow the random unexpected happenings to take over. This year for example my best autumn greens in the garden are a patch just behind my raised beds that self seeded. One of my garden helpers almost covered them over thinking they were weeds. Fortunately I stopped him in time and have just encouraged everyone to walk around the patch. This unexpected surprise has provided an amazing harvest for my green smoothies.
  3. Look, listen and learn. Stillness is a fertile breeding ground for ideas (43). Wandering through my garden with no other intention than to breathe in the stillness of God and admire the flowers gives unexpected rewards. For example, to fill in my flower pots which had been decimated by the summer drought here in Seattle, I planted gomphrena – I knew nothing about it but the plants in the garden nursery caught my attention. Usually I look at them from a distance but a few days ago I walked close and was stunned by the beauty. The wonder of the leaves covered in dew and then the emergence of tiny yellow flowers has awed and stirred me.

    Gomphrena covered in dew

    Gomphrena covered in dew

  4. All good things begin small. We are easily overwhelmed by the immensity of the problems in our world- gun violence, poverty, sex trafficking, climate change – no matter what the issue we want to respond to, we can easily become powerless because our own small efforts seem so trivial. But every plant grows from a tiny seed – a seed that germinates in darkness away from the world. Forcing it into the light too soon destroys it.
  5. Share with others. Gardeners are the worlds greatest sharers or cross pollinators. They love to talk about their garden designs, share recipes, produce and techniques. they love to hear the stories others have to share and never feel they know it all. Along the way they learn, rethink their ideas, experiment and come up with new and creative plans that improve their harvests. For too long we have thought that the way to effective business is to hold our ideas to ourselves – patents and copyrights though sometimes necessary to protect our intellectual rights can also stifle creativity and new design. When we share all of us benefit.

Edible Churchyards, Campuses and More

This morning I had the privilege of being a part of a Farms, Food and Faith networking meeting held at Seattle University in conjunction with Seattle Tilth and members of faith communities and congregations interested in growing, harvesting and distributing food.

This is the second such meeting we have held. The first meeting was at Seattle Tilth, already familiar to me because of the amazing array of resources they provide. That meeting connected me to a number of organizations like Lettuce Links, in the area some of which I mentioned in this post.

Today’s meeting was another rich experience of learning. I was awed by the scope of Seattle University’s edible landscape program. As early as 1994 they were recognized for their pollution preventing grounds practices. They now have a number of gardens well worth a visit. Their edible plants range from an entire Orchard to an occasional blueberry plant in the landscape that provides a snack for any person that walks by.  

Another initiative I learned about is the Edible Churchyard Program at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. I know it is a little far away for most Seattlites to visit but those in the New York area might like to look it up. It is training hundreds of seminarians to incorporate food justice and growing into their future work as community and faith leaders while also converting parts of the campus into models for urban growing.  

Another interesting program is Growing Groceries Mentorship Program which trains volunteers to help make existing community garden projects sustainable. 

We recognize that churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship often have underutilized resources. Churches often have land that sits idle except at Easter when the easter egg hunt is on. Other places of worship have kitchens that only get utilized for coffee hour after services. Congregations have volunteers some of whom may be passionate cupboard gardeners. All have spiritual resources and even financial resources that could be used to help us grow more of our own food and share it with neighbours, food banks, the homeless and other ministries.

This is an exciting opportunity that I hope will encourage the few of us who are already passionate about growing our own food to ignite the smoldering embers in others within our congregations.

I know that Seattle is not alone is developing such initiatives and I would love to hear from others who have been involved in similar ventures.