Garden Lessons

Do you like to cook or bake?  If so, you might find great comfort in following a recipe.  I know I do, especially when baking.  There is a certain security I feel in knowing that if I follow all the directions precisely, most often the desired results will occur.  The bread will rise or the cookies will bake or the pie crust will turn a delicious golden brown.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that gardening in many ways does not follow this same rule of certitude.  I can sow the seeds at just the right time, water on schedule, plant in full sun or partial shade depending on the flower’s or vegetable’s needs, etc.  I can seem to do everything “by the book” and yet the plants may succomb to a virus, a fungus or some furry creature with a hearty appetite (yes, Mr. Squirrel, I’m talking to you).   So does that mean I stop planting a garden just because there are many factors I just cannot control?  No way.  That would be far too easy.  Planting a garden involves taking a leap of faith and often consulting others for help.

Discipleship, like gardening, my friends, is not for the faint of heart.  For fifty-one years, I have, more often than not, stuck to my Catholic Christian faith.   Along the way, though, there have been times where I’ve given in to temptation, anger, pride, and the list goes on and on.  I’ve frequently had to turn to others for advice and this life has required a daily, sometimes hourly leap of faith.  I’ve come to rely on God and others in my faith community for strength and support.   I am not the textbook example of the perfect Christian if there is such a thing, but I am strengthened when I read in Acts of the Apostles 2: 46-47 that “every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.”  Isn’t that what we are all about as a parish family?  

It’s just the beginning of a new gardening season at our home and we are just about to begin Ordinary Time again in our church home.  I can be prepared for some things and do my best to stick with the plan, but I’m also getting ready for whatever yet unknown variables that may or may not come my way.  I’m going to try to enjoy both the garden and parish life to the best of my ability each day.  In the end, it’s all up to THE Master Gardener anyways, isn’t it?

Advertisements

Sticks and Stones

I had better lead off with a little disclaimer, friends.  Today’s blog does not contain puppies, rainbows or glitter.  This is not a comfortable topic for me to address but one that weighs heavily on my heart of late.  For lack of a better term, I will call it Social Media Shaming.

Remember the poem when we were children, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me?”  We all know that was not true then and it’s not true now.  Words sting, and words accompanied by a photo online can spread like wildfire when people feel free to comment and add their own “two cents’ worth.”   During the past year, I have scrolled through my daily newsfeed and seen postings by friends complaining of how someone parked their car at the mall, neighbors with untidy yards or Christmas lights left up too long, etc.  Someone offends me and now there is an immediate audience for my anger.  Snap a picture and send it out to everyone I know.  After all, it’s a free country, right?

If you read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery as a student, you might remember how easily all the townspeople picked up those rocks when Tessie unfortunately drew the paper with the black dot on it.  Worse yet, people grabbed the rocks even BEFORE they knew who would be the target.  I beg you to consider that the Comment button on Facebook or Instagram can be like a rock or like an olive branch and should be used with care and compassion.

Pope Francis, in a homily at the Vatican on November 13, 2016 stated:

“What endures, what has value in life, what riches do not disappear? Surely these two: the Lord and our neighbor. These two riches do not disappear! These are the greatest goods; these are to be loved. Everything else – the heavens, the earth, all that is most beautiful, even this Basilica – will pass away; but we must never exclude God or others from our lives.”

 We can all do better.  We must strive to look for the good in others, to look for Christ in the people who offend us, too.  This is no easy task and I have a long way to go with this, also.   Let’s not add to the pain and suffering that already exists in our society.  As Easter people, we can build up instead of tear down.  And if you have never read The Lottery, why not add it to your summer reading list?  It might make you think twice before you pick up that rock or hit that comment button.

Rubble

Recently I drove by a site in a nearby town where a building is being taken down.  What once was a vibrant, productive facility that employed 1,500 people in its heyday has been reduced to little mountains of broken bricks and rubble.  For some reason, I find this extremely unsettling, even though I know there is a plan for the site once everything is removed.   In a shopping plaza closer to home, there is a small store that is closing soon.  Giant banners have been placed all around the store announcing deep discounts and the proclamation that “Everything Must Go.”  Once the store closes, the building owner may lease to another tenant and a new business can crop up.  And so it goes…

Changes, whether planned or unplanned, can be unsettling at times.  Can you relate to Thomas’ words to Jesus, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  (John 14: 5) When uncertainty, self-doubt, concern and anxiety surround an upcoming move or life status change, I encourage you to read a little further in John where Jesus gives great reassurance:

 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”  (John 14: 15-21)

 No matter what changes you may be facing or even perhaps have already experienced, I hope that Jesus’ words from John will bring you some comfort today.  Or, if you know someone who needs to hear these words, please share them.   Above all, be merciful to yourself  today and allow some time to process, grieve, and accept whatever is going on that may be unsettling.  Be assured we are not alone in any of this.  Peace be with you, my friend.

Feed My Sheep

Feed My Sheep.  3 simple words.  You may recognize them from John 21:15-19.  If you have not read this scripture passage in a while, I encourage you to go and look it up when you have a few minutes.

I share this with you today because Feed My Sheep is a recurring theme in my sometimes unconventional prayer life.  I say unconventional because over the years many of the best prayer moments with God have occurred on Central New York roadways.  Don’t worry, hands-free!    I can sit during morning prayer time at home with my cup of coffee in one hand and daily reading in the other and get very little out of it, but twenty miles down the road later that morning, there have been times when I’ve had to turn down the radio to just be alone with my thoughts and what I’ve come to know as fleeting moments of GRACE and WISDOM.  Did you say something, LORD?  What exactly do you mean by that? 

Yesterday was First Communion Sunday at our parish and at many churches near and far.  One of the hymns’ refrains may be quite familiar to you:  “Shepherd me O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears…”  So many sheep references, but what does it all mean?  That has become my fervent prayer.

Who are these sheep LORD?  And when you say FEED MY SHEEP, are we talking about teaching and guiding or are we talking about nourishment of the body, too?   When I cook for others am I feeding your sheep or am I feeding my ego?  Or possibly both?  I just don’t know.  But what I DO know, is that I’m enjoying the journey.  There have been so many lessons along the way. I wonder what today’s journey will bring.  I have a full tank of gas and I’m ready.   Lead me, LORD.      

Glue People

Who’s your glue?  Who is the person or who are the people that help you find your way in this sometimes crazy life we live?  Our faith reminds us that “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack” (Psalm 23).  While I believe this to be true, I also think there are people in our lives who, very much like angels, accompany us on the journey and make life bearable at times.

Our glue people are most likely some of the people we live with or work with.  Over time, they come to know us at both at our best and worst moments. Often our glue people are the chosen few we trust with the special moments of the heart.   We don’t just let anyone see us cry or share personal news.

While I am no theologian, I trust that Jesus’ disciples had to find some glue people during that time between when he rose from the dead and their encounter on the road to Emmaus.  There’s an old African proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

I hope you might take the time, if you haven’t, to pray for the people who are your glue. Thank them.   And stick with them.  You’ll go far.