Get it? How about, “My heart BEETS for you…”? If you guessed that these are signs in a vegetable garden, you are correct! I couldn’t help but chuckle yesterday as I walked through a large garden that has been planted by several families who worship at our church. But I guess that I should back up a moment and tell you about how this all happened.
It’s that time of year when our church is one of the host sites for the GLS – the Global Leadership Summit – broadcast out of Willow Creek Church in South Barrington, IL. Other than last year, we have been a host site for almost 20 years. During that time, Janet and I have always volunteered to help set up for the event which started today and will finish tomorrow. So, yesterday, I went over to help set up tables for break out sessions and make sure that they had tablecloths, etc.
We have always volunteered to serve on set-up rather than miss any of the sessions during the actual event. Aside from that, the pace is less frenetic and people tend to get to know each other and share their stories, etc. As our Summit attendance is down this year, our particular jobs didn’t take as long as we thought it would and we were finished early.
Since I had a little time before my next appointment, I decided to drive to the back of the church property and walk the gardens. I have heard about them, and know that families have plots of ground that they tend to, but I have never taken the time to actually explore a little. I learned quite a bit – for example, I didn’t know that there was a monarch butterfly “way station” out there, a place set aside for giving butterflies a place of their own in a natural habitat, free from the influence of mankind.
And there is a nature trail that has been cut through the acreage in the rear of the land (we own about 50 acres of church grounds) that I didn’t have time to explore yesterday. I also didn’t know that we had picnic tables and water gathering systems and hoses and tools and a covered shelter – all for use by people who grow flowers or vegetables out back. I almost forgot about the apple orchard! I saw that also as I walked along.
But I was most impressed by the various gardens that had flowers, squash plants, cucumbers, herbs, peppers, tomatoes and a host of other vegetables. One family in particular showed their sense of humor by creating signs that caused me to think about what they were really saying. The idea of loving each other and showing that love through their working of the soil demonstrated their joy in growing things for others.
I was so impressed by their clever signs that I used one of them as the title of my post this evening. The care with which they tended the crops was clearly evident and as I stood out there in the hot sun, I had a different view of why people work these plots of ground.
Both of my grandfathers loved the land. My Dad’s father planted a huge garden and Grandma canned everything you can think of year after year. She even taught me to put up pickles, plum butter, make jellies and jams, sweet watermelon rind and all kinds of ways to store fruits and vegetables throughout the winter.
My Mom’s father looked at the seasons as a way that God divides the year. Spring represented new growth, the summer when things grew and matured, sometimes after adverse conditions such as extreme heat, rain or drought – fall was the time of the harvest, yielding the benefit of having tended to crops throughout the summer – and then winter, when God allows the land to rest. It is a time of rejuvenation and great expectation for the coming spring when the cycle will begin again. I learned so much from Grandpa – and it showed when I had my own gardens.
When we lived in suburban Chicago, Janet and I had almost four acres of land that included a 2400 sq. ft. garden. We grew peas, beans, strawberries, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and a whole host of flowers and vegetables. We canned things and Kristin, as a very young girl, would go out there and help me tend to the plants. She loved our time together in our garden and we even had it irrigated to help things grow throughout the dry summers. It was one of the highlights that Janet and I enjoyed in the early years of our marriage.
I never realized how many times plants and vegetables are mentioned in the Bible. Usually, the references are to how vegetables aren’t as good as meat! But there are several references to the healthy attributes of plants as a food source. Since I am on a mission to lose a few pounds, and I have been eating loads of veggies, I prefer to focus on the great benefits of eating this way. So our verse tonight deals with Daniel and his friends as they were held in captivity. This is the story of the lion’s den, but look what we are told in the book of Daniel.
We are told by Daniel, as he was speaking to the King’s official, in Daniel 1:12-16, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.”
My encouragement this evening is that God loves it when we use His resources to sustain ourselves and appreciate what He has created for us. My prayer is that we will all be stewards of the land and its produce – especially when we dedicate our efforts to help those who can truly benefit from our efforts as an act of love and caring. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…