Monday, July 26, 2010

What We Can Learn about Discipline From Tomato Cages

Tomatoes and peppers that are caged or staked are more productive than those that are not. Absent that support, they tend to grow crooked, sprawl out, or flop over onto the ground. That’s not great.

That changes if you add the discipline of a cage or a stake. Although that is more trouble in the short run, it is well worth it. Staked/caged plants grow more vigorously, perhaps because more of their leaves receive sunlight. They produce more fruit per square foot because they take up less space. The fruit they produce is healthier because it is off the ground and hence less susceptible to rot. The bottom line is that the external discipline of a cage or a stake does a world of good. That’s why we’ve been soliciting tomato cages and are so grateful for those we’ve received.

The same dynamic is applies to people. Left to ourselves, we’re not nearly as fruitful as we can be, for a variety of reasons. But that changes if we accept discipline; we become healthier and more productive. In a word, more fruitful. That’s why scripture repeatedly stresses the importance of accepting discipline ourselves, imposing loving discipline on our kids, and the consequences of not doing those things. See Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11-12, 6:23b, 12:1, 13:1, 13:18, 13:24, 15:5, 15:32, 19:20, 22:15, 23:12, 23:13, 29:15; Sirach 7:23, 30:2, 7-13; I Timothy 4:7b; II Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 12:11; II Peter 1:5-6; Revelation 3:19.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What Can We Learn From Our Tomato Plants?

Looking at how vibrant our tomato plants are now, it’s hard to believe how sickly they were in mid-May. The transformation has been tremendous—they went from barely hanging on to being the picture of fruitful vitality. How did that happen? What can we learn from it? At least five things.

First, they were transformed because they took in things that they lacked. Those plants were undernourished, so we placed bone and blood meal in the soil where they were planted. They thrived because they took that in.

It’s the same way with us. Scripture tells us that we’re deficient in our own, natural, state. John 13:8, Romans 3:23. We therefore need something beyond ourselves—from God—if we are to grow into the healthy, fruitful, people He wants us to be. See Proverbs 2:6, Wisdom 8:21, Sirach 1:1. We have to accept that reality—and those things—to grow.

Second, those plants had to go to the extra nutrients. Those nutrients were mixed into the surrounding soil; the plants had to extend their roots beyond their original balls to get to them. They never would have become vital if they hadn’t moved beyond their original condition.

That’s also true of us. Jesus tells us that we have to make affirmative effort to grow into what He wants from us, that we must make the affirmative effort of going after what God has for us. Matthew 7:7-8, Matthew 11:28, Mark 8:34-35. Those directions are in line with what is said in the Old Testament. Proverbs 2:4-5, Proverbs 4:5,7, Sirach 14:22-27. Although real change is impossible without God’s grace, it also impossible unless we move towards Him.

Third, they had to incorporate those nutrients into all aspects of their being. Those plants are healthy now because they absorbed those nutrients into their very substance: their stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit. They wouldn’t have thrived if those nutrients never went beyond their roots.

Once again, the same is true of us. Scripture study, Bible memorization, and teaching do little good if we don’t incorporate what we learn from them into our day-to-day lives. We have to apply scriptural principles in all aspects of our lives—in our work, in our stewardship, in our family and social interaction— to become as fruitful as God wants us to be. That’s why the Bible says that we must be “doers of the Word.” James 1:22. See also Matthew 7:24-27.

Fourth, their current fruitfulness was the result of many small, subtle, changes made over time. They weren’t transformed over night. Instead, their current fruitfulness was the result of a series of small changes that were mostly imperceptible as they were made. They had to expand their roots and strengthen their stems. That happened a little bit at a time, a few millimeters each day. That incremental growth was not obvious, but each increment was essential to their reaching their current levels of fruitfulness.

Our fruitfulness comes about the same way. It is the result of innumerable small changes. One day we decide to implement some scriptural principle by giving up some little activity, thought, etc. that’s not terrible, but that’s also not terribly productive. Another day we put God’s word into practice by doing something positive that it teaches. Most of those changes do not seem very significant at the time, but they each lay the groundwork for increased fruitfulness, and their cumulative effect can be amazing. The scriptural principle that accumulation little by little is the way to riches, Proverbs 13:11, applies to more than finances.

Fifth, the result of all those things is an enhancement of what those plants are, not their transformation into something else. They became very healthy tomato plants, not eggplants, squash, or peppers. All the things discussed above didn’t change their basic nature; it just brought out the best in that nature.

The same usually occurs when we apply God’s principles to lives. He usually doesn’t change our basic nature. Instead, He makes us a much better version of what He’s always intended us to be.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wise Counsel

Scripture makes it clear that that we benefit greatly when we listen to the advice of others. Proverbs 11:14 sums it up nicely: “in an abundance of counselors there is victory.” See also, Proverbs 1:5, 12:15, 13:10, 15:22, 19:20, 20:18, 24:6, 27:9. The reality of that principle came home to me in two ways as I was working in the garden this past weekend.

The first is quantitative. We’ve harvested a little more than a ton of produce this year, but the bulk of that wouldn’t have existed if we hadn’t listened to the counsel of one of our core folks, Glenn Demott. He pushed hard for a spring crop, but I resisted because I thought we couldn’t do one and get everything else done that was necessary to set up the new garden. Glenn eventually talked me into it, and am I glad he did. The spring crops accounted for 1,357.75 pounds of what we’ve been blessed to harvest. The result is that a lot more people have been fed.

The second is qualitative. Another area of the garden plan I resisted was peppers. I was convinced that they were a waste of space, but others persisted in advocating for them, and we agreed to do put some in. Regardless of their production (which has been amazing), they have generated some real beauty, as evidenced by the picture set out above. That beauty only exists because wise counsel was heeded.

Monday, July 5, 2010

We're Growing a Ton of Vegetables!

We've harvested 2,082.75 Lbs of fresh produce so far this year. This past week we harvested 618.1 Lbs., one of our best weeks ever.

To put that in perspective, last year we didn't break the ton mark until mid-September.


Friday, July 2, 2010

A Gardener's Prayer

Father, conform me to Your garden plan so that I am used to the fullest, with no wasted space, to produce what You want. Your plan is perfect; help me to remember and accept that, even if I don’t understand the details.

Give me all I need to produce the crops You want. Help me to use those things to the fullest, with no waste.

Help me to yield exactly the crop You want, precisely the quality and quantity You are looking for. Help me generate fruit so pleasing that You can't help but smile.

Protect me from anything that would interfere with that result; keep those things away from me but, if I must be exposed to them, cleanse and heal me from their adverse effects.

Give me patience to get through the times when You want me to develop roots, stems, and leaves instead of fruit, and during the times I need to lay fallow.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Taken from Gardening for God