Monday, February 29, 2016

Lukewarm Crops & Laodiceans
Part 1:
Blocking the Son
Even the richest soil produces a disappointing crop if the gardener doesn’t let the sun warm it up. We learned that the hard way last year.

We had worked the year before on improving our soil, adding lots of amendments, letting some of it lie fallow, and covering all of it with a rich mulch of leaves in the fall.  We continued that as we put our warm weather crops in right after the last frost date; we added more compost, bone and fish meal as we planted. The soil was nice and dark, and loaded with worms. It looked like we were on track for a good crop.

  Then we made our mistake—we put a thick mulch of wood chips down before the soil warmed up. That prevented the sun from fully warming the soil. It looked great, and kept the weeds down, but it also kept soil temperature down. The result was a disappointing crop. Not a total failure, but well below what we had produced in the past. The results were lackluster at best.

Similar dynamic controls our spiritual lives. In Revelation 3:14-21 St. John delivers Jesus’ message to the church at Laodicea. It was materially rich, but was not producing the fruit Jesus wanted because it had not opened itself to the fire of His love. That negated the good their earthly resources could have done. Some thing got between the Laodiceans and the Son, just as something got between our soil and the sun. The results were similar. Both were only “lukewarm,” and Jesus was no more satisfied with the Laodiceans than we were satisfied with our summer crop. 

The good news is that those kinds of problems can be overcome. More on that in another post.

[Credit where credit is due; the idea for this post came from Pastor Dave Mann’s sermon on Revelation 3:14-21, delivered on Feb. 28, 2016. A recording of that sermon can be heard/downloaded here.]

Saturday, February 27, 2016

About Us

What We Do
We strive to deliver Jesus’ love in four ways:

The first is by feeding the hungry. We generate thousands of pounds of fresh produce each year for hunger relief organizations. To date we have delivered about 30 tons of fresh produce. Most of that goes to the  Hilliard Summer Lunch Program, to the kitchens of Faith Mission, and to food panties supported by Mid-Ohio Foodbank

The second is by welcoming immigrants. We use the gardening process and the food it generates to welcome folks from Iraq, Somalia, and other troubled regions. We do that by building friendships, enhancing English language skills, and learning about each others’ cultures as we garden together and teach each other different ways to cook the crops we grow. We also share a fair amount of our production with participants in SON Ministries' Family ESOL program.

Third, we try to preserve God’s wonderful creation by diverting restaurant and yard waste from the waste stream into our compost bins. Over the last two seasons we have turned almost 800 cubic yards of waste into mulch and compost to recharge our soil. That is made possible by lots of compostable materials provided by Crimson Cup CoffeeMission Coffee,  Site Maintenance, our immediate neighbors, and by the 3,500+ members of Upper Arlington Lutheran Church(“UALC”).

         Fourth, we help each other walk more closely with Jesus. We do that through Bible study and mutual prayer support

How We Do It
We are an all volunteer operation. Most of our volunteers come from Cornerstone Christian Fellowship and UALC.  We have a core of group of about a dozen volunteers, supplemented by fluxuating numbers of other volunteers and immigrant friends. We have been blessed with high quality volunteers; three of our folks have won the “Community Gardener of the Year” award from Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing To Green program. 

We seek to maximize production because more production means less hunger and more welcoming for our immigrant friends.  We therefore work from a common plan to get as much as we can out of our space.  We grow spring, summer, and fall crops. We also use companion planting techniques to enhance production. We became a completely organic operation during the 2014 growing season.

We are entering our ninth growing season.

We began in 2008 with a 40 by 80-foot plot of lousy soil, tilled/amended it, learned as we went forward, and ended up providing about 1,000 Lbs. of produce to two hunger programs. We improved our operations in 2009 by more thorough planning, further amending our soil, recruiting more volunteers, adding an irrigation system and protective fencing. The result was that we tripled our impact—we provided 3,060 Lbs. of produce to six hunger programs.

         We had to relocate in 2010 because the land our original garden was on was sold. Although starting over was demanding, it allowed us to almost double our production space. We also improved our irrigation system, refined our crop sequencing/selection, involved more volunteers, and all that paid off—Our production increased by 278% over the previous year.

         We further expanded during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, both in terms of adding growing space and broadening our ministries. We added additional beds, and our immigrant and composting ministries. We converted to organic operations in 2014. 

         We have been one of Central Ohio’s Hub Gardens since 2012.

Where We Are
Our garden is on UALC's Mill Run Campus, in northwest Columbus, Ohio, literally across the street from Hilliard Ohio. Our Street address is 3500 Mill Run Dr., Columbus, Ohio, 43026

 We have 12,500 square feet of growing space, distributed between 53 raised beds.  We are blessed with a storage shed built as an Eagle Scout project, and 48 cubic yards of compost bins built by a different Eagle Scout. Our water comes from the Mill Run retention pond for most of the season and from UALC’s Mill Run Building at the very beginning and end of each growing season. 

Who Supports Us
 UALC has generously provided our operating funding. That has been supplemented by grants from Scotts Miracle-GroCity of Columbus & Franklin CountyThe Columbus Foundation, Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing To Green Program,  and Columbus SOUP. We have also been blessed by donations from Decker ConstructionHome Depot in HilliardDarby Creek NurseryStrader's Garden Center, Johnny's Selected SeedsHigh Mowing Organic Seeds, Peet's Coffee & TeaCrimson Cup CoffeeMission Coffee, and Site Maintenance.

Contact Information
The best way to reach is is through one of our Garden Stewards:

Todd Marti
614-306-1793 (cell)

Irma Chon
614-560-6190 (cell)

Monday, February 8, 2016

What We Can Learn About the Christian Life from Compost

Part 4:
We have to go through tough stuff, but God Provides Ways for us to Get Through It

The ingredients of compost are not nearly as potent as the finished product. That potency only comes if they are subjected to the composting process. That process is not easy on those ingredients. The best compost comes from a process that usually involves shredding, decomposition, microbial activity,  high temperatures, and periodic shake ups. That is tough and totally transformative, but it results in something with far more value than the ingredients had at the outset.  What can we lean from that?

We usually have to go through tough stuff to become as fruitful as God wants us to be
Scripture makes it clear that we too must go through tough stuff to become as fruitful as God wants us to be. Deuteronomy 8:2-6 explains how the Israelites’ hardships in the desert were necessary to transform them from slaves of men to instruments of God. Joseph and David had to go through extraordinarily hard things to be prepared for their extraordinary fruitfulness. Jesus described that dynamic in in John 15:1-2, explaining that God prunes branches to make them more fruitful. That same truth is reflected in Proverbs 3:11-12, Sirach 2,  Romans 5:3-5, Hebrews 12:4-13, and James 1:2-4. The continuing nature of that principal can be confirmed by talking with extraordinarily fruitful Christians today; almost without exception they will tell you that they had to be “composted” before they could produce what God called them to.  Sirach 2:1 puts it well: “if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal”(New Jerusalem Bible).

God gives us ways to deal with that tough stuff
That’s not fun, but it’s not impossible. “God is faithful and … with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13. See also, John 16:33. Here are three of the most important ways to get through life’s “composting” times.

Talk to God
This is the most important; we are explicitly told to talk to God about the difficulties we must go through.  Scripture instructs us to ask Him for wisdom about how to deal with difficulties and for help in dealing with stress that comes with them. James 1:2-5, Hebrews 4:14-16; Philippians 4:6-7.  See also Psalm 24:4-5 ; Psalm 86:11; Psalm 119:10, 19, 26-27, 34-36, 66, 125, 133, 176.  God really wants us to do this, we are told to keep pestering Him. Luke 18:1-8; Luke 11:5-8. See also Matthew 15:21-28.

We don’t have to sugar coat our prayers. There are multiple examples of godly folks, even Jesus Himself, expressing concerns about what God asked them to go through. Exodus 3:11-15;  4:1-5; 5:19-6:1, 6:28-7:5; 32:11-14; Numbers 11:21-23, Joshua 7:6-9; 1 Kings 19:8-18;  Jeremiah 1:4-19; Matthew 26:39-44; Mark 14:32-40; Luke 22:40-46.

It’s also fine to ask for help completing what God has called you to,  Psalm 86:16, Palm 119:28-29, 37, 42, 125, 173,  and for help/deliverance generally. Exodus 14:10;  Psalm 25:19-20, Psalm 70, Psalm 119:22, 28, 31, 39, 58, 94-95, 116, 122, 134, 147, 153-154; Acts 4:29-30. Scripture shows us that we can also ask for comfort and reassurance. Psalm 25:17-17; Psalm 86:1-4; Psalm 119:38, 76-77, 135.

Finally on this point, it’s even OK to gripe to God. See e g.  Genesis 15:1-6;  Numbers 11:11-15; Numbers 16:15; 1 Samuel 1;  Psalm 22:1-2, 12-18;  Psalm 55:16-17; Psalm 62:8;  Psalm 88; Psalm 119:28; Matthew 27:46.  That is a far better alternative to bitching and moaning to other folks. I can tell you from hard experience that only latter approach only reinforces your negative emotions. That’s probably why scripture tells us to avoid it. Wisdom 1:11; Philippians 2:14-15.                           

Keep things in perspective
         Another way to deal with the stress of tough transformative experiences is to keep them in perspective. God has perfect love for us and perfect knowledge of what we need to be and receive all the good He intends. Wisdom 7:22-26; Proverbs 8:1-21;   He knows that some of the very best things can only come about if we go through rough stuff.  He therefore sometimes let us suffer because it will lead to greater good, either for us or others. Hebrews 12:7-11; James 1:2-4.

It is easier to bear that suffering if we keep that that dynamic in mind. Perhaps that’s why God went to pains to to tell Moses why He was asking him and the Israelites to go through the trials involved in the exodus. Exodus 3:14-16; 6:1-8; 7:1-5 & 13; 10:1-2; 11:9-10; and all of chapter 14. And perhaps that’s why Jesus kept highlighting the bigger picture of His passion as He was going through the very tough details. Matthew 26:20-25,26-29, 45-46, 53-54, 56; Luke 22:15-23, 28-30, 31-34,53, 60-61 67-69; John 18:7-9, 11; 19:9-11  And that’s probably why scripture repeatedly tells us to look for the very great good that is on the other side of our suffering. See e.g.  Psalm 37: 10-11, 29, 34, 37-38 ;  Sirach 2:2-9; Romans 8:18; Hebrews 12:1-2 

Doing Good
Finally, another great help is helping someone else. It gets your mind off of what you are going through, and replaces negative emotions with positive ones. That approach is most explicitly described in Psalm 37, a Psalm David wrote about going through tough times. In it he twice tells to “do good” while we are in the midst of our difficulties,  vv. 3, 27,  something he also told us in Psalm 34:14. David was not alone in this. Jesus did some specific good things while he was going through His passion. Luke 22:49-51; Luke 23:39-43; John 18:3-9.  

Are these things easy? No. Are they silver bullets? No. Are there other things we need to do while we are suffering or do for other folks while they are suffering? Yes. But these things must help or God wouldn’t have told us about them, and I can tell you from my own experience that they do help.