I’m up early working outdoors on my little portable desk at the corner of the Carriage House overlooking the north meadow. The meadow is freshly mowed so that lends charm to the already serene view I have enjoyed or had in my heart since October 1, 2017 when we first drove out Vrooman Road and noticed the place.
Last night I cleared a little flower bed in the Walnut Grove. I tried to get some “Wandering Jew” going there. We will see how that goes. I may regret it, but I wanted to try to get something going and that crazy stuff, like God’s ancient people, thrives wherever you plant it. It has little blue/purple flowers.
I’ve spent the past two weeks speaking at summer camps in northern Michigan—The Springs and Camp Barakel. I spoke to Sr. High Camp at the Springs and workers at Camp Barakel. In between I traveled to Ohio to perform the wedding of the daughter of Charles Perlos, who sold us Bittersweet Farm, and preached each weekend at Bethel. Now I have gladly settled back into my work at Bethel Church.
The sky is always changing over line of trees that divides the near-north field from the far-north field. Last night is was blue and brushed with faint pink. This morning it is partly blue but mostly gray with clouds. The birds are noisy as if I am the one who is a guest on their property. I hear a whirr and turn to see a humming bird over the bee balm and coneflower in the flower bed I like to call “The Bird-Bath Garden”. It used to be a flower bed but I am pleased to publicly announce that I have four very promising tomato plants growing there.
As a friend gently pointed out recently, I am in my seventh decade of life. In all these over sixty years I have not yet eaten a tomato I tended myself. These plants came from tiny, tiny starts given to me by Pam Wentzloff. I drove over one afternoon last spring to visit and stood the required distance away from Randy in the front yard and talked about things. Randy and Pam are new to Bethel and it was good to get to know them and see their home. I put the plants in the back of my car and drove over to the church and set them out in the sun while I worked so the little starts would not wilt and die in the heat of the car.
It was good to chat with Randy in his pleasant neighborhood, but beyond a meaningful pastoral visit, I was not at all confident that I could tend the little plants until real tomatoes grew on them.
When I brought the plants home they did not look very promising. I set the container on the porch and moved it around to keep it in the sun and watered it until the some of the little plants started to reach up toward the sun. In my inexperience I think I killed a few of the starts with the water. When I set the plants out they could barely hold their heads up. Now there are four of them and they are over two feet tall.
As and act of wild optimism I have given them each their own wire cage upon which to grow and bear fruit.
When I returned from camp I noticed they were doing well and I fairly broke into celebration when I saw there were a few yellow blossoms starting.
I know exactly what I am going to do with the first tomato I tended myself. I will set it in the window and head down to Polly’s to get some good bacon. I will enlist my Kentucky wife to fry some crisp bacon and make BLT sandwiches with Dave’s Killer Bread, lightly toasted, that’s what.
With people and with tomatoes it is God who gives the growth. He supplies the real miracles. When I preach Psalm 8 I always say, “He helps us and he lets us help him.”
When helping people grow and flourish it’s good to remember the tomatoes. He is the one who does what only he can do. We can tend to people and pray and celebrate growth but only God can do the miracle part. Only God.
So every day I watch my tomatoes and tend to the people God has placed in my care. I water them with the word and tend them and celebrate every promising blossom of potential fruit and I pray and listen, I preach and exhort and encourage. Sometimes I laugh and I celebrate. Sometimes, honestly, I grieve and my heart is heavy. Some people just don’t look like they are gong to make it, but then God can do what I cannot do.
I’ll let you know about my tomatoes.