Laila was a city girl. All her family vegetables, fruits & supplies came from a grocery store. They had no cow. No pigs. No chickens. I was a country boy. Took care of the chickens. Worked with my siblings to milk cows, feed pigs and chickens.
We had not been married long until she wanted a garden. She watched while the garden was plowed, soil worked and fertilized, seed sown for multiple vegetables, and plants carefully transplanted into soil. Then came the watering. She watched. Several days passed. She walked into the "garden".
There was nothing but dirt to see. Her interest diminished. My fascination was to please her. With her interest waning and the two of us taking care of twelve parentless teenagers and our own two children it did not take long before weeds were more plentiful than vegetables.
Years passed. A few more feeble attempts at gardening.
This year I planted one tomato plant. Today we have several small tomatoes---still green. No weeds. I am excited at the thought of finally harvesting a big juicy red tomato!
Two things are remarkably clear about gardening. 1. It is hard work. 2. It takes a lot of patience. Well, three things: You have to fight the weeds.
When the Lord called me to be a pastor I was as naive to the mission as Laila was to gardening. Soon the Lord began to teach me that gardening with people is hard work, requiring patience and always working with weeds.
Weeds are non-edible. Taste bad. Kill good plants or keep good plants from maturing fruit. Weeds can increase bugs, insects and other foreign creatures that damage or destroy a harvest.
I had only been pastoring a couple of years when a visit was made to a home. The husband was a "sometimes" church attender. His wife came a little more frequently. They had three children and lived in a small apartment.
The husband worked, but was seldom home. He was unhappy with his wife, who while attractive was about 40 pounds over-weight at age 26. Their romance was struggling.
Sitting on a well-used sofa and trying to find words of encouragement my eyes were drawn to a large framed picture on the wall. The girl in the picture was gorgeous and dressed as a majorette in a high school band.
The mother of the children saw me looking and said: "The picture is me."
The marriage did not survive. The pain of my visit to that home is still very fresh in my memory. In eight years weeds had filled up her life to make her miserable and frightened.
Often we meet people with weeds in their lives and wonder what harvest could have been yielded if they had kept the weeds out.
I am grateful for a terrific pastoral staff and wonderful Elders who prayerfully and carefully work to produce a harvest. We count successes! Covenant is strong because we are patiently laboring to get the weeds out of people's lives so they can live fully in Christ Jesus.
While I wait patiently for a few tomatoes in our back yard WE labor together for Christ with a song in our heart. In recent weeks attendance has been strong, even though vacationing is peak season. Several new Life Groups are being formed. Youth ministry, children's ministry and discipleship are formatting structure to emphasize family involvement.
My dad's people were builders. My mom's people were farmers and herdsmen. I love building more than farming. I want to get on one of the big machines at Covenant and move some dirt. I like the roar of the powerful engines. Often I just stand and watch the construction efforts...wanting to put on work clothes.
But the other part of the team at Covenant is tasked with getting the weeds out of gardens of people's lives. We are trying to plant strongly. Mid-September we will offer Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace for eleven weeks on Wednesdays. Men coming for breakfast fellowship this Saturday at 7:30 AM will begin a series on how to be strong for Jesus.
Will you join with me in sowing and reaping? The Bible says we reap what we sow. Let us commit to offer HOPE to people struggling that they may see a bold future in Christ. Let us hope that we never have to look up on a wall to see a picture of ourselves that once was beautiful!
"This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:8).
Ephesians 5; Hebrews 12.