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Olivia enjoying fruit fresh from the garden

Olivia enjoying fruit fresh from the garden

This week I went to a program called the “Justice Kitchen” in Indianapolis.  A couple from San Diego have started a Christian community based in an intentional community that grows a lot of its own food. 
justice kitchen

justice kitchen

We always had a garden when I was growing up in Maine.  It provided all the fruits and vegetables we could ever want and then some.  I remember taking grocery bags of cucumbers to the neighbors, until they said, “Please, we just can’t take anymore.  I’m sorry!”  You know when it’s been a bumper crop year when even all of you friends and neighbors are sick of cucumbers or beans or broccoli or tomatoes.  My mom canned what she could as sour pickles, beets, relishes, green tomato pickles, tomato sauce, and jam.  Although your picture of a Maine landscape may be of vast fields and forests and breathtaking ocean fronts, I grew up in a modest neighborhood on about a half acre of land.  My parents had moved to the relatively more prosperous area of southern Maine to make a living and raise their children.  They took the rural practice of kitchen gardening with them. 

When Todd and I bought our first house in West Chicago in 1998 with our 6-week old daughter, one of the first things we did was start a garden.  We poured innumerable hours into the triangle-shaped garden wedged between the driveway and the sidewalk.  I experiemented with different soil preparations and seed varieties; watered nematode larvae into the soil to attack the squash vine borer eggs, and used a space-ship looking trap to catch Japanese beetles.   We became know as the “house with the sunflowers” because of the wall of 6-ft. yellow flowers that edges the garden.  Planning the garden, planting the garden, growing the garden, and diagnosing the problems of the garden, were what we talked about to friends, families, and church members.  Garden stories were frequently featured in sermon illustrations. 

I rembered the “year of the evil gourd.”  The squash we planted ended up taking over the entire garden, squeezing out the other veggies, literally wrapping around their stems and taking them down.  When the plants finally bore fruit, they were not squash at all, but some weird unintentional hybrid,  the ugly, inedible “evil gourd.”  This was my modern parable of how sometimes what seems like a good thing at first, can end up taking over your life and squeezing out any sense of balance.

Or the sermon about giving abundantly, with the illustation of two huge baskets of tomatoes my garden produced as late as October!  Congregants took a tomato with them as they left the service.

Or the small-child sized zucchini that I found in my garden after having been away on a long mission trip and Todd had forgotten to harvest.  God continues to bring new life, whether we’re paying attention or not. 

Or the Indian corn left over from Thanksgiving decorating that my preschooler Olivia planted.  She carried aroung her first ear of corn for weeks everywhere she went, telling anyone who would listen how she grew this corn “all by myself.”  The picture of her holding the corn with such joy and pride in herself is priceless. 

As pastors, we have led an itinerant life, moving every few years from state to state.  Everywhere we have moved, we have planted a garden and reaped so much more than good food.  We have had untold hours of enjoyment and feelings of pride and satisfaction of what we have partnered with our earth to create.

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