The Tip of the Spear

I have asparagus! Over a month ago, I mentioned that I had planted 18 asparagus crowns in a row out on the edge of our yard. Yesterday, I saw the first sign of life from those plants. When I say I have asparagus, I more accurately have only one plant definitely growing, but that is asparagus. I’m confident that the others will come along presently. And some of those that sprout later might wind up producing far more spears for me. Who knows?

Who knows indeed. Last night, I scanned that asparagus trench looking for more of the little fern-like fingers poking up amidst the clover and bluegrass that lap over into the dirt. I didn’t find any more, but I’m convinced that within a few days, more shoots will be above the ground. I’m convinced that by summer’s end, I’ll have all 18 plants growing. Maybe it’ll be fewer, but I have a hope for 18.

Gardening is an act of delayed gratification. You place a seed into soil and wait for it to sprout. You then carefully nurture it, believing that it will grow. When it’s nearly time to set that plant out into the wild, open world of the garden, you expose the plants to the sun for a few hours over several days to harden them off, believing that the sun and the wind won’t destroy them. Then you put them into the garden bed prepared for them, train them up, keep pests off, pull weeds, and, perhaps 80 days later, you begin to pluck fruit.

Some vegetables yield more quickly. I’m convinced that you can plant radishes in the morning and harvest in the evening. Others take nearly the entire season, but all of them require time and hope. You bury something in the ground, you place it outside where all manner of things can attack it, you invest your time in caring for it, and all the while you believe that there will be tomatoes or squash or beans or something good produced. Paul could have been speaking of gardening when he wrote this:

So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.–2 Corinthians 4:18

There’s a parable in my single asparagus plant. I felt joy when I saw that frail, ferny stalk emerging from the soil. That joy, however, is just a tiny glimmer of the joy (and good food) that will eventually follow from that row of plants. More profoundly, all the blessings of today are a down payment on the incalculable riches that await us in eternity.

We plant. We wait. We have hope, and the outcome will be amazing. And until that day comes, at least we can grill some asparagus.

Psalm 40 for half marathon

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.
–Psalm 40:1-3

To Err Is Human (Hebrews 5:2)

He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. (Hebrews 5:2)

Last night, as choir rehearsal let out, I collected my teens for the trip home. I found Olivia exactly where she should have been, minding the little urchins who had been left in child care through the evening’s various activities. Thomas, however, proved more difficult to locate. I searched everywhere for him and called home, but he refused to be found.

Eventually, after Olivia and I decided to go for a soda to cool our–okay, my–frustration, Thomas called. It seems that, despite the presence of both me and my perfectly good car at the church, he had finagled a ride home. The girl who drove him, first had to deliver a girl in Grain Valley, five miles east of the church. Then she brought Thomas en route to her house, five miles west of the church.

I might have been a bit snarky when he called. Some comment about being abducted by pirates came out of my mouth. As I headed home myself, I planned my actions. First, I would smash Thomas’ phone, which he apparently can never answer when we need him, with a ball peen hammer. Then I would ground him until after the London Olympics.

By the time I got home, I’d moderated my plans. Calmly, I explained how frustrating I found the experience and what I expected him to do in the future. The ball peen hammer never came into play.

Anger is easy, but it’s not terribly productive. Thomas made a mistake, something I can easily relate to. If I didn’t make mistakes myself, then I guess I’d be in a better position to stand all high and mighty over him. But I can make mistakes. I do them regularly.

Jesus, during his life on earth, didn’t make mistakes in the sense of sinning, but I have to think that he stubbed his toe or feel asleep at inopportune moments–like in a boat during a storm. Today’s verse assures us that Jesus was subject to weakness. That’s the nature of man. Thomas got the benefit of my realization of that fact last night. I enjoy the benefit of Christ’s mercy, a product of his human years, every day.

The Outside Voice (Hebrews 1:1)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways. (Hebrews 1:1)

We live in a communication-rich world. Just this morning, I’ve managed to communicate with my two oldest daughters without setting eyes on either one of them. Between the ubiquitous cell phone, the text message, Twitter, Facebook, and good, old-fashioned hollering, we can communicate through many channels and with the greatest of ease. Emily, on a train to Chicago, managed to take a photo of the grandkids with her phone and, using Amtrak’s wifi, post it to Facebook. That so beats the squalling I heard when they rose at 5:00 this morning.

I appreciate the ease of communication that we enjoy, but that ease does not equal profundity. Even that most prolific of the prophets, Isaiah, wrote relatively little by the standards of the world. Compare Isaiah’s sixty-six chapters to the 1,056 lines that comprise Milton’s Paradise Lost. Or the 100 cantos of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Yes, both of those works are quite profound, but many even longer works–think of perhaps one of James Michener’s vast novels–make up for their lack of importance with a hefty page count.

God spoke to our (Hebrew) ancestors at many times and in various ways, but he did not blather on endlessly. Read the life of Abraham to see how a series of powerful experiences were interrupted by long years of normality. If Isaiah wrote at a steady pace, which he probably did not, he would have churned out just the equivalent of a chapter each year throughout his career.

A young Christian expects God to speak clearly, powerfully, and pretty much nonstop. As we move through our lives, we recognize that most of the time even the still, small voice is a great deal more definite than what we hear from God. We need to learn a lesson from those Old Testament prophets, listening carefully in order to be ready for those rare eruptions of God’s “outside” voice.