Worship at the farm today has been postponed because there is something important to do. Not that coming together and worshipping God isn’t important. It is. Heck, it’s vital. Our worship is what grounds us. It reminds us of what we all too easily forget.
God is good at being God. We aren’t.
Today, though, there is something that needs to get done that goes beyond a video devotion to be posted online. It’s something I can no longer put off.
Today is clean-up day at Old Stone Well Farm.
And as I pull on my mucks and throw on a much-needed ratty sweatshirt to chase away the early morning chill of this spring morning, I think about the overgrown weeds that have moved onto the farm these past three years that I have been gone.
They have laid down deep roots where, if my memory is correct, irises, daffodils, day lilies and lilies of the valley used to bloom around a huge stone imbedded in the ground.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Dressed and ready to battle, I look out at the weeds and overgrown grass as high as my knees. They look defiant standing there in the sun with just a hint of the stone’s head peeking out. I do believe they are mocking me and my weapon of choice—a rusty, old shovel that belonged to mom and her mom before.
I try not to show my doubt in my ability to battle with the weeds and the rest of the overgrowth containing flora I am unfamiliar with.
Please, Lord, let there be no snakes in the mix as well.
I have no idea what I am doing. Perhaps the weeds have heard through the grapevine (not that I have grapes!) that standing before them is no farmer or gardener.
Yet standing before them is a pastor and writer and wannabe farmer who is also armed with a steadfast belief if you put your heart to something and hang on to the truth that all things are possible with God, well, then all things will be possible.
For God knows we yearn to see those beaten down flowers under our weed-filled paths bloom again.
Yes, the weeds don’t look terrified that I am coming their way to relocate them to a nice pile in a gully beyond Sofie’s Hill. I march towards them nevertheless.
I dig in and begin pulling and tugging. I uproot and yank. I throw the shovel aside and engage in hand-to-hand combat. With both hands firmly grasped on a deceptively strong…I don’t even know what it is am grasping…I squat down to brace my body for this impromptu game of tug of war. The weed, or whatever it is, is winning. I dig my heels in more and refuse to give up. One more tug. I just need to hang on.
And the winner is? Not me. I sigh and decide that weed can stay put—for now.
I continue clearing out the area once full of beautiful flowers. As I work, I find the motions of weeding meditative. I begin sharing with God all the “weeds” I am allowing to overshadow the beauty in my life.
The weeds of worry about aging parents, an older disabled brother who will need looking after and a husband who is looking at career change just as I, too, am in the throes of vocational discernment, seeking to write and minister and not yet knowing how that is all going to play—or pay—out.
Fear of having our daily bread still exists even when God sends just enough manna for the day. No wonder God got frustrated with the Israelites who still wanted to hoard the divine provisions.
Please, Lord, don’t let me be the one to frustrate you, I whisper.
I plunge my mud-soaked glove into the thick of the weeds and grab with frustration at them. I feel for the bulbs that lie dormant all because they are being trampled upon. I feel for them because they—like me and like you—hold potential in making this world a beautiful place.
How many times have I felt my dreams being choked by weeds that have gotten out of control?
Weeds of bureaucracy, naysayers, those afraid of the new things God asks of us?
Create a new worshipping community at the farm?
Come back home to an area you once served?
Write and minister and raise cashmere goats and perhaps a sheep or two?
I begin a litany of naming the weeds in my life: “Can’t,” “Not allowed,” “Impossible,” “No,” “Financially not feasible,” “Crazy idea,” “Silly,” “Not our policy,” “Door closed,” “Not an option,” “No discussion.”
Sadly, I realize there are too many weeds to name. I realize, too, the names of my weeds are identical to the names of the weeds in Jesus’ time. Negative statements that keep bulbs from bringing forth potential. Weeds trying their best to choke the power of God.
And with each name I give the actual weeds in my garden, I prayerfully grab hold and spiritually rip them from the soil of my own heart. Soil in which God has mercifully and, at times, ruthlessly, tilled. Soil now primed for an incredible harvest.
Good bye “Can’t,” “Impossible,” “Not allowed,” “No discussion.”
And good riddance to you, “Door Closed” because, in case you have forgotten, Jesus, the Risen Savior, is an expert at walking through closed doors and startling all with his message, “Peace be with you.”
I take the last pile of weeds and hoist them into the wheelbarrow and turn back to the ground before me. I sit and pray.
God is good at being God.
There underneath where the weeds were I see fragile daffodils soak in the new-found warmth of sun finally hitting their limp leaves. Two sprigs of lily of the valley gasp for air. There are a few other non-weed looking green sprouts that I am not sure of, but this I know. They are filled with potential.
A new day has begun here at my fledgling farm.
I take the weeds overflowing the wheelbarrow and dump them in the gully behind the hill named after my bumbling Bernese Mountain dog, Sofie. I feel I need to say a final blessing to them as if I officiating a graveside service.
Blessing the weeds?
While not quite my friends, they have taught me a lesson. They have taught me to persevere and do the hard work of living to my full potential. They have reminded me that while there will always be weeds threatening to suffocate dreams, you must never give up. Yanking, tugging and uprooting are all part of living and are necessary to get to the beauty beneath the ugliness.
With a silent blessing said over the weeds, I turn back to the garden. The sky is blue, the hills and valley are finally turning green, and the weeds are gone—for now.
It’s clean-up day at Old Stone Well Farm.
A day of sweat and hard work and wonderful worship.
May this day become your own spiritual clean-up day. A day to remove all that is choking the God potential within and keeping you from growing into the beautiful creation God has created you to be.
Hi Pastor Donna — Not sure why you started out today with a “worship at the farm today has been postponed” comment. I thought your article today was right on — this being Earth Day (Week, etc.). And it just really felt like a sermon and I fully approve. I wish I could hear more from you — I don’t seem to “get it,” here. With much love to you – and I hope to see you in July.
Thank you, Shirley. I really felt as if I were playing hooky by working outdoors and cleaning out the weeds on this the Sabbath day. I am glad that my time of “worshipful work” was a time of worship for you as well. I cannot wait to see you again!!!
Isn’t it amazing that these small fledgling plants need to overcome the enormous obstacles of darkness, stones, dirt, and seemingly unmovable ground in order to reach that glorious warmth and light? We’re all yanking at weeds, Donna. With each one pulled, a little more light creeps in! Keep looking up! 🙂
It is amazing. 🙂 yes, we are all yanking at weeds. But thankfully we know our efforts are not in vain. God IS good and hope always blooms. Miss you.