Monday, May 25, 2015

Aunt Rose's Poison Ivy Tea

When I was in the vegetable garden yesterday, looking at poison ivy by the gate, right next to the peonies, I was was reminded of Aunt Rose and the time she had the ladies from her senior-citizen Sunday-school class over for lunch. 

Rose kept her house dark in the summer, shades and blinds drawn in order to keep things cool since she didn't have air conditioning. Early that morning she went out to her herb garden to pick mint to put into the iced tea she was serving at lunch. She'd infuse the tea with mint and also put a sprig at the top of each glass.

Dear Rose's eyesight wasn't what it used to be and in the early morning light she failed to discern poison ivy growing alongside the mint. Now the good news is that Rose was one of those rare people who are not allergic to poison ivy; more good news is that when she selected plants with which to infuse the tea she used mint and not poison ivy - but of course there has to be bad news in this story and the bad news is that when she selected sprigs with which to top her glasses she missed the mint and used the poison ivy. 

When the gals arrived for lunch around the dinning room table, with the blinds shut and the shades drawn, they could hardly see what was in front of them. Since the mint aroma permeated the tea they all assumed that the sprigs were mint. 

A few days later the ladies awoke scratching their noses - and the harder they scratched the worse they itched - that is all the ladies except Rose. They first assumed they had come down with pollen allergies and off they went to the local drug store for antihistamine - imagine their surprise when the drug store looked like a rendezvous point for the senior-ladies Bible study, sans Rose.  

The next day they all awoke to more scratching. 

Come Sunday the only one who attended Aunt Rose's luncheon who showed up for church and Sunday school was Aunt Rose - the rest were at home miserable and...quite frankly...rather unsightly. 

In the weeks that followed, as the ladies compared notes, it became clear that the common denominator was Rose's luncheon. The conclusion was that, as improbable as it might be, that they all developed a sudden allergy to mint.  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Spider Mites

This morning I sprayed 8 gallons of horticultural oil on our azaleas to combat spider mites. I have much more to do because we have lots of azaleas. The oil, which is environmentally friendly, smothers the mites. Spraying must be done when the temperatures are low, so morning is the best time. Tomorrow morning I plan to be at it again. The mites can kill the azaleas so spraying is imperative.

When I deal with weeds or harmful insects or plant diseases I'm reminded of my life in Christ and my relationships with others. Gardening is high maintenance; the only plants and flowers that don't require maintenance are artificial ones. Soil is important, pruning is important, water is important, nutrients are important, sunshine is important, preventative care is important, and responding to harmful insects is important. Did I mention that gardening is high maintenance?

I don't relish getting outside with a backpack sprayer as the sun is rising to pump and spray, pump and spray, pump and spray - but I know that if I don't that the azaleas will die. I don't enjoy it when the Holy Spirit reveals sin in my life, but I know that if I don't allow Him to deal with me about sin, that if I don't submit myself to Him, that if I don't allow the Word of God to reveal sin in me, and that if I don't confess my sin and repent of it...that spiritual death will work its way in my heart and mind and soul and spirit. My roots may remain in Christ, but my life will be without fruit, my branches will be dry and brittle, affording neither shade or fruit for others. 

I didn't notice the spider mites but Vickie did. Sometimes I see my sin right away, sometimes I don't. Sometimes others need to point out my sin to me. Sometimes my sin is something only I can see, sometimes it is obvious to others. 

While we can prevent further damage by the spider mites, we cannot undo the damage they have already done. Sometimes when we sin against others we can be redemptive in Christ, ask forgiveness, and significant healing can occur, relationships can be restored. Sometimes when we sin against others we do not have the opportunity to ask forgiveness, sometimes we cannot be redemptive due to constraints outside our control. The latter situation is particularly hurtful and sobering - better to recognize the spider mites early rather than later.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Nashville – Part 6

I had planned to stay in Nashville longer than I did, but as Thanksgiving drew closer I got homesick for Maryland so I ended up leaving a few days before the holiday. In retrospect I wish I’d stayed for Thanksgiving; I was too stupid and self-centered to realize how important it would have been to both Hazel and me. I was young and I was dumb, it ain’t a good excuse but it’s the best one I can use.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Hazel was one of my coworkers in the kitchen at Ireland’s Steak and Biscuits. She was tall and slender with the lines of life on her face, I’m old enough now to know what those lines were, back in Nashville I was young and dumb. All of my kitchen coworkers were kind and good to me, it was one of the nicer places I’ve worked in my many working years.

Early in November, as talk of Thanksgiving arose in the kitchen (the restaurant would be closed Thanksgiving), Hazel asked me if I had a place to go for Thanksgiving. When I told her I didn’t have anywhere to spend Thanksgiving she said, “I’d like you to come to my home and be with my family.” After I accepted the invitation she looked at me closely and said in measured tones, “Bob, I’ve never had a white person in my house, you’ll be the first one.”

This is, I hope you’ll see, why I should have put my homesickness aside and stayed for Thanksgiving – I should have done it for Hazel and I should have done it for me – I know it would have been sweet. Hazel had watched me during my time at Ireland’s Steak and Biscuits; she had watched me work, she had watched me talk, she had watched the way I treated my coworkers, she had watched my friendship develop with Joe and Sally. After all this watching she wanted to invite me into her home.

I can still see my coworkers; Joe and Sally, Irene, Tony, and Hazel. That kitchen was a safe place for me, I enjoyed working there because of them; the work could be long and hot, but the place was safe and relationally relaxed – they all looked out for me, the new guy, they were all kind to me, the stranger in town.

There are times people have said things to me that I’ve never forgotten, things that penetrated deep into my soul, words that were planted within my heart. Some of them have been wakeup calls to rethink what I was doing, even repent; some have been questions to reflect upon, others have been words of encouragement, and yet others are in a category that I can’t define. There was the time a lady said to me, “Do you know why I don’t come to church anymore?”

I replied, “I think I do, but please tell me.”

She said, “Before you arrived here I could sit in church and not have to think about much, not be challenged; but you are clear about what you’re preaching and I’m not ready to accept it.” This lady remained in a women’s Bible study because she had friends in it, and she remained friends with Vickie and me, but she didn’t come back to Sunday-morning church. Her words to me are in the undefinable category.

There is a pastor in Richmond, VA who has said that you don’t really know people until you put your feet under their table at home to eat with them. There is a lot of truth in that statement. I do wish I’d had Thanksgiving at Hazel’s.