Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Strawberry Farmer

The kingdom of heaven is like a strawberry farmer who went out early in the morning to hire workers to pick his fields. At 7:00 he hired three for $10 an hour. Seeing that the strawberries were plentiful he went out at 10:00 and found more workers waiting to be hired. “Go join the others,” he said, “and I’ll pay whatever is right.”

He went out and did the same at 12:00 and at 2:00 pm. Finally at 4:00 pm he went into the town square and found some workers still lounging around. “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing,” he said.

“No one has hired us,” they said.

“Go and work in my strawberry fields,” he said, “And I’ll pay you whatever is fair.

At the end of the day, he charged his foreman with paying the workers, beginning with the last ones. The workers who were hired at four in the afternoon received $100. Hearing about this, the ones hired first supposed they would receive much more but when their turn came they were given $100. Looking at the dollar bills in their fist, they began to grumble. “It’s not fair, “they said, “We laboured through the heat of the day and received no more than those who worked only an hour.”

Hearing their grumbling, the farmer asked, “Didn’t you agree to work for $10 an hour?”

“Yes,”, they replied but—

“Take your pay, and go,” the farmer said, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” And so the first shall be last and the last first in the kingdom. (See Matt. 20:1-16)

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Drought

The grass crunches under my feet as I walk over the lawn. The sound signals drought. Not nearly as bad as in the US mid-west, but we in Southern Ontario are in the midst of a severe shortage of rain. Farmers are hurting. Lawns are dying. Fires are banned in campgrounds.

In spite of daily dragging the hose from one flowerbed to the next, the daisies and black-eyed susans are wilting. The parched ground quickly gobbles up any water I can deliver. And as the drought lengthens I regret my decision in the spring to beautify the yard with pots of flowers, each of which requires an evening soaking. Along with the flowers, I keep a close eye on my vegetable garden. Nothing must keep me from reaping a bumper crop of tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers. But will my efforts be enough?

Fortunately, we have a well that has never run dry. Springs from higher on the hillside feed the ever-flowing creek at the bottom of our property and continually replenish the well. But surely, there must be a point of no return when the springs will shrink to a minuscule trickle.

Spiritually, many places seem to be experiencing drought. Yet, all those who embrace Jesus as Savior and Lord need have no fear of being parched by a dearth of the Living Water. This was what Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…[it] will become in [any recipient] a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Such a spring quenches our inner soul thirst for forgiveness and acceptance. (See John 4)

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood in the temple and cried; “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn. 7:37,38). How wonderful it is to have that burning thirst within satisfied by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who mediates all the blessings of God.

Jesus was quoting Isaiah, written centuries before. “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3). In the imagery of Isaiah, salvation is like a well from which we draw upon God’s inexhaustible grace. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

If we have been born again by faith in Jesus Christ, we can draw deeply and daily from that well. And let us all continue to pray for relief from the drought.

The Giving Trees

I sat on the deck the other day, just absorbing the beauty of all the greenery surrounding our house. Towering white pine and maple, oak and beech, hemlock and birch. In spite of a warm spring and summer, leaves on trees and bushes are lush.

As I settled further into a contented reverie, I pondered the amazing fact that all those leaves are silently giving, giving, giving. While I’m rushing about exhaling carbon dioxide or roaring down the highway spewing pollutants, they are quietly absorbing carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen.

If only we could learn to give so lavishly; so consistently. Instead of spewing gossip or criticism, judgment or condemnation, we could pour forth encouragement and comfort. (I’ve already had occasion today to be gently rebuked by my wife for unnecessary negativity!)
Jesus teaches us: “Do not judge…do not condemn…give, and it will be given you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you…why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Luke 6:37,38, 41). What a promise of abundant blessing if we can only counter our judgmental tendency!

In the mystery of photosynthesis that goes on so silently, we have an amazing created mechanism that balances taking away the harmful with giving off what is life-supporting. And as each leaf-factory operates, it also produces the food needed by the plant! Trees can teach us to give; to give is to be blessed.

Militant Robins

We have robins nesting front and back; one under our deck and the other on a gable above our front window. When I’m outside weeding the garden or cutting the grass, the robins tend to scold me unmercifully. I get that every year until they wean their young.

We’ve had a long history of militant robins. In a previous location, every year, one robin would attack our living room windows for a week or two. Evidently, it was a male who saw in its own reflection a rival challenging its right to this territory.

It sure messed up the window and the surrounding area, something that made Mary Helen quite unhappy. I tried to tell her that it was only doing what comes naturally, but she was not pacified. She wanted me to invent some kind of gadget to shoo robins away from our windows.

I haven’t done any scientific study, but I’d guess we get the same pair back every year. You’d think they would get to know us and become friendly like the chickadees. But no, as soon as they nest, they scold us unmercifully whenever we go outside. And they often build their mud and straw castles in the most inconvenient places. One year it was on top of the ladder we had hung on the side of our house. Another year it was on the garage door opener. We’d got in the habit of leaving the garage door open during the day. Not very thoughtful of the robins.

Their most recent choice of the supports under the deck, makes it difficult to enjoy the fresh air without enduring a scolding.

Oh, I know robins are innocent of any malice. They’re just acting out their robin-nature which makes me wonder about all the talk about getting back to nature. If we happen to be human beings we don’t want to give in to that temptation. If we do, the result will be insults and anger and aggression and wars and sleeping around and eating until we’re stuffed and a whole lot of other junk. Stuff that our culture may tell us is quite natural. You get the idea.

Counter intuitively, Jesus expects His followers to act contrary to their old nature. After all, one of the main purposes of redemption is to deliver us progressively from our fallen nature. That means being meek like the Master instead of aggressive and pushy. And tough as it sounds, Jesus taught us; Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39) Wow, that’s hard.

Paul exhorts us to follow the same New Covenant principle. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends. (Romans 12:17-19)

Like the robins, we might find it easier to give in to our nature, but God expects a much higher standard from His children. ©