by Jill Boekenoogen,

ABC’s Administrative Assistant

Not many of you are aware that I am a member of the Pasadena Community Garden, which means I have a 4-by-12- foot raised bed in which to grow vegetables.  Anyone who has ever cut a fresh ear of corn and immediately cooked and consumed it, knows the value of freshly grown vegetables and fruits.

Much to the amazement of the farmers’ daughters in our ABC midst, I also enjoy preserving and pickling my produce.  They can’t see the need of obtaining fresh cucumbers, creating the pickling brine and then canning the outcome.  Isn’t it just easier to buy a jar from the supermarket?  Well, there is a big difference to my taste buds.

My little plot in the community garden is not big enough to deal with vining plants which can take over a garden so I decided to plant some squash and my pickling cucumbers in the church’s dirt.  I thought the railing next to the front steps would provide the support needed for the cucumber vines.

I planted some seeds in containers with the idea of later transplanting them to the church plot.  I used several seeds from the same packet, planted them in the same soil mix, used the same type of pot, and put the seeds in the soil on the same day.  I kept them on my front porch until I transplanted them in their disposable pots into ABC soil on the same day, four weeks ago.  In other words these seeds each had the “cucumber DNA” to become a great plant.

That’s when something interesting happened.  Plant number one took off.  I believe it even grew overnight; putting on new leaves and branching out.  I swear it seemed to grow while I was in worship service one Sunday.  It has blossoms on it, along with large leaves, and I have begun trying to train it up the railings.  It even has tiny cucumbers beginning to show.   I don’t have any idea why this plant is flourishing in its corner.

Two of the other plants have added a few leaves and are making an effort.  I am only hoping that these two are taking their time putting down deep roots to protect the plant when the heat comes.  They are showing growth, but not at the rate of plant number one.

Plant number four, to me, is the most interesting.  The day after I transplanted the cucumbers, I noticed that something had decided to have its meal at this little plant’s expense.  Overnight, almost all of its leaves were eaten away, all but stumps attached to the stems.  Two Sundays ago someone commented that it appeared the plant was dead.  But the plant hung in there; now it has three new leaves.

Now here comes the Christian parable: We may be surprised by the fast growth of many Christians. They seem to blossom and grow almost before our eyes.  Their blooms form fruit and we are glad.

I’ve often felt like plants numbers two and three.  I slowly, ploddingly put out new branches.  Nothing quick, just steady new life slowly showing around my roots and stem.   I just hope my roots are deep enough in the Word of God, the life of  service,  fellowship, worship, and prayer, that when the heat and pressure comes, I can withstand them.

Unfortunately, I have also known some Christians who seem to be constantly under attack, like my plant number four.  They are hit hard by abusive or toxic relationships, financial ruination, debilitating medical diagnoses or mental illness. There seems to be little left to sustain health; they seem to be barely surviving.  But there is enough “Christian DNA”  root and stem there to support new growth, even if there’s only one leaf now.  I have witnessed many such cases.

Hopefully, I will be able to pick  fruit from all my cucumber  plants before the end of summer.  I believe that the same will be true in my Christian parable, that God will harvest fruit in each of our lives. I’d like to point out to all you plants, whether number one, two, three or four, that we all have the same DNA given by the Holy Spirit. We can be happy when someone seems to rush ahead of us and bloom in ways we can only marvel  at.  Those of us who experience mostly slow, steady growth can produce strong stems and roots, and that too is reason for rejoicing.  Those of you who feel like you have received one near-fatal attack after another — I’d like to remind you that you are surrounded by people who share your Christian DNA and have noticed and been encouraged by your small steps of triumphant growth. Hang in there!