Archive for June 2020

Germinating Seeds of Faith

Matthew followed his grandfather out to the old barn. The water line was still visible, its sides warped, leaning from storm damage and the dark, humid interior emanating a dank smell of fertilizer, peat moss, tools and tractor.

“Grandpa, it smells like the pond after the flood. You know…when it receded and left a lot of rot and stuff down along the banks?”

“Yes. But we’ll start by propping open that fallen door and letting in some sunlight and fresh air. Then we can start cleaning up what is salvageable to use again. The tools and tractor are not too severely affected by the flood waters, but the mower and other things might be. I think there’s still some seed over here on the shelves that we might be able to use to plant another crop if it is not too wet or decayed.”

They opened a damp, limp bag, still sealed but smelling like rotting wet hay. “Whew. It smells like… my dead frog.” Matthew said.

“Yes, I guess it does. I’m sorry about your frog.” Grandpa stuck his hand down in the bag, sifting the contents through his fingers testing the texture for signs of any moisture. “It feels dry enough to try. Shall we? It’s corn seed.”

“Plant it? I don’t know. The bag got pretty wet.”

“Yes, but it’s been sealed shut, so nothing else could get in to spoil it, or ruin the contents. You know, Matthew it’s kind of like the scriptures you learned in your bible lessons, about the parables of Jesus, the way he taught his disciples about planting good seed that grows deep in good soil that is cultivated, plowed and watered. The seeds yield a good harvest because they are like the words of Jesus planted in our heart, our soul. They are sealed in, but they don’t stay there if they’re to do any good.”

“I know Grandpa. but when things get ruined or spoiled how can we expect anything good to come from it? And this seed was not even in the ground yet before the storm. Talk about good irrigation!”

Grandpa laughed. “Matthew, do you have just a grain of faith that it will work, that we can make our garden grow? It only takes one seed to grow a plant until ripe for harvest. Don’t you think we can see an acre of corn grow from this one bag of seed? Do you remember the parable about the mustard seed? It only takes one seed, one grain to produce.”

“Yes, I remember. Well, you’re a farmer. A good one. If anyone can do it, you can.”

“Maybe, but, it’s not what I can do, but what God can do with my seed because of my faith. Now, it’s time you learn what a seed can do that has survived a flood with washed out crops. Like those words of Jesus you’ve learned in the parables, that what we see, what we hear, what we plant, what we grow is rooted in a firm foundation, and in this case it is initially the soil that is our foundation; planted, cultivated and prepped to produce a good crop. It is what we do with what we have that builds our faith.”

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Joyce E. Mannhalter © June 2020

Footnotes: scripture references for the above fictional parable are as follows.

[Luke 6:49] NIV

But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed, and its destruction was complete.”

[Mark 4:3] NIV

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. [Mark 4:8] Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

My friend was black

At least a head taller than me, Zach was large for a boy his age.Whatever came his way  he seemed assured, confident and ready to take it on. But, it was not with anger, resentment or violence. He stooped to no one, cowered to none, and stood up for those who befriended him; like me. That is the way I saw him. I thought him a ‘cool guy’. We laughed and joked, talked about the things we liked and the  homework we hated. He was the only black boy in our junior high school in a mostly all white town, with an increasing number of Hispanics moving in to the community adding to the diverse mixture of the ever growing, burgeoning population.

That was sixty years ago. I did not know then or realize until much later how important the lesson learned to treat all whatever one’s color, faith, genetic background or intellectual abilities with a genuine kindness, consideration and respect. During the sixties era with the civil rights movement and unrest, the KKK, the mayhem and protests that followed  a man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. put a name to it and fought peacefully to stop it. It was discrimination at its worst. And today once again it rears its ugly head.

Growing up with friends like Zach taught me a valuable lesson on what a friend is, and who will stick up for us when we are faced or confronted with a situation while seeing others pull away to join ranks with a bigoted crowd. Those are the ones who cannot ‘walk the talk’ of equality and tolerance because they fail to cultivate the soil from which they came.

Zach was teased, harassed and made fun of because he was a lone, black boy in an all white kids’ school and town. It did not matter to the other kids that he was a smart kid, a nice kid with a soldier father serving in the U.S. army. They just found no good reason to like him, because he was black. But, I found plenty and it made no difference about the color of his skin. He was genuine, honest, had respect for others and came from good soil, cut from the same cloth like Martin Luther King Jr. Growing up I heard adults talk about ‘hooligan kids’ who came from ‘bad seed’. But, there is no bad seed with God who created us all in His image. We are a product of the soil or environment from which we grow in, and that which we cultivate.

Zach came from good soil; nurtured, taught and raised to respect the ways of others, their ideals and perspective on life. That is what I saw in Zach that drew me in, to accept him as my friend. When the situation was reversed and it was me who was harassed or bullied he stood up for me and let others know he would not allow a friend of his to be treated in such a way, and the kids backed off. He did not fight back with raised fists, shouting insults or use foul words.

White or black, brown or otherwise. We are all like a seed in the soil of our environment and in it we can grow, cultivate and bloom under one sun, under one nation  with God’s grace and mercy. The choice is ours in how we choose to live, and how we want our voice heard. Protest is not the answer to a problem much bigger than that which we are faced with. Choose not to hate. Choose not to throw bricks or sling insults back with anger and violence. Choose instead to love another regardless of the color of their skin, background or ethnic heritage and treat them as if they are the children of God, because they are, and so are you.

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Joyce E. Mannhalter (June 2020)

 

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