What does it mean to be an Easter People?

If you’ve attended a church service on Easter, you might have heard the pastor say that Christians are an “Easter People”. What exactly does that mean?

First, did you know that Sundays are NOT technically the Sabbath? Nope! Christians gather to worship on Sunday because it’s the Day of Resurrection – AKA the day of the week Jesus was raised from the dead. The Sabbath, according to Jewish tradition, is Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel a whole lot better about sleeping in on Saturdays and doing a whole bunch of nothing. 

Jumanji: when you wake up from your 3rd nap of the day - "what year is it?"

https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/comments/fq1x0l/quarantine_naps/

Second, did you know that Easter isn’t a one-day celebration? It’s actually a 50-day church season that starts on Easter Sunday and ends on Pentecost. 

Easter isn’t just a one-time celebration or feast day. It’s ongoing. Every Sunday is, at its core, a mini-Easter, and there’s a good chunk of the year that we should be celebrating as Easter. Whether we do or not is a different story.

As Easter People, we are supposed to be celebrating. Living the most alive, flourishing, vivacious, liveliest, vital, (insert your favorite synonyms for alive here) life of anyone on this planet. We have the opportunity to live a resurrection lifestyle. A lifestyle Jesus embodied throughout his life and ministry. Case in point:

Jesus YOLO? Speak for yourself

http://christianfunnypictures.com/2016/03/14-hilarious-easter-memes.html

The disciples got to witness this resurrection lifestyle firsthand when Jesus was living with them. I love this cool scene from when Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies and he chats with Laz’s sister Martha (John 11: 17-27):

 17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles[d] down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 

Can you see this scene playing out? I have to laugh because it’s just so ironic. Martha is one of those people who can’t read subtext well. We all know a person like this. She’s the one at the party who doesn’t get the punchline of the joke. Here, the joke is on her. Jesus reveals the truth to her in such a dramatic way… I imagine him saying to her, “don’t you get it? I AM the resurrection! Resurrection is here, NOW!” Jesus and Martha both must have face palmed in the biggest “DUH” moment in recorded history.

Double Face Palm - for when one face palm doesn't cut it

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2013/which-episode-is-the-double-facepalm-image-macro-from

 

Let’s live like resurrection day is everyday, because IT IS! Let’s live like Easter People.

What do you think it means to be an “Easter People”? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below and let’s chat!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: How to Make a Herb Spiral

Next Sunday: Why so much garden imagery in the Bible?

 

1 Comment

Top 5 Herbs You Should Be Growing This Year

Herbs are MY FAVORITE thing to grow in the garden. Why? 

  1. They’re the most useful of any garden edible, since they can go into a variety of dishes
  2. They’re super simple to maintain
  3. Many are perennials or self-sowing annuals, so you only have to plant once
  4. You don’t have to waste money on cut herbs at the grocery store – they always give you way too much and they go bad before you can use them
  5. You can divide plants and share them with friends!

If you’re not growing herbs, go out TODAY and get some! Here are my top 5 herbs you should be growing this year.

 

Number 5 – Cilantro / Coriander (Annual)

Cilantro

https://www.almanac.com/plant/coriander-and-cilantro

I’m officially a cilantro convert. I know some people hate the taste of cilantro (which is actually a heritable genetic trait, believe it or not!), so if that’s you, just skip on over to #4…but for those of you who love a little something fresh in your salsa, read on.

I failed with growing cilantro for several years until a neighbor told me that she talked to a farmer who said the trick here in NC is to plant it IN THE FALL, not the spring, since it doesn’t love the heat. Fall planting DEFINITELY worked this year, and I’m so pleased! I’ve used our fall-planted cilantro more times than I can count this winter – in salsas, Mexican dishes, vegetarian dishes, and Thai/Asian dishes. Plus, if you let it go to seed, you can actually use the seeds as a spice (it’s ground coriander!). 

 

Number 4 – Oregano (Perennial)

Oregano

https://www.almanac.com/plant/oregano

It’s a perennial and it goes in so many dishes! If you haven’t used fresh oregano in a dish, you haven’t lived. The dried stuff is good, but fresh is just so different and delicious. It comes back year after year and makes a great ground cover, too.

 

Number 3 – Basil (Annual)

Basil

https://www.almanac.com/plant/basil

There’s nothing like basil in the summertime! It’s a great companion plant to most garden vegetables and can even deter some insect pests. There are a ton of varieties to choose from (Thai, Cinnamon, Lemon, Lime, Purple, Holy, African Blue…), though I usually just go with the standard Genovese. We use fresh basil on homemade pizzas and Italian dishes, and I love to make my own pesto (I leave out the pine nuts) and freeze it to use throughout the year. Pollinators (especially bees) love this stuff when it’s flowering. After flowering, save the seeds for next year’s planting (or let it self-sow)!

 

Number 2 – Chives (Perennial)

Chives

https://www.almanac.com/plant/chives

Ya’ll. I don’t ever buy green onions anymore. Chives can substitute for almost any onion-y ingredient in recipes. Chives are harvestable most of the year here in NC, so I always have a fresh supply. My clump of chives gets larger every year, so I get to share transplants with neighbors and friends. They’re a great deterrent for animals that like to browse (read: eat all your garden goods), so they make a great border plant. Plus, they have beautiful purple blooms in the spring! Want some from my garden? Please let me know!

 

Number 1 – Parsley (Biennial)

Parsley

https://www.almanac.com/plant/parsley

Parsley goes in EVERYTHING. Do a quick inventory of your favorite recipes, and tell me, how many of them add parsley as the finishing touch? It’s like ALL of them, right?! Having a little stand of parsley has saved me so many grocery trips. Plus, I can make tabbouleh anytime I want! Parsley is a biennial (focuses on foliage growth in year 1, then flowering/seed production in year 2), so start a few transplants (or seeds) in 2 consecutive years and then you can just let it grow on its own. You’ll always have some available!

 

Honorable Mention:

  • Dill – I love that you can eat multiple parts of the plant – the foliage and the seeds! I use the seeds for pickling my cucumbers. Also has beautiful yellow flowers in the summer that pollinators love. 
  • Peppermint & Spearmint – Mojitos. Homemade mint ice cream. Need I say more? Grow it in a container though, so it doesn’t spread around your garden like wildfire!
  • Thyme – my small stand of thyme has gotten overrun with other plants, so I need to re-plant this, but I LOVE some fresh thyme! Perfect for my favorite roast chicken recipe!

 

What are your favorite herbs to grow at home? Let me know in the comments!

 

Coming up:

 

Sunday: What does it mean to be an Easter People?

Next Wednesday: How to Make a Herb Spiral

 

Leave a comment

Happy Easter!

The Resurrection

16 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning,a] just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,b] who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.c]

 

Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!

You can use this as your phone wallpaper this week as a reminder that He is Risen!!!

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday:  Top 5 Herbs You Should Be Growing This Year

Next Sunday: What does it mean to be an Easter People?

 

Leave a comment

Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Well, we’re heading into prime gardening season. Here in NC, we’re just two weeks away from the average last frost date (Zone 7B is April 15th). Normally, I’d be prepping my planting beds and getting amped to make a trip or two to some of my favorite local nurseries, but this year, I’m preparing for a baby, instead.

It’s hard to not plant things! 

I went out into the garden today to get a feel for how things are going. With only minimal intervention (weeding, pruning, and one or two experiments) from me, there’s already so much that the garden is producing on its own and so much to be thankful for!

I hope you enjoy this early Spring tour of the Jubilee Garden! Scroll over pictures for the captions.

 

 

Coming up: 

 

Sunday: Happy Easter!

Next Wednesday: Top 5 Herbs You Should Be Growing This Year

 

Leave a comment

Palm-Waving Groupies

Happy Palm Sunday! I’m going to be completely unoriginal and take a look at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem for this week’s devotional. So let’s dig in!

Context


Jesus has just traveled from Capernaum to Judea. It’s approximately 85 miles, so it would have taken several days to hike from Capernaum to Jerusalem (located in the region of Judea). Here’s a map:

Map of Capernaum to Judea

Map Courtesy of https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm

He’s also just schooled the Pharisees on divorce, blessed some kids, encountered a rich young ruler who was too attached to his possessions to follow Jesus, predicted His death, schooled the disciples on what greatness really means, and healed a blind man. You know, a typical week for Jesus. 

Why is Jesus moving towards Jerusalem? Because He’s about to go there to celebrate Passover. Plus He knows what He has to do in the coming week – die for the world’s sins.

Now, onto our reading for today.

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Translated for Today

What an odd entrance! Riding a baby donkey over top of peoples coats and random tree trimmings? 

I tried thinking about this in a way we could picture today. Imagine this:

Instead of a limo or motorcade, Jesus decides to take a borrowed razor scooter into the city. No bodyguards, just a bunch of palm-waving groupies who can’t cobble together a decent red carpet. Instead, they lay the best they have to offer on the ground – their means of warmth and protection (coats) and a traditional sign of victory (palms). 

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.
https://www.gq.com/story/razor-scooters-are-not-cool-tom-brady

 

Now that’s just my imagination, but I bet you can come up with something similar. The point is, it’s not a fancy entrance. Jesus comes into the city in a humble, almost humiliating way.

And then we hear what the people are shouting. They’re quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm pilgrims would sing on the way to Jerusalem (how fitting). It’s about victory and deliverance. Then, they implore Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!”

Hosanna is an exclamation of praise that means…

SAVE US Now!

So in effect, the people are saying:

“Save us now!”

“God’s blessed you to come and do this!”

“David’s kingdom is going to make a comeback!”

“For God’s sake, SAVE US!!”

The Jewish people were looking for a political leader. With this humble entrance, Jesus showed, once again, that God’s kingdom looks VERY different from how we sometimes want it to look.

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! - Mark 11:9b-10

Use this as your phone wallpaper this week!

 

Reflection

As you celebrate Palm Sunday today, think about the following:

  1. What do you need saving from?
  2. How is Jesus currently challenging your ideas about what His kingdom should look like?
  3. Beyond palms and coats, what can you lay down at Jesus’ feet to help pave the way for his entrance into your life?

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Next Sunday: Happy Easter!

 

Leave a comment

Square Foot Gardening Techniques

Have you heard of Square Foot Gardening before? No, it’s not about people who have really angular feet gardening. But for a minute, let’s just imagine someone with cartoonish, block-like feet attempting to garden – the mental picture is hilarious!

 

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Square Foot Gardening (SFG) is all about maxing out what you can grow in a square foot (12” x 12”) planting area. Most SFGs are no more than 4 ft wide (to allow for easy reaching into the bed without stepping into the planting area) and can be any length. If you don’t have a copy already, I highly recommend purchasing the creator, Mel Bartholmew’s, book. I use it as a reference every single growing season. This book never collects dust at my house.

(This is an Amazon Affiliate link. If you choose to purchase using this link, I’ll get the world’s tiniest commission ever). 

 

SFG: AN Answer to Inefficiency

SFG eliminates gardening inefficiencies that are carryovers from traditional row farming. Here are some of the issues with traditional row gardening/farming that SFG solves:

  1. Eliminates wasted space (i.e.  huge aisles and footpaths in farming or traditional row growing methods)
  2. Reduces weed competition by growing densely and shading out weeds
  3. Conserves water by utilizing a smaller planting area
  4. Reduces seed waste (no thinning seedlings)
  5. Spaces out harvests through succession planting and planting reasonable numbers of plants
  6. Starts with healthy soil – a soil recipe so light, airy, and nutrient-dense that plants have a healthy start from day 1

 

The late, great Mel Bartholomew invented this method of gardening in 1976, and with it, revolutionized home gardening. With the common-sense ideas listed above, can you guess what Mel’s background was prior to developing SFG? If you guessed engineer, you’re a winner! Mel was a civil engineer, specializing in eliminating inefficiencies in construction and manufacturing prior to his foray into gardening.

5 second T.O. (Time Out): Isn’t it amazing how our God-given gifts and talents can be utilized in such different and cool ways? I find that fascinating. Anyway, I digress.

Back on topic now. 

 

Here’s what I love about SFG:

  1. It’s accessible. The small size of square foot gardens (as small as 3×3 or 4×4 ft), makes it an approachable start for beginning gardeners. 
  2. It’s easy and efficient. Less weeding (plants in SFG grow so closely together that they effectively shade out most weeds), few tools needed, less hauling hoses around a gigantic garden, no digging, no fooling with trying to improve your native soil.
  3. It’s tidy and compact. You can fit a SFG just about anywhere. If you only have a tiny bit of land, you can still probably fit a 4×4 ft bed. Heck, you can even make SFG raised bed tables that can go on a deck or patio. 
  4. It’s adaptable. Building the beds can be a pain if you’re not confident with tools, but I’ve learned that you really don’t have to make a border if you don’t want to or it’s not in your budget. You could make a 4×4 ft patch of soil with no border (just watch out for erosion) or you could make a border out of large tree branches (hello pruning upcycling!), bricks, pavers, large rocks, cinder blocks, or whatever other random things you have lying around. You can also make the SFG any size you want, for any types of plants you want to grow. You can do all vegetables, all herbs, all flowers, all perennials, or a combination of any of those. The world is your oyster!
  5. It doesn’t require a ton of maintenance. Unlike row gardening, you don’t have to till the soil every year. You just top up the beds with a little bit of compost in the fall, and you’re good to go in the spring!

 

So how do you make a square foot garden?

 

Step 1: Decide on where you want your SFG to go.

Consider what areas of your property get the most light during the day (best for most vegetables) and how far you’ll have to haul water. Don’t forget to think about things that might cast a shadow on your planting area or cause a microclimate where things get too hot or cold (buildings, trees, fences).

 

Step 2: Determine the size of your SFG.

Start small! For your first year, I recommend going with one 4×4 ft bed or 4×8 ft bed if you’re feeling ambitious. 

Our first SFG bed

This was our first SFG bed, back in 2017. We made 2- 4×4 beds and put them side-by-side to make it 4×8. I ultimately didn’t like having a bed that long and 4 ft across was too wide for me. I’m glad we only made one bed that year so I could easily make changes to the layout.

 You can supplement with container gardening (pots) if you think you need more space, but it’s best to start small when you’re building any sort of garden structure. It gives you a growing season or two to decide if you like the orientation, make changes, and decide how you might like to expand (or if you even need to expand).

If you’re short like me, having one of the sides be 3 ft instead of 4 is helpful – it can be hard to reach all the way across a 4 ft bed without stepping in it if you’re small (and stepping in a SFG is a big no-no!).

SFG bed layout

An example of how you might lay out your SFG beds. This was back in 2019 when we added 2- 3×4 ft beds to our SFG setup.

 

Step 3: Choose your material.

You’ve got some options here:

      • Sloping edges on a mound of soil can work as an SFG! You’ll need to stay on top of weeding, but it can work. Check out Charles Dowding’s method.
      • If you’re using lumber, untreated or heat-treated pine is fine and cheap! Thicker stock is better (1 in is great). Some sites will say you need to use cedar, but it can get cost-prohibitive. We initially got 1/2in cedar boards and they warped and fell apart at the joints within 3 years, probably due to the thinness of the wood and the way we fastened the edges together. Thick pine should last you at least 5 years. Cedar has longevity (some claim 20 years), but think about the reality of whether you’ll even be living in the same place then. Thick cedar boards can also be difficult to source – the Home Depot and Lowes near us don’t carry them.
        • A note about wood/logs/natural edging for SFG beds: they attract roly polies, slugs, and other detrivore pests that make their living decomposing things for us. They’re just trying to do their job, but here’s your warning that using this material could introduce some pests to your garden that you weren’t counting on.
      • Bricks, pavers, and cinder blocks have the best longevity, but can be expensive and require some heavy-duty labor at the outset to move everything to the site and get things level. 
      • Pre-made SFG kits are available, but they’re mostly a rip-off.
      • Materials to avoid: rubber tires, railroad ties, chemically treated lumber, some types of cinder blocks that contain fly ash. Basically, avoid anything that could possibly leach harmful chemicals or heavy metals into the soil.

 

Step 4: Lay down plain cardboard to kill grass and weeds and assemble your bed edges.

 

Step 5: Add soil.

You want ⅓ certified organic compost (bulk or bagged), ⅓ perlite or vermiculite, and ⅓ peat moss or coconut coir. Don’t use your native garden soil for this.

Optional: Mark your beds so you have a square foot grid. You can use nails to hold some twine in place or create your own grid from rocks, bamboo canes, or anything that makes a straight line.

 

Step 6: Plant your seeds or transplants using the guide below.

  1.  

Here’s a list of the most common vegetables and their spacing in SFG method. If you’re planting something that isn’t listed here, use the “thin to” instructions on your seed packet as a guide and follow the simple calculation I outlined in All About Seeds Part 1: Deciphering Seed Packets.

Have you used the SFG method? What’s your experience been like? What thoughts or recommendations do you have for beginners trying out SFG? Share your wisdom in the comments below!

 

Coming up:

Sunday: Palm-Waving Groupies

Next Wednesday: Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Leave a comment

Good Soil

As I was preparing this devotional, I opened the She Reads Truth daily devotional I keep up with (shereadstruth.com). Can you guess what the topic was? The Parable of the Sower, from Mark 4! Exactly the same scripture that I had planned to do this devotional on weeks ago. I love it when “God Moments” like this happen! Coincidence? Not with our God!

Matthew 13, Luke 8, and Mark 4, all record this parable and the accounts are very similar. Here’s the Mark version for you to take a look at and then we’ll dive in:

1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

3 Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.

11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:

‘When they see what I do,

    they will learn nothing.

When they hear what I say,

    they will not understand.

Otherwise, they will turn to me

    and be forgiven.’[b]”

13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”


It is really hard for me to not just glaze over while reading this story. Familiar Bible passages, especially parables, are like that. I usually find myself approaching them in one of three ways:

  1. I do a superficial read, pat myself on the back since I apparently completely understand the entire Bible (that’s a joke, by the way), and revert to whatever easy/common understanding I have of the passage.
  2. I give up trying to understand because I’m lazy and don’t want to exert the brainpower/effort/time to re-examine the passage.
  3. I stop and re-read, consult commentaries, and pray that God would reveal what He wants me to see in the passage because clearly, I’m not getting it on my own.

This week, option #2 was by far the most appealing. I felt a very strong connection to what the disciples say in verse 10 – what is the point of this parable, Jesus? 

On doing some additional read-throughs of the passage, verse 13 is what sticks out to me most:

 

“If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 

 

Great question, Jesus. I’m not sure if He’s suggesting that this is an entry-level parable, like Parables 101 or Parables for Dummies, but that thought did cross my mind and made me chuckle. If the Parable of the Sower is a watered-down parable, then I’m in deep doo-doo.


Here are some other ideas of what this verse might mean. It could be that…

  • Jesus is exasperated and just beside Himself with the disciples’ lack of faith or understanding.
  • The Parable of the Sower is a sort of template or key that helps unlock our understanding of other parables.
  • This is Jesus’ first (or one of the first) parables, so it carries extra weight/importance.
  • It could be that this is flat out the most important parable.

I’ve sat with this passage all week. I’ve consulted with Jonah, friends in my Bible Study, and commentaries. I’m not going to lie, this is a tough one. Here’s what I think verse 13 boils down to:

The Parable of the Sower is the most significant and basic parable because it’s all about our response to the Gospel. Everything else Jesus has to say builds on how we receive, or don’t receive, the Good News that he’s the Messiah. If we don’t have a response, we’re dead in the water when it comes to understanding His teachings. 

When we’ve heard about who Jesus is, we have four basic options on how to respond:

Parable of the Sower - Soils and Response to the Gospel. Options: Footpath, Rocks, Thorns, Good Soil

 

How will you respond?

 

What are your thoughts on the Parable of the Sower? What do you make of verse 13? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below and let’s start the conversation!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Square Foot Gardening Techniques

Next Sunday: Palm-Waving Groupies

 

Leave a comment

Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

Pruning is both science and art. Last week we looked at the why, when, and what of pruning. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty – how to prune. Here are some thoughts that can help guide your cutting.

 

Immediately Remove:

  • Anything diseased or damaged.
  • Adventitious growth. Look like suckers but are coming from an area that was improperly cut or damaged in a previous pruning session or storm.
  • Limbs that are criss-crossing or growing towards the center of the plant. The goal is for limbs to go OUT and AWAY from the center so the foliage can get more light for photosynthesis.
  • Suckers. These are shoots that come up from the base of the plant, trying to be new leaders (primary limbs). 

Suckers at the base of a shrub There's a sucker born every minute (PT Barnum)
All of these tiny shoots coming up near the base of the plant are suckers. PT Barnum would welcome them, but he’s no gardener.

 

Determine Desired Height

How tall do you want this to be once you’re done pruning? Choose a height to guide your cuts (ex. I aim for waist- or chest-high for shrubs since that’s easy to approximate). 

 

Shaping 

Look for little buds (AKA lateral meristem/axillary bud) on the limb in question. They might be clearly visible on a naked branch or they might be hidden right where a leaf attaches to the limb. The way these nodes are pointing indicates which way the plant could grow if you chopped right above that point. (Obviously if you chop below, the bud would be gone and couldn’t direct the growth).

Fun with Biology:

A meristem is a plant’s version of stem cells. Stem cells can differentiate into any type of cell that’s needed (sort of like our bone marrow and umbilical cord blood). An apical meristem is just plant stem cell tissue found at the apex, or top, of the plant. 

Lateral meristems are stem cells found near a bud or side shoot

Plant hormones from the apical meristem called auxins send chemical signals to the lateral meristems that inhibit lateral growth. Cytokinins (another plant hormone) allow for some lateral growth. For more on this, check out this cool article

Here’s the REALLY cool part: if you chop off the apical meristem (AKA  pruning), auxins can’t be delivered and whatever lateral meristem is closest to the top becomes the new apical meristem through cell differentiation. It’s crazy-amazing! Check it out:

Apical meristem is at the top of the limb, lateral meristems/buds are on the sides of the limb. Each bud shows the direction a new limb could grow if the top of the limb were pruned.Cutting above a lateral meristem/bud will turn that bud into the new apical meristem and the limb will grow in the direction of that bud.Here's what the new limb would look like if pruned (new growth going in the direction of the new bud with foliage at each lateral meristem/axillary bud.

 

Science and pruning are so cool!

 

Here’s an example of my pruning before & after, using the tips above. Subtle, but effective!

Shrub after pruning

 

Tree Limbs: 3-Cut Method

Growing a Greener World, one of my favorite gardening shows, has a great episode on pruning. I recommend watching the entire episode. If you just need to know how to best remove a tree limb, check this out:

 

A Note About Tree-Topping/Crape Murder

Ugh. I hate this so much. I hate that I have to tell people this AND I hate that tree service companies actually suggest this to their customers. Trees SHOULD NOT have their canopies removed. It’s atrociously ugly and it is usually fatal to the tree. At the very minimum it’s extremely damaging (to the tree’s health and to your property when the tree eventually fails and falls on something). Crape Myrtles are frequent victims of this treatment, hence the term “Crape Murder”. If a tree is overgrown, here are your best options:

  • Remove an entire limb from where it joins up with the trunk or a large branch using the 3-cut method
  • Cut down the entire tree – it will look better than topping AND prevent you from having a huge insurance claim after it falls down on your or your neighbor’s property
    • Bonus: this frees up space to plant something better (more appropriate size or native species)

A tree that's had it's canopy removed improperly using a topping method.

An improperly pruned tree. Tree topping is murder!

Results of tree topping - scraggly limbs, knots, and decay

For the love of Pete, don’t do this!!!! See how sickly the new growth is? The knots? The decay? It’s awful!

 

Additional Resources

Here are a few other resources if you have more questions about how to prune:

Now you know the why, what, when, and how of pruning! It’s not that hard once you understand the biology going on behind the scenes. 

I’d love to hear your stories about pruning (horror or otherwise)! Did you inadvertently kill a plant by pruning at the wrong time (guilty here!)? Have a bumper crop of flowers or fruits after a hard prune? What did you do with the harvest? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Good Soil

Next Wednesday: Square Foot Gardening Techniques

 

Leave a comment

Spring Forth!

Isaiah 43 is a deep passage. There’s a lot going on, and a lot of quotable verses come from it, including the ones I want to focus on today – Isaiah 43:18-19: 

Isaiah 43:18-19: “Remember not the former things,     nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness     and rivers in the desert.

Save as your phone wallpaper this week as a reminder that God is always doing something new!

 

What’s happening in Isaiah, generally? 

First, let’s take a look at the context – always a good place to start. The book of Isaiah records the prophecies of Isaiah, who lived around the time when Israel fell to the Assyrians. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are prophecies and events recorded during Isaiah’s lifetime (~700 B.C.), regarding the Assyrian invasion that’s about to come and the events that occur once it’s happened. This section is mostly about judgment for Israel’s and other nations’ sins. 

Chapters 40-66, which is the context for our passage today, are generally thought to be prophecies fulfilled around 500 B.C. during the Babylonian exile, PLUS messages of hope and comfort for the faithful remnant of Jews dispersed after the exile. Lots of hinting at Jesus Christ as the Messiah in this section. But we’ll cover that some other time. 

Fun fact: “Isaiah is the most cited prophetic book in the New Testament and rabbinic literature.” (Moody Bible Commentary, 2014, pg. 1009)

 

What’s happening in Chapter 43, specifically?

So let’s look at Chapter 43. I’ll let you take a minute to read through it yourself. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Okay, read it? Great! Now, the purpose of this chapter is to give a message of comfort and assurance to the remnant of Israel that survives and returns from the exile. God will protect His people. We see callbacks to God’s provision for the Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt (v. 2, 16-17). Then we get to our verses for today:

18 “Remember not the former things,

    nor consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;

    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

    and rivers in the desert.

The point of these verses is to not dwell on the past (AKA the Exodus and Exile), but to look at what God is doing now and what He will do

It’s easy to fall into the pattern of thinking that the Bible is our own little Magic 8 ball – that each and every verse holds some personal application. Yes, the Bible is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and the Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds of Jesus’ words (John 14:26), BUT the Bible isn’t all about us

No – it’s about who God is and what He has done.

 

Critical Thinking / Application

With that perspective in mind, here are some questions about this passage to get you thinking:

  1. What do today’s verses reveal about God’s character?
  2. …about God’s actions/what He has done?
  3. What would the original audience (Jews returning from exile) think/feel about these words? Would they take on a different meaning for them than they do for us?
  4. What do you think “it springs forth” means? What is the “it” referring to?
  5. What’s going on with the imagery in this chapter? Do you think it’s a physical representation of things to come? Symbolic? If symbolic, symbolic of what?
  6. Look at verses 22-28. This is God’s response to sin and disobedience. What does this section tell you about God’s nature?

I’m interested to hear your answers to these questions! Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

I’m praying for you this week! Leave me a message on the contact page or as a comment below if I can pray for you in specific ways. See you on Wednesday for more gardening goodness.

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

Next Sunday: Good Soil

 

Leave a comment

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for Pruning – It’s Not That Hard!

I know you’re probably excited to get your transplants in the ground, but I’m going to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Before we do anything else, we need to get outside and do some pruning before spring kicks into high gear!

What types of plants should you prune? 

For the most part, pruning is for perennial plants, shrubs, and trees since annuals typically don’t make it through the winter.


Plants Need Pruning If They Are:

  • Overgrown or unruly
  • Patchy (insufficient light to center or lower parts of the plant)
  • Touching a structure
  • Crowding out other plants
  • Unproductive or you want to increase productivity (more blooms/fruits)

Why Now? 

Late winter/early spring is when plants are dormant and not actively growing. I like to aim for Valentine’s Day (this year, I was a little behind). The plant has time to recover from the wounds of pruning during dormancy,  plus pruning actually stimulates new growth which is perfect for this time of year – it kick-starts spring growth.


Exceptions to Pruning in Early Spring

There is one notable exception to early spring pruning, and that’s pruning flowering shrubs.

As a general rule, you should prune AFTER a plant flowers. It’s safe to prune any plant during early spring (dormancy) – your plant will still survive, BUT if you prune something that flowers before June (a sign that your plant flowers on the previous year’s growth), you’ll miss any blooms/fruits for that season/year. If something flowers after June, it usually means it flowers on new/this year’s growth, so it’s best to prune now.

NEVER PRUNE IN LATE SUMMER/FALL! It encourages new growth, which is susceptible to frost damage and can kill your plant.


What Tools Do You Need?

All you need is something to cut with. I find the following three items to be all that’s necessary. (Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links, so if you choose to buy anything, I’ll get a small commission. These are what I use to do my own pruning):

  • Hand Pruners (for twigs with diameter of about a finger or less). Be sure they’re bypass pruners, NOT anvil pruners.

  • Loppers (for anything from the diameter of your finger to diameter of your wrist). Again, be sure they’re bypass loppers and not anvil-style (which crushes instead of giving a clean cut)

  • Hand Saw (for anything bigger than that – typically trees or very big/old limbs on a shrub)


A Note About Safety

Don’t be overly daring when it comes to pruning. Especially with trees, if a limb is too big or too high to reach, leave it alone. If it bothers you that much, have a friend help you or hire a certified arborist (yes, make sure it’s not just a tree service!). If you’re using a ladder, have someone there to spot you/help hold it, or you’ll need to have 9-1-1 on speed-dial.

The Simpsons - A caller at this hour? You dial 9-1, then when I say so, dial 1 again

Now that we have the basis of why, when, and what to prune, come back next Wednesday for the nitty gritty on how to prune – the science behind pruning, deciding where to cut, and how to cut the right way. 

Have you started (or completed) your pruning for this year? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Spring Forth

Next Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

 

Leave a comment