A little work pays off in the end

A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. (Matthew 13:3-8)

Okay, you have probably heard this parable once or twice. A farmer planted - nothing unexpected there, right? Farmers plant, but seed purposefully planted is a wondrous thing. Your gardens and fields can be filled with all kinds of 'growing' things - because of purposeful planting. Just as amazing to me is the seeming strength of the stuff that is NOT purposefully planted in our gardens or fields! How is it they manage to get there in the first place, or find root? How do we get to the place our garden only grows the 'good seed' instead of every 'opportunistic seed' that happens along? The idea of planting suggests a whole lot of preparation PRIOR to planting. Someone has gone to a whole lot of work to prepare the soil to RECEIVE the seed. I find this task daunting - why can't I just plant and see it grow? Most of the enjoyment I get out of my garden is only realized when I invest the time! If I want to see bigger blossoms on the hibiscus, I need to turn the soil once in a while and add in the much needed nutrients so missing in this Arizona soil. When I do, I enjoy a season of blossoms. If I don't...it is green, but without evidence of what it is capable of producing.

The same is true of us. Soil prepared yields much more - the purpose for which the seeds were planted begins to become evident in our lives. We begin to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. In time, we get exactly what we were willing to invest! To the soil we add seed - this is what I will call purposeful planting. Fields of wildflowers are indeed beautiful, but most of the "beauty" is really weed! I don't like some things that grow 'naturally' without a whole lot of work - like the four trees that once took root in a very rocky patch in my side yard. I thought I'd let them grow because it was the west side of the house and any shade in this Arizona sun is greatly coveted. They grew quickly - without any attention from me. They needed no watering system - they seemed to find their own. There was no need to fertilize - they were green and hearty all without my constant doting. In a course of a couple of years, these were over thirty feet tall and with branch expanses 10 feet in length. They blossomed in the Spring with bright yellow blossoms, were green all year round, and provided some needed shade to this western exposure of the house. What more could I possibly want?

Nothing of life was produced "from" the tree. In fact, even the birds could not take nest in their expanses because they did not provide enough shelter to even allow the sparrows a home. They were strong trees of sorts - but their strength provided no shelter. In fact, other than a few ant piles underneath, nothing seemed to enjoy their growth - in the end, neither did I! The branches began to expand out over the roof of the house, rubbing their thorny outcroppings constantly on the edges of the eaves and shingles. I was constantly having to scale the steep slant of the rooftop to sidle out to the point I could lop the off those expansive branches - not the safest thing for me to do. Prick yourself with one of the spiny thorns on the branches and you'd hurt for days - even so much as to see small pockets of infection inside the wound begin to develop if left unattended. They dropped tons of 'leaves' resembling very long and pointy pine needles. The lizards enjoyed hiding in the mounds they created, but the yard was constantly a mess.

These trees grew from seed. The seed was indeed NOT planted on purpose. What promised growth looked pretty interesting at first. In the course of time, that which was "opportunistic" in its planting also became a torturing thing in my life! The trees were no longer promising in their growth - they were a burden! The same is true when we allow seeds to be planted in our lives which are of the "opportunistic" type. We may think all "seed" has potential, but if we never check it out beforehand to see what will actually be produced by the "seed", we may be surprised at how much the thing which grows produces nothing more than pricking thorns! I eventually had my brother and his son spend a couple of days with a chain saw cutting those trees down to the quick. Over the next couple of years, I had to constantly cut down the growth which wanted to re-emerge from the remaining stumps. Finally, it took a couple hours of burning the stumps to cease the growth! I had to ignite the stumps with lighter fluid and watch them burn ever so close to the house - vigilant to ensure they did no further damage.

Even the wood they cut from the tree was not worthy to be called firewood. Why? It was covered in so many of these thorns, anyone grabbing them to put into the fireplace would be speared! So, it was hauled away to the dump. There, it could do as it pleased! If it wanted to spring up in the midst of the garbage - I really did not care - just as long as it was not in my yard any longer! Seed which is purposefully planted has specific purpose - there is something we desire, potential we don't realize possible, and enjoyment we could not imagine otherwise. Opportunistic seed comes our way quite frequently - born on the winds of storms, carried by means we may not even appreciate. The thing about opportunistic seed - it needs very little tending to take root. It grows almost unattended. Purposeful seed needs much tending. But...opportunistic seed almost always produces something that is nothing more than a burden to you in the end! Just sayin...


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