Saturday, March 30, 2013

Breaking Bread Together

Let us break bread together on our knees;
Let us break bread together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O, Lord, have mercy on me.

It is Easter Eve, the darkening hours of Holy Saturday.  In preparation for our early morning celebration of the Resurrection, I'm baking.  The Bible is quite clear: we all serve in our different capacities and use what gifts we have for glory.  I pull my gold Rubbermaid bowl from under the cupboard, my stainless steel measuring cups and spoons from the cabinets overhead and grease the worn 9x13 pans.  In Your service, Lord; I bake.

It is merely coffeecake for breakfast for the early service congregation, not the Lord's Supper itself, but I trust He will understand my good intents if what I hear when I crack eggs on the edge of the bowl are the words of Luke 22:19: 
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, 
 and gave it to them, saying,
 "This is my body given for you; 
do this in remembrance of me."

There will be a full table; at this church, there always is. We have 'all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", but we are not guilty of setting a mean or meager meal.  You will be welcome; you will be full. 
Give, and it will be given to you.
 A good measure, pressed down, shaken together
 and running over, will be poured into your lap.
Luke 6:38

I make my sign of the Cross from the trimmings of the dough and lay it carefully atop the cake.  The kids watch and Aaron tells me he thinks the cake looks flat.  I smile.  'That's because it still needs to raise,' I say.  ''We have to wait to bake it after it has risen.''

Josh  is ready to 'eat cake?' as soon as it is pulled from the stove.  'Not now, Josh, but we will eat it at church tomorrow for Easter.' "At church?" 'Yep."  That satisfies the two year old who seems surprisingly willing to wait til Easter to celebrate with cake.

 Let us break bread together tomorrow.
...and fall down on our knees before the rising Son.
 Lord, Have mercy! 
 Happy Easter!  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Helping Hands

There are days when what I do for a living can only sound dignified, can only sound justified, if gentrified with some fancy-schmancy code talk like "hands on" or "one on one", boutique language for old fashioned pick 'em up and set  'em down grunt work. The kind of work Henry Ford conceived assembly lines for.  The kind of work "our fathers brought forth on this continent" back when Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address.  The same kind of work family members on both sides did with their backs, and their arms, their calloused hands with broken knuckles, their sun reddened necks and their sun squinted eyes.  My house has indoor plumbing, climate control, and electronic comforts they couldn't conceive of, but if we met at table over the noon meal, we would be comrades, understanding both the pressure of the calendar, the urgency of daylight, and the limitations imposed by two arms and two legs.

So....there are nights when I ponder my age as I finish my devotions, and the impending, if not ongoing, decline in strength, stamina, and, most terrifying, memory.  And I watch my energetic and intelligent children work like there is no tomorrow in a business full of risks both natural and man made; I cannot guarantee their futures, their success, with my efforts or prayers.  Hard work flattens the uphill battle, but can never make the path smooth.

But every spring, hope does leap for joy as the earth awakens...again.  And to the cycle of the seasons, we add our own age old tale of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, families following the footsteps of those before, learning by example how to get up, gather your tools, start your task, organize your day, pay attention to your surroundings, and work together.  Designing a bridge; writing an editorial; researching a cure; stringing wire; welding; driving cross country; teaching twelve year olds; counseling; protecting our nation; these tasks do not allow you to 'bring your kid to work'. But my job does.  And therein lies much of the joy of this hand-to-plant, hose-to-water, soil-to-pot, work.

If you ask most farmers, they have stories to tell about working with their parents, their grandparents.  I learned to work from my folks: it didn't come natural...and we considered teaching our kids to work part of our calling as parents.  Our peculiar advantage as self employed farmers and small businessmen was the ability to lead by example; our intense pleasure was that of working alongside our children and watching them grow in maturity and responsibility until there was no need to check their work.Their word was their bond.
Now it's their turn to meld parenthood and vocation, to balance ability with responsibility and channel youthful enthusiasm into constructive accomplishment.  Little hands put tags on baskets, or take a turn writing labels for seed trays, or plant cages around baby tomatoes.  Learning to water is not as easy as it looks! Working with dad and mom at menial tasks means the word 'menial' won't be part of their vocabulary; no task is 'make work' when every minute is valuable.

All work, no play makes Jack a dull boy, but a greenhouse is a fine place for imagination to run wild, like a jungle gym or battlefield, for sidewalk art or kickball, for building forts and smokehouses, castles and kitchens. There is plenty of time for kids to be kids with nary a screen in sight.

Because business and pleasure travel hand in hand if you work with your family.  Decisions are made with one eye on the bottom line and the other........ on where the two year old might have run off to.

Great minds thinking together..

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Not Just the First Robin...Sounds of Spring

Ka-clack, Ka-clack, Ka-clack...what sounds like a unit train going over a crossing is actually the piston of the machine metering fertilizer into the hose so my seedling tomatoes stay green rather than purple.  Without this chorus, the ageless rhythms of the season would be more solo than symphony.  The women of Israel sang of Saul's thousands and David's ten thousands....without the machines of spring, Hurst Greenery would transplant mere thousands of seedlings, not the tens of thousands desired by our customers.

First thing every morning, when the air is still gray and chill,  there is the back up beeping of the skid steer as Ryan moves crates of 4"pots in trays, or hanging baskets, or 804s, or most likely 606s, filled with soilless potting mix (yeah, there's a mouthful for what we still call 'dirt') to whatever greenhouse we will work in.  The ├íliens', (as Lee calls them) are still "on the ground" in #11 and #4 as the HID lights glow an out of this world blue through the condensation beaded on the plastic, but the jet engine of the propane heaters roars like their spaceship is ready to blast off...or else the fires of hell lurk just inside the entrance to the greenhouse.

From the other side of the wall, the transplanter evokes nothing so much as the introduction to Billy Joel's Allentown, as the air compressor cycles on and off, the dibblers slide back and forth snicker-snack and the metal fingers pick up the baby plants as the rods below eject them from the plug tray. Whoosh, inhale, puff, exhale; the fingers plant the seedlings and the flats advance one space.  The ballet of moving parts begins again.   The tower of planted trays on the handcart and the tidy geometry of the newly watered flats belies the truth of the attention each individual four leaf baby has and will receive.  Like "children all nestled snug in their beds,"these infant plants (as they are anthropomorphized on the boxes of one supplier) are tucked away with a drink of water before dreaming of the warm sunny days ahead when they are grown ups.

The irrigators creep across each bay so slowly one hears them move more than sees them.  The wheels catch, grab, and finally reluctantly pull the python thick hose the length of the house.  The mist advances across the flowers like a summer storm front rinsing off accumulated dust, brightening the blossoms, and cooling the bay. The grandkids can no more resist being washed by the mist than they can resist playing in a sprinkler; wardrobe changes are a part of life once we start running the boom.

There is no "rocket science"here, just a myriad of pumps and motors, belts and pullies, blowers and fans, relays and thermostats, all attempting to create a facsimile of the Garden of Eden of the dust, heat, fumes, and humidity of our all too human earthly paradise.  But for a simple Hobbit soul like mine, this bit of Middle Earth with blossoms hanging overhead and tidy rectangles aligned like a patchwork quilt is satisfying as Monet's garden or a Dutch landscape.  It isn't sublime and it isn't flawless.  But this attempt to grow something beautiful is a daily reminder of what we might be....and how far our efforts  fall short.