Contemplating Lent

Contemplating Lent

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Something about the liturgical seasons bring me into contemplation and make my pen long for paper.  In this Garden season of planting seeds, tending, waiting, watching and expecting, Lent, literally meaning Spring, I focus my attention on the church calendar’s observation of Lent–a season of a 40-day focus on Jesus’ coming, suffering, and dying for us.  During this time I have chosen to fast from certain foods (including sugar), from excessive screen time (tv, phone surfing, etc.), and from a life of distraction and distance from God.

Two days ago I was questioning the relevance of fasting from foods during Lent, likely with the intention of a justification for modifying my commitment.  “Shrove Tuesday” (another name for Mardi Gras) is intended to precede our Lenten fasts.  It’s a time to clear out our pantries of sugar and sweets and the things we’re likely to be fasting from beginning Ash Wednesday–the first day of Lent.  Apparently, I did not adequately ‘shrive’ my pantry and I found myself drooling over the pecan sticky bun on my counter on this, my first day of fasting from sugar.  Yikes!  And, so, seriously, unlike myself, I “woke up” after a pounce upon the prey, and a quick devour, with dripped pecan pieces on my sweater and a cat-that-just-ate-the-canary expression when my husband walked through the door a little while later.  Yes, I confessed…after a few hours…and started the fast again.

How does this relate to Lent?

Humankind’s journey toward this Lenten season began with a Garden of planting seeds, tending, waiting, watching, and expecting and with eating something that was not good for us.  Genesis relates that Adam and Eve were invited to eat every tree in Eden except one–the tree of the Knowledge Of Good And Evil–I call it the KOGAE tree.  But when Eve saw the fruit from this one tree that was to be avoided, fasted from, she pounced on and devoured it and then suggested Adam do the same.  They both had metaphorical pecan drippings all over their ‘sweaters’ when God walked up, and their cat-that-ate-the-canary expression started it all.

In this season of life, I have a new lens for contemplating everything.  Four days a week I have the privilege of helping to watch my two precious grandchildren–ages 1 1/2 and 3 1/2.  Now, my grandkids love sugar and sweets about as much as their Grandma does (please, no judgement!), and it’s hard not to pull out the goods just to be in the bask of the delight in their eyes and the baited breath of expectation when I offer them some.  But, discipline says, reason says, health says, this cannot be all that I eat, nor all that they eat.

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And so, the other day, when I found my little grandchild with her hand literally in the sugar jar, crystals all over her cheeks, and a cat-that-ate-the-canary look on her face–it helped me connect more dots, and take these 40 days of Lent to pray:

Thank you, kind Father,
Gardener, Provider, and Caregiver,
all-knowing Creator,
for making a way, through Jesus’ life, suffering and death,
His own 40-day fast from food,
to erase the pecan drippings off my sweater,
the white crystals off my granddaughter’s cheeks,
and the “KOGAE” crumbs from Adam and Eve,
and from all of humankind.
Amen

 

Our Jessamine Garden

Today I heave a sigh as I see three new ears of corn sitting on the washer.  Like the trophy voles our cat used to leave on our doorstep, my husband has brought in 3 new gifts from the garden.

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Weeks ago we were delighting in our first ears.  I carefully shucked and cleaned them and took pictures of the miraculous cobs.

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Last year we mourned that either the deer, coons, or our neighbors’ wandering pigs had eaten every ear before our first harvest, so I read up on gardening websites and Pinterest about how to keep animals from chowing down on our produce before we could.  I planted my squash vines around the periphery because apparently it is reported that raccoons don’t like to bother themselves with stepping through the vines to get to the dainty nectarous morsels…. Slovenly coons!  I also read about putting out pie tins to toss around in the wind and scare away the critters…. We did that too.  We read about putting duct tape over each ear to keep the varmints from banqueting on our harvest, but that seemed extreme and not very “organic” so I didn’t pursue that option.  My husband made a makeshift scarecrow, which sounds good, but it was a pretty pitiful example of one and when I saw my neighbor’s example down Handys Bend, I felt a ting of scarecrow-envy.  I set an old Ale-8 hat on the freezer and suggested to my husband that it be added to the effigy, but it never was. There was another suggestion which we kind of tried which I don’t care to delineate here, but if you ever saw the movie Never Cry Wolf you might get the idea…. Lastly, I planted tall corn varieties which others said would make it hard for little coon paws to reach.  Part of our strategy was to harvest early, as soon as the kernels seemed ready, so as not to tempt the apparent menagerie out there gathering with drooling tongues every night–but I will admit that we have eaten a few “preemie” ears as a consequence.

Corn is in my blood.  We used to play in the big corn cob bin at Grandpa’s farm from which they fed the pigs.  I’m an Illinois girl raised in a town surrounded by corn and everybody knows that corn fresh from the garden is better than anything bought at the store, so I had motivation enough to try.

Another inspiration for our corn nursery was from Wendell Berry, one of my favorite writers.  He is from Kentucky and is also a gardener and farmer. Our land adjoins the Kentucky River as does his and it is fun to think, in maybe a neighborly way,  if I floated a message in a bottle upstream from our property, since the KY flows north instead of south, he could retrieve my note from the shore outside his “long-legged” writing cabin.    The Mad Farmer Poems are wonderful and  one of those poems, “A Man born to Farming”, was inscribed on my chalkboard as soon as we moved onto our farm.  Below I quote part of the poem:

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,

whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,

to him the soil is a divine drug.  He enters into death

yearly, and comes back rejoicing.  He has seen the light lie down

in the dung heap and rise again in the corn.

His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.

What miraculous seed has he swallowed…

So I buried miraculous seeds with my own hands reaching into our Maury silt loam and sat back awaiting God’s light to rest among the rows and His rain to quench the parch…which they did.  Like a zygote in a woman’s uterus, the kernel with endosperm and an embryo inside of cotyledon, radicle and coleoptile, was implanted.  Then comes the monocot, leaflets unfurled; stalks, leaves, ears with silks, tassels follow.  It’s a slow-motion enchantment to observe.  Finally comes the picking, shucking, de-silking, boiling, buttering, serving, gracing, reaching, biting, tasting. MMMMMMMmmmmmm.

When God made us and put us in the garden as our home, he assigned our primarily given occupation.  It was pre-fall that our hands belonged in the soil:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

As the weeks of harvest have rolled on, I’ll admit that I have lessened in my enthusiasm somewhat.  Isn’t this the way of humans?  But my husband came in from a walk out back excited that he had seen a 10 point buck heading toward our field up front where the garden is.  Part of me sighed, but the other part wanted to shout out to our guest,

“Come on ahead, we’ve set the table for you. Feast!”

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Perhaps that’s how Adam and Eve felt in their garden too?