God Knows How To Get The Word Out

Image of milkweed pod and seeds by HeungSoon from Pixabay

Plants are ingenious things.

They have numerous ways of dispersing their seeds to grow new plants, methods that go far beyond simply dropping a seed to the ground from the mother plant above.

Some plants sport wings on their seeds (called samaras) to enable the wind to carry them farther away from the mother tree than regular seeds could go. The maple tree uses this method of seed dispersal: once released from the tree, its seeds spin through the air like helicopters to find a new home.

Other seeds, like that of the milkweed, drift on the wind using their own downy parachutes. Dandelions do the same (much to the chagrin of those trying to maintain a dandelion-free lawn!).

Some seeds come wrapped in tasty packages, like that of the raspberry. Animals or birds eat the berry, then excrete the seed later on (along with some “fertilizer”).

The burdock plant takes another tack: its seeds have sticky hooks that attach to an animal’s fur as it passes by. The seed essentially “hitchhikes” to begin life in another location.

Another intriguing method of seed dispersal is used by the jewelweed plant. Its seed pod “explodes” when touched, flinging the seeds far and wide. It’s no coincidence that jewelweed also goes by the name “touch-me-not.”

I guess we can’t put nature in a box when it comes to seed dispersal. It uses a variety of creative ways to achieve its goal of propagating new plants.

We can’t put limits on God either.

He uses many different ways to plant the seed of the Word of God in people’s hearts.

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Mustard Seed Faith

What are the smallest seeds on earth?

You might guess mustard seeds. Close, but not quite.

How about poppy seeds?

They’re very tiny. You’ll find out how extremely tiny they are if you accidentally spill them on the floor. You’ll discover that you can’t pick them all up by hand: it’s hopeless. You have to bring out your vacuum. (Don’t ask me how I found this out!)

Actually, the tiniest seeds on earth are said to be those of certain orchids from the tropical rainforest. Each of these dust-like seeds weighs only one 35 millionth of an ounce. They’re smaller than a grain of salt.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the prize for the largest seed on earth probably goes to the Coco-de-Mer palm tree of the Seychelles Islands. One of its seeds can weigh up to 45 pounds.

Mustard seeds are a bit larger than poppy seeds, but they’re still exceptionally tiny compared to most seeds.

They’re so small that Jesus used them as an example in one of His teachings. Surprisingly, He said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could see great things accomplished.

How is this possible?

Because when we have even a small amount of pure faith, God uses it as a force multiplier. Our tiny contribution somehow provides the spark for God’s power to show up in a big way.

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Plant the Seeds of Your Dreams

Vintage seed packets. Photo by Douglas Coulter on Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you’re a gardener, you probably have a stash of seeds tucked away.

I certainly do. I have a special bin in a cupboard where I store all my seed packets:

Envelopes containing seeds I’ve harvested over the years from plants in my garden. Seeds that friends have collected from their own gardens and then passed on to me, along with handwritten notes about the plants.

Packets of seeds I’ve bought the Botanic Garden’s seed fairs that look intriguing: seeds of rare plants, unusual colours of better known plants, or hard-to-find heirloom varieties of vegetables or flowers.

I have a veritable treasure trove of seeds in my cupboard!

There’s only one problem:

Those seeds are doing me absolutely no good sitting in a bin on a shelf.

I may take the packets out from time to time and look rapturously at the photos on the front. I might imagine how nice it would be to grow such gorgeous flowers or unusual veggies.

But until I put those seeds in the ground, all they are is wishful thinking and pretty pictures.

If I don’t take a step of faith and plant my seeds, I’ll never get a harvest.

Similarly, we sometimes leave our dreams and desires on a shelf, so to speak.

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Weed-Free Living

Image of dandelions by Hans Linde from Pixabay

Is it just my imagination, or do weeds actually grow faster than the flowers I’m trying to nurture?

Gardeners will know what I’m talking about. Weeds seem to be gifted with internal steroids that accelerate their growth, outpacing the delicate flowers that we’ve brought home from the garden centre.

Weeds don’t seem to be affected by lack of rain or by intense heat. They’ll grow just about anywhere. They’re speed demons of growth compared to the flowers we try to baby along with regular watering and fertilizing.

I looked into this crucial issue on behalf of readers of The Faith Cafe, and found that weeds do have some competitive advantages.

Weeds which are perennials have the benefit of established root systems that have been alive for many years; these dormant roots have a lot of stored energy. Perennial weeds grow faster and are harder to kill than annuals.

Weeds are already acclimated to the region’s soil, and are highly adaptable. They’re usually native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, unlike plants from the garden centre which may be non-native and need time to adjust.

Weed seeds are already present in our garden soil. They bide their time until the right conditions present themselves, and then race out of the soil. They’re often excellent self-propagators and are opportunistic growers.

All these things give weeds a head start over the flowers we favour.

This got me thinking:

Why do the “weeds” of our character grow better than the fruits of the Spirit?

Are there lessons we can learn from the natural world?

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Absent-Minded Gardening

Photo by Roman Boed from Pxhere

Have you ever noticed a flower growing in a peculiar spot in your garden and wondered, “How did that get there? Did I do that?”

You might see a rogue tulip popping up incongruously in the middle of your lawn.

Or you do a double-take when you see a cluster of flowers flourishing in the corner, but you have no recollection of having planted them there.

What gives?

In some cases, squirrels might be the culprits. They’re notorious for unearthing tulip bulbs and burying them someplace else for future consumption, only to forget about them.

At other times, you might have tried growing something yourself from seeds but they never seemed to germinate. You give up and completely forget about them. A few years later, however, flowers are blooming in that corner after all, to your great surprise.

The same dynamic is sometimes at play when we plant “seeds” in someone’s life.

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Have Faith, And Bring Your Umbrella!

Image by Lorri Lang from Pixabay

If you’re a gardener, you know that when you plant seeds in the ground, you can expect results.

Not every seed will germinate, but a great many will. So you need to make preparations beforehand.

For instance, if you’ve planted seeds of climbing plants, you’ll need to provide something for them to cling to as they grow upward. Even if your pea or bean seeds haven’t germinated yet, you still might prepare some trellises or stakes for their eventual growth.

You wouldn’t think of not getting ready for the emergence of your seedlings and adult plants, would you? You have faith that they’re on the way.

Isn’t it funny, then, that when we pray and ask God for things, we often don’t really expect we’ll see any results?

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A Special Kind of Faith

Tulip bulbs at a flower market
Photo from Pxhere, Public Domain

They say that planting seeds is an act of faith.

I think that’s true: you put seeds in the ground in spring, hoping most will germinate and grow into a plant. If you’re lucky, you might see hints of growth in a few days, but often it can be weeks before a little green head pokes its way out of the soil.

If planting seeds takes faith, then I think it takes a special kind of faith to plant bulbs in the fall.

In the fall, you know the days are getting shorter and colder. The leaves are dropping from the trees, and tender plants are beginning to die from early frosts. You know that snow will soon blanket the garden to the depth of a couple feet. You’re heading into a barren season.

The precious tulip, daffodil or hyacinth bulbs that you’ve just planted will disappear from your view for many months. You’ll have no indication that they’re all right, let alone any guarantee that they’ll eventually bloom. They may fall prey to rabbits, squirrels or deer. Who knows what will happen to them?

And yet you still go ahead and plant fall bulbs, trusting that they’ll survive the frigid winter and bloom later in spring.

Some things in our lives take special faith to trust for, too, don’t they?

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The God of Second Chances

Hands holding seedling
Photo by Pikrepo

It’s an awesome feeling to realize that you’ve got a second chance, isn’t it?

A friend of mine discovered this after moving into a house with a large garden this summer. A beginner gardener, she was delighted to finally have enough space for an extensive vegetable garden. She immediately planted some tomato and cucumber seedlings, which grew vigorously and are now producing ripe veggies.

Because she’d moved in mid-summer, however, she lamented that she’d missed the chance to start growing vegetables like beets, spinach, peas, and carrots from seed in spring. She knew that cool-weather-loving veggies like peas wouldn’t thrive in the summer heat. She figured that if you didn’t plant those seeds in the spring, you’d missed your chance for the whole year.

But the garden, like God, often gives us second chances.

I told my friend that she could actually plant those seeds now for a fall harvest. There was still time to grow a second crop before the frosts of November hit. She hadn’t missed out after all: she could still grow the cool-weather veggies she’d hoped for.

What a wonderful metaphor for how God deals with us!

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Give It Time

Handkerchief Tree photo from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Do you get the feeling that society is becoming too impatient?

We seem to expect instant results these days: immediate responses to our texts or emails, same-day delivery for things we order, instantaneous loading of videos or web pages. In fact, a study showed that a YouTube video that loads slowly will start losing viewers after two seconds.

The problem is that sometimes our impatience with technology gets applied to people, too. We expect people to change quickly, and if they don’t, we lose patience with them and give up on them.

This reminds me of the tale of the handkerchief tree.

Called the dove tree in its native China, it became known to Western visitors in the late 1800s, who were entranced by it. The handkerchief tree features stunning white bracts surrounding its flowers, which resemble doves, ghosts or fluttering handkerchiefs, hence its name in the West.

European botanists in China collected the seeds and brought them back home, keen to grow such a gorgeous tree. One gardener planted the seeds, but was disappointed to find after a year that they hadn’t sprouted into seedlings. Figuring that the seeds must be no good, he discarded them by dumping them onto his compost pile, then forgot about them.

To his surprise, two years later he saw a bunch of seedlings on the compost pile. They were from the handkerchief tree. They had sprouted after all!

What he didn’t know was that seeds of the handkerchief tree have what’s called a “double dormancy”: they require two years to germinate, unlike most seeds which will sprout within the first year.

He had written them off too soon.

Don’t we do the same with people sometimes?

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Miss Willmott’s Ghost

Giant Sea Holly: Photo by Matthew Richardson on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

I saw Miss Willmott’s Ghost this week.

No, I don’t know anyone by that name, and I haven’t seen any actual ghosts lately.

I’m referring to the giant sea holly, a plant whose nickname is “Miss Willmott’s Ghost.” I happened to see it on a visit to my city’s botanical gardens recently.

The giant sea holly was given this whimsical moniker in honour of the equally eccentric Ellen Willmott, an English gardener who lived in Victorian times.

Apparently, Miss Willmott so loved this plant that she carried its seeds with her at all times in hopes of helping it proliferate. On a regular basis, she would secretly scatter the seeds in other people’s gardens when visiting them. Later, this silvery thistle-like plant would mysteriously appear, no doubt causing the garden’s owners to do a double-take and wonder how it got there.

Perhaps we as believers in God should take a page from Miss Willmott’s book. Not to engage in any guerrilla gardening necessarily, but to follow her example of planting “seeds” wherever we go.

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