Unimaginable (# 3)

Last week I published a couple of posts centered around the theme of vision and imagination. I found it ironic to recount the crazy advances in technology which allowed me to have a video conference meeting with a teammate in another state, while sitting in a car outside a coffee shop.

What if this kind of technology was used for kingdom advances?

What if shifts in our strategies and tactics will actually open us up to multiplication, rather than addition?

What if our normal blinds us to new possibilities?

What if the Parable of the Sower is not talking about farming? It amazes me how many people in the church who are taken back to that detailed analogy want to call into question the farming abilities of the guy in the story. “He needs to learn how to recognize good soil so he doesn’t waste so many seeds!” is the way some people verbalize their criticism. “Any fool ought to know that it is wasteful to sow seeds on the path!”

What if the purpose of the parable drives the makeup of the story? While you can easily identify which soil is packed path, which is shallow because of bedrock (might be a little harder to see) and which is thorny (if they have already sprouted), this is not so easily discerned just by looking at people.

The book of Acts tells the stories of households which we are not surprised there is a big harvest: good reputation people like Cornelius and Lydia. But God’s grace sparks the imagination of new possibilities in the hearts of others like the jailer, too. Then there are the stories in the Gospels like Demoniac and the woman at the well. Maybe we need to spread the seed of the Gospel more widely than we have in the past!

Strategic Pruning

One fall afternoon, almost twenty-five years ago, I exited my office to find my friend pruning a large azalea bush. There were actually huge shrubs (the first was 18 feet by 24 feet and the other was about 18 feet by 20 feet and both were 6 feet tall). Wayne was a horticulturist by trade, so I knew he had a reason for why he was doing this job the way he was, but I found it puzzling.

Why would a man be standing on a step ladder, reaching into this huge shrub with a tiny pair of hand shears cutting out branches one at a time? This job was going to take forever the way he was going about it. After watching for a while, I finally asked why he was not using powered hedge trimmers to make a quick job of it.

Wayne called me close and then reached in to give me a closer look at the azalea bush where he was working. “What do you see?” he asked as he spread a section apart.

“There are no leaves more than ten inches into the bush,” I replied.

“These two bushes need to be trimmed back at least 18 inches so they are not overwhelming the sidewalks. But if I did that there would be no leaves left to support the bushes. They would be killed,” Wayne patiently explained.

Last fall I was thankful for my earlier education on pruning azaleas. The shrubs at the front of our house had overgrown their space and needed pruning. This fall we will be able to complete the two season job. Last year we strategically pruned selected sections to open the inside branches up to sunlight this year. Now those inner branches have leaves, so we will be able to cut these plants back to a preferable size.