Thursday, 6 January 2011

Bloomin' GREAT

When Kim and I got married we had very little furniture (actually, we had very little anything). But I did have a few plants. I had been managing a plant nursery for a few years before we married and had accumulated a couple of indoor plants. Amazingly, some of those plants have journeyed with us throughout the course of our marriage. One of those plants is my ribbon plant. But as we moved so much and lived in so many houses (over a dozen in twenty years) these plants were never planted out. My ribbon plant in particular, although it never complained, was kept in a very (very) small set of three matching square pots. Consequently, while it survived the over 20 year journey, it never flourished. Then something miraculous happened...
If you've been to my house, you'll immediately see that we love our gardens. The area in front of our house leading up to the front door is one of my favourites parts of our home. It has some of my favourites plants on display there- man ferns, grevilleas, hebe-veronicas, kangaroo-paws, diosmas. This particular garden bed is one year old now. In another year it will be nicely filled out with the shrubs and ground covers blending together to form a very low-maintenance garden.
Then about six months I looked at my poor, pot-bound, ribbon plants and realised that I could now plant them out of their bonsai pots. Even though it was Winter at the time, I planted them in this garden bed. Initially they struggled. Many of their fronds died. They failed to manage all the extra water they now had to process. It almost looked they were going to die. But they were able to survive the winter. In fact, I looked at them this morning and they are flourishing! It's a miracle!
My ribbon plant is pictured left. The astute plant lover will notice that not only is my ribbon plant flourishing, it is now reproducing profusely. Many plants will reproduce because they are dying and it is their last ditch attempt to pass on their dna. But more positively, like my ribbon plant, when plants are healthy and happy they grow and reproduce. It was planted at just 5cm tall. It is now around 40cm tall!
As long as my ribbon plant lived in a little pot, it struggled. Oh sure, it survived, but just. Up until 6 months ago, it lived a very disrupted and unsettled life. As long as it was "un-planted" it was small, twisted, unfruitful, and sad. When I planted it, I had force it out of its containers and unmangle its root system. Even though I explained to it what I was doing, it complained vigorously. "What are you doing?" "Leave me alone!I've been here for over 20 years!" "Put me back in my pot." Then when I placed it into the hole I had made for it in the garden bed, continued to complain. "It's cold here!" "I'm wet!" "Why do I have to share my soil with these other plants?" No matter how much I assured it, it wasn't happy. Within days its complaining had only intensified. "Look at my fronds! They're rotting now because of what you've done! It's all your fault! I'm probably going to die here in this place!"
Despite its repeated negative confession, it didn't die. Some time has now passed since. My ribbon plant's whining diminished to silence some weeks ago. As I was giving my plants in this garden bed a drink this morning I heard a strange noise: a horticultural humming. I looked around and discovered that it was my ribbon plant happily humming. I didn't dare interrupt it. I just smiled at it. It kept humming and smiled back at me. I then listened more intently at the tune it was humming and then realised that it was humming a song from Jeremiah 17:7-8~
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
I'm sure one day that my ribbon plant will thank me. Until that day, there's some lessons to be learned from it for our lives.
1. If we never get planted, we inhibit our growth.
2. Making the move from pot-bound to earth-bound is unsettling.
3. Being 'uprooted' is a journey into the unknown.
4. Unlike living in a pot, being planted involves sharing.
5. Being planted results in more food and drink to process.
6. When you're planted you have to weather the elements.
7. After a while of being planted you wonder how you ever lived in a pot!
In your marriage, are you potted or planted? The best marriages are planted!
Just like ribbon plants and marriages, the best churches are the ones where people are planted. The Psalmist declared that those who are planted in the House of the Lord are the ones who "flourish".
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.

Psalm 92:13
My ribbon plant. If you look carefully you'll see it smiling.Just like me taking my ribbon plant out of its little pot, God wants to de-pot us out of the very things that are keeping us from reaching our potential. Being de-potted by God may look like a call to an uncomfortable commitment. It may look like taking on a long-term project that's going to mean increasing sacrifice. It will probably look like learning to forgive someone who offends you rather than running away from or ignoring potential conflicts. It will look like learning to submit rather than only participating if you agree with those you're working with.
But being planted by the Lord comes with some amazing blessings. My ribbon plant discovered that it could grow far bigger far more easily than it ever had. When the Lord plants us we are able to grow far bigger far more easily than we ever imagined previously. My ribbon plant also discovered that it was created to experience the elements of the weather. Far from being harmful to it, the elements of weather - wind, rain, cold, heat - were actually things it needed to be exposed to. As a result, it learned to dig deeper and send its roots down further. As it did, it discovered sweeter nutrients than it had ever tasted. When the Lord plants us, He calls us to endure elements that we were previously sheltered from. But as we experience the trials of life, we send our roots down deeper and discover sweeter food for our soul. And just like my ribbon plant, which is now blooming and reproducing, when we are planted we bloom and become fruitful. In fact, the more people are planted in the House of the Lord, the greater the chance these people have of becoming bloomin' great!
Father, please plant us. If we need uprooting, then please do it. Plant us where we can bloom. Help us to planted where we can help many. Cause us to endure the elements of affliction and offence that batter us. May we grow in our fruitfulness and be used by You to bring more people into Your 'Garden'. Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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