Bean Strings for String Beans:

Lesson in Spiritual Discipline

 

Half-Runner green beans, Janet argues, are the best tasting of all. So, that's what I plant, pick, string, give to her and then eat.  The strings above the vines, hopefully will make it easier to care for them and pick later.

 

By Don Meadows

I did a lot of work in the garden this week (June 13).

One task was to set stakes.  I set them for tomatoes (all six of them) and 18 for half-runner beans. There were three poles for each of six rows. Janet asked how it would work.

Well, half-runner beans, you may know, grow long running vines. They search for something on which to attach. So, I strung garden string on the stakes. I have two rows of string on each pole but will add a third – maybe a fourth – so the beans can climb upward.

That way, hopefully, they'll stay off the ground. This will help fight rusting and restrict ground bugs from getting to them. Also, this will make picking easier, as I won’t have to get down so much on my knees.

Last year taught me a few lessons.  I just let them go where they might, and I had beans on the ground, in the sweet corn, on the fence, in cucumbers and on tomatoes.  It wasn’t easy on knees, either.

As I thought about it, I realized beans reflect a lot about life. Unchecked, we have a tendency to go every which way until we find something on which to attach ourselves.  That “something” might be helpful or harmful.  It could enable us to be productive or get us into something which could destroy us.

God is wonderful.  He gives us attachments to guide us – parents, friends, the Bible, Christian examples, a basic understanding of right and wrong.  His aim, I think, is to keep us looking upward, growing toward Him, and reaching toward the Sonshine.

A day will come when we are ready to be harvested.  He will pick us and keep us forever with Himself and those whom he has saved before.

I love fresh green beans out of the garden.  I am not satisfied with just one bean.  I want a pot full.  Cooked with baby potatoes, a crispy salad, golden butter-baptized sweet corn, hot cornbread, a pork chop, a cold glass of iced tea – wow, you don’t get any better.

God, too, wants all of us.  He isn’t willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto repentance.  Some are taken before others, but it really doesn’t matter, really.  He will gather us all together and we’ll sit down at table and feast upon His heavenly banquet.

To do this, however, requires that we surrender to Him.  We confess our need for his forgiveness through Jesus Christ and yield to His directions for us.  He will provide what we need to grow in Him. dcm6151

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I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

 

2 Timothy 1:12b 

 

A Moment of Sharing -- A Moment With God

By Don Meadows

Yesterday (23 July 2011) was a busy day.  Much of it was spent in the garden, some of it in my recliner (but not resting) and about an hour tending the gas grill under the car port.  Janet was busy, too, not doing the same things as I was doing; but she and I were working for the same goal.

The zenith of the day came in seven nearly-identical moments we shared.  It was around the dinner (or supper) table.  “Click.”

“That’s one,” Janet said, a smile on her face.  We listened for nearly another minute.  “Click.”  I held up two fingers.  Five more times: “Click.” “Click.” “Click.” “Click.” “Click.”  She broke the silence, “All sealed!”Our first canner of seven quarts of half-runner green beans was in the books.  Oh, I imagine that some of you might think we’re a few beans short of a pot, but it was a moment we’ll treasure the rest of our lives.  I plowed, and plowed and tilled and tilled.  I planted and weeded.  I hung string for the beans to climb on.  I picked, pulled strings and sorted.  Janet washed, cut out bad spots, washed again, found some strings I had missed.  Then she stuffed the beans into quart jars, heated lids, screwed them on, loaded the pressure canner and we started the cooking.

“Watch the little thingy on top,” she told me.  “When it starts to jiggle, press the start button on the (“Made in China”) timer and keep the thingy jiggling for 25 minutes.”  I always do what she tells me, of course, and when the thingy started its jiggle, I cooked those beans for 26 minutes – an extra minute just to be sure.

Then the pot had to cool.  The canner was eventually unloaded and the vigil to count sealing clicks began.

I know you think we’re silly; but, hey, folks, we love to do things together.  We’re hoping to put up at least three canners of beans so that, come winter, we can savor that garden-fresh taste of half-runners.  Sure beats those beans that come out of a metal can at the grocery.

There’s another reason for our enjoyment.  We saw God at work in so many ways.  We worked, to be sure, but it was He who gave the harvest.  He gave us the desire and know-how to preserve those beans for the day we want them.

God is in the preserving business, too, you know.  Paul wrote to young Timothy, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

We followed a plan to can those beans.  God has a plan to keep the souls of his children forever.  It’s called God’s Plan of Salvation.  He gave us His only begotten Son Jesus to die on the cross, thus satisfying the penalty of death for the sins of everyone.  Jesus died, but He was raised the third day, conquering death.  This means that you and I, though we will die a physically death, shall also be delivered from death’s grip and live forever with Jesus and those who believe in Him, trust in His work in God’s plan and accept this in faith.

I am going to really enjoy those beans between now and next summer, God willing.  Each bite will remind me of the special time Janet and I had together raising and canning them.  Truth be told, the actual cost of canning the beans probably is more than I would have paid at the store.  But, the taste, the experience and sharing them with others is priceless.

Just consider that if I can get so much joy out of a few green beans, can you even imagine how much I am going to enjoy heaven! I can’t.  I guess that’s why we call it heaven. dcmgp7242011

NOTE:  The above devotion is duplicated at http://www.meadowslarks.com in "Daily Devotions" July 24, 2011

 
     
 

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Marvelous Miracles

God is a miraculous God.  Just look on each side of this panel -- at left, two buckets of my half-runner beans; top right, Straight 8 cucumbers and below wonderful fried green tomatoes.  All started from seed, then faith given time results in a delicious blessing.  Who can plant a garden, gather in the harvest, eat the food and not believe in God?    dcm7242011gp

 

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 Don't be a Zucchini Christian?

 
 
Sermon Preached July 25, 2004 at Maple Street UMC
 

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)

By Don Meadows

I  Googled  “zucchini” and it returned 1,110,000 hits on the internet.  I didn’t go to each of the sites, but the 20 or 30 I did check dealt mostly with recipes. I also learned that there is a family named Zucchini somewhat famous for a juggling act.

Many of you, I am sure, have already embarked on that yearly ritual of finding new ways to use this green squash.  Zucchini is noted for being a “marrow” plant, and its characteristic of absorbing into itself the flavors of other goodies makes it an excellent choice to use with vegetables or fruits.  It also make one fine loaf of bread.

One time Janet and I had zucchini coming out of our ears. We bought a mix (I think from Mrs. Wages) that turned zucchini into apples – or at least gave it the same taste.  It made a delicious pie, even though there wasn’t an apple in it.

There are “Zucchini Christians,” too -- always have been and always will be. “Zucchini Christians” are people who believe sincerely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died on the Cross and rose from the dead.  Like the zucchini, however, they are prone to absorbing into their beliefs the influences of a world which looks to other than biblical teaching.

Church members at Colosse (also Colossae) were going at each other over several issues -- which holidays to observe, the importance of Greek philosophy and Oriental mysticism and the practice of “asceticism” and “Gnosticism” – a belief that held that anything of the physical body was inherently evil and that the spirit was only good.  Thus, what you did with the body didn’t really matter – only the content of the spirit.  The church was mostly Gentiles – or non-Jews – who came out of a culture that recognized many demonic spirits.  The leader argued that something more than Jesus Christ was needed to defeat the powers of the demons.

Paul’s letter, written from his prison cell in Rome, sternly tells the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Paul was saying don’t be like the zucchini.  Don’t absorb all that stuff which is all around you and become incomplete again.  But, remain faithful to Christ and be made complete in him.  You no longer belong to that crowd.  You belong to Jesus, buried with him in baptism, raised with him through faith and alive with him because he has forgiven you your sins.

Peter echoes this theology: 

1 Peter 4:3  For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4  And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you; 5  but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6  For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. 7  The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8  Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9  Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

God’s will is that we be hospitable to one another, applying the salve of love to everyone because all of us have a disease called sin.  It may have different faces and go by different names, but sin is sin and can be defeated only by Jesus Christ.

God’s voice continues to thunder out at us, but do we recognize it? Last night I heard the boom, boom of the fireworks and thought, at first, it was thunder.  It’s important to recognize the voice of God.

On July 21 (2004) The Columbus Dispatch said that an historic shift is taking place in America.  “The United States will no longer be a majority Protestant nation in years to come because of a precipitous decline in affiliation with many Protestant churches.”  A survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago shows that between 1993 and 2002 the percentage of Americans who said they were Protestants dropped from 63 to 52 per cent.  At the same time the number of people who said they had no religion rose from 9 per cent to nearly 14 per cent.

Tom Slack, (then) director of communications for the West Ohio Conference, said: “One reason for the decline in Protestant identification is that some people have no faith or none they can identify.  Our society as a whole continues to become more secular.”

On Friday the Dispatch had another Page 1 article.  It was headed: “For many, Sunday is another day, another dollar.”  Most people no longer remember “The Sabbath to keep it holy” and the reason is “money.”  We are a 24/7 culture, and Chuck Kammer, professor of religious studies at The College of Wooster, said:  “We’re a country that values money and profit.  We’ve always been a capitalistic country, but there was a time in which our capitalism was tempered.”

Sarah Beth Estes, associate sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati, said, “There is no time that’s considered sacred anymore. 

Those statements haunt me. “Some people have no faith or none they can identify?” “There is no time that’s considered sacred anymore?”

2 Timothy 3:1-7  says: 1 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3  unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4  treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;
5  holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.
6  For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,
7  always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
 

A lady preacher, Mary Scifres, says that “the challenge offered in this reading from Colossians is that God calls us, those of us who have been planted in God’s garden as Christians, to live in Christ. We Christians live in the garden of life, planted by God, rooted in Christ. How often do we remember that our roots are in Christ? When we talk of roots, do we talk of family trees and ancestors, hometowns and teachers, or do we remember that our taproot is Christ?”

Christ is not only our root but also our fertilizer and our garden stake. We are built up in Christ. As we come to know Christ more fully, living in God’s light and trusting in the Spirit’s guidance, we grow stronger and healthier. We are nourished and guided by Christ, held together by this strong root, connected through God’s love at every twist and turn. As we grow in Christ, we become strong, established members of God’s garden. No longer fragile flowers, we grow into tall firs or strong oak trees.

This sounds beautiful, but gardeners know that it’s far from simple to grow strong, healthy plants. Soils are not always conducive to growth. Some plants don’t react well to fertilizer. Flowers are picked, leaving roots behind to whither and die. Weeds and insects threaten the health of plants.

Likewise, growing in Christ is no easy task. We accept Christ, but find it hard to grow if we live among people who don’t support our faith. We don’t like the challenging lessons that Christ offers as we mature, even those that would make us stronger and healthier members of Christ’s body.

In some churches, we don’t hear God’s word as it is offered, but we are afraid to look elsewhere for nourishment. We hear Christ’s call, blooming with enthusiasm, only to have someone else negate what we have heard and discourage us from growing in new directions. We offer our ministry without regard for our own nurture, and find others nibbling away at our healthy Christian lives, leaving us tired and weak after a season of faithful discipleship.

Growth is seldom easy. But we can grow in Christ by dying to all that would destroy that faith. When we give up the relationships that hinder our faith, we are free to build relationships that are life-giving and nurturing to our Christian growth. When we abandon the fears that prevent us from learning new lessons and growing in new directions, we become fearless followers of Christ. When we ignore negative attitudes that prevent us from following God’s call, those attitudes die on the vine, and we are free to grow stronger as God’s children. When we let die the attitude of giving so tirelessly that it kills us, we find new energy for lives of fulfilling ministry.

All of this growth happens because Christ is our root, our nourishment, and our purpose. When we let not only our sins die but also our self-centered worldview that thinks we have to make the growth happen, then we can be raised to new life in Christ. Then we can become the fruitful garden of God, the body that is Christ’s church.

John Wesley’s four guidelines toward defining truth are as appropriate today as when they were first given more than 200 years ago:

First, scripture.  Second, reason.  Third, church tradition. Fourth, experience.

So, how does the church deal with today’s heresies?  Paul says:

  1. Stay strong, stay strong in Jesus Christ and that, today, means staying strong in the Holy Word.  Don’t give up; don’t give in to what isn’t supported by the Bible.
  1. Be true to the Word.  Don’t substitute what you want it to say for what it says.  Let the Word lead you, don’t try to put a leash on the Word and make it follow you.
  1. Guard against personal, or spiritual pride.  Never forget, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  1. Listen intently to the world, and listen intently to the Word.
  1. Follow the example of Christ.  Reveal Christ’s love, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance of all who sin.  Yet remember, he said to sinners: “I do not condemn you.  Go and sin no more.

In Christ’s name.   Amen. dcmgp822011

 

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36  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37  Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38  Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. -- Matthew 9:36-37 (KJV)

Delayed Harvest Is Costly

By Don Meadows

Don’t wait to pick those beans.  It’ll be costly if you do.

Thus, the lesson Jesus taught about the harvest being plenteous took on new meaning for me this year.  I delayed picking half-runners and paid for it.

The delay was the result of taking a five-day trip to our Family Reunion in North Carolina.  We left on a Thursday and came back late the following Monday.  Tuesday I went into the garden to pick green beans and I confirmed what I feared:  The beans didn’t wait on me.

Oh, there were plenty of beans, alright, but they had grown and grown.  I picked some and felt the unmistakable form of seed.  Many of the beans had grown so large that the only salvageable part was going to be what we call “shellies”.  The juicy, tasty “meat” was dried up and felt almost like pea shells.

It meant several things.  First, I would have to look a lot harder for “green” beans to can.  Secondly, it would take a lot longer to shell beans.  If you’ve ever done any canning, you know what I mean.

Jesus looked out upon a multitude of people and said to his disciple, “The harvest is ready.  There aren’t enough laborers to get the job done the way it should be done.”

As I thought about those beans and the Christian harvest, several truths were realized.

Christians must be alert to opportunities to win others to Jesus.  You must look at beans every day to seize the best picking time.  Souls are like that, too.  There are moments and situations when they are more receptive to the Lord Jesus.  Prayerfully watch, wait and act when the Holy Spirit tells you the time is right.

Left without care, bad things start to happen.  Weeds grow and bugs start to nibble away.  Seeds inside get big and the green, juicy part dries.  Life is no respecter of persons.  Sin nibbles at Christians and non-Christians alike, but results are often vastly different.  Christians have a reference point for resisting.  The folks they run around with can strengthen them to endure and overcome evil and life’s nasty realities.  And, eternity?

This doesn’t mean “shellies” shouldn’t be harvested.  They’re delicious when cooked in the tender beans; some might be used for seed, to reproduce.  Many people come to Christ late in life.  They’re special, setting wonderful examples for younger people.  Often, however, I have heard them lament the years they did not walk with Jesus, decry the opportunities that slipped by for spiritual joys, experiences and victories that could have been won.

Of course, the analogies of beans and the spiritual life are soon exhausted.  Think about it, however, the next time you chomp down on a good vegetable.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll experience a new and refreshing appreciation for how Jesus came into your life.

Chances are good, too, that you, as a Christian, will experience a renewed and invigorated desire to be one of the workers taking in the harvest for the Lord.
 
 

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