“Growing Hope in Our Neighborhoods”

My first big project/event for this new job as [Ministry Developer] was to coordinate our church’s booth at the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival . The festival is held every year at Lighthouse Park and it’s a great community event. It’s a typical festival/fair with lots of booths, good food, and a healthy dose of people watching. There was a booth informing the community on the run-off pollution into the Puget Sound and how to help save the salmon. There was an entire section devoted to ‘artists’ and their crafts and we found some incredibly unique ways in which people view the world–and just how amazingly talented people can be. We also had the usual main stage events and the beer tent–as well a food-row, which, as you guessed, was full of typical “fair food” some of which was pretty stinking amazing–the Kiwanis club hosted a salmon bake. Wow. I love living this close to water.

As a church we are a non-profit booth at the fair and our presence has differing goals compared to some of the others there. A worshiping and faith community our purpose for this booth was simply to be a presence in the community; we were there to meet people, make connections, answer questions, and have awkward and challenging conversations.

Instead of selling any type of food or craft at our booth–and instead of limiting our charitable giving to brightly colored brochures that most people won’t read [unless they’re really interested] we passed out seed packets and (free) cups of ice water. The seeds packets were donated to us by a nursery here in town–and we got some good ones–tomatoes, squash, dill, oregano, watermelon,  and we had lots of bird seed as well. Instead of just passing out ‘plain’ seed packets, we printed off stick-on labels that had our name on it as well as our ‘theme’: Growing Hope in Our Neighborhoods. Hubs and I sat around talking and playing with the cats as we stuck labels on all the seed packets. It was actually kind of fun thumbing through the seed packets, dreaming about which ones I want to grow, and how excited we are about having a garden instead of little flower boxes.

I began finding a rhythm of labeling the seed packs. You can’t really go too fast, and you want to make sure you get the label in a spot where people will see it, and so they can still the directions on how to plant the said seeds. As I was going through this rhythm I started pondering all the ways seeds are mentioned in the Bible–and all they ways we interpret how seeds are used in the Bible.

A pack of pumpkin seeds. Big, flat, smooth and white, these seeds are larger than a lot of other garden seeds. Gourd seeds, cucumbers–smaller, but still flat and smooth and white. Watermelon seeds are the same shape and size, but a little more plump and darker.

Then came bags of seeds I wouldn’t have recognized without the picture and label. Carrot seeds (I honestly don’t know from where the seed of a carrot comes) are tiny but they grow a dis proportionally large crop. Herb and lettuce seeds are teeny tiny…and again, I don’t know where to find the seeds on a lettuce plant.

We do not tell the seed to grow. It grows on its own. Nor do we need to tell it while it sits in the packet “Don’t grow yet,” because it already lies in waiting until the time comes when soil and water and sun bring it forth. We are partners-collaborators-in the growing process. But again, we cannot tell each pumpkin seed how large we wish our jack-o-lantern to be for the coming fall, or how many onions we’d like to put in our chili by the third week of harvest. And we certainly cannot make a tomato seed grow into a strawberry or basil leaves to sprout a cucumber.

Growing Hope in Our Neighborhoods.

What kind of seeds are we planting? Or, are we the seeds that are being planted in this neighborhood, this community? What kinds of seeds grow hope? What kinds of attitudes are we growing in our garden of life’s circumstances?

Are we growing bitter herbs because we’ve been hurt and betrayed by those we formerly trusted?

Are we harboring a harvest of anger and withholding our best crop?

Or, are we growing wherever we have been planted?

Not all seeds wait for the perfect soil, water, and sun conditions to grow–it is in the nature and DNA of a seed to grow. Are we waiting to grow? Are we staying in our tiny seed packets–scared or fearful or unsure of the soil before us?

Or, are we digging our roots in deep–firmly grasping and loving our ground.

Love your ground

Are we spreading out and searching for water, for sun, are we hungry for life?

And, after a painful transition of growing from seed to plant to fruit and crop will we give generously of ourselves? Will we give our last ounce of life so that others might live?

We are growing hope in our neighborhoods. Hope is a pea plant falling, drooping under the weight of so many filled pods, waiting to be harvested and shared. Hope is a dandelion growing up through the cracks of a sidewalk. Hope is you and your family welcoming a stranger as a friend laughing at the dinner table with stories and good food late into the night.

Hope is growing in us.

Hope is growing us.

May we learn to recognize the Life-giving rain as it showers us. May we see hope with new eyes. May we be hope to tired eyes.

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