Best Defense is an Even BETTER Offense!

Garden and Greenhouse  www.groundworks-midwest.com

This is a picture of a greenhouse at a public school playground in the midst of Sioux Falls, SD,  The growth, the joy, the learning, and the planning has blossomed in the last five years.  This past September, 2013, began year 6.  On Saturday, October, 26, 2013, the greenhouse which served as the symbol of the first teaching garden sponsored by multiples of local and regional partners, and the non-profit, Ground Works, saw its last day at the pavement locked school.

Students from Northwestern College in Orange City, IA gathered with teachers from Lowell Elementary, volunteers from the neighborhood, and the staff of Ground Works to take down the structure which was originally donated from a Wal-Mart in Pierre, SD,  4 of the people who were part of the original build and dedication donned gloves and dismantled the symbol, which for 5 years has been such a source of hope and pride.

You may ask why this had to happen.  1 word:  Vandalism.

Short, not sweet, but certainly to the point.

A flourishing  garden naturally lends itself to some curiosity.  The sight of purple eggplants growing in the sun provides as much temptation as  ripe tomatoes hanging from their vines.  Some innocent exploration and the occasional splat is understandable and expected.  Hey, at least they are in the garden and taking enough time inspecting to cause a little commotion.  Even the innocent removal of a watermelon or pumpkin from its moorings provides a moment of learning for young hands who try to attach it after its been plucked.  One can smile at that and use it as a learning and teaching moment of  growth, science, and measurement.  The possibilities are endless for instruction.

HOWEVER!!!!! One cannot stand for nor tolerate the intentional destructive and violent actions of persons bent on destroying something that belongs to the children, families, teachers, and neighbors who reside in and near the school where the garden grows.  Yes, the violent and destructive nature of vandalism has visited not only this garden but 2 others in the Sioux Falls area.  No leads on the individuals or the motives have surfaced, but it begs the question as to what is happening recently.

The greenhouse frequently saw various items littering  the floor not once, but multiple times.  Each time the garden manager had a class out in the garden, she had to first canvas the area , ensuring that any nefarious items were disposed of appropriately.  Bottle rockets, broken pots and cinder blocks lay spewed on the ground, while the beds were the picture of upended plants, vegetation, and footprints.  We won’t even elaborate on the inappropriate material found which would cause any adult to shake their head in disgust and worry even more about the safety of the children in the neighborhood.  Rest assured whatever the mind may be imagining now  is nothing short of what has already been pictured.

For months, members who have been involved in this garden have hoped against all hopes that the activity would cease.  No such luck.  In fact, with each passing weekend, the activity increased and the destruction gained momentum.  With support from all partners, teachers involved, and earlier mentioned non-profit staff members,  the request of the principal for the greenhouse to be removed, was heeded.  Above all, the safety of the students, teachers, and neighbors trumps the presence of a structure–any structure.  With all partners and collaborators set on the mindset that this and other gardens exist for the purpose of education in academia, scientific inquiry, health and personal wellness, environmental sustainability, and the practice of being a great neighbor, plans were made and executed with good faith and attitude.

As the garden manager and long invested partners gathered to look at the greenhouse one last time, the feeling of anger and frustration surfaced once again as the issue of why now, why this place were left unanswered.  The anger, not directed at those dismantling, went to the core of those causing the violence and  the overall safety of the children to be compromised.   So, while 20 pound cinder blocks were stacked, ready for a flatbed, the frustration gave way to a unified  sense of satisfaction that the growing beds remain.  The learning continues, the bridge for school and community exists, and gathered on the pavement were people committed to the education of children.  Unspoken feelings of satisfaction replaced frustration as teams of people worked together to right the wrongs caused by those not able to see the benefit of what they sought to destroy.

There is the wonderful key….their destruction did not dampen the spirits of those rolling up their sleeves.  Their desire to deny others gave way to dreaming and planning of a different sort.  Those who have been present from day one 5 years ago remember fondly the seminary student who dared to ask, “What if?”  That same question came full circle yesterday.  Just as in the past, if something was uprooted, it was immediately replanted.  The ideas of expansion took shape and smiles spread across faces.  College students never before met,  served alongside teachers who cared.  Strangers, made friends demonstrated EXACTLY what the teaching gardens proclaim they do.  They bridge the divide of race, gender, station, desire, education, and financial or social standing.  Conversations of teamwork, student dreams, and future garden plans were discussed with good humor.  Throw in some sunshine, free food, laughter, and the ulterior motives of others were forgotten.  That is right, the motives of those who sought to ruin, were disregarded.  Violence did not have the last word, nor was it the attitude allowed to take root.  It did not take an  angry response to stop the behavior.  Hard work, teamwork, and community proved more important than reacting.  Proactive response demonstrated more maturity and collaboration than a few wreaking havoc.

There are other gardens in the area being targeted.   Ground Works offers  the hand of positive partnership to calling an end to such behavior.  We remain committed, along with others, that the cycles of violence and destruction have a source far deeper than what the surface represents. It is our obligation to go below that surface and ask the tough questions and listen when even tougher answers come forth.  It is our obligation to ensure that a safe and productive learning environment blossoms not only at the gardens we serve, but for those gardens experiencing similar issues.

Destruction has no place in our neighborhoods, or near our schools.  The group yesterday stood positive that quiet and well planned and executed response is of far more worth than misplaced anger.  Love wins, it always wins.  Now, try to destroy that!

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Open REAL EYES to REALIZE what is before us.

According to a recent Pew poll released on in Oct 2012, the United States has dropped below 50% of the population subscribing to a Protestant faith.  The numbers show that the US is now at 48% down from 53% in 2007.  The largest group to see growth is what researchers call, “The nones.”  A similar report dated October 2012, more than 13 million atheists and agnostics and nearly 33 million claim no particular affiliation.   About 20 percent of U.S. adults say they have no religious affiliation, which is an increase from two decades ago when about 8 percent of people were deemed so-called “nones.” Nones are described as young college students, second career individuals, and those just beginning their families somewhere in their middle 30’s.  Most would claim they have a spiritual faith, but as one man stated, “Saying that you are an atheist no longer carries the stigma that it did in years past. More and more are recognizing that you can be good without a belief in a god.”

This leaves the field wide open in terms of Christian faith.  Instead of shrinking back in disbelief at these statistics, I consider this a wake-up call to action for us whom we call brothers and sisters in the faith.  Colin Hay, musician and lyricist offers these words in opposition to this call to faith and may provide the backdrop for many of the feelings society is facing.

All around is anger
Automatic guns
There’s death in large numbers
No respect for women or our little ones
I tried talking to Jesus
But he just put me on hold
Said he’d been swamped by calls this week
And he could not shake his cold

And still this emptiness persists
Perhaps this is as good as it gets
When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes
Now I leave the party early, at least with no regrets
I watch the sun as it comes up, I watch it as it sets
Yeah, this is as good as it gets

Can you feel the desperation, the loss of hope resignation in these words?   If the above poll numbers are true, this is the feeling that our young people are experiencing—believing the present conditions are as good as it gets.

BUT!!!!  We know something different, my brothers and sisters.  WE know a different reality and a more solid truth don’t we?  We know that this is not as good as it gets.

Turn with me to John chapter 14

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me.[a] 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. 3 After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. 4 You know the way to where I am going.”

5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way?”

6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Jesus answered. “Without me, no one can go to the Father. 7 If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.”

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.

 

There is hope and redemption in those words, I invite us to consider what the Message gives us in further? – paraphrased (might be a better word) translation.

1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

5 Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

8 Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

And then we’ll be content.  Ah, there it is.  And THEN, we’ll be content.

Will we be content after a tumultuous election?  Will we be content with a higher paying job or a better car?  Will we be content if more people love us or we add more FRIENDS on our Facebook page?  How about when all the moments of frustration cease?  Will we be content?

What will it take?

It takes the command that Jesus gives us in verse 11.

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.

We become content when we take off the blinders and REALIZE how to look at our world and God’s people with REAL EYES.  That sounds like a tall order, so there is an implicit help given in that command from Jesus.  There is a Spirit (an Advocate) which Jesus promised would always be with us, to empower us to see others as Christ sees them.  WE are not alone, we have power in the Spirit to realize that this is not as good as it gets.  There is more.

There is more heaven here on earth than we allow ourselves to see and hear.  Yet, the louder voices of desperation, rejection, hurt, anger, and hate seem to engulf  our spirits, wanting to fool us into believing this is all there is.  How have we responded?

For some, for the many whom the “nones” are watching, we have embraced the voices of slander, malice, anger, and hatred…creating a hell on earth where we mistrust one another…we operate out of fear instead of the promise that there is more.  We do not serve a God of fear; we serve a God of…redemption, love, and compassion.   I believe that we have forgotten this.

In the non-profit that I work in in Sioux Falls, I have the chance to see in a practical way, the essence of the Spirit moving in places and doing things I could not see otherwise.  I see people coming together in a garden, slinging compost, laughing and building—together.  GROUND WORKS operates out of a mission to practice being a great. does this break off here? …where have we heard this command?

“I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing.  You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.”

The mission question you ask of yourselves today is answered in that statement.  How do you remain faithful?—by doing the things that Jesus did and practicing the things that Jesus said.

I cannot give you a nice, neat method to perfectly sewing up your faith and keeping it intact.  I would be doing you a huge disservice if I told you that the older you get, the easier it gets.  It doesn’t. I look at my own children, who so easily embrace the world they see and I am amazed at it.  When did my filter become so polluted?

It became polluted when I decided that the world and its opinions means more to me than seeing people for who they really are==as beloved children of Christ.  It became tainted when the voices of the multitudes screaming that getting my own is more important than loving the least, the lost, and the lonely.  It became dirty when I embraced the belief that poverty is shameful and those who are impoverished are somehow less than me.

Have we forgotten that we are all poor and that the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven?  When did poverty become a 4-letter word meaning something that we eliminate or cut out of our society?  When did following Christ mean that I have the right to sit in judgment over anyone for any reason?

It didn’t.

When I asked my former seminary professor how to write a sermon a number of years ago, he smiled at me and said, “Go, look in the mirror and ask that person what they need to hear.  What does she most need to hear and what does she need to see the most today.  When you are quiet and allow the Spirit to convict you, the message will come to you.  That is the offering you bring-no more no less.”

See, I told you it does not get any easier, the older that you become.  It gets harder to force out the ingrained methods of thought and deed to be present in the Spirit and to do the things that Jesus did.

Ok, so what did Jesus do?  A couple of years ago, I served my first unit of Chaplaincy at Avera Behavioral in Sioux Falls.  I worked over 1000 hours journeying with children, teens, men, and women living in the midst of hell.  I heard their stories and the Lord revealed something during that time.  It is a mantra that I believe is at the heart of all that we say and do.

People want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  Let me repeat that.  We want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  And the third time is the charm—I want to be seen, to be heard, to be loved.

If we take that principle and the command that Jesus gives us –to remain faithful we do the things that Jesus did, the rest becomes pretty clear.  So, what did Jesus do?

Jesus showed up.  At a well, in a garden, on a sea, on the road, and in the home, Jesus was present.

Jesus saw.  He saw the diseased, the forgotten, slandered, abused, and mistaken.  He saw them for what they are==beloved and blessed children of HIS Father, he saw them as brothers and sisters of great potential and light and love.  He saw them for what they could be instead of what the world was telling them they are.

Jesus heard.  He listened to the words of the heart, the ones we keep hidden and he responded.  He heard the stories from people desperately wanting healing, to those empowered to simply touch his cloak, he heard and embraced their humanity and spoke to them in it—not content to allow the lies of the world to fill their heads, he came to deliver a promise of something sweeter—something more divine.

Jesus loved.  Pure and simple.  There is no other act of love than to see us through REAL EYES and REALIZE the way to save us would be to die—to give up his own humanity so that we might believe and do the things he did and follow the things he said.

Sounds like pretty easy application, right?  So, you’re saying if we show up, see, hear, and love===all the rest will take care of itself….RIGHT!!!!!

To do this requires more of you and me than we initially believe.  It requires all of us.  The song that you heard this morning as we were walking in speaks to this.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

Where are we in this?  Where have we given in to selfish pride, to arrogant love of self and what we can do?  Where have we forgotten the ultimate sacrifice of love covers the world’s hurts than any amount of money or man power can?  When did we begin believing that we alone can do anything?

Do we really want to do the things that Jesus did?  Do we really want to see people with REAL EYES and realize them as precious human being that a Savior loved enough to give up His own life?  Do we really want to hear their voices and to love with the same love that Jesus loves us.  Do we even want to admit that Jesus loves “them” with the same fervor and passionate love that He lavishes on us….we are the chosen ones, aren’t we?

In the gardens in Sioux Falls, Jesus has shown us Himself.  A couple of weeks ago a young 13 year old girl who resides at the Children’s Home Society came to a catered meal and took center stage to share a poem about what a garden means to her.  She talked of a seed being planted and
watching it grow.  She talked of a place where she can go when the entire world is happening around her.  She said, that (a garden) is, “A place that needs me to stay alive.”

Does she realize that she is the seed- that place of great potential and opportunity?  Does she see herself as the seed in need of care and love and growth?  Does she know that Jesus can be the place where she can run and hide a place to go when sad or glad?  Does she know that Jesus needs and wants her to stay alive==that HE desires for her to live and BE alive—to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved?

Do we know the same?

Do we know that to be faithful means to believe that GOD wants to see us, to hear us, and to love us?  Do we believe that to realize that promise means that we are to see with Real eyes the world around us, and we are to respond.  We are to love with the heart of Christ and to do that we have to adopt the heart of Christ.

We have to see with the eyes of Christ, eyes that see beyond poll numbers, political affiliations, social and economic strife to the heart of each individual person…to recognize that their soul is to be cared for and loved==just like ours.

We have to hear the words that are said and to those unspoken.  We have to listen beyond the rhetoric and the pat and easy responses we give on a daily basis.  We must hear their stories, to hold those stories, and to honor them as precious…after we have heard them—really heard them we can hear how beautifully our stories intersect with one another.  We have incredible impact==we have the chance to turn the tide toward Heaven instead of Hell.

We have to love with the love of Christ; fierce and on fire and smoldering and peaceful all at the same time.  A love which consumes all the darkness and forces light into the hate and drives it away.  A love that embraces poverty as desirable because it means we are in the presence of the Risen Savior.  A love which knows no limit to compassion-knows that no amount of money or power or control can take the place of being held and seen and heard and loved.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us not grow weary in the race set before us, my same seminary professor has become a life mentor to me and reminds me often that what we are doing is a Marathon, not a Sprint.  This is not a race that has an out the gate running start or an ability to maintain that pace for the duration.  It is a marathon of building of seeing with REAL EYES what we can REALIZE in Christ.

I end with an adaptation of the Jars of Clay lyrics you heard earlier.  May this be the prayer to remain Faithful—doing the things that Jesus did, in the manner in which He did them.
We look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what our life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more We need you now,
we owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
we gave up not so long ago
So steal our heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse our pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things we cannot hide
take the beauty, take our tears
the sin-soaked heart and make them yours
take our world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that we despise
speak the words we can’t deny
watch the world we used to love
fall to dust and thrown away

Take our world apart.

GROUND WORKS KICKS OFF SUMMER!

hayward build may 2012 done done

Country(fied) Creativity

I miss the lake front and country living I grew up understanding.  I took it for granted and even hated it when I was a kid.  I always wanted to be in town running around or biking with the rest of my classmates. I believed that they were always having more fun than I was…Now, I wonder.

I took my 2 boys home to the lake this past Memorial Day weekend.  I showed my youngest how to fish, taught both of them how to bait a hook, hauled tree limbs from the water’s edge and romped around in the fields and muddy driveway.  I loved it.

I miss the smells, the fresh grass after a rain, the cool expanse of greens and browns after a storm, the lake scent…sometimes as putrid as anything when the algae collects too much so.  I remember watching the bugs crawling and walking on top of the algae, it was so thick.  My brothers and I have a memory of being in the lake with our good neighbor friend and the lake being so still and covered in algae that the temperature was about 10* different on the surface than the bottom.  I remember our neighbor ducking underwater and inhaling a mouthful of the green goo and spewing it out like a fountain.  A green, chunky, waterfall!  BLEH!!!!!!  Well, we all did it—at one another.  I still recall our parents coming to find us, we must have looked like something from the Green Lagoon!  Ahhhh the fun.  I miss that.

A thought ran through my head as I sat at the water’s edge, talking nonsense with my youngest and swatting the gnats and flies.  There was no way I could grow up in this environment and have been a girly girl.  I often felt like a Laura Ingalls tramping through the trees or a Jo March engaging in all manner of rough and tumble play with my brothers and cousins.  I grew up playing with boys, that’s who made up my family.  I learned much from them.  That’s another blog completely…..or a couple.

I miss the play I experienced so long ago.  I think I became more creative as a result of that time.  I did not have a pool to run to and spend the summer.  My pool was the lake, I learned to swim and dive at the end of the dock.  In the winter, that pool froze and an Olympic size skating rink appeared, where I swore I was Kristi Yamaguchi.  C’mon, we’ve all done it with some sports star.  My brothers and I had only ourselves with whom to play…we had to invent our games.

Tag became–Guerilla Warfare ( Thanks to Mr. Streuwe and 8th grade History teaching my oldest brother the terminology)  Kick ball was an afternoon endeavor, all the way across the lots…and there were at least 2 acres spanning our field.  Fourth of July meant rocket launchers, chucking fireworks, and extended family.  I have no idea how to not throw firecrackers.  Imagine a dainty lady chucking Black Cats!  We were outside from sun up to way past sun down.  We were brown and fit and happy….covered in scabs, and often my mother wondered if it was TAN or dirt that enveloped us.  Prolly a good combo of both.  WE lived in the outdoors, the trees, lake, rocks, docks, and fields were our best friends.  It became part of our souls…It did mine at least.

Now I yearn for the sound of the water…my bedroom faced the lake and I would open my window during all seasons to hear the water lap against the rocks, the fish jumping in early morning, the ice settle and pop in the winter.  I knew those sounds intimately…I want to hear them again.

Author, Richard Louvre writes about a disconnect with nature that our children are suffering.  AMEN and AMEN to that.  I watched my sons last weekend.  They calmed down, they romped in the grass, threw rocks at the lake, waded in the water–(albeit it was freezing…who was I to reprimand?) I would have been doing the same.  He comments that our society of children no longer know how to play, have no understanding of the nature that surrounds them…or for some children, they have no idea that nature exists!!!!  That idea baffles me, but the more I work within the city limits of the larger metropolis where I live, I see where that happens.  Children can go through their whole lives without seeing a farm, and open field, a dirt driveway leading…who knows where.

I needed that growing up, I need it now.  My kids need to experience that!  I watched as their speech slowed down and they came into the house reeking of sand and mud and lake water!!!  Eau de Herman!  I needed to see that in my children.  I struggle with now, wanting to scoop them up and march them to the country and leave even the small city behind me.  Who cares about having to commute to the bright lights if I can play in the open field with my charges…A pipe dream I know.

However, there is something to this nature deficit and I am committed to more research and contemplation on the topic.  It is part of the reason I am so in love with the work I am doing with the non-profit GROUND WORKS in SD.  It is a small attempt to connecting children and families with nature through the use of a school teaching garden.  The healing and physical health benefits are more than I can articulate. It is not simply about another “fad” standard of living…it is replicable and sustainable!  It feeds the soul and the body and nurtures relationships better than anything I understand.  I will write more about GROUND WORKS in the coming days and weeks, but for now check it out at http://www.groundworks-midwest.com or go to Facebook https://www.facebook.com/GroundWorksMidwest

You just might be pleasantly surprised!!!!

Until we write again…SHALOM

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GROUND WORKS–Why It is part of my SOUL

GROUND WORKS HOSTS HAYWARD ELEMENTARY GARDEN LAUNCH

The Non-Profit Ground Works….I commit heart and soul to its mission!

Ground Works is the non-profit to which I dedicate much of my time, it is my full time position that I pray becomes financial solvent in the comings weeks and months.  As Communications, Social Media, and Marketing guru, the ENewsletter is under my care.  This is my first attempt since graduating school in Dec.  Take a gander, see what you think..tell a friend, tell more than one–tell a ton!  Rather than give you all the summary and history, I will let the document speak for itself![1]Ground Works, It’s About Their Stories!

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