What is a weed?

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

My dilemma in gardening is and has always been a struggle to decide what is a weed that should be plucked and what is a plant worthy of staying. It may sound foolish, but I truly battle. Some of the prettiest flowers in my yard I am told are weeds.

I decided to do some research. Surely I cannot be the only person who wonders why certain flowers should be uprooted from the flower beds. Certainly I cannot be the only person to question who gets to decide which flower is worthy and which is unworthy.
It delights me to tell you that google has revealed that in fact I am not the only one. I found a very helpful article in the Chicago Tribune titled WEED OR FLOWER? WHO DECIDES? written June 12, 2010. It is a question and answer article written by Tim Johnson who is a horticulturist at the Chicago Botanical Garden. The very first question of the article asked him if there was any biological difference between weeds and plants, and how does one decide which is a weed. His answer was as follows:

“I define a weed as a plant that is growing where it is not wanted in the garden. Different gardeners will have different ideas as to what constitutes a “weed” in the garden. For example, are violets in the lawn weeds or interesting spring color accents?”

OH. That is fantastic. So I can leave my pretty weeds if I want too! Tim Johnson goes on to say that weeds do not pose a threat to the native plants. I am thrilled. I have been gardening all these years under the assumption that weeds are very bad for the garden because they take over and destroy the “real” plants. But Mr. Johnson, expert horticulturist, says different. Weeds do not destroy the other plants. They simply mess with the visual effect of the garden. So if I like my flowering weeds and think they are beautiful and don’t mind them mixing in with the other flowers….well …..I can keep them. In fact most people would not even know that they were admiring a weed in my flower bed. Most people would assume it is a flower. How about that?

There are, however, invasive plants. “Invasive plants are not weeds. Invasive plants are usually non-native and are able to establish themselves within existing native plant communities and pose a threat to the integrity of the plant community.” They are plants not weeds. hmmm.

It’s a lot for me to ponder. In the meantime I’m going to be a little kinder to my weeds. After all according to the expert, “Weedy plants readily spread, especially in disturbed areas, but generally do not pose a threat to the integrity of native plant communities.” And you know…there is something about this that smacks of Jesus.

Maybe, just maybe if we allowed a few more weeds to live harmoniously among us our churches would flourish. After all, “are violets in the lawn weeds or interesting spring color accents?”

I’m going to simply enjoy the beauty and let God sort it out.


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Hummingbirds, Mystery and doubt

I believe a Rufous Hummingbird has buzzed my head each morning when I have taken the dogs out for the past week. I say I believe, not because I have doubt for I am quite certain a hummingbird has buzzed my head each morning for a week. I say I believe because I’m not 100% certain it is a Rufous Hummingbird. According to the books it could also be an Allen Hummingbird as they are almost indistinguishable. The Rufous are more common in these parts so I doubt that it is the Allen.

You see how that works? I have no doubt as to whether there is a hummingbird I have some doubt of its exact type. I can live with the doubt. Doubt makes space for mystery. I like the mystery. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if it is a Rufous Hummingbird or an Allen Hummingbird. It is magnificent. It is a wonder. It is a treat to watch and I am honored that I have become a part of its world just as it has now become a part of mine. I am giddy with excitement when it shows up. I am drunk on anticipation as I wait to catch a glimpse.

Excitement and Anticipation urge me into preparation. If I want the little beauty to be around all season then I must prepare. I clean the feeder and fill it with fresh sweet water. I pull the weeds from the flower beds so that the blooms can find breathing space. I will plant new flowers so that there will be plenty of nectar for this flying little marvel.

As we enter into the 5th week of Lent what preparations have you made? What doubts do you have? Is anticipation driving you to make ready the way? Are you enjoying the mystery or lost in the mundane? Do you recognize the hummingbirds in your life?

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No Easter without Good Friday

Yesterday in my rush to get into the office I was driving a little faster than I might normally drive. I was thinking about a million different things – meetings, worship, Holy week, life in general, the cross, the Church universal, our church, homelessness, poverty, injustice, answers, questions, what can I do, what should I do, what should I advise we do, what’s fair, what’s right, what’s just…..you get the picture. I either was suffering from too little coffee or not enough at that point. I was just a little faster than normal. I was in a hurry to get to work. I was lost in my own thoughts and completely in work-mode mindset. That’s when it happened….

The Robin flew right out into my path. Out of nowhere it flew into the road and met the grill of my car. It was awful. I slowed down immediately and refocused my mind instantaneously, but it was too late. I watched it in my rear view mirror as it rolled helplessly on the road: wings broken, unable to fly, helpless and vulnerable and doomed to be hit again by another unsuspecting car on its way to work.

I was very upset. I pulled over. What should I do? I heard mocking voices from my past saying, ” Amy, seriously, it’s only a bird”, “there is nothing you can do”, “just go to work”, “you can’t save it”….and I knew that in truth there was nothing I could do to save the poor bird’s life…not now… had I been more attentive on the road, focused on the present moment perhaps….But was the only alternative to drive away leaving it to suffer there in pain in the middle of the road until the inevitable happened?

We are almost to the city Gate. Almost ready to wave our palms and proclaim “Hosanna”. So close to entering into the final week with Jesus as he teaches, challenges, prays, implores us to listen, to see, to follow. Sometimes we want to hurry to the Easter morning experience. We want to bypass the suffering of the cross. We want to skip right ahead to the empty tomb and get on with celebrating. Sometimes in our desire to hurry to the empty tomb we leave a wake of suffering in our path. We lose sight of what is in front of us here and now.

There can be no Easter without Good Friday.

May we, as we enter this sixth and most holy week of Lent, embrace the journey. May we slow down, pay attention to what’s in our wake. May we feel deeply the sorrow and the pain in our world. The sorrow and pain of the Cross without losing sight of resurrection. It is upon us.

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Draw the Circle Wide and then wider still….

We are in a process at First Christian Olympia. We are discussing what it means for us as a congregation to officially claim and name ourselves as an Open and Affirming congregation. We already profess a theology of extravagant hospitality and welcome. The congregation is made up of people from all walks of life. We enjoy a tremendous spirit of fellowship and purpose as we walk together listening for God’s call, seeking to be all that means in this time and in this place in the context in which we find ourselves today. Not yesterday, not 50 years ago, but today. Some ask and wonder why it is necessary to be Open and Affirming when we are already welcoming. It is a good question. A question that begs for a response.

In the context of this time and place in our community, in our state, in our country, in our world it is more important than ever for those of us who understand the Gospel as good news, who have experienced first hand the restoring, healing power of being a part of a community that lives out the all inclusive love that Jesus professed and taught –┬áto speak out, to reach out, and to fully proclaim it.

The world becomes more and more divided everyday. God’s vision for us is not divisive. God’s vision for us was not to live in fear and in hate. God wants us to live in the realm. The kingdom here and now. In order for that to happen we must reach beyond our fears and our misgivings, our judgements and draw the circle as wide as it needs to be drawn until there is no outside or in only God’s realm; love, justice, peace, joy, hope.

Being an Open and Affirming congregation means we welcome everyone, Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, Bisexual, Heterosexual, Black, White, housed, unhoused, street people, the mentally ill , the lonely, the broken hearted, the angry, the conservative, the liberal, the questioning, the tatooed, the white collared, the blue collared……….the list is never ending and you may feel free to fill in more blanks…..My prayer for us is that we continue to draw the circle wider…..

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about hospitality. Often times in the context of church we understand hospitality as the act of welcoming a stranger. This translates into slapping a name tag on them as they enter to worship, saying hi and telling them about coffee hour following worship, or shaking their hand during passing of the peace. All of which can be acts of welcoming. But is it enough? Are we really taking the time to get to know each other? I’m wondering if we don’t need to examine our motivations. If our motivation is simply to get a person to return so that we may increase our numbers then I’m not sure it counts as hospitality.
When did Jesus ever teach that we should be gathering up people and convincing them to join a congregation. Perhaps the greatest act of hospitality is to go out into the world and live our lives in the manor Jesus taught. Making friends with everyone we meet regardless of social status, or political views, or sexual orientation. Loving our neighbors and taking care of each other so that the world is transformed into a just and hope filled place. This is the greatest act of hospitality I can imagine. It focuses our attention on God’s vision for the world rather than our own desire to count numbers on Sunday morning.
Don’t get me wrong….I love to have visitors on Sundays. I love a good presence in worship. Because it feels good to be in community with those who are faithfully seeking to understand God’s call as we experience through Jesus. But when we focus on numbers alone we miss the point. We cannot truly be open to listening to God. So…..I whole heartedly welcome anyone and everyone to come experience God’s presence through worshiping together, but I also invite you to then return to the world and truly live out God’s desire for hospitality. Loving your neighbors where ever you find them.

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Hello world!

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to my blog and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Olympia website, www.firstchristianolympia.org. I’ve given a great deal of thought as to what I might say as a way of introduction to this incredible faith community, and I keep coming back to the phrase we use on our outdoor sign: Open Minds, Compassionate Hearts, Welcoming ALL people.

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