Tom and I returned from our Celtic retreat on Sunday to a garden bursting with abundance. I immediately went out and picked over 40lb tomatoes and several squash. At least the same quantity will ripen in the next couple of days. It is a little overwhelming in some ways, but in others I am more than ready – it is time to start processing: drying, making some of my favourite recipes – olive/dried tomato tapenade and roasted tomato marinara sauce and of course eating fresh salads and tomato sandwiches.
What I wonder is the harvest in God’s garden that is overwhelming us because it is ready to be picked but we have not thought to ask for harvesters to help us?
It seems that there are many harvests in God’s garden that can overwhelm us too. The fruit in God’s garden is incredibly diverse, and all of it needs a multitude of harvesters. Some of us would immediately think of the need for evangelists to go out and share the good news of the gospel. Others would think of the need to find harvesters to feed the poor, care for the sick and set the oppressed free.
It is one thing to bring fruit to maturity, it is another to bring in the full harvest whether it be in the garden or in God’s world without letting it go to seed or rot. So the question is how and where do we find the harvesters we need? To be honest I am not sure of all the answers and many of us feel that we never have enough help. But I am convinced that though I don’t have all the answers, I do know that unless we ask we will never get any help at all. So here are some suggestions:
1. Identify where you need harvesters – I became very aware of this over the summer when I felt I was drowning under a workload too that I could not cope with. We asked ourselves the question what do we want to accomplish in the next year and who do we need to help us accomplish it? Jesus rarely worked alone. He was constantly together with his disciples – his harvesters in a field of plenty.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 9:37,38 that “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” We often interpret this to mean that people are unwilling to get out and help – as I processed my mountain of tomatoes today with the help of family and friends, I wondered if it should instead be interpreted as a prayer for community, a reminder that harvesting is meant to be done together.
2. Be specific when you ask for help. Sometimes when I ask for help I can be rather vague. I am learning more and more however that once we ask ourselves who we need we should develop job descriptions for internship positions and even established a new volunteer position for a garden manager.
3. Get the word out – I am not always good in this area, and part of my feeling overwhelmed this summer has been because we did not have an MSA intern. Getting the word out about our needs is always challenging but I suggest starting with friends, community members and neighbours. Those that are closest to us will usually respond the fastest and the most enthusiastically.
4. Share the harvesters and the harvest. A couple of years ago I went raspberry picking with some friends. At the end of the day we talked about what we had learned. One person mentioned that she found it very hard to leave ripe fruit on the vines and felt she had not done an adequate job unless she had harvested every berry. Then she remembered that she was not the only harvester in the raspberry field that day and it suddenly occurred to her that she needed to leave some of the harvest for those who would come behind her.
Part of what I love about an abundant garden harvest is that it must be shared or it goes bad. God intends us to be generous towards others. An abundant harvest is a wonderful reminder to me that God intends us to be generous with the resources that we are provided with. How often do we feel overwhelmed by the abundance around us because we think it is just for us? Remember you are not the only one called to preach or heal or set people free. Pick only what you can carry, only what you can reasonably consume, only what will not go bad because you have tried to gather too much.
In Luke 12:16-20, Jesus tells the story of the rich farmer who responds to his abundant harvest by building bigger barns for himself. Jesus calls him a fool and I think that one of the reasons he was a fool was because he was not willing to share.
5. Pray – As Jesus reminds us we will never see harvesters without prayer. And that again has been my experience this week. Almost before we asked God had prepared an answer and I already have a new assistant to help me in the office.
6. Get creative. Abundance always forces us to be creative. It encourages us to think of new ways to use the harvest that has so lavishly been provided and that I think draws us closer to our creative God who is constantly imagining new things to create and new ways to do things.
Creativity keeps us flexible. It stops us stagnating and encourages us to grow.
Community, creativity and generosity are intertwined where abundance is concerned. It is wonderful to watch how, when people come together to bring in an abundant harvest, new ideas and recipes are created, food, fun and fellowship is shared and generosity seems to grow and overflow.
Imagine what you could do with the abundant harvests God is lavishing upon your life – they may not be tomatoes, perhaps they are friends or finances. And share your creative ideas with us and with others. What are your favourite recipes, ideas, endeavours that have come out of abundance in your life?