by Christine Sine
In Tuesday’s letter I mentioned how overwhelming the harvest can be. We talked about this at our community meeting and asked ourselves: How do we cope and what do we learn along the way? Part of what occurred to me is that it is often harder to handle abundance than it is to handle scarcity.
Take the processing of so much fruit for example. At first I get excited about drying, freezing, canning and making some of my favourite recipes – olive/dried tomato tapenade and roasted tomato marinara sauce, green tomato chutney, apple cake and of course eating fresh salads, and tomato sandwiches, and fresh delicious apples and pears with every meal. At first it is wonderful and the flavours dancing on our tongue fill us with childlike delight . By the end of the season however, we tend to take these flavours for granted and the niggle at the back of our minds says – not tomatoes again, not apples again. A little like the children of Israel in the desert confronted with the abundance of manna each day, we want variety.
It’s not just the processing either. Even the picking of fruit and vegetables can be an overwhelming task at times.
What I wonder is the harvest in God’s garden that overwhelms us because it is ready to be picked but we have not thought to ask for harvesters to help us or not planned how to cope with the harvest?
It seems that there are many harvests in God’s garden that can overwhelm us. 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 help 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. Gardening and especially harvesting, is far more fun when we do it together with a community of people who share not only the work but also the harvest.
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 and apples 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 then need job descriptions. Even garden helpers feel better when they know what is expected of them, and what they can hope to learn through the experience. What is the benefit for our helpers is a question we rarely ask ourselves yet it should be at the top of the list
3. Get the word out – I am not always good in this area, and part of my overwhelmed feeling this summer was because we did not recruit helpers beyond our small community. 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 whether it be for help with a physical harvest or a spiritual one.
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 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 harvested every berry in sight. Then she remembered that she was not the only harvester in the raspberry field that day and it suddenly occurred to her that she should 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 all 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 are meant to 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 he was a fool in so many ways, not just because he was greedy and wanted to become richer, but also because he missed the incredible joy of community and of generosity.
5. Pray – As Jesus reminds us we will never see harvesters without prayer. And that again has been my experience this summer. Almost before we ask God often prepares an answer.
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 . Such creativity draws us closer to our creative God who constantly imagines new things to create and new ways to do things. Creativity keeps us flexible. It stops us from stagnating and encourages us to grow.
7. 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 are shared and generosity seems to grow and overflow. That’s part of the reason we created the Godspacelight Community Cookbook, which many of my favourite recipes appear in.
Imagine what you could do with the abundant harvests God lavishes upon your life – they may not be tomatoes, perhaps they are friends or finances. We would love you to share your creative ideas with us and with others. What are your favourite recipes, ideas, ministry opportunities, creative arts that have come out of the abundance in your life?
Today’s post is adapted from Tips for Coping With Abundance
Note: Many of the recipes I use each year are in our Godspacelight Community Cookbook If you don’t already have a copy this might be a good time to add it to your collection. Your purchase of this book through Amazon helps to support the work of Godspacelight.