The Marigold Challenge

Our family has really enjoyed the new way we are doing church on Sunday mornings. The podcasts, videos, reflection points and panel discussions have given us much to dwell on and discuss. There are some Sundays that we start our worship on “Broadway time”, but all in all, our family has been blessed with the new format. Having said that, Sheryl and I do miss the interactions at the coffee bar, the anticipation of the instruction to “take a moment to shake the hands with those around you”, the kid’s thunderous scramble to the front of the church and the rich sounds of Broadway’s praises in our Sanctuary. We can’t wait to get back to doing church that way again!

The Health Officer’s direction to Stay Home has forced all of us to adapt to the changing world around us and many are discovering new ways to pass the time. More than just filling up our days, it’s an opportunity to do things differently and for some, to learn some new skills.

Gardening has never been my passion. I would be considered more of an “anti-gardener”. I like to cut stuff down, trim hedges, kill moss, yank blackberry plants down the bank and put a nice tidy edge around our lawn. Sheryl is the one that enjoys choosing the bedding plants and fertilizing the pots and hanging baskets. Spring for her is filled with dreams of preparing the garden beds in anticipation of the complimentary colours that will make an appearance in the weeks ahead. Spring for me is the time to think about weed control and preventing things from growing. She likes things to grow and I like to hack things down. It really is a nice arrangement we have developed between us.

We have a plant in our kitchen window that we’ve nicknamed, Lazarus. He was obviously forgotten about for a few weeks and when he was discovered, he was looking really rough. He obviously didn’t get much water, but with a little TLC from the one with the greener thumbs, he’s now suddenly come back to life. It’s been quite amazing to see how growth happens given the right conditions and some extra care.

Many experienced gardeners follow a concept called companion planting: placing certain plants and vegetables near each other to improve growth for one or both plants. I am told that rose growers plant cloves of garlic near their roses because it repels bugs and prevents fungal diseases. Among companion plants, it is the marigold that is one of the best. It protects a wide variety of plants from pests and harmful weeds. Gardener extraordinaire, Jennifer Gonzalez tells me that if you plant a marigold beside most garden vegetables, that vegetable will grow big and strong and healthy, protected and encouraged by its new companion. Marigolds exist in our communities and churches as well – encouraging, supporting and nurturing growing individuals on their way to maturity. If you can find some of those around you, stay close to them, you will grow. Find more than one of those companions and you will positively thrive. Once you’ve identified your marigolds, make the extra effort to stay close to them (but 6 feet apart). Your initial search may yield imperfect results but make the effort. It’s worth the trouble.

Have you been blessed to see how creative people can be with their encouragement during the past few weeks? Our family sure has. Community birthday parades, the sounds of the daily 7pm clanging for health care workers, sidewalk chalk messages and the colourful hearts on windows are all wonderful, practical examples of the power of encouragement. How are you doing your part? Could you be a marigold in another person’s life in these uncertain times? Perhaps the Spirit is prompting you to be innovative in your efforts.

Be specific in your planting. Ask, “Lord, who are you directing me to encourage today?” and be patient for His answer. You may be surprised who comes to your mind. Then, decide on the way you can do that and put your thoughts into action. You could start with a phone call, an email, something you make or bake or something you write (handwritten messages are the best!). It’s also quite amazing what a simple smile can do.

The Marigold challenge goes like this: Use the opening words of Philippians 2 and complete the sentence in the way the Lord is directing you:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ . . .”

Be specific. Be creative. Be generous and share your ideas. We’d love to hear them!

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