I splurged big time at the Virginia Botanical Garden Sale. To my delight, they had a sizeable number of selections in the “shade” section. The large section of my transformed garden is behind a hedge and under a tree, so definitely qualifies for needing shade-prefering plants. During my search via internet and local nurseries, I found very few plants that qualified. Some would qualify as “partial-shade” tolerant. But the majority of plants that would survive a Minnesota winter required full sun plus rich, well-draining soil. Even with bags of compost drug in, my shade garden did not qualify. So when I showed up to support the local sale, my expectations of finding something were minimal at most. But to my shock and delight, I had choices!

Now, admittedly, some had no white plastic markers that said what they were. I have compensated for their lack by creating my own plastic sticks, with a “?” on it, followed by “Bot. Garden Sale” underneath. That way, even though I don’t know what it is, next spring IF it survives, I will know it is an official, planted plant, and not a weed. To give myself credit, IF things survive, I will have a nice variety in terms of the size and coloration of the leafs, as well as the height variation. Two are to be “large clumping”. One was labeled a lily.  I thought all lilies need full sun, but per the plastic identifier, this one prefers shade, yet grows tall. Who knows?

One disconcerting plant was a little one that a staff person praised for its two-toned flowers, even though it was labeled a “ground cover.” Worried, I would swear that I had pulled some of those out, because they looked like weeds. But when I looked it up once home, it was called a weed preventer, since it doesn’t allow other “weeds” to grow. One person’s weed is another’s flower. It now has its own plastic spike label, to remind me.

IF things survive, I will take pictures and seek out a Master Gardener to help me identify them. Until then, rather than bare ground, my garden is now in place, even with each plant having room to expand! I am delighting in it, both in what it currently is, and in what might be next spring and summer. Before the sale plantings, my original plantings have even survived a hail storm, which I find this side of miraculous. If they can survive hail, maybe they will survive below-zero temperature! Coming from local gardens improves the odds.

This all reminds me of an incredible PBS documentary called “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” The video is on the ancient (“caveman”) paintings on the walls of some caves in France. Until I saw it, I labeled cavemen drawings as the archetype of what is now called “primitive” art. Basic, child-like, with no real skill shown in terms of technique or conveyance of image. But these paintings convey movement, three dimensions, and are indeed the thing of dreams. They are impressively well done. Yet they were created thousands of years before Jesus walked on the earth. They make us redefine our dismissive label of “primitive.” Whoever made them were truly gifted artists. They saw, and through their work others also saw and remembered.

To see with multiple sets of eyes is a gift: you see the present, the future, and that which is timeless. I am thinking of the extremely baby (the trunk under an 1/8th of an inch thick) maple tree that I am cultivating. It arrived by accident with a batch of iris plants. Yet it has three very large (for the size of the trunk) magnificent maple leaves. I have planted it, and surrounded it with stones so that it does not get mowed down. Is it a maple tree? In one sense, it doesn’t even qualify as a sapling. Yet it IS: I see it with two kinds of sight. It is now MY maple tree. Will it survive winter? I have no idea. But if it does not, my TREE will have died. Should it survive, it will take decades, after I have died even, before it looks like a respectable tree. But for right now, that does not matter. I can “see” it. Hopefully similar to how God sees me: there, yet not there yet, but still the essence is undeniable.

Click the document below to open our October Newsletter.

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In the September 24th issue of the Washington Post, there was a very good article by Michael Frost on the NFL “bent knee” controversy, comparing the Christianity of Colin Kaepernic with Tim Tebow’s. The following excerpt summarizes the issue that is dividing the church:

“And not just in the United States. In many parts of the world it feels as though the church is separating into two versions, one that values personal piety, gentleness, respect for cultural mores, and an emphasis on moral issues like abortion and homosexuality, and another that values social justice, community development, racial reconciliation, and political activism.

One version is kneeling in private prayer. The other is kneeling in public protest.
One is concerned with private sins like abortion. The other is concerned with public sins like racial discrimination. One preaches a gospel of personal salvation. The other preaches a gospel of political and social transformation. One is reading the Epistles of Paul. The other is reading the Minor Prophets.
One is listening to Eric Metaxas and Franklin Graham. The other is listening to William Barber and John Perkins. One is rallying at the March for Life. The other is getting arrested at Moral Monday protests.

You can see where this is going. The bifurcation of contemporary Christianity into two distinct branches is leaving the church all the poorer, with each side needing to be enriched by the biblical vision of the other. ”

This would be worth discussing more than once. A Christianity that is most concerned with inward piety can all too easily turn a blind eye to the evils in the world it is called to fight, by standing up for (and with) those Jesus sided with: the poor, the powerless, the expendable. But a Christianity that forgets the inward journey and stresses “the Church militant” in terms of activism, can all too easily turn into simply another social service agency and loose its bearings, heart and inspiration. As Mr. Frost said, both sides can be enriched by the other. But only if we will both talk and truly listen.

Humans keep trying to keep their status as superior beings, only to discover that animals have more in common with us than we would like to believe. As I prepare for the Blessing of the Animals on the first Sunday of October (the 1st at 2:00, the Sunday before the Feast of Saint Francis) I’ve started cataloging all of the things that I was taught as a child that have now been proven wrong.

I was taught that insects like bees have no true brain, so live almost on automatic. Then scientists did an experiment to see how far bees could travel and still make it back to their hive (on automatic.) They started by putting a bowl of food some distance from the hive, but definitely within range. The bees discovered it, and took the food back. They put the next bowl farther out. Still the bees found it. At the fourth or fifth move, they had to stop the experiment, for when they arrived at the next spot they found the bees waiting for them.

Humans were supposed to be the only ones to problem solve, come up with tools, and be able to comprehend several steps for a technique. Then they discovered 1) Octopus enjoy working out puzzles, such as how to unlatch various locks and maneuver drawers and doors in order to get a treat. In city aquariums, keepers have learned to keep octopi entertained by giving them Legos or puzzles: otherwise, bored octopus set their minds on dismantling the machinery. Crows and parrots make tools to suit a need, and can remember a multi-sequenced pattern. Crows have even been shown to be able to hold off on instant gratification, choosing a tool that will help them get a larger treat later on, rather than take a smaller treat now. That is something most two and three year old humans cannot do.

I was taught that the thing that separates humans from animals is the ability to recognize abstract symbols and connect an image with an action. Then about two years ago, university researchers taught horses how to let their owners know if they wanted their winter blanket on or off. They used a photograph of a blanket, and another of a horse without his blanket on. To their shock, the horses signaled correctly, with close to 90 percent accuracy: when cold, they touched the blanket photo. When not, they touched the other.

The list can go on and on, but I will leave it at that for now! Instead, let’s just remember that at the time of creation, what God created was pronounced good. And in the Psalms there are often calls for various beings in nature to join in praise. We are commissioned to be stewards – caretakers – of nature. Our charges have more going for them that our egos would prefer to ignore!

The congregation of Hope Community Presbyterian Church invites the community to join us in welcoming our new pastor, Rev. Connie Dorn.  Rev. Dorn comes to us from the state of Virginia and is a retired Navy chaplain.  In addition she has previously served churches in Alaska, Idaho and Utah, and has also served at a drop in center for teenage prostitutes in Seattle.

Her first Sunday in the pulpit will be our 9:30 service on June 25th (not the 18th as stated in the church newsletter) and the service will be followed by coffee an’.  Everyone is cordially invited to attend.IMG_0080