I remember a term from my days growing up on a poultry farm: “culls.” Those were very small or sickly hens that Daddy would put aside and actually butcher for our own use.
Recently I faced a silly but still difficult decision for me: culling out the volunteer petunias from pots of petunias I had on my deck. Somewhere in early May, I noticed hundreds of volunteers sprouting: simply too many to grow well. I knew I had to get rid of some of them in order for the rest to thrive. And of course, it is very difficult to transplant just a tiny seedling.
Facebook friends gave helpful feedback about what to do with my plentiful petunias. They didn’t agree on whether to just “let them be,” or be proactive and make room for the healthiest plants to mature rather than letting them all get pot bound. But I hated the idea of tossing so many delightful plants.
I tried pulling out the tiniest starts, no bigger than a trimmed fingernail. I also took the larger and hardier looking plants and, with a small digger, moved them to a flower bed in front of my house. After transplanting about a dozen, the pots on our deck were still fairly full. I probably threw away a hundred teensy starts. I was not happy.
But pruning and culling can be a healthy thing for a flock of chickens as well as a basket of volunteer petunias. In several places, the Bible reminds us of the need to practice the art of self-pruning.
Gardening often makes me reflect on life and growing things, especially so this summer. I guess culling is hard because, for too many in the world, people are dispensable whether they are sick, old, unborn, the wrong color, the wrong abilities, brain injured, even the wrong occupation. Each precious life deserves their place in the sun to grow and be pruned and nurtured into all that God meant them to be.
We have been at another difficult reckoning this summer on the racism that continues to infect and affect so many. I was interested to read about folks at Landis Homes in Lancaster, Pa., (a retirement facility) who wanted to make sure their hearts and minds were represented on the issue of working to become an anti-racist world.
Back in June, my friend, Larry Guengerich, shared a post relating how a number of senior residents desired to find a way to join a public vigil in support of George Floyd’s family and in recognition of others who’ve died unjustly. But because of pandemic restrictions, they couldn’t. So they put out word that a silent vigil was to take place at the same time at an outdoor space on their own campus. Around 80 residents and staff gathered, (keeping physical distance, of course), for nine minutes of silent reflection, witness, and resolve. They also signed a card for the family of George Floyd.
“The purpose was to silently express anguish about what is currently happening in our country, in solidarity with those who were gathering in Lancaster,” the post noted. In addition to the silent time of reflection and prayer, the event also elicited heartfelt comments from other residents at the retirement center. One resident, Don Tyrell, said he participated because he believes in what the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights say about equality, life, liberty, and freedom. “I’m protesting because I see these values being ignored, reviled and cast aside by too many of my fellow Americans.”
Each and every person is precious in God’s sight. Rather than culling out persons and demeaning them or even hurting and killing them, practice looking at each person you see or meet as a child of God. They may not be Christian or believe like you do, but God created and allowed them to be brought into existence. Let us nourish each other as young plants. Let us do rigorous self-pruning — weeding out the bad thoughts and attitudes in our mind, and the prejudice and racial hatred that is still lurking in and around us. We each have room to grow.
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