Nor Thorns Infest the Ground!

A Christmas STIW

So there I was...

Yelling for help.

One of the things that I like best about being old, is getting to be on the other side of conversations. There are some family scenes that get passed through the generations. If you are lucky enough you get to eventually play all the parts. You are the child, then the parent then the wise ancient one. It is especially poignant when you get to take up the words of those who have left the planet.  Christmas brings out many of these conversations.

Our family has one scene that may be a bit unusual.  My father would walk in from the greenhouse...

“Peg, could you come, and bring your tweezers?” (later - get your glasses and tweezers)

“Coming!”  I knew precisely what this meant.

My father harbored cacti. Despite all precautions they occasionally bit. He had one in particular that looked velvety, its spines deceptively small, but especially wicked. When it bit, there was nothing you could do for yourself. You needed a magnifying glass, tweezers, patience and a friend.

As I worked he always said the same thing.

“I don’t know why any human in their right mind would harbor such vicious creatures.”

My part was “You do it for the rare but spectacular bloom”
He would smile.

When he left the planet to pursue other opportunities I had decisions to make in the greenhouse. I am not as fond of cacti as he was. Some found new homes, but there were two, known for their regular blooming habits that when it came to it, I just couldn’t get rid of. They stayed by forbearance and I told them that if they bit - they were gone. I was bluffing.

So the other day when I walked into the house from the greenhouse, I used my special voice and called “Liv, could you get your glasses and some tweezers?” She replied “Coming!” and knew what had happened, and as she worked, I smiled and said “I don’t know why any human in their right mind would harbor such vicious creatures!” And she reminded me of their blooms.

And then I was sitting in waiting worship, and we sang 

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.”

And I knew then why we harbor the vicious. Not for the occasional blessing amid the pain but in expectant hope of the day when there will be no viciousness to be found.

As a Quaker I believe that this is both incremental and apocalyptic. I believe that we can live in the Kingdom here and now. In my house there is no human viciousness. Nor in my church. Nor in my classrooms. There is pain amidst blessings, but the blessings are ridiculously abundant. I believe that in the world there are more people working for good than evil. The tipping point can come, it will come. 

And I also believe, call me old  or naïve, I care not, that God has promised a restored world, a second Eden, beyond the metaphorical.

And in that hope I harbor, nurture, treasure, even the wicked and vicious. Someday I may walk out to the greenhouse and find blooms without spines.

 Merry Christmas, Daddy, where ever you are.


As I think on this piece of writing, I think of the faces of some of my young students.

I do work amid human viciousness--and I know you've seen your share of it, as well. And somehow, though I love the sweet-faced girl who brings me home-made bread for a Christmas gift, it is the sometimes sullen, sometimes downright mean-tempered kids who have stories to tell of their parents' drunkenness and violence who rise up in my mind's eye late at night.

These kids really aren't angels, and not just because they give me a hard time; I have to watch that they do not bully other students. They can bite pretty deep.

I wouldn't claim that I'm a perfect human, and I certainly need help with tweezers and glasses at the end of some days at work.

But the thought of the miraculous blooms that--sometimes!--do happen... oh, yeah. I think I am longing for the day my kids can bloom without thorns.

*rueful smile*
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