This is a photo of our backyard. When we bought this house a year ago, the backyard was one of the main reasons we fell in love with it.
Robyn and I didn’t do all of the improvements, but we have worked very hard over the past twelve months getting the yard and garden into the condition that we want. The little shed in the back is my office. And, yes, that’s an artificial turf putting green that we had put in last summer! Almost every plant that you can see in the picture we planted last fall, including a couple of mountain laurel trees (my favorite tree). And, in front of the shed, is my new raised-bed garden with two varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, four kinds of peppers, plus basil, thyme and oregano.
One cool morning last week, as I was enjoying the backyard and practicing my putting, a strange thought occurred to me; that I am a guest in my own backyard. I’ll explain.
A blue jay was fussing at me as I was putting. I don’t know if I was too close to its nest, or if it just wanted to come down and use the birdbath, but it was letting me know that I was an intruder – in my own backyard!
You see, we share the yard with several species of birds: blue jays, cardinals, doves, mockingbirds, sparrows, finches, grackles and more that I haven’t yet identified. Of course, we have all types of bugs, and I’m learning to co-exist with a number of reptiles, including little green tree frogs, toads, at least three types of lizards, skinks and two types of snakes. Did I mention that our lot backs up to a greenbelt?
But the true bosses of the backyard are the squirrels. We have a big pear tree, and if you look again at the picture, the tree on the left is the tallest peach tree I’ve ever seen. Last spring and summer, I was so excited because there were so many peaches and pears on our trees, and I could hardly wait for them to ripen so I could bite into them. Alas, we never got to taste a single peach or pear. You see, the squirrels don’t wait for the fruit to mature and ripen before they take them and half-eat them. (I’m hoping my new decoy owl will keep them out of my tomatoes.)
All of these birds, bugs, reptiles and critters are reminding me that I am a guest in my own backyard. I may enjoy the backyard, but they live there. It’s their home. And while I may own it, I’m not the boss of it. In fact, I feel an obligation and desire to preserve it and keep it healthy for them – even the #@%! snakes and squirrels.
This got me to thinking about how many of our churches are like guests in the communities and neighborhoods in which we are planted. Many of our church members actually live in the neighborhoods right around our churches, but notice how many, many folks drive in from all over to come to church.
How are we nurturing and neighboring the folks that live in our parish? Are we providing food, drink, clothing and relationship as our Lord has commanded us to do? Are we planting trees, the shade of which we may never sit under?
Are we noticing who already lives here and seeking to know them and love them? People want to be SEEN, and that takes time, compassion, humility and grace.
Blessings and Peace,