Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Life Lessons from the Garden

As I worked in the garden today it came to my atttention that a lot of my boxwood plants (Boxus microphylla japonica) are not getting watered at all. If they were, it would have been very minimal. Most of the time I scrutinize my plants from the kitchen window. (Not a recommended way but because of other distractions I can only do it this way.) From there the plants look alright, they're green and even growing, they seem content thus I'm content. On a closer look, however, the problem was revealed. The soil is dry, which means that my plants are water-stressed. Signs of nutrient-deficiency became visible, snails breeding underneath the canopy and my long lost red-handled pruner was discovered hanging within the hedge! After all these revelation, I was morally obligated to do something!

One could digress and parallel gardening with human relationships. The deeper truth about a person will be revealed only through closer associations. Close associations develop with trust. Like my boxwood, people can and will try to appear composed in the eyes of someone who is not willing to get their hands dirty. Imelda Marcos' slogan at one time was "Makialam" (which means meddle). If indifference is the opposite of love then meddling for the sake of others is a noble thing to do.

I like to advise gardeners to regularly sing to their plants (which often cause eyebrows to rise). Surely, music is not a requirement for plant growth! However, the proximity of the gardener to the plants is what matters. Closeness results in communication, communication in understanding, and understanding in meddling.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Ephesians 4:29

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Whose Favor Matters?

"... Esther won the favor of everybody who saw her". Esther 2:15

"Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen..." Esther 2:17

Favor, the preferential treatment or approval from others, is something that humans all long to have. Regardless of personality differences, every person aspire to have the approval of someone for various reasons. It could be of an employer, neighbor, relative, acquaintance, classmate, church-mate or even an enemy. There are two questions that are worth asking regarding this matter: 1) Is favor free? 2) Who gets it?

It appears that favor is a prize that is bestowed to someone who deserves it. How one deserves favor is totally dependent on the one who gives the favor. The requirements or criteria are completely under the control of the giver. It hangs above the head of everyone and it remains suspended until the one who holds it decides to grant it. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one could say that favor rests in the heart of the giver. A number of stories are based around this same basic idea. Cinderella won the favor of the prince but how much effort did she invest to gain such profit?

Often times people work hard to gain favor. On the other hand, favor that has been previously granted can be revoked without prior notice. We see it all the time in all sorts of relationships, like in marriages ending in divorce and friendships in break-ups. Couples who are so in love see each others characters and then decide to be with each other all the time. They even go to the extent of spending a lot of money in order for them to celebrate a promise that they give to each other (called wedding). This promise basically says, "You will have my favor above anyone else no matter what!" Very touching! However, there is one problem. People change and often the original basis of approval is gone. This commodity called favor is very volatile. It dissipates in the air and the promise is nullified and forgotten. All too painful.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Seeking the approval of men seems like a difficult job and yet there is no assurance of keeping that favor. God's favor is based on His character not ours. He loves us because He is love. To rely on that love is to please Him and to please Him is obey Him. Esther could not have done anything to win the favor of King Xerxes and the people of Persia. If he was looking for a trophy wife, Queen Vashti was The beauty Queen! Esther, however, choose to win the favor of God. She was not afraid of the consequences to break the King's orders in favor of doing what is right. She said, "If I die, then I die." In the end, everything falls into place according to God's good plans for her and her people.

A life that is focused on chasing the approval of men is s stressful life. A life that seeks to win the favor of God is a life worth living.