How often do things not work out the way we planned? Our house came with some rustic-looking raised beds in our backyard. Last year I imagined of all the flowers that would grow in these beds. My wife quickly agreed when I asked if I could adopt the biggest bed, which was completely overgrown. I might want to take note when she agrees so fast!

I cleaned up the bed and ordered plants from a mail-order company. They said that they would mail the plants when it was the right time to plant them. I totally enjoyed looking at pictures of all of the possibilities, and I liked the idea that I would have plants that are not common for our area. All of these plants were supposed to spread and fill up the bed. This sounded great! The plants arrived, however, at an inconvenient time in bad shape. I was able to nurture one half-rotted plant back to health. Later in the summer I added a mostly dead plant that did not fare well while we were on vacation. Ironically, both of these under-dogs did great over the winter. I started 2019 with an over-grown flower bed with two healthy plants in it. I was farther ahead than the previous year!

This last Saturday I tried again. I cleaned up two-thirds of the bed. There is grass growing in the other third that is extremely difficult to pull. I felt like I needed some victories to motivate me to get all the grass removed. I bought nine plants for the bed from a local nursery. They all look healthy and strong, and I had them at the moment when I had time to plant them. I’m looking forward to getting the rest of the bed cleared so that I can plant more flowers!

It is exciting for me to listen to all of the visioning that our churches have for the future. A lot of time is spent picturing what “might be”. Sometimes I wonder if we are more excited (comfortable?) about this “imagining” than we are about bringing the vision to fruition. If visioning is as far as we go, what do we have?

To be a fruitful church, we can’t be afraid of failure. If the first efforts fail, we need to evaluate what happened. The vision might be right, while the problem can rest with the approach. In most cases there will be a lot of learning and adjusting required.

In the journey of bringing a vision to life, it is important to celebrate the victories. Even the “small” victories need to be celebrated! In the midst of the struggles, it is easy to get discouraged and want to quit.

Having a great vision increases the chances that we will effectively use our resources to make a positive difference in our world. A church that only visions, though, is unlikely to change our world. Visioning in combination with hard work is what can create a difference. We shouldn’t fear failure as we move forward in faith. Our bigger fear should be doing nothing.

As Holy Week is quickly approaching, I keep thinking about Jesus on the cross. How many people—including some of Jesus’ disciples—thought that his death on the cross was a clear sign that Jesus failed? We need to be careful of what we declare as a failure. God was able to take the cross—a torturous instrument used to kill people—and changed it into a symbol of hope. This is the hope that we follow!

              Your brother on the journey, Mark

An additional thought: Monday night I turned on the big light in the back yard so that I could pull more grass after dark. I was thrilled to see a Hummingbird Moth visiting my flowers. Our visions never manage to take into account all of God’s plans and blessings!

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