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Mark’s Musings: “Living” and “Healthy”

by | Apr 23, 2019 | South District Webpage

The last time we were in Alaska, in the summer of 2017, a special friend gave my wife an African Violet for her birthday. Phyllis, our friend, is in her nineties, and is one of our all-time favorite people! The African Violet she gave my wife was fresh from the store, and full of blooms. I don’t know the name of this hybrid, so I call the African Violet “Phyllis”.

AV Phyllis is in our third home since my wife received it. It looked basically healthy to me but has clearly not been totally happy. AV Phyllis had not bloomed for over a year. As I have gotten back into the hobby of growing African Violets, I offered to take over the care of AV Phyllis. My wife accepted my offer. I re-potted AV Phyllis, started using fertilizer with regular watering, and put AV Phyllis under my grow lights. The change in this plant has been tremendous!

The first thing I noticed were the leaves (starting with the inner-most leaves) turning a dark green. I was so used to seeing AV Phyllis in its previous condition, that I mistook “living” for being “healthy”. I could watch as individual leaves started turning this beautiful, deep, green. This week AV Phyllis is blooming. Not only is this plant healthier, it is now happier!

In our own lives, how often have we mistaken being “alive” for being “healthy”? We get so use to our current conditions that we don’t notice how “pale” everything has gotten. Finding the right conditions for our lives to grow and be healthy usually requires change and risk. The temptation becomes strong to just settle for “what is” instead of pushing for “what can be”. It’s at the point that we start to “bloom” that our happiness becomes most obvious.

What about our churches? Are they just “alive”, or are they “healthy”? The week after Easter seems like an excellent time for us to take a good, hard, look at our churches. If we are not seeing any “blooms” or “fruit”, maybe some conditions need to be changed. So often churches want one simple answer to the question of: “how can we become healthy?” Normally it takes changing multiple conditions, not just one. What is more important? Repotting, fertilizer, enough light, the soil used, or regular watering? Just as the individual leaves had to change on AV Phyllis to make the entire plant healthy, so individual members have to change before the church as a whole can be healthy. It is helpful if the change starts with our inner circle of leaders.

I have been growing African Violets for too long to think that I have all the answers. New issues, like insects or diseases, have a way of happening. I have pastored churches way longer than I have grown African Violets. Without a doubt, I know that I don’t have all of the answers for growing a healthy church! With both African Violets and churches, however, it is important to find the right conditions that foster growth. With churches, I’m especially thinking about spiritual growth, though numerical growth is also good. Once the right conditions are found, then it is time to be consistent.

With African Violets, it is informative to witness the choices that other enthusiasts have made. Their choices, though, might not work with our conditions. I consider a key to my success to be the porcelain self-watering pots that I use. At an African Violet sale, I heard someone just starting in the hobby ask a successful enthusiast about the porcelain pots. Her response was: “They have never worked for me”. Of course I spoke up! At that point, though, I didn’t want to share my formula for mixing soil or tell them about the fertilizer that I use (by the way, I use a different fertilizer for my Streptocarpus!). As individual Christians, and as churches, it is informative to look at the decisions that others have made. Each of us, though, have to make our own decisions to fit our situations. No two situations are exactly alike.

              Your brother on the journey, Mark

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Author: Mark Conrad

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