From the land of birches and pines, we returned this week to Elkhart to find Bill the volunteer had overtaken not only the flowerbed but was fast claiming the front porch. He was sending out curly green arms and wrapping them around any and all available anchors, whether blades of grass or splinters of mulch, claiming his own territory.
Then, I noticed his leprosy.
There were similar white spots on the leaves of the squash plants in the garden, so I photographed one with my splinter-screen iPhone and sent it to my dad.
Dad! Help! What’s this?
Powdery mildew, he said.
In short, its a fungus that cripples squash and pumpkin plants. You can spray them with a fungicide to prevent this, he said, but the spray only protects the leaves that are still healthy–it doesn’t kill the fungus that is already there. Fruit that is growing will continue to grow, but likely the plant won’t make new squash.
The garden has been doing okay, but there’s no squash on our sharing table. No wonder!
Perhaps prayer is the protective covering for us that prevents powdery mildew of the soul. Maybe on those days when I feel riddled with leprosy, it’s because I wasn’t proactive enough to apply a protective coating of prayer.
I’m not sure what to do with Bill now. His fate is hanging in the balance, just as he began to declare himself with tiny yellow fruits with fluted ends that make me think he’s a gourd. My theory was that as long as he would make a nice garland of gourds, I could let him hang out on the porch. But if he makes no fruit at all? He might just have to go.
Probably, Christ has the same feeling when he looks at his followers sometimes. I wonder if he sees us succumbing to handicap we might have prevented, and remembers the price he paid at the cross.
Thankfully, the cross brings a mercy stronger than fungicide, bringing salvation to our souls and the ability to start with a clean slate, free of powdery spots. But that’s why we need the daily, proactive covering of the blood: because without it, the leprosy sets back in. In a world that desperately needs fruit, is our prayer connection to the blood strong enough to produce fruit? Or, like Bill are we just fighting to stay alive?
Part of me longs for the threat of disease and decay to be past. But for those of us still here, it’s not, and God continues to give us more time with daily opportunities to apply the blood of Christ.
I know he’s just a plant, but for now, Bill gets more time, too. We’ll see what happens.
Oh, and now that I think about it, God must really want me to pray more, because he sent me not only Bill, but another small creature who reminds me to keep up my connection with Christ.
You guessed it, a praying mantis, praying in a dahlia at the side of the garden.