November Message From Ruth Johnson “Weeding”

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrews 12:15)

Spring is luxuriant and crowded. The first wildflowers pop and I wait eagerly for the daffodils massed down the bank in the woods. Right after daffodils, I have to search diligently and carefully to spot the trout lilies – so few and so brief – near where the storm drain dumps the rainwater from the side road.
I love spring, but it is a lot of work. Renewing the mulch around the edges involves a lot of weeding. Certain invasive plants have to be kept up with or they will take over and crowd out what I want to keep. Most concerning are garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, bittersweet, and, of course poison ivy.

These things are determined! Japanese knotweed sends underground roots for 20 feet or more. Any plant litter left on the ground can root and grow. Garlic mustard is a biennial: they bloom and make seed only in the second year and then die. Bittersweet vines wind around until they get strong enough to reach any other support and then go as high and as thick as they can. And we all know about poison ivy.

Japanese knotweed can be discouraged from growing where you don’t want it, even if you can’t kill it completely. The trick is to dig as many of the roots as you can and then keep after any little shoots that pop up for the next couple of years. Garlic mustard has different strategies. The pretty little first-year plants come up densely before most other plants. They crowd out the others and introduce chemicals into the soil that inhibit other plants. Second-year plants send out thousands of seeds. You need to cut them or pull them before they flower. Even better, get them the first year.

Now it is fall. Mulching is over and most vigorous growth is done. Why think about the weeds now? Well, raking last week I discovered some garlic mustard missed earlier. Then, they were small and insignificant, hiding in the ornamental grass. Now they are large, and next spring they will bloom and waft their seeds everywhere on the wind. Ugh!

This week, a strange phrase flitted through my head and got stuck: weeds of ingratitude. It struck me that negative or harmful thinking and bad behavior are like weeds. First, they start out small; we can easily miss them or mistake them for something else. When we discover them (ingratitude, being easily offended, assuming people have bad intentions, being impatient, resenting when we don’t get our way), we need to cut them off or dig them out; they don’t go away by themselves. And we have to be persistent – they sprout easily right where we previously weeded. If left alone they take over, using up resources needed elsewhere.

If we are not intentional, focused on knowing God better and loving him more, the little weeds of negative or harmful thinking and bad behavior just grow unchecked.

The best way I know to counter that is to keep reading and studying the Bible. God has deliberately revealed himself because he wants us to know and love him. When we embrace such a close relationship, the Holy Spirit helps us to recognize those “weeds” and deal with them effectively. If you aren’t currently in a Bible study, on your own or with others, now would be a good time to get one started.

Together in Christ, Ruth Johnson

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