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Hope Springs Eternal

For several weeks our box at the post office has been stuffed with catalogs from garden seed and nursery companies. Beautiful pictures of vegetables, fruits, and flowers fill my mind and heart with great expectations.

It would seem that after more than half a century of not being able to produce products in the garden which measure up to the catalog photos, I would have grown cynical. Not so. Hope springs eternal. Orders have been sent off. Now we eagerly await notification that our seeds, bulbs and plants have arrived in the post office.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
In the yard flowers and trees are budding and blooming. Some of the 10 little seedling trees which the Arbor Day Foundation sent last fall are showing signs of life. They were planted in the spot where five old pine trees, which had become infected by pine beetles, had to be removed last spring.
 
The tornado season is upon us. The sirens have already sounded in our little town. We anticipate several trips to our good neighbor’s “storm pit” during the next two months. The county paper this week carried pictures of a home about a dozen miles away which was slightly damaged by a twister.
 
March has been a busy time at the funeral home. More than 20 services have been conducted by the funeral director. He tells me that this is typical of March.
 
Among those who died was a special friend, Mrs. Kate Masters. She was 92. Until recently she had played for worship services at Arbor Springs Baptist Church.
 
Her life had been centered on music, entertaining others, and a developing relationship with God. Early in life she played the piano for silent movies in Reform, Ala.
 
Later she toured with a repertory theater group. When World War II came, they settled in Atlanta. There she became involved with the early days of television by working on a local talent show.
 
In the mid 1960s she and her husband, Ralph, retired to the Florida panhandle. When he died about 20 years later, she returned to Reform. All along the journey she played organ and piano in her churches. Her funeral had been a celebrative service, one that she would have enjoyed, we all declared.
 
We missed her this week at the annual associational senior adult revival. A few years ago she had given her testimony. It was moving. Like so many of our seniors she had walked long and well with God. Her faith had sustained her.
 
Our preacher for the revival this year was David Barrentine. He is a 77-year-old retired minister. He moved back here last June to marry a widowed woman. He focused his messages on Romans 1:1. He declared that we must be committed to the Gospel. We knew that. But, still, it was helpful to be reminded.
 
It is so encouraging to be with seasoned saints. Those who attended have traveled long with God. They have reflected upon life and learned important spiritual lessons. Their theology has been forged in the fires of everyday life.
 
Another encouragement during the Senior Adult Revival came when the McCool family sang. Three beautiful children ages two, four and six sang old hymns with their parents. It was good to see children being raised to love and serve God. It gave us hope for the future, sort of like the hope that came with the seed catalogs.
 
How wise it was of God to place Easter in the spring. After a long hard winter, after the suffering that sin generates, and after bearing the guilt of their transgressions, humankind was ready for a new hope. New life in our natural world comes with spring. New life in the spiritual world comes with Easter. The open tomb is the ground of hope, personally and collectively.
 
Getting from the hope of the seed catalog to a beautiful garden and yard requires response by me, response by the seed company, and lots of hard work preparing, planting and cultivating the soil.
 
Getting from the hope of Easter to the well-lived lives we celebrated during the senior adult revival called for response by sinners, the application of grace by God and careful, continuing work by believers as they grew into “fruit bearing” believers.
 
Gary Farley is partner in the Center for Rural Church leadership, Carrollton, Ala.