In the summer of 1983, I met a very special man. One of my first encounters with this special man was he offered me a peach freshly picked up from the Farmer’s Market. Not only did he offer me a peach but he peeled it for me. All I had to do was sit there and enjoy the sweetness of the peach and the conversation that came with it.
Over time, I have experienced many special encounters of this man. He is a man of few words but of a lot of action. When you are at his home, regardless of how much you offer to help out, he is always insistent to take care of you.
I have watched this man plant and harvest a garden for 29 years of my life. Through the harvest of the garden, my family has enjoyed wonderful fellowship around the table as we savor the rewards of this gardener’s work. Along with the rewards of the seeds planted in Spring, I see rewards of seeds sown throughout this man’s family. You see these rewards on the faces of his family and friends as the freshly picked and cooked vegetables are passed around the table.
On many occasions, he will spend countless hours at the church he loves up on ladders fixing electrical issues, changing light bulbs or helping other men with outside maintenance of the church grounds. As a matter of fact, not long after his first surgery of finding out he had cancer, he was out with the men digging a trench and filling it with concrete to resolve a water issue on the church grounds.
There is not a room in my house that I do not go in without thinking of this special man. Each light, light switch, and outlet has his name on it. You see, when we decided to build our home, he offered his time and talent to wire our home. At night, I can look out back to the little workshop that my husband uses and see a light on. Again, I am reminded of this special guy because he made it possible for my husband to have electricity in his shed. Then, I am reminded that he is a man of light. Not only does he know how to make light physically shine in a home but he lets his light and love for Christ shine through his actions.
He has volunteered on many mission building trips. Again, creating light and shining his light all the while. This man has also been honored to be in the presence of our Former President, Jimmy Carter where he heard President Carter teach Sunday School. This happened not only once in his life time but twice.
When you are in this man’s presence, you are with a man of few words. He is a leader by example. In the 29 years I have known him, I have never heard a swear word spoken instead words of wisdom and love are spoken. I have never seen a beer can or alcoholic drink in his hand but I have seen him have a good time with a diet coke, cup of coffee and moon pie in his hand. In other words, he is a man who walks his talk and is Christ-like love in action.
The real privilege of knowing this man is that I married his son. Because of the walk and words unspoken in his son’s growing up, my husband, Jim is a true follower of his dad’s footsteps. I see the results of seeds of love, wisdom, caring for others and love in action being carried out just as his dad has taught him. Again, I have the honor to reap the benefits of seeds sown by this gardener and lights wired to shine through the years.
This special guy has three wonderful grandchildren who love and adore him. And, as they have become adults, I see them picking up the seed sacks of love and sharing them as their granddaddy has shown them. Again, it is not words of love spoken but it is the action of love that have taught his grandchildren to love their neighbor.
The guy I share about is Jim Hawkins, Sr, my father-n-law. A little over a year ago, we learned he has one of the deadliest of lung cancers, mesothelioma. Since this news came to our family, he again has taught us through his actions. Each day he shows us the importance of prayer and allowing others to pray for you. Jim, Sr. demonstrates the word of not giving up but keep on keeping on as long as you can. Along with being an example of prayer life and perseverance, he has taught us to capture every moment of every day.
Yes, a little over a year ago, Jim, Sr. got the most devastating news a person could get. But, this bit of news has not stopped him. This past summer he planted his garden. Jim and I now enjoy corn that is in our freezer that was planted, picked, cooked and frozen by Jim Sr.’s hands. Last Memorial Day, he got to go once again to Gatlinburg with his family to enjoy the Gaither Family Festival. Tickets, reservations and plans are already set for another special Memorial weekend with family and friends in Gatlinburg.
This morning, I opened my bible to 1 Peter 5:2-4 “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” For me, this scripture describes the kind of man Jim Hawkins, Sr is to me and what he has taught his family to be in their walk.
What a challenge we are all given by men like Jim, Sr and through this scripture. As Christians we have been commissioned to be shepherds of God’s flock. It is my prayer that each day we are a love in action.
*This post is dedicated to Jim Hawkins, Sr for the legacy of love he has taught and continues to teach.
Have you ever seen a watermelon tree? Believe it or not, I have! Our family had one in our back yard. Now, you are thinking I am totally crazy and wonder what I had to eat before bedtime to dream up such a tale. Truth be known, Dad planted a watermelon tree but not knowing that was what he was planting.
Now, the rest of the story…..It was at one of my dad’s earlier appointments where Dad was full-time at a church, going to seminary and raising a family. One Spring, our neighbor said he would let Dad use a plot of land between our house and his if Dad would like to grow a garden. Dad thought “wouldn’t it be great to have a garden with fresh food all summer, a little to put away for winter and just maybe I can teach my children the joy of planting and watching something grow.”
Dad planted the garden. Then, life got busy for him. Term papers for seminary were due, he had internships, observations that were required by some of his classes, sermons to get ready for on Sunday, visitation within the church and community and funerals when they came up. Along with these responsibilities were the every day responsibilities of taking care of and raising a family. Needless to say, the garden soon became unattended. Soon, my brother and I began enjoying watching the garden grow and grow out of control!
We had green beans growing along with dandelions. The tomato vines were out in the middle of the back yard. Vegetables were growing everywhere and beyond the garden. Then, one day, Dad goes out to the big oak tree where my brother and I would play and, behold, there were watermelons in the tree!
Dad planted the seeds, God watered them and they grew. They grew beyond any imagination that summer. My dad now retired from 47 years of ministry was also another kind of seed sower. Over the years, I watched my dad sow seeds in the lives of others. Even now, he works part-time as a chaplain at the local hospital in his community where he is sowing seeds. These seeds that he sows are the love of Jesus Christ.
Over my lifetime, I have watched him sow seeds of encouragement, hope, forgiveness and love. Sometimes, he would see the seeds bloom instantly and other times he would not learn of the results until years down the road. Yet, it didn’t matter because he had done what he was called to do and that was to sow these seeds.
As Christians, we are called to sow these seeds of love, encouragement, hope and love in the lives of others. When we sow these seeds, we have to put them in the hands of the true gardener, God. Many times, when we sow these seeds we don’t see the end result right away. Instead, it takes us sowing a seed, then others coming along in a person’s life to water the seed. Eventually, that seed that we planted grows into something beautiful.
Today, I encourage each of us to begin planting seeds of hope, encouragement, love and forgiveness in other’s lives. First we can sow seeds unintentionally with a simple smile or hug. Our daily actions on how we handle what life deals us even sows seeds in the hearts of others. Believe it or not, people watch us to see if we are going to react or simply respond.
Then, there are those we intentionally sow a seed in but we don’t see the results. It is hard for us to grasp that good will come when we are not seeing the end result. Remember, when you sow those types of seeds, that you place them in the hands of our gardener. He will send other people into their paths to water and to help weed out the things that don’t need to be there. Then, one day, when you least expect it, you will see this beautiful new bloom in Christ Jesus. Just like my dad walking out to that oak tree and seeing with amazement watermelons growing out of the tree. Trust me, it is a site to behold and a site you will never forget.
Carry this scripture with you today and in the days ahead; “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. ”
1 Corinthians 3:6
*By the way, our family never planted another garden after that summer. Also, I couldn’t believe it when I found a watermelon in a tree on the internet when composing this blog post.