Pastor's Column -- Plums or Pecans

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Plums or Pecans. Many of us are beneficiaries of the Homestead Act of 1862.

Thousands and thousands of people took advantage of the government's offer of land ownership. You had to be 21 and the head of a family to claim 160 acres. Homesteaders were expected to build a house, make improvements and farm their tract of land. At the end of five years, if they could prove they'd met the criteria, they paid an $18 filing fee and claimed the land, free and clear. This was how immigrants, former slaves and others who could never have hoped to own land were able to establish homes and farms.

The early years were tough, making great stretches of tall prairie grass arable was back breaking, sometimes heart-breaking, work. There was little time to think about making the place beautiful or planting trees. Native trees were scarce on the prairie, and "boughten" trees were expensive and had to be carefully chosen. The choice often came down to plums or pecans.

If you planted plums you got a pretty quick return -- they grow quickly, provide an adequate shelter belt and plums could be harvested in a few years. However, plum trees tend to get brushy and brambly. They end up needing to be cut back, burned and usually replaced.

Folks who chose to plant pecan trees had to wait -- no instant gratification. The trees mature slowly and did not provide shelter or fruit until long after the plum trees did. They advantage is that they provide benefits and beauty for years and years. In fact, in an old junior high history book a homesteader was quoted as saying, "If you're planting for yourself, plant plums. If you are planting for your children, plant pecans."

How do thoughtful Christians make the choice between plums and pecans? Do we value our history most? Do we put all of our efforts into today? Do we step out and plant for the future. When those questions are too much, when we are afraid and anxious, it may help to recall Jesus' words in John's gospel, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you."

The Holy Spirit is a bridge for us, enabling us to be sensitive to the past, alive in the present and filled with hope for the days to come; an ever present help!

Plums are great. Planting a few is not a bad idea. But for the sake of the work and ministry of the church as well as our personal growth in faith, I think the old homesteader had it right, "If you are planting or yourself, plant plums. If you are planting for your children, plant pecans."