Bare Patches, Pitchforks and the Art of Redemption

Our prayers this morning are with the victims and heroes of the tragedy in Boston. May God teach us the ways of peace even in the face of violence and evil.

Dirt PatchWe have this bare patch in our front lawn. In front of our house stands this large oak tree. And while it’s picturesque and beautiful, it has been death to our grass. Nothing grows under its branches. We’ve paid to have the tree trimmed. We’ve scattered lawn food on every inch. We’ve even tried seeding some new grass.

Nothing. No grass. We may as well be dirt farmers.

As the last remaining blades of stubborn grass have slowly disappeared, so has my will to do anything about the problem. I have gradually accepted that I have little ability to grow grass in that area of our yard. So now that spot sits bare – an audacious reminder of my anything-but-green thumb.

I see no hope. I’ve given up.

In Texas, where the summers are long, hot and dry, this is not an uncommon problem. Some friends of mine have a similar issue. In their back yard sits a rectangular patch of dirt in which grass refuses to grow. It’s been that way for years. Even when the rest of the lawn is green and healthy, this bare patch sits unaffected.

Yet these people do not see an eyesore, but an opportunity. Instead of lamenting, they created.

FarkThey spray painted a white & red target right on that patch of dirt. They walked off a distance and painted a launching area. They grabbed a pitchfork. And where a common patch of Texas lawn once stood now stand a field for a newly-birthed game called “Fark”.

So last Thursday evening I spent hours with this family and several friends tossing a pitchfork into a homemade dirt target. We listened to music, ate, drank, laughed (a lot) and competed in an epic Fark tournament. (The fact that I am apparently some pitchfork-tossing savant and won the tournament had no bearing on my enjoyment of the festivities. Ok, maybe a little.)

And they do this regularly now. Several times a week, their yard is filled with music and laughter and pitchforks. Everyone is welcome.

I wish that I lived life more like this family.

We all have those places in our lives, don’t we? The bare places where no growth seems to happen. Maybe it’s your fault or perhaps it’s been thrust upon you. But we all have these bare patches in our lives. And you’ve probably spent time and effort on that area. You’ve prayed for something to grow. But much like our yards in the scorching Texas sun, you’re left with a bare patch.

You could give up and accept your fate. Or you could grab some spray paint and a pitchfork.

I love the John 21 passage from our liturgy this week. After the crucifixion, the disciples were left feeling powerless. So instead of pressing forward, they retreated to what they knew – fishing. Then Jesus shows up and they have a party on the beach.

And then he makes Peter stare right into his weakness – his denials of Jesus – and understand that Jesus still loved him. The way forward was not to ignore his bare patches, but to redeem them.

So what will you do with your bare patches today? Will you sit around and lament them? Hide them from the world? Or will you let others in, grab some spray paint and a pitchfork and let God redeem them into something beautiful.

Because if you do, it will not be just you who finds blessing, but many.

May God throw us a party on the beach today. May he use our bare patches to bring joy and community into the world. May Easter and redemption be real to us all.

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