Stewardship of Life

The rototiller philosophy

Posted in It's Personal by Robert Blezard on February 8, 2010

Before he and Mom moved into an apartment building, Dad loved his gardens. Our garage contained a virtual Home Depot of implements, except for a rototiller.

Our big house in Tarkiln, R.I., was luxuriously encircled by lawns of boorish bluegrass craving to be cultivated. To put in or expand his flowerbeds, Dad would borrow an old-but-muscular, gas-powered rototiller from the Dahlquists down the road.

After using it, Dad always hosed it down and wiped off the dust and mud — not only from the handles, the engine cowling and gas tank, but also from the blades. Dad would then take needlenose pliers and pick out the bits of grass and roots that got stuck in the bladeshaft, like stringy chicken between your teeth.

And if Dad saw something amiss, he’d fix it. Once time it wouldn’t start. After tinkering with the fuel mix, the choke and pulling on the starter cord until his arm cramped, Dad finally tuned it up. He replaced the air filter, spark plug, condenser and points. And then the oil, just for good measure.

The care and attention he lavished on the Dahlquist’s rototiller exemplifies one of Dad’s life philosophies — to give back things in better shape than he received Perhaps it’s his heritage as part of “The Greatest Generation,” but Dad’s idea is one the Starbucks Generation would do well to embrace.

I’ve taken up the idea myself. If you lend me your car, I’ll return it with the tank full, the carpets vacuumed, the inside Windexed and the paint washed.

The philosophy also guides my ministry as the pastor of a 230-year-old congregation.  I’m keenly aware I’m just the latest of a long line of leaders who have served the rural Lutheran church in Arendtsville, Pa.  And I am aware that a long line of leaders will serve when I am gone. In 2110, my name, now written so boldly on the sign outside, will be remembered only in the dusty, unread minutes of congregational meetings.

Which is the way life unfolds.

But in the brief heartbeat that I  serve, I will do everything to leave the church in better shape than I found it. Can I do anything better? Anything more?

Brothers and sisters, our days are so short. Our lives are candles that sputter and flicker and flame before their light is gone.

I pray that God will give me strength to live fully, with my eyes wide open, my mind abuzz with fresh ideas, my body strong from honest work and my heart overflowing with joy and sorrow, passion and compassion.

Will you join me in living with awareness, that together we might leave our churches, our cities, our country and our planet in a better condition than we found them?

Share your ideas of how we can do this together.

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