I do not have a green thumb. I have more of a very pale lime-green thumb. What I mean by this color differentiation is that the plant survival rate under my care is a toss-up.
When my mother passed away in 2020, I inherited a Christmas cactus. I am not sure what the signs of a thriving Christmas cactus happen to be. However, I have realized what a struggling Christmas cactus looks like in the last three years. I do not know for sure when this plant came to live with my mom. But I think someone may have given it to her when my dad died. No pressure to keep it living, right?
Over a year ago, when I was preparing to move from Kansas City to Columbia, the plant was looking rough. The plant lost its vibrant green look, and the edges had a tint of brown. At that moment, the depressing thought that went through my mind was, “I killed my mom’s cactus.” I had no clue what was necessary for healing, so I simply moved it to another part of the house. An out-of-sight, out-of-mind strategy?
A few days later, I returned from a trip to water the plant. I saw a bloom. I saw a vibrant, pink and healthy flower popping out of the plant that I thought was due to its last rites. Not even mention that this cactus blooms at Christmas (per its name), and it was June.
I was reminded once again what we think is death could very possibly be life preparing to happen. What we consider the end is the beginning of something beautiful and unexpected. In the last couple of years, there has been so much death. Yes, the death of those we love. But also, death of the “normal,” death of the status quo or the future we pictured.
One of my favorite Scriptures is the story of dry bones from Ezekiel 37. It is the narrative of the prophet Ezekiel being led by God to a valley filled with dry bones.
God tells the prophet that the bones represent the people of Israel. Their hope was gone, and they were cut off from God.
In the story, the prophet witnesses the Holy Spirit breathing life into the bones and is given the promise of life for the people of Israel.
I have always read the story as a reminder that where we see the end, God is very possibly moving, breathing life in ways we may not recognize yet, moving in mysterious ways that we won’t notice until there is a bloom of life among the signs of death.
I follow the God of redemption, the God of life after death, the God that breathes life into dry bones. There is a lot of fear blowing around right now, fear that this will happen, or that will happen, fear that the church is a valley of dry bones, and that is the end of the story. The wind of fear, not the breath of God, is blowing through many of our churches. In fear, I only see a valley of dry bones, and I can start to buy the lie that what I see as death is the end. Yet, when I open the Bible, I see a book full of stories and teachings where we are to chase after faith and not feed fear. We are called to trust in the mystery of our God and the mysterious ways God moves.
There is still breath in these old bones because the Holy Spirit is still moving. There is still life in the bones of God’s church because Scripture tells me over and over a community of believers was God’s idea, and God is still using the community of faith.
The Holy Spirit is still showing up and showing off in my life, in the life of the church and in the denomination I love, the United Methodists.
I love watching God surprise us by bringing life to what some might think is a valley of dry bones. I also love watching blooms pop up when you least expect it, like a bloom in the middle of June from a deathbed Christmas cactus. I cannot wait to watch God’s unexpected beauty show up at the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“God, the Master, told the dry bones, ‘Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you, and you’ll come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:5)
Where do you see the breath of the Holy Spirit in your life, church, and denomination?