Friday, January 30, 2015

Bucket Tests

Without launching into something that might bore you, let me just explain that I love to get my hands dirty. I love to work the in the soil, to plant seeds, and to watch the miraculous. Gardens are where I can go to be quiet, where I can be alone with the Lord, where I can speak about whatever might be a burden to my heart. God loves gardens too, and I know this to be a fact simply because He saw fit to start us all out in the Garden. If God loves it, I should think it’s ok for me to love them too.
That said, I’ve been running several tests this year, gardening out of buckets.
I’ve employed several methods, maybe these will be useful for someone down the road, maybe they’ll just serve as notes for me. At any rate, here’s my findings.
single bucket, global bucket (double bucket), half buckets, holey buckets (for air pruning), and holey buckets with screen to help retain the soil. I used local soil mixed with some compost, and some bamboo that we cut nearby for support, with rock on the bottom for weight and to keep the drainage holes free from sediment blockage.
The Global bucket (double bucket) plants have grown much taller and have produced bigger, better fruit than any other method, while taking less water. We live next to an artesian well, so water really isn’t an issue, but the rest of Haiti would benefit from these because the water doesn’t evaporate so easily or just run away. It’s almost all used up by the plant. I planted 2 tomatoes per bucket, and we’ve been enjoying large tomatoes. I added some fertilizer about 4 weeks in. I did not run a test with just 1 tomato plant but I can only assume the yield would be better. With this method, the bottom bucket becomes a closed reservoir of water that is wicked up in the soil from the top bucket. There is a hole between the two with a perforated plastic cup. Through osmosis the water is sucked up by the roots. In some case I think the roots have even grown into the bottom bucket, giving them constant fresh supply to the water.
These methods universally seemed better at repelling viruses and disease, but the Global bucket plants resisted virus better than any other method.
I tested air pruning vs air pruning with screen to withhold the soil, and saw virtually no change between the methods. Between a single bucket plant compared to a single bucket air prune bucket however, the plants in the air pruned bucket are almost a foot taller, producing their fruit later but also seeming to be more healthier in the stalks.
Plants that have grown exceptionally well: peppers, tomatoes, cucumber.
Plants that have had some difficulty: melons and broccoli. Broccoli needs more space, and melons want to crawl everywhere.
SWEET PEAS! This one gets me excited because they are almost impossible to grow in Haiti, but with a bucket method, they actually “held hands” with one another as they grew, tangling up in each other and producing almost identical branches until they finally reached some chicken wire that I provided for them to climb. They are currently flowered and producing sweet peas!
There is a calcium deficiency in the soil here, and the virus is either airborne or in the soil itself. Ground up egg shells with a bit of ash seems to balance the soil easily, and watering only the base of the plants and not the leaves seems to really help the plant to control the virus and overcome. I pruned any leaves with the virus, and also made sure to prune any branches below 6 inches from the earth. Last year the virus hit our crops and while we still produced a good harvest, the fruit was smaller and less tasty.
Bugs almost completely ignore plants in the buckets. We only had 1 infestation. I sprayed only 2 times a very light pesticide. In Haiti pests are so common you can lose entire crops, because hardly anyone sprays for them. This was a big note, because I don’t like spraying pesticide chemicals. I’m fairly certain we could have just used neem (a natural deterrent) from the local plants, but I already had some pesticide and decided to just use it up.
One of the biggest advantages, we can let the fruit ripen on the stem. This is almost impossible in Haiti. Most fruits and vegetables must be picked early, partly because the bugs will eat them, partly because they can’t withstand the heat, and the birds and chickens will come along and peck them, destroying them. In the buckets, they are left alone and can ripen naturally.
You still have to water when it rains. If you think because it rained you don’t need to worry, you’re wrong. Because the plants are contained, they quickly lap up what little rain (even from a downpour) that makes it into the bucket. Best method I use, collect the rainwater or overflow water in a bucket to conserve the water.
The plants are portable! Awesome point. I can move them when they get too cluttered and turn them to get more light.
While I put holes in all the buckets to allow for drainage, the Global Bucket was best. The plants never get too waterlogged and there is less chance for disease.
After the garden is finished I will break open the root system, but I’m thinking the air prune method gives the most roots. Maybe I can combine this with the Global Bucket method and marry the two ideas?
I pruned most of the suckers from the tomato plants and went on to plant them in our other gardens as well as in the fields. It’s a great way to keep the garden perpetuating younger generations. I also started several seeds in the buckets and used them as a kind of ‘protected’ seed bed, as an alternative from the Haitian seed beds. In Haiti, it’s very difficult to just plant your seeds in the rows. The elements, rain and sun, are too harsh for feeble young plants, and what survives is usually eaten by chickens or wild birds, and sometimes goats. The occasional pig or cow on the loose can destroy the crop. It’s best to grow seeds in protected seed beds, and then propagate or transplant. The bucket methods allow for this in a more secure environment.
(global bucket toms)
air prune method, no screen

air prune method with screen

single bucket

Global Bucket


sweat peas walking eachother up the buckets

Within His Breath

Experience has taught me well;
There is no sequestered peace,
If on my own I tie the sail. 
The tempest does not cease.

It's only when I've gone to Him
And wakened His long arm,
Do I find He has within His breath
The power to calm the storm.

d.c. elliott 1/29/15

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Accolade for Saving Lives

Five years ago I remember talking with Antenor Frantz at our home in Haiti. I asked him about his dreams, and he told me of his vision to form a mission that truly invested in the lives of just a small number of kids. I asked him what would make his mission different than any others, and he told me, "I would invest fully in those kids. In their families, their education, their understanding of the Bible, their job skills, everything. With those few I would try to make a real difference in Haiti."

Then a few months ago he formally left his position with another mission, and when I asked not long ago what he was up to, he cheerfully presented me with the paperwork for his new mission, Accolade for Saving Lives. In short, my good friend has not been sitting still twirling his thumbs.

Instead he's partnered with other like-minded Christian Haitians who have the same goal of making the world a better place, and those plans have been rolled and formed into action. Yesterday I had the opportunity of photographing their new beginnings as they began to convert and remodel a small, humble office space in the city.

"How did you come up with the name, Accolade for Saving Lives?" I asked him.
"I can see it in my mind. Coming to these kids who need help, and almost like an embrace, raising them up and encouraging them in life. This word, 'Accolade', is the best word that describes what I see."
Accolade by definition: an award or an expression of praise.
I wasn't sure at first. But as I think of kids who need a helping hand, someone to encourage them, to guide them, to lift them up. it sounds more and more like a fitting word.

As I watched him painting the wall, I noticed the onlookers, the kids in the street, the old man who lived next door, everyone taking a curious note of what my friend was doing. I laughed inside, because with him, it always starts this way. This artist steps into a black and white world with his paint, or his clay, and he begins to create something beautiful. Before you know it, an old dry wall that was once sleepy and bland has been transformed into the very picture of the sun itself, setting in the Haitian sky. Already in the office yard, there are papaya growing. There are cherries in the tree and banana. I think of the fruit that may yet come from this place.

People begin to stop him as he's working, and the questions -that is, the opportunities - begin to form.

"What is this?" "What does Accolade mean?" "What is your goal?" I begin to hear the people say.
It will be such an interesting story I think, and such a beautiful painting it will be as this Haitian man who loves his people begins to pour out his faith and his belief onto the canvas of this city.

The Space for Prayer

In a rebuke from a brother
There must be space for prayer
To know that words are said to build
And never meant to tear.

Words do quake to sound and speak
And yet I bid them mute and meek.
The heart itself must be revealed.
The statement signed, delivered, sealed.

When now no stone is left unturned
The humble brew does steep,
To learn what might be yet unlearned,
How wide, long, high and deep...

d.c.elliott 1/29/15

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Marrying Up

My son wrote a paper today that showed me there is hope. His instructions were to read a story about some Greek who hated women so he sculpted one of his own out of ivory and then married her when the Goddess Venus gave her life. (Whack, yep, I thought so too) Then he was to retell the story in his own words. 

Well, he not only retold the story, he related it to the foolishness of man and how he began to blame God for everything so he left His commands and became the children of idols. He used the Greek philosophy to point to the foolishness of man in needing to create visible things, and used their own theology to teach about the character of God. God loved man, so He purposed for His Son to become the bridegroom of man, and man the bride of Christ, so that he could still marry into God's family and be accepted in His kingdom. From there he launched into an all out sermon and gave the Gospel.

My wife, the teacher, took out her red pen and made the dozens of corrections that a good teacher makes, using the proper code that only teachers know, R.O, (run on sentence) P (paragraph) arrow here, arrrow there, foxtrot charlie, tango, victor... She filled the remaining margins with questions to challenge his thinking and if he was really following the instructions by telling an entirely different story and not following the Ivory Woman/Greek God, (Whack) story.
She really is an excellent teacher, and wants him to grow into a fine young writer. I see her point...

Then I was allowed to critique, from the freedom of just being Dad...
"In the world of grammar and in view of all things proper, one might leave this paper scribbled with the red ink of correction. After all, there are rules. But, in the light of God and His uncanny character of breaking into the narrative of even His own Story, I say, Good Job Son. A+"

The following is Logan's story:
Man found much to blame God for so much so he began to leave the commands of the One who made him. Taking matters into his own hands man decided to be the children of idols who's names were Sexually Immorality, Impurity, Lust, Evil Desires, Greed, Anger, Rage, Malice, Slander And Filthy Language. Man crafted for himself other gods that were visible to the eye but invisible to the spirt. He wanted to believe in something physically seen rather than something invisibly seen. If man was truly seeking after truth he would have found that God is indeed visible. You see, God was only invisible by man’s definition of the word. If man was really searching for God he would have seen Him in the creation around him; in the plants that grow without anyone telling it to, in the wind that blows without ceasing, in the star that shines with all it’s brilliance, and in the moon that reflects with all it’s magnificence. As you search to obtain and look to discover you find that God is very visible and the visibility of the visible depends on the glasses you are looking through. Even though man in his foolishness despised God, God in his wisdom loved man. In that love, God chose before He created Creation to send his only Son in man’s definition of a visible being to be visibly crucified on the cross for man’s sins. He did this so that man may have a recorded document of His great love and faithfulness to him. Written from men who have seen the glory and power of God through the death of His only Son Jesus. The purpose of His Son is for Jesus to be the bridegroom and man the bride. So that man may have a way to marry into God’s family and become His son’s and daughters. No one can come to the Father except through Jesus, so without this marriage into the family of God, man has no way of inheriting the Kingdom of God. To do this man must accept Jesus as God and to acknowledge that He was crucified for man so that man might be able to be accepted into God’s family, inheriting His Kingdom. Ultimately it comes down to Love. For if man loves Him he will Obey Him and we love because He first loved us." Logan Elliott

By the way, he told me that he prayed before he began to write, so he really can't take the credit.   


I think often of the idea of a man like me standing for a God like Him. An ambassador of Christ? With mud and sweat and scruf and sin, half blind and achy all over. It's laughable, despicable really, were it not that it points to such Amazing Grace.

'Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” ~Paul 1cor1

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Consuming Fire

What is meant to be accomplished in the 12th chapter of Hebrews, when we hear that God is an all consuming fire? Was this something to be sought after, something the writer hoped would pour out like a river upon the Hebrews? Was it to be celebrated? No. 

It was a warning, reminding the people with the very words of Moses, in Deuteronomy 4:24, to not forgot what God did to a people who disobeyed and were disrespectful to His commands. We can find the root of these words in Numbers 15 & 16, where God gave the Israelites His commands regarding intentional sin. In view of UNintentional sin, God was willing to pardon through sacrifice and atonement, but for INtentional sin, God chose for His wrath to be poured out. It was a matter of the heart. Willful, defiant sin is blasphemy to Him.
A man among the Israelites was found gathering wood on the Sabbath, and the people detained him. God saw into the man's heart, and determined his sin to be INtentional. His punishment was death, and so Moses had him put to death, and following the instructions of God he told the people to tie blue tassles to the corners of their garments, to have as a visual reminder, a way to remember the commands of God.
"You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes." God said.
This is when Korah and a group of leaders stood up and told Moses "You've gone too far! This whole community is holy!" It was basically a public "How dare you!"
Moses called them out, to stand before God and let God decide. Some came, and some were insolent, and this is where we finally get to the meat of this "All Consuming Fire" when the glory of the Lord appears...
In Numbers 16:19, 'When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly.'
The ground opened up and swallowed them alive. People began running in pure terror, and here it comes, are you ready, verse 35: 'And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.'
The All Consuming Fire.....Consumed them!
Did you catch it though? They were making an offering to God. They thought they were right. They believed themselves to be the holy ones, and Moses to be the man who had gone too far. God showed them in one moment, through His consuming fire, where He stood.
In their hearts, God found them to be serving themselves, living for their own interests, in essence, counterfeit. (Think of Psalm 46, where God breaks into the scene of insolent men and declares "I will be exalted.")

The next day even more people rose up and grumbled, "You've killed the LORD'S people!"
They were still so deceived, so darkened, and so blind to the true work of God that they couldn't see. God again began to pour out His judgement for their disrespect, again looking at their hearts and their INtentional sin. He sent out a plague among them to finish them off, but Moses sent Aaron running into the midst of those who were being put to death, to beg for their atonement. God searched their hearts and halted His wrath, but almost 15,000 people were dead.

This, brothers and sisters, was the experience of Moses with God. Moses was warning his people by reminding them of God's all consuming fire, His judgement, and what would happen if they allowed that same disrespect and irreverence.

Finally, this is the same context of Hebrews 12. It is a warning, and a bold one at that, to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles," to "fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross", to "endure hardship as discipline", even though it can be painful at the time. If you are disciplined, you are loved. We are warned to strengthen our faith, our confidence, to be in check and search our hearts constantly regarding our relationship with Christ. We are to "make every effort to live in peace," to "see to it that no one misses the grace of God."

At the very heart, we are not to refuse Him. Can we claim to be God's holy and anointed, and yet be blind, on the wrong side of judgement? Absolutely we can, if we don't check ourselves and hold steadfast to Him and His commands. This is where we are to test the spirits (1 Thes 5). Does the work of the Holy Spirit point to Jesus? Does it exalt the Lord and oppose Satan? Is it soaked by Scripture, dripping with truth, producing the fruit of a genuine love? God points to Jesus. The Old Testament and the prophets point to Jesus. Jesus points to Jesus. The apostles point to Jesus. The New Testament of course, and even the work of the Holy Spirit is to point to Jesus.

Are we? Is our message about power or the gifts that can be ours, the adventure, the encounters, the blessings or the better life? Do we want the glory? This is our earthly nature, the very things we must put to death according to Paul (Col. 3), lest we find ourselves in the wake of pride, lies, false humility, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

God takes these things seriously. "I will be exalted."

Discern. Be Berean in your searching of the Scripture. Ask God to reveal your heart. There is stark contrast between the Pharisee and the Berean. One loves Jesus and will stand for the Word, whatever the cost, and one is too blind to recognize Him at all, because of pride.

The people in the day of Moses didn't escape His judgement here on the earth, even though they thought they were right. We shouldn't expect to escape either if we worship idols and chase after only what feels good. We must take care to keep our walk and our worship acceptable and pleasing to God, sights focused with reverence and awe, remembering that we will one day be there in the midst of His glory, where there is a river that makes glad the City of God, in that holy place where the Most High dwells. We will be with Him there, face to face with the Knower of Hearts, and if we are with Him, if He is in us, we will not fall.

His desire is that we should all repent and turn to Him, that we should ask forgiveness, and find His Grace. If we've been rescued, we should be pointing to Christ and Christ alone.

But, if we have let go of His commandments and have created our own idea based on what appealed to us, 'going after the lusts of our own hearts and eyes', then we serve an idol that is really ourselves. Many on that day will say, "Lord, Lord, didn't we do this or that in your Name?" and He will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" We bear no resemblance to Jesus Christ, and in view of our intentional sin, our God is a consuming fire.