Goats & Poison Ivy

Gentle Readers,
It has been a long time.  Please accept this humble offering.                                                      With much love and gratitude,                                                                                                    Darlene

Rev. Darlene L. Kelley
September 7, 2014

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…          Romans 13:8-12


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 Goats & Poison Ivy

According to a company called, Eco-Goats, in Maryland:

When it comes to clearing unwanted vegetation, goats can provide an ideal alternative to machines and herbicides. They graze in places that mowers can’t reach and humans don’t want to go (yes, they love Poison Ivy). In fact, goats eat a wide range of unwanted vegetation, which on the East Coast include Kudzu, Oriental Bittersweet, Ailanthus, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Honeysuckle, Mile-A-Minute and more.[1]             

      Besides, goats can fertilize as they work.

I was excited to tell all this to my neighbor, but then he left me standing at the bottom of his driveway, and I realized once again just how hard all this “love your neighbor” stuff really is.

It started innocently enough; I was walking the dog when I saw one of the neighbor’s boys with a big tank on his back and a sprayer in his hand going to town.

“Hey, Johnnie. What are you doing there?” I asked.

“Killin’ Mr. Conner’s poison ivy” Johnnie replied.

“All the way out here by the road!?”

“He’s going to rebuild his walls”, Johnnie explained, supplying the moment with a metaphor I only appreciated later. But right at that moment I was excited to tell Mr. Conner about the goats. I might even know someone who had some poison ivy lovin’ goats nearby.

“Oh, I should tell him about the goats. What’s his number?” I ask Johnnie, realizing I never take my cell phone on a walk.

“I’m going up to the house anyway,” Johnnie offered. “I’ll tell him you want to talk to him.”

It wasn’t until much later when I saw Johnnie hang his head that I realized I’d been dissed by Neighbor Conner, left like a fool to stand at the end of the driveway. I was mad at myself for waiting too long for Neighbor Connor to appear, allowing myself to naively fall into the trap of embarrassment. Johnnie knew it too, and I felt my checks burn with embarrassment facing him.

It didn’t help that I passed my neighbor’s house every day. By definition, your neighbor is someone who lives close by. Quickly in the car or slowly by foot with a canine, I found it difficult to get home without passing Mr. Connor’s herbicide layered property, and when I looked up his long driveway, self-righteous anger swelled up in me more times than I’d like to admit. I longed to be a witch instead of a Methodist, so I could cast spells at the bottom of Mr. Connor’s gate, right where he left me standing, my excitement over poison ivy loving goats, slowly turning to embarrassment and indignation.

I can love every neighbor except this one, God.

I can either spit or pray depending on my mood and hormone level, giving wide berth to the sprayed patches from the other side of the road, but all too aware of Mr. Conner’s property and how hard it is to love my neighbor. And I walk the dog past his house and pray. Are you sure of what you’re askin’, Lord? Because I can love every neighbor except this one.

And when my walk with anger is over, I look up these words by Frederick Buechner:

If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us. If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors.  With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces, but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.

      And I wonder how to see my neighbor framed in love, to stop and look and listen for God just like Buechner advises because I’m walking past my neighbor’s, and I’m praying hard, but some days I still miss those goats.






[1] Eco-goats, http://www.eco-goats.com

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