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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Flowers (10/03/05)

TITLE: The Greenhouse Effect
By Al Boyce


We entered the hothouse through an airlock of sorts, to be greeted by row upon row of perfect flowers arrayed against double-paned glass.

There were orchids and African violets; poppies and petunias; buttercups and butterfly bushes. Along multiple walkways, men and women in pseudo-surgical garb were installing and removing small bags from flowers.

"What's up with that?" I asked.

"They are harvesting pollen and artifically inseminating the flowers." said my guide. "We allow no bees, no wind or other vectors to introduce uncontrolled variations here. Thus, we ensure the highest quality plants."

Each flower was attached to a digitally monitored watering tube to ensure the perfect amount of moisture and minerals. Sunlight -- both intensity and duration -- was regulated through louvers and filters over each species' "neighborhood."

"These flowers are breathtaking," I said. I wondered aloud why they seemed so much more vibrant than those we see in our own gardens. Why couldn't we buy seeds from these?

"Actually, these would never survive on the outside world," came the response. "In fact, some of these have been bred in captivity so long, they no longer have scents to attract insects to aid in pollination."


A few days later, I entered another hothouse (although I had never recognized it as such before).

I went in through the narthex to see row upon row of well-dressed and manicured people arrayed against stained-glass windows.

There were Asians and African-Americans; beauticians and busboys; sailors and CEOs. After a while, men and women in flowing robes offered them bite-sized bits of bread and tiny sips of wine to augment a steady diet of watered-down theology.

I say "watered-down" because, clearly, it left them thirsty for more.

Their seeds and fruit were ritually harvested here in the hothouse -- and here they would stay, providing sustenance only for those who had already gained entry. Those who left the hothouse, week after week, would find themselves unequipped for the outside world -- unable either to give of themselves or to digest an untamed diet.


I thought of how Jesus and His disciples encountered the world -- barefoot in the dirt, carrying nothing, plopping down with publicans and prostitutes, touching lepers and casting out demons. Part of the disciples' "scent" was their open admission of a sinful nature, an abandonment of pride and a willingness to reach out to anyone without fear.

The would-be disciples from the hothouse were looking more and more alike -- cleaner and prettier to be sure -- but maybe the scent of Jesus was being scrubbed off.

I thought of Mark 11:20-22, when Jesus rebuked the fig tree that bore no fruit.

"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered.

I rested my head against a stained-glass window, eyes unfocused.

Outside, a bumblebee rotated, legs plump with pollen from a dozen different flowers.

Backing away from a sunflower, the bee bumped the glass, retreated, then bumped it again.




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This article has been read 1541 times
Member Comments
Member Date
janet rubin10/10/05
wow. great observations and truth.
Beth Muehlhausen10/10/05
You kept my attention! Very thought-provoking.
Linda Watson Owen10/10/05
You've really put a lot of thought and heart into this story. Some readers may wonder about the sweeping generalization of 'stained glass churches' though.
Alexandra Wilkin10/11/05
Very, very thought provoking. I especially liked the parallels between the flowers that could not survive in the 'world' because they have no scent to attract insects and the 'sunday christians': if we do not carry the 'scent' of the Lord into the outside world, how can we attracts others to Him? Intelligently written piece. God bless.
Helga Doermer10/11/05
An interesting comparison.
Maxx .10/11/05
The story is well written... great imagination, etc. Certainly the church needs a call to wake up and this take a great swing at that goal. Very good! My only concern with this piece is that I don't think the compasison quite connects. Perhaps if you compared the "Sunday-morning Christian's" faith with the hothouse flower... neither able to survive outside their enclosure... it would have been a touch more direct. Either way, though, excellent work.
Shari Armstrong 10/12/05
Very well written comparison! Good job!
Val Clark10/12/05
A great analogy. Skillfully you bought your character to a place of revelation, leaving me with the hope of possible spiritual awakening.
Karen Ward10/12/05
Excellent linking to the topic, thought provoking. Well done.
Cassie Memmer10/15/05
Very thought provoking! And sadly, how true. thank you for this entry. I like it!
Karen Treharne10/17/05
Very creative piece, Al. Good to read another of your inventive stories. I always enjoy your perspective. May He continue to bless you as you honor Him. In His name, Karen
Deborah Porter 10/17/05
Al, congratulations on your 4th place in the Editors' Choice and 3rd Place in the Level 3 Awards. Very well deserved.

I thought this was an excellent message from a very creative angle. I'm delighted that it will be in this quarter's anthology!

With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)
Nina Phillips10/18/05
Brother Al..I would love to be able to get such things down to this degree and poignancy. Real life stuff--I really enjoyed reading your story and get so much insight from them. Thanks for being you!! God bless ya, littlelight