“Dance, then, wherever you may be ……..” (Lord of the dance)
The garden dance, just my Lord and me,
The flowers dance in the evening breeze
Spirit-filled fairies in the waving trees.
The Master Gardener takes my hand
So, we dance to the beat of the garden’s band.
Oh, so joyous to dance around a summer garden with the expectation of Christmas in the air. Nature is bursting at the seams to tell its own Advent story as the birds scurry to and fro getting nests ready and eggs laid. The insects are eating their fill whilst the caterpillars and snails are running amok in the vegetable patch getting a head start on the Christmas bounty.
Such is summertime in a Wilderness garden; filled with wonder, filled bellies, filled with the happy sounds of a Christmas garden, and filled by the Spirit:
The hydrangeas are coming into their first full flush, bringing a spectacular display to our garden. A sure sign, that here in Wilderness, Christmas is coming.
Beautiful round pink blushed cheeks, here and there a deeper red, with the odd light blues just starting to poke their heads out from their glossy green leafed cribs. These are our reminder that, not only is the season of Advent here, but it is also the season of visitors, all making the annual journey to the sea.
A year’s worth of hard work under the guidance of the Master Gardener is being rewarded with the garden bursting at the seams with its early summer fireworks display of colour and scents that the garden cannot wait to boast and show off to all and sundry.
When you just can’t wait for friends and family to share the bounty with you, then you know, Gardening with God was made just for Advent. A gardener’s gift that just keeps on giving,
There are some days that, when you wake up in the morning,
you just know it is going to be a great day!
Sunday 3rd November was just such a day – for
Firstly, our current sermon series – Testify! Tell the story
of the Good News.
Secondly, fellowship to be shared over a coffee brewed by
our church’s new coffee percolator, and
Thirdly, a chance to go and visit all the gardens on display
through our community ‘Open Garden’ annual festival.
In fact, it was the last of the three that heightening my
levels of excitement and expectation, so much so that my attention during the
sermon was probably not what it should have been, none-the-less it did get me
Thinking about the gardens and all the hard work that has
gone into getting them ready for the weekend’s gardening aficionados.
All the trips to the nursery to find the right
plant to fit into the right space. Seeds and seedlings purchased and coddled
into spectacular colour. All for what? All to tell a story. A story that would
reach into the hearts of the visitors that would last, in many cases, for a
lifetime. There would be lessons learnt. Just by walking around the gardens,
ideas of what to do in our own respective gardens would stir our creative
juices, and hopefully dissolve into glasses of garden cocktails to be cherished
by future generations of gardeners.
It also got me thinking about church! And what we expect to
get out of it.
For the gardeners, a visit to the nursery, was all about
getting the right plant/seed/seedling to fit in a setting that would tell a
story. When we go to church, the idea is the same, or should be.
The sermon series on ‘testifying’ or telling ‘THE’ story
means that we should be taking something away with us from the service. Our
plant that we are going to use to tell a story. Most of the time our weekly
visits to church are an internalised story. We expect the story to be told to
us, rather than a chance to visit the nursery and see what is on offer that we
can take home to our gardens, care for it, nourish it and then put it on
display – showing it off to the world.
This is what we gain out of church and out of fellowship.
Chances to walk through the nursery and choose the plants best suited for our
The community ‘Open Garden’ weekend told a story of love,
hard work and dedication, overcoming adversity, motivation and sharing. The
fellowship amongst the gardeners was palpable! After a year of extreme drought,
gardeners still managed to tell their stories, a testimony to colour and form
and structure. A testimony to creation and an inspiration to gardeners!
The church does the same. We only have to see it in this
light, as a nursery of plants for us to select, take out and put on display
along with putting in the hard yards of planting, feeding, watering and caring
until the plants come to full maturity in colour and shape as we ‘Garden with
Yet for me, the most special, that early
morning peek just as the sun pokes its head over the horizon.
Coffee in hand, I am immersed in a peace and tranquility that brings me closer to God. My thoughts become prayers and my prayers become hymns sung in silence from a place so deep within me, that only God knows it exists.
Time spent in the early morning with the
Master Gardener is what it is all about. This is the time that we can enjoy the
fruits of our labours and the joys of His creation.
We can share the sunrise with all His
creatures as a symphony of sound and colour erupts on the early morning stage.
The presence of His Spirit is tangible in every touch of a petal or stroke of a
leaf. The silence is so profound that the touch of a dragonfly’s tail on the
water is like a sharp crack of thunder awakening the goldfish into shaking off
his late-night blues.
Yes! Early in the morning ‘our’ song shall rise to Thee! We are Gardening with God and this is our time to praise Him.
also made me so that I can fit in a pot and get the special care that prickly
plants require. Not too much care nor too little; just the right amount. And being
in a pot also means that I can be placed on the patio of the house of the one
who lives there. The one who keeps an eye on me and makes sure that I get all
the ingredients I need to flower and suddenly …. voila!
beautiful garland of flowers. A halo for ‘Mr Prickles’. Who would have believed
will be seen first; thorns, the prickly hairs or the crown of flowers?
on the patio means that I am the first plant anyone sees on their way to the
garden. So, even with all my prickles and irritating hairs, I try to make sure
that I am on my best behaviour (at least when anybody visits!)
I try not to steal the limelight from the blossoms in the garden beyond the
patio: That’s how we grow when we are Gardened by God.
we read that Christ says He has overcome the world, it doesn’t mean that He has
removed the sting from the bee. What He has done is to show the bee how sweet
the nectar is that He provides. The bee is then so occupied with the bounty being
provided, that it forgets about the sting.
Don’t go looking for the bees of our
world. – You will be stung!
you want to overcome the world provide it with the sweetness that comes from being
laden in pollen.
with God is about producing a bounty of pollen laden blossoms that provide an
irresistible feeding station for the bees of the world. So attractive and
enticing that they forget their sting and they are completely absorbed in being
filled with the sweet stuff (and taking it back home).
God’s garden, the choice is ours. It is not just about being in Christ – it is
about Christ being in us – filled until we are bursting with pollen for the
bees to collect. Bees also make choices: Whether to sting or whether to collect
We have planted the seeds, mulched the
soil, fertilized and watered, weeded and pruned, all in patient anticipation!
For the glorious display of floral beauty that every gardener strives for.
we leave our gardens for a day, we return, anxious to see what has transpired
in our absence. Has the shoot grown, has the bud blossomed? Our reward lies in
seeing that there was progress whilst we were away.
what of the Master Gardener, is it not the same for Him. Has He not chosen each
of His plants for a purpose? Has He not given the plants spiritual nourishment?
To what end?
see progress! To see the shoot grow and to see the bud open in floral
How often does He return to the garden to find that the plants lie dormant? Sometimes chocked with weeds, or perhaps so concerned with personal growth they have forgotten to flower and fruit and seed.
anticipation and boundless joy is our daily relationship with creation as we
Garden with God.
we should consider what the day holds in store for the Master Gardener when He surveys
Draw in the Grace of God. Breath in. Suck
in the air around you, filled with the Spirit.
We know that the pollen is there, yet there is a void between us and the pollen.
His word is there, yet there is still a void between us and His word.
it in. Constantly! In prayer as we
breath, we bridge the gap, and the wind of the Spirit gives us access to His
Grace. Like the pollen, it cannot be earned or won. It is always there, we just
have to breath it in.
way of the Master Gardener is to show us that the gap between Faith and Grace
is a reminder that we should never separate ourselves from Grace. It should be
present as a constant in our daily lives and as necessary as every breath that
we become conscious of every breath, so we become aware of every word He has
for us like every grain of pollen. Every word brings us closer to an
understanding of Him and His Boundless Grace.
in and receive it. Now! Gardening with God!
“Lemon Tree’ –
the folk song written by Will Holt in the ‘50’s:
Lemon tree very pretty
And the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon
Is impossible to eat.
How often does this describe the people we
meet in and around church congregations?
Whilst they look the best in their Sunday
finery – the fruit …! Well the fruit
leaves much to be desired. The question is; do we discard them from the
Christian garden? Pull them out by their roots and chuck them on the compost
heap to be processed into a more useful substance?
Sometimes we fail to see the value of this ‘impossible to eat’ fruit. Because, it is not impossible to eat – we just need to realise how to eat it.
A slice in our Gin & Tonic; a fine
zest in the carrot cake; the juice sprinkled over our fish; a tenderiser for
our steak; and let us not forget, lemonade on a hot summer’s day.
Our issue is not the bitter fruit, but
rather finding out how to use its attributes to the best advantage.
Christ went looking for the bitter fruit to bring it back into the garden’s basket of produce, knowing, that if we discovered what He knew – ‘All things can be used for good’ – know your recipes and what you need to really raise the bar – perhaps it will be a lemon!
Gardening with God gives us the
opportunity to not only seek Him out but everything He stands for:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If we are only searching and connecting with one aspect of the Godhead, we miss out on so much of what He offers us.
Gardening is about giving everything over to; not only the Creator, but also the Saviour and Councillor, because gardening with Him is a complete process. An ‘all or nothing’ surrender, and a complete and awe-inspiring experience of the Trinity as it was meant to be! (Luke 14:33)
Faith grows! As
the arms of the leaf unfurl, they reach out, beckoning.
our actions in handing over more and more of our lives to Christ, are a gradual
unfurling, and when our lives are fully entrusted to God, then the ‘spores’ we
have stored up are released into the world.
faith needs to grow until we trust the Lord completely and explicitly with
everything we have and not clutch the remaining crumbs so tightly in our grasp
that we never unfurl to scatter our ‘spores’ to the wind.
As our relationship
deepens, so to does our faith expand. Slowly stretching out; testing the
boundaries of possibility, until we find ourselves immersed in His will and the
miracle of Grace – Gardening with God!
If we can accept the one, then surely, we should accept the other. If, through our salvation, we will end in Heaven it does not matter through which season this comes. Whether it be through our normal lifespan, or through the return of The Christ. The result is the same.
Preparing for it, no matter when it comes is one thing: Living for it, something else.
Living in faith and in the knowledge of the promise means we should be ready to flower, knowing the season is at hand. That Heaven is within our grasp!
Being ready to blossom is what we were born for. So then, flower, ‘cause even the flowers have faith that the spring will come. Hark He comes! Hebrews 10:36,37
Gardeners with God do not know when the
Master Gardener is coming.
Tending to the garden and all the tasks associated with this is not a luxury of our ‘Faith’, rather a necessity. If we have faith then we have wisdom and it is the wisdom portion of our faith which means that we keep on gardening, no matter what!
It is the wisdom part of faith that tells us we cannot leave the garden to tend for itself and then when the ‘unexpected hour’ arrives, we start looking for excuses as to why the gardening tasks have been neglected, the garden is overgrown, the fruit is rotten, the blossoms spent and the weeds have taken over.
with God know through faith that we will be found in the garden, ready with the
tools of our trade, when the hour arrives.
Our mouths are open, what are the words?
Are there words or are we just sticking our tongues at the world or God?
Where is the wisdom in what we say?
Whilst the, ‘meditation of my heart shall be understanding’, exists; the road from understanding to speaking wisely is littered with roadblocks and detours.
The fact that we have opened our mouths is no guarantee that the words that will come out or that they will be wise. And even the wisest words are sometimes just not fully understood!
The world is filled with open-mouthed babble which overshadows the whispers of wisdom. Here in the garden, in God’s presence, meditation brings its own understanding of wisdom. Being able to speak it is another matter entirely!
beautiful part of prayer is the ability to focus entirely on ‘Our Father’.
just so happens that for many of us, we find this focus very elusive due to all
the ‘white noise’ in our lives and the world around us.
Being able to cut out this noise and have meaningful prayer means removing even the self-created white noise such as the; ‘…but Lord,’ and the ‘.. what if, Lord?’ or perhaps the ‘…why, Lord? Or even the ‘…if only, Lord.’
If, “teach us to pray, Lord”, becomes focused on self, we miss out entirely on the ‘golden nuggets’ that are waiting desperately to be found, not so secretly buried, in the prayer that He has given us.
God’s Garden, the white noise is replaced with His noise and we can listen to
Him, secure in the knowledge that whilst we are focused on Him, we have a
greater understanding of how He is focused on us for the sole purpose that we
may Garden in God’s Kingdom!
answer to this would vary depending on who you asked, when you asked and sometimes,
where you asked it.
teenager boyfriend/girlfriend pair will give you a different answer to the
elderly couple. As will the mother who has just given birth. Ask church goers
on a Sunday and once again the chances are the answers will differ.
works in absolutes and not in half measures; there is only one definition of
love. The rose is love as much as it was created by love because God is love
and everything He created is an outward expression of His Love. When we define
love for ourselves; it comes down to the realisation that, if God is love, and we
are made in His image, then we are love and the only way that we can express
this is complete surrender to love. The ‘death to self’.
gardeners we are confronted daily with examples of God’s Love. Gardening with
God becomes gardening with and for God and the rose becomes a reflection of
is service? Service is our rose – it is a reflection of our loving relationship
with God. Service is love as much as it was created out of love and by love.
Service is our complete surrender to love, His Love!
Every part of
being a gardener is focused on our training to be ‘Samaritans’.
is about caring for plants and the environment and all that this entails. Every
element of the work involved provides gardeners with the lessons required to be
what a Samaritan is supposed to be.
In Africa, we have a saying: “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu”, which can be translated as “a person is a person because of (or through) other people”. Man cannot be man without hu(man)ity. This is the African concept of Ubuntu and a wonderful description of Samaritan(ism).
As with humanity, plants (and animals) do not exist in isolation in the environment. They need each other and depend on one another. And they all need a gardener!
the stake support the tree, or does the tree give new meaning to the stake? The
common feature is that they are bound through a love knot of support. A
‘Samaritan’ knot. A knot of love.
is the lesson that the Master Gardener gives freely and the very reason for our
creation. ‘Love’ was always the foundation of His grand plan and why I am always
in awe gardening with God!
A drab green plant and an uninspiring
spike; ‘do not be deceived …’ and ‘… sow to please the Spirit …’ (Gal 6:7,8)
Look what happens!
the Master Gardener is at work, suddenly the deceptive spike bursts forth and
raises its hands to the Lord. A plant is transformed as colours shout praises
into the heavens and the gardener is called to worship with the plant.
we sow with the Spirit, no matter how long we must wait, no matter what guise
we hold, there is a promise that we will reap with the Spirit: Eternal Life!
No wonder then, that a plant shouts; “Glory, Lord, Christ, Redeemer – Hallelujah”.
And the plants wait for us to follow their example as we Garden with God.
Gardening with God often finds me on my
knees in the garden, sometimes on my haunches and occasionally just walking
around, yet my perspective of God is always within the boundaries of the things
I see around me. Whilst I am amazed by His creation which I experience daily –
the boundaries are still there.
If I cast my view beyond the garden, there are still boundaries on His magnificence depicted by the horizons I see all around. Even if I was to wait for nightfall, the stars still cloak my perceptions.
Yet, if I was to lie back and gaze up into the blue sky above me, the fullness of His presence comes flooding through.
In the blue sky there are no boundaries to limit my understanding of God. There is no limit to His abundance, just more layers of blue. It is through this that I am drawn into Him. Sucked into His vastness! And if I lie there in Him, slowly I can feel His absolute immenseness begin to flow into me.
Ever so slowly, the Holy Spirit permeates through my being until I become the sky and soar with Him through the Heavens. Here there are no boundaries to limit me being what I am meant to be – and that is why I garden with God.
In a Wilderness winter garden as we reach
the solstice, we raise our arms in celebration of the countdown to spring.
the flowering plants are few and far between, here and there blossoms brave the
dark side of the mountain to display their glory.
It is in the hard, cold times that we seek a special connection with The Master Gardener and spend time searching for dewdrops in Heaven, that prove to each gardener that the Lord hears our call even on the darkest, and coldest, and loneliest of days and the promise that spring is around the corner. God is in the garden, always; all we must do, is look and listen!
If there is one group of people that
really grasp the concept of the Trinity, it should be gardeners!
Evidence of a Triunal presence abounds in our cultivated (and natural) habitats.
Just one glimpse of a flower and the ‘three in one’ bursts out into our world. We cannot separate the power of the structured petals, nor can we say that any one colour could exist without the other. The flower stands in its glory.
Could it be better or clearer?
Do we expect one colour or one layer to do all the work of bringing forth the beauty that stands proud? Do we long for more of one than the other?
Gardeners remain spellbound in the Creator’s perfect perfection. We stand in awe of the presence of the peace that washes over us in the full knowledge that the Counsellor shows us the fundamentals of our Faith in the Master Gardener’s harvest of Grace.
The Trinity, inseparable in the eyes of Gardeners with God!
There is an ember
that glows deep in the soul of all humanity.
get it burst into flame, a gentle breath is needed. And then a breath that will
take the flame to a fire!
is what we have been waiting for; a fire that will burn in the ‘Upper Room’ of
our hearts. The flame needs to be nurtured by gardeners, slowly feeding it
until it spreads across the land in the souls of men.
flame owes its genesis to the breath of the Holy Spirit. Yet once the ember has
become a flame it requires constant feeding, slowly and gently stoking the
fire, under the watchful eye of fellowship, prayer and worship to ensure that
it doesn’t go out.
gardeners, in the care of creation, Gardening with God is a never-ending task
of maintaining this fire. Of taking coals to start new fires into which the
Spirit can breathe anew as evidence of His existence.
The waiting is nearly over – Blow Spirit
Blow; my ember awaits; light my fire!
As we celebrate the Ascension
of our Lord, where is He in your garden?
The spider’s hole is surrounded by the
finest gossamer threads that only become visible in the early morning dew. Even
the rain does not highlight its presence; just the delicate breath of dawn.
Christ abounds in our ‘garden’, yet it is
just with the mist exhaled by the Holy Spirit’s that we become aware of this.
For the most part we walk around oblivious to the fact that Christ is still
with us and that we are standing on ‘Hol(e)y Ground’. He has not ‘disappeared’ into
another dimension – He is with us!
We must wait, as gardeners, for the Holy Spirit
to reveal Him in our midst so that we may see Him for the Master Gardener He is.
That we may truly be Gardeners with God.
(the chorus line of ‘Holy Ground’ by Geron Davis says it all)
We are standing on holy ground And I know that there are angels all around Let us praise Jesus now We are standing in His presence On holy ground.
If you are going to bear fruit, then do so abundantly.
If Christ promised the Holy Spirit, the Counselor; He promised all of the Spirit. When He gave us Peace, He gave us complete Peace – the ‘Peace which passes all understanding’. As gardeners in God’s garden we are called to tend the whole garden, not just the parts that are easy to get to. We are called to care for all the flowers whether they bloom for a few days or for months at a time. And when we are called to bear fruit we should do so ‘till our branches are filled to capacity … because we have a Master Gardener tending to us.
how He would feel to see us so fully laden with fruit?
The sting in the tail is nullified when the nectar is so sweet!
If we can keep our focus on the ‘Living Word” and the food it provides, then we can understand why all of creation are welcome at God’s table. The flavours and aroma that waft from His plate make us soon forget that we are dangerous beings.
We only become a threat when we try to protect our ‘food’ instead of eating it. We are invited to the Master Gardener’s buffet to partake in His bounty, and when we bow our heads to feed our individual stings are forgotten. As gardeners, we should be planting His Word in delicious nectar and pollen that keep the heads more occupied than the tails.
The flowers of every plant are in honour
of the ‘mother plant’. Whatever their colour or size, fragrant or not; the
parent plant recognises that its purpose is fulfilled the moment they start to
bloom. As gardeners, we wait in tense anticipation for the blossom to be
revealed. As does the Master Gardener with us!
Mother’s Day is not only in honour of the plant that bears the flowers but also for the Master Gardener as He tends to His nursery.
Are we honouring the ‘root stock’ with blossoms filled with the Spirit, and bursting with colour in a resurrected life?
The breath of Jesus prepares us, as it did
for the disciples after the resurrection. (John 20:22) In the garden, we are
purified and strengthened as we recognise His breath; it is in the new life
growing out of old. It is in the cool winter mists that linger on the eyelashes
of the early morning gardener, and it is in the breeze from butterfly wings
fanning faces in the summer heat. These and more, are the breath of Christ that
give us the sustenance to tend His garden. Out of these, a gardener find their
purpose and courage and through these, the Risen Lord imparts His Spirit into
us for the tasks ahead – Gardening with God.
garden should have an Emmaus Road. A place where you can walk and talk. A place
where you can discuss the world with Christ, or rather allow Christ to discuss
the world with you. The length of the road is not as important as the width.
Your road should be wide enough that the Risen Lord can walk beside you. Close
enough; for Him to whisper in your ear! Near enough; that He can support you
when you stumble! Having an Emmaus Road gives you a place to walk in prayer and
in meditation. Gardening with God gives you the chance to stroll up and down
your Emmaus Road as often as you wish and bring you closer to the world God has
created for you to garden in.
Red droplets on a branch … Red blood on a timber cross! How fickle is humankind that it goes from cheering the King on His triumphal entry through the Golden Gate of Jerusalem to mocking him a few days later, on the Via Dolorosa? Those who garden with God will know that the red flowers on the branch show the promise of life to come. New seeds, new growth, renewed vigour in the garden. Strange that the blood on the wooden cross promised the same result in our lives! In the garden; the fickleness of humanity is transformed into a reflection of the Passion of Christ. May the colours of Christ be in your garden as a reminder of His suffering, death and His resurrection. May the Grace of God burst forth in the realisation that Christ has risen as the Master Gardener intended it ….. Garden with God because Christ died so that our sins may be forgiven…. Let our gardens display His Glory.
As we prepare to enter Holy Week our self-reflection over the Lenten period draws to an end. Our thoughts become more focused each day. As gardeners, how can we not notice the Master Gardener and His creations where the simplest flower displays His artistic touch? What else can we do but worship Him in awe? Let our prayer filled thoughts become God-filled dreams because that is how it should be when we are gardening with God!
“I’m on top of the world looking down on creation ….” The 1972 hit song from the Carpenters goes on to describe, “.. and the only explanation I can find, is the love that I’ve found since you’ve been around …” If we were to look down on creation, just what would we see? Can we even try to imagine what is visible when God looks down on the world? Does He feel our love? The lyrics encapsulate where we can and will take us when we feel God’s love. In this time of Lent we should spend some time thinking of what the view of us from Heaven is really like. Does the ‘Love’ surround us like the water in the pond? Are we perched on a pedestal surrounded by love, but just dipping in and taking enough for our own use? Are we more concerned with the finer details and ignore the bigger picture? As gardeners, are we looking up to get the view from below with the idea that the garden we tend is in Heaven? Perhaps, when we are on our knees, gardening with God, we should consider the view from above before we concern ourselves with the view from below. The Master Gardener is on top of the world looking down on creation! Have we found His love?
So ……! After all the prayer, and the promises. After all the reflection and communion with God, we finally get to start producing some fruit. Figs so round and filled with sweetness that we can almost taste the day they will ripen, and we can harvest the fruits of our faith. And then along comes an unexpected visitor that does the harvesting for us. We get annoyed and sometimes angry that this unwelcome intruder has ‘stolen’ our fruit. Yet, if we paused to think, could it be possible that we do not and should not have control over who gets to eat the fruit that God has cultivated in our garden. Gardening with God may at times be frustrating when it does not go according to our plan. If we keep going back to the prayer, reflection and communion we will know to produce fruit was our purpose, the Holy Spirit will sort out the rest.
Weeds! Weeds are my wilderness experience. A time for reflecting on my temptations and testings …. and removing them from my life. Weeds, even with their own specific beauty, are merely plants growing where they shouldn’t. Removing them by hand is an arduous task and rightly so because it gives me a chance to reflect at the same time. As I pluck each offending plant, I can review each vice, temptation or test in my life and then I can ‘pluck’ it from my habits. The manual labour involved forces me to consider the garden of my life and the weeding process that is required on a continuous basis. Each time I get down on my hands and knees to weed I will find fewer and fewer weeds to contend with … and then another load of compost brings in more weeds. When I can survey a neat and clean patch of the garden I in wonder if God can see the neat and clean patches in me? Oh, how the cycles in the garden reflect the cycles in my life …’Gardening with God’.
Notice the bees, butterflies and other insects that go from flower to flower collecting pollen. Not only are they feeding off what the flower has to offer, but in many cases fertilizing the plants that will then provide viable seeds for the next season. A twofold task: Feeding and fertilizing. Are our Christian lives like that? As we gather food from all the flowers we encounter, are we pollinating plants in accordance with Christ’s call? In our Lenten journey from the waters of our baptism, we are called to be multi-dimensional Christians; feeding and fertilizing, learning and teaching, reflecting and doing! It is a journey from flower to flower, harvesting the truths that we are given. What we do with them is then up to us in our role: ‘Gardening with God’.
A journey in the wilderness or a journey in Wilderness? What a difference one word and a capital letter can make. My Wilderness is a village – nothing barren about it. Wilderness is also situated in the district of Eden, commonly known as the ‘Garden Route’ of South Africa. We are surrounded by beautiful forests, stunning mountain vistas and beaches that stretch for miles. A scenario that is far removed from what Christ must have experienced in His wilderness. Yet for us, the temptation is perhaps greater and the sin more profound. The tendency is to become caught up in our own reality surrounded by perfection – so much so, that we tend to forget that there is a world out there that is vastly different to the world we experience daily. Christ’s world, Christ’s wilderness and its meaning are more often than not distant memories of another planet. Gardening with God during this Lenten journey is about realising that sometimes we need to take God’s garden beyond our boundaries. Perhaps this Lent we should be gardening with the less fortunate – sharing our plants and skills as part of our “alms’ giving. Lets us make the desolate wilderness in the lives around us more like the gardens we care for and cherish daily. What a Lenten journey this could be – 40 days of Gardening with God in a stranger’s garden.
As the tentacles of the day’s heat retreat before the evening’s cool sea mist that hangs low over the trees, it is time to be close to creation, both for refuge and for inspiration. Here in the silence of the garden, we can seek out the Trinity. We can delve deep into the core of each part; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For within each we will find a connection to our innermost being, separate, but all belonging to one plant: The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit are all to be found when you are Gardening with God! Explore the garden with Him and discover parts of yourself only God knew existed.
It is the human nature in us that even in a moment of Glory we sometimes wonder: What if? What if I was something else. What if I was a talented painter or businessman? We catch ourselves daydreaming about how we could better serve the Lord if we had been given other “gifts”. As gardeners, we do not find plants trying to be what they are not. The orchid relishes being an orchid, the rose is oblivious to any other blossoms. They each have a duty and a function to perform so that as we gaze upon our gardening efforts, we are greeted by God’s creation in all its splendour. If only gardeners could learn from the garden and concentrate just on our gift, imagine the sight that would greet the Master Gardener as He strolls the paths amongst us.
As our gardens grow and flourish we need to thin out the plants every now and then. What do we do with the plants that overcrowd the rest of our garden? Do we throw them away, do we let them continue to choke the plants that are not so vigorous or do we expand into new gardens by dividing them up and re-planting. These are the plants that need the least amount of care, grow in most soil conditions and flower readily. Perhaps our churches need to be like that. Take the strong and the vigorous and establish new gardens, leaving the gardener to care for the more sensitive ‘plants’. Some plants need extra love and care which the gardener cannot provide if he is taken up with caring for plants that are pushing and smothering the others. Soon the new ground will be established and flowering and before too long will also be ready for dividing up and moving. Love for the Master Gardener is about establishing new gardens and keeping the delicate, sensitive plants under our care until one day they too will be strong enough to be re-planted elsewhere.
Water is the lifeblood of the garden, just as water, through baptism, is the lifeblood of the gardener. In us, just as in the garden, water is also a cleansing, washing off the dirt and the grime. When a plant’s leaves are washed clean by the rain, it’s pores are able to breath again, to photosynthesize (process light) just as our own baptism washes us clean that we may process the everlasting light that comes with salvation through the Grace of the Master Gardener.
As Christians, we just need to look at any plant to see how God’s design is worked out to the finest detail. Nothing we can do will ever rival His creations. Yet as gardener’s, we are called to care for what He has given us. He has entrusted this task to us. The Master Gardener has called us to be His apprentices so that we can appreciate the beauty and perfection that surrounds us. He presents us with ingredients and calls us to make His Garden bloom!
‘I Talk to the trees’, (the hit song from Paint your wagon in 1969) reflects what many Christians feel – “I talk to the trees, but they don’t listen to me”! Perhaps, because we have not yet learned to talk “Tree”. On the other hand, maybe they do listen, and yes, talk back – but then we do not understand “Tree”. Many gardeners will testify that they talk to their plants, and there are gardeners who listen to the subtle ways that the plants talk back. The difference between those who talk and those who listen and understand is much the same as Christians who make a connection with God and those that complain; ‘I talk to God and He don’t listen to me’! It is not about talking! It is about recognising the subtle ways that God talks back. In simple terms, we must learn and understand a new language. Have you learnt the language of the Master Gardener? Do you understand the nuances of the Holy Spirit when He talks back?
Gardens are designed to provide colour, texture, shade and both physical and spiritual sustenance. When we take flowers and leaves out of their natural environment and place them in a vase to be on display; we could be limiting their effect on the world. Does this apply to us as Christians? Perhaps we are so busy trying to cultivate Christians for display that we forget that a Christian that remains in the ‘garden’ is going to provide; pollen, nectar, shelter, nutrients, as well as food for the soul. Our job as God’s gardeners is more than creating show pieces for display, we need to make sure that the whole garden flourishes and impacts on all the plants, insects, animals and birds.
One plant does not make a garden, one leaf does not make a compost heap, and one paver does not make a pathway through the flowerbeds. Yet, one gardener can watch as the plant turns to the sun; can listen as one leaf whispers in the wind; and one paver is a footstep closer to God. One disciple that blossoms in the light of the Lord; that listens to the whispers between the Creator and the created; that is brave enough to step out on a road unseen in a garden untended, is the gardener God wanted. Be a gardener for Him!
Are you a gardener or just a flower picker? When the gardens of the world are completely overgrown, we need to come to the realization that, for the garden to bloom, they need to be tended with love and care. As ‘Christians’ we need to be gardeners and not just flower pickers. We need to get our hands dirty with the menial tasks and not just make flower arrangements from the few blossoms we manage to collect. A New Year brings us a new opportunity to put on our gardening clothes, gather the tools of our trade and tend to the garden God has given us. The benefits we reap will bring us to a closer relationship with the Master Gardener!
As we are about to enter 2019 – the theme for 2019’s #fridayfootprints changes to ‘Gardening with God.’
By way of an introduction to the theme, we start with Genesis 1:9-13 …. vs 12 … “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
He saw that it was good!
Yet, in order for it to stay good …. We need to move to Luke 13:8 … “Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.”
Our work in the gardens of the world is to dung it and dig it! No garden survives as God would have it without the sweat equity that goes with it.
We will not yield the produce the Lord wants without the effort! For 2019, our gardens must go through this process. Join me as we discover the joy of creating colour in our efforts of Gardening with God. Colours that will brighten a world devoid of the splendour of God and a humanity barren of fruit. And as we garden with God let us experience the peace which comes with the beauty around us knowing that we have each had a hand in the blossoming of God’s Garden. Happy 2019!