Simple Garden Theology

I sang about it before I’d really had a chance to truly understand it. I really just wanted to hit my part of the four-part harmony. It was an old hymn from 1912, written by a pharmacist in his New Jersey windowless, damp basement, no garden in sight. C. Austin Miles must have known the garden was nothing new to God. It was a place to walk and talk with Him, to tarry and listen to the sound of His voice. A voice so sweet that even the birds stop singing. (Read about Mr. Miles and get the full lyrics of “In the Garden” here.

God and gardens go way back. In fact, He was the pioneer planter of the very first one. (Genesis 2:8) It was a beautiful place with all kinds of trees growing out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. (Genesis 2:9Rivers ran through it. Lush and plush with green goodness all around. It was a slice of heaven here on earth. 

Until a slice of “apple” was more pleasing to the eye than the rest of the entire garden. Eden taught us all about the importance of listening to God’s boundaries and the consequence thereof. It taught us the wiliness of the enemy and the ease in which we can get caught in the did God really say scenario of that serpent of old. (Genesis 3)

Vineyards, grape gardens, were commonplace in Jerusalem. In John 15, the disciple recorded Jesus’ teaching about the importance of staying connected to the True Vine in order to be fruitful. Words like abide and love, obedience and joy are found in this garden. Pruning, while seemingly harsh, is necessary for new growth and even better fruit, assuring us there is a sweetness to the process of pruning. 

Groves of olive gardens are found in scripture with life lessons growing in each. Gethsemane is one such garden. It is a place that, in Hebrew, means oil press, i.e. a place for squeezing the oil from the olives. It is here that Jesus prayed so hard that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44) While Jesus was leaning into His Father because of pressing matters at hand, the disciples were pressing into their pillows having fallen fast asleep. It was in this garden Jesus warns them to stay alert, to watch and pray so they aren’t tempted.  

God in the garden is nothing new. Garden theology 101 is still taught by the Gardener Himself…if we choose to pay attention. Take for instance…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Weeds

You can be in the thick of them quickly if you aren’t careful.

I take a bucket out to the garden with me each morning and fill it with weeds in the hopes of keeping on top of them. They multiply to the Nth degree. Or so it seems. If I’ve missed a few days, the weeds take over the rows where we walk as well as around the actual plants themselves. 

Sometimes it takes the drastic measures of the rototiller to root out the masses. While that “gets ‘er done” on a large scale and is necessary sometimes, it’s the gentler approach, on your knees, carefully removing those that are closest to the plant that takes determination and patience. 

Jesus had something to say about weeds when He was telling the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. He explained to the disciples that the seed sown among the weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit. (v22TPT bold is mine)

Who reading this hasn’t felt suffocated by one of these? Before you know it, you’re knee deep and can’t even see the Seed that helps you grow. Start tilling in some confession, repentance, obedience to get the soil of your heart back in shape and weed free. Get on your knees and pluck gently around the more tender parts and places, listening for the sound of the Gardener’s voice that is so sweet the birds stop singing to listen. 

Water

It’s essential to a garden if you want your plants to live (duh) otherwise the plants shrivel up and die. Lately, here in the Midwest the weather has been extra hot which means morning and evening watering. 

I go out each morning and give a thorough soaking and even then, in this heat, by evening things are looking droopy and in need of an extra drink. 

Jesus had something to say to people dying (rather they knew it or not) for a drink of water. 

His first encounter is found in John 4 and is with a woman who goes to a well for water and sees Jesus sitting, waiting, as if for her. Little did she know she was about to meet a Man like no other man and boy had she met plenty of them. 

He asks her for a drink. She’s confused because He, a Jew, is supposed to hate her, a Samaritan and a woman, and yet here He is asking her for a drink. She tells Him this to which He replies, If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink and I would give you fresh, living water. (John 4:10MSG)

Again, she’s confused because Jesus doesn’t have a dipper or bucket or anything to draw water from the well, so she asks Him about it and lets Him know that she knows of spiritual things so don’t pull a fast one on her Jesus! 

Jesus then tells her, Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. (my droopy plants can testify here) Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. (John 4:13-14MSG)

Life can often feel like a trial by fire with one thing after another coming at you. Douse yourself in Living Water morning, noon and night when it feels extra hot. 

Experiments

Every year we do some experiments in the garden. This year I grew okra for the first time which blooms these gorgeous blooms before the fruit sets on! Who knew?

I also grew my tomatoes and jalapenos from seeds. It took time and patience to baby first the seeds then the seedlings then the bigger plants that could go outside under a covered area then to the actual big plant being put in the garden, in real soil. Lots of care. Lots of learning. Lots of YouTubing “how to” videos from some fellow hippies who are much wiser than I when it comes to gardening. 

Everything is doing beautifully! I would never have known just how I could grow things if I hadn’t ventured out and taken a risk. 

Sometimes we have to trust the Lord and venture onto a new path He has set before us. In Isaiah God says, Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19NIV)

I don’t want to think about past experiments that failed, making me afraid to try again. I want to see what new thing God has for me! Springs in the desert and streams in the wasteland? Yes please! 

Maybe you’re stuck in a perpetual rut. Will you try a new thing? Who knows what flower will bloom if you do! 

Pests/Suckers/Nemesis

I walked out back a few days ago and watched a squirrel jump off the bird feeder, a chipmunk jump out of the oregano and a bunny be very, very still by the chamomile. Apparently, the JackRabbit family was in need of a soothing cuppa before bed. 

A little stroll further out into the garden and I notice the zucchini leaves turning yellow, a sure sign of the squash bug. A giant maggot looking beastly thing that worms its way into the base of the stems, hollowing them out so they can’t get the nutrients or water the plant needs to survive. A half-eaten strawberry lies just outside the box, a sure sign of the dastardly chipmunk. Doesn’t he know you don’t season strawberries with oregano? Maybe that’s why he only ate half. 

The tomatoes grow all manner of shoots off the main stem. If you don’t pinch off some of these, you’ll have lots of green leaves but very little actual tomatoes because all the nutrients and water goes to keeping those little suckers alive and well. Anybody have the life sucked out them from time to time? Pinch those suckers off! 

We have an enemy whose sole (soul?) mission is to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10NIV)

We have to learn how to stop him from achieving what he sets out to do. We do this by learning his tactics and how to look for signs that he’s there. I learned that a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water sprayed on the leaves of the zucchini kill the bug (and its eggs) that burrowed its way into the heart of the plant leaving it without life sustaining water and nutrients. 

Paul talks about the armor we’re to put on every day in Ephesians 6. Remember the Vine from the intro above? Stay connected. How? Study His word. Listen to His voice. Pray. Obey. Believe. Trust. Nothing squashes the plans of the enemy like a daughter who lives like she knows who her Daddy is! 

Inspection Inspection Inspection

Every single day, I walk in the garden, looking, watching, waiting for something to happen. In fact, I do it so many times a day my family pokes a bit of fun at me. Not only am I looking for pests, suckers and my nemesis (that dastardly chipmunk!) but also new growth. 

Just when you think nothing is happening, you’ll look closely and see a bloom on the tomatoes or the tiniest green bean or a zucchini ready for picking under one of the giant leaves. 

The next day you go out and there’s a tomato where the flower used to be, a handful of green beans ready for picking and the vine of the cucumbers has somehow reached the top of the fence! How did that happen? 

It may seem “just like that” but really, I’ve worked hard tending, caring, weeding, watering, inspecting multiple times a day. 

Growth happens over time. It takes hard work and doing what we need to each day. Then “just like that” you’ll find yourself…

~ Remaining calm in a situation that would have caused you to blow your lid a few weeks ago. 

~ Feeling peace in the middle of some heavy hard stuff. 

~ Praying instead of worrying. 

~ Reaching for your Bible instead of the bottle or food or shopping or Neflix or…

~  Finding joy in a less than joyous season. 

~ Being the bigger person. 

~ Forgiving even though they didn’t apologize.

~ Practicing self-control…and succeeding.

~ Listening when you really want to react. 

~ Apologizing. 

Man. It’s so fun when you notice growth because you’ve kept the weeds at bay, when you notice you’re thirsty and go drink from the well of Living water (often), when you see a flower bloom because you weren’t afraid to try a new thing, when you’re prepared for a battle with your nemesis. 

I think C. Austin Miles was on to something…even if I can no longer carry my part in a four-part harmony. God walks with me and He talks with me and He teaches me simple theology in the garden using weeds and chipmunks. His voice is so sweet that I stand in awed silence, listening, loving, and learning. 

kw

In the Weeds With Me: August

thumbnail

It’s the third week of high school for my one still at home and the second week for my one in college. I think we are finally back to some order. While I love the dog days of summer, my soul savors some semblance of sanity that is called a schedule.

I know, I know…with that comes a different beast to slay, like running to practices, reports, school projects, packing lunches, washing uniforms, making sure homework is done (and turned in), and the never-ending school supplies you have to buy…mechanical or #2’s, ½ inch or 1 inch binders (and for the love of all the colors!), pronged or not, composition notebooks and loose-leaf paper…college ruled or fat lined…God help us all be kind to each other in the school supply section.

Even with all that, I love having a routine. Anybody else need that?

In the Library

Here’s what I read last month…

thumbnail

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns had a different take on Biblical forgiveness that I’d not really thought about (and am still thinking about.) Not sure I completely agree with him on a couple of points but I like when I read things that challenge the way I’ve thought or been taught.

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr was helpful in the area of honing my writing skills and how to handle stories that involve others. I’m practicing my “show don’t tell” skill so you feel like you’re there with me in the story. Bear with me dear reader as you are my guinea pigs.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is about a young man whose crime was to be born of a black mom and white dad in South Africa. I felt for him as he never felt like he fit in with either group.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware was a great summer porch swing read (I would say beach read but since we didn’t go there…) Very Agatha Christy style with twists and turns and a surprise ending.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan is the first but not the last memoir of hers I will read. Being between raising your own family and having aging parents can have its challenges. Throw in a breast cancer diagnosis and you have a mix of tears, laughter and love of all things family.

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon is good so far! I’m about a third of the way in and if I could stay up like I used to and read at night. But the older I get… 🙂

Here’s what I’ll be reading in September…

thumbnail

We recently watched The Great American Read on PBS (love this station!) and mentioned it to my oldest daughter who then did a spread sheet to see who in our family has read what of the 100 books they talked about, which then turned into a book club. So we will read those that no one has read. Catch-22 is on the docket for our first read together.

I need to read some of the ones others have already read mostly because I’m behind and feel like a stone. It has nothing to do with being competitive and that everyone is reading fast and marking X’s in their boxes. Nope. Not at all competitive.

In the Garden

I’m beginning to understand the demise Mr. McGregor had for Peter Rabbit. Half eaten green beans, pumpkin flower blooms, lettuce…you name it…it gets eaten…unless it’s a weed.

The weeds are winning the war you guys! One day I had things under control and then, just like that, you could lose a small human in parts of my garden! Why can’t the dumb bunny eat the weeds instead of the good stuff? Maybe he’s using it for cover…

My Grandpappy used to sit in a metal lawn chair in his baggy-worn jeans and tank top undershirt, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, holding a 22, watching, waiting. A bunny would come along and he’d say, Go on little bunny, damn-it, I don’t want to have to shoot ya! It wouldn’t move. Then pew pew…bunny stew.

So don’t mind me if you see me sitting out by the garden…

In the Weeds

Here are some questions/thoughts I’ve been working through when I’m out weeding:

In a world where big and loud get center stage, do you ever feel unseen?

Are we afraid to love our neighbor (people different than us) because we fear LOVING=AGREEING. Can we not have differences of opinions and still show love and compassion towards each other?

Life can’t be all about the sweetness of honey. Sometimes it takes a sting to get to the sweet.

Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. Good people get cancer. Locusts destroy whatever’s in their path, pat their full bellies and belch without saying excuse me. Some prodigals’ return and some take longer to come home. In every situation God is good. God is faithful. God is trustworthy. He’s keeps showing me. I keep learning like I’ve never heard of this before. Is there such a thing as spiritual Alzheimer’s?

Gosh, I could go on with my thoughts (that’s scary!) but for now that’s a sneak peek of what you may read about. Did anything peak your interest?

kw

 

 

 

 

 

In the Weeds With Me

thumbnail

I cannot believe it’s the last day of July! Where has summer gone? Here’s what’s gone down ‘round here…

In the Library

Here’s what I read this month…

thumbnail

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This an excellent book if you like World War II history. It’s based off the lives of some unsung heroes. The author blends several stories of real accounts and rolls them together to create a beautiful fiction depiction. One of my favorite quotes is But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.

Create vs. Copy by Ken Wytsma  

Everyone is born with God-given creativity waiting to be unleashed. When business slows, when funding dries up, when the home environment is tense—these are the moments that call for creativity and imagination. Are you ready?  I needed this book as a reminder that I am made in the image of God, a Master Creator, who created, creates now and will continue to create in, around and through me.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Shawn is a psychologist who lays out seven principles or strategies that help us wire our brains for positivity and optimism. He doesn’t come from a Polly-Anna-life-is-always-wonderful approach but from a life can be hard but here are some ways to rethink the crappy parts approach.

The Giver Lois Lowry

One of my goals is to read more books off The Great American Read Top 100 List sponsored by PBS. This is the first one. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. It did not disappoint.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

She never disappoints! Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Brene lays out ten guideposts to what she calls wholehearted living. This is a re-read for me with new underlines and highlights for where I’m at right now. Must read!

The Fiery Cross  by Diana Gabaldon

This is the fifth of eight books in the series. If you are an Outlander fan you will know this is the continuing story of Jamie and Claire. He is an 18thcentury highlander from Scotland, she is a time traveler from the 21stcentury. This has been the least favorite of mine in the series so far. I got bogged down in some of the details but you cannot not finish it due to all the new characters etc. Anybody else read(ing) these and not care for this one as much?

Here’s what I’m getting ready to read…

thumbnail

In the Garden

There’s just something about growing things that tickles me to no end. To think that you can put a seed in the ground and a few short weeks later you have something to eat for dinner is amazing…oh the wonders of simple things.

We’ve grilled zucchini, made chocolate zucchini bread (this makes eating your veggies a breeze!), eaten and canned green beans and crunched on cucumbers. Nothing tastes better than eating the results of your blood, sweat and tears.

But not everything has done well…

In the Weeds

My basil is a bust this year! I planted it in the same pots, used the same soil, same seed company and it is wimpy at best. Being determined to grow some, I moved off the patio and out to the garden boxes where I planted an entire box of basil, five rows with even wimpier results. I mean the green beans are right next to the basil and are going gangbusters. There’s neither rhyme nor reason for it to not grow. My final conclusion? This just may not be the year for basil…at least around here. But I will continue to try.

As I was thinking this conundrum through while out weeding other areas of the garden, I realized that parenting can be much like this: You provide the same environment, pour out the same love and nurturing, the same discipline and determination and the results aren’t always what you thought they would be. Some kids bust a move and grow. Some bust up your heart. (Some just plain wear you out at times.) It makes not an ounce of sense.

My final conclusion? This just may not be the year for the growth you wanted but DO NOT GIVE UP! Keep trying. Keep loving. Keep providing. Keep nurturing. Keep pouring in.

Hang in there parents. Eventually that seed will produce the harvest you knew it could.

Thanks for hanging in the weeds with me!

kw