I find my peace and joy in my garden and it is where I seek and find God, who reveals himself to me in so many ways in the ordinariness of the garden. Having said that there is nothing ordinary about God or Gardens and each day I marvel at the miracles that unfold as my plants start life as tiny seeds and grow on bear fruit. For me my garden is a place to draw strength from, but also a place to find peace.
I share my moments of inspiration with the listeners of Radio Rhema broadcast throughout New Zealand and I’d love to share them with you.
LIVING WITH GRACE
There is a French saying… “Bloom where you are planted with grace.” In my veggie garden, nothing is there by accident. I have carefully chosen the plants to have in my garden, and if there is something I want to grow but I have run out of space – them I am blessed enough to be able dig some more dirt to make room.
Each plant has been chosen and the ground lovingly prepared, and as the plant grows I watch over it and train it and tend to its needs, so it can perform its best and provide a bountiful harvest.
God does that for us. When He has called you to do something, it’s not by accident and he definitely didn’t think “you’ll do”. You are chosen to be planted in this location or circumstance and he has prepared the way for you and will watch over you and guide you, so live with a spirit of grace, confident in the knowledge God has put you there so he can reap a harvest.
FINDING LIFE IN THE DIRT.
For most of us dirt is dirty, and we are not happy when it is tracked through the house on the soles of some grubby child and it is something we don’t like to see on our food. In this age of super hygiene, veggies are found in stores, having been scrubbed within an inch of their lives. It becomes easy to forget that our food comes from the very dirt beneath out feet.
Dirt isn’t some filthy thing to be swept away, but a gift from God. All our food comes essentially from a humble beginning, from dirt not dissimilar to the ground you walk across every day. It is often overlooked and ignored and maligned. But God knows its value and its worth and once you recognise its worth, it becomes an amazing thing with a lot to give. It can even give life.
Sometimes it is the least of Gods people that, once recognised can do amazing things. Are you that person?
THE MORE YOU PICK THE MORE YOU GET.
With some plants, the more you pick the more you get. And this is certainly the case with peas and beans, and many others. But I was a slow learner when it came to my basil plant.
It had a lovely shape with a single branch and I didn’t want to ruin it, so I would tentatively pluck off one leaf at a time. The plant stayed looking lovely, but it never really grew any bigger.
Then one day I discovered if you took off the entire growing tip just above a set of leaves, then there was a blessing there – two small buds just waiting for the opportunity to grow and replace the foliage that had been taken.
And those two buds quickly grew big and strong. And behind them were two more buds – waiting. So the more I harvested the bigger the plant became and I ended up with a huge bushy plant with many branches – so much more than the one I started out with.
Sometimes giving can be a hard concept to trust in, but if Gods abundance is anything like my basil plant then your storehouse will overflow.
WATERING WITH THE WORD
Sometimes in the busyness of life a plant in a pot gets ignored and I forget to water it. Its head is downcast and not lifted to the sun like it should be. So I throw some water at it and hope for the best. But still it fails to lift its head.
The soil has become so dry that it actually repels water and any I have given it just drains away. The best method to fix this is to slowly immerse the plant in a bucket of water until it sinks under the surface. Then leave it there a little longer for the water to soak into every last nook and cranny and for the bubbles stop coming. Then the plant will be restored and lift its head proudly to the sun again.
This is like spending time with God. The more you neglect Him and His word, then you dry out and the enemy sneaks in and repels any half-hearted attempt to get close to God. But if you immerse yourself in him and in his word then you are able to kick out the enemy – every last drop and raise your head and proudly look to the Son.
EVERYTHING HAS A SEASON
A mistake often made by enthusiastic gardeners is to plant vulnerable plants too early in the spring.
It may be spring, but there is a lot to do before planting begins. The soil needs to be prepared so the plant is in fertile ground. It needs to be tenderly nurtured so it can grow strong and adapt to the local conditions. And then it needs to be hardened off – spending time away from the warm security of the greenhouse, so it can get used to the harsh reality of the garden.
By then the weather will have warmed up enough and the risk of frost will have passed and the plant gets a great start in perfect conditions.
A seedling planted to early is often put into hastily prepared soil and has to cope in weather conditions that it isn’t suitable for. The plant never really does well.
Sometimes the desire to race ahead to do Gods work is strong – but make sure you equip yourself and do it in His time as this is the perfect time.
ARE YOU A FAIR WEATHER FRIEND?
Gardening can be hard work. With all the digging and all the weeding and all the watering and the processing of the harvest there is a lot of effort needed. Every time you turn around it looks like there is something else that needs to be done.
But with a good understanding of how to garden well and a willing heart and a touch of determination and some creativity a keen gardener can garden in some way shape or form all year long.
Most people only garden during the summer months when the harvest is easy, and at the end of the season, they drop their tools and walk away.
Are you a fair weather friend? Are you the kind of Christian who walks with Christ through the easy bits or are you with him when the going gets tough… there is always a harvest to be had.
LIVE IN THE LIGHT
I have a confession. I am a not a tidy gardener. I almost never put my tools away. I think to myself why put them away when I will only just get them back out again tomorrow. It is much better to leave them where I need them.
But long term it just isn’t good for my tools. And sometimes leaving things out for a long time can be no good at all. I left a bucket of weeds on the grass. Each time I walked past it I thought I’ll to that next time.
Weeks went by and I finally got to the bucket and when I lifted it up – the grass beneath it was dead. It had been denied light and it died.
If you know of others who aren’t living in the light, don’t put it off any longer move the bucket so they can live again in the new life God has for them.
God has thought of everything. There are a lot of things in my garden that need to be supported as they grow. Tomatoes in particular need to have a strong stake buried beside them so they can be tied to it as they grow. But you should tie it loosely enough to hold it upright and not bind it rigidly to the stake. It needs to be able to feel the wind blowing against it so it can respond to the resistance by growing a thicker stronger stem.
If it is too tight and can’t feel the wind, then the stem grows thin and weak in its sheltered life and eventually won’t be able to hold the weight of the fruit it is blessed with.
Trials and hard times should be seen as a blessing. Sometimes you need to feel the harshness of life so you can grow strong through it and bless others with the fruit of your harvest, just remember you aren’t alone – God is always there as your stake.
PRUNING THE VINE
“Pruning the vine…” These are common words used in Christian speak all the time. But what does it mean in the garden? Fruit trees are often pruned first to remove dead and diseased wood. Then any branches that are crossed or rubbing are cut out and finally branches are removed to open up the tree to improve air flow. Some trees only fruit on year old growth so are pruned to bring the fruit within reach. Branches can also be cut at a bud to change the direction of growth and stop it going the wrong way. With an expert prune the tree is revived, will bear more fruit and is healthier for it.
Are you spiritually dead or dying on the inside, are there things causing you irritation? Is there so much going on in your life you can’t see the wood for the trees? Is what you really want out of your reach? Are you going the wrong way? Allow God to take his shears and cut way what prevents you from having a fruitful life in Christ.
Gardening can be a dirty business. But that’s where it happens – in the dirt. And over the course of an average day the beautiful plants can get surprisingly grubby. Dirt splashed up onto its leaves from the angle of a thirst quenching hose, dust brought in the wind from far off places, a well placed poop from an overhead bird, silken traces of an abandoned spider web. But as leaves are the powerhouse of the plant, they need to remain clean so sunlight can be absorbed and converted into energy. Each morning the miraculous occurs. Water vapour in the air comes in contact with the grubby leaves and converts to water in the form of dew and the dirt of the previous day gets washed away. It is a sight to behold, if you get up early enough to see it.
This seems like the best way to start the day, to have the sin of yesterday washed away and our dew is the forgiveness of the father. Spend a little time each morning with God to give each day a fresh start.
Growing strawberries is like growing candy – they are so sweet and juicy and the kids love them. Brussels sprouts on the other hand are not all that popular – but they are just as good for you as the strawberries. They are rich in Vitamin C and actually have a third more than strawberries do. There are so many different kinds of fruit and veggies in my garden and some are even on the ‘superfood’ list and others are quite ordinary. But even the ordinary have hidden talents, a quality not immediately recognisable while others become popular with the latest fads.
But we have this amazing variety so we get a balanced diet. Just like us, we are all different and each have something unique to bring balance to the world. We may not all be as popular as others, but we are exactly who God intended us to be so don’t spend your life wishing to be what you’re not. We all weren’t meant to be strawberries.
I love growing carrots, but I hate thinning them. The standard method for sowing carrot seeds is to sprinkle them along the row trying to get them as thin as possible. Then once they come up you are supposed to remove the weak ones so there is enough space around the healthy ones for them to grow big and strong. But to me it seems like such waste and I have to force myself to do it, but it isn’t really a waste – it is essential. If I don’t thin my carrots then the entire row will be wasted as it won’t be able to reach its full carroty potential and I will just end up with spindly looking carrots that don’t have much left to them once you peel them.
Sometimes in our lives we need to remove the things that are holding us back and crowding in on us, the things that stop us from growing spiritually and reaching our full potential and being all that God has in mind for us.
CLINGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE
I love fresh peas straight from the garden. If you have ever seen peas grow you will have noticed they have these beautiful tendrils that reach out and curl themselves around whatever is nearest to give them support. Some cling tightly to the pea plant next to it and together they find their way upward towards the sun. But if any one of them should fall ill or are attacked by pests then they both fall as they are too reliant on each other. Some try to go it alone and are felled by the first strong wind. Others cling to weeds that grow in their midst. But this is a false support as often the weed is growing in a different direction, or is using the pea to get ahead itself and soon overshadows it and robs it of what it needs to grow strong and healthy. The best support is the one the gardener has put there for it to grow up.
Just like God, the gardener knows just how the pea should grow and provides all the support needed to get there. Trust God and lean on him, he has your best interests at heart.
One of the most hated jobs in the garden is to do the weeding. There are some pretty nasty thugs out there with roots that seem to go to the centre of the earth. You need to make sure every last trace of the weed; its seed heads and its roots are removed. It is a slow and painful process, but to see the clean fluffy soil ready to be planted with good plants is a sight to behold. But the weeds are sneaky and will try and come back, so you need to stay vigilant and remove them while they are small, before they have a chance to get a foothold.
This is like bad habits and sin in our lives – we need to deal with it for once and for all and do it properly. It will be slow and painful but with God’s forgiveness we can end up with a pure heart and a clean life. But the bad ways of the past will always try and come back so we need to watch out for them and stop them before they undo all of the good we have become.
In the garden new life comes from the death of other things all the time. Towards the end of the season the plants that have finished giving us food to sustain us get harshly pulled from their place in the garden and thrown on the compost heap where they break down into a nutrient rich material.
The following season a new generation of plants begin their lives, planted in a good foundation of soil enriched with the compost made from the life of the old crops.
This incredible legacy from a plant that was dug up before its natural time, and passes on its goodness from season to season, for the betterment of a generation that it never knew is quite amazing.
Not wanting to compare our Lord and saviour to compost, but his sacrifice on the cross didn’t just benefit those immediately around him, but the lives many generations for thousands of years are enriched because He once lived.
FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE
I don’t like broad beans all that much. Ok to be fair I don’t like them at all. But every year I find myself growing them. They are one of the few things that grow throughout the winter and make me feel like I am gardening, when nothing else grows.
But when it comes to harvesting the beans, I put it off as I really don’t want to eat them, so I come back from the garden with a large basket full of big fat bean pods that need to be shelled.
This is where each time I am amazing by the care and consideration God has put into growing these beans. I peel back the pod to find half a dozen or so beans carefully nestled in a soft fluffy indentation in the pod, like they were the finest jewels in a velvet lined jewellery case.
If God takes that much care over a broad bean, then what lengths has he gone to for me?
I don’t like weeds in my garden but you have to admire their persistence and determination to get a foot hold. They show up where they are least expected. A tall green thug in a bed of beautiful flowers, on a patch of bare earth within days of it being cleared. In a well-manicured lawn, and winding their way up between the beans. They are solely focused on setting seed and increasing their population throughout the garden. They are stubborn. Often it takes quite a tug of war to free the roots from the soil, but should a tiny piece of root be left, then they will be back. There is an expression “one year’s seeds is seven years weeds” Once they are there, the seeds will find a way to sprout and the roots will make their way to the surface to regrow.
We need to be more like weeds. We need to make our presence felt, among those who seem different from us. Not just once, but as a constant example. Once Gods word is planted, it will always find a way to blossom.
CAN I HELP YOU?
Often a plant will show up in my garden unexpected and in the wrong place. A potato among the salad, a pumpkin in the flowers or a tomato in the leeks. How they got there in is unknown, but there they are. The gardening term for these plants is volunteers and most of the time they grow stronger and healthier than the ones grown with a more pampered start in the greenhouse. You have to admire these plants. They don’t wait to be asked, they don’t sit there and think “oh other plants are growing there so I’ll leave it”. They are determine to bear fruit and set seed and they just get on with it.
When God places it on your heart to do something, it is so easy to think “there are already others doing that” or “but nobody has asked me” or “but I’d be the only one”. With Gods calling over your life nothing is impossible. Even if no one around you is doing the same thing or it is being done by others in a different place. God has asked you. You need to be brave and stand tall and have faith and produce an incredible harvest.
I love being in my garden , working away by myself, I don’t even let Hubby the Un-Gardener help out unsupervised – not since the incident with the lawn mower and the cucumbers.
But what I have to acknowledge is I am not the only one working in my garden. The earthworms are working tirelessly below ground enriching and aerating the soil, and then there are the billions of micro-organisms going about their business. Above ground the bees are essential. Without them my crops wouldn’t be pollinated and there would be no harvest. Then there are the beneficial insects, they are the ones that take on the insect pests and stop them from doing damage to my plants.
With God you are never alone. He has given us church and community, where we can work together to achieve so much more than we could ever do by ourselves. Don’t do life by yourself; there is a place especially for you in the body of Christ.
RAIN IN A PARCHED PLACE
Have you ever noticed that after an extended period of no rain, that first heavy shower that drenches a parched land, leaves the plants with an almost luminescent glow? They stand taller and their leaves are plumper. It is like the garden has had some amazing blessing breathed over it and each plant responds with radiance that exudes the richness of life. The dust is washed away, the sap is rising through the stems and the plant is abundantly full of goodness.
When we allow the Holy Spirit to come over us like rain, we too are revived, restored and sin is washed away and we become full of gods goodness that shines out of us like a beacon. A radiance that is a sign to all who see us that there is something amazing going on inside. Parched souls are once again full of joy. When was the last time you were soaked with the love of the Holy Spirit?
COOKING THINGS UP
I have had a bit of a change in thinking this season. There are so many varieties of vegetables out there to choose from and the gardener in me wants to grow them all – just to see what they are like and for the pleasure of growing them all. But in the kitchen, which is the final point for all of this, not only is too many impractical, but as I found, not all satisfy. This year I am gardening as a cook and not a gardener with my eye on the end purpose.
Sometimes we are faced with too many choices in this rich life. This is a good thing as we have the freedom to operate on so many different levels and in so many places. But there is a danger we dilute ourselves and our purpose is lost or we find ourselves doing the wrong thing. We should take the time to find out what we have been called to do so we don’t end up being distracted by all the exciting temptations along the way. God doesn’t expect us to do everything. That is why he gave us all different gifts.
Seeds are amazing things. They come in all come shapes, sizes and colours. Some are incredibly beautiful. But they have a purpose that seems quite harsh. They need to be plunged into the soil and allowed to do their thing. The soil has been prepared by the gardener in readiness for what is to come. So these precious seeds find themselves in the ground, in the darkness and they completely crack up. They break. They fall apart. If you were to dig one up halfway through you would say it was just a wasted effort. But a metamorphosis is taking place. The darkness is turning the seed into something else. Something more beautiful. A plant capable of producing a thousand more seeds.
So in the darkest moment when you feel completely abandoned, you just need to know God prepared your garden. He prepared your way. He has put things in place so when you emerge, you will have what it takes to be beautiful and able to bless so many others because of what you have been through.
DON’T BE AFRAID
Don’t be afraid – its just God taking your picture. Did you smile?
This is what we’d tell the kids in the midst of a scary thunder and lightning storm so they wouldn’t be so frightened. Storms can be pretty scary and I still flinch when one rolls about in the skies above.
But all the while, with all the crashing and flashing is going on – so is something pretty amazing. The heat and energy from the bolts of lightning combine Nitrogen and Oxygen in the atmosphere, which is then dissolved in the rain and falls to the earth in a form that plants can readily use as a nutrient source.
God takes something as wild and destructive as a storm and uses it to feed the plants. So even in the darkest scariest storms in your life God is still there. He is in it with you, giving you what you need to get through it so when the storm clears you are stronger and healthier for it.
Don’t be afraid.
When you grow vegetables at home, you soon notice that they are not all created equal. You will get the occasional one that is picture perfect in every way and will taste incredible. But for the most part home grown vegetables can appear a little unusual. They are wonky with lumps and bumps in strange places. Some bear the scars from a season standing out in the elements or are survivors from a brush with pests or disease. But underneath it all, they still taste good and are just as incredible as the perfect one and are just as good for you and shouldn’t be tossed aside. You spent long enough trying to grow it – that would be such a wasted effort.
In this world there is huge pressure on us all to be perceived as perfect, but beauty is only skin deep. We need to celebrate our uniqueness and wear our battle scars with pride because that is how God made us to be and we all have a place in his kingdom.
Sowing seeds at the start of the season is an exciting time. With each seed lovingly buried in the soil goes with it hope and expectation for the season ahead. As the seedlings emerge from the dark their natural instinct is to grow towards the light. A good gardener knows this and prepares ahead, making sure there is enough light from the first moment allowing the plants to grow with strength. But if the light is weak or absent, then the seedling reaches out in search of it. Their stems become unnaturally elongated and their leaves yellow and they never do well out in the real world of the garden. Many will perish.
All of this harmful behaviour happens in the absence of light. Many people are out there searching and reaching out for something, often not knowing what it is they are looking for. Jesus came into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Him should stay in darkness.
I planted horseradish in my garden. It seemed innocent enough. It was readily available at the garden centre, with little indication that anything could possibly go wrong. The following week I heard from two trusted sources that it was a terrible plant and could take over. I could have dug it out and removed it then. But I thought it’ll be ok… I’d be able to control it. But alas no… after 2 years that thug of a plant had spread to have a presence in every corner. I needed help. It’s thick fibrous roots anchored it to the very centre of the earth and put up a fight as we struggled to remove it. We weren’t able to get it all and it will rear its ugly head for seasons to come. It is gone but this battle isnt over.
Don’t even start to do things wise people tell you is wrong. You may think what harm could it do? I can control it, but you can’t control evil. Use Gods word as your guide and if you are struggling with something you can’t control – seek help today.
Last winter, things were gloomy, cold and miserable. It rained for days and the garden was mired in mud. It stuck to everything. As a gardener this was hard, because if you work in wet soil, you do more harm than good. Plants planted in these conditions will fail to thrive.
Then the sun came out and bought with it a magnificent frost and cloaked my muddy garden in pure white and it looked beautiful and clean.
The frost restored the chaos caused by the mud and rain. It broke up the murky sodden soil, pest and disease populations froze in their tracks. As the sun rose higher and lit up the garden, a warmth entered my heart and I felt joy again. Everything was going to be alright.
This reminded me of the way the world was heading before Christ entered the scene. A world so dark and muddy it was hard for goodness to be done and make an impact. No matter how muddy and murky your world, nothing is too bad for Him. Stop wallowing in the mud – There are good days ahead.
A WISH OR A WEED
The dandelion is a weed with bright yellow flowers that dance across your lawn. But once the yellow fades and that round fluffy seed head forms, it takes on another identity. Many don’t see it as a seed head, loaded with a hundred weed seeds or more. It becomes a wish and it is eagerly plucked, a wish is made and then a gentle blow sends the seeds to the four corners in the hopes that the wish will be heard. But this is nothing more than a myth and gives the blower false hope their wishes and desires will be granted. However, the seed spreads far and wide and settles on the earth to become a weed and a problem in someone else’s garden.
Somethings in this life may seem like a bit of harmless fun, or even more seriously, require investing hope the wrong places, but no good can come from false idols and your actions can have far reaching affects beyond what you could even imagine. Send prayers not wishes.