Friday, November 20, 2009

In the Garden

Last Sunday in church, we sang the hymn, In the Garden, written by C. Austin Miles 1868-1946. I have always loved this hymn, probably because working in my garden is one of my favorite activities. On the perfect gardening day, I would have no other commitments, the weather would be sunny and mild, the ground would be soft and I would spend hours planting, weeding and relocating my plants. Just like in the hymn, many of the moments when I have felt closest to God have been in my Garden. A well known poster says," Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten". I often feel everything I need to know about life and God, I learned in my garden. Here are some of the things I've learned:
  • In order to flourish, plants must be pruned and thinned periodically. When I initially began gardening, I never did this. Clipping back a plant that is growing satisfactorily seems counterproductive but is actually necessary to have the best results. Dead heading flowers is essential to producing new blooms. Otherwise, the nourishment goes to parts of the plant that are no longer developing. Aren't our lives like this as well? How often do our lives become cluttered, strangled even, with unnecessary activities and things. Sometimes eliminating those can provide the nourishment needed to fuel the other real priorities in our lives. It can mean the difference between simply growing and producing excellence.
  • Sometimes a cutting that seems withered and lifeless when planted in the right enviroment, can flourish. A friend gave me a cutting for a wandering yew plant. By the time I got around to planting it, it looked hopelessly wilted and withered. As I planted it in my hanging basket, I really expected that I would be soon throwing it away. However, once it was nourished and watered, it flourished and today is a beautiful lush plant. What talents or abilities are languishing in our lives for lack of the right encouragement and attention? Most people use only about ten percent of their capacities. Energy focused on these underused areas can often produce amazing results.

  • Beginning with the end in mind and working regularly toward accomplishing that is critical. Before even starting with the gardening details, it is important to have a plan of the finished product and a list of the steps to take to achieve that end. Similarly, failure to evaluate and set priorities in our lives will result in a life over run with unimportant and insignificant tasks if we aren't careful. We get the cleaning done but neglect our relationships. We put in too much time at work and neglect our spiritual lives. It is easy to lose perspective of the bigger picture as we respond to the many demands of our lives if we don't have an overall plan. Taking time out to establish and maintain that vision can make a big difference.
I recently read a narrative about the inspiration which resulted in Austin Miles writing the hymn In the Garden. He imagined Mary in great despair, weeping, coming to the tomb where she was surprised as she encountered the risen Lord. Remember how she first thought he was the gardener? Remember how when she recognized him she called out, "Rabboni"? What did Mary learn from her visit to the garden? What can we learn from time spent in reflection and prayer while tilling the earth? Austin Miles' hymn says it all: "I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses...."

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