Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Devotional Prepared For My Bible Study Group

Planting Flowers with Atticus
June 2010
At the request of some of my readers, I am publishing a devotional that I wrote and presented a few weeks ago for my Ladies Bible Study Group.   

Our Hearts - God's Garden

This past winter and early spring, I enrolled in a course to earn a Colorado Master Gardener certificate through Colorado State University Extension.  On the first day of class, we were issued a three inch green notebook that would serve as our textbook for the 16 week course.  The notebook alone was enough to intimidate me, but when I looked at the topics of study, I really felt like I was in for a very intense experience.  Needless to say, I have only scratched the surface in my journey toward becoming a true master gardener, so don’t ask me too many questions about the problems you are having in your own garden this year.
Gardening has always been something that I enjoyed, but I have described myself as a dig in the dirt kind of gardener.  I didn’t always know what I was doing, and I certainly didn’t have some grand design in mind when I started planting.  I just knew what I liked, and I tried to group things together that I thought might look good.  Mostly, I like to garden because it is in the garden where I find peace, solitude, and inspiration.  I have always said that pulling weeds is good for the soul.

I find it interesting that mankind began in a garden.  The first man was a gardener.  God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and gave him complete freedom there, but along with that freedom, he also gave him the responsibility to tend and care for the beautiful garden that God had created for man and for his helpmate, Eve.  We all know the story of how the serpent came to Eve and tempted her.  By the end of the day, both Adam and Eve had sinned.  Sin shattered God’s perfect creation, and man was separated from God because of his desire to act on his own.  This act of sin affected all of creation and to this day, we must toil as we work to grow fruit, vegetable and flowers.
As we study scripture, we see the motif of the garden throughout the Bible.  I was reminded of this recently, when I read a devotional written by Charles Spurgeon.  In his classic work Morning and Evening he tells us that the believer’s heart is Christ’s garden.  Think of that.  Jesus, the true Master Gardener, is at work in the heart of every believer.  He bought us with His precious blood in order to redeem that which was lost in the Garden of Eden because of sin.  Because He owns our hearts, He enters in and claims our lives as His own.
Think of a beautiful garden, and then think of your life.  As Spurgeon says, a garden implies separation.  It is not the open common as you might find in Boston Common, nor is it the wilderness.  A carefully tended garden is walled in, or hedged in.  So it is with our lives, there must be a degree of separation from the world if we are to have God’s perfect work in our lives.
While wild uncultivated ground can be interesting and even beautiful, a garden is a place of beauty.  Spurgeon reminds us that God’s garden ought to produce the best flowers in the world.  “The rarest, richest, choicest lilies and roses out to bloom in that place that Jesus call his own.  He doesn’t want any shrinking violets, or withering vines in His garden.
For this to happen, the garden has to be a place of growth.  We are not to remain undeveloped, or only in the budding stage.  We are to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  As we seek to grow in this grace and knowledge, we are to rely on the Lord to send us his refreshing water that we will need to grow. Isaiah 58:11 says, “The Lord will guide you always, he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”
In Jeremiah 31:12, God’s people are told, “They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord - the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds, They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.”
Life, like gardening, can be messy, and dirty.  In her book, Gardening Mercies, Laurie Ostby Kehler reminds us that gardening can be hard work.  We don’t see growth in our lives, or in our gardens, without time and effort.  The rewards of putting in the time and effort yield us much in beauty and bounty.  The same is true when we allow God to work in our lives.  When we join Him in tending our hearts, we produce that which cannot perish: eternal fruit.
My mother recently tucked this great beautiful little reminder in a card of encouragement that she sent me reminding me to take life one day at a time.  "Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity."  ~ Lindsey Karstens ~
This spring and summer have been the most painful seasons of my life.  This year more than ever, my garden has been a place where I can work, grieve, and find much peace and serenity.   In the garden, I find the Giver of all comfort.