How does your (spiritual) garden grow?

By Erika Rizkallah

Got a brown thumb? Happily, spiritual planting is all about growth! We can learn so much about growing our faith by applying lessons from the garden.

I inherited my gardening passion from my dad. I also come from a long line of farmers and joyfully remember the summer weeks spent with my grandparents. My brother and I explored fields planted with corn and soybeans and hunted for wild asparagus growing near a ditch in front of the farmhouse.

When I moved into my forever home I inherited the previous homeowner’s garden. I was thrilled with the yard until I learned she practiced Ikebana (Japanese flower design). On closer inspection, I discovered it contained all sorts of heinous invasive plants. I spent hours weeding, only to find them sprout again, trying to strangle plants I wanted to keep.

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But I was patient, and after pulling them by the roots, I planted my favorites in their place. Now I have a gorgeous yard that fills me with satisfaction and peace — though it’s still a work in progress.

Tending to my little corner of the world connects me to God in a more meaningful way. Adam and Eve’s first home was a garden and many of Jesus’ teachings took place outdoors and reflect his love of nature. Themes of harvest, sowing and reaping feature prominently in the Bible.

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Growth and spiritual fruit production are imperatives for anyone seeking maturity in Christ. Here are five ways our earthy and spiritual lives are similar:

Great soil: All gardeners know the key to a productive garden is great soil. It’s the primary ingredient for flourishing plants and must be healthy. Conditioning is often necessary because let’s face it, almost no soil is perfectly healthy in its natural state. If it’s too sandy, wet or filled with sticky clay, plants wither and die.

The soil of our spiritual life is the heart. Biblically speaking, the heart – kardia in Greek – represents our whole inner being. It’s not just a blood pumping organ, but the source of life, made up of mind, soul and spirit.

Nourishment: We can’t simply plop flowers and plants into a garden and expect it to grow. We must nourish it. Sunlight, the meticulous watering and protection from the elements are critical. We often need to amend soil with fertilizer and emulsifiers, which come from surprising sources. We apply dead fish and poop to feed our plants — this used to gross me out.

In spiritual matters, our fertilizer is prayer and scripture reading. And just as manure provides nutrients, trouble (the poopy parts of life), also benefits us. Adversity strengthens and causes us to seek God, to rely on him and his word for our inner health.

 

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Maintenance: Here is where many gardeners begin to falter. The first part, getting the soil and feeding right, is relatively easy. The hard part is keeping up with it. Regular maintenance includes weeding, pruning, pest control and deadheading — a fancy term for removing spent flower heads.

Spiritual life requires maintenance too. We get this by spending intentional daily quiet time with God. Enjoying friendship with fellow believers can help us weed out sin and discern the parts of life God’s wants to prune. While painful, pruning — cutting off dead and unproductive stuff — helps us grow and flourish. Regular maintenance gets rid of pests, slugs and worms threatening to devour us.

Patience: Waiting is the truly difficult part. After all the time and energy spent on the early part of the process, it’s not unusual to see little result. We live in an “instant” society and gardening is anything but immediate. It can take months and even years for some plants to thrive and grow. So it goes with faith . . .

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But hidden under the dark surface and seemingly dormant areas, God is always working.  Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and our Father is generous to provide for our needs. Though often boring, waiting is necessary and active.

Being still, standing firm in our faith and trusting are active habits. Even though we sometimes can’t see it, God is ever-present and cares deeply for us.

Produce: This is the good stuff — our hard work has paid off! Beautiful, bountiful flowers bloom and we pluck fruit from the trees. We bite into the luscious apple, craft a bouquet and feel satisfaction and accomplishment.

God wants this for us. He wants fruit production and for us to enjoy that fresh fruit of our labor.

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Take a bite out of the juicy peach and thank him for his daily tending!

Your Turn: Our earthly and spiritual lives are a work in progress. There’s always work to sow and benefits to reap. Where are the areas your spiritual garden needs tending most?

Friends are like pancakes

Friends are like pancakes.

Making the first one is hardest and sometimes has to be tossed (or in this case eaten).

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They come in all kinds of shapes

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colors and sizes

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and sometimes they even come with little ones.

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The thing they all require is attention, patience and often, sacrifice.

I’ve been struggling in the friendship area lately. Keeping old friends and making new ones in this season of my life is difficult. I find myself unable and unwilling (sometimes) to give attention to those who don’t give at least the same level of care and attention back to me.

And I know that for the most part, this is wrong. Proverbs 17:17 says: A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity. 

My New Year’s resolution is to take the attention, patience and sacrifice necessary to reconnect with some old friends, and make new ones. Hopefully, I’ll make some new sisters in the process.

If I’ve neglected our friendship over the past year, I apologize. And if we haven’t met yet, then I’ll try not to disappoint you.

What about you? How do you feel about your friendships…or pancakes?

A Decade of Desire

I have been trying to get to Sedona, Arizona for ten years.

I’m not kidding.

When I got married twenty years ago, my husband and I decided to travel all 50 states together before we die. It’s harder than it seems and we go someplace every year – not always in the U.S. – but we try to hit at least one new state a year. The one place I’ve always wanted to see is Sedona. I can’t explain why. I’ve never been there, but it attracts me like a magnet to metal.

So a few weeks ago when my husband said, “Where do we go next?” I gave him the standard answer.

“Sedona.”

“Ok, book it.” (yeah, right).

So, I pretended to do research. Again. We went back and forth about dates and blah, blah, blah, I thought. Same ‘ol, same’ol.

But he surprised me and my patience paid off. With the exception of Palestine and Paris, I’ve never been so excited!

And when we landed in Phoenix and he didn’t feel well, I didn’t panic when the paramedics were called. Nope. I waited patiently while five paramedics/EMTs hooked him up to an EKG machine, right there in the middle of the terminal.  A couple of the cops made small talk and I could tell they were trying to assuage my fears. Instead, I peppered them with questions about Sedona.

And my kids took selfies.

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I’m pretty sure, they thought we were a little too casual about the situation. But you have to understand, we’re used to stuff like this. Almost every year before or during a trip, we have to call the paramedics for him. We have an enemy who comes to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)

Our dreams are his for the taking unless we stand firm, trust in God and believe that only He holds the key to life.

Pursuing my dream was worth it and I have so many stories to share with you. As soon I recover from my jet lag, I’m going to post photos of this incredible area so please stop by and visit again.

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The gorgeous view from my room!

 The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: To do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8