A GARDEN, A LIFE

“A garden is only yours as long as you seed, weed, cultivate, water and prune. A garden needs lots of tender loving care. It’s lots of work, softening the soil with hoeing and fertilizing, planting and watering… Protect the seeds from vermin. Prune when things grow too fast and wild… the whole point, don’t you see? Bearing fruit and carrying the sweet aroma.” –Francine Rivers, “Leota’s Garden”

On sunny spring days, garden stores are overflowing with ladies poking around among the bedding plants and planning their gardens. I’m not much of a gardener, but I’m right there with those ladies buying ferns and geraniums and potting soil, and I do need some zinnia seeds too.

I’m always inspired by other people’s pretty flower gardens.

I’m thinking of a front yard in one of the older neighborhoods, where a profusion of color peeps out through a white picket fence. The unique personality of the garden derives from the owner’s careful arrangement of healthy plants intermingled with quaint one-of-a-kind objects. I don’t think she ever planned the décor, but it developed as she collected things that called to her–a sale on bedding plants at a garden store, a display of hand-crafted birdhouses at a flea market, a collection of hand-painted feeders. The thing that holds it all together is the work the gardener continually puts into her space—planting, watering, feeding, weeding, and protecting her plants from vermin.

A life can be like a garden.

Each life is different. Some are well-tended and skillfully grown. Some are mediocre and plain, and others are scraggly and neglected. Some thrive and grow and bear good fruit.

Proverbs says,

“He who cultivates his garden will have plenty of bread.” I think God is saying: “I planted you at a particular spot. Look around; what do you see? There’s raw material waiting for your cultivation. If you do your work, you’ll have everything you need. You’ll begin to bear fruit right there in your particular space, and you’ll have more than you need—you’ll have enough to share with a hungry world.”

The Amplified Bible warns,

“But he who follows worthless people and pursuits will have poverty enough” (Proverbs 28:19). Our eyes wander to the neighbor’s garden. We watch others and think we’re supposed to be like them and have what they have. While we stand there wishing for someone else’s flowers and fruit, our work stops and our own plot becomes over-grown with weeds.

In the Message Bible, Galatians 6 instructs:

“Live creatively… Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given and sink yourself into that. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

It’s hard work making the most of your life. It’s not always fun when you’re digging. You pray for sun and sometimes it wilts your plants. You wake up one morning and something invisible seems to have invaded and drained the life out of your petunias. That’s when you look over the fence at what the neighbors have and wonder what’s wrong with you. It hurts when God prunes away what you’ve worked so hard for.

Nevertheless, one morning there’s a tiny green sprout peeping out of the soil and you know that God is still in control of growing things in your garden. So just keep watering and weeding and trusting Him. Something will grow and bloom and bear good fruit.

Robert Louis Stevenson said:

“To be what we are and to become what we are capable of becoming is the only end of life.”

 by Virginia Dawkins
Image courtesy of worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Best of Times; the Worst of Times

From our high school English classes we remember:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”  

These words, written in 1859, describing Charles Dickens’ Victorian England could well describe modern-day America.

Charles Dickens, considered by many to be the grand master of Victorian English literature, walked the streets of London at night observing and listening and gathering scenes for his novels. His stories contained themes of social injustice and moral decline. He was an advocate for the poor and oppressed because he himself had experienced poverty and oppression.

When his father was sent to debtors’ prison,

young Charles was forced to work ten hours a day in a factory. Remembering this period of his life, he wrote: “I had the sense of being utterly neglected and hopeless. No counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no support from anyone that I can call to mind, so help me God.” This experience was perhaps the motivation for a prevailing theme of child abuse in Dickens’ novels.

The Victorian England of Dickens’ day had little sympathy for its needy children.

It was a society where wide spread ignorance and passive indifference flourished. The community’s actions were motivated by the belief that the child of a pauper was a thing to be used in the working economy. If the little chimney sweeper was starved properly, he would be small enough to fit into a chimney. In “Oliver Twist” Dickens describes the attitude of the day through the voice of a wise trader who expresses his requirements for a useful child worker: “I want a boy and he musn’t be a big un. If I’d got that young boy of Ned, the chimbley-sweeper. He kept him small on purpose, and let him out by the job.”

Another gentleman remarks, “Young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now. Boys is very obstinint, and lazy, and there’s nothing like a good hot blaze to make um come down with a run.”

In his introduction to “Great Expectations,” John Irving wrote:

“The intention of a novel by Charles Dickens is to move you emotionally, not intellectually; and it is by emotional means that Dickens intends to influence you socially… You cannot encounter the prisons in Dickens’ novels and ever again feel completely self-righteous about prisoners being where they belong.”

The influence of Dickens’ faith on his work is evident in his writings and there are numerous religious images and biblical references. Toward the end of his life he said,

“I have always striven in my writings to express veneration for the life and lessons of our Savior—because I feel it.”

In “Dombey and Son,

”Dickens describes a scene after the shock of a great earthquake: “Houses were knocked down, streets were broken through and stopped… Everywhere were bridges that led nowhere… There were a hundred thousand shapes and substances of incompleteness..” In these words, we see an image of chaos without even a hint of order.

From “A Charles Dickens Devotional,” I take these words:

“From the foundation of time, we find God creating order from chaos. Look at the world today, and, like Dickens, you might see chaos. But keep in mind that Our Heavenly Father specializes in chaotic situations. He can bring harmony where disorder reigns. He always has a plan, and He works that plan into being.”  

 

By: Virginia Dawkins