Cut flowers from the garden in the home bring such cheer don’t they? I enjoy picking a variety of lively and multi-textured blooms to enjoy them even closer at hand indoors. Mmmmm! Their fragrance is a whiff of hope and encouragement, tickling the senses and lifting the spirit! During the warmer seasons, they provide hints of what awaits a mere step outside the door, and the occasional treat of a bouquet I purchase during colder months winks at the whimsy to come just over the season’s horizon. Whenever I look at them, I can’t help but allow a smile to bubble up and boost my spirits!
But! *Sigh* Within a week, two weeks if I’m really lucky, my vibrant bouquet too soon begins to show signs of fatigue as it strains to absorb scant nourishment from water, eventually drooping and flopping prostrate over the vase. Clipping stems and refreshing the water never seems to keep the inevitable farewell at bay. In a most untimely yet inevitable fashion, what remains is but a languishing, ghostly and wistful memory of once joyous perkiness; collapsed and washed out, to eventually withdraw into a clutch of anemic pastel petals and mossy-taupe spaghetti stems.
That’s the thing about cut flowers isn’t it? For a while, they stand cheerfully beaming upright in the vase, but they fail to last nearly as long as we’d like. After all they can only draw on the vitaminized water for so long. Soon, they seem to sink into a long wistful sigh as they ache to remain vertical, and groan as they bend, sweep and then collapse on the final resting place of the tabletop. And within the vase, bloated stems seem to erode, wasting away, starved for nourishment.
Flowers will not thrive cut apart from their plant, apart from the stem and its shoots and roots sunk deep within the nutrient-rich soil.
For a while, I stand upright, confident and enthusiastic, convinced that I am sitting pretty and prospering without the Vine, but my confidence wanes along with my strength as I inescapably discover I won’t last much longer disconnected in my self-sufficiency from Branch, Trunk and Roots, and separate from their consummate life-giving supply. Still, I obstinately persist, somehow persuading myself I can survive on my own. Yet, I always reach a state of exhaustion with tell-tale signs of anemia or starvation. Worse, my malnourishment and deprivation can soon become my only inward focus, rather than focusing upward to the assurance of sustenance and a wonderful possibility of bearing fruit!
The longer I am off the Vine, away from the Vine’s solid trunk, choosing to separate myself from it and soaking instead in worldly waters, the more I bloat in a bog until I can take no more. The longer I am without proper hydration, the faster I wither and faint, and am open and exposed to the pollutants that dry me up to brittle that quickly snaps under the least of pressure.
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” (John 15: 4-8, The Message)
Intimate and organic relationship with the King – the King of all Creation! How’s that for sustenance? How refreshing as we allow our hearts and spirits to be swept up in His own Heart’s invitation and promise, sipping on and gulping in the Living Water coursing through the Vine! How nourished and alive we become, filled with the zing, zip and zest of that bubbling Source, so much so that it saturates our life to shimmer with difference, and can’t help but leave a fragrance of hope and joy!
Friend, let’s look to our Gardener, our King, our Vine for our providing rather than stagnating in our own independence and self-sufficiency. Let’s wrap ourselves tight around the Vine, to fuse and melt with His strength, to sup and drip with delightful heavenly food, to joyfully bound forward, released into this beautiful world to produce rich and luscious fruit for the Gardener in and to Whom we are gloriously and intimately entwined!
You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
(Psalm 80:8, New Revised Standard Version)
“But things have changed. I’m taking the side of my core of surviving people: Sowing and harvesting will resume, vines will grow grapes, gardens will flourish, dew and rain will make everything green.
(Zechariah 8: 11-12, The Message)
Soil and Seed
It’s all a matter of what grows best in what condition, and in what climate. Each plant requires specific nutrients found in specific soils. Most need help, my Mum explained as I unloaded bag after bag of peat moss, wood chips and fortified earth. Mine certainly did. No loamy soil in these thereabouts!
Many of us have an idea of what kind of soil nourishes our gardens. I’d been told, well before I began gardening, that much of our community was built upon clay. Dense clay. Slimy, slip-and-slide-in-your-rainboots-clay. Stubbornly-cling-to-your-spade-clay. Spit-and-splatter-on-your-basement-windows-clay.
Apparently clay has a great deal going for it. Clay is a super foundation for some plants, since they acquire strength as their roots forcibly thrust their way through, and firmly grip the soil. Because of that determined and unyielding grip, plants can weather extreme conditions, and become hardier, stronger. Perfect for asters, day lilies, black-eyed Susans, coreopsis and yarrow, among other things I was told. Clay soil needs a bit more work, but it keeps moisture well. Add a good rich compost to increase nutrient value and aeration, and my garden will flourish, I was told.
I find that the Gardener needs to work my soil too to see His dream for me realized. Too often, after he removes the concrete slabs atop, there can remain directly beneath a layer much like pure, dense clay beneath, unresponsive to his abundance of refreshing water. Like clay, I often dry up in the sun and harden in its pressurizing heat. But we have a tender Gardener. He knows the potential. And that potential he wants realized for us for he loves us that much.
I think all soil in every garden is eager to receive and nourish plants and fauna to growth. I think it’s in its nature. Perhaps it even shares in the joy of the splendor that it helped to realize. The question is, once God has worked my soil (and guaranteed he will), what do I wish to produce from it? What will be its harvest? Will it be resentment or will it be joy? Will it be jealousy or will it be love? Will it be fear or faith?
I hope that as he works my soil, the Gardener leaves a good trace of his DNA, his character mixed and blended into the quality of soil that promotes healthy, robust and resilient growth. He knows better than I that surface work is only the beginning, that in the deep parts there are too many toxins, contaminants and other bits and pieces of garbage. I imagine he knowingly discovers sharp, hard, abrasive materials over which scabs have grown. Still I know I need the Gardener to plunge his digging fork to do some deep-soil tilling, turning it over and over, so he can sift and lift out all the uncompostible, to liberate and transform my soil and blooms into more than clay and weeds. I need his aeration, amelioration and augmentation.
At regular intervals, he blends in the rich compost of discomfort, of challenge, of lessons to be learned and theories unlearned. He softens the scabs and dresses the wounds. Painful, for often they are so deep and so encrusted and caked that I’ve grown used to them. But he persists. Seeds of his Truth are planted with generous abandon, moistened by tears of compassion, and generous forgiveness. He showers them with his refreshing and sanctifying water, his liquid love. Gently he pulls out tares from his crop of wheat, so they don’t damage the good that has taken root. Sometimes he sows more seeds so that his Truth crowds out intruding weed to starve it of nourishment. Slowly, what had been planted beneath begins to stretch and breathe and curl and bend upward toward the breath of his heart.
Till. Compost. Turn. Weed. Lavish sowing of Seeds. Water. Son-shine. He is the Good Gardener, full of tenderness, full of grace. He knows the kind of soil needed to produce a garden that flourishes in his Kingdom. And he prizes abundant flourishing!
My soil needs work. A lot of work.
Will I allow the gentle-hearted Gardener to turn and till my garden’s soil? To weed it of seedlings and mature plants that choke out the Son-flowers? Will I welcome the compost of trials? Will I persevere and withstand the heat and blistering cold, to push my roots down further through the softer layers he’s prepared to the deep streams of water to strengthen them?
My soil needs work. A lot of work. Thank goodness there is One who loves deeply, gives cheerfully, knows fully and who heartily and eagerly undertakes my underneath!
Some seed fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much dirt. That seed ·grew [sprang up] very fast, because the ground was not deep. But when the sun rose, the plants dried up [were scorched and withered], because they did not have deep roots. Some other seed fell among thorny weeds, which grew and choked the good plants.
Matthew 13. 5-7 (Expanded Bible)
“‘O my people Judah, those of you who have escaped the ravages of the siege shall become a great nation again; you shall be rooted deeply in the soil and bear fruit for God.'”
2 Kings 19: 30 (The Living Bible)