by Robin Swoboda        At this very moment you are reading words penned by the calloused hands of a true gardener. Okay, so maybe I only have one callous but at least I got it from toiling in my garden. Until this year I don't think I could have told you the difference between a geranium and a chrysanthemum or an azalea and an aster. I only knew that no other hobby, to my recollection, carried with it the quaint and lovely sayings that accompany gardening.

       The kiss of the sun for pardon,
        The song of the birds for mirth,
       One is nearer God's heart in a garden
        Than anywhere else on earth.

       How many times have I seen that poem? It always made me want to run out, stand in my beautiful garden and say, "Here I am God! I know it doesn't compare to that one you did back in Eden but what do you think?" Or how about that book "The Secret Garden" which was made into a wonderful movie? Wow! I didn't know gardens could be so exciting. Until this year, my brush with horticulture came from a dead and dried up poinsettia I kept in the basement for years, believing if it stayed in the dark long enough it would come back alive. Ha!

       I tried my hand at vegetable gardening a couple of times, one of them purposefully and the other quite by accident. When I was at channel 8, I had made an on-air comment to my weatherman Dick Goddard, that I was growing tomatoes and upon seeing them, a friend had asked me if they were cherry tomatoes. "No. They are Beefsteak," I shot back. I tried to blame it on the lack of rain. The next thing I knew, Dick was on the air, showing a Polaroid of my puny tomatoes and before you knew it, a Tomato Growing contest ensued between our news team. (I won. Don't ask me how.) Another time I unknowingly grew potato vines from a cabinet above my stove. It's really incredible what happens when you leave a 10-lb. bag of Idaho potatoes in a cabinet! When my housekeeper opened up that cabinet after eight long months of growing in darkness, I heard a great thud in the kitchen. By the time I parted the vines well enough to see her face, I found that she had fainted. Maybe that's where I should've put the poinsettia, I thought.

       Since we've been married, we've rarely lived in one place long enough to plant bulbs in the fall and see them come up in the spring. Maybe that's a good thing. My mother knows a man who mistakenly planted onions instead of crocus bulbs and now every time he cuts the lawn, his neighbors cry. This year has been different though. I finally felt settled and ready to put down roots, both figuratively and literally.

       Every time I putter about in my garden I think of God. I don't really think that I am "nearer His heart there than anywhere else" but the very act of digging and weeding, planting and pruning makes me think of Him. He is our Creator, our Sovereign Lord. We are His creation. "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) Maybe that's why so many people garden. It is a faint reminder of our very humble beginnings.

       There are many parallels to be drawn between a garden and one's life. Take weeds, for example. Weeds are arrogant intruders into an otherwise lovely garden. If left alone, they will choke out every bit of beauty the gardener has worked so hard to cultivate. Go a week without weeding and see what happens to a garden! Sin is like that, too. If we're not made constantly aware of its presence, it will take over our life. Sometimes you're not even aware that it's sin because you're not looking for it. Perhaps you even embrace it as I did this magnificent specimen that was growing along my fence. As it grew taller I was careful to weed around it, wondering what this marvelous plant could be. It shot up six feet and finally produced little purple globes of flowers. I was so proud. Until my friend Sandy told me it was a thistle. A thistle? A thistle?? I thought I was cultivating something wonderful and all I did was raise a prickly weed/plant that repaid me by spreading its seeds all over my yard. What are you cultivating in your life that may seem harmless but will soon spread itself and take over?

       When God created the Garden of Eden I am certain it didn't have weeds. When God created the first man and woman they were without sin. Yet Adam and Eve did sin and we've all been sinning ever since. Like a good gardener recognizes weeds, the first thing you must do is to recognize the sin in your life. God's Word says, "...For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23, 24) I am a sinner. You are a sinner. I know my sins are forgiven because I know that Jesus Christ died on the cross as the supreme sacrifice for my sins. Does that mean that I can go on sinning purposefully because I know I'm forgiven? Not at all. Now that I know the sacrifice that was made on my behalf, I must check daily for the weeds of sin that seek to choke out my abundant life (garden) in Christ.

       Do you want a truly beautiful garden? I suggest you get to know the Master Gardener.

 

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