by Jenny Arnold
Grow at Home
I subscribe to a monthly email from the Royal Horticultural Society which contains tips on gardening relevant to the time of year plus other gardening information. Opening my most recent mail this morning I read the heading ‘Grow at Home’.
My first thought was entirely spiritual: how have I grown at home during the past several months – including during the weeks of separation and isolation during Lockdown?
For me, I believe absolutely that Almighty God has used this time to continue fulfilling His promise given to me over 20 years ago that He would be faithful to complete the work He began in me at the time of my salvation. Of course His work has not yet been completed by any means – but I know that I have grown and matured in my Faith, and that the working out of the Holy Spirit has brought me greater patience and generosity together with great joy as I daily praise and worship, listen to solid Bible teaching on Christian radio stations and pod casts. My daily times of quietness, when I wait upon Almighty God, have taught me to listen carefully to what the Holy Spirit may be saying to me. I think that the greatest gift in this time is discerning His voice when I hear it.
The same RHS email also gives the jobs we should be doing in the garden at specific times of the year.
Despite the Indian Summer we have been enjoying for the past couple of weeks, autumn is here.
Autumn is the time when annuals die off and perennials begin to enter their dormant state. It is also the time to plant bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, iris, hyacinth and lilies which will lie cosily below the surface of the earth and come to life in the spring to bring glorious, abundant and joyous colour to our world.
So what as Kingdom people can we learn from gardeners tips?
Preparing the Ground
Some years ago I purchased a technically detailed pencil drawing entitled ‘Preparing the ground’. It shows a man clearing his field, burning the dead leaves and branches and beginning to plough the earth ready for planting. This is very necessary work in the garden and very necessary spiritually.
If we don’t clear the ground of dead and dying plants, uproot weeds, dig over the earth to loosen the soil and then feed the soil with appropriate fertiliser sand organic material, we will not produce healthy and beautiful flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Jesus often used agrarian related parables and analogies in His teaching to illustrate spiritual growth and healthy discipleship.
It is always positive to take time to examine ourselves, our motives, our desires, our priorities and weaknesses – to weed out any which are not conducive to our growth or which will inhibit our growth.
We then need to freshen up with good nutrition by reading the Scriptures and feed ourselves with God’s Word if we truly want to blossom.
Beauty for Ashes
Isaiah 61:3, ‘To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.’
Some people feel that the end of summer and the coming of autumn is seen as a time of mourning, heralding the approach of winter. The bonfire in my etching produces ashes (potash) which can be dug into the soil to feed it. Feeding produces beautiful plants, flowers and vegetables. Burning your own spiritual weeds will do the same
John 15:2, The Message Translation, ‘I am the real vine and My Father is the farmer. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear grapes and every branch that is grape-bearing He will prune back so it will bear more.’
Any gardener will tell you that pruning fruit bushes and trees is essential in order to produce more fruit the following year. Gardeners call it ‘cutting hard back’. But you have to know how, and where, and when, to prune. October is generally the best time for pruning in the West. It is one of my favourite jobs because most pruning requires cutting back to a bud on the branch and requires a sensitivity of touch which I can do by feel. With the miracle which is God’s Creation the plant will then lie dormant for 5 to 6 months before springing into life when the buds you have cut back to begin to leaf, flower and fruit.
Again, for the Kingdom person – pruning and cutting back, sometimes extremely harshly, is an essential part of maturing in our walk with God.
Some perennial shrubs require such hard cutting back that you may think the shrub is dead, devoid of leaf and just bare twigs for months on end. But you can rest assured that new and healthy growth will follow in due season.
Isaiah 18:5, The Passion Translation, ‘Before the harvest when the bud is ripening and the flower finishes He will take His pruning hook and cut off the shoot and remove them.’
New planting usually takes place in either October or March. I always find that planting in October when plants are dormant gets the plants going early on in spring. Planting in spring is fine but the new growth takes a little longer to get going.
Planting produces sure foundational roots which cannot be seen as the miracle happens in secret below the earth. I am now preparing to plant bulbs 4 inches deep, others 6 inches below the surface. It is hard to believe, unless you have actually done it and seen it, that these dry, small nonentities will produce, again in due season, bright yellow daffodils, purple crocus, crimson tulips and pink, blue or white gloriously scented hyacinths. What joy…
Planting God’s promises, and His Word, deeply and secretly in our inner beings, in our souls, will produce strength and beauty when you need it and will be there for all to see.
Galatians 6:7-8, The Passion Translation, ‘The harvest you reap reveals the seed that was planted. If you plant the corrupt seeds of self life into this natural realm, you can expect to experience a harvest of corruption. If you plant the good seeds of Spirit life, you will reap the beautiful fruits that grow from the everlasting life of the Spirit.’
You can’t plant a stone and expect a lily.