To Garden With God – A Video Reflection

Easter is just over a week away but with spring blossoming around us it is hard not to have my attention divided between the full celebration of the season and my passion for gardening.  The spirituality of gardening seminars in Hood River Oregon and Camas Washington just over 2 weeks away make it even harder not to be focused on the garden.   I thought some of you might appreciate this video I made to share some of my reflections on encountering God in the garden.


Waiting for Spring

This is the past post in the series Jesus is Coming What Difference Does it Make. It is provided by Matthew Young who is the pastor of Elysburg Presbyterian Church, PA .  Matt is a graduate of Princeton and was on staff with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship for several years in Seattle.  He is married to Jill Aylard  Young and they have one adorable daughter Grace.


Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring

Drip. Drip. Drip. So goes the water down the spout.  Snow melts, again.  Spring tries to come.  But it sure takes a while.

Here we sit a few days into the new season, and the mid-range forecast into April is for colder than normal temperatures.  Ugh.  I imagine all of us feel ready for a change, ready for that warm sun and the daffodils poking up.

But it’s not here yet.

Neither are we.

In our Lenten disciplines, we size ourselves up spiritually and face the harsh realities of our own internal landscapes.  We lament where our lives do not express the kingdom’s arrival in Jesus Christ.

We long for more of Him.  Yet we resist Him, too.  We ache for freedom, but in so many ways we choose bondage.  Overwhelmed by resistance from the inside and the outside, we become discouraged.  Maybe we settle for “half-way” into spring.  But even as we settle, God’s Spirit makes us unsettled and cries out within us.  Through the Spirit, our souls cry for more.   We want it to be spring.

Holy Scripture is full of human experience that longs for a certain springtime.  The psalmist cries out:  O Lord, how long will you look on?  Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions… Awake, rise to my defense! (Ps 35:17, 23)  Or, from the prophet Habakkuk:  How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? (Hab 1:2)    The psalmist and the prophet long for God’s sunshine of liberation, freedom, and good news.

When we feel this way, we can know we have company within Holy Scripture itself.

I wonder where winter is taking its time to recede in your life.  I wonder where you have cried out for God to bring a springtime that can’t come soon enough.

Maybe there is a relationship that hasn’t thawed yet.  It’s still frozen in time after that dispute.

Perhaps a dream you held has become muddied over, covered in gunk from life’s monsoons and floods.

Maybe it’s some personal sin struggle you have – that recurring issue that just won’t go away, no matter how hard you seem to try.

Holy Scripture has good news for us, in these places.  Not only do we find the Bible the voice of our longings.  We also find promises we can claim, as we wait.

The prophet Isaiah rings clear:  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

No matter how cold it gets, or how disappointing life can be, God still shines on us.  Even on dreary, cloudy, muddy March days, his promise still stands: those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

So, really, no matter how it feels inside of us or how it looks out there, God’s faithfulness isalways blooming.  That is the promise.  That is what we stand on.  That is the soil we plant our lives.

And what good soil it is!  By the Holy Spirit, faith sprouts new life even in advance of winter’s thaw.  Prayers and worship flower up.  Acts of kindness and  tenacious grace bloom radiant.  As God pours his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), a quiet, steady spring comes even in the darkness.

The fact is, winter is no match for God’s faithfulness.  The truth is, there is no such thing as permafrost in God’s ecology.

Our life together is, in fact, life in God’s spiritual greenhouse.  No matter what time of year, something is always growing, just by God’s presence with us.

May it be so for you!


Off the the NW Garden Show

Yesterday I spent most of the day at the NW flower and garden show.  Some of the display gardens are phenomenal with huge trees and logs that take cranes to lift and place them.  I came home wondering how on earth it is all put together in the 72 hours they have before the show to do so.  So thought that you might enjoy these videos of the setting up of a major flower show

This second video is a time lapse slideshow of the entire set up and tear down process.  Well worth a watch.  Makes me feel that my gardening is totally effortless and boy am I glad for that

Life Is For Sharing

This morning I was browsing some of the blogs that have linked to mine and came across a couple of great ideas that I wanted to share.

First thanks Andrea for sharing this great video – the T-mobile add from last year

Second thanks Craig for this great suggestion for those of us that want to follow the progress in our own garden and in the gardens of others

Andrew Sullivan the uber-blogger has a series on his site called “The View From Your Window” where he invites readers of the blog to send in pictures of their view from a window. It has become a staple of his blog and provides a fascinating perspective of people’s lives from around the world. I’d like to propose a much more humble version of this concept, called “The View From Your Garden.” I spent a good bit of blog space last year sharing about our journey of tearing up our lawn and putting in a vegetable garden. I’d like to open it up for the readers of Year of Plenty and the DTE series of blogs to submit photos of the view from your garden. Show us your veggies and flowers as they evolve through the growing season. Send your pictures via the “email me” link listed to the right.  Read the entire article

And on a slightly different theme – what do you think of this article?

Genetically Engineered “Enviropig Waiting for US Approval Thanks to Jason Fowler at Sustainable Traditions for this link

Writing for

Recently I have been asked to contribute to the website This is an interfaith website that provides a rich array of material on most of the world’s major religions.  It is a wonderful place to explore the beliefs of people around the world and learn from those who hold very different beliefs than we do.

I have been asked to focus my articles and blogging on faith and gardening.  Here is my first contribution

Gardening is an important part of the rhythm of my life.  Our front porch currently bulges with seedlings ready to be planted.   Our side garden will shortly provide a feast of broccoli, cauliflower, and salad greens.  In summer we hope to harvest a feast of over 150 pounds of red, yellow, and orange tomatoes and an endless supply of squash, which always taxes my cooking ingenuity.  There is no more satisfying experience than to eat produce freshly harvested and cooked from the garden.  read the entire article

Wild Camano Forest Tour

Tom & I have just returned from Camano Island where we participated in a botanical tour on the land where we hope to create a monastic eco village.  The tour was conducted by Bob Dietal rector at St Aidan’s Episcopal church in Stanwood.  Bob used to be a botanist and was amazingly knowledgeable about all the plants and animals on the land.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the glory of God’s creation.


Cedars and Douglas firs are the most impressive of course but it is easy for us to miss the other small gems nestled in nooks and crannies near them (most of whose names I can’t remember unfortunately)


I was fascinated by the medicinal qualities of many of the plants we looked at too.  Bark, berries, roots and leaves have all been used by Native Americans to relieve pain and cure disease.


What dismayed me however was how much of what we saw had been introduced either intentionally or unintentionally by human intervention.  English ivy, buttercups, and holly are all rapidly taking over from the native species.  Even the native Northwest Banana slugs are being replaced by California invaders.


Now maybe slugs aren’t your favourite creatures and you don’t particularly care what happens to them but who knows what unique and important species are likely to be lost as a result of our thoughtless intervention.

After all did you know that one of the most important creatures in the soil is the termite?  And they are at the top of our list of creatures we want to eradicate.  Yet they aerate the soil, recycle nutrients and decompose wood and plant debris.

Termite mounds in Africa have been an inspiration for humans who want to mimic their fantastic ventilation system. Hot air rises through tubes in the above ground mounds while winds from outside send air currents down into the subterranean chambers so temperature is regulated no matter the weather outside.

Amazingly  termites often dig up to two hundred feet deep in search of water. The soil is brought up to ground level and added to the structure of the mound. Gold prospectors are known to inspect termite mounds and in fact, the largest diamond mine in the world, in Botswana, was discovered by examining a termite mound.

So imagine what other secrets the small creatures in our forests could unveil.  Perhaps they hold the keys to our survival in the future.  God really does use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.  What do you think?

Are You Suffering From Nature Deficit Disorder?

I am sitting at our dining room table working and looking out at the beauty of an early summer’s day in Seattle.  We are so blessed at the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors not not just in times of leisure but also in our work.

My focus for the morning has been looking at innovative new green technologies which in many ways is related to my enjoyment of the outdoors and the beauty of God’s world.  After all we will never be able to preserve this beauty unless we encourage conservation and sustainable lifestyles.  The most interesting that has caught my attention is a new clothes washer that uses virtually no water as well as less electricity.

My attention has also been caught by what a growing number are calling nature deficit disorder.  I don’t think that we realize the consequences to our health – both physical and spiritual of lives that are spent inside under artificial light.  Insomina, depression, and of course obesity are all linked to sedentary indoor lives.  Kids in particular suffer from nature deficit disorder and as I have mentioned in a previous post even attention deficit disorder can be alleviated by encouraging kids to spend more time outdoors.

But what can those who spend their work time inside do to alleviate this.  Here are some tips that I have garnered from friends

  1. Always eat lunch outside in your closest green strip or go for a walk at lunch time even when it is raining.  You may not want to sit outside in inclement weather but even ten minutes spent outside in all weather can greatly improve our health.
  2. Get a plant or a small fish tank for your workspace or home.  You may even like to volunteer to look after plants in other parts of the office.  Certain kinds of indoor plants improve air quality dramatically.  Top of the list are philodendrons, English Ivy and spider plants.
  3. Start a garden on your balcony, in your backyard or even in the parking strip.  This will force you to get outside at least once a day if for no other reason than to see how things are growing.  If you have kids make sure they have their own little garden – wither a container or a section of your backyard and let them choose at least one new plant to grow in your garden as well each year.
  4. Get a pet.  To be honest before we acquired Bonnie, our golden retriever, tom and I were not good at walking regularly but now we walk around Greenlake (a 3 mile trek) at least 3 times a week.
  5. Walk, run or cycle to work at least once a week.
  6. Plan at least one outdoor activity on your day off – preferably something a little more strenuous than sitting in the stadium watching the local ball game.
  7. Take your kids on an overnight camping trip or plan some summer hikes.  This is a great way not only to introduce kids to the outdoors but also to give them experiences that will connect them to God’s world in ways that other wise would not experience.
  8. Go for a prayer walk around your neighbourhood or city once a week.
  9. Volunteer at your local community garden or get your family or community to adopt a street and go out to pick up trash once a week.
  10. Visit the local zoo regularly – this is not just for kids.  The last time I went to the zoo with an overseas friend was a fun and stimulating experience.

What are your suggestions?  How can we both encourage more sustainable green living habits and help all of us who live in cities overcome our nature deficit disorder?

To Garden With God: An Earth Day Prayer


squirrel eating red hot pokers

squirrel eating red hot pokers

God bless the earth and all that lives within it

God bless the earth and all that lives on it

God bless the earth and all that lives above it

God bless the soil on which we live and work and make community.

In your mercy may it bring forth goodness to nourish and renew the whole community who share it

(The last 2 lines of this this prayer are adapted from a prayer by Ray Simpson) 

Tomorrow is Earth Day and though I have not had much to say about it (or about anything else in the last week) it is a day that I think we should celebrate with enthusiasm.  God who created and sustains all life loves this world and all of creation with a deep and abiding love.

This is not far from my mind particularly as I work on my book of garden reflections and garden advice: To Garden with God in preparation for the seminar The Spirituality of Gardening that I am conducting this weekend.  I am hoping that we will have this available next week as a pdf download.  This seminar is proving to be so popular that we will be holding a second May 30th and I am starting to get enquiries about conducting one elsewhere too.  

Working on this book of reflections has been a really fun project even though it has added more pressure to my life than I like.  Over the years I have thought a lot about where and when I encounter God in the garden but it is really only as I sat down to reflect on this that I started to become excited.  And much of this has been because some of you have encouraged me to start writing more on this topic.

First I am intrigued by how much of what I do in the garden is a metaphor for my life and what God is doing in my life – from the planting of seeds to the producing of compost the garden is an incredible assurance of the faithfulness of a loving, caring God who is intimately involved in all we are and do.  

There is another dimension however that I am just starting to discover what orthodox Christians have known for centuries –  the sacramental nature of gardening.  In his delightful little book Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, Vigen Guroian shares his own reflections as an Armenian orthodox Christian.  As I read his book I wondered how differently would we view God’s creation and our faith if each time we planted a seed we entered into an experience of the death and resurrection of Christ.  And what about if we saw the watering of the garden as a partaking in the baptism of Christ after all each time we water it does bring new life to the plants we are tending.  

The Bible uses so many garden and farming metaphors – from the parable of the sower and the separating of the tares and the wheat to the imagery of the harvest.  We are all impacted by these but rarely understand their significance.  So this earth day maybe all of us need to enter more fully into the story of God as it is revealed in the created world around us.  Why not meditate on this verse from Isaiah 45:8 as a start.  

You heavens above rain down my righteousness

let the clouds shower it down.

Let the earth open wide,

let salvation spring up

let righteousness floruish with it;

I the Lord have created it.  

In the News

I have been yawning too much and my brain is frozen so thought that I would just share a couple of interesting news items from CNN

First there are more weird and wonderful things out there in our world than we ever imagined.

A rat believed to be extinct for 11 million years, a spider with a foot-long legspan, and a hot pink cyanide-producing “dragon millipede” are among the thousand newly discovered species in the largely unexplored Mekong Delta region.  Read more

Second something more than a face lift with a purpose.

The Cleveland Clinic will announce Wednesday the successful completion of a near-total face transplant surgery, a clinic spokeswoman told CNN on Tuesday.  Read more

Change the World in 5 Minutes

Here is a cool vidoe on ways that school kids can change the world,

Thanks to Green Inventions Central that first made me aware of this.