Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Planting a Spiritual Garden
A young mom raising three kids was going through a hot, dry Texas summer. The garden was wilting, grass withering to dry, brown patches. She moved the garden hose around to the backyard, filling a small wading pool for her kids to play in. She meant to reconnect the hose to the spigot out front where it belonged, but instead left it in a heap in the back yard. She’d get to it later when things weren’t so busy. There were so many other things that were more important.
One day she looked out the front window to see that the dry front lawn had caught fire, probably from a cigarette butt tossed out a car window. She ran to the spigot she had forgotten. No hose! She ran to the back yard, dragging the hose around. It was a tangled mess, full of kinks and knots. She ran back to get her children’s sand castle buckets abandoned by the wading pool. Racing back and forth from the spigot to the front lawn, she tried to put out the fire, one child-sized bucketful at a time.
This is the kind of story Jesus used for teaching. It’s a parable. The life-saving water is God. The hose is our connection to God that comes through developing an intentional relationship. The fire is whatever crisis is waiting in the future.
Have you ever disconnected your hose? Left it in a tangled mess? I know I have. Life gets busy. I mean to read scripture. I mean to schedule a prayer retreat. I mean to… well, a lot of things. Just like physical and emotional self-care from my earlier blogs, spiritual self-care takes intentional nurture.
Spiritual self-care is intentional focus of time and energy on your relationship with God. Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and a leading expert on spiritual self-care, offers the following suggestions as ways you can enrich your spiritual life.
· Internal Disciplines. These disciplines focus on your spiritual life through internal reflection.
o Study of scripture
o Fasting – not only from food, but from distractions such as television.
· Outward Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out in personal actions and outward expressions.
o Solitude – set aside time to be apart from others to focus on God
o Simplicity – embrace a practice of “enough” and let go of wanting more
o Submission – follow where God leads
· Corporate Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out with others
o Worship – regularly participate in worship, including the sacraments
o Service – being God’s hands and feet in the world in help to others
o Community – engage as part of a Christian community where you can share your talents with others, as well as be supported
There are many additional options. Look at this list and think about what already works for you. Celebrate those! Well done! Look for what interests you as something you would like to do and make a plan to try it. For me, silence is a great discipline. My life used to be filled with noise. The TV always on, or the radio, some distraction constantly in the background. One year for Lent I gave up those distractions. I took a fast from noise and found the gift of silence. I liked it so much that I didn’t turn on the radio in my car for a decade. Whenever I decide to watch TV I need a quick lesson from my son or husband about how to use the remotes (why do we have to have so many and why do they need so many buttons?)
Solitude is also a great discipline for me. I’m an extravert. I love being around people, but at times I crave being alone. Right now I have the house to myself for four days, a rare gift. I will be a total hermit. Just me and the cat, writing away on my book and blogs, thinking of scripture and seeking connections that offer hope to parents. Even in my solitude I found space for another discipline, worship. I joined Key Ministry Front Door Online worship. I was blessed by the message and connection with others for an hour, but now I return to my gift of solitude and prayer for parents.
Where I work there is a serenity prayer garden. It has five flowing fountains and a labyrinth gravel path that winds its way through an arbor of wisteria. I try to spend at least a few minutes there each day. On a glass water wall there is this hymn:
I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.
And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tary there,
none other has ever known.
My prayer for you is that you find what nurtures your spiritual garden and be filled with the peace of Christ. Amen.
"Serenity Prayer Garden" by Lorna Bradley