Andy Wade –
Creation sings, giving glory to God. It’s easy to imagine this while out hiking in majestic mountains or watching the explosion of color as the sun sets over the ocean. But it happens all around us, every day, every moment, if only we’re alert enough to notice. One way to hone our sense of wonder as we join with creation in praising our Creator is to discover this symphony of worship in our own backyard. The garden is my sanctuary and, in it, God beckons me to draw near. Here are my top five ways to listen, and then join, this ongoing celebration of God.
Lectio Tierra: I described lectio tierra in detail in a post at the end of last month. This is really a simple way to pray that works well in the garden, in the neighborhood, or surrounded by nature in a forest. In the garden I simply wander around asking what God would like to speak to me through. It could be the splashing of birds in the birdbath, a particular flower or vegetable, or a worm wriggling around in the moist soil. The point is to find that element in the garden that seems to catch your attention, observe, try to discern its story, discover the intersections of that story with your own, and sit with this common message from God shared with another of God’s creation.
Star Gazing and Scents: There’s something special about going out to the garden on a cloudless and moonless night. Because of the darkness where I live, the stars seem to pop out of the sky. I always feel so small and yet so awe-struck by wonder sitting under the this bejeweled canopy. But it’s not just the stars that compel my thoughts toward God. Scents from all around the garden flood my nostrils with a banquet of goodness. Head back, eyes fixed on the stars and various garden fragrances rising up around me I’m reminded of a passage from the Revelation to John: “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand”. Indeed, the whole creation seems to join in my prayer, and that in itself fills me with wonder.
Praying Barefoot: If you don’t have bark dust all over your garden or prickly leaves like from a holly tree, this is a fun way to get out of a praying funk. Shed your shoes and socks and slowly walk through the garden. What do you feel? Sauntering through the soft, cool grass you might be reminded to pray for those who live in harsh climates and rarely experience this kind of comfort. A sudden poke by an unnoticed stick might prod you to recall an area of pain or brokenness in your life or a relationship that needs healing. Pray for wisdom and pray for avenues and opportunities to bring healing. What are the textures you feel as you wander through the garden? How do they relate to other areas of your life? Bring these things to God in prayer. If you want a more detailed example of this, check out my earlier post about praying barefoot in the neighborhood.
Releasing Fragrance with Touch: I love to meander the garden touching various plants as I go. Brushing up against the lavender, my senses are engulfed in a wonderful fragrance while running my hands through the hyssop yields a skunk-like odor. The Apostle Paul talks about our lives being an aroma to the world around us:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 2 Cor. 2:14-16
Personally I’d prefer to smell like lavender to the world rather than the skunky smell of hyssop. “Lord, make my life a pleasing fragrance to those around me.”
While rubbing my fingers over the tomato leaves, a very strong and distinctive fragrance is released. It’s not pleasing, nor is it offensive. It’s an odor that reminds me of the oils in the leaves that protect against aphids and other pests. I’ve never thought of odors as protection and yet in the garden there are many. “Lord, how can my life radiate a sense of protection or peace in my neighborhood?”
There are so many ways one can pray just by paying attention to the bouquet of the garden. Now try it again with taste (but be sure you know what you’re tasting!).
Death and Dying: This time of year in the Pacific Northwest, many of the plants in the garden are beginning to fade. There is a cycle to all of life, and far too often we avoid admitting that we, too, are a part of that cycle. Wandering into the garden I notice at once the sunflowers. Towering over the summer garden like golden-crowned princes, they seem to make the garden glow. But during this season, that brightness is beginning to fade, like the grandfather whose spark and wit still brightens a room even though worn around the edges. Full flowers dazzling in their brilliance is what I want to see. The fading flowers remind me that life, here, has its limits. Many lessons can be found in one plant.
- Why is it that I have trouble enjoying the full cycle of life?
- Is there something in death I need to embrace to be fully alive?
- What does the presence of flowers from a single plant, some just begging to bud, others in full bloom, and still others starting to fade…
- what do they have to teach me about God?
- what do they reveal about the beauty of generational diversity?
- which flower am I on this plant and how do I feel about that?
This is but one example of exploring our own mortality in all its beauty and brevity by intentionally praying in the garden.
These are my top five ways to pray in the garden. What have you tried?