I suffer from a very strange temptation.

I have garden envy. I'm jealous of other people's vegetable gardens and I'm not afraid to admit it.

As I drove around Central Ohio this weekend with my family, blessed with the privilege of officiating the wedding of one of our former youth group members, I noticed the sacred patches of life everywhere.

In people's yards, in open spaces between houses, in the minimal space between town homes on crowded side streets of bouncing cobblestone.

Gardens. Vegetables straining higher and higher toward the life-giving sun, their green leaves balanced between bending and standing, showed signs of blossoms and buds that would become tomatoes or squash. I was envious. dscn4736

What I notice most about the rich, healthy gardens - those you can tell have been in rotation for years - are the intricate tomato cages or trellises set up to support the growth of new vegetables. I had no clue what I was doing when I first started, but these gardeners are well versed in the language of what it takes to grow something new and enjoy the fruits of that knowledge.

It isn't an accident that Jesus & His early followers spoke of life in terms of gardening. Life began in a garden (Genesis 1-2), was sustained by food from the ground throughout history, and will be sustained by food from well-tilled and Spirit-nourished people going forward (Galatians 5).

The fruit of God's work in real people is the food that marks the Kingdom of God as present and good.

Since this is the case, we need to step back occasionally and ask ourselves the question: what makes me grow? 

If patience is a need in my life, what environments are necessary for me to become more patient?

If self-control is absent in my life, what fertilizes the soil in which I can reign in my temper or my compulsive behaviors?

If faithfulness is a gap in my character, both to God and to others, where am I missing opportunities to water and sustain the growth of faithfulness in my life?

Today, spend some time looking at the garden that is your growth into Christlikeness. What fruit and vegetables do you find growing in your soul? Are they sustaining foods or are they withering on the vine from lack of attention and cultivation?

May the Spirit of God prune and shape (see John 15) you to become the beautiful garden of hope both you and the world around you needs.

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