Augustine wrote that some people in order to find God will read a book. He maintained however, that God has already provided a “big book” to teach us – the book of created nature.
“Look carefully at it top and bottom, observe it, read it. God did not make letters of ink for you to recognize him in; he set before your eyes all these things he has made. Why look for a louder voice? Heaven and earth cries out to you, “God made me,”…. Observe heaven and earth in a religious spirit.”
Thomas a Kempis likewise suggested, “If you heart is right, then every creature is a mirror of life to you, and a book of holy learning, for these is no creature – no matter how tiny or how lowly – that does not reveal God’s goodness.”
One of the loudest voices through which God speaks is creation. I often say that I read about the story of God in the Bible but in the garden I experience it. Nature has so much to teach us not just about God but also about the rhythms God intends for our lives. Working in the garden has given me permission to relax into a different pace of life, a balanced and more perceptive pace with periods of busy work balanced by rest and relaxation.
Nature has so much to teach us not just about God but also about the rhythms God intends for our lives - Christine Sine Click To Tweet The garden year has two seasons of rest and two of frantic activity, and it begins not with work but with rest.
Season of Rest
We think of spring as the season of planting, but in God’s world seed is scattered in the autumn as seed heads mature and burst. It nestles into the ground and rests. Covered by a wintery coat it waits until the warmth of spring brings it to life.
Winter is a time of preparation, a time for sending down deep roots and for pruning. Bushes planted in the autumn develop a much stronger and deeper root system then those planted in the spring. They are better able to withstand both the winter blasts and the summer heat. They are able to find water even in the driest seasons. To me, this speaks of a need to encourage quiet contemplation and discerning listening practices like lectio divina,
How could you ensure that the seeds of the gospel planted and scattered in our lives and those of our congregations are growing deep roots?
Season of Toil
Then comes spring, probably the busiest time in the garden. We plant, weed, fertilize, and mulch. We spend as much time as possible getting our garden ready for the coming season of growth, blossom and fruit. Yet our emphasis is not on the plants (the garden equivalent of disciples), our emphasis is on the soil. This is the season for good “fertilizing” input, for “mulch” – helping people to develop practices that will protect their spiritual lives over the summer. I see this as a time for vigorous learning, Bible study and active community projects that lay strong foundations fro future growth.
What Bible studies are you planning that could provide the vigorous learning that your congregations need during the spring season?
Season of Joy
Summer brings vigorous growth, a riot of colorful flowers and rich fruit develop. Surprisingly this too is a season of rest – this time a rest of enjoyment and satisfaction. We watch the maturing of what we have planted, taking credit for it but really having little to do to bring it into being. I wrote about this a couple of years ago in Six Tips To Ensure Spiritual Growth over the Summer http://thev3movement.org/2017/05/6-tips-summer/
I love to go out in the morning to see how the beans and zucchini have grown and how the tomatoes have ripened. I do a little weeding and maybe some watering but this is a time to enjoy the beauty, the fragrance and the delight of a hopefully well planned garden.
How do you encourage yourself and your congregation to enjoy the beauty of what God is growing in their lives?
Season of Harvest
Autumn is the next busy season when the full harvest overwhelms us with it is abundance. We work furiously to eat, preserve and store all that appears. We recruit friends and share harvest celebrations and then we collapse exhausted and grateful for the resting of winter months. This is a season for community, for feasting and for celebrating.
How do you encourage community and celebration in your congregation during the “harvest season” of their church year? How do you celebrate the milestones and the harvests that your congregation has achieved?
Take some time to plan for the next twelve months, with this type of pattern in mind. Praise God for these patterns woven through all creation are God. Thank God for this amazing and wise design. Plan with the recognition that God’s balanced rhythms will bring freedom and liberation to you and your congregations. Respond to the God who reminds us through Jesus Christ that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
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