How Does Your Inner Garden Grow?
February 17, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic and our title for today is “How Does Your Inner Garden Grow?” Last week, my friends, we were talking about gardens in England. We talked about that great tulip farm, where across the hills of England was a glowing carpet of color, the reds, the yellows, the oranges and the purples that were the glory of that garden, and how every one of those flowers represents a different aspect of God’s love for you.
This week, I’d like to talk about our inner garden. I’d like to ask the question – how is your garden growing? How is it with your inner garden? By way of getting into the scripture, I’d like to tell you a little story about my dad. This is one of my favorite stories about him. It had to do with this time of year, wintry, cold, and barren. You see, when I was a boy, winters were a little different than they are now, than they have been in the last 20 or 30 years. You’re all too young to remember this, of course, but back then winters were really cold. It was so cold, you could understand the wonderful poet Christina Rossetti’s words, “Earth stood hard as iron, and water, like a stone.” It seemed that the streets were covered with ice all winter long. They hadn’t invented salt, yet, I guess. The ice that covered the streets was hard as brick.
One of my favorite memories of my father is when I had off from school because there was too much snow. There were a lot of days like that back then. Snow was so deep – at least four or five times in the winter, my backyard would have a drift of snow so tall that kids could dig a tunnel through it and walk inside a sparkling, icy tunnel of snow. We had a word for all that snow, a word I don’t hear used much anymore – blizzard. Some of you remember blizzards.
Well, on those days, my father and I would go out and shovel the snow. I don’t know if it was just my dad or if snow shovels hadn’t been invented yet, but we always used the big garden shovels, the kind with the flat edge in front. It was a lot of work; those shovels were heavy.
We’d come in, frosty and cold, to the warmth of the house. My mom would make us a meal of coffee and the most wonderful, thin pancakes. It was great.
And with evening came my favorite memory of my dad. Dad would look through the mail and find what he was looking for. He put on his big glasses with black frames – they made his eyes look very large. He would sit at the table and very lovingly open up what he had found. Friends, it was the seed catalog. The seed catalog always seemed to arrive about this time of year. He would page through that thing with great gentleness. He would focus on the reddest strawberries you’ve ever seen, and red tomatoes, and green cucumbers, blueberries that had a misty coating on them, and apples that were so shiny and red you could practically take a bite out. Dad would sit there, in the midst of the bleak midwinter, and pour lovingly through those pages, planting the garden of the spring in his mind. He was a hopeful guy.
And his dreams were not unrewarded, because come late summer, we would have the most wonderful bumper crop of tomatoes and corn and peppers and squash. I remember Dad never liked to harvest the squash, just so he could see how large they would get. The squash would get so large that no one could eat them after a while; they were just too full of seeds. He loved it.
But the point is this: Dad planted his garden in his mind, and it came to fruition. How’s your inner garden doing? How is mine doing? What is growing there?
You see, God has given each of us a patch, a garden to grow. It is the garden of our lives. And the question is, what’s growing there today? What are we going to do about it today? What kind of seeds are we going to plant in our garden?
What are the seeds that we plant in our garden? The seeds that we plant in our garden are our ideas, our thoughts. What are your thoughts like? What are the seeds you’re planting in your garden?
You couldn’t imagine my dad looking through the catalog and saying, “Oh, I’ll take a crabgrass” or “Oh, I’ll take one of those thorny thistle plants.” No, no. He went for the largest, most colorful, most wonderful plants he could find and the most beautiful roses there were. So it needs to be with you and me. What are we planting in our garden? Are we planting seeds, or are we planting weeds? Surely what we plant and tend is what will grow and what our lives will become.
God has placed each of us in a garden. He said, “Here you are. Take charge.” Till it and tend it, says the Bible. That means we’ve got a lot of freedom. So what’s it going to be? Are we going to plant the good seeds of positive thoughts, or are we going to let the weeds of negative thoughts grow?
What does a weed look like? A weed looks like any thought we’ve planted that says, “I can’t do that.” “I’m not going to succeed.” “I never was good at that.” Oh, my friends, I plead with you, beware of the thoughts you think; beware of the words you say about yourself. Don’t plant weeds in your garden. You might say, “Up until now, I haven’t been particularly good at that.” Or “Up until now, I haven’t been successful.” Allow yourself the opportunity – allow God the opportunity – to let positive flowers grow in your garden.
What are the good seeds that you can plant? The good seeds, my friends, are positive, affirming ideas. “I am God’s beloved child, in whom He is well pleased.” Say it out loud and proud! “I am prosperous and generous.” “I am healthy and blessed.” You see, even as you say those words, they have an energy to them. There’s something in our minds that begins to light up and say, “Maybe it’s so! Maybe I am healthy and blessed. Maybe I am prosperous. You know, I want to be generous. I am healthy. I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am generous. I am God’s beloved child.” You see, as we plant those seeds in the garden, they begin to take root.
And let me tell you what else happens, my friends. When you plant seeds like that and you let them take root, supernatural things happen. That’s God’s promise. God gives us an idea and says, “What are you going to do about it?” Are you going to nurture this? Are you going to take care of it? Or are you going to let it go? Because you can do that, too. We are free people.
But if we get an idea from God about being healthy and blessed and prosperous and generous and His beloved child, and we plant it and nurture it, God comes to our aid. Remarkable and unexplainable things happen. Opportunities come our way. Doors open up. We meet people. Circumstances change, and we begin to move toward the blessing of that garden.
In today’s scripture, we are told that God said to Abraham, look, if you are willing to give up the old ways, if you are willing, in the language of the Bible, to ‘leave your father’s house and your kindred,’ everything you’ve been used to, thought-wise, blessings will come your way. If we are willing to move away from the weed-thoughts and move toward the seed-thoughts, God says, I am willing to help you out. I will show you. I will bless you. I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those around you, so that there will be residual blessings for all those you come across. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. I am blessing you so much that you will be a blessing everywhere you go.
What a wonderful thought! Now there’s a seed and a half! There is a multiple blessing. And God is promising it to us. Our job is to be careful about the seeds we plant in our garden. That is my invitation to you this week, my friends. Let your thoughts be affirming and positive, especially when you get up in the morning. Let your thoughts be thoughts of prosperity, of health, of inspiration, so that you’ll be planting good seeds in your garden.
And when those weed-thoughts come around, it’s best to just get rid of them as soon as they come up. “I can’t do it.” “I’m not good enough.” All those thoughts that get in your way, just weed them out, so that the good flowers can grow in your garden.
And by the way, you’ll be following after the manner of the greatest giver of all, the greatest planter of all, the Lord God, who saw this earth and all of us, and said, “That’s a garden worth investing in.” And so, we’re told, He invested in it – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What an investment! What a blossoming! What a garden! You have the Savior within your garden, believing in you, investing in you. Let His spirit grow in you, that your garden may grow in a thorough and rich and abundant and beautiful way. That’s my prayer for you, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski