Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Gift Garden

Since God started Adam and Eve in a fabulous weed-and-thorn-free garden, it has always seemed to me that a garden should be the preferred place to live. For the past quarter-century, I've been planting with a God-garden in mind. As I wandered around my yard over the weekend, I realized that I not only have a God-garden, a place where I can visit with our Lord, but I also have a gift-garden. Many of my perennials were originally gifts from friends and family, and every time I see the blooms, I'm reminded of the giver and their sweet gift of love.  
This peony was a gift from my sweet son, Ryan, one Mother's Day when he was not yet a teenager. 

The rose growing on my arbor (built by my neighbor Sam) was a cutting from my Grandaddy Thaxton's prize rose and was a gift from my cousin Skip. 

The Bee Balm was a gift from Jan Musgrove's garden and has created an impressive display this year. 

This delicate rose was another Mother's Day gift. 

Angel Trumpets were a birthday gift from my sister (Cookie Pennell) this year, and were shared from the impressive plants on either side of her front porch. 

Two banana trees were gifts this year from my friend and fellow alderman Lynda Bramlett. 

For more than twenty-five years, my neighbors, Sam and Jamie Wiley, have given me azaleas every Christmas, a tradition they began with the first owners  more than twenty-five years before my arrival. Fifty years of azaleas makes quite a display. 

I love the flowers because of the ones who gave them, but I also cherish the fact that they are perennials. They come back again every year, bigger and more beautiful than the year before, and those recurrent blooms seem a little like getting the gift all over again. They have been a gift that lasts. 

The Bible is full of references to gardens and plants, as well as the fruit they produce. One of my favorite references compares our relationship with Christ to vines and branches. He is the vine and we are the branches, it says in John 15. (Don't miss the fact that the vine is another perennial!) The fruit growing on our branches is what we produce by the quality of the life we live. Jesus also told a parable about a sower and his seeds. (Matthew 13) Some of the seeds failed to sprout at all, some failed to grow to maturity, but some of those seeds produced an impressive harvest. That's the kind of harvest I want to have in my life. Seeds yielding a hundred-fold harvest and fruit that lasts, a little like a perennial. 

What about you? Are you living the kind of life that makes a difference in the world around you? Are you bearing the kind of perennial fruit that will still be yielding a harvest long after you are gone?  You can't do it alone, but with Jesus, abundant fruit is possible. Don't miss out! 

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NASB)

(Tomorrow evening, we will look at the great bonus we receive when our lives yield abundant fruit.)