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The Well-tended Garden

Our life is a Garden, our body a House. Have you heard of these metaphors used as an analogy before? Read Luke 11:24-26 where Jesus speaks of the person, and the swept clean house.

It seems to take a lifetime to get a garden, a substantial garden, to its zenith. Herb, vegetable, rose, wildflower, tropical, citrus... then it's strawberries, passionfruit, hydrangeas, frangipane, jasmine, pawpaw, (and my most problematic) NamRoi, the beautiful Thai pomelo which is my absolute favourite - like a firm sweet grapefruit - which of course refuses to flower. I had the same problem with a passionfruit and pulled it after two years of nothing. There there was the almond tree in my Western Australia garden where the mulberries and passionfruit were plentiful - the passions so sweet and juicy the size of robust softballs, but I got just one nut from the almond! The soil is very different here in SE Queensland to other places, and temperature, acidity, bugs the list goes on of the various concerns to watch out for. Vegetables are touchy and not so robust here in the warmer climes as they are in NZ or UK for instance. Some prefer pots, some fall into temporary shock when I put in the raised beds. Others thrive. Changes are beneficial for the plant, but sometimes I can almost hear "Just let me stay in this spot thank you".

Battling the Flesh

The easiest thing to do, is nothing.

It takes the least effort. But don't be deceived! "Nothing takes us nowhere". Not true. Nothing take us rapidly although deceptively along a slippery slope that reveals quickly it is actually downhill, to a place of nothingness. Idleness, laziness does not even get us to a place of Neutralilty. Peace. Contentment. In fact, it deposits us in a place that requires so much effort, strength, fortitude, tenacity and mental focus to get into a place of moving forward, healthy perspective and purpose. Nothing produces nothing plus several minuses.

I had a fall in 2012. I broke my right arm in three places.

As a pianist, musician, single mother, sole parent and provider, this was a devastating season particularly when I knew I could not write, play, do normal things, work, and I had no idea how I was going to heal.

I was following a friend at a MudNuts 4WD event in outback Australia on the banks of the flooded Murchison at the time. We had just arrived from making camp, and she was heading in a beeline for her kiwi husband somewhere, along with his mates. Alcohol everywhere, children, no safety zones or specified perimeters. As a mother and teacher, WHS trained, I was horrified at the mayhem. There is a disaster here waiting to happen to someone, I thought. Little beknown to me, I was a newby on this remote Australian scene, and the centre player of a mounting situation. Pushing my friends grandson in his pushchair across ungraded paddock and puddles and ditches, I went up a small hill where spectators were standing on a ridge with their coolies in hand and a couple of guys picked up the pushchair, carrying over my load for me, I glanced around. My friend was nowhere in sight. The surging roar of dozens of 4WD trucks tearing through the damp terrain in the hot WA sun was not pleasant - screaming motors, mud flying, I had to get myself and the infant to where my friend was despite the noise, foreignness and remoteness of the event. So I put my hand out as I felt myself slide sideways and "snap snap". My carriers said it sounded like a broken twig - no trees nearby. I held my wrist and groaned "Oh no".

The story goes on.. packing up my camp with one arm and hand while trying to nurse my other, a guy volunteered to drive my car across the flooded river, and my friend drove me three hours to the closest A&E with xray facility. There was the agony of having no progress of the breaks as I had to wait for the new surgeon to arrive from NZ to operate, the temporary cast was put on wrong, the woman in rehab going through pain and drug withdrawal in post op ward was agonising all night. I was very sick after the anaesthetic, I could not eat with headaches for several days. Not to mention a little girl was before me in theatre for emergency, and I had to wait 7 hours no water in pre theatre. It was a good time to prepare myself with the Lord. Needless to say my relationship with my friend did not recover despite the love care and grace she showed me. The whole episode involuntarily marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new care and management plan had begun, one that I did not ask for.

Twelve years on, I am still healing.

When something breaks, or gives, things must change. There is no option there. They have to. A clarion call goes out for adjustments to be made. Necessary things. We do not rule over our lives. The world does that. It gives us our oxygen, produces our food, there are people around us. We go to school, get educated, and work. In a nutshell. We do not issue the changes and directions. Life does. I think we would like to think we are in charge, but we are not. There are choices we make every day. But now and then, we have to do things that we do not have the luxury of choosing. This ride we are on is a rollercoaster.

Queueing with our tickets we are ushered into our seats, strapped in, we look around and admire the view, see a little of the track ahead, particularly when it appears to be heading straight up into the sky at a steep point, a stark shining white rail against a brilliant blue with clouds. Some of us are fixated on the bar in front, shocked at the sight and predicament we find ourselves in, the whites of our knuckles begging for front row as we grip on for dear life. Cruising slowly up the incline, a few gentle bumps, the carriage continues on relentlessly as the wind begins to whip around your face. Can I let go to put my hair behind my ear - now tickling, scratching, annoying the beejeebers out of me!? Holding your breath and, oh my goodness, look at that! Then the Falling. The massive Ride has begun. Fear, excitement, adrenalin, ecstasy, all thrown in together. The experience is heightened as there is no end to the ebb and rapid flow one after the other, relentless.

It is no wonder many of us have high-flying careers that demand the maximum effort, maximum attention and every bit of our imagination Monday to Friday. What happens when we walk through that door we call Home. What are we expecting. what do we actually find, what do we do, and what do we want there?

Balance in your life

"What you see is what you get". Really.? Well, that is just an outright lie.

Justicia, aka Themis, Greek Goddess of Justice (pictured above) would disagree, she has a sword in her left hand too. You know why? Themis, also known as Ma'at goes back to ancient Egypt. She could see into the future, the scales were for judging the hearts of the dead. She symbolized truth and justice. The term magistrate is derived from Ma'at because she assisted Osiris in the judgment of the dead. As the Roman goddess Justicia, she was portrayed holding the fasces (a bundle of rods around an axe symbolizing judicial authority) in one hand and a flame in the other (symbolizing truth). She is blindfolded, to enable her 'to see' without distraction, bias.

From this icon of truth, society has told us: What you put in, is apportioned to you. What you give you get in return.

I believe this statement needs to go a step further.

There is a Support factor.

Permit me to explain further to support this.

To get a plane off the ground, in order to fly from Brisbane to Christchurch, or London to Bangkok, the aircraft must be manufactured to a standard of order, of verification or registration, and validation. Various mechanical parts, fittings, calibrations, design manufacture are required to have been approved and tested, refined and reapproved, maintained, financed, equipped, fuelled, piloted by fully trained, healthy and competent, and registered personnel, safety protocols in place, communication systems, cross cultural placements covered and met. To name but a few.

Once on the runway, flaps, gauges, meters, internal functions aligned and prepared in consent and agreement rather than conflict with external conditions, directional pathways, following maps and personnel strapped in and prepared for take off.

Rollercoaster ride. Plane trip.

Anything that might go wrong, could go wrong. But statistics have shown most air travel is successful and enjoyable even. Boeing has been in the news recently for failed maintenance and parts issues, yet the stats still stand at 1 in 13.4 million chances of death as at two years ago. Tens of thousands of people arrive at their destinations every day excited, elated even, intentional, relieved and exhausted. Much like a mini 'life' journey compressed into a one way 4-10 hour journey to a foreign country. The expectations are, there is a sense of arrival, destination, and optimism. I am planning a trip to Bali myself as I write this, and it involves more than finding a fare and accommodation online.

Our journey is inevitably not experienced alone, although the impacts are personally experienced. We feel them personally. And no two people feel the wild ride in exactly the same way.

I taught a workshop a few years back on the Coast to a group of church people on Perspective. Sitting at a table, the attendees were asked to regard the object in front of them: a vase of flowers, a violin and bow, a book, for example, and draw it. Everyone came up with an object that looked completely different as the position of the item was vastly different to each one. The angles, the title of the book and author's name not even visible to some, colours and hues, but God's perspective covers from underneath, above, and from within, going back to the manufacturer, the day of cutting the tree back to its seed in the ground and the weathering over the years.

This speaks to me of the vagueness of what we really believe to be there. The detail is so very different for every person seated around that table, and for some who have a history and real experience of training in music on a violin, of writing courses, and reading many books, and loving the process of gardening and having the opportunity to assemble and present beautifully cut flowers. The detail and experience of every person strapped into that ride, that aircraft can be very different for each person.

One can ask themselves, What is the best possible outcome of this situation I am in? What shall I choose to do?

Is the purpose of this in line with my beliefs, desires, goals?

Apathy and Laziness

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

Which one are you?

Maybe you're the hare racing through life barely stopping to smell the roses along the way.

Or possibly the tortoise, by choice, or because of your present limitations. You can not walk or run like others, pick up a paintbrush and master a canvas. You may not be able to reach for the cello or the guitar and begin your song. For some, it is taken for granted what many yearn to do, yet can never do.

I remember my just turned 12 year old son in the back yard of our new 2002m2 property in WA, working hard to add water and bags to a concrete mixer in keeping with the team digging holes and planting fence posts. This wee man of mine was truly amazing. I still look back on this moment with love and respect. To a kid who was not 'told' what to do but simply took up the mantle and the challenge and got the job done. Nobody else was at the post, I did not show him what to do. All I saw was he stepped in. He stepped up.

My youngest son has had many challenges in his young life, and I remember how he embraced that particular task that day. He did not slope away to game away the afternoon. He evaluated the situation, saw the opportunity and the outcome, seized the tools and got on with it. Incredible! To say how proud I was of my youngest boy I am beyond words. I reflect on that time and I am inspired by him. His fortitude. And his grace.

My other son present at the time tackled the family building process in a completely different fashion. He disappeared. Not only was that deflating for me, but it was a situation that I could not address with him at the time. There was simply too much going on, people coming and going, and I was caught up with my own role of directing the building of that jolly fence and food and drinks. WA soil has its own challenges. Because it is literally desert conditions, the surface was like concrete until you got 2 feet or so down, and to where it was dark brown, cool and rich with minerals and the amazing smell!

I think back on that season of great challenges that were both physical and financial, with thankfulness. The very things that tried to break and threaten achievement and accomplishment, proved character building, and cemented a fortitude of strength and persistence, overcoming the two desperate years of legal issues with the first builder taking off and leaving dozens of unfinished properties - indemnity insurance (a Berlin bank stole mine, but my bank did recover it thankfully) did not cover the emotional turmoil and heartache. The glorious finish on the day you move in and the months that follow of waking up and the thankfulness is again un-word-able. But the results are permanent, and now someone else is rewarded with the hard work, paid and voluntary, put in to create the beautiful product of a house and garden.

Walking in that front door, after a long day at work, can be such a relief. For some, we literally collapse upon arrival, and exhausted fall on the couch. It might be difficult to get up unless absolutely necessary - to shower, eat, clean up, go to bed, get up and do it all over again the next day.

But I am careful to regard this: is my home my retreat, or am I retreating to my home, day after day, over and over again?

Tending our own gardens can be almost foreign to us. the prospect might even be daunting. Why?

A healthy state of ownership is incredibly important. Ownership is a privilege. A blessing.

Our belongings, things, what we have bought, accumulated, find comfort and solace in, can literally be our undoing. Falling into this state, might become a state of misuse, abuse, hoarding and mental incapacity. A result of what we have been working and giving out for on the other side of that door may not be improving what is on this side of the front door.

There is one thing that surpasses all the jet skis, boats, sail gear, patio and pool stuff, boytoys and bikes, 4WDs, shoes, bags, creams treatments and perfumes. They all have a place and purpose, but they do not tend the garden.

The gardener stands at the ridge of his property, surveying the land: the existing trees, areas that require pruning, planting and development, paving, fencing, furnishing, harbouring and care. The landscaper is not God. But he or she is the Tender of the Vineyard, managing the day to day care, and development of a healthy garden for which he is responsible for.

Some of us have 50m2 to oversee, interior mostly. Some have 5000 or 500,000 mostly exterior - farmland for instance. Some have numerous products to manage and distribute, some have 200 or so students to teach in a secondary school, 30 or so in primary. 150 staff to manage, or 150 cups of barista to make a day. Some have 30 emergencies at the clinic or hospital to attend to, some have 30 medical reports to write up, some have 30 or so scripts to supply and dispense and some have 30 theatres to clean up and sterilise. Some have family members to visit, to bury, to marry or to welcome into the world, and some are supporting family members and friends at competitions, and performances. Some have meals to prepare and some administer their meals to some who can not feed themselves.

The tending of the Garden always goes beyond the back and the front doors.

But the tending of the Garden must always begin before walking out that door.

The House, your temple.

We all have within us light and darkness. There will come a time, or maybe more than once, you will be faced with the choice of what you want to cohabit with.

I used to have this dream of a house, windows uncovered and lit from within. There would always be many rooms, some freshly painted, no furniture. A couple were old planks shacks almost put together, one was several stories high in a massive tree system. This one I dreamt of the most. Near the centre, the middle of several floors and a room with no window so it was located in the deeper interior, was a particular door that was closed, light under the crack, and huge banging and wind sounds from within. Often flashing lights and a terrible activity I could only imagine. It terrified me. At first I would wake with the sweats, shaking and fearful, initially in tears and calling out in shock. What on earth was going on? After months, it was easier. I could stand outside the door and tell "it" to be quiet in Jesus' Name. It was immediately obedient. However, whatever "it" was, I had to confront it. After all, it was my house. My dream. It was Me. The unknown proved over a long period of time to play with my mind. Was this something that could harm me, my sanity, my confidence, maybe I was going to find out something that would shatter my reality.

Eventually, I was at the door, a great sense of trepidation and foreboding but I was determined. This had gone on for long enough and whatever this thing was, I need to see it. My subconscious fears, desires, hopes and dreams were now all in my hand in the form of a round brass doorhandle. The presence was in there, but I was in control now.

Investing in the Idea of Self

Have you ever thought about, Where am I going after this life?

What happens to us?

What is this all about?

Ecclesiastes says: No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. (Chapter 1 v 11).

Everyone comes naked from their mother's womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands... As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind? All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. (Chapter 5 v15-17).

For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone? (Chapter 6 v12).

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. (Chapter 7 v 14).




Bottomless, loneliness. What is -less.

David was the King who stood against the Gath Goliath as a boy, the relatively unknown youngest son of Jesse from Bethlehem, and floored him in the name of the Lord, then cutting off his head with Goliath's own sword. The Philistines, promising to surrender should their trophy not succeed ran into the hills with their iron swords. Solomon, his second son with Bathsheba, succeeded his father requesting of the Lord, wisdom. He was known to be the richest and the wisest man and king who ever lived, writing his meditations he gathered from his father and his own life experiences in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

David had great anguish in the ten years' persecution following his entry into service to Saul, befriending Saul's heir Jonathan as a close brother, and clearly having God's favour on his life by his battle successes, gifts, blessings and love of the people upon him before he became the second king of Israel. David also struggled with depression, openly demonstrated in his penned prayers and songs in Psalms. His life appeared to have periods fraught with danger from King Saul and beyond, into the years his son Absalom grew up, incest with another son and daughter that he failed to deal with as a loving parent, in-family jealousies and strife from multiple marriages and their offspring. From the caves at Abdullah to the rocky outcrops and streams of En Gedi, David had more to contend with than the average man. As shepherd boy of deep faith, David had been anointed and appointed as God's own choice of King over Israel, while the present king had fallen into disfavour with God, eventually seeking the guidance of witches, seeking truth anywhere than from the Source of Truth who had lifted His hand and turned His face from the first King. Saul became tormented to the core and eventually dying on a mountain overlooking his kingdom at the hand of his instructed servant before being taken by the enemy.

Saul's story is sad beyond belief, mostly because he had decided to live according to his own rules and fell into despair. David had a story that followed a similarly tormented pattern after he committed adultery and sentenced Bathsheba's husband Uriah to the front line to die, willingly, while David stayed at home. He followed his own rules and unwittingly fell into despair that wrought dysfunction among his children. Following Solomon, a period of great peace and wealth for Israel initially, the Kingdom became divided and a series of kings for Israel in the north and Judah in the south including Jerusalem followed for several hundred years, attesting a falling away from God's will and the invasion and pillaging of the nations of Israel to the point of complete desolation after AD70 and the destruction of the second temple.

Without rules, we are destitute. The will of God is sown in Love.

But we have rejected this Love and fallen into disrepair.

We have turned our faces our hearts and our will away from God and embraced the lord of the world, the fallen, that has infiltrated our education system, our financial and our governmental systems in the name of progress and accomplishment, technological success and a path to infinite and beyond.

Our agricultural and farming, economic sustainabilities have not been tended to. Rather neglected and dismissed ruining families, centuries of hard work to disrepair. The health system is no where it should be for families, mental health and individual resourcefulness.

We have become a beguiled lot.

Trusting in the unseen, the unknown, to the point where we are bewildered at the precipice of takeover, persecuting the very belief that first loved us, and failure to manage and tend what we have been given as a Supreme Gift.

Let your light shine.

Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Isaiah 59:6

We have opted for closing the front door and collectively shutting the manual that is the very thing to teach us how to tend our gardens both sides of the door.

The house is corrupt.

The garden is neglected.

Outside is a growth that has taken on a life of its own, writhing out of control while certain pastures are starving, dying, altogether. You can ask anyone. A city once visited or lived in decades ago has deteriorated significantly. The unique qualities and special characters of special locations have lost their quality.

Inside, the hoarding has resulted in dysfunction, broken and contrived. This unhealthy internal existence is in desperate need of emotional and spiritual cleaning. Relationships have been tested beyond their means. Trust is just a word. There is relief in doing nothing, but collapsing resulting in imbalance and further dysfunction.

So, what is to be done then?

What is the reason for all of this?

Chapter 9 verse 8 of Ecclesiastes finishes here: Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil...(verse 10) Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Verse 18 Chapter 10: (For) Through laziness, the rafters sag, because of idle hands, the house leaks.

Deborah Monro

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic". Isaiah 28:16


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