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Don't neglect your garden

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair --

The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing --

And WINTER slumbering in the open air,

Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring !

­— S.T. Coleridge, 1825

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a much admired poet and it seems he got caught up one day in a discussion about religion and children with a house guest who believed kids should not be provided formal religious training. They should, he argued, be set free to select their own religion once they reach adulthood. Coleridge, as the story is told, decided to use his garden as an illustration, rather than debate the point.

“Is this really your garden?” his visitor inquired, “There is nothing here but weeds!”

“Well, you see,” Coleridge responded, “I do not wish to infringe on the liberty of the garden in any way. I’m giving the garden a chance to express itself and choose its own production.”

As my husband clears away 30-feet of forest growth closing in on the boundaries of our lawn, there is much to say about pruning and clearing. Seeing into forested beauty, once blocked by overgrowth, is the prize.

Likewise, Coleridge’s neglected garden can certainly give rise to a spirited discussion about the role parents play in the lives of their children’s religious education. His comments can also point to another dynamic of faith-filled life: a deeper relationship with God for anyone is not possible without toil. Persistence. Care. Consistent tending.

This garden illustration reveals another secret: to experience God, there must always be an element of exploration as well as perseverance. One of the most interesting ways is to regularly incorporate experiences with private as well as corporate worship.

There is personal responsibility built into such experiences. To choose the role of the consumer and say that others must perform well enough or the show must be good enough to entice another visit from us is based on a false sense of entitlement. God longs for us to participate. Investigate. Dare to trust. Embrace a level of vulnerability and break down preconceived notions and roadblocks.

As we move through this Lenten season, why not set a plan into motion to better understand how you like to worship God on an individual level. Perhaps you like to listen to worship music as you get ready for the day or drive to work. Why not stick in a CD and load the dishwasher? A walk on the beach, playing a musical instrument, blogging on the Internet, walking your dog, fixing a cup of tea, quilting, birding, gardening, painting, and looking out as the sun rises are all good ways to worship.

On a foundation of private worship add the experiences of corporate worship and be encouraged that Easter is a great time to visit a church. There will be many people in attendance who are visiting just like you. In this situation there is comfort in numbers and if this is a new experience for you, be assured that you will be warmly welcomed at any church here in town. Do not worry that you will be singled out as there are too many visitors this time of year and the program will be too full for individual introductions. Watch others around you if you are unsure what to do or arrange ahead of time to sit with a friend. Most of all, take in the music, decorations, and various forms of celebration. You will see friends, co-workers and acquaintances. It will feel good to be part of something so joyous.

Tend to your private garden by adding new ways to worship. In time you will see the fruits of your labors and hear God’s voice in surprising new ways.

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