GROWING IN THE GARDEN<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By James Pratt
One image I carry in my head of God the Father is from the ceiling fresco of the Sistine Chapel. There, we see the "Creation of Adam" where God is reaching out and touching His son. The scene reminds me of a father in the delivery room reaching out to his newborn child. Though I will not instill upon God the feeling of awe at His creation that we would have with a newborn child, it still represents a wondrous moment in the life of mankind.
I developed my relationship with God as Father many years ago as I would work in my garden. There, while I was weeding, one of the most mundane of tasks, I was growing. It was there, where I was able to get away from the everyday stresses, that I began simply talking to God, and listening for Him. There, in my garden, it was only us. I could feel His presence around me as I wondered at His creations. I listened to Him speaking to me, giving me calm reassurances through the sounds of the birds singing and the wind whispering through the leaves on the trees. I would bask in His glory of the sun shining down on me on cool spring or autumn afternoons, warming me through and through.
That was the start of a continuing relationship. I would openly "discuss" anything which was on my mind, any troubles looming over me, and listen for His answers. I would tell Him how I felt about things, and ask for direction in any and all areas of my life. I would express any ill feelings I may have had about coming circumstances, but in the end, like Jesus, I would tell Him, "not my will, Lord, but Yours." I knew that no matter the situation, He would be with me.
It was there in my garden that I always felt closest to God; not in the chapels of churches with their fine stained glass windows created by man in a vain attempt to in some way present the glory of God, but there surrounded by the creations of God, Himself, that I truly felt His presence. The solace I sought was not found in buildings of brick and mortar and steel, but in a room without walls or ceiling, where I could look beyond my own borders and realize the vastness of God's creation. I referred to my garden as "my church."
It was not until recently that I realized the irony of the situation, for mankind was started in the Garden of Eden. At that time, there was no sin. There was only the Father and His children, Adam and Eve living in paradise. The trees, the grass, the animals, and man; all created by God.  It was there that His children were closest to their Father. It was only there that God and man were not separated. So now it seems only natural that it was in my garden that I became a child to my Father.
Jesus, Himself, did the same thing, for the Gospels tell us that on the night of His betrayal, Jesus "went out as usual" to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Gethsemane, a garden outside Jerusalem, to pray to His Father. It was there, not in a synagogue, that Jesus went to be alone with the Lord. Jesus evidently also believed that in a place where He was surrounded by the creations of God, not man, He would be the closest to His Father. It seems, now, also natural that I would go to the garden in search of intimacy with my Father.
We all need a "garden," a place where we can be close to our Father; a place where the Father can weed out the harmful and petty things which grow in our lives and distract us from our intended purposes; a place where our Father can nurture us and care for us; and a place where He can help us grow into the glorious creations He intended us to be.

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