In the midst of my “In the Clearing” garage project, I’m encountering gems. One surprise – a case of the second book I wrote, Your Spiritual Garden: Tending to the Presence of God. A six week daily life retreat, gardening is explored as a metaphor for life – and living with vibrancy and authenticity, cultivating what matters most.
Published in 2006, it is rooted with a contemplative Christian worldview, and is composed with my belief that each of us is unique, distinct, and irreplaceable–and a mystic is simply someone who knows God by personal experience. Mediation, mindfulness, and connection with the beauty of creation permeate Your Spiritual Garden reflections and prayer practices. Originally it was written to be a six week daily life retreat, however, I encourage readers to be creative with timing. Maybe it takes a year, reading one reflection a week, or perhaps a small group desires to gather and work with the content over a several month time period. It can be a book to pick up and thumb through when the timing calls to the reader with a particular theme or topic.
I’ve always been drawn to gardens, and an earthy, incarnational experience of life. I’m not even certain anymore what spiritual means, yet, I do know what it means to be reverent, compassionate, deeply passionate, authentic, transparent, and really real. I desire to live vibrant authentic life, with love and service in my center. Thumbing through this book, as if meeting a treasured friend, several quotes caught my attention, and I offer you a quote from each of the six weeks:
- “Gardens are reflective of their environment, seeds, plantings, attention, light, and water. So too are the daily lives we inhabit and live. And thus, so too is our spiritual life” (23). Week One: Ground of My Garden introduction
- “It is possible that the part of our self that pioneers into new territory is in intimate conversation and communion with God, desiring a not yet realized future. We receive inklings of the conversation through our dreams, hopes, and desires. Seeds are planted within us, and if we are courageous and daring enough, surprising growth occurs. The requirements for growth are trusting life and realizing there is really no security other than love” (50). Week Two: Planting Seeds, Day 12: Seeds of the Unknown
- “As we tend to our spiritual garden, we first show up fully awake, take notice of the choices we make, and of how resources of time, energy, and finances are expended. Tending the garden requires paying attention to a quality of prayer life, availability to family and friends, how our bodies move in the world, and engagement with the personal conversation God holds with each person. In particular, tending to our spiritual garden requires asking the daily question: “What is it only I can do with the time and space of my distinct life?” And then doing it with gusto, presence, and passion!” (57). Week Three: Tending the Garden introduction
- “…These are only a few examples of actions negatively impacting your core identity in socially acceptable ways. To effectively prune away the actions that are not needed, you must become still enough to distinguish what brings your joy, creativity, and passion alive. The gift from the process of simplification and pruning is a new appreciation for what you did not know you already knew, spaciousness for the not-yet-discovered, and increased energy to focus upon your core values and what is truly important: the life God desires you live” (87). Week Four: Pruning and Appreciating, Day 25: Pruning the Unnecessary
- “In the garden of our soul, we have roots, supports and principles providing the foundation for our life of integrity. From a young age we experiment, learn guiding actions and principles. A baby’s small hand will grasp a caregiver’s extended finger and grip it securely. The garden vine covered in heavy blooms will tendril, entwining itself around support structures. As we age and mature, we learn to seek out support through relationships that offer us ability to bloom into fullness. We become skilled at relying upon God, and our own inner strength and potential. Gradually we come to understand our core beliefs and foundational principles, which enable us to reach our life’s full potential. We discover that there are ethical, and often difficult, choices we must make even when we don’t desire to do so. Thoughts and actions become integrated. When we are grounded in the gospel of truth and compassion, we become transparent to others” (105). Week Five: Gathering Fruits, Day 32: Gathering the Fruit of Life Principles
- “There is no experience quite like being the recipient of generous love and presence from another person, even a stranger. The times in our life when we experience complete acceptance by another creates within ourselves powerful interior freedom. The demands and insistent voices within us become calm, and our breathing slows. We experience a more rhythmic heartbeat, and we feel an interconnection with others. This interplay can occur with the Beloved, the known, or with a complete stranger—at any time, in any place. Encounters with personal, real presence are life-gifting, perhaps surprising and fulfilling, and are transformative for the giver and receiver. How do you give yourself away to others in a way that is meaningful and delightful? First, you give yourself away by knowing the ‘yes’ of your life, and what values are most important to you. Knowing these offer you clarity and the ability to be present and engaged. Second, we identify…” (121). Week Six: Generous Gifts, Day 37: Generous Love
Pegge (Bernecker) Erkeneff,
my friends are listening for your voice,
let me hear it!
– Song of Solomon 8:13