The first one arrived before Christmas. Others appeared at December’s end. The flood began soon after New Year’s and continues till today. I imagine they will persist for many weeks, peaking sometime in April offering last minute opportunities to respond to their seasonal enticements.
Many of you know of what I speak. You know about those deceptively enticing parcels that mysteriously arrive unbeckoned but not unwelcomed. They lure you into the annual fantasy and glorious visions of what we all hope will be a garden of Eden, a floral paradise of brilliant creeping phlox, flaming ornamental grasses, and bushes that will attract butterflies by the hundreds. Or perhaps rich sweet June strawberries, juicy tomatoes, big white, yellow and red onions. Maybe grass seed that will triumph over the creeping charley, conquer the pervasive dandelions, destroy the insidious crabgrass and create a lush carpet of green that people will drive for miles to look upon.
They are “The Garden Catalogs”.
Their sole purpose is to once again lure us into spending our money on items that will perish with the next hard frost. We mindlessly send away for plants and seeds whose beauty and value is effervescent and temporal. These catalogs with their beautiful images and rich deep colors convince us that we too can create a tapestry of life, a preponderance of glory which will outshine the greatest gardens of ancient civilizations.
OK maybe not. Still it is fun to browse their pages and wonder if the mystical flowers or abundant fruits would thrive in our little patches of ground. Most of my plants and seeds come from local merchants, but invariably I will place my order for some of the plants featured in these packets of planting propaganda. Though I scarce know where I will plant them without tearing up another ten square feet of yard space.
What these catalogs represent is hope. The hope that spring will chase away winter’s cold and we will soon be digging our hands into the newly tilled earth. Seeds will be dropped into the furrows and small rooted plants will tenderly be planted, watered and fed. We have the hope that these small miracles will grow to provide nourishment for the body and the senses. When the day is new and fresh or the slow evening light begins to fade into night, we can rise from our labor and sense the bounty of God’s earth that we have been blessed to be a part of.
I like to think the Bible offers us the same hope that the seed catalogs offer. Perhaps in Genesis we read of the hope God had for His creation. In the lyrical prose of the Psalms we are encourage to put our faith in God. The Gospels reassure us that God’s love is genuine and everlasting. The epistles remind us that the labor of faith is rewarded with abundant life, like the fruit of our gardens. And in the final chapter of Revelations, God assures us that the Son will clear away the weeds that infest our soul and cast out the stones so faith may grow.
There are Bibles in every house. The pews of our churches have them. They can even be found in hotel rooms. We don’t have to wait for them to fill our mailboxes or computer screens. The Bible is with us each day of the year. And we do not need to wait till the warm days of spring to plant the seeds of faith or a crop of hope.
What would it be like if we responded to the words of the scripture as we do to the pictures in a catalog? Is it possible to be drawn into the Bible the way we are drawn toward those advertisements? Can our Christian faith nourish us like the produce from our garden? Can we feel the presence of joy, peace and grace from God’s word in the same way we experience it from the blooms of flowers? I think so. If we can plant the seeds of a flower or the eye of a potato, why can’t we plant the seeds of faith? If we can prepare the soil to receive the plant, why can’t we prepare our hearts to receive God’s grace? If the fruit of our garden can feed us, why can’t the fruit of God’s blessings feed the those who are hungry for spiritual food.
Plant your gardens and experience the hope that the catalogs bring in the cold of winter. When the soil is warm and the days grow long, work your garden and thank God for these blessings. Let’s not forget to nurture our faith and make room for the presence of God’s love in the garden of our hearts.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring. (Isaiah 58:11 NLT)