Tending the Garden of Our Faith
Lent begins in the dirt, with a dusty cross smeared on our foreheads. And Lent ends in the dirt, with our beloved Jesus laid in the earth.
Perhaps it's no surprise that Lent invites us into the garden.
What do you find growing here?
Seed Catalogues, Honeybees, & the Patient Kingdom of Lent
For me, there are two things that signal the beginning of the end of winter: Lent and the arrival of my Seed Savers catalogue. A few weeks ago, we inched the minivan down the hill to our mailbox. Our country roads rarely get treated and I pumped the brakes softly - not wanting to slide into the ditch. When we reached the end of the drive, the boys jumped out, skated over to lift the mailbox, and handed me its contents: doctor’s bills, political ads, car dealership promotions. The usual unwanted ephemera. And there, in the middle of all the junk mail, was the catalogue. From it's cover, a honeybee glowed in the center of a giant sunflower. Greedy, I flipped through the pages, circling all my favorite things: rainbow carrots, neon calendula, golden beets. Before long, I forgot the icy roads and began to dream of spring, which is to say I began to dream of Lent. They have a lot in common. Both begin with dirt. Both begin when the days are short and cold. Both conclude with the opening ground. And every year, both the garden and Lent look different. Some years, I start the Holy Season like I start my garden: gung-ho. Soil sample kits, elaborate garden charts, companion planting print-outs. Or, in the spiritual counterpart, daily devotionals, epic fasts, buckets of prayerful energy. But this year, winter has taken its toll. The ground is hard and I enter Lent weary. I still love it here, in this holy season; simply entering the space feels like a radical act of hope. But despite my best efforts, I haven’t ordered a single pack of seeds. I haven’t landed on a single spiritual practice. I’m just standing here - looking and wondering, drawn to the colors on the page. Perhaps you are entering Lent feeling ready - garden tools neatly in a row. Or perhaps you are entering Lent a bit hungover, disoriented by all this cold. Either way, there is something here for you. The Gardener is in no rush; His kingdom is patient, in the way of seedlings and sunsets and slow growing brussel sprouts. I’m going to enter this garden slow - no need to skid off the road. I’m going to flip through my life and circle my favorite the colors. There are weeds to be pulled (fasting). There is cool water to drink (prayer). There is a harvest table to set (giving). But whatever waits, I'll look for it slowly. I'll let the Gardener take the lead. There is room on this garden bench; want to join me?
Rhythms of Lent
Click on the links below to create your own rhythms for Lent.
Both weeding and fasting create clear, open spaces for growth. What "weeds" might you pull to let in a little light?
All seeds need a little support. Light. Water. Air. Prayer is our nourishment; the place we meet God, our Gardener, to be tended.
RESOURCES FOR LENT
Podcasts. Songs. Words. These are a few of my favorite things for celebrating Lent in 2024.
FOR LENT 1966
It is my Lent to break my Lent,
To eat when I would fast,
To know when slender strength is spent,
Take shelter from the blast
When I would run with wind and rain,
To sleep when I would watch.
It is my Lent to smile at pain
But not ignore its touch.
It is my Lent to listen well
When I would be alone,
To talk when I would rather dwell
In silence, turn from none
Who call on me, to try to see
That what is truly meant
Is not my choice. If Christ’s I’d be
It’s thus I’ll keep my Lent.
Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
come to any conclusions?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?
I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.
Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.
LOOKING AT STARS
The God of curved space, the dry
God, is not going to help us, but the son
whose blood splattered
the hem of his mother's robe.