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I am the gardener at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. I have been a gardener most of my life. It started when I was five years old and my kindergarten teacher gave me and my classmates a Styrofoam cup with dirt in it. Then she gave us each a pumpkin seed which we planted in the dirt. Five months later I had four large pumpkins growing in the front yard of our little house in Denver and ever since then I have been a garden lover.

The Bible talks a lot about gardens and plants, from the first couple of chapters of the Bible to the last couple of chapters of the Bible. I especially like the first garden story found in the Bible in Genesis 2:8,9 –

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I read an article in the magazine Christianity Today a few years ago that has always stuck with me. The article was about making gardens in prison. It was also about Nelson Mandela. Most people know that he led protests denouncing the abuses of white power against the oppressed black people of South Africa, and because of that he was put in prison for 27 years. He was finally let out of prison and a few years later became the president of South Africa. What a lot of people don’t know is that while he was in prison he planted a garden. It brought him some measure of hope and peace and what he felt like was a little bit of freedom and strength. The article is about both about Mandela and about the verses above:

Early rabbinical scholars saw in these verses everything that is necessary for shalom or what some people call comprehensive flourishing. First, they saw order. The garden was not random or accidental; God planted it. It had purpose and intent. This is what differentiates a garden from an verdant jungle–there is a gardener orchestrating it. Second, they noted that the beauty of the trees is listed in the verse ahead of their usefulness. Beauty is necessary for human flourishing. We crave it in our spirits as it draws us toward the beauty of God. Finally, the garden contained every tree that was good for food. There was an abundance of resources to meet every physical need.

Order, beauty, and abundance—these are what we need to flourish. And yet these are not the qualities we often experience in our fallen world. Instead we face an uncrossable sea between the world we desire and the one we occupy. We can see in our imaginations the world as it should be—the future New Jerusalem, the garden city of God—but it does not match the barren wilderness we experience in the present. Between today and tomorrow lie the cold waters of reality.

How do we cross the gap between our vision and our reality? We plant gardens. We work to cultivate a small piece of the wilderness of this world so that it reflects what we know the world ought to be. When we do this successfully, it brings hope—a small taste of freedom, as Mandela discovered.

I think one reason God made the Garden Of Eden was to be an example to us of what he wants our lives and our world to be like. I think he wants each of our lives to be little gardens of Eden, full of order, beauty and abundance that will impact our dark, broken world. Our lives can be changed from chaos, ugliness and lack, to order, beauty and abundance if we choose to follow him, cooperate with him, love and trust him. It takes time, patience and endurance, but it can happen by the grace of God. And the world can be a happier place.



God puts the Happy in the Happy New Year and crowns our lives

with ABUNDANCE when we abundantly worship him.

Why Am I Here?

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