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Cultivating Faith: Lessons from a Garden Visit at Valor Ridge

On Friday, I had the privilege of visiting the garden at our neighborhood partner Men of Valor. The sun was burning through some early morning clouds. The birds were awake and singing loudly. As I walked up the path, I could smell earth and plants still damp from dew. I was greeted with a hearty “good morning!” and big smiles from Kyle Leech and his daughter Jacqueline who are a part of Cul2vate that manage the garden that sits atop Valor Ridge.

The garden is truly impressive. Not only does it provide volunteer opportunities for the men going through the programs at Men of Valor but it also provides fresh, nutritious food to the community through The Branch’s food pantry. Each week, Kyle, Jacqueline and their band of volunteers harvest tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, okra, melons, squash and more that get boxed up and delivered to The Branch to be included in the carts of food given to the families that need it.

As Kyle showed me each row of plants, so carefully tended to, I was reminded of the many hours I spent when I was little in the garden with my grandparents planting, watering, weeding, protecting each precious seedling from deer and rabbits and birds that threatened to undo all of our hard work. Hearing Kyle talk about the care they take to plant flowers that attract the right kinds of bugs to pollenate the plants so they can keep everything completely organic and the way that they carefully planned the layout of the garden to deter deer from entering overwhelmed me with the reminder that I need to take the same diligent, committed approach to my walk with Jesus.

I am reminded of the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4: 1-9 “Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The seed Jesus references is the Word of God. The soil is our heart. Are we planting the Word of God in fertile soil? Do we need to take the time to weed and water and prune our hearts? If we turn our hearts to Jesus he will make the garden of our heart flourish and bear fruit (or vegetables) just like the garden at Valor Ridge.

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