Church of England Diocese of Manchester Kirklees Valley

2) c) Gardens - Lent Reflections by Derek Akker - Week 3

There is Hope in Gardens

(The Many Shades of Green)

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1.11-12

I first became more aware and took notice of the many shades of green in my teens, through a prayer that had nothing to do, directly, with gardens. The prayer was by Michel Quoist, and titled the Green Blackboard.

The school is up to date. Proudly the principal tells of all the improvements. The finest discovery, Lord, is the green blackboard. The scientists have studied long, they have made experiments. We now know that green is the ideal colour, that it doesn't tire the eyes, that it is quieting and relaxing. It has occurred to me, Lord, that you didn't wait so long to paint the trees and meadows green. ..thank you, Lord, for being the good Father who gives his children the joy of discovering by themselves the treasures of his intelligence and love. But keep us from believing that - by ourselves- we have invented anything at all.

It was the words ‘It has occurred to me, Lord, that you didn't wait so long to paint the trees and meadows green’ that lodged in my mind, and I could not and still cannot shake them off. In my teens I lived in the Ribble Valley, with its rolling hills and parks, and a very small back garden that was filled with dahlias, with their strong green foliage that became the background to a blaze of colour. The great creator gave us a palette of many greens that are quieting and relaxing, and he is the ‘ good Father who gives his children the joy of discovering by themselves the treasures of his intelligence and love.

I gaze out of the window and in the garden the greenery is starting to take on a freshness and vigour despite my neglect and the winter frost. There are no nicely manicured boarders. I suppose it’s a bit of a mess if I’m honest, and I must do some tidying up. Yet my neglect has not diminished the number, variety and vibrance of the developing greenery. I gaze out of the window and my heart is warmed and my soul lifted from the mundane. There is the sense of seeing the divine artist at work; from the palette, the paint brush has created a canvas of vibrant greenery. I know the graciousness of the Lord; his love is in the scene that has opened in front of me.

I suppose, on the other hand, I could just look out of the window and think, I must do some tidying up, the garden is looking a blasted mess! Where do all these weeds come from?  Taking such a blinkered view slowly but surely constricts our imagination, it suffocates the breath of wonder that is there in creation. We can miss what is opening up in front of our eyes, and the opportunity to savour the divine presence in front of us. I am not suggesting that we walk around with our eyes closed, but I think what is true is that we are far less observant of our surroundings than we should be. We can take for granted the beauty that is in the simple.

Lent is a Penitential Season, a time when we can examine our behaviour. It can be a time for some regret and remorseful contrition. I do not mean sackcloth and ashes and beating ourselves up, but rather a time for a change in direction, of thoughtfulness. After all, repentance is about changing direction.

As a thoughtful time of Lenten Reflection, I invite you to pause and take notice of your garden, notice the greenery, marvel at the variety of greens, their shapes and sizes. Don’t rush, if the weather is suitable walk around, look closely at a single plant, then step back and notice the plants around it. Then perhaps go and have a cup of tea or coffee, and as you enjoy your refreshing drink think of what you have seen, what was new to you, what you may have missed, what surprised you. Then offer this prayer:

God of creation, we meet You here in colour and scent, texture and pattern, the humble perfection of all that grows.

Out of our restlessness we come, to still our minds and open our senses to beauty.

In your name we cherish the web of life, light and shadow, bee and butterfly, the shy birds that return when we leave.

Bless this land, bless this soil. Our hands, our tools be blessed, our toil and rest.

From seed to leaf, from flower to fruit, bless the garden, bless the growers.

(Daniel Rutland; Celtic Daily Prayer Book Two, The Northumberland Community)

Now a practical exercise! Create a small indoor garden in a planter, it could be a herb garden with three or five of your favourite herbs. Odd numbers of plants in the planter can aid the display. On the other hand it could be succulents or propagating some plants from your garden.

Each day stop and notice them, water them if required, but don’t over water. Stop to take stock, to have a moment of stillness and to have prayerful thoughts of family, friends and neighbours, and also for those who care for us spiritualty or physically. Give thanks to the Lord for his gracious love for us.

Every blessing, as you create your inside planter!  In the meantime gaze out of your window and let us take this moment to relax in the presence of our gracious Lord.

Stop to take stock, to have a moment of stillness and to have prayerful thoughts of family, friends and neighbours, and also for those who care for us spiritualty or physically. Give thanks to the Lord for his gracious love for us.

The Lord’s Prayer

A time for hoping and being still,

To go on turning away from brittle fear.

A time to come back with all of one’s heart

And bending to another’s call.

This is our journey through forests tall; (or the small contained greenery)

Our paths may differ; an yet among them all

Life’s dreams visions sustain us on our way,

as loving gives birth to joy, gives birth to joy. (Gregory Norbert, Weston Priory)

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For each perfect gift of thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of heaven,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For thy Church which evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

+ To God the Father, who created the world;

to God the Son, who redeemed the world;

to God the Holy Spirit, who sustains the world; be praise and glory, now and for ever. Amen (David Adam)