Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Four seasons

As I was drinking today, I read an article on what to look out for in the garden this autumn.  What struck me were the words ‘it’s not all death and decay’ and I became distinctly aware that each season has a purpose.

  • Autumn is when plants that thrived in the summer, begin to decay, the rotting flesh is consumed by bugs and detrivores and the nutrients returned to the soil. Other plants are pruned to endure the winter and be ready for spring growth.
  • Winter is a resting period where little grows but where ground work and fertilizing prepares for planting in the spring
  • Spring is a time of planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning and new growth.  Bed rotations and other plans are enacted in this period
  • Summer is a time for watering, feeding and enjoying the fruits of labours undertaken throughout the year. It’s an attractive time.

It struck me that each season was essential to the health of the garden, and in the same way, the same seasons may be helpful for us.

  • There is a time for preparation and rest (winter)
  • There is a time for pruning and fertilizing (spring)
  • There is a time for enjoying the growth and warmth (summer)
  • There is a time for sowing into others and training new growth (Autumn)

Keener gardeners than I, or people that have experienced many more seasons than I may find this news all too familiar, and as I write this down it seems all so simple and totally knowable that I’m sure this is no great revelation to anyone…  but as I was thinking about it, I felt that we often attempt to skip seasons.   In the garden the seasons come and go, and there is nothing that the garden itself can do to affect the season. But the gardener can attempt to grow out of season by artificially creating an environment (like a greenhouse) to cocoon a part of the garden and initiate a warmer season (say) than it really is and promote growth before its normal growing time.  In the same way we expect when we shop that foods that are out of season for the UK are still available to us because the shop can bring them in from other countries…    But I noticed something in the garden this year….

For three years we’ve attempted to grow tomatoes.  We’ve tried them in summer in the raised beds, we’ve tried them in grow bags, we’ve tried them in the conservatory.. each year they have really not come to much.   This year I noticed something in the ‘fallow’ bed (we leave at least one bed fallow each year for it to rest)  there was one solitary tomato plant that grew of it’s own (left over no doubt from either the  compost or from a previous year plant). I left it to itself expecting it to die off like all the others have.  But this little plant, battered by the rain, the wind and left untended by me, actually grew to be a totally self supporting plant (no stakes) and has produced some lovely fruity tomatoes. 

What I’m fumbling around attempting to say is that we need the different seasons. And attempting to short cut them by leaving out the winter season (say) where we ‘seem’ unproductive or where nothing is growing, or a pruning season where we tidy up weeds or train growth or tie off decaying ends etc, may leave us distinctly worse off, and may produce weaker growth (and perhaps damaged growth) instead of hardy, resilient, fruit producing growth. 

In our modern 24/7 always on world, it’s too easy to stay up past natural bed times, cram activities that are too strenuous into timeframes that don’t allow recuperation for exertion, race around at full pelt ‘doing things’ and expecting to operate at the same intensity all the time.  But, like the yearly seasons, there are times in the day when we have to act differently.  Rest is as important as do, and needn’t be a passive activity.  Just like soaking a pan before washing or fertilizing ground before the spring you can’t see anything happen until you then do the activity that follows, where it is then generally easier to clean or grow respectively.  In the same way, if we do not rest sufficiently, if we do not prepare, if we do not prune, if we do not learn, if we do not sow into others we will continue to burn each other out, and may replicate damaged growth in others..   It is rare that we will go through the day without eating by choice or because we are too busy, but it is quite possible for us to go through the day without feeding on God’s word.  It is also rare that we will go through a day without speaking to someone else, yet it is quite possible that we will choose not to speak anything to the Lord. Though Christ is our head gardener, we are responsible for our own nourishment and weeds.  We need to tend the garden of our lives responsibly to enable us to grow. There are seasons where we might need to do more of one thing than another (even if that one thing is rest), but all must be done to make the garden healthy…

Things to ask yourself

  • What season are you in right now?  How do you know?
  • When was the last time you chose to rest?
  • Do you regularly fertilize yourself by reading, meditating or discussing godly wisdom?
  • Are there things in your schedule that you have become a slave to that may be unhelpful in maintaining your life garden? (such as overspending, eating out, gossiping (spreading weeds), always saying yes to things?)
  • When you last examined the fruit of your activity were you really satisfied with the result? – What actions produced the good/poor result?

Monday, 20 September 2010


“Constant change is here to stay”

I’m hearing the word transition a lot recently.  The Newfrontiers leadership conference used the word a lot as shorthand for Terry Virgo releasing new apostolic spheres (new people who will take responsibility for regions) and there’s transition in RCC in how we conduct our meetings, the shape of the leadership team, and our band structures. At work I’m transitioning from a hands on IT dude to a project manager, at home Francine is transitioning from stay-at-home mom to full time student,  So it seems it’s all change, everywhere… or is it?

Most big things, with the exception of redundancy or long term sickness, happen pretty much in our control. We determine where we live (or the spending habits which force us to be evicted) or where we work, who our friends are or what we do with our time. Where we shop, what we eat, what we wear and our mode of transportation.  We don’t live in perpetual fear, We don’t need to be restricted by draconian law, you can say pretty much what you like, and you are not barred from entry into any area of the country, except some places for your own safety or national security.  What I’m getting at is that what happens from the start to the end of your days is pretty much under your control and is a consequence most often of your direct choices.  Some consequences are immediate, and are over in an instance, some take longer to mature and can affect much of your life. But very little is thrust on you, or requires you to be deal with unexpected things, and even if you do, most of your life still remains constant whilst other things are changing.

Captain Janeway on the star ship ‘Voyager’  could have got home much faster than the 7 series it eventually took to get back to federation space and she certainly didn’t have to stop to interact with so many other people… but it would have been a pretty dull show if she didn’t. In the same way, our lives would be pretty dull if we kept ourselves out of contact with others and focussed our energies only on the destination.


Sometimes transitions feel unsettling, destabilising as we move from something known to something unknown but it’s rare that something happens that is so radically different that nothing is familiar. Sure a cataclysmic event may occur that wipes out your family, friends, house, job and way of life, but such changes are thankfully rare, and certainly very little you can do to prepare for them or prevent them by worrying. So discounting that, most other changes are going to be a move left here, or a step right there, someone entering your life or someone leaving it. New locations to explore or new jobs to get your teeth into, pretty much the rest of your life carries on around it.

So how do we deal with constant transition?

  1. Do not worry:  Take a look at this link, far better than a pithy paragraph from me on it.
  2. Look for the people: We will bump into people on our journey. Thank God for them, spend time with them, Love them. (see Voyager above)
  3. See stability, not instability:  When things change it’s too easy to think you’re all at sea, but instead of looking at what is unstable. Focus on what is still stable. It’s too easy to let something that is changing dominate all your thoughts, but Paul encourages us to set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.
  4. Enjoy the Journey: Don’t be in such a hurry to see Glory at your death, that you miss the Glory of the risen Christ in your life. See the beauty of his creation and marvel at His plans for you. 
  5. Depend on the Unchanging Christ: Jesus is the same, Yesterday, Today and Forever.

“Transition is not so much a ‘temporary’ but a ‘constant’ word. We have not yet arrived at our terminus, we are no longer at our start point, we are somewhere in between the start and the end.” 

…. But change is here to stay.