In the garden

This purpose of this page is to assist you in your journey to intimacy with the Father–or papa as I often call him. Follow our journey to intimacy is hopes of helping you in yours.

This page is an on-going work in progress; which means it will be updated often until it has reached its full potential.

As our journey progressed in this struggling little church, some serious decisions had to be made. It was no longer financially possible to maintain the costs involved with upkeep, utilities and necessary operating expenses. The move was a bold one but one that would serve as a means to an end—or so I thought. The decision was made to move our services into the parsonage while renting out the building to another group. The rental would take care of overhead costs while our own tithes and offerings could be used to build up the depleted treasury. Everything was moving along nicely. The close quarters in the parsonage allowed a closeness to develop within our group. It was during this time that the Holly Spirit began to show us some things regarding the way church had been done. We began experimenting with holding our meetings in different ways. It proved to be both fun and quite meaningful. During this time the parsonage was deemed unlivable because of mold that had been growing in the walls for years. This caused two traumatic things to happen. A place to live needed to be found for the family and the fellowship had to find someplace else to meet. A place to live opened up almost immediately; a move that began a separate journey for our family. We were able to move into the fellowship hall and continue to rent out the sanctuary. It was during this time that the idea of the garden took center stage. We decorated the fellowship hall to look like a lush floral garden. I imagined it to look like something out of the Old Testament book Song of Solomon. The purpose of the garden setting was to offer a visual of our daily walk with God. We sang the old hymn In the Garden as we began our time together. If was from this beginning that the idea of being intimate with God was introduced. This section deals with developing that intimacy. The articles will offer practical biblical encouragements for you to follow. You will also find some answers to some of the questions that we went through while groping our way into this seemingly new uncharted territory with God. Consider what I have called The three r’s; Righteous, Reverence, Relationship.

The foundation of the Christian life is a viable relationship with Christ. Consider this. Relationship is RElating with Christ in the SHIP of life! I know it sounds corny, but think about it. The art of communication is conveying thoughts, ideas and emotions with another in a way that they understand. This is what Christ desires to do with us, to communicate in such a way that we understand it. Now consider where is takes place, on a ship, a vessel with confined space that is designed to transport something from one location to another. This means that there is a beginning date as well as an ending date. It also means that there is limited space—unless of course you are thinking about a cruise ship—in which case you could go long periods of time without relating to anyone.

Relationships are built through time by spending time with someone else. The more time you spend together, the better you understand each other. You learn likes and dislikes. You recognize expressions and their various meanings. You begin to see—as it were—their heart, desires and wishes.

It is through this relating with them that you begin to revere (REVERENCE) or deeply respect them. You become willing to do—or not do—things because you understand how it affects them. This is not a manipulation designed to control you, but rather a deep longing borne out of admiration and respect.

The result of this interaction—this relating with someone—develops a reverence or deep respect for them. This is called being RIGHTEOUS. To be righteous simply means to be in right standing with. I state it this way because we can be righteous with many things—human and nonhuman alike. For example you can be in right standing with your work or your organization—be it church, group or club. You can be in right standing with a person, which means that you get along with them.

This takes on a far deeper meaning with your relationship with Christ.

I like the image that the garden setting generally invokes in someones mind. It is a peaceful relaxing place. It is free of worry or stress. I can recall coming home from a particularly difficult day, going into our garden and quietly pulling weeds and tending to the plants. Yes I did some work–or labor–but I could also feel the stress of the day melting away with each weed I pulled. Perhaps I imagined the weed my problem and pulling it up made me feel good! The point is the garden setting is one that allows relationship to take place. It is one that makes room for both cultivation as well as growth. It is a place that I hope you will find in your own world with equal satisfaction.

This reminds me of the movie Hook with the late Robin Williams who played an adult Peter Pan that was forced to return to Neverland to rescue his children from Captain Hook. Peter returning to his former childhood self could only accomplish this. The only way he could do this was by remembering his happy thought; which turned out to be the birth of his son.

 

There is much that could be said of this analogy. The bible tells us that we are to come to God as children. It is this child-like trust and willingness to believe that allows us to enter into the things the godhead has prepared for mankind. The garden experience is like Peter finding his happy thought. It is a place we go to—in the past that was a structure—in order to meet with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

As we began transitioning from our traditional church setting the garden idea was designed to be a physical place that we collectively gathered to meet with God. It was never intended to replace our traditional gathering; nor was it supposed to be a statement that we were rebelling from anything we had previously been a part of. It was a simple step in endeavoring to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I was not prepared for how this change brought about a change in the way we sang our songs, received our tithes and offerings or how I presented my messages. It was amazing to watch as our tiny group began to draw closer to the presence of the Lord. The depth of the presence of the Holy Spirit became a regular occurrence. The way my messages were delivered changed from exposition to interaction as together we discovered a truth from the scriptures.

 

As this relationship grew I found the garden to be a special place no matter where I was or what I was doing. I could be driving and experience the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. The kind that brings tears of sheer joy to your eyes and goose bumps running up and down your arms. I have experienced times when I was overwhelmed with a sense of “knowing” something as the Father whispered something into my spirit. Have you ever experienced that? It isn’t anything at all like having a thought hit your brain. It is rather a, “I know this,” that permeates your entire body. I have also experienced a thought that caused me to bust out laughing as my dear elder brother Jesus spoke something to my heart.

 

These are all experiences that I had in the traditional church setting, but never in my daily world; and yet here I am personally experiencing them. How can this be? I believe it is because of the on-going abiding relationship I am have developed with the godhead. This goes far beyond the reading my bible and praying for 30-minutes a day. It is being a friend of God. It is becoming like a child talking with his or her pretend friend—pretend only in the sense that my natural facilities do not see or hear him.

 

The garden experience is turning my relationship with the godhead (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) into an exciting daily journey. I believe it is the kind of journey Jesus experienced when we walked the land of Israel over 2,000 years ago.

 

It is the garden experience. It is an experience that everyone is meant to have.

It is said that author C. Austin Miles wrote In the Garden in a dark, dreary basement that had no window. This image of a garden was in his mind. There are elements of the words to the song that need to be understood in order to understand how this garden experience works. The opening line goes, “I come to the garden alone,” indicating that the garden experience is meant to be a close personal time. It isn’t a time to gather with a group of people to meet with God. It is supposed to be a personal time that you and the godhead are alone. This can be very scary due to the fact that you—in the natural setting—really are by yourself. You do not see this godhead as you separate yourself to spend time with him. You cannot rely on your primary sense of sight to affirm such a meeting. This is the beginning place of trust. I am meeting with a God that I cannot see, yet has asked me to meet with him. How do I know that I have met with him when I cannot see him? It is a very valid question; one that deserves more than a pat-answer. Allow me a story. During the summer of my Sophomore/Junior year at college, I had this longing to get closer to God as I understood him at that time. I would spend hours in my bedroom rocking in my rocking chair praying “God bring me close to you.” One day as I was in the midst of that ritual—my eyes were always closed—A strong presence filled my room. It was so massive that I felt there wasn’t room for me. The strange thing about it was the peace I felt along with a knowledge that everything was all right. I dared not open my eyes for fear that I would actually SEE God! He spoke to me, but I did not hear him with my natural ears. It was more a knowing that radiated throughout my entire being. We carried on a conversation; me speaking out loud. Needless to say, it was a life changing experience. There is more to the story, but the point to be made is the fact I KNEW the godhead was present. There was no wondering about it. There was no questioning because my eyes had not seen it. It is important to understand that such an encounter is the not the norm—at least not in my experience. But it did set the stage for walking with God. I knew his presence by the internal factors of sensing and feeling that went deeper than my physical capacity to sense and feel. All of this to say that such a meeting with the godhead is done alone.

The verse of the song continues, “While the dew is still on the roses.” Dew is typically found in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rises to warm the day. The scriptures tell us that Jesus wakened in the early hours of the morning to go to a secluded place to spend time with his father. I was a night owl growing up. My children have the same trait. I did my best work at night. I would be up all hours of the night writing something. It was just the way I was wired. After this encounter with the Lord, that began to change. It wasn’t easy, nor was I forced to do so, but I began to get up early to find a place to be alone with the godhead. Still to this day I struggle to get up early, but I willingly do so because I know the joy that comes with meeting my God in the garden. Please understand, this isn’t some mandate that in order to meet with God you must do so between the hours of 3:00 am and 5:00 am. I have many stories of encounters with the godhead at many different times of the day and night. The point is a regular time of meeting with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holly Spirit.