our theology of dirt (good soil)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. – Rev 22:1-2

with one of new Japanese Maples
with one of new Japanese Maples

When we moved to North Carolina (August 2013) part of me was tempted to find a townhouse, where gardening was restricted to a patio, or a courtyard with all the plants contained in pots. But we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it and – especially on spring days as perfect as yesterday – I’m very glad to be here in our quiet cul-de-sac, re-learning how to garden after three decades in sub-tropical Florida.

DIRT: “Playing in the dirt” is pretty-much Rebekah’s favorite thing to do when she’s not working. And this year, after a lot of watching while the seasons have rolled around, we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of where we’re going, out in the garden, and what things are potentially going to look like five years down the road.

IMG_9562That’s why yesterday involved a lot of digging. Rebekah had an SUV-full of plants, and fertilizer, and good soil, and it was my task to carry stuff, to dig holes where instructed, to remove some unwanted vegetation, and to construct a small terrace for one of the new Japanese Maples.

We’re especially excited about the maples. We brought home four, to anchor various aspects of the landscape, and I can’t wait to see how they grow over the next few years. We resisted the temptation to haul in mature specimens – partly because of the dust-up we had with April 15 this year, and mostly because the way that we garden is more like the way we invest ourselves in our relationship to God, and to the community of faith.

THE LONG VIEW: In other words, we’re in this for the long haul; and over the long haul real growth is about nurture, and time, and patience, and belief, and pruning, and struggle, and roots growing beneath the surface before you get to see the branches and the leaves and the fruit and the shade, where you can park a nice bench and relax, and enjoy the view…

IMG_9560We had neighbors, once, who imported an instant “mature” garden for a special occasion. Flatbed trucks hauled in 20-foot trees with thick trunks; new sod was rolled out over old; flowering shrubs were dropped into neat holes; a crew of 15 mulched and trimmed and rolled and sprayed. My neighbor went to work in the morning and came back to see something that planting, and pruning, and time, and nurture, and seasons, and love, and re-imagining, and patience (and much more) would have taken a good ten years or more to accomplish.

The same time the next year his instant garden didn’t look so good.

Maple in side yard
Maple in side yard

Like I said, Rebekah and I tend to get gardening, and church, and theology, and faith, and watering, and patience, and relationships, and love, all mixed up in our heads and our hearts sometimes.

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:8-9

But we did not hide; nor will we – DEREK


  1. Thanks for sharing brother. The dirt often reminds me of my own frailty and finitude. From the dust we were created, and to the dust we shall return. But praise God that He gave us His Spirit so we are able to live eternally with Him in heaven. We are only strong in the Lord.


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