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Redmond, WA 98052
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  Monday, December 18, 2017


Yard Work and Its Spiritual Implications

March/April 2003

Imagine a wood chip path meandering around the boundaries of our property with the Stations of the Cross. A self-guided meditation we could walk at any time. Perhaps we’d even see it before Good Friday this year with God’s help and yours. Imagine Good Friday, walking the stations lit with luminaria, umbrellas and devotionals in hand. . .

Lest you think I’m coming across as holier than you, let me just say that today I finally took down my Christmas wreath and outdoor lights. Around the church I’ve been feverishly pruning and scheming about the yard around the office. It started out with the rhododendron that threatened to goose me as I entered the office. Pruning saw and loppers in hand I set to work on it, removing about half of the plant. Then I moved on to all the rhodies around the office, which got me to thinking about the boundaries of the property. I looked out and saw the rotting ancient shed, the 20-foot blackberry canes, the soaring scotch broom, the compost pile. Thinking about the company that’s coming at Easter, I saw it was time for some radical spring yard work. It was then the spiritual implications emerged, actually several unintended and good consequences.

Sin Revealed

The first unintended consequence came from the mess of scotch broom and blackberry briars along 116th street. When I mentioned my intention to clear that tangle of “Class B Noxious Weeds,” my reasons were: a) to comply with the Washington State weed ordinances, b) to comply with the social contract of the neighborhood, c) to make the front yard something attractive to look at. But it was pointed out that if we cut this stuff down then everyone could see that we were parking illegally on Sunday morning! Our sins of commission would lie exposed for judgment. This is the conundrum of sin. Before I can be forgiven, I must confess it, and loose face. If I choose not to confess it I must live in guilt and accommodate my sin. Think John 1, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Friends we can never clear our record with God until we confess our sins. As for our parking issue, lets not deceive ourselves; it is clear that we need more official parking right now.

The Gradual Decay of Sin

“How did all this stuff get here?” I asked around. Seems the broom and blackberries just gradually grew on the fallow land after a construction project cleared the ground. I looked around the property . . . rotting shed in the back, junk (too good to throw away, might use that someday), overgrown weeds! The cumulative effect overwhelmed me. I went up to the shed and gave it a shove. It tottered. I quickly stepped out from under it. At staff meeting we discussed the men’s group taking it down. Another at the table asked, “If it’s that dangerous, why don’t we go push it down right now?” So we tied a rope to it and it fell like nothing. The spiritual implication of unconfessed/undealt with sin came clear. Over time, it’s not just a matter of emotional guilt or losing face, it’s a matter of soul and body health. The bitterness of unforgiveness to us and others is like a cancer that we must have out! When we ignore our sins, they decay within us.

Beauty Revealed

The third unintended consequence came from the rhododendron project. You see the 30-year-old rhodies around the office have these beautifully gnarled serpentine trunks unseen beneath the ball of foliage. After a visit from my pruning saw there emerged the form of a giant-sized bonsai tree. You could now see through the plant, see the strong architecture of the trunks, see a new balance and scale, see the ground beneath, and the little daffodils in bloom there. Whereas we often think of three weeks worth of flowers when thinking about rhododendrons, here was exposed a more enduring and subtle beauty. I thought about Jesus saying, “Every vine that bears fruit He prunes.” Few of us like the thought of God taking after us with his spiritual pruning shears, but if we would let him prune us, not only would we be more fruitful, I propose that a beauty might be revealed. Sin and the struggles of life tend to gnarl us, but God’s redemptive purpose can reveal our beauty if we let Him.

Taking the Promised Land

After almost a year at Holy Cross, it is apparent to me that almost all of our church activities take place on the original property, the church and school buildings. We’re utilizing the office, now called “Ministry Center” more and more, and we park (illegally) at times on the “play field.” But who has beat the bounds of the property? The dedicated workers of “The Friends of the Garden” have been back there, and the sexton braves the brambles to mow the grass, but we don’t use the new property because it is covered with weeds. Yet we imagine a day when we will drive up 116th and see a new Holy Cross across the 4.8 acres. I submit to you, Dear Saints, that we will not be able to conceive of utilizing this land until we beat the bounds in prayer. Israel was told to take the Promised Land, all the way down to the sea. They took the semiarid interior with the Jordan river. It was pretty good land, a little hilly and barren in places, and it served them well. But they never took the sweeping lowlands fat with wheat fields, well-watered and with access to the sea. This was God’s vision for them, but they were satisfied for the modest acquisition of the interior. And besides those Philistines were more bother than they were worth.

I am unsure whose intellectual property this is, but on the phone with parishioners in recent days, the big yard cleanup emerged. Some heavy machinery, a forty yard dumpster, some strong backs, some vision, some courage to face our parking issues, and it’s all coming together. But the question remained, “How will we get people to Beat the Bounds of our property in Prayer?” Jesus said, drive one demon out of a house and do nothing and seven more will take his place. So here we are about to clean out the weeds, the junk and the shed. But what will take their place? What will draw us out to take this promised 4.8 acres God has given us?

—Jim

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