One summer day I was running along a tree-lined residential street in Bloomington, Indiana. The rolling hills and quaint neighborhoods made for a physically challenging route illustrated with the details of tended yards and diverse people enjoying life. As I crossed a street I found myself on the edge of the expansive campus of Indiana University. It was there that I discovered a garden and collection of eight college students tending it. My curiosity and imagination got the best of me so I had to stop. My run had brought me to something more than a street corner --- I was at an intersection of faith and fitness.
Here I found fellow humans – fully engaged as caregivers. I’m pretty certain they didn’t share my Christian worldview. In fact from our conversation it became apparent they had very little understanding of the faith I hold dear. Yet, we shared an immediate bond through our passion for life. There is something about dirt under your fingernails, a sweat-soaked body, fresh air and a vision for something you can’t yet see that I believe intrinsically draws everyone to the organic nature - the very essence of God.
We talked about the healthy benefits of fresh produce and hard work (exercise). We celebrated the spiritually invigorating and refreshing experience of working together with others in a natural setting. We anticipated the fruit of labor that could be both personally enjoyed and shared with others. The smiles we shared confirmed we were in agreement in our social perspectives. In that moment God opened my eyes to a spiritual insight. We were bonding spiritually too. The “ah-hah” moment came next.
Churchgoers – those who are Christ-followers need to be challenged to consider such garden spaces as all-natural worship locations. A community garden is an ideal social biome for living out authentic faith. Particularly within community and academic settings there is a tremendous lack of Christian presence and influence. The call is not for Christians to "infiltrate with an agenda" but rather to participate with excellence. Sustainable collaborative gardening offers a fertile opportunity for Christians to live faithfully.
MAKE IT VIGOROUS EXERCISE
Gardening done vigorously is tremendous aerobic exercise. You’ll cultivate much more than dirt. The patience and endurance you gain will be reflected in a more flexible, lean and strong body. You will build muscle, confidence, perspective and the trust of others. For more about being active outside read BREATH IN THE ENERGY - SOAK UP THE LIGHT.
MAKE IT WORSHIP
Ok, sure you might sing some while weeding a row of corn. Gardening however can be a more thorough kind of worship. Every blister and every drop of sweat reflects the devotion and respect you have for God. Discover how demanding worship can be by engaging in the act of giving your all.
MAKE IT MIRACULOUS
There is something amazing about viewing the transformation of a seed into a food-bearing plant. It is the creative nature of God alive before our eyes. It is humbling to realize that there is a greater power at work beyond our own human ability.
MAKE IT FELLOWSHIP
This is about standing and working alongside others. It is about showing compassion and commitment. On a family, local and even global scale producing food is one of the most basic ways to share common interests, goals and experiences.
MAKE IT FUN AND TASTY
We are humans. Gardening needs to be fun if we want it to help us grow physically and spiritually. Good nutrition is important and a natural benefit from fresh garden foods. Yet, making it tasty with a flavorful recipe is a way you can personalize the food you grow. When you take the raw elements and make an amazing dish for others to enjoy you are doing ministry to others. For more about the benefit of fresh vegetables read TASTE THE RAINBOW.
Start a garden or find a garden. Then share the experience and produce with others. Commit to donating some of that fresh food to your local food bank. It will strengthen your faith and build your fitness.