By Contributing Writer Stephanie Dawson (Cherry)
Those who have known me for a long time will know that in the past I really disliked gardening – although if you see my garden now you would not believe me!  (But don’t go rushing to look yet, as I am a fair-weather gardener and haven’t done much since the onset of winter!)  My mother can bear witness today because she has always enjoyed plants and flowers and would often give me flowers to say “hello” or “thanks” or “happy birthday”.  Unfortunately after only a few days they would die because I neglected them and failed even to give them the slightest drop of water! 
Just recently I have learned that we are all like gardens waiting to blossom in our season of life.  However before that can happen effectively the Gardener (our Creator God) has to water (or feed) us with His word and sometimes even prune – that is cut back or remove dead matter from our lives in order for us to grow.  (That which is dead and buried should be left behind as it is impossible to resuscitate a corpse!)
No more dead plants!  That was all in the past – now I really enjoy gardening and during the summer months spend a considerable length of time making my garden look presentable.  What really amazes me, though, is the things I find that has no problems growing without my TLC are the weeds!  They grow so quickly and everywhere – even in concrete!!! No matter how hard I try to stop them or how fast I pull them up the weeds just seem to keep on growing and spreading all over the lawn and flower beds.  I have even resorted to using all kinds of weed killers and potions to spray on the driveway as well as the offending sprouts themselves.  BUT STILL THEY GROW!
This reminds me of the parable of the sower and Mark 4 verse 19.  The seed sown is God’s word and if we allow it to fall on thorny ground the weeds, like the cares of this world, will choke us and prevent us from receiving God’s Word.  I have read that the Parrotfeather is an attractive water plant that looks like a forest of small fir trees growing on top of the water.  In springtime it produces a blanket of small, white flowers, which may look pleasing to the eye – but do not be fooled, it is a noxious weed.  It forms a dense mat of vegetation that covers the surface of lakes and ponds, crowding out native plants and destroying fish and wildlife that live there.  Just like sin in our lives, which also comes in lots of seemingly beautiful disguises but only helps to choke and poison our walk with God.  It occurs to me that, like the Parrotfeather weed, the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things entering in choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful as Jesus taught in Mark 4: 13-20.
Jesus was talking about how unbelievers receive the gospel but his words can apply to Christ Followers as well.  Sometimes when we read God’s Word, our minds are taken up with troubles, worries and fears.  The pressure of things to be done today and concerns about tomorrow’s decision are “weeds” that can choke the word and make it unprofitable.  How many times have you opened your bible to read or sat down to pray and other thoughts enter your mind to the point of total distraction? To control the weeds, we must ask God to quiet our hearts so we can pay attention to Him – In Psalm 46:10 it says – Be still and know that I am God …  We need to get down on our knees and prayerfully pull out the weeds growing in our lives. Our sprays and weed killers also come in the form of prayer and our manual on how to use this effectively is the BIBLE – which stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth!  We need to feed on God’s Word and grow with the living water of life that God provides.  When I went to Youth Camp as a young Christian my Bible was signed by the new friends I made and one of them wrote: This book will keep you from sin OR sin will keep you from this book!  Don’t let the weeds or sin keep you from this book of life.  In the same way I turned my attention to the beauty and satisfaction gardening brings and now enjoy being in the garden – when we turn our worries over to God we’ll be free to enjoy His presence and hear what He has to say to us.
 This poem seems to sum it up neatly –
The weeds will take over and choke out good fruit
But you can control them – just follow this plan
Make sure that the seed of God’s Word has deep root
And pull out the weeds just as soon as you can!
This is a wise plan to follow as the deeper the root is planted the harder it is to get rid of – so lets make a promise to plant God’s Word deeper than any weeds that can grow and choke our spiritual lives so that we can be the beautiful garden God created us to be!

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