Fertile Soil

It’s hard to believe, looking out at lawns still buried under several feet of snow, but in a few weeks it will be time to return to the farm where I’m a seasonal worker. Even now the staff is working in the greenhouse, planting seeds that will have sprouted by the time I show up. This got me thinking about soil and wondering about my own garden underneath all that snow. Will our soil be fertile enough for this years’ crop of tomatoes? What can I do to cultivate the earth and give our seedlings a good start?

I looked up cultivate and it means “to promote or improve the growth of by labor and attention.” Many of Jesus’ parables about the kingdom have to do with growth, with something small that sprouts and grows and rises. But it takes attention and care, as he points out:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.  Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Mark 4:3-9

As with anything we plant, we need to be intentional about the seeds of our faith as well. Good teaching and spiritual reading helps, but if we’re isolated, we may get discouraged. A healthy community reminds us of who we are and of who God is. If we want deep roots, that happens over time, by repeatedly anchoring ourselves in Scripture, in prayer, in God’s presence. It helps to have a daily practice to reinforce spiritual growth. The weeds in our soul can be as subtle as an uncharitable thought that we allow to take hold, or a white lie we tell to avoid conflict. Uproot weeds as soon as you notice them, or the garden will soon be compromised. Lastly it’s good to cultivate the soil of our hearts to make it fertile. This is best done by inviting God to take over the farming and till the soil as he sees fit. He alone knows what needs to be added and where hardened places need to be broken up.

Today’s prayer practice: Praying scripture

Read over today’s scripture as you breathe deeply and invite his presence. When you feel still, meditate on the following. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him and he will do it. And he will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday.” Psalm 37:3-6. What kind of soil are you? How are you cultivating what God has given you? What needs attention?

Gracious God, I give you access to the soil of my heart. Use any tools you need to make it a fruitful life. Nourish the seeds you’ve planted and give them deep roots. Thank you for your loving care. Amen.

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