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In the Garden here’s where I’m at – with the garden. Since we’ve moved into our house, now on 4 years, we’ve had only one “successful” year of production and produce. And I put successful in quotations because the production that year was nothing to get excited about.

Before the growing season last year we even had a good friend come out, take soil samples and give them to the University extension office, had it analyzed, we added the recommended potash and other nutrients, and yet - last Fall was the least successful year of all. Now I’m no master gardener but I can usually raise tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions, and such. Last Fall we got a combined total of 6 tomatoes from the dozen+ tomato plants we plant- ed. Basically, same results for all other vegetable types planted. Bummer. (Or as my father used to say, “Sandcrabs!”)

Now....the Pastor’s Corner

The advice from the extension office then was, “It’s your soil”. So...I’m removing the top 12 inches of the soil in our garden - (While the garden isn’t huge – it’s not small and its all raised beds.) – shoveling it out a wheelbarrow full at a time. And having it replaced with new topsoil. – a wheelbarrow full at a time. All this to say, “This is a pretty big project and a lot of work.” Now, in the larger scheme of things, I am whining a bit, but it got me to thinking about how we attend to the harder tasks, and tougher journeys we find ourselves doing in our lives. There are times in our lives when we might have to “Start Over”. There are times in our lives when we need to “Move On”. There are times in our lives when we must “Get Through It”. These can be tough, emotionally hard and spiritually intimidating times. How are we to do these things and make our way? I think on the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus is looking into the eyes of his closest companions, who he knows are anxious and unsure and says these words to them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, “I will not leave you orphaned”, “My peace I give to you”.

What reassuring words from a loving and faithful Savior! Let’s look at each of these phrases. First, Jesus asks us to not let the hard times and difficult tasks shake our faith in Him and in our God. When we are intimidated by the mo- ment or feel overwhelmed by the times, Jesus reassures us that it need not defeat us. In a way Jesus says, “Remember who I have been for you in the past and who I Am as your Savior. Take hold of the faithfulness I have shown you daily, minute by minute, for each moment of your life.” We need not be coward by circumstances and situations. We have a Risen Savior, a Lord who has Overcome! Again, don’t let this shake who you know Jesus to be and stand firm in the truth of God’s faithfulness.

What an amazing Lord we serve who refuses to abandon us! Jesus, here in the upper room story of the gospel of John, steadies the hearts of his followers by telling them they will not be abandoned; “I will not leave you or- phaned.” In the times of worry, confusion, and chaos – Jesus declares that he will never leave us. We have a Mas- ter, we have a Divine Loving Parent who gathers us in arms of compassion, strength, and nurture! We are not alone in a world of strife, violence, hate, and greed. Our God is never overcome and is ever-present!

Finally, Jesus tells his friends, “My peace I give to you.” When we feel the task, “Too big” or the times “Too over- whelming” or too whatever, Jesus gifts his peace with us. In the midst of the storm, we can know real peace, a true sense and presence of shalom, a steadying divine presence, an inner spiritual calm. Not one we must conjure up ourselves, but a gifted peace granted by a loving Christ! As if Jesus says, “Focus on Me”. In the midst of the storm, as the disciples see Jesus walking to them over the waves, Jesus invites Peter to walk out to him and is - at first – successful! It’s when he loses his focus on Christ that he begins to sink. In the midst of hard times in our lives we are gifted this peace. Jesus’ peace. We need to hold our focus on Christ and be filled with this peace that “passes all understanding”. It is a gift and resource from a God who loves you and a Christ who redeems you.

May you know the joy of God’s grace, the steadying presence of the Holy Spirit, and the power of the Holy Spirit no matter the task or times!

Be God’s, Pastor Jim

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