One of the great things about living in South East London, is having a myriad of different grocery shops to chose from, all within walking distance.
On route to my most regular choice of shop, I have the pleasure of walking through a small public garden – a lovely hidden gem, nestled in the middle of concrete pavements and busy traffic. I also walk through a couple of quiet, residential roads, with some pretty front gardens, which seem to be particularly abundant with colour this year.
One of them, in particular, always catches my eye! Standing proudly at the entrance to the property, is this wheelbarrow:
a barrow-full of surprises
Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the blooms inside this quirky container bud and flourish into an eye-catching display. Who knew a battered old wheelbarrow could become a thing of beauty? God’s glory can show up in some surprising places!
It inspired me, to scribble down these words in my notebook this morning:
Your new life within me,
Like blooms in a barrow,
Beauty for ashes,
And joy for my sorrow.
The bible, from beginning to end, is a story of redemption – God delights in choosing the broken, the worthless, the foolish things of this world, in order to display His glory.
2 Corinthians 4:7 puts it this way:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
If you look closely at the wheelbarrow, you’d notice signs of its previous existence – the deeply ingrained scuffs and scratches, the splatters of cement or paint. It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t make it any less lovely. What once was filled with rubbish, weighed down by its heavy load, is now brimming over with joyful beauty and vibrant colour. What a picture of God’s gracious handiwork in our lives!
THE GREAT EXCHANGE
Our wonderful God is the great exchanger:
Beauty for ashes
the oil of joy for mourning
a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness
a robe of righteousness instead of filthy rags
glory instead of shame
perfect love instead of fear
The list just goes on and on. If you’re feeling worthless today, broken or weighed down with sin, then I have good news for you – you’re just the sort of person Jesus came to rescue! He doesn’t wait for you to ‘fix up’ before He adopts you into His family. The only thing you really need to be, is empty. Empty and willing to let a wise and loving Father transform your life into a testimony of redemption, all for His glory! Just like blooms in a barrow.
“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” – Isaiah 61:10-11
I’ve been praying and longing to see Revival in the UK for many years now. Perhaps you’ve been praying for your nation too? Or perhaps you’ve been praying for years to see someone come to faith. If so, I want to encourage you today!
One morning, a few years back, I was talking to one of my daughters about how committed I am to praying for revival in this land. Just before rushing out of the door to school, she looked at me, a little perplexed and said something along the lines of:
“Mum, this world is so awful. I’m not sure that one person can make that much difference…”
(But more of that story later!)
When I inherited the garden in our current home, it was literally two strips of weedy, unyielding earth. The soil was full of stones. The ‘garden’ had not plant nor flower, just hundreds of very deep rooted weeds.
The only thing it did have, was potential…it was a blank canvass really.
So, determined to have a garden, I began. Digging, weeding, removing stones. It was pain-staking, back-busting! I tried adding sand into the heavy clay soil in order to improve the claggy, ‘stick-to-your-boots’ consistency. I bought bags of rich compost and literally poured them into the beds, digging and turning the earth again and again, to try and provide a more habitable environment for plants and flowers. The groundwork took time.
But eventually the condition of the soil improved.
Then came the long job of buying and trying – going to garden nurseries and coming home with car boots full of perennials and shrubs. I remember placing the plants in the soil – and frankly, being a bit underwhelmed. These puny little plants would just look so insignificant, so small in all that earth! They didn’t make much impact. They certainly didn’t look like the garden magazines I had been browsing through!
Was all this hard work ever going to be worth it?
Fortunately for me, my mum’s garden is full of flowers! So much so, that she was able to give me clumps of Geranium and Sedum from her own beds. Every now and then she’d pop round with a tub full of Iris or Day Lilly – and we’d dot them around as fillers.
All of this activity went on for several years. Planting things. Trying things. Moving things. If I’ve learned one thing about gardening – it’s this: No pain, no gain.
But then suddenly…years down the line, you begin to see your garden taking shape. Suddenly, there’s colour and form. People start to notice: “Isn’t your garden looking lovely?” But best of all – younotice! One warm summer’s evening, you sit outside, sipping a mug of tea, realising that all your hard work is starting to pay off. And you smile…because somehow, the fact that it took time, years even, makes it all the more rewarding. I tended this garden! I kept going year after year, even though – to start off with – nothing much seemed to change.
Looking back, all those years that I’ve spent tending my garden, have run parallel to the years that I’ve spent praying for this Nation. Isn’t God great? Don’t you just love the way He weaves the natural and the supernatural together to teach us things? What a prophetic picture lies within all of this toil!
Because the thing is…whatever you sow into a garden, you’ll eventually reap.
Put in a Climbing Rose and come July, you’ll have Climbing Roses! Plant a pot full of Daffodil and Tulip bulbs in September, and POP – there’s your first bit of early spring cheer! Fill your low wall with Geraniums, and hey presto – Geraniums it is!
Today I want to remind you of the wonderful principle that God has set in motion. Sowing and reaping.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him!” – Psalm 126:5-6
I know that if you’ve sown seeds of prayer for your nation, or your loved one’s salvation – perhaps tears at times – then no matter how long, no matter how many years it takes, some day, one day…you will see your reward.
If you’ve been praying – particularly for revival or salvation – and you’re on the verge of giving up…please don’t! One fine day, when you least expect it, you’ll turn around and your garden will be filled with beautiful blooms! And what a wondrous reward it will be – the fruit of all your labours!
Can I tell you the rest of the story about my daughter? A few days later she came downstairs in the morning and said: “Oh by the way mum, I had a dream about you last night….”
“Go on,” I said, intrigued.
“You were trying to start a fire by rubbing sticks together,” she said. “At first nothing was happening. But you didn’t give up. Then all of a sudden, there was a spark, and then the whole thing just burst into flame!”
My mouth was almost agog as she added:
“And I think it’s to do with you praying!”
So today, here’s God’s message to you (and me): Keep going! Don’t you dare give up!