Heavenly Bodyguards

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 
Psalm 91:11 KJV

In the early 1980’s I spent a couple of Summers as part of the tree crew on the Estate of Brooke Astor. Now, I wasn’t assigned the job of working there for my great talents as an arborist, but because the other guys hated working at Holly Hill (By switching a couple of letters, they had another name for the place). I discovered that remaining on the job at the Astor Estate called for a certain level of patience with the fussiness of the head grounds keeper, a quirky Scotsman who ruled his large crew like a horticultural dictator. But I loved working there because of the guests, such as the Friday we were asked to manicure the gardens with extra care, and on Monday morning finding out that President Reagan and his wife Nancy had popped in for the weekend! Another day, the special visitor was Pérez de Cuéllar, who at the time was serving as the Secretary General of the United Nations. I have no idea what he and Mrs. Astor talked about that day, but their conversations led them down the garden path that meandered between the giant hollies, that her property was famous for. And coming right behind Señor de Cuéllar and Mrs. Astor as they ambled down the path were two hugely muscular bodyguards with machine guns strapped over the backs!

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After forty years, the image of those big guards watching out for their small and vulnerable charges still sticks in my mind and reminds me of the guards that God has set over us. The angels that the Bible says God has given charge over us, are definitely not the winged effeminate types depicted in some of the old paintings. These angels are big, they are powerful and when provoked have been known to wipe out entire armies which threaten their people. And today, when the news seems bent on bringing new things to be terrified about, it is more important than ever to trust that God is still in control. He hasn’t gone on break, left for vacation or decided to let us fend for ourselves. If we simply commit our way to Him, He has promised to not only direct our steps, but to assign heavenly bodyguards to watch us and to keep us as we walk down whatever garden path lies ahead for you today!

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No Death Was Not My Plan!

“No death was not my plan” God said 
When Adam chose the names for beasts
When I in secret fashioned Eve
While He lay fast asleep

Now when Spring seems far away
And under snow the garden sleeps
Remember that in frozen ground
The Tulip’s promise keeps

For as the last frost leaves the earth
The flower finds its way
And just as Jesus rose from death
It breaks through to sunny day!

No Death Was Not My Plan!
by Peter Caligiuri copyright © 2022
All rights reserved

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 ESV

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The Gardener’s Calendar

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. John 15:1

Over my life, I have worked many jobs: tree climber, pastor, teacher and gardener, to name a few. Though I have spent more time on my knees pulling weeds, than in prayer, it is amazing the lessons that God has taught me there. You see, when people think of gardening, they tend to gravitate towards the more glamorous tasks, like planting and picking. And while those jobs, certainly are in the job description, these are not the only tasks involved between Spring and the Fall harvest. Since, we who are believers are God’s gardening projects, it is important to pay attention to all the jobs that our gardener has marked in His calendar!

First, there is pest control. Jesus warned that those who heard His teaching but did not allow it into their hearts would have the birds of the air come and eat it right off the top of the soil before it could grow. Some of the pests in our lives might look like – the football game that we are thinking about while pastor is finishing his sermon. Or it might be the phone call that we never return that is asking for us to help out a friend who is moving next week. “My back felt sore the last time I did that.” we think. “Why doesn’t someone else step in this time?” Whether your solution is a scarecrow or a dog who chases off the groundhogs, we need to find a way to guard God’s seed from the pests that come to steal and destroy our fruitfulness.

Next, no garden makes it through the heat of summer without irrigation. (Unless you are growing rice in a swamp). The Apostle Paul tells us, that His job had been to plant, but Apollos watered the church. If you don’t think watering is important then ask the farmer who is helplessly looking out at his field of parched corn, with no rain in the forecast. But God will send showers of His mercy. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that God sends that rain on both the just and the unjust – and I have often been the unjust and much in need of His grace. How wonderful a Savior we have, who helps us with his merciful rain, when we need it most and deserve it least.

Then, comes God’s weeding. Isn’t it amazing how weeds grow? Even during droughts, in spite of weed barriers or even spray – they find a way to survive, and, in the process, they will strangle the tomatoes, beans or okra, that we are trying to grow. In ancient Israel, farmers didn’t get on their knees to rid a field of weeds. Instead, they simply took a torch and burned it, then reploughed and planted again. Ouch! I have had a few fires in my life. Usually, it has been after God has dealt with me and given me second and third chances about selfish choices and I have not listened. Then, in one way or another He sends a painful yet redeeming discipline. It is not God’s desire to hurt us, but He sends a firestorm to burn to the ground all that stuff we insisted we had to have, so that we would meekly accept his breaking up our fallow ground and replanting good seed in our hearts.

I have often been like a gardener in a hurry. We used to read books to our boys about a Frog and his friend Mr. Toad. In one of those stories, Frog planted a garden and the next morning he rushed out to see if it grew. Of course, there was nothing happening yet. So then, Frog watered it, sang to it and watched it closely, but still nothing. Only after a few days, when he had all but given up, was Frog amazed to wake one morning to see the new plants grow. It is the same with the harvest that we are longing for in our lives. It doesn’t happen in Spring and for some crops (think pumpkins) it doesn’t even happen in Summer. We all must patiently accept the appointed tasks that God has marked for us in His garden calendar. We have to learn His lessons about sowing with tears, pest control watering and weeding before we can come rejoicing carrying home the sheaves with the gardener of our hearts!