Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Review: 2014 in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden

As has been done in previous years, this is a review of 2014 for the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. From my perspective on a wintery morning in December, this is also my last review.

"The flowers danced
To the beat of the wind,
Sometimes gently,
But no one knew.

The woodland birds sang
As the woodpecker knocked,
And the Canada geese glided,
But no one knew.

The sun moved slowly
Replacing the morning dew,
And the rainbows called,
But no one knew.

The Lord waited patiently
Hoping to see,
A woman praying,
Or a man on his knee.

Then one came to visit,
She heard it was nice,
But she did not stay,
Something not quite right.

A chipmunk scampered
About here to there,
No one to bother it,
No one seemed to care.

The gardener stopped by,
To tend to the plants,
Admiring something new,
God's creation at best.

The peace of the garden,
As few only would know,
Would be seen with the cross,
Yet our Lord does know.

Goodbye to my friend,
To a special place,
Where you my Jesus,
Met my heart and we danced.

I toiled and toiled,
For what, I do not know,
Except the hope that more
Would stop by to pray."
Thomas B. Clarke, December 11, 2014

There have been some people that have used this garden for prayer, but they have been few in number. Despite the size and the beauty of this garden, it is hardly known and seldom used.

In September of this year, my wife and I decided to start looking at other churches. We now feel comfortable at a new church plant in Auburn. Therefore, 2014 is the last year I (Tom Clarke) will be maintaining the Gethsemane Prayer Garden. I am now retired from this prayer garden.

For several years, I had been asking for water and electricity to be extended from the building to the prayer garden. Praise God, this was accomplished prior to our decision to leave – I did not want the next generation of caretakers to have to lug those heavy hoses across the parking lot. The conduit for electricity into the garden has also been installed – if money becomes available for lighting, then the conduit is in place.

What will happen to this garden? Good question and one that I don't have an answer to. The church has decided to use a volunteer staff to maintain the garden under the direction of one key volunteer individual.

The effort to maintain this one-acre garden is fairly labor intensive. So how does a group of volunteers maintain this garden's tranquility? My recommendation is to plant large amounts of ground cover, possibly myrtle, in the mulch beds. If planted bare root in April, these ground covers typically take 3-4 years to become fully established. The advantage is that the mulch would not need to be refreshed every two years, weeding would be dramatically reduced, flower maintenance would be restricted to those few flowers that remain, and the tranquility of the garden would largely remain.

Some have asked what will happen to the flowers, shrubs and trees that have been dedicated to others. Again, that is up to Faith Chapel. I know, for there is a large tree in memory of my dad, a shrub as a prayer reminder for my older daughter, and seven flowers as a prayer reminder for my other daughter. There also is:
  • a tree dedicated to the church's founding pastor,
  • another tree in remembrance of one of the elders,
  • a third tree to remember the husband and son of a distinguished church member, and
  • a pair of trees to remember a set of twins that passed shortly after they were born.
In addition,
  • a flower bed was prepared in memory of a son,
  • the rose bed was inspired by the passing of a man's wife,
  • a rose planted for a deceased mother,
  • some benches purchased to honor loved ones, and
  • the metal trellis to show respect to a man's mother.
The stone altar, as has been previously published, was placed there by many church members as a remembrance of what the Lord did in helping build the initial church building.

Through this garden, God has revealed a deeper understanding of love to me. That is my most important memory, and it is documented in my book A Garden of Love. As a Christian author, I now will have much more time to write and I am encouraged by the thought of doing so. My hope is to devote the time spent in this garden to writing/publishing.

More importantly than my writing is the increasing care that I am giving to my wife. Nancy's legs are weak and she is having a difficult time standing. She can still drive but she has limited strength and stamina. I no longer can spend long hours in that garden. I would appreciate your prayers for her health.

Thank you, Faith Chapel, for allowing me to develop and maintain this prayer garden. It was truly an honor that you would allow me to express this hope and peace for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Becky Lynn Daylily: A Sequel

Yes, God does answer our prayers. On July 21, 2013, I posted a blog article entitled Becky Lynn Daylily: A Picture of God's Restorative Process. I wrote:
This is a true story, a story of hope and a story of how our loving God restores what the devil has taken. It is a story about my two adult daughters that have been estranged from me for far too long. It is a story about love.

God does answer our prayers, and does so suddenly:

The little one that I am holding is my two-month-old grandson Luke Joel.

My wife and I had a wonderful meal at Becky's house with her husband – all was well, as if there had been no time of separation between us. Praise the Lord!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

In Review: 2013 in the Gethsemane Prayer Garden

With nearly a foot of snow on the ground, I realize that gardening may be one of the last things on your mind. I developed a year-end summary for 2011 and 2012, so why stop now?

We did several things that were not on our list for 2013, and we made some progress on the two things that were on our list:

What We Did
2013 began with our neighbors, the Delaneys, clearing a large amount of plant debris on the south side of the garden. Some of the dead tree trunks were 42-inches in diameter and 5-feet long. The pile of debris was 140-feet long and 20-feet wide, so having its removal was a tremendous God-send. See my blog article entitled Delaney Farms: Thank You for Your Effort for more information on that.

The eleven-foot tall wooden cross was placed in the ground in November 2012. This spring the landscaping around that wooden cross was completed. In remembrance of the "cloud by day" in the book of Exodus, I went to a wholesale nursery to purchase five purple smokebush; instead I came back with four and an assortment of evergreens. The following morning before planting them, I opened my Bible to re-read Exodus 33,34 where Moses watched the Lord pass by him. Instantly I had the revelation on how to plant them. If I get the opportunity this spring, I want to develop a YouTube video that explains that story as told through a combination of plants.
The Exodus 33 and 34 plantings are in the foreground;
the lawn area behind those plantings is where the Delaney debris was removed

The third major addition of 2013 was the completion of the 'Pool of Siloam.' In May I was sitting on a bench overlooking the stream, asking the Lord what to do with a difficult area between the shaded flower bed and stream. It was prone to flooding, the continual weeding was very time consuming, and frankly it looked ugly. Instantly I had a vision and a word at the same time: I saw a 25-foot pond with the words, "You don't have to weed a pond." Thank you Lord!

The pond was dug in August and completed in October. The pond spans property owned by the church and the Delaneys; it was a joint effort of both to prepare it.
9/14/2013 photo of the pool's reflective qualities

While not directly related to the prayer garden, a large buckthorn and wild grapevine patch was removed this fall. As you drove towards the church and prayer garden from the road, this thicket would have been on your left and intermingled with the neighbor's tall spruce trees. Like the eyesore that the Delaney's removed in the spring, we made a similar effort on our joint property with the Delaneys. Some final cleanup work should be completed in the spring.

Each year I like to get a young man who can work with me on the garden. Over the years, there has been Donald, Lukas, Jesse, Scott, Jonathan and Dorian. I try to mentor them as well as teach them basic landscaping principles. This year Kasson and Bill were among the 29 volunteers that helped the most, but it was a college student named Aaron Reau that really assisted the most in the garden; Aaron was a tremendous help and he has a great eye for aesthetics. Thanks to all of you! Collectively this year you logged 660 hours. You are great!

Thoughts for 2014
Last year I wrote about a large wooden gazebo, similar to a 12'x20' gazebo that I saw at the Treadway Inn in Owego NY:

In the fall I was introduced to Jim Marsh, a graduate student in the School of Architecture at Syracuse University. He used Google Sketchup to design a prototype of that structure. Someday I hope to get a copy of that design which I will post on this blog. It is truly awesome! Jim and I are thinking that the construction cost may be around $10,000.

I also wrote last year about the continuing need for water and electricity in the garden. Work was scheduled to start last fall but weather and other complications have delayed the start of that effort. Electricity is needed so that work on the gazebo can begin.

We hope to start moving to a better style of benches in 2014. The problem with the current benches is they are require a considerable amount of sanding, staining and other repair work on a regular basis. Our hope is to obtain log benches for the vicinity of the large wooden cross, and long-lasting resin benches for the other locations.

Blessings to you all for 2014. Prayer, that is regular two-way communication with our Lord, should be an essential part of each believer's walk; that is why this garden is available to the public.

In His service,