Wild Game, Tame Garden

While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease. – Gen. 8:22

I’ll make a quick confession from the start: I’m a Master Gardener, and I grow the most fancy-schmancy, breathtakingly beautiful, intoxicatingly fragrant roses you can imagine. This may come as a surprise to many of you, especially my hunting buddies who’ll dog me to no end, but my roses have appeared on the big screen in the Erwin Brothers’ movie, Mom’s Night Out. They’ve also received dozens of Blue Ribbons and prizes at State Fairs. Now, I’m not a full-blown rosarian (yes, there is such a thing: gardening’s blue-bloods accredited in the art of cultivating and growing roses). To be honest, the only reason I never pursued becoming a rosarian was due to the shocking amount of courses required! So I settled for Master Gardener, a fun achievement in itself, and haven’t looked back.

Recently, I’ve felt inclined to introduce a new series about my passion for the outdoors, so welcome to Wild Game, Tame Garden, where I’ll explore topics ranging from hunting in the wild to gardening right outside your own back door. Each installment will include a short story and a seasonal calendar filled with practical tidbits, tips, and to-do’s to help you get the most out of your time outdoors. Above all, my hope is that you, too, will see the beauty of the world around us as we learn from The Almighty through His glorious creation. After all, if King David could see God’s fingerprints painted across the sky, or if Solomon found wisdom from the ants, how much more could we learn from the world in which we live?

I hope you enjoy this first segment of Wild Game, Tame Garden.

Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed…We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. — Wallace Stegner



I’ve been fascinated with the outdoors since I was a kid, when I’d often ignore my mother’s stern warnings to be home while it was still light out (I just couldn’t bring myself to miss any second of even semi-daylight to fit one last adventure in!). To be fair, it didn’t take much to grab my attention—I could get so mesmerized by the flora and fauna found near the shallow end of a creek bed that I’d lose all sense of time. It never failed, my mother’s southern drawl would commence in a lecture before I could slip off the porch and through the back door.

It was one thing for my mom to give me a hard time about various sundry acts like getting home late, but I never understood why my friends gave me heck all the time about EVERYTHING. I’ll never forget how my mother saw it: “It’s probably because they like you.” I’ve run with her notion ever since, so if I’m wrong, please don’t let me know. Ignorance is bliss, and it’s made my life much easier so far😎

In all honesty, it’s not like I don’t provide my friends with plenty of fodder, like the time I showed up at the duck club on opening weekend with Mr. Franks and Odie, my two dachshunds who will retrieve better than any Black Lab. Actually, they make lousy bird dogs, but they’re a ton of fun to bring along and can chase field mice under the camphouse with the best of them.

Or my decision about twenty years ago to start growing hybrid-tea roses. By hybrid-tea roses, I don’t mean Knockouts—that’s cheating. Knockouts are shrub bushes, not roses. They don’t share the fragrance or beauty of other varieties like hybrid teas or David Austins. Around that time, someone suggested I enter my roses in the competition at the Pensacola Fairgrounds. I was hesitant at first, thinking there was a high likelihood of being hazed by my friends for doing so. Or worse, receiving honorable mention (also known as the “Bless your heart, those roses are ugly—better luck next year!” Award). I wasn’t sure my pride could handle it. No wonder I accepted my prizes decked out in full Carhartt Camo!

To my utter shock, I went on to win lots of Blue Ribbons during my seven-year stint as a church planter in Pensacola. This was a big deal for me for two reasons.

1. In second grade, when the time came to hand out end-of-school year awards to each student, my teacher gave me the “Scissors” award. This comes into stark contrast with the awards given to Beth Ann (Best Musician) or Grant (Most Athletic) or Virginia (Best Painter by Numbers). Mrs. West clearly had to dig deep to find my hidden talent, which even I figured was a stretch considering how cruddy I was at cutting out things.
2.     On a more serious note, I’ve learned to appreciate the small victories whenever they come. In God’s very good, but sometimes very difficult, way of working all things for His glory, I became a better gardener than I did a church planter. Unfortunately, the church I planted, Christ Community, folded after seven years. The people were amazing, and the highs were sky high. But the lows sank to rock bottom at times. It was during one of those low moments that God graciously drove home biblical truths I’d only previously known in theory. Like when Jesus said He’d “prune every branch that it might produce more fruit.” I’d felt severely pruned, so much so that I wondered if I could ever produce fruit again.

If you’re reading this and find yourself in a season of pruning or feeling like God could never use you again, don’t forget that It’s not just hurt people who hurt people. It’s hurt people who help people, tooWhether it’s a cup of coffee and a friendly word or through writing a blog, God can use your experiences to help make a difference in the lives of others.

Though I was a crummy church planter, God used the season of pruning to grow me in ways I never would have chosen nor could have imagined. Sure, pruning never feels good at the time. In fact, it can hurt terribly. But I wouldn’t be where I am today, sharing hope with others, if I hadn’t gone through all that I did.

Regardless of what season you find yourself in, be encouraged that God is doing a mighty work in you—fruitfulness always follows a season of pruning!

For extra encouragement please read 2nd Corinthians 1:3-7 and John 15:1-11.


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