A Mighty Fortress is my Garden

Fort veg

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” a piece about gardening and God. I hope it grows on you… Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Something you should know: I love fruits and vegetables. You can open my refrigerator or poke through the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter any time of the day or night and find peppers, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, melon, or sweet potatoes. (But please don’t come poking through my house at night, especially if I don’t know you’re there; that’d just freak me out. If you absolutely feel as though you must, however, would you mop before you leave? I’ve been a little busy.)

A while back, my church decided to spend time in prayer and fasting, and the Daniel Fast, where you only eat fruits, vegetables, and grains for 21 days, was presented as an option. Eating fruits, vegetables, and grains only? I don’t call that a fast; I call that last night’s dinner…

I grew up with fresh produce—as in backyard fresh. My daddy always planted a garden so we had all the corn, squash, tomatoes, and black-eyed peas we wanted, both fresh off the vine in the summer and from the freezer or pantry in the non-growing season. The difference in flavor between a tomato from the back yard and a tomato from the store is tremendous: one tastes like a tomato ought to taste, while the other tastes like imitation tomato food product.

Besides coveting the taste of a tomato fresh off the vine rather than the store-bought kind, I’m also a cheapskate. Any chance to save a few bucks in the produce section and I’m onboard. So I decided to try my hand at growing my own bountiful harvest. To that end, I elected to build some raised planting beds in a sunny corner at the side of the house (’cause, of course, you may recall from an earlier post that my backyard is currently taken up by that big ditch slash dry creek bed filled with rocks and fire ants).

Rather than building my raised beds from cedar or pressure-treated lumber I decided to build them from something a little more long-lasting—like concrete block. That decision made the choice to build the raised beds in the side yard even more ideal, because that would also allow me to build them on top of an otherwise unused and unfortunately located—but solid and sturdy—concrete slab, a leftover from the previous owner of the Lizard Lounge. (I doubt the guy I bought the house from called it the Lizard Lounge, though. He was a K-9 cop and kept his dog cages on that slab. He probably called it something like the “Canine Casa.” Or maybe he just called it “the house on 12th street” or something boring and uncolorful like that…)

So I measured and designed (geeky) and drew some plans (geekier) and hauled concrete blocks in the trunk of my little two-door sedan (oh-so-many trips from the home store) and ended up building two large, L-shaped raised planting beds out of concrete block right on top of that former dog-trodden concrete slab.

Each raised bed is two blocks high, stacked in a running bond pattern, and has a row of cap blocks along the top to give it a finished look and a place to sit (because let’s face it—the only thing better than growing your own produce is sitting down while you do it). I then lined the inside of each bed with weed fabric and filled them with a few yards of top-quality potting mix from the mulch and more joint down the street.

To camouflage the concrete slab and dress the whole she-bang up a little, I laid pavers around the planting beds and filled in around the edges with river rock. And I gotta tell you—I love the end result. Since those planting beds are built of concrete blocks it looks kind of like a produce fortress back there. Couple that with the fact they’re also sitting firmly atop a concrete slab and they should last for, like, ever.

Not that my tomato, cantaloupe, and bell pepper plants need all that rock-solid stability, but “Fort Veg” (as the lizards refer to it) will provide a place to grow stuff as long as I live here. Plus, since it took the better part of a few weekends (and several pairs of gloves and a few visits to the chiropractor) to create the whole thing, the upside is I only have to do it once.

Solid as a Rock

There aren’t many things that’ll last forever. Diamonds, maybe, or Polyester pants. (I also know of an Electrolux vacuum that’s been around since the 50s that could still suck up a bowling ball if it had to.) Other than that, though, I can’t think of anyone who bought a car and had it last the rest of their car-driving life. And most vaccinations need a booster shot later on. Milk has a shelf life—and don’t get me started on computers. I’m even thinking that, while they’ll certainly outlast me, those raised planting beds made of concrete blocks may not actually last forever. (I am hoping that people will at least be growing tomatoes in them during the Millennial Kingdom, though.)

Nothing is 100% immune to letting us down—nothing earthly, at least. There is something—someone (three of Him)—that’ll never let us down, though.

Of course I’m talking about the Lord. (You knew that.)

David also knew that. About God he wrote:

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:6 NIV

Right on target, Dave-O (plus, it rhymes). And I, for one, know shaking when I see it.

I weathered three hurricanes within a month-and-a-half’s time back in 2004, the worst being Hurricane Charlie, a storm clocking in at Category 3 when it passed through my backyard. My house is a typical concrete block Florida house, sturdy and solid; and although I didn’t have any damage to the house, there was a goodly amount of shaking when that little wind demon blew through. It’s a weird sensation when a concrete block house—a house that could withstand the impact of a Mack truck and barely chip the paint—starts to shake.

But even if Charlie had been a Category 4 or 5 hurricane or even an earthquake, it wouldn’t have shaken the Lord, just as David said. Nothing shakes the Lord. He’s even sturdier than Fort Veg, my produce fortress. He’s an everlasting, unshakeable fortress. He’s the shaker, not the shakee.

However, even though the Bible, which I believe to be the inspired, infallible Word of God, is filled with assurances of His unshakeable, sure, unfailing support…

The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14 NIV

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10b NIV

The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9b NIV

…I’m still woefully shakeable. In the final post in The Lizard Lounge Series I talk a little more about a period of shaking I went through this past summer, a period that started with the *squish*. Thankfully, though, it ended with God revealing Himself as the one true subject of the three verses above (and making me feel more than a little foolish for allowing myself to be so shaken).

I’m aware that God doesn’t have to prove Himself to me. His Word has revealed everything I need to know. When the Bible says He’s “my strength and my defense” and that he “will strengthen [me] and help [me]” and “will be with [me] wherever [I] go,” I can pin my hope and faith on that, even though I don’t always act like it.

Paul referred to God as:

Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine… Ephesians 3:20

…including bearing me through a little—or a lot—of shaking.

Never Gonna Let You Go

I imagine we’re all a little bit shaken these days, what with all the troubling events happening lately, both in the U.S. and the world at large. Demonic terrorist activity, freakish natural disasters, and insane geopolitical unrest seem to be taking over the news.

On the other hand, while looking up some information for this post I stumbled on a sermon from 10 years ago that talked about these very same kinds of troubling events. Maybe we’re just more aware of them now because of the ease and speed of communicating them.

Or not. Maybe—just maybe—we’re seeing the escalation of events that point to the soon return of Jesus. Personally, I’m firmly in that camp, because in addition to giving us TONS of clues as to what would be happening right before he came back (reference the demonic, freakish, and insane stuff a couple paragraphs back), in chapter 22 of the book of Revelation, Jesus said three times:

I am coming soon. (v. 7)

I am coming soon. (v. 12)

I am coming soon. (v. 20)

Admittedly it’s been almost 2,000 years since He said that, but then there’s that whole…

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. Peter 3:8 NIV

…which could mean to the Lord it’s only been a couple days, so at some point “soon” has to mean “soon.” (like, SOON)

BUT…regardless of when Jesus returns or what’s going on in the world around us, our faith should always firmly rest in Him, because David said that God is our rock and He isn’t shaken AND God promised He would never forsake us.

Boy, did He promise…

He will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

He will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5 NIV

He will not fail you or forsake you… 1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV

For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Psalm 37:28 NIV

For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. Psalm 94:14 NIV

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. Isaiah 41:17 NIV

I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16 NIV

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 NIV

You think He meant it?

Yea, He did. So let’s (meaning me) rest in that fact.

God, who “is my rock and my salvation,” “my fortress,” and “is able to do immeasurably more than all [I] ask or imagine”—including bearing me through the demonic, freakish, and insane stuff—will “never leave [me] nor forsake [me].”

In one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Paul (who, in this case, rivals David for descriptive beauty) writes:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV

Beautifully said, Pablo. My rock-solid (and—if I do say so myself—HGTV-worthy) concrete block raised planting beds can’t beat that—no matter how many tomatoes I grow in them…

• • •

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6 thoughts on “A Mighty Fortress is my Garden

  1. Thank you for this, dear friend. A fantastic reminder- we will never be forsaken. Ever. And as the end draws nearer & nearer our suffering will increase- I love how the apostle Peter says in first Peter, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
    WHEN His glory is revealed. I love that. It’s coming. My hope is in that return.
    Until then, we press on- loving, spurring and encouraging each other.
    Thank you for doing those for me.

    • Thank you so much for these words of encouragement and additional reminders. WHEN His glory is revealed—that can’t come too soon for me! Give my love to the family.

  2. Beautifully said! Thank you for that encouragement….I have no need to fear because he IS coming! (and I’m GOING!) I love you!

  3. The same God of David, Solomon, of the Apostles and of Paul is that same amazing God today! Thanks for the reminder to not allow what I believe to be strength to sustain me. That real strength rises with faith in the Lord (I hear a song there! Sorry, just sayin’). The hardest thing for most men, and I am not an exception, is to long for self-sustaining strength. I believe real strength is epitomized in our ability to let go and let God, because it runs counter to all the world teaches.

    Here is wishing your fruits, veggies and even you Lizards well at the lounge. Thank you for sharing what God reveals for all of us to ponder and pray on. I would ask that we all pray in one accord that Jesus returns before Abigail is a teenager 😁👍🏻.

    • Wisdom AND wit, my brother! (I think you’re raising that little one in such a manner that she’ll be a teen titan for Jesus.) You are absolutely correct in the dichotomy between what the world expects of us as men and what God expects of us as men. The first lesson in Being a Christian Man 101 should be “Forget everything you’ve ever been taught by the world.” In my 7 days of sitting across the room in Guatemala watching you interact with your family and listening to you talk I observed true Godly strength and the character to back it up–and was blessed by what I saw. Thank you for these good words of encouragement. I hope to hear from you again.

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