Backyard patio and spiritual development: Both require a continuous effort.

A while ago I wrote how taking one step at a time led to the transformation of my backyard patio.

This summer I have thoroughly enjoyed that patio with its green, growing potted plants and the new rug under my feet. From the patio I can see the water lilies in my little backyard goldfish pond. In the early mornings I gently sway on a rocking bench, sipping coffee from a favorite mug while strings of tiny white lights overhead create a soft glow. I hear the birds sing their cheerful songs and a trickling waterfall in the nearby pond. It is a needed oasis amid the struggles of the world.

But just because there has been transformation doesn’t mean the work is over.

Every morning I sweep the little golden elm leaves from the deck, fallen because the shade trees are stressed by drought. The plants must be watered regularly in the scorching 100 degree south Texas heat or they will die. And if I don’t pay attention, little spiders will try to spin their webs in the patio corners again.

Now I face new challenges. A nightly marauder, probably a skunk, has been uprooting the potted plants and digging holes between the stone pavers. Close inspection of the pond lilies has revealed an infestation of lily pad aphids which have been decimating the pads.

Coming quietly in the dark, a skunk has been digging up my flowers.

If left alone, the patio and the pond would become eyesores again. Even though progress had been made, the care and attention to maintaining them must continue regularly.

This morning as I swept the leaves, rinsed and treated the water lilies, and started to devise a critter-proof protection for plants, I thought about how this is very much like the work that needs to be done in my spiritual life.

Living as a Christian disciple is not a once-and-done. Every day we must nurture and develop our faith, staying vigilant to things that may try to steal our joy. If ignored, things as small as aphids, petty arguments, or doubts can creep in and destroy. Things as invasive as skunks or bigotry can disturb growth and need to be removed.

I’ve decided to use some of the early morning patio time to read my Bible. And I think it’s time to wash the windows again.

Paying attention to spiritual disciplines is like regularly watering plants to help them thrive.

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