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What needs to be weeded or cultivated in your soul for you to grow closer to God?

Phase 2: My Relationship with God
Wookbook Exercise: My Garden Plot

Watch: What needs to be weeded or cultivated in your soul for you to grow closer to God?
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Transcript of Video:

I have had these moments in life where time seems to just stand still for a second and everything becomes very big and vivid. And I stop and I look around and think, “How in the world did I end up here of all places?” I wanted to be a music teacher and perform music and travel – and being a monk in the greater Boston area was never on my radar and kind of hit me from behind. Yet I am at one of the happiest places I have ever been in my life and I feel very fulfilled and it seems like the shoe fits for me, but yet it is not what I would have ever imagined or planned for myself. And I think that that is something that we often have to think and pray about is sometimes we have to give up some of our own plans in order to have a full or abundant life that God is actually cultivating in us. And so maybe you’ve had that experience where you find yourself in a place where you never thought you would be, living among people or doing a job that you never thought you could possibly do, and yet you feel very fulfilled. And it could be that you are in a place where maybe you are praying about that now and wondering where am I going and this is not what I thought, yet I am on this path now. So what does this mean and where am I going? And that is a perfect place for your prayer and for your relationship to God is to ask God, “What would you have me do now? Where am I going?” And then wait. Wait. In God’s time, you’re going to know. But you have to be patient and you have to wait for that seed to sprout.

– Br. Jim Woodrum

60 thoughts on “What needs to be weeded or cultivated in your soul for you to grow closer to God?

  1. I feel like retirement provided me with a garden plot that has already been weeded and ready for planting But that big empty space is intimidating! I want to discern my life’s purpose and plant the seeds that are truly meant to grow in the garden. I had already said in one of my other posts that I don’t want to fill up my empty days with lots of activities just for the sake of keeping busy. I want the choices to be meaningful, life giving… helping me to grow closer to God as I am of service to others… But now I realize that it will be trial and error, and that’s okay. It’s important for me to be aware of the natural cycle of this kind of growth rather than having a preconceived notion of how fast things have to happen…

    • Jane,

      Thank you for sharing. I am also retired and want this to be a time of meaningful engagement in activities that are living giving to others and spiritually nurturing for my own growth. I especially like your use of the term “trial and error” as we journey towards other new meaningful areas of our faith and faithful journey.

    • Thank you so much for your post. I, too, have been struggling with my post-retirement garden. I feel as if I am stalling out, not getting it right. This course, as comments like yours, are helping me to see my garden with new and more patient eyes.

  2. Short sermons are sometimes the best, as this one illustrates. Thanks.
    I know of some weeds in my own life such as impatience, lack of trust in difficult moments, failure to see the good rather than the evil in my fellowman, and sometimes downright laziness. I pray that I can yield to His Holy will and grow the good qualities daily. I want to serve my Lord each and every day. Grace and mercy. Come, Lord Jesus.

  3. Wow! This could so have been written with me in mind. I am nearing the end of my M.Div., something which came on me later in life most unexpectedly, and I am trying to discern exactly what kind of ministry God is calling me to. And it’s really hard to figure it out. Br. Jim says to pray and wait and it will become clear. I find that encouraging because at the moment, it’s just becoming murkier. This is one of the reasons I wanted to do this study, to help get some clarity around my call. Thanks for this talk.

  4. If there was a tool for weeding busyness from my life I’d like to buy one. I am married, so household duties fall to me. I work, so the demands there are what one would normally have. I am a mother and a grandmother. I cherish those demands and hardly think of them as such. The challenge is finding time for me. By the end of the day there’s no energy or strength left. This early time of meditation is a holy time and begins my day on the right foot so to speak. I pray, Lord, help me to find time for me.

  5. “God what would you have me do?”
    “Where am I going?”
    Are the appropriate questions. I don’t feel fully in touch with what is preventing me from being closer to God and know His will in all things.
    Maybe it is my ambition, my attitude to money, the things I prioritize, the things I fix my attention to, or what I do with all I have been given. I don’t really know.

  6. This shoe fits me to a T. Many of my plans in life never really came to fruition. There have been unexpected and dramatic turns. Looking back all that grew has been weeded in the garden of my life have been part of a greater plan designed by God, I discovered along the way. I am now at a place which I would have never chosen for my self, but fullfilled. Being part of the mission of Christ has taught me what it means to fully surrender to God, even not being always able to see what lies ahead. I need to continue to be prayerfully reminded now and again, that I am not the author of my life and God is in charge. All praise and honor to an all loving and merciful God.

  7. I need to weed doubt…has this become an intellectual position that is really the devil wiggling in? I need to work on attitude of gratitude, adhere to prayer time, develop prayerful living. Weed time-wasting. A year into my new living arrangements/life, I need to find direction for my life instead of just waiting it out.

  8. There was a discussion in an EfM class (That’s Education for Ministry, a lay small group program run out of Univ of the South at Sewanee) about the wheat and tares. A conservation biologist spoke of the robust diversity of a healthy ecosystem challenged by a monoculture in the form of an invasive species lacking a natural predator. Another brought up that farmers see the monoculture as the thing of value and the diversity of challenges as the unwanted intruder. Which is more Christian, vocationally? I’ll end here…. gotta run.

  9. I honestly do not know how to answer this question.

    Or rather, to answer it honestly would take a much less public forum.

    Suffice to say that I feel stuck. And I sometimes look around and wonder, “where did it go wrong that I ended up here?”

    Today’s video touches a raw, sore spot.

    • Yes, your truth resonates. I’ve asked myself the same question. There are times I can see light through the cracks, other times none at all. Perhaps in time, those of us who feel life has reached a dead end instead of fruition will find that seeds we were unaware of are sprouting.

    • Anyone who tells the truth would say that they have felt the same sort of pain you’re describing at least once in life. Frankly, I don’t usually find it particularly consoling to know that a stage like that is often part of the human condition, but I deeply hope you will. It is, after all, partial proof of our sisterhood/brotherhood. We really are members of the same family, thank God.

  10. I very much relate to the notion – wow, how did I get here. And I am once again questioning where I am now and where I want to be or am to be. And yes, patience is vital; patience is a must; patience is key. I do need to pray – God, what will you have me do now? I hear myself again saying – Here I am, send me. I could ramble on for hours here but to summarize – it has been a week of experiences at work that lead me to question whether my heartfelt values are in the right place, hoping I’m not being uppity about things. For example, a presentation on transvestism in Peruvian literature by a visiting candidate for a position in our department just left me wondering – what does this do to help individuals suffering in the world? Now, let’s be fair – what a gift to be able to analyze literature and culture from such an angle; what creativity and insight and good for her…but it’s not for me. In my own research – yes, telling the story of the missionaries who descended the Mississippi – wow, fun stuff but I’m stalled and I’m wondering why I can’t seem to move forward? Is this really what I want to do? Publish a book? Is this really where I really want my live to “flow” or is there another path, another river calling me? I love serving, the weeds of work sometimes get in the way. I’ve felt called to serve God as an ordained person but the cultivation of this desire ceased when I examined losses rather than gains. I’m stirred up again and it’s time to continue my discernment and work through the weeds that seem to be hanging me up.

  11. Trust. Faith. While both those concepts seem so basic, it is a struggle since it feels like a loss of control in my life. To redefine my own role in plotting out my destiny is not easy. It is important to have a sense of sharing my path rather than turning it over completely. I believe there is a role for me in setting my course, but God is present.

  12. My retirement has a double egde. I’ve always dreamed of being a writer, now that I have the time I hesitate and won’t do the work necessary to get to that point. I feel out of sort and lost. I’m not really sure where here is and that feels frustrating and lonely. Waiting for God’s time is so hard and most of the time I think I lack the faith. I am sure whining is not the answer, but where can I go to find some fulfillment and purpose just doesn’t seem to come to me

  13. I am delighted to join you in responding to the question. Actually, I, starting as a five year old, was allocated to my Grandfather’s extraordinary farm on Cape Cod during the summer months. My beloved Grandmother, taught me cleverly how to do the weeding and we were off! At dinner time, I was welcomed at the dinner table and Grandmother would, with even guests on hand, relate my amazing skills and the considerable amount of my daily weeding. Over the following decade I found myself closer to God as I looked around the wonderful growth of so many products. Yes, in many ways, looking back, I became closer to God an d the creation he had provided to my family! Rick Wheeleer

  14. when the country in 2008 went into a terrible economic downturn my solid job was pulled out from me at 61 years of age. so I worked in the extreme to find a new job with sucess but not for long again thanks to the terrible economic times, so 11 months after being hired on I was laid off. again with 3 boys still in college I had to find employment .. again sucess as a crew leader for the 2010 census again ending after 6 months. again with extreme sucess I pushed and pushed myself finding another position that lasted 9 months .
    finally I was at my end of options, so this time I instead asked my priest if he knew of a non profit that could use my time and talents . thst soon was found working at zero pay but with great reward to my soul coordinating the fund raising and gathering volunteer workers to build a Habitat home for a needy family. this has lead me to a reward far greater than all I did before in my life.

    • I’m impressed – congratulations on your resilience and grace to move forward each time with grace, on to a new chapter in your life. I think one is not diminished by the challenges, but instead that each of us are the sum total of all of our work and life chapters. Godspeed –

  15. What needs to be cultivated in my soul is the ability to tolerate stress and respond in a positive way, not attacking negative way when things don’t go my way or someone is not responding in the way I expect or want them to respond. What needs to be weeded is the “hate”, dismissiveness that I feel toward the two in my life… I need to cultivate an acceptance of others… “go away from that town (Ie them) and shake the dust off my sandals.
    Please help me to do this God…

  16. I brought back a pack of dark blue tulip bulbs from Holland and I planted and waited. I was so excited because my garden is shades of blue and white. The spring came and up popped a whole group of red with white streaks! They were beautiful but I was so dissapointed. I think now of how often I planted seeds of what I hoped were good things and something quite different popped up. Never mind the weeds! I am learning to be a bit more discerning about expectations and the weed of resentment that is a true choker of anything good. I am also trying to delight in whatever is coming up and to offer to the Lord what is here today.

  17. Cultivate
    Intention and priority
    Build a fence around space to grow
    without interruption.

    Weeded
    Busyness, doing instead of being,
    stress

  18. “Control” seems to be a common response. We seem to think we control, or should control, what we don’t control.
    If we could just let go of some of that, maybe we could blossom. Gardening, though, seems to involve a lot of planning and control, so I’m not sure how this fits the metaphor. It seems we need to strike a balance. We should prepare carefully, but allow space to make things happen on their own. Many comments come from those new to retirement, a difficult time for some, liberating for others. This is definitely a new kind of plot that needs a new kind of cultivation.

  19. To see God, to know Him, and enjoy Him forever! My goal and aspiration, but also my need for weeding and cultivation. Like another responder, the busyness of life’s duties leaves little time for me. I know in my heart that it is essential, but I neglect it until I am exhausted. I have always loved the Psalms, particularly Psalm 37:3 in the NASB translation: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and CULTIVATE faithfulness.” I immediately connected to Brother Jim Woodrum’s message, because I am a music teacher and performed in an orchestra for many years. I always felt most alive when I was performing, as it comprised my whole being; body, soul, and mind. I now find myself in a new job and struggle to “fit in.” Yet I believe God brought me to this position and at times I feel very fulfilled. In the end, I need to remember to trust, work, and wait.

  20. When I, as a young girl, “helped” my father weed our victory garden, he often complained that I was pulling out the plants that he had so carefully sowed, rather then the weeds. So I’ve grown up trying to distinguish what really is a weed. In my adult life I’ve been told that my precious wildflowers were really weeds. Where are the weeds in my life right now? I will have to ponder this. I am a caregiver for two plus there is serious illness in adult children. I seem to be tumbling along from one chaotic event to the next.

  21. Waiting is the hard part. As I have transitioned from the busy-ness of my professional life and moved into what I hope is an “engaged and active retirement”, I have been praying about this…yet while waiting for the answer, I have eagerly volunteered my time and talent in areas I’ve always wanted to get involved in, at church and beyond. I am trying to cultivate patience while joyfully doing something in the meantime. But, the “joyful doing” has to include time for iintentional prayer and listening. I’m working on it.

  22. Brother Jim’s words brought tears… and the word acceptance…that it is ok to live a very simple life. A chop wood carry water life. As I begin this the 7th decade in the rosary of my life, I worry that it isn’t enough to be peace… and this flood of “it is enough!” I keep questioning, doubting, resisting… accepting. Offering alternatives… perhaps more public, more… heroic… more attention getting. The woman who died in a tent across from the White House. 30 years of silent protest against nuclear weapons…remembered fondly by those who had come in the last 10 or 15 years.
    Instead, how lovely is your dwelling place o Lord, in the silence of solitude…a joyful heart must praise the Lord.

  23. I am not very good about giving up my plans to let God implement His. But I am learning! I need to pull up the weeds of self-reliance, wanting to plan my own life, and not giving God the chance to get a word in edgewise. I need to learn to wait. God has been doing some interesting things in my life recently, so I know that I am getting better at letting God give me abundant life; His way.

  24. I like today’s urging of patience, almost a sense of wonder and curiosity about what is still to come, “what plan?”

    How one accepts change and things that unfold differently than what one imaged – with grace, instead of with anger and despair – can be called “character”. I used to be afraid of being diminished by growing older, that I would be lesser rather than greater. Now I try to remind myself that I haven’t “lost” anything at all, but instead that I am the sum total of all the life phases I have already lived, and there’s more beauty to come.

  25. What do I need to make my garden grow? Patience! Patience, the very stuff of today’s lesson, is one of the things I most need. I am not a young person but I still have not learned patience. Lack of patience not only disturbs my spiritual life but has had profound impacts on the non-spiritual aspects. I know the benefits of patience, God knows I’ve often been shown the disbenefits of the lack of patience, but I have trouble arriving at that “wait for it moment”. You need not wonder why gardening is one of my least favorite endeavors. Nevertheless I return to these gardening themed meditations on a daily basis and find things of great value. We are all works in progress and God is patiently working on me about patience. Thanks for the meditations, they might help.

  26. As I listened to Br. Jim and then read every ones’ heartfelt comments, I felt comforted that I am cultivating the right garden for my soul at this time in life (age 76). God is telling me to keep my garden sparse and let the weeds die naturally. God is leading me sit on the bench with Him in contemplation and awe.

    • Ahhhh … sitting on a bench, enjoying your beautiful garden, and communing with God. Such a peaceful feeling that picture evokes. Thank you for that beautiful picture.

  27. To revive and redesign the layout of my rule of life has been a desire – need. First by pulling out the invasive, entangling vines of the world, that have sought to choke out my spiritual life. And keep them cut back. Ofttimes these vines have come from the “well intentioned,” but they have not helped me, supported me to “know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10-11). Also, I need to break up, cultivate the soil that has become hard packed from the crush of failing health. To bring back to life the organics of my salvation; the humus that is nurtured through prayer, mediation, and contemplation. To be prepare for the seeds to come. All by God’s Grace.

    Thank you, so much, for this timely course. It is truly an answer to prayer.

  28. I need to weed out fear.
    I call it stress, irritability, busyness – but really, it’s fear.

    I need to weed out control.
    My made-up notions of how my vocation is supposed to be, how my music program is supposed to sound, how my relationships are supposed to look… it’s not mine.

    I need to weed out preconceived notions.
    I developed a lot of ideas about how the universe works during the last phase of my spiritual life. Some of them aren’t helpful to me any longer, nor are they life-giving for my faith or (most importantly) my relationships.

    I get to cultivate trust.
    Letting go of the outcomes, knowing they belong to God, I can let God take care of God’s stuff, while I take care of my stuff – and also (this is a biggie) trust others to help me with my stuff.

    I get to cultivate an awareness of beauty.
    Despite my job in the arts, it’s remarkable just how much ugliness I seem to find in the world. I *know* that God is constantly working microscopic miracles in and through Creation… but I often miss out on that.

    I get to cultivate a discipline of daily prayer.
    This is something I lost long ago, and my life hasn’t really worked since.

    I get to cultivate a childlike sense of wonder.
    I have absolutely no idea where to even begin with this one. It kinda scares me, honestly.

  29. What needs to be weeded out? My Lenten devotion this year is surprisingly traditional: I have given up alcohol. But in it’s absence I have surprisingly found I am given over tomore neurotic thought processes. So, I am becoming aware now of the need to intentionally listen to my breathing, direct my thinking to God’s presence and listen to the wonder that is still loving heart beat of God that surrounds me and everyone.
    Thank you for the question. Not only is the question usually the most important part of life as we give ourselves over to not knowing, but the question can also help us cultivate greater openness.

  30. I’m glad you didn’t ask these questions of me 25 years ago when I was in the middle of a 40-year career that led to the abuse of alcohol, self-hate, and utter confusion. All these years later, with 32 years of sobriety, and leading a life second to none, I see the hand of God at work every inch of the way. As for the future, I take it one day at a time, asking Jesus in the morning “How can I serve you today?” and asking him at night “How did you teach me today?” In daily meditation I begin with “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” and somehow my faith teaches me that all is indeed well and that all manner of things will be well. Thank you, Jesus.

  31. Patience and as Richard Rohr recently said the ability ” to leave the field of the moment open and to hold onto all parts of it, the seemingly good and the seemingly negative, and wait for them to fully show themselves.”

    Both of these practices would go a long way to cultivating my relationship with God.

  32. To be weeded: impatience and despair that I am not making progress in growth in knowing God, bad decisions on use of my time.

    To be cultivated: patterns of living and thinking that allow me to recognize God in my life, my thoughts, and my actions; more time and effort to “inwardly digest” the Word of God.

  33. As mentioned in the video, there are so many things I can point to in my life and marvel at how did I ever end up here? I never would’ve imagined so many things for myself, yet here I am on a path. I don’t know if that was Gods plan for me or a matter of fate/destiny. How do i know the difference? I’m not sure how I’ll be able to hear God if he tells me what I’m supposed to do, but I’m guessing I must have faith and practice being closer to God in order for that to happen.

  34. To cultivate love, peace, patience, trust , joy, wisdom, forgiveness and generosity the garden of my spirit needs to be weeded , taking out pride, self righteousness, self reliance and busyness . If I am consistent in my time with God the weeding although not painless will be accurate and timely.

  35. I think I need to cultivate patience with myself and others, especially God. Letting things happen in God’s time, and being comfortable with waiting and not knowing, are often very difficult for me.
    I need to weed out disappointment and resistance when things don’t happen in the way that I expected. In the past I have been able to embrace the unknown future as an adventure, and I need to get back to that mentality.

  36. I tend to judge people which I need to weed out.
    I would like to cultivate learning to see God in each person I meet especially those I have difficulty with. Praying for the person I am about to judge would be helpful.

  37. Nothing. Seriously. I am always looking for God were ever I am and sometime I call on him in times of stress and anxiety. I ask for Comfort, strength, grace and peace. I always get it.

  38. I just can’t keep prejudice from popping up in my garden. No matter how hard I work cultivating, watering, tending, pruning and weeding my garden, I will still find ugly serpentine strands of prejudice crawling along the ground within even the most beautiful patches of flowers. It is an invasive species whose roots grow very deep, and it seems impossible to completely eradicate it. I’ve tried to smother it out with love and forgiveness, yet … I continue to find it climbing and intertwining with most of the plants in my garden, spoiling its splendor. Yet I remain optimistic that if I can become more vigilant to God’s presence, I may hear him when he whispers to just sprinkle more seeds of love over prejudice’s roots.

  39. I think for me it is the issue of letting go of certainty and needing to be in control. Simple really. Just been weeding my garden this morning. Wish it was that simple to just let go and let this stuff come out by the roots.
    .

  40. When I think of this it makes me relieve that I need to let go of the pain and loss I feel from not making to becoming a vowed Brother in the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. The reason I felt hurt is because I felt like I belonged in a vowed religious order. I still feel like I am meant to become a monk but kind of lost about where to go next. At the same time I might be called to live a life like a monk but without taking those vows. I am not sure but I am letting go of the hurt and slowly getting to a point where I hope God can start guiding me in the right direction. I don’t doubt that I have the heart of a monk but the real question is how God wants me to cultivate that heart and where.

  41. I’ve mentioned before how God is reworking my whole garden through my current health challenges. I’d also add financial to that. We’re self-employed in the technical realm. That is where my husband has spent the last 30 years of his life, but it has become apparent to both of us that it is not, nor was it ever, a sustainable way of living for us. Something new is happening, it is moving toward that, but What? and more importantly, How?

    All of my treatment is out of pocket. Insurance covers testing and things like canes, but none of my treatment, supplements, etc. I need them to get well. I need money to purchase them. Thus, this presents a potent fear when considering such a huge life change. Each is as essential for healing as the other; how can they both happen at the same time?

    I do not know. I do not have to know.

    Last night we got word that our largest client is looking for an IT person, which would cut down on our current income significantly. My initial reaction was fear, so I prayed and asked God to send me some kind of word. Two very specific answers came, one last night, one this morning:

    1. A Middle Eastern moral tale that a speaker used in a sermon that said, in essence, that you never know whether something is good luck or bad luck. You just take it as it comes and trust that it is ultimately for your good.

    2. Do not fear.

    I’ll take it! 😉

  42. The question asked about weeds but the sermon spoke of thinking you were going one place & ending up in another. I can very much relate to ‘ending up in another.’ From the time I was a teenager, I was focused on getting into a professional position & advancing in the corporate world. My family must have heard me say, “I’m never getting married & I’m not having children” many thousands of times. I spent my early adulthood dashing up the ladder until I found myself at my goal, Corporate HR Manager, and I was totally disappointed. I’d lost contact with the people I was supposed to be helping up there in the HQ. All the enjoyable parts of my job had fallen away & all I was really left with was a nice title. Worse yet, I was an Oregonian living in LA. I was definitely a ‘stranger in a strange land.’ About the same time as I had this realization, I meant the man I eventually married. After a year of long distance dating & another year of cohabiting, we got married. You should have seen the jaws drop when I announced this! Two years later, I had a baby. As I lay in the hospital holding our adorable daughter, I asked, “how did I end up here?” I don’t know how I ended up there other than following my heart & letting what felt right be my guide.

    Right now, I’m between volunteer activities. I finished a five year stint helping people get jobs during the recession – a perfect use of my HR skills! I want to do something equally meaningful & useful but I don’t know what it will be. I think instead of going out & pursuing something, I’m going to let it find me. I seems like many of the good things that I’ve done or have happened to me have just appeared. I just need to be available to see them.

  43. Among many weeds in my soul is the confusion, and sometimes the pain, of self-doubt. This, combined with fear and a relatively lethargic way of living, has hindered much of what I’ve wanted to accomplish in life. Where I hope God will guide me, is in my own self-confidence and self-determination to do the things that I have the talent to do, knowing my limitations, but allowing new interests and experiences to lead me in a positive direction. By God’s grace, I hope I can grow to be a better example as a child of God.

  44. My need to be busy to act instead of reflecting praying or listening. My need to be in control.
    I liked the part of the message about looking to the future but waiting for today. My only child will soon go off to college and I could lose the joy of today if I focus on what it will be like when she goes. Likewise if I don’t even look to the future while living these moments the future may be different because I did not plan or allow things to bud and germinate.

  45. What needs to be weeded or cultivated in your soul for you to grow closer to God? my weeds are my Depression and ADHD. I guess I am going to have to love myself warts and all sometimes it is hard when my mind races, I make mistakes because of the tunnel vision caused by my medicine and i have not taken the precautions that i need to do. Cultivation for me is to accept myself see the good and grow by developing ways to compensate. Also being consistent with praying the office and other ways that help me slow down, relax and focus better.

  46. I think I need to weed out being judgmental before I have really listened or understood-both with myself and others,being busy as a substitute for directed ness ,being too independent- I often don’t even see when others are offering to support me,and not taking time to listen .
    My current job is a real stretch for me, but I think I am supposed to be there- it almost fell in my lap to my surprise.I’ve been asking ‘where do I go from here ?’because I’m not in my comfort zone -but I realise after watching the video that it is the wrong question- I should be asking- God, why am I here and what do you want from me here?

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