• If we’re not careful our churches, and our faith, can become mostly cerebral. With a prevailing emphasis on didacticism and privacy-in-the-pew, our faith can become more like Greek thought than Semitic practice.  Oh, and by the way, I harvested 758 tomatoes from a 48-square-foot family garden that year.

My brother-in-law is a Pastor. We share stories about our adventures and misadventures. Apparently he did a funeral last week – and had to dig the hole for the remains! Chalk that up as another “they-never-taught-us-this-in-seminary” moment.

Our church is blessed to sit on six acres in north Fayetteville. This space allows us to do things that we could not do with a smaller campus. We have a shiny, spacious playground, for example. We host a soccer league that reaches dozens of at-risk kids. Frequently people drop by to chip golf balls or play Frisbee with their dogs. Someday, perhaps we will build a ‘Faith-and-Fitness Trail’ around our property.

Our latest project is interesting. We are starting Family Gardens. These are 48-square foot raised gardens for families in our church to grow vegetables and show their children where food comes from. Even though we are only starting with nine gardens, there is a lot of enthusiasm about this project. Our children’s Sunday school classes will have a garden, which is great because there are so many stories and parables in the Bible about farming and seeds and harvest.

Today we unloaded eight yards of mulch. Later this week we begin the dubious effort to remove Bermuda grass. This weekend we are building the garden boxes. Next week the soil arrives.

There are many days I sit in my office thinking deep thoughts. I carefully craft theological words and Biblical precepts. I write sermons, prepare Bible studies and small group guides – always putting ideas on paper to encourage my church and help them grow in Christlikeness. Many times my life as a pastor is lessons, lists, and documents. It can become quite conceptual, as though my faith is limited to the realm of ideas and abstractions.

When I read the stories about Jesus something always grabs my attention. He did not sit at a desk or limit his ministry to ideas and concepts. Yes, he spent a lot of time preaching and teaching, but he did much more than that. He stayed busy. He used his hands. He healed people and turned over cash registers and manipulated wind, water and wine. He hugged children, made emphatic points with objects and washed his disciples’ feet. His life was deeply engaged in the real world.

So it feels good to put on my work gloves and grab a shovel. It feels right to fire up my circular saw and help clean up after a storm. There is something holy about the sun on your face and dirt under your fingernails when you are helping others. It is good for all of us when our faith moves out of the cerebral ether and into the dirt – or the paint can or the soup pot.

Maybe we will enjoy homegrown salsa and homemade pickles. Maybe not. But, most importantly, we will work together, grow food, and share it. And we’ll learn that not all of our best moments with God can fit on a piece of paper.