Thinning the Garden

This year, with store shelves getting emptier each week, costs skyrocketing, and uncertainty all around us, I decided it was time to do some gardening again. Replacing Ms. Diane’s old rose garden outside the bedroom window with a 50-foot long garden made the most sense. In April, I got around to it. Planning for corn, beans, peppers, three kinds of squash, sweet onions, cabbage, two kinds of lettuce, lots of tomatoes, collard greens, cauliflower, cantaloupe, and watermelon was easy. The planting nearly wore both me and Mr. John out. A few young plants, but mostly seeds, meant lots of additional work once the plants emerged. When planning for a large garden, I never considered that we’d be chopping it with temps over 90 in early May.

If you’re from the South, and over the age of 50, you’ve heard the term “chopping cotton.” A few of you may have actually chopped cotton in your youth. Growing up mostly in Florida, there wasn’t a lot of cotton farming happening in my area, but I was rural enough to know what “chopping” was. For those unfamiliar with “chopping cotton”, the term refers to the first hoeing of the cotton field (or garden, in my case). Its purpose is to remove unwanted weeds and thin plants to ensure the proper spacing between them.

While working in the garden this past week, the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) came to mind. I’m always amazed at how God uses events in our lives to remind us of His word we’ve hidden in our hearts. Take our sweet corn for example. Because we know that every seed we plant doesn’t “make”, or take root and grow, we put two seeds into every hole or furrow. When seeds germinate, plants emerge; and most times, we’ll have two plants in one spot. When sowing collard green seeds, we’ll end up with multiple plants trying to occupy the same space. Thinning them out reduces the competition for moisture, sunlight, and needed nutrients from the soil. It also gives the plants the space they need to reach their full potential.

Like a garden, over-crowding our lives reduces our chances of achieving maximum growth. Click To Tweet

Likewise, weeding our gardens brings its own important biblical lesson. Also in Matthew 13, we find the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. I’ll save my discussion about the similarities between wheat and bearded darnel for another post, but the important take-away in gardening is this. You have to remove the unwanted weeds to help the plants reach their full potential. Of course, if you delay and they grow together, then trying to remove the weeds can often damage the plants.

Since becoming a farmer and rancher, I’m convinced more than ever that all weeds are from Satan; meant to make our gardens, pastures, and spiritual lives less fruitful. In my gardens and fields, weeds use up precious nutrients and moisture in the soil, robbing those life-giving commodities from the grasses and legumes I want. In my life, spiritual weeds are those sinful or time-wasting things that restrict my spiritual growth. Weeds entangle lives and restrict growth in both cases.

What spiritual weeds do you have in your life? Click To Tweet

The way I determine what is good and bad in my fields, gardens, etc. is by knowing what I’m looking for. If I expect to see lush, green Bermuda grass and see henbit with its delicate purple flowers instead, then I’ve got work to do. Likewise, if I expect to see a fruit-bearing walk with God but see my time being stolen away with worldly endeavors, I’ve got work to do there too.

Spiritual weeds can take many forms. They might be those worldly activities we sometimes get immersed in that keep us from spending time in God’s word, prayer, or refreshing your spirit by meditating on Him. Something I realized during a recent fast from social media was the time I spent checking Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, etc. was taking away from my “God time” each day. Instead of checking-in on “anti-social” media several times throughout the day, I choose to check-in with God instead.

Spiritual weeds can also be worthwhile time bandits that keep us from focusing on our own spiritual growth and well-being. While I won’t call busyness a sin, but a choice, it’s easy for active Christians to become too busy for our own good. We get so involved in church activities, missions, and projects that we forget, like Martha (Luke 10:38-42), to take time and focus on what we need most.

This week, I hope you’ll join me in looking to see what weedy people or activities are taking up space in your spiritual garden. Let’s all look for those areas where we need to do some thinning or chopping, so we give God the space He needs to fully grow us.

God’s blessings,



P.S. I was blessed this week to have one of my posts featured on “Our American Stories with Lee Habeeb.” I hope you’ll pay them a visit by clicking this link ( to see the masterful job their Producer, Ms. Madisyn did. She’s a grace-filled little lady who was a joy to work with.


Please join me this Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

52 thoughts on “Thinning the Garden”

  1. Thank you, J.D., for another thought-provoking post. I benefited from your message very much! I’ll be thinking and praying about the truth you shared as I seek the Lord regarding a decision before me. May the Lord fill you and your moments with Him with joy.

  2. Thought provoking for sure! 90 degrees in May? Wow. We have be chilly here in Connecticut. 43 this morning. The thing about weeds is they keep coming back. It’s an ongoing process to keep them under control in the garden and in life.

    1. How very true Ms. Jeanne. I like that thought ma’am. They’ll keep coming (the weeds of all varieties), but the secret is found in how well we control them. Thank you sweet sister.

  3. I enjoyed your comments on gardening this morning. Weeds are part of the curse, and references to “thorns and thistles” are found throughout the scriptures. I don’t do that kind of serious planting but admire the efforts and outcomes of those who do. May the Lord give you abundant increase this year.

    1. Thank you Ms. Dottie, but anyone who has ever been blessed to read your “Six on Saturday” blog knows how very hard you work to make your flower gardens so beautiful ma’am. Your posts so often remind me of the beauty God created for us to enjoy.

  4. Another powerful post, J.D. This analogy is great. And I liked how you called spiritual weeds time bandits. How true. Your social media fast and “checking in” reminded me of something Lysa Turkeurst of Proverbs 31 ministries says. “I exchange whispers with God before I check in with the world.”

    1. What a great thought; “exchanging whispers with God”. I love the mental picture that brings ma’am. It’s sort of like putting your seatbelt on before you head out of your drive.

  5. A thought provoking post for sure J.D.! “Weeds entangle lives and restrict growth in both cases.” This post resonated with me as I am currently working my way through the Bible Study – Colossians: Rooted in Him. I love when God uses others to confirm what His Word is already speaking. I’ll be chopping some cotton today. Blessings!

    1. Yes ma’am. I’m right there with you Ms. Joanne. God so often uses others, and sometimes that’s been you for me my friend, to give us that divine word He needs us to hear. Am so very blessed to be able to used by Him, for His purpose and not my own. God’s blessings ma’am.

  6. Another great message, J.D. Thank you

    I didn’t know the term, “chopping cotton.” You always teach me interesting things.

    Gardening involves lots of hard work. Hopefully you’ll have all the help you need.
    I pray your garden thrives and enriches you lives.

    I look forward to updates.

  7. Definitely over 50 and familiar with the term “chopping cotton.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also learned the value of that. When God called me to write, I became a literary missionary, telling stories as Jesus told parables. I’m not comparing mine to His excellent ones, but using the idea to let story lead people. Anyway, follow the calling, something had to be “chopped.”

  8. Many take-aways from this timely post. First, what a treat you’re going to enjoy from your harvest of garden vegetables. My daddy planted a yearly garden, into his 90s all from seeds, and your story helps me appreciate the love and sweat that went into that all the more.

    I didn’t know exactly what chopping cotton was, but I do understand hoeing. The analogy with chopping busyness from our lives so we don’t rob our own souls of growth and nourishment really hit home.

    Thanks, J.D.

    1. Thank you Ms. Candyce. Am glad you enjoyed the post ma’am; and more glad you were able to recall precious memories of time with your dad in his garden. Can’t you just see his broad smile now as he shared his bounty with his little girl and her family?

  9. Edwina E Cowgill

    Loved this blog! You and Miss Diane will enjoy the fruits of your labor well into winter? The analogy of weeding our spiritual life was a great reminder.

    1. We hope to M.s Edwina. I still want to plant some winter squash and things when the weather turns a bit cooler so we can enjoy fresh veggies throughout winter.

  10. Isn’t it just beautiful how the Lord gives us these powerful lessons in our everyday lives if we are paying attention? Thankfully, you, my friend, are always paying attention.

  11. One part of gardening that is difficult for me is kneeling or bending down to weed. I blame it on my age and bad knees, of course. But it can be equally difficult to kneel down before God, acknowledging the weeds in my life and seeking forgiveness for them. It’s easier to simply let those weeds grow. And when those neglected weeds take over, it is harder than ever to get rid of them.

    1. How very true Pastor Rhoda. Weeding our spiritual lives takes just as much hard work and diligence doesn’t it ma’am. God’s blessings; and thank you so much for joining our conversation. You’ll find some wonderful friends here, as they will in you ma’am.

  12. First, thanks for sharing the news about contributing to “Our American Stories” and for the link. Re. today’s offering, Beyond that, I can’t say AMEN loud enough. regarding today’s post. The weeds that seem to pop up on their own are bad enough, but I think in our country we have a crop of them purposely sown by the enemy and they’re the worst kind. As you pointed out re. the tares, the enemy’s weeds are designed to look as much like the wheat as possible. They’ve been choking out the fruit of righteousness across this land for generations and causing the harvest of souls to diminish every year. God bless you, J.D. You’ve done it again–taken a simple but profoundly powerful truth and planted more seeds of which will yield increased awareness and understanding. Now I have to go confess the envy I felt when I saw your garden in my mind. I grew up having a garden every year, but haven’t been able to have one for a long time. We have some landscaping plants, but we can’t eat them. I did plant some blueberry bushes last week and it felt so good to do at least that. They’re supposed to be good brain food, but I’m probably too far gone for blueberries to me any good.

    1. Amen Mr. Ron. There have been many tares sown in American culture in the past decades and some, like the parable in God’s word, have become so intertwined with the church, healthcare, morality, and culture that it may well kill the wheat to separate them now. Yet, we know that God will separate them (sheep and goat) on that Day my beloved friend. His harvest will not be soiled with the tares. We must continue growing and producing His fruit in our lives so that when the harvest comes, the difference will be clearly visible to Our shepherd.

  13. I really needed to read these words today, J. D. I’ve been feeling unusually at loose ends the past couple of weeks. I know the problem: I’m letting too many weeds choke my productivity and my time spent with God. There are so many ways that satan will try to distract us and rob our joy. Praying each day the God will keep me focused on Him instead!

  14. I needed this message today, as I’ve said “yes” to too many activities lately. Fun activities, but, sometimes I need to “weed” out what is most important. I want to participate in things that honor God and allow me to share His message. Sometimes, I just need to rest and give someone else an opportunity to be a blessing. 🙂

    1. I hear ya Ms. Melissa. Saying “No”, especially to something that can honor God and bring Him glory, is a difficult thing to do. Yet, if what we’re doing is not in His will for our lives then we have to “weed it out”. I reminded myself recently that, “Yes, I could do that at church, but is doing so robbing God of the blessing or lesson He has planned for someone else?” I sometimes wonder if my zeal for serving God is actually getting in His way? God’s blessings sweet lady.

  15. J.D., I was talking with a young woman today letting her know that filling our lives with less leaves room to hear God’s voice. I love your illustration, “Like a garden, over-crowding our lives reduces our chances of achieving maximum growth.” So true!

    1. Thank you Ms. Debbie. That is one very lucky young lady to be able to drink from your well of wisdom. Prayers that she drinks her fill and then pours into others through the overflow. God’s blessings ma’am.

  16. Great message, as usual, brother J.D. You’re spot on about weeding our spiritual gardens. I recently pulled up a big one, and it’s such a relief! Living the Christian life takes lots of discipline and balance.

    Looking forward to seeing the fruit of your labor later this summer! Let’s hope we don’t have another scorcher in Texas this year.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. I have a feeling it’s going to be a terrible summer here in TX; and I hope you’ll have room to bring some silver queen corn, squash, and a big mess of collards home this summer ma’am.

  17. J.D. I can’t wait to get back home and start my own garden. I don’t look forward to the work, but I do anticipate the harvest. Gardens can always remind us that we get what we plant, whether it is literal vegetable seeds or seeds planted in our hearts. We do need to nurture the soil to produce a good result in our lives.

    1. Amen Ms. Barbara. Another term used by the old cotton farmers I’ve met here is “laid by”, which is how they referred to a cotton field that has been chopped, weeded, plowed and is ready to be left alone until the harvest. In God’s field, none are ever “laid by”. We are to continually weed, chop, and care for them to keep them producing. Praying your return home soon sweet friend.

  18. Yvonne Morgan

    Thanks for explaining about the chopping cotton, that was new to me. I also loved the lesson shared in your post. God is always showing us life lessons, we just need to pay attention.

    1. Thank you Ms. Yvonne. I’m not really sure when they grew in your homeland ma’am (I know Ireland was once famous for their potatoes). Whatever it is, I bet it’s beautiful ma’am; just like your heart my friend. God’s blessings.

  19. My life has taken on an extra busy turn these past two weeks (and it was busy enough before). Your message is much needed here on the farm, sir. Thank you for sending it so clearly. Wishing you much luck with your garden–a lot of work, but a blessing.

  20. Kathy Collard Miller

    Thought provoking as usual. I’m currently trying to determine if my interest in a certain very popular civil televised case is a weed. 🙂 Can’t believe I just confessed to that. Thanks JD for prompting heart examination.

    1. We all have “time bandits” in our lives Ms. Kathy. The wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit is that He’ll show us ours when we ask. 🙂 God’s blessings my friend.

  21. Like you, I find myself busier during my retirement years than when I was working. My husband and mother remind me when I get a little bogged down, that I choose to do what I want to do. (I think they believe that is somehow supposed to make me feel better.) Nonetheless, God blessed me with abilities, interests, and compassion. I try to do it all to the glory of God. When I think of “thinning,” it leads me to think of being able to negotiate successfully what I am involved in like making room for successful growth.

    1. LOL.. We do indeed “choose” to do what we do my friend. I’m trying to learn to tell myself “No” more often too. Currently, I’m supporting three consulting clients, planting summer grasses, preparing for vaccinations and weaning, servicing all the equipment, and today I decide to revamp my rainwater collection system. Can’t speak for you my friend, and recognize that some of your busy are labors of love and devotion, but I realize that “I’m doing it to myself” more than others are doing it for me/to me.

  22. Just today, I was thinking of my garden. Mine is small. Four raised beds, but putting them together, filling them with dirt and then planting was back-breaking work.

    I thought of how God created man and placed him in the garden. As I sprayed Neem oil and dusted with Sevin, I wondered how it would have been to tend a garden without worrying about weeds and pests.

    There are so many spiritual lessons to be learned in the garden. I think that’s one reason why I love it so.

    1. Sounds like you’ve got a great garden there Ms. Terri. I’ll be staking tomatoes today. We had a storm come through the other night and blew corn, etc. over, but we’ve recovered. I’m with you about it being a great place to learn God’s lessons. For me, it’s when I’m weeding, cultivating, or watering that I slow my mind down enough that God can get a word in edge-wise. LOL Joking a little, but we do find Him when we’re at peace much easier than in turmoil don’t we ma’am. Thank you; and God’s blessings.

  23. I love to thin in my own actual garden – it makes everything looks so neat and fresh and healthy. Then why do I NOT like to be thinned/pruned myself by the LORD?

    1. What a great question Ms. Jackie! For me, I think it’s a matter of pride. I don’t want to believe that I need pruning and weeding, etc.; rather I am wont to believe (as self-righteous as it sounds) that watering and fertilizing (bread and living water) are enough. I don’t think I’m alone in that, but we forget the lesson of the vinedresser. It’s in the thinning and pruning (the cutting away of dead things in our life) that we can bear more and better fruit.

  24. Wonderful object lessons as always. I hope many Americans grow gardens this year. It’s early for planting here in PA. While we’re supposed to hit 90 degrees in the next day or so, we can still get frost at night until Memorial Day or so.

    God bless your gardens–the one you planted and the one in your spirit.

    1. I suspect many Americans are going to need gardens this year Ms. Nancy. Praying you have a great summer growing season and folks in your area remember how to can and preserve. God’s blessings sweet friend. Happy “weeding” my friend.

  25. I found you here from your post about rest on the Blue Ridge Mountain Writers Conference site and your encouraging responses there to other Christian writers. Thank you for the encouragement and wisdom you add to the conversation!

    I too am finding the need to listen and hone in on God’s call for me in this season and to weed out “extras.” God used your words and another quote I read today to confirm my need to focus on what He says is essential, then follow His call to rest. (My word of the year is “rest.” )

    The other quote:
    “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
    — Francis Chan

    1. Thank you Ms. Deb. However you found me, I’m thanking God you did ma’am; and am so glad you enjoyed the post. It’s amazing how God brings us what we need at just the perfect time when we slow down and “thin our gardens” enough to make room to listen for/to Him. God’s blessings ma’am.

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