For every release of Cultivating since we launched in 2018 we have had an assigned theme as our focal point. This issue of Cultivating marks a change. For the first time in our history as a publication and fellowship we have a shared theme not for the season but for the full year! This theme forms what we may call “roof and foundation” for the work we will do. Within this setting, we will explore four topics, one by one each season, each topic essential to the overarching theme. The theme for Cultivating 2023 is Reclaiming.
Why reclaiming? And reclaim what?
In a single word, reclaiming describes the core of the great Story being told of our lives and of history itself. Our true Story is bound to the bone and core by the long pursuit of our rightful King labouring to reclaim His Kingdom and His Bride from a malicious and thieving usurper. Every great story we have ever loved is a retelling in some way of this great Story that we are a part of.
The stories that we love, the stories we want to read to our children and tell each other for courage through dark seasons are stories of reclaiming. Good prevails over evil, what was stolen or lost is fought for, won back and reclaimed. The King who has traveled in disguise as commoner is revealed, his throne and kingdom restored, his queen restored to him. It is ever the case of Tolkien’s mysterious word – eucatastrophe – the unforeseen turn of events that brings good to triumph and certain doom to nothing, rendering every sad thing untrue. This is the story we long for every single day of our lives. These are the stories we cheer for, the stories we read again and again, the stories we model ourselves after. These stories have the mark of truth on them, not the cynical taint of “reality” but the stamp of certain hope.
Those stories that bear the deepest mark on us however are not the stories with easily won victories, are they? Why is that? From my experience it is because they bear no witness to how our life really is. They do not reflect truth. The reality of our every day lives, even the safe and comfortable ones, is one of losing. Our days more often than not, buried perhaps beneath a layers of distraction, entertainment, and busyness, is a reality of ground lost beneath our feet. This is true in our individual lives and it is true in our shared lives collectively. It is true regardless of what country we live geographically. We all live in the country of earth. Centuries have passed but our longings for the return of the true King run as deep in our hearts and bones as that longing in the centuries leading up to birth of Christ and in all those that have come after it. The world is not right, and no matter how much we want to love it, we do not fit what it is now. We are exiles in a land that seems like home but is not.
If we are brave enough or broken enough, we see this. We spend our years trying to tell ourselves to not make a big deal about our daily losses and the heartbreaks that stain our lives grey. We practice denying the losses, ignoring them, looking away, “moving on”. We numb ourselves with scrolling, we harden ourselves with activity. But inside in the quiet we know.
And then sometimes we hear a whisper, a secret word passed through the ranks of the aching, that hope is coming and dawn is only an hour away. “Aslan is on the move!” Sometimes we hear a word that kindles a small flame of fighting courage in us to not let the deception of the enemy lull us into submission. A single word might spark the remembrance that we are resistance fighters, made to tend and defend the ground given to us using both sword and trowel.
The single word I am whispering to you is reclaim.
Perhaps the deepest fear we will ever face in this world is looking open-eyed at the battlefield within us and the slain that lay there. The hopes, dreams, relationships. The blood, the nightmares, the weeping that bleeds out inside and cannot reach the eyes. The hardest, most bitter work we will ever do is to look with open eyes, name our slain and our losses, and weep for them. But this is how we give honour to what has mattered and what matters still. It is how we receive back the essence of what we have lost. It is the door through which we must pass if we would ever be whole.
This work of reclaiming is the work that we are called to all our lives as Christians and Cultivators. And while this deep story arc of reclaiming runs throughout the course of history, there are also times in history when reclaiming becomes a choice that must be made, a course of action that must be taken in a marked time and in a specific season. There is a call moving out through us now as believers deep-rooted in Christ, a call to reclaim the ground we are given, to reclaim a foothold of certainty, to reclaim the out-living of peace and fruit-bearing, to reclaim fearlessness and life without shame, to reclaim our right and our call to hold the line and to restore.
The work of reclaiming is not something that can be done in a season. In truth, of course, it cannot be done in a year. That is why we call our work as cultivators the “long work of restoration.“ It takes all of our lives and beyond our lives to restore what has been ruined. But we are creatures in time and God is the Lord of Time, Maker of the seasons, and He calls us in season to take up the call to reclaim what is ours in Him as we make our way Homeward.
Reclaiming initially is not directly a restorative act or process. Reclaiming is first an act of establishing authority and the legitimate right to possess. Reclaiming means standing actively in an authority deeper than our own earning or deserving to take back what is rightfully given to us in Christ.
In that light, to do any real work of cultivating – literally or figuratively – one has to begin that long work with having the right to do so. No legitimate cultivating can be done as a usurper. That right is given us in Christ by Christ. Our call in our individual lives and in how we bear witness to Christ is to live whole lives rooted in Christ that we may flourish and give glory (acclaim) to our Maker. Living through a long period of conflict, difficulty, and repetitive losing damages our capacity to remember what we are given, who we actually are, and why we matter. The work before us to reclaim our memory, our strength, our courage, and our joy. It is long work, and it is good work.
Reclaiming is done in steps and stages, cyclically and faithfully repeated. It takes great trust, great courage, and a great commitment.
For the kind of reclaiming we are exploring in Cultivating, there are four essential steps taken in sequence. Naming, Assessing, Staking, and Embodying. Naming is core to this process and through this Cultivating Winter issue we will explore what it means to name, why we are made to do that, and why it is essential that we do so.
My prayer for you is that this year will be a year of reclaiming for you in a new and deeper way what is fully and truly yours in Christ. May you heal in the places of deep aching, may you name what has been nameless in you, may Christ’s courage overcome your fear, and may you know to your bones the joy that crowns the victorious.
The featured image titled, “Magpie in Winter,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for Cultivating.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and publisher. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, school boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 35 years. Now empty nesters, Lancia & her husband Peter make their home in the Black Forest of Colorado, keeping company with 200 Ponderosa Pine trees, a host of visiting wildlife, an ever growing library, and two beautiful cats named Meeka and Misha. Lancia loves land reclamation, website and print design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.
A Field Guide to Cultivating ~ Essentials to Cultivating a Whole Life, Rooted in Christ, and Flourishing in Fellowship
Enjoy our gift to you as our Welcome to Cultivating! Discover the purpose of The Cultivating Project, and how you might find a "What, you too?" experience here with this fellowship of makers!