Cattle on a thousand hills

How a humble garden offers us a glimpse of God's creative power.

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(Photo: Unsplash)

My earliest memories of what belongs to God are connected to my grandmother. She was one of the first Adventist converts in Kuching, Malaysia—my hometown.

An impoverished and illiterate widow who brought up her 10 children through the proceeds of her market garden, she faithfully served God in all the ways she knew how.

By the time I was born, there was no need for her to grow vegetables anymore but she continued to do so on a small scale. Each time she returned from market after the sale of another lot of vegetables, I saw her putting aside some money in a special brown envelope. When I asked her what it was for, she told me that it was the “10 per cent of one” which belongs to God. I suspect that no matter how poor she was in the early days, she made sure this portion was God’s. I’m sure the Lord blessed her. All 10 of her children went to school—both English and Chinese schools. In those days girls were not normally sent to school but Grandmother made sure all her seven daughters attended.

I know I am blessed because of Grandmother’s faithfulness. She introduced me to serve my Saviour in so many practical ways.

We grew up with an “investment pawpaw” tree—all proceeds from the sale of that tree went to the investment offering. We had birthday thank offerings, week of sacrifice offerings and even the idea of first fruits. So we learned very early in life that the Lord’s hand touches everything we grow in our garden. Our fruits and vegetables were always bigger, sweeter and more abundant than others grown in the area. We never had a shortage of people wanting to buy our produce. 

"I know my Lord is watching over me and my garden, and blessing me in more ways than I can ever imagine."

Today in my garden I follow this principle. I don’t sell my produce. But because it grows well and gives me more than I can consume, I give it away to friends and family—but not without “tithing” it first. I put a rough estimate on what the produce would have cost me to purchase if I were not able to harvest my own.

At any one time in my garden, there is something growing that is edible, some weeks more or less depending on the times and seasons. I have fruits—limes, oranges, mangoes, pawpaws, custard apples, guavas, pomegranates and avocados. I have vegetables—leeks, beetroot, various Chinese greens, lettuces, spring onions, beans and an assortment of herbs and other greens.

Like my grandmother’s garden, my harvest is plentiful and delightful. I do have a few bugs now and again but most of the time they do not completely destroy the garden. They are ever-present and remind me of sin. Snails are always around at dusk; so are the choruses of frogs that sound so melodious to any gardener’s ears. My garden is a testimony to my Creator’s power. My part is small—I just need to put a few seeds in, water and fertilise at appropriate times, and not neglect the weeding. But as I do these jobs, I know my Lord is watching over me and my garden, and blessing me in more ways than I can ever imagine.

The psalmist says, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:5, NIV). The blessings God has showered on me are not only material but in all aspects of my life—family, education, career and good friends.

How else has the Lord blessed me? I started working at age 20 and, except for a few weeks between jobs, I have never been out of work. I do not understand what it means to be poor, homeless or hungry because I always have food in my garden and some money in the bank. I am not wealthy by the world’s standards but God gives me enough so I am never without. I often chide myself for worrying about tomorrow and retirement. How foolish am I to do that! I think and ponder again and again the promise in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” How reassuring and comforting is that!

For me, the exhilarating statement of God’s power and might is found in Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” It’s again emphasised in Psalm 50:10: “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills” (KJV).

God owns me and everything in this world—nothing is mine. I am fortunate to be a custodian of the goods, time and talents I enjoy while I live on this earth. How lucky am I?


Mui-Fui Shelly McCleary is retired and living in New Zealand.

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