It was the spring of 2005. I was wandering through the walking trails with Ron and Rick Betenbough, mesmerized by what my eyes were seeing. Of course, it doesn’t take much for this West Texas boy to be impressed, but I was absolutely awestruck! Tucked away about an hour and twenty minutes south of Atlanta down I-85, Callaway Gardens is a must see if you’re ever in the area. We were in Atlanta for a home building convention, and decided to take some time to tour the gardens. Boy were we glad we did! While I’m sure it is breathtaking year round, we happened to wander onto the place in the spring when the azaleas are simply indescribable. Definitely bucket list worthy!
We had just completed the construction of our new corporate office in September of 2004. Our building is situated along the northern edge of approximately half a section of farmland we had speculatively purchased with the hope that Lubbock’s growth would continue to the south and west. We had already built several hundred homes on the property, and discussions were underway about selling some land to Wal-Mart that would essentially position our office building in their parking lot. While we were eager to make this deal for many reasons, we were a bit concerned with how the bustling Wal-Mart traffic might impact the atmosphere of our workplace.
So, as we walked through Callaway on that cool May morning, it struck us. Scott Scarborough of Tom’s Tree Place recalls that we didn’t even wait until we got home. His cell phone rang while we were still walking through the Callaway trails. We were inspired, and we knew he was just the one to do something about it. Our instructions were simply to take a few acres and construct something special behind our building…something that would give a beautiful backdrop to an already beautiful building. We wanted to bring a bit of Callaway home with us.
The challenge was that our building wasn’t located in western Georgia. No, it was located in West Texas, and the land he had to work with was flat, weedy, dusty desert. He wasn’t intimidated, though, viewing the space as a blank canvas that might cause him to push the outer boundaries of his creativity beyond what he currently thought feasible.
Excavation began the following winter. While Scott did have a grand vision, it was more like sculpting a garden into existence. It reminded me of watching Bob Ross paint “a happy little tree” on PBS! He began with digging a pond, then proceeded to form hills strategically placed around the property, dropped in waterfalls and bridges here and there, planted a forest of trees and vegetation, and eventually ended up with one of the most beautiful pockets of earth in West Texas. The transformation was nothing short of extraordinary. What Scott and his team accomplished is remarkable, receiving local and national recognition for the achievement.
Since completion, it has become quite a special place for many. From concerts to weddings to family portraits, our prayer garden has been the setting for a beautiful collage of memories. My own mother was married in the garden, and I have had the joy of baptizing all three of my children in the pond. To say that the garden is special to me is an understatement.
Today, we believe that the garden was given to us by God so that we would have a picture of what He is calling us to do in the marketplace. What started out as dusty, dry land has become a beautiful oasis teeming with life. We believe this is our call in business. The marketplace can be quite the barren wasteland for many who spend their lives there, which is a perfect mission field in which to do His work. Each year, we have the opportunity to touch thousands of lives through the platform of business, and as believers we choose to see these encounters as opportunities to bring life to the weary.
The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Jesus says that “streams of living water” will flow from within those who believe (John 7:38). It doesn’t take a seminary degree to love people. Whether you are a business owner or employee, teacher or student, parent or child, you are a witness to the hearts that you encounter each day. Be encouraged that as believers with the indwelling Spirit, we can have an enormous impact on the world around us. So, wherever you go and whatever you do, may Psalm 84 be your living purpose…
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca (Tears), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.