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ISSUE No. 31 | MARCH 2O23

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ISSUE No. 31 | March 2023


If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you!  CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND.  Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:

What are you cultivating in your life?

What fruit do you want your life to bear?

Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:

Cultivate:  Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”


Irrigate:  Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation:  Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.


Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.  

Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living.  We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!



For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.

(I Corinthians 3:9)


Our theme this month is the WILDERNESS.  We chose this topic to coincide with Lent, the period of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, observed by Christians around the world.  It commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness while being tempted.  For today’s believers Lent is an invitation to engage in contemplation, prayer, and fasting, in order that we, like Jesus before us, might draw close to our Heavenly Father to experience God’s love, care, encouragement, and power in deeper ways. 


References to the “wilderness” occur nearly 300 times in the Bible.  It is the place the Israelites found themselves after their dramatic exodus from Egypt.  Their wilderness experience lasted 40 years! The wilderness is characterized by feelings of bewilderment and betrayal, discomfort and displacement, loss and lament, grief and grace, loneliness and longing, isolation and inquiry, transparency and trust.


The wilderness is a frequent location where the faithful find themselves – literally or metaphorically.  It is often a place of solitude and silence, a place where our questions and cries seem to go unanswered. Wilderness experiences can come in various forms – deep questions about our long-held beliefs, relational discord, illness, discrimination, poverty, indifference, or being directionless.


In this issue you will meet an artist who grew up in the wilderness of Russia and found a new home in the wilderness of New Mexico.  You will find our recommendation for a Lenten reader entitled Trusting God in the Wilderness by Ted Wueste.  We also invite you to take a fresh look at the life of St. Patrick and to read the encouraging essay entitled Gifts of the Wilderness, which reminds us that God is with us in our wilderness experiences.


Though we may not at first sense God’s presence in the wilderness, God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us – even in our most intense wilderness experiences. If we allow it, the wilderness can be a place of clarity and calling, of stretching and strengthening, of refinement and resolution.  Scripture reminds us that God often does a new work through our wilderness experiences. 

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43:19 NIV)


In this Lenten season may you experience God doing a new work in your life in whatever wilderness you may find yourself. (DG)




Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years,
to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart,

whether or not you would keep his commands. (Deut. 8:2 NIV)


Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and I will make the Valley of Achor [disaster]

a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth,

as in the day she came up out of Egypt. (Hosea 2:14-15 NIV)



They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to an inhabited city.
They were hungry and thirsty;
Their souls fainted within them.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way,
To go to an inhabited city.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul,
And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

(Psalm 107:4-9 NAS)



For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places,

and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. (Isaiah 51:3 NRSV)



A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life


“Wilderness” is a place, in biblical rhetoric, where there are no viable life support systems. “Grace” is the occupying generosity of God that redefines the place. (Walter Brueggemann)


To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment, nonetheless. Even in the wilderness – especially in the wilderness – you shall love him. (Frederick Buechner)


God uses the desert of the soul—our suffering and difficulties, our pain, our dark nights (call them what you will)—to form us, to make us beautiful souls. He redeems what we might deem our living hells, if we allow him. The hard truth, then, is this: everyone who follows Jesus is eventually called into the desert.  (Marlena Graves)


No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were born in the wilderness. Most of the Epistles were written in a prison. The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through fire. The greatest poets have “learned in suffering what they taught in song.” In bonds Bunyan lived the allegory that he afterwards wrote, and we may thank Bedford Jail for the Pilgrim’s Progress. Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a person, He put them in the fire.  (George MacDonald)


When we want to let the life of Christ make a revolutionary impact on our life, we go to the desert.  (Eugene Peterson)


Wandering into the wilderness of the unknown is God’s divine reorientation, from what we know in the present to what God knows about the future.  (Shelly Miller)


The way of Jesus cannot be imposed or mapped — it requires an active participation in following Jesus as he leads us through sometimes strange and unfamiliar territory, in circumstances that become clear only in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.

(Eugene H. Peterson)

The wilderness needs your whole attention.  (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Don’t try to tame the wild God.  (Jaco Strydom)



Artist of the Month

Nicolai Fechin


By Eugene Kim

Born in the wastelands of Kazan, Russia in 1881, Nicolai Fechin grew up in the Volga Forest under the tutelage of his craftsman father who carved furniture and icons for rural residents of Tartar villages. Born in the wilderness, Fechin drew his first illuminated inspiration from a geological visit to Siberia, incomparably wild and ineffably bathed in ethereal light.  According to his daughter Eya, when Fechin found his second home in Taos, New Mexico, its mountains “reminded him of the beauty he had seen in Siberia… which he painted with fervor… the light of Taos.” 


Seldom does human architecture stand proud in Fechin’s work, more often humble tenants leasing time and space from an alpine winter (Twilight) or wave-battered sea cliffs (Fisherman’s Cove).  Fechin reminds us again and again that we can either find harmony with nature or tenuously exist at its mercy.  Greater still is the Creator, and the wise can recognize in God’s wilderness and humanity’s expressive images of it, that to dust shall we return.


Winter Landscape, 1917

With humble respect for the wilderness and the people of the wild, Fechin experimented with a blending of impressionism and realism, broken brush strokes whose oils soaked deeply into the parchment, whose colors encroach on the terrain as if growing wild and free juxtaposed with clear lines that demarcate some discrete backdrop (e.g., the clean boundary between mountain range and sky in Joshua Trees) or some decided foreground framing (e.g., the ornately carved porch post in Winter Landscape).  Though Fechin is known as a portrait artist whose Native American portraitures are most memorably ravishing, his landscapes are drawn from the sacred awe of nature’s fierce and complex beauty.


Road Through the Desert, Undated



Beloved Is Where We Begin

by Jan Richardson


If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo

in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:




*From Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons



St. Patrick of Ireland


By Greg Ehlert

Ireland may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks about baren and desolate landscapes.  The Irish countryside is a tapestry of lush, green pastures and rolling hills with an abundance of sheep and pubs-a-plenty, flowing with Guinness even in the most remote, rural locations.  On a recent pilgrimage to Ireland, however, I learned that the “Emerald Isle” has its fair share of wild and rugged terrain.  Whether walking the Cliffs of Moher where the unyielding rocks stand firm against the unrelenting waves of the wild Atlantic Ocean or visiting the even more remote Aran Islands where the ancient stone fort walls of Dun Aonghasa still stands after 3,200 years, I learned that Ireland can be rugged and desolate indeed.


In the past, these wild landscapes were the home to pagan clans where Christianity had not gained traction even as the Roman Empire extended to their shores.  It was in the early fifth century that a band of Irish raiders attacked a group of Roman Briton villages (now England & Scotland) and enslaved thousands of its members, one of whom was a sixteen-year-old boy from Bannavem Taburniae who we now know as Patrick. The son of a senator and deacon with a Christian heritage, Patrick had very little religious training or knowledge of his faith.  His captors sold him into slavery where he became a shepherd for six years.


Patrick described the difficulty of those years as a severe mercy where his spirit awoke to the realities of his folly and spiritual apathy.  Interpreting the harshness of his captivity as God’s rebuke, Patrick’s primary spiritual formation took root in the lonely, exposed landscapes of the mountains and woods while tending to his master’s flock.  He wrote in his Confession:


…every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed --- the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened.  And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods . . .


Through his vibrant life of prayer, Patrick often experienced dreams and visions that eventually guided him back to his homeland in Britain as God miraculously provided for him despite regular opposition.  It was there that he sensed a call to ministry and went to France to receive training as a priest.  After returning to Britain, his family urged him to remain with them, but he had a vision of a man from Ireland (named Victoricus) who he heard say, “We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more.”  Heeding this invitation, Patrick returned to the culture and people who had enslaved him.


Patrick’s missional engagement with the Irish people included utilizing their cultural values and legends to communicate the Gospel more effectively.  Capitalizing on their worship of the sun, Patrick included a circle on the cross to connect their understanding of creation to the God of Christ.  He used the 3-leafed shamrock to describe the Trinity and the regenerative power of salvation.  He harnessed the ritual of bonfires common to the culture to celebrate Easter, even when the pagan rulers forbade it under the punishment of death. 


Patrick’s life with God was forged in the crucible of isolation experienced in slavery.  Armed with nothing more than a genuine and zealous trust in God’s provision through the harsh environment of aloneness in the wilderness, Patrick’s Apostolic ministry sparked the flames that spread across the entire island bringing faith and salvation to generations.  To read his prayers and reflections in the Confession is like reading the epistles of the Apostle Paul who had given-up everything to gain what he knew he could not afford to lose.  Whenever we experience resistance, difficulty, injustice, or despair, the life and ministry of St. Patrick is a light that can reset our focus on the transformative power of the wilderness.


To learn more about St. Patrick explore the following links:


Discovering Saint Patrick - Documentary: View Now

St. Patrick Confession: View Now



Each month we recommend films focused on our theme

Feature Film

Into the Wild (2007)

Based on the nonfiction book by Jon Krakauer, the movie follows the true story of a young man named Chris McCandless through the two years between his college graduation and his death in 1992. Through these two years, he donates all his money, travels America, and impacts the lives of everyone he meets before ending up in the wilderness of Alaska.


Into The Wild is a film that prompts you to think and feel deeply. It explores the idea of happiness, fulfillment, and life itself. The individuals McCandless encounters and their interactions shine a light on the way that people connect. Friendships, family, and the call to the wild are illuminated in a revealing light.  Available on various streaming services.

Documentary Film

King in the Wilderness (2018)

Wilderness can come in various forms including poverty, discrimination, and racism.  King in the Wilderness is an American documentary film about the final two years of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.  The film won the Emmy for Outstanding Historical Documentary in 2019 and includes some never-before-seen footage of interviews with some of those closest to King interspersed with historical archives during the period of his life.

View Now

Short Film

Saving Hiker on Pacific Crest Trail

(3 minutes)

When Nancy Abell met Katharina Groene, she was worried about the young hiker's safety on the Pacific Crest Trail. She decided to take action. Steve Hartman has their story "On the Road” from CBS News.

View Now



Seasonal Film

Lent 101

(9 Minutes)

What is Lent?  Why do people observe Lent?  How can we make Lent a more meaningful rhythm in our lives?  This short film offers a helpful explanation.

View Now



Gifts of the Wilderness
By Carolyn Arends

In this article from Christianity Today, author Carolyn Arends looks at the experience of Jesus withdrawing to the wilderness as an example of how time spent in the wild can be a meaningful gift and a reminder of God’s abiding presence.  She observes: Whatever theories we might hold, there is no wilderness so isolated that the Spirit is not there.  There is no terrain so barren that it cannot yield the Father’s gifts.  With God, it turns out that time in the wasteland is never wasted. 


Arends also poses some thought-provoking questions about time spent in the wilderness:  Is it possible that wilderness-loneliness offers us the gift of distraction-free listening? Might we discover that our need to distinguish our Father’s voice from all others’ is so great that we begin, like Jesus, to voluntarily withdraw to lonely places to pray?


To read the entire article click here: View Now



Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme


Trusting God in the Wilderness:

A Daily Lenten Reader

By Ted Wueste

As we journey through life, we often find ourselves in a desert kind of place. A place that feels desolate, lonely, harsh, and perhaps unfamiliar. And we might even feel the compulsion to escape and run to more familiar landscape. However, we are invited to resist that temptation for it is in those dry, desolate, lonely places that the Father does some of His best work. It is in those places where our souls become dry and thirsty that we are unwilling to settle for clichés and easy answers. The stripping and unmasking of the desert is so good for our souls. If we desire God, the wilderness is where transformation occurs.

View Now


The Call of the Wild

By Jack London


First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is an adventure novel set in the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. The novel follows the story of a domesticated dog named Buck, who is stolen from his home in California and sold as a sled dog in the Yukon Territory. Against all odds, Buck adapts to his hostile environment and thrives as a sled dog, eventually becoming the leader of a wolf pack. Through his experiences, Buck learns to embrace his animal instincts, developing a strong and primal connection to the wilderness. The novel follows his journey of self-discovery as he learns to survive in the wild and embrace the call of nature.

View Now




Children’s Book

Outside In

By Deborah Underwood


Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors. Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made, and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us. It reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside.

View Now



Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme


Devote some time and thought to these reflective questions on our theme:

a.  Where is your wilderness – the specific location, the best place, to withdraw and connect with God?

b.   When and how often do you need to go there?

c.   How can the wilderness elevate Jesus and put Him into focus in your life?

d.   In what ways might God be forming you as you walk through difficult times?
e.   What memory do you have of a prior wilderness experience and the learnings you gained through that time? How might you apply those learnings in this season?



2.   A WILDERNESS PILGRIMAGE by Parker Palmer – On Being

In this short essay by author Parker Palmer, he reflects on the power and impact of time spent in the wilderness:  I was in my mid-fifties when I first spent time in this patch of heaven. Its simplicity, beauty, and peace fed me so deeply me that I’ve returned every summer for the past 20 years. At first, vacation was all I had in mind. But I soon realized that my annual trek to the Boundary Waters was a pilgrimage to holy ground, to a place of healing.  
To read his full story click here:  View Now



In this music video, the singing group The Isaacs shine an encouraging light on the reality of living in the wilderness.     View Now




Pastor Eddie Davidson writes:  If you are at a wilderness place in your life, you may find it to be more puzzle than purpose.  You might be overwhelmed and confused.  You might find yourself questioning God’s wisdom – or maybe even your own. 
Read his full essay here: View Now



5.   PRAYER FOR LENT – Inspired by St. Patrick


In life’s choices and circumstances,

watch over me and protect me.


In my coming and my going, in light and darkness,

watch over me and protect me.


In hesitancy and fear, uncertainty and rebellion,

watch over me and protect me.


In testing and pain, in danger and doubt,

watch over me and protect me.


In bearing good news, in breaking new ground,

watch over me and protect me.


Alone and with others, be they friend or enemy,

watch over me and protect me.


In carrying your light, in combatting darkness,

watch over me and protect me.


In healing and freedom and life-giving blessing,

watch over me and protect me.


In comfort or challenge, to rescue or save,

watch over me and protect me.


In all my beginning, and at each ending,

watch over me and protect me.



dig deeper


But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.

(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)


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Images used in order of appearance:

1.   FIELD:   Benjamin Hunter, Untitled, 2013, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany



2.  SEEDS:  Dan Jarvis, Alone, 2019, London, UK



3.  ART:  Nicolai Fechin, Joshua Trees, Undated 



4.  POETRY:  Raymond Depardon, Rural, 2020, France



5.   PROFILE:   Greg Ehlert, Surrender in the Wilderness, 2023. The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland



6.   FILM:  Gordon Parks, Untitled, 1956, Alabama



7.   ESSAY:  Raymond Depardon, The Paris-Dakar Rally, 1990



8.   BOOKS:  Frederic Edwin Church, The Arabian Desert, 1870



9.   DIG DEEPER:  Timothy O’Sullivan, Untitled, Grand Canyon, Seasons of 1871-1873



10.   ROOTED:  Ivan Kramskoy, Sketch for Christ in the Desert, Pre-1872

TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Elizabeth Bolsinger, Amy Drennan, Greg Ehlert, Bonnie Fearer, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Nick Kinnier, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Heather Shackelford, Jason Pearson (Design:



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