Gargoyles and gaffes

Gargoyles and other statuary can add a whimsical touch to the garden if you know how to place your garden art. I’m just learning how to use art in the flower beds, and I’m really drawn to “ugly” art such as gargoyles and trolls.

Historically, gargoyles were meant to ward off evil spirits. Their imposing, frightening visages graced many prominent buildings, including notable Catholic churches such as Notre Dame. The use of these strange, scary images for this mystical purpose was not without its critics, however.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux spoke out in the tenth century against the images. He thought them inappropriate and a waste of money. Their use gradually became more practical and took the form of water diverters to redirect rainwater. Their open, gaping mouths would spew the water collected from the roof so that the deluge would not run down the walls and pool against the building’s foundation.

Statues with similar features combining beasts and human form that serve only ornamental purposes are more properly termed as “grotesques,” although commonly called “gargoyles.” The term “gargoyles” now refers more accurately to those fanciful rain spouts.

I have two such “grotesques” in my garden; although in keeping with my low-budget garden style, they are pretty small. They serve no purpose in guarding anything, although I wish they would scare away the chewing insects.

But really, for an organic gardener, I have very few complaints about what the bugs get. This year the Swiss chard won’t be edible, looking more like Swiss cheese than a leafy green. And I found a Japanese beetle destroying the very first bloom on my pale rose, “Jude the Obscure.”

The thing that really needs guarding is my mouth, not so much the garden. If everything that entered my mind exited through my lips, it could cause a world of hurt. In many instances as a wife and mother, I am actually responsible for saying something…so duct tape is not the answer.

How shall we speak only good and never what is hurtful or harmful? That’s a tough one, and I’m not sure anyone has the complete answer. We do know that this issue requires divine intervention, though!

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NASB).

As we pray for wisdom in our communications, we find that it’s a daunting task to speak truth without ever misspeaking. It is a challenge to prevent our negative feelings to color our speech and darken it so much that it is not received well, or worse – hurtful.

One way to make sure that the occasional misspoken words do not harm is to make them the rarity. Find the positive and then speak it whenever possible. See good and be generous with praise. Smile.

When your friends and family know they are deeply loved and appreciated, they won’t assume bad intentions from us if a stray gaffe finds their way into their ears.

Praying for that guard over our mouths will help us focus on being part of that guard. We pray for God to set a watch over the door of our lips, but that doesn’t mean we can flap them without thinking!

Gargoyles spout nice fresh rainwater from their ugly mouths. What do our mouths spout? Grotesques in the garden don’t guard against evil spirits, the Lord does. He will also guard our mouths if we ask him in true willingness of heart.

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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