SAMPLE FROM LATEST BOOK
Foreword by Dr. John Killinger
My dear friend James McReynolds knows more about joy than anyone else I have ever known. He became joy’s apostle years ago. He has been absorbed with the subject ever since.
In this beautiful book, which is about gardens and beauty, and joy, he leads us at last to a chapter on jouissance, a French word for extreme and ultimate joy. It is where he is headed in his life journey all these years.
I know his readers will find themselves transported to this wonderful heart of joy with him, for his very language reflects on every page his adoration of God and what it means to live with the Divine throbbing through every bit of the universe.
I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be Jim and to live constantly wit this vibrancy at the very center of my entire being.
If anybody was ever prepared to enter heaven, it is Jim. I can’t believe that he will find life any richer or more beautiful when he gets there than it was before he left the earth. If anyone ever lived with what one old hymn called “the foretaste of glory,” it is he. This book is radiant proof of it!
If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, perhaps the palate can light the way to the soul. My brother David wrote a huge volume on the McReynolds family
through generations of people who lived in Scotland and then moved to Northern Ireland. His research revealed that many were farmers.
My family always planted huge gardens. My grandparents breezed through the Great Depression, never having to buy food. They lived in the hallows near Elizabethton, Tennessee. My parents grew huge gardens with corn, cucumbers,
beans, tomatoes, squash, turnips, watermelons, okra, peas, radishes, strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and more.
At Harmony Baptist Church in Elizabethton, an old church bulletin related that in the garden of his soul we would plant at least nine rows of produce. The first three rows would be squash. We would work to squash gossip, squash ugly criticism and indifference. He would cultivate three rows of turnips: turn up for church, turn up with a smile, turn up to serve others. He would cultivate three rows of lettuce: let us be faithful, let us be unselfish, and let us love one another.
Gardening connects us to life’s natural rhythms, the gifts of each season, the wonder of creation, and our natural world. Our family has experienced the joy of gardening. Many of my ancestors came to America because there was famine in Irish homes. Gardens pull us into the present moment. The hard work of gardening creates loss of a sense of time, especially as we dig away, plant, prune, water, and become faithful and patient.
God has increased patience for food growers each and every day, generation after generation. In the garden we live at a gentle pace. Now that I have grown older, I look at the world and appreciate the slow, gradual changes that are the essence of the garden. God will be patient with us when we fail to grow spiritually. The fires of faith will burn strong, not just lukewarm. There might be time to rekindle the flame. We must not put it off until tomorrow.
As we age, our sense of time grows shorter and shorter. The slowness of plant growth becomes a comfort that helps hold back the speed of life. God told us in the beginning exactly where we would find joy with God on earth. God created humans in God’s image. God could have given them a place in an ocean, on top of a mountain range, in a castle or a cave. God chose for us the Garden of Eden, a paradise in which Adam and Eve could live with plants of every kind, vegetables and fruit. God guided them in what they were to do. They planted and cultivated the plants. Working with plants brings us closer to divine presence. We shall know the interconnectedness of living things. Come dwell in your Garden of Eden and find your destiny.
Any book about preparing and eating food would not be complete with a word from Julia Child: “Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” (Julia Child, People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People, p. 65.)
I love gardens. Gardening is an effective metaphor for life. Good farming and gardening needs vision. Without a vision, crops fail. We cannot just buy some seeds and expect a creative garden. What kind of garden can you visualize? Just as life needs a vision quest, as do all living things.
As we walk out the back door, what do you see? We need to make gardening a priority. What can we grow? Pumpkins, green beans, potatoes, strawberries, sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, flowers, zucchini, and sunflowers. Trim your list to the things you know you can grow. Most of us have limited space. And we know what we can successfully manage. Visioning life on earth starts by creating a list of what you want to do. Plant seeds that bear the fruit that is important to you.
Good soil is vital. Gardeners and farmers spend time, energy, and expense to improve the soil to create a rich, strong, and durable soil. Manure, compost, and nutrients help create an environment conducive to vibrant growth. The soil of your soul must be prepared. Get the education you need. Obtain the skills that will allow you to achieve your goals. Declutter and get organized. Exercise, eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, and walking with God in the pleasant cool of the garden.
Our earthly joy is essentially “being loved.” The quest for joy does not require us to go on long journeys. Everywhere we are surrounded by joy stimulators. Continuing to live in the future robs us of joy in the present. The last movie my departed wife Nancy and I saw together was “The Way We Were.” Barbra Streisand sang, “If we had it all to do again, would we? Could we?” These questions summarize our lives.
I know Nancy is walking with God in an incredible garden. One of her gifts to the world was her beautiful flowers. She will enjoy the gardens in heaven as much as her daughter and I enjoyed those heavenly flowers at the Shine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. We enjoyed the hymn that Nancy sang in my churches with passion: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. All the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Nancy’s first and middle name, Nancy Grace, described who she was. She and our daughter Linda kept the last name McReynolds. We spoke of “the three of us” as our love and closeness being like the Trinity.
We three believed in the promise of heaven. When our thoughts turned to heaven, we knew that even death is nothing compared to the vast jouissance of life.
Linda was with her mom during her time of cancer and finally her going to heaven where she is whole, pain free, and fully healed.
Our souls enjoy the times our unconscious becomes conscious. I was taking a nap one afternoon. Just before I awakened, I saw Nancy walking toward me in the hall in her eternal mansion. She bore a smile on her face. Her skin looked soft and smooth. Her clothing was classic, perfect for her.
After being given such a clear vision, how could anyone doubt the reality of the Next Place? God’s dreams for us go far beyond what the world has to offer. God created us wonderfully unique. We yearn for something more, for something lost. Purposely made for a purpose, we exist at this moment to become perfectly ourselves.