Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

That nursery rhyme from 1744 is not merely a verse recited by children but also guidance for grownups.

How does your garden grow? That depends on many things.

Over 30 years ago, I discovered an exercise developed by Bobb Biehl. It is called A Single Year. Biehl advises going through the activity once a year at a significant time.

For me, I chose my birthday. And for several years, around my birthday (a couple of weeks ago), I sat down quietly with a cup of coffee and answered its questions.

The questions are easy to read and difficult to answer. Who do you want to influence in a year? What do you want to know in a year? Those are questions that scratch the head and dig into the heart.

The point of the exercise is simple. It makes you think about the harvest you will reap within 365 days.

We live in a world of high-speed reaction. It was not always so.

While in graduate school, I preached on Sundays at a little church 30 miles northwest of Abilene, TX. It was tiny (a good crowd was 20). Since it was a farming community, it had farmers.

I learned much from the farmers.

In the winter, he thinks about the following winter. What kind of harvest and how much does he need to pay the bills and make a living? Do you plant maize or wheat? Cotton or sow beans? The decisions will make a difference in many things.

It will change how you plow the field. Seeds cost different amounts and will yield other profits as well.

With that in mind, the spring thaw lets him spring into action.

The apostle Paul said:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Sowing and reaping are twins. The sowing creates reaping. And what you sow and how much will determine how you reap.

Think about the cycle of life. I have three thoughts we must ponder.

Think of the harvest, the one year or five years where you want to be. See it, taste it, and describe it in detail. A person who cannot tell what they wish to do with clarity doesn’t know what he truly wants in life.

Think of the seed. What will it take to make the harvest happen? Influence takes time and a specific name. What is the name and when is the time? If you don’t know what to do, you do nothing.

Think of the sowing. What do you put in today’s schedule that makes life happen? Will your day move you closer to where you need to be? Seeds are what you do each day. What are yours?

It is a fool who thinks he can create the future. But the wise man knows that enough days create the future. The seeds of today are the crop of tomorrow.

Don’t focus on the future but on one and go about sowing seed.

That’s what the Single Year exercise does. Look at a year and do what you need today to make it happen.

What are you going to do?

In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years, he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man, believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return.

But in 2010, a team led by Eric Ramsey with Tom Cox World Ministries went to a jungle across the Kwilu River from Vanga. They found reproducing churches hidden like glittering diamonds.

All came from the seeds planted by Dr. Leslie.

The harvest happened because someone sowed the seeds.

So, what harvest do you want from your life next year?