Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grapes and the Gardener

First sign of bud-swell
A sweet couple from church shared some cuttings (sticks-full of potential) from their grape vines with us this spring.  I followed the planting instructions and God provided a wonderful balance of rain and sun.  I hovered over them for some time, waiting for signs of life.  My first ray of hope was when they started having beautiful little pink bud swells.  Those pretty little buds not only swelled, but developed into lovely leaves!  If you have ever waited in hope of something wonderful, you know the feeling of my rejoicing heart.  Now, about three months later they look more like grape shrubs, instead of sticks in the ground.  They are lovely, knee high, bushy little plants full of promise and opportunity.  Their job now is to grow, grow, grow.  Some of their growth is above ground, developing new limbs, runners, and leaves gathering nourishment from the sun.  Some of their growth is below ground, developing strong roots, gathering nourishment from the rain.  All this gives them a steady “footing” for their job to come.   It is hard work.  Right now all they can do is grow leaves and a root system. It is not yet their time to bloom, it is their time to be established.

Now at about three months of growth.
Each of the little cuttings was once a part of a thriving plant which had produced fruit in the past, now out on their own they must follow the pattern of growth and then production of fruit.  They have not been punished as non-producers, they have been given the chance to reproduce, to start a new thriving plant.  This trimming is both to benefit their parent plant and the cutting itself.  If the parent plant is not properly trimmed, it will not be able to produce as it should.  If the cutting is never detached from the parent, it likewise will not be able to reach its potential. It would remain just a twig instead of a lush parent of many more little limbs to come.

In my Father’s world, this pattern of growing and producing and pruning is a great example for us to expect in our lives.  Remember He told us He is the Vine and we are the branches.  We are expected to gather nourishment from the Son and the Living Water from Him, from His very roots.  Spending the time with Him and in His Word is absolutely necessary to become firmly rooted.  If we are little cuttings established from this rich root, then we can expect to not only be planted, but to grow in our faith. Grow in knowledge and fellowship with our Father. 

The next life event should be producing the fruit which should be as natural as grapevines producing grapes.  That is their job, they have grape sap running through their veins and at the proper time grapes will just burst forth.  I have personally never met a grapevine that tried to hold back its grapes, and I expect you haven’t either.   We have all seen some who are not properly nourished, some who are infected with disease, some have a parasitic plant squeezing them or shading them from the light, but they try their best to produce.  We on the other hand don’t always seem to try so hard.  If we are filled with the sap (Holy Spirit) from our Root, then our drive and desire should be to be bursting with fruit.  

I have heard (and used) some excuses you may recognize.  The lack of nourishment excuse is pretty common - “I don’t know the Bible well enough”.  You and I both have met people who have knowledge, but are infected with a sin which they are unwilling to throw off and as a result, don’t seek to produce.  On the other hand, these who are infected sometimes share and reproduce those who share the lust for that same sin.  I have also known people  who are so afraid that someone will confront them, challenge them to prove their faith, or try to shame them for being fruitful, that they don’t even try.  They gradually shrink back from the Son and shrivel up in a corner, afraid to do anything.

Well then, if we only put on lovely leaves is that enough?  People might recognize us as a grape vine, but what if we produce no fruit?  If that is the case, you may find a little pruning may be in your future.  You see, pruning can help along a plant that is struggling.  None of us like it, but from one snip, often at least two shoots of new growth will emerge (unless you are a Crepe Myrtle, you will put out 27 points of growth from each snip, but that is a different story).  Perhaps you are like me in that the most difficult prunings of my life that seemed harsh and brutal at the time, have produced the most fruit.  When I am stopped in my tracks with a little pruning, I get back down on my knees (closer to my Root) and gather more footing to get back on the right track, being a little cutting for my Father’s fruit.  Can you see the work of the vineyard master in your life today?  Are you a stubborn stick who refuses to bud? He is watching over you, and is longing for you to sprout, grow and produce.  Perhaps you are new sprout just developing roots and gathering nourishment.  Do you see the hand of your Father gently tending to your every need?   Have you experienced a pruning lately?  Are you soaking in His truths for nourishment?  

I thank God for His hand so evident in the creation around us and His hand on us today.  My prayer for both you and me today is that we will be more than just sticks full of potential in the ground, but rather that as we seek Him, we soak in His truths, and produce fruit in the proper time, that He will have cause to rejoice over us.