Sturdy Branches

Spring ushers in an incredibly full time for my family’s life as our berry farm wakes from winter slumber. Like a ravenous bear waking from hibernation, the farm calls for everything to be done at once. Acres of berries require pruning, fertilizing, irrigation connections, weeding, and more.

Our main goal is to produce as many berries as plants will allow, as we strive towards healthy growth in order to do so. The first couple of years we kept every single blackberry cane, painstakingly tying every little bit of growth to the trellises. Our focus was to keep as many blackberry vines as possible in hopes of having as much fruit as possible. We obsessed over tying up little scraggly twigs, wrestled with 15’ long branches, and dared to prune anything that might produce a yield.

Having and caring for a berry farm is a long-term commitment, and each season brings with it a new set of lessons and tests. We no longer strive to keep every scraggly twig and 15’ vine alive. Our pruners get a workout as cut branches are removed into massive burn piles. While pruning a long row of blackberries one afternoon this season, my thoughts were focused towards nurturing strong branches that could support fruit to come. It required me to be more aggressive in deciding what to prune and what to leave. Every bit of unhealthy growth or weak canes were trustingly pruned and removed.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in fruit production – after all, that is the desired end result. The Bible speaks to fruit and its production quite often. We read in Galatians 5 about the fruit of the Spirit and in John 15 about bearing much fruit. On our farm, and with Christians, it’s easy to get focused on fruit production and lose sight of the health of the plant, or the body of Christ. In general, our culture and some Christians are mainly concerned with fruit production. Energy is often focused on attaining the highest productivity possible, no matter the cost.

As I pruned blackberry canes that warm afternoon, my measuring stick for pruning adjusted from ‘how many fruiting buds were available’ to ‘can this cane support the expected fruit’? The later question took the first into account, but ultimately determined each cut. What would happen in our lives if we evaluated our hearts and minds in regards to this?

As Christians, are we focused on building a platform, a financially successful church, notches in our souls saved salvation belt, or quantity of attendees at ministry events? Or, are we more focused on a healthy, vibrant, and growing body? I can say with confidence that when we put our energy and focus towards growing a healthy body, the fruit will come. With healthy plants, balance in what it going on, fruit is inevitable; they can’t help but to produce a crop.

The gospel has produced some serious fruit over the centuries. Jesus was diligent in discipleship during his time walking in flesh and bone. I believe he was not only living the example, but taught others he came into contact with. He pulled aside twelve, focused his attention, and poured in to them. Jesus’ life touched more than just the twelve, but he knew those twelve would have significant impact on the spread of the gospel message. It’s almost as if Jesus was focused on growing the canes to make sure they would be capable of supporting the fruit they would bear.Just like our blackberry canes, the Twelve would need to be strong and able to weather the storms.

As we move forward, let’s be mindful and honest with our intentions. Are we more interested in producing mass quantities of fruit, or growing our roots deep and our shoots sturdy to support whatever fruit God chooses to produce through us? It begins with our personal and intimate relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It takes guts to be honest. Thanks for letting me go there with you, and for going there with me. It’s an honor. Let’s be strong and focus on Him today.

With gratitude,

Amy

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“But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.” James 1:4 Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

 

 

Poured Out

As a woman, I believe we have an innate tendency to run ourselves ragged. Getting burned out is common as we continually pour out for others in giving of our time and energy to work, volunteer, school, church, family, our spouse, children, friends, and so much more. There’s a never-ending to-do list which seems to grow like it’s been on a continuous drip of high-powered fertilizer.

While visiting with a friend the other day, we discussed the break I’ve been taking from teaching a Sunday school class at my church. She too had stepped away from commitments at her church, completely dried up from pouring herself out. My friend commented on how long it had taken to get re-hydrated. We were in agreement as to how important it was for those in ministry to be continually tapped in to the Lord and soaked by the Holy Spirit so we could pour out to others.

“We’re kind of like sphagnum peat moss!” I said. She looked at me inquisitively. I went on to explain that peat moss is a base ingredient in potting medium to grow plants. It has a wonderful water-holding capacity but when completely dry, it repels water. The water rolls off as you attempt to moisten the soil, not soaking in at all. In order to re-wet the potting medium, you have to rough it up a bit and add much more water than expected. It takes time and energy.

On the other hand, if the peat moss gets too wet it then becomes in inhospitable place for a plant’s roots to grow. The best way to treat the potting medium is to keep it moist, at all times. Not too wet and definitely not dry. In order to grow plants, you need good drainage – both breathing space and moisture.

All of us must be filled by time with the Lord in personal relationship and rest in him. Before we can ever pour out effectively, we must be filled. We’re a vessel, used by the Lord our Creator. He pours out through us and for us. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves dried up like dehydrated potting soil.

Whether you are in ministry to an official capacity or not, this is important. Every day, we minister to our families and friends, co-workers, and the check-out clerk in the market. It may be through the simple gesture of a smile, or an extra hug for our kids, but it makes a difference.

Are you taking time to rest and be filled by God’s presence? Not out of obligation, but because you want to? Its o.k. to step back from commitments if needed, just don’t wait too long. In order to bear fruit, we must have that Holy Spirit river flowing through us. I know no better way than to spend one-on-one time with the Father through prayer, His Word, and worship.

What pours out when you aren’t “full”? How do you stay filled up, so that you can pour out the good things God intends?

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Pouring out for others
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 {Photo Credit: Photo by Cassidy Phillips on Unsplash