"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
September 5, 2012
As most of you know, we've had an exceptionally dry summer this year. We mowed around the first part of July, then with the high temperatures and lack of rain, our yard turned brown and dry. A green yard is pretty, but I kind of enjoyed not having to mow in the 110-115 degree weather.
In the past couple weeks or so we've had some rain, which means our yard began greening back up and the grass has started growing again. But with everything that has been going on in our family recently, neither Jon nor I have had time to mow. That was fine at first because none of our neighbors were mowing yet, so our yards all looked alike. Then over the last few days or so they've mowed, which made our yard look exceptionally tall and shaggy.
This morning, (Tuesday) I finally found time to mow. I knew it was going to be hot again, so as soon as Jon left for work, I started mowing. There was still heavy dew on the grass, but it was either mow with the grass still wet or wait until it dried and was really hot outside. I opted for the wet grass!
I have been gone off and on this past week, and have had a lot of other things needing my time and attention, so haven't had time to write the devotional for this week. As I was mowing, I was praying/thinking about what to write and thinking about the tall grass, and a thought came to mind; "Growing brings responsibility."
When our yard was brown and dry, I didn't have to even think about mowing. But once the rain started coming, and the grass started growing again, then I once again had to take responsibility for doing yard work.
Growth brings about more duties and work, in all areas of life.
When I was single, I didn't have to consider what someone else wanted or needed, but I was free to come and go as I chose. I didn't have to think about the needs of anyone else (within my home), but was only responsible for myself. But when Jon and I got married, that changed. I became responsible for sharing my life with another person and considering his needs and wants. I could have chosen to have been selfish and continued doing what I wanted, when I wanted, but that wouldn't have made for a very happy marriage.
Jon and I don't have children, but for couples that do, as their family grows, so do their responsibilities. The parents are responsible for taking care of the needs of their children and making sure they are well looked after. Sometimes this causes financial strain on budgets, and as both parents often have to work full-time in order to provide for their family, they have to figure out ways to make sure the spiritual and emotional needs of their children are being met; because they can't always be with their babies 24/7. Responsibilities grow along with the size of your family.
John 15:1-2 says, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
Spiritually, when we began growing and bearing fruit, then God prunes us. Why? So we can bear more fruit that is richer and better. Growing brings more responsibilities! God doesn't want us to be stagnant and barren, but He desires that our lives bear more and more fruit. And the way that He does that is by pruning and cutting away those things in our life that will hinder us from growing and bearing fruit. Those old areas that are dry and brittle and no longer necessary, He cuts away so that we can experience new growth.
We have five huge pecans in our backyard, one right in front of our house, and one beside our house. These trees are probably 100 years old (more or less -- I'm guessing at their age). We like the trees because they offer a lot of shade for our yard and home; which helps with the heating/cooling bills. But they are also irritating because they are constantly "self-pruning" and every time before I mow, I have to pick up small limbs out of our yard.
The first rain we got a while back, after weeks of dryness and extreme heat, we had about 5 minutes of it down-pouring with winds with speeds approximately 75-80 mph. It was blowing and raining so hard you couldn't see across the yard. Afterwards, we looked in our backyard and noticed a few small limbs down. Later I happened to look out front and there was a huge limb that had fallen off our pecan, barely missing our roof. The next day, I noticed that there was another limb beside the house and another one that had blown over into our neighbor's backyard. A few days later, when another storm passed through, a couple more large limbs fell in our backyard. The heat and lack of rain caused these limbs, that were likely already weakened and dying, to split off our trees.
We can be a branch connected to Jesus, who is the vine, but if we don't allow the Father to prune away those areas in our life that will keep us from growing and being fruitful, then we can die on the vine and fall away. We can become spiritually dry and weakened, and when a storm passes through our lives, we can break away from the vine.
Our yard is large and I had no desire to spend time and money watering our grass during the heat of summer. I was content allowing the grass to die back and not have to mow. In fact, I enjoyed not having to do yard work for all those weeks. It was easy to become lazy and complacent so that when the grass did began growing again, it was a bit of a disappointment because I had to start working again.
We can get into a spiritual rut where we're content with where our relationship with God is, and have no desire for growth or change. We become lazy and complacent, and are contented that we're not having to put forth much time or effort. But things won't stay that way forever. There will come a point where we're going to have to make a choice: either we're going to die spiritually and rot off the vine, or we're going to have to allow the Father prune us so that we can once again begin growing and being fruitful.
This isn't something we can do alone; whether we try to do it by being a good person or donating our time or money or by our works. Verses 4 and 5 say, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
We can only bear fruit if we are attached to the vine and allow Jesus to abide in us, and we abide in Him. There's no other way! We cannot be good enough or do enough or try hard enough and be successful in bearing fruit. It only comes through us dwelling/living/abiding/remaining in Jesus and He in us.
May we all stay attached to Jesus, and allow our Father to prune away those things that keeps us from bearing fruit, so that we can began bearing more and more fruit. Yes, it is work and as we grow we will have more responsibilities, but it will be worth it.
I don't want to be a useless branch that has no purpose or is becoming dry and ugly. But I want my branch to be full of fruit and beautiful! I have a lot of work to do and need to allow God to do a whole lot more pruning.
How does your branch look?
A lot of vineyards have been around for many generations. Each generation tends it as well as they can. They may replace sections, but as a whole, it doesn't change much in a few decades. They are often passed from one generation to the next.
The dreams one generation may have for the vineyard could be too big for just one lifetime. So it may be the next generation or the one after to see it through. Moses never made it into the promised land. God gave him a dream and goal for his people. He led them most of the way there, but had to pass the dream off to the next generation.
Just because a hope for growth seems to go unanswered for years, please don't give up. God won't.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 green onions, chopped (optional)
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Mix cream cheese and sour cream together. Add cheese and chopped green onion (I usually leave the onion out because I'm not a fan of raw onion). Season with garlic salt. Spread mixture thinly on a flour tortilla, covering one full side. Roll up, then cut in 1-inch pieces. Serve with picante sauce. This makes a quick, easy appetizer.
The Grandma Horton that I knew was a white headed lady who wore her hair in a bun on the back of her head. She made all her own dresses, wore cotton tennis shoes (with the end of the big toe cut out, when she was home), and stockings rolled down to her ankles (except to church, she rolled them to her knees). She quilted all the time. Grandma never baked and didn't really cook that much. She bought Little Debbie cakes to give the grandkids when they came to visit. I think I do remember her making beans and cornbread and fried potatoes before my grandpa passed away. Afterwards, she ate a lot of tuna. The reason I know that, is because instead of throwing the lids in the trash after opening the can, she would toss the lids and cans out the back door. Daddy got onto her over and over again for not throwing them into the trash. Either he or one of us girls would mow for her. He was afraid one of us girls would be mowing and run over the lid to one of the tuna cans and it would fly up and cut our leg. He finally got tired of picking them up every time, so quit mowing that corner of the yard and let the weeds grow up.
Grandma never had a telephone, and would tell everyone that she never read anything but the Bible. She liked to sing, and when asked to do so at church, it was always a big ordeal. She would have the words to a song in her dress or jacket pocket, but liked everyone to beg her to sing. Grandma wouldn't stand on the platform, but would stand down in front of it; and she refused to use a microphone, saying she was loud enough where everyone could hear her. The pianist never knew what song she would sing or what key, but she would just take off and they would have to try to find the key and follow her. I know that from personal experience of being the one sitting at the piano. And you didn't dare not play for her!
Daddy told me that when he was a little boy, Grandma would sew all the shirts for him and his brothers. What is surprising, is that she would then cut labels out of store-bought shirts and sew them into the homemade ones. I'm sure back in those days and especially in that area of the country most mothers sewed the clothes for their children, so I'm not sure why it was so important to her that anyone seeing the label (which I doubt that many people did), would think it was store-bought.
Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened. -unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon