"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!'"
October 15, 2014
Jon and I have big pecan trees in our yard -- four in the back and one in the front, to be exact. Jon's family have jokingly, or maybe not so jokingly, referred to them as being self-pruning. Jon's mother has told me that she vividly remembers that throughout the years, each time before mowing the lawn (and according to Ken, that was always his job until he left home), someone would have to go out and pick up pecan branches first.
Since living here the past nine-plus years, I understand the process of picking up pecan branches before mowing. About 6-7 years ago, we had a huge ice storm in Oklahoma, which broke off several big tree limbs. Since that time, we haven't really had a huge problem with a lot of pecan branches falling. It was as though the heavy ice pruned all the old rotten wood from the trees, and since that time we haven't had to pick up many fallen branches; and I certainly haven't had to pick up before mowing each time. That is, until the past couple of weeks.
In the last two weeks or so, we've had some storms and high winds and have been having a lot of branches and limbs fall from the pecans. It seems as if I will just get the yard cleaned up, and the next morning I'll go outside and there will be more branches that have fallen. If feels as if it's a never-ending job!
A couple years ago, we had to have one of the big pecans in our backyard removed. Several years ago, lightening had hit that tree and there was a hole in the trunk. Over time, the hole was getting larger and we could tell the wood was rotting inside. Of course, it was the tree furthest back on our property! But we were concerned that if we didn't have it removed it could end up falling and causing a lot of damage to either our property or the property right behind us. It was a huge ordeal having it removed! We had to hire a tree-removal service that owned a big crane and they had to take the tree out in sections, so it wouldn't fall and hit power lines or anything else. While they were here, we also had them to remove a big pecan that was right beside our house that over the years kept leaning further and further towards our home; and the power lines also ran right beside that tree.
The tree-removal service did stump grinding where they removed the trees. Jon and I left the hole where the stump was ground down in the backyard. It's a hole probably about a foot deep, and about 5 feet wide. We put fire brick around the edges and use it as a burn pit for the branches we have fallen in our yard.
Sometimes when limbs fall it's obvious that they were rotting. The wood is dead and the leaves are brown; if it even has leaves on it at all. Other times, it's hard to understand why certain limbs fall. The leaves are still green on them, and when you look at the wood where it was severed from the tree, it looks good.
In John 15:1-2 (NLT) says, "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more." Verse 4 says that a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me (Jesus).
Verse 5-8 continues, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted. When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father."
This is a great example of what the life of a christian should look like. Picture a fruit orchard in your mind. Jesus represents the trees within that orchard. He is the solid tree trunk that is firmly rooted and gives nourishment to the limbs. Picture that I am the branches on one of the trees, Jon is the branches on another, you are the branches on another, your family and friends and pastor and whoever are the branches of all the other trees. God, our Father, is the gardener who takes care of the orchard and oversees each and every tree personally.
But some of the trees are more productive and bear more fruit than others. It's not because Jesus loves them more, or they are more special, or have been given an easier life, or God isn't as tough on some as He is others, or whatever reason people may attribute......; but it's because some are willing to allow God to prune away the dead, useless, unproductive, sinful areas of their lives, while others aren't.
Those who are willing to submit themselves to the Master Gardener and allow Him to cut back those areas in our lives that aren't producing fruit, they will find themselves becoming more fruitful. Pruning can be a painful experience. It causes us to humble ourselves before God and allow Him to examine our lives and cut away those areas that are hindering us from becoming the thriving man or woman of God that God knows we can be.
Those who are unwilling to submit themselves to God will find themselves severed from the tree one way or another. A big storm will come and they will find that they really aren't connected solidly to the tree (Jesus). They will find that they have either spiritually rotted and withered away, or over time they have become spiritually weakened. No matter how hard they try, once they've been severed from the vine, they can't bear fruit on their own. They have to make a choice at that point if they are going to remain severed from Jesus, or if they are going to repent and allow God to graft them back into the tree.
The good news is, none of us are without hope. No matter how puny and pitiful your limbs may look and how barren and fruitless you may be, we can pray and ask God to reattach us to Jesus once again. Our Master Gardener can take a life that is ugly, pitiful, fruitless, and useless and make something beautiful of it.
It is bizarre which limbs break off in a wind, and which are safe. The old, long-dead and rotting limbs made perfect sense. They may have fallen off even without a wind. But some of the limbs looked bright green and full of sap and life. Maybe they had grown too much too fast, and had more leaves than strength in the limb. And maybe they had some damage or disease that wasn't obvious on the outside.
When God wants to prune part of our lives away, it is usually obvious why, but not always. God has lead Loretta's sister to quit her job. Cutting away a job seems like a strange thing, but we can trust that there is some hidden reason. The job may be diseased, or may be growing the wrong direction. God knows why, and will make something great of it, even if we never do understand why.
Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos
1 lb. Sausage
22 large Jalapenos
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Half each jalapeno lengthwise and remove seeds (I suggest wearing plastic gloves when doing this. If not, don't touch anything while working with the jalapenos and wash hands extremely well afterwards). Cook sausage; drain. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and parmesan cheese; fold in sausage. Spoon 1 tablespoon of mixture into each jalapeno half. If desired, cut raw bacon strips in half; then wrap a strip of bacon around the jalapeno half. Place in un-greased pan. Bake, uncovered at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until filling is lightly browned and bubbly (and bacon is cooked, if using bacon). Serve with Ranch Dressing as a dipping sauce, if desired.
My sister, Janie, and I shared a bedroom... and a bed.... from the time I was probably about age six until she got married when I was sixteen. One of my fondest memories of growing up is laying in bed at night talking before we went to sleep. Then there are a few not so fond memories.... like Janie saying, "If you'll scratch my back fifty times, I'll scratch your back fifty times." But somehow, after I finished scratching her back she was always way too tired to scratch my back; saying she'd do it the following night.... which she rarely did.
I remember when I was a little girl hearing my parents and some of the aunts and uncles talk about stories they heard about Big Foot. I overheard them saying one time that there was a story on the news or paper or somewhere about Big Foot reaching inside a travel trailer and stealing a kid out of their bed. Truth be told, that story was probably either made up by the news media or the kid was abducted or ran away...... or the story grew over time with each person that told it; but it scared the tar out of me! We didn't have A/C in our house and slept with the windows opened. I slept on the back side of the bed right beside the window. For a long time, I was scared that Big Foot was going to come to our house one night and reach inside the window screen and carry me off somewhere.
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. - Will Rogers
We love you!
Loretta & Jon