I’m still making friends with the idea that a new year has begun. It is 2017 already! Like 2 months ago already! And as days and weeks keep speeding right along, it happened… I turned another calendar page and I was staring at MARCH. Okay. Deep breath. I may have needed a do-over for the new year at the beginning of February – which has just disappeared as well – but Okay, then.
My heavenly Father must have known I needed something to soften the blow. So as I opened the mailbox that day, a tiny splurge was sitting there waiting for me – my very own copy of a spring issue of Better Homes and Gardens! And just to make me smile a bit wider, the cover was splashed with brightly colored tulips!!!
Scanning the cover I saw “Life in Color” on the spine – in bright, multi-colored neon letters, no less – and a bold charge to “Get GROWING!!!” across the front. So, apparently it wasn’t just time for me to plant my feet in this new year, but to be growing! [No pressure!!?!] The letter from the editor on the first page was actually encouraging… and a bit enlightening:
“Paying attention to plants as they grow slows time and emphasizes the passing seasons, the weather, and the idiosyncrasies of nature. You never know when it will throw you a curve. That’s why some of the biggest control freaks I know (and I say that with love) are really into gardening. I think they value a good tussle with Mother Nature because deep down they respect that they’ll never control her. … Gardening also pulls me away from the tensions of modern life. Emails and texts demand instantaneous responses. We all need a break… The rewards are subtly life-changing when you pick a bouquet of homegrown tulips or snip herbs from a window box for your morning eggs.” [Stephen Orr, Editor in Chief, Better Homes and Gardens, March 2017 issue]
Of course, with all due respect, I believe it is the tussle with our Creator and our acknowledgement that He will always be in control that we value innately, but I heard what he was saying! My longing for that “pause” button perked right up as I read his encouragement to choose a less modern, less electronic endeavor! Stepping away from the tensions of modern life, picking a bouquet of any homegrown flower or snipping herbs for anything made in my kitchen all sounded delightful!!!
But honestly, there was an even greater reason for my smile widening as I flipped the pages of my new magazine. One more time, the Lord knew just how to get my attention and bring His own Words to life! You see, the very same day we discussed John 15 in Bible study – the chapter where Jesus is encouraging His disciples to understand His love and care for them, and their ability to thrive with His help, through a lesson from the garden!
In the final hours with His disciples, the Lord Jesus poured into them – loving service in the washing of their feet, intense teaching about His sacrificial death and resurrection, and commands that they would remember Him, love one another, and look to the Holy Spirit to help them understand and follow everything He was saying to them. After their last supper together, He led them on a walk to a garden.
Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I imagine they may have walked through various gardens or vineyards on the way to the one garden spot that was familiar to them – a place where they retreated with Jesus often for quiet time together. As they walked that path for the last time, Jesus used that garden setting to reassure them that their relationship with Him would continue – deepen and grow! – even when He was no longer with them.
John 15:1, 5-7, 16 ~ I am the true Vine. My Father is the Gardener… I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing… You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit that will last.
Proverbs 11:30 ~ The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.
Psalm 1:1-3 ~ Oh, the joys of those who … delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit in each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
Wow. Without JESUS, detached from the Vine, I am nothing. I am not just unproductive – I am dead! Withered. Shriveled like a raisin. Barren. Colorless. Tossed aside.
But! Jesus was reassuring His disciples that even after He had returned to the Father, remaining IN HIM was still an option! He would always be with them and they could always choose to remain close to Him! The same is true for me. WITH JESUS, thriving as part of the Vine, I am alive, growing, and bearing fruit! Instead of a picture of death, I am now part of a breathtaking garden! Instead of only decay and colorless dust and grime, I can now offer truly beautiful and life-giving things to others. As part of His garden, nourished by the true Vine, I can offer beauty, color, texture, refreshing shade, light that dances amidst the shadows, and quiet, peaceful rest!
Granted, as a branch on His vine, I will not grow in a straight line. There will be unexpected curves and painful pruning, cleaning and tending. But my Father, the Gardener longs to slow time for me, to captivate my heart and draw it away from the tensions of life. As our teaching leader at Bible study put it, “through the Vine, the Father is replicating His Son in each of His branches.” The growth process may not be easy – it requires knowing Who Jesus is and faithfully obeying what He has taught us – but transforming into the image of my Savior is absolutely worth any growing pains!
The Master Gardener will always shower me with loving care along that journey. It may be as small as an unexpected magazine in the mail on a harried day or as big as making Himself real and nearer than ever before in my darkest moment. He will always grab my attention with things that help His Words come alive.
As I listen to the nudges of His Spirit – sent to us by the Father at the Son’s request to help us remember and apply all that Jesus has taught us – and keep my nose in the Book and my knees on the floor, His nurturing work in me will be faithful. It will be more than “subtly life-changing” to gather from His Word blossoms of truth for a beautiful bouquet or fresh herbs to season my food – new every day – as fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise!
As I remain in Him and He remains in me, I will not only be able to plant my feet in whatever calendar month I find myself, but I will be able to GET GROWING… in living color!
Read more here! – John 13-15 – Psalm 1 – Lamentations 3:22-23