This basketball season, Pastor Watts and I are sharing in devotions and half-time devotions about John 15:5.
5 “I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me.” (GW)
This study has been so interesting and so fun to teach and talk about during half-time. It has brought up so many family memories and stories.
This past week the devotions dealt with the Father (the caretaker) removing every one of my branches (v. 2). What I found interesting is that growing up I was taught that this was talking about the branches being taken away. The branches being cut off of me. The branches being purged from me. However, what didn’t make sense to me was that later in the chapter there’s a verse that actually talks about being purged. It really didn’t hit me until this basketball season that these two verses were saying basically the same thing.
What I found out this week is the first time it is mentioned, in v. 2, it actually means that the Father comes along and “lifts up” the branches. He doesn’t cut them off. He doesn’t purge them. He doesn’t take them to the fire. He lifts them up. My wife, Dawn, was sharing with me on the way home from Basketball that she does that each spring to the grapevine in our backyard. She “lifts up” the branches in order to spread them out. (Not that it really matters to the taste of the fruit, or that we eat them, but it does spread them out. They are bitter and still have 7 seeds in every grape that we ever picked.) She and I also talked about how all those branched come from ONE vine. ONE stalk that comes out of the ground. But that’s for another entry as a part of our sharing together.
When I think of this principle, and what I shared with the parents of CW Sports, is that there are many who come alongside us to “lift us up.” God being one of those. As some of you might know, Dawn is a great gardener. She does an awesome job in the garden each year, the flowerbeds look awesome, and the yard always looks amazing. She has been training and working with the grandkids each spring, summer and fall, teaching them about nature and how awesome God is and how He reveals Himself in nature. Me, well, I can sit on the lawnmower and enjoy the music on my headset. That’s about the extent of my enjoyment working in the yard.
I remember when we were putting in the raised beds, before we had totally moved into our house. Olivia and Laila (two of our granddaughters, who were kindergarten and pre-school age at the time) were helping us get the dirt ready by digging around in the dirt. They started out by throwing out all the worms. Dawn shared with them that the worms were God’s way of making the soil rich and were needed to help the plants grow. With that the girls started picking up the worms, held them in their hands, gave each one a kiss and said, “Okay, you do good work and make Gigi and Granddad’s plants grow so we can enjoy some great vegetables this year.” They would then bury them in the dirt and pat it down. Words of encouragement. “You can do this.”
The Grands all helped Dawn plant and work on a Trumpet Vine at the end of one of our flowerbeds that the grands all planted and work in. They call this flowerbed “The Secret Garden.” They put an umbrella frame on top of a pole and ran the vine up the pole and then wove it around the umbrella. Well, sometime during the end of summer and into the fall the pole rotted off at the ground and the whole thing fell over. The plus side is that the vine didn’t break off and we didn’t lose the plant. So, Dawn stood the pole up, put a wagon on one side and buckets of sand on the other. “Lifted it up…”
There have been people in my life who have come alongside me who have encouraged me by saying, “You’ve got this. You can do this. You’ve got what it takes. Keep moving forward. You’re doing a great job.” Those words kept me going. Those words may not have come very often, but they always came at the right time. They were the right words that came at the lowest times in my life. I want to tell each of you, “You’ve got this, you can do it, keep moving forward, you’re doing a great job.” I know that life can be hard, but you have a cheerleader. You may not always hear those words. You may not always get those words all the time, but hopefully you hear them right when you need them.
The one thing that I’ve learned the most in life is that in my relationship with the Lord, He comes along and “lifts me up,” right when I need lifted up. Sometimes that lifting hurts. Sometimes it’s a stretch. Sometimes it’s a gentle lift. Sometimes my branches get caught. No matter what, that lifting is always at the right time. That lifting may be just to carry me through the trial that I’m going through at the moment. I just have to trust Him in all things. As I do, He lifts and carries me to the other side. Let Him lift you. Put your trust in Him today and He’ll lift you right when you need Him to.