Sitting on the Bench or Abide

A little known fun fact about me: I played basketball one season in the 7th grade. Not because I am some stellar athlete… The team was short on girls, they needed someone/ anyone, and I was reminded by a friend just how good looking Coach Johnson was. That alone made my adventure into the realm of athleticism a reality. But alas, his handsomeness was not enough to captivate me for a second season. For one thing, I was AWFUL at basketball, and I HATED running, especially the sprints/ suicides… And an entire season on the bench with the occasional chance and failure to play and make a shot was enough to limit my tenure as a Lady Tiger. Bench sitting is no fun. You practice and practice, running drill after drill. Sitting on the bench is like an insult to all that hard work. I’m not sure which was worse, sitting or actually being put in to play. Being the disappointment of your teammates over and over from missed shots isn’t all that and a bag of chips either…

Me and the Ever So Handsome Coach Johnson. Lol (Not sure what I was thinking…)

I’m not sure if it’s the COVID outbreak with two quarantines, a change in churches, kids growing up and branching out, a death in the family, or just life itself, but I’ve felt like I’ve been benched by God here lately. What’s funny, yet really not so funny, is I’ve invested myself in this Beth Moore Bible study “Chasing Vines”, and as God would have it that is exactly what my Bible study is about. Feeling like you’ve been benched or maybe even pruned. Kind of lying dormant for a season. Transplanted to a different place where God intends for me to produce fruit in the future. Yep, there’s a lot to that.

Tonight’s the first night in I’m not sure how long I’ve had the house alone. I kind of dig it. No TV. No lights except my lamp by my chair. No noise. Just me, this computer, and my Bible app to contemplate life. Better yet meditate on the main verse for this weeks lesson in the study I’m in. John 15: 1-3,5-8 MSG

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken… I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

Better known to me as the “Abide in me” verses. Thankfully my relationship with God is nothing like my 7th grade Basketball experience. However, the American Christian’s mindset may very well be exactly like it. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself running sprints and trying to keep up so I can look impressive to coach… God. Only to find myself so wrapped up in my performance and how it lacks impressiveness. But God simply wants me to “abide”. To rest in Him, be connected to Him, let His life flow into me so I can do what He created for me to do all along… bear fruit, His fruit. The beauty of it all is He aims for an “abundant” harvest in me. It’s all about what He does in and through me. God isn’t a coach who benches, but a farmer who tends and I can expect that His tending to me will bring about Good things in me and around me. Not because of how exceptional I am, but because He is just that Good. And He loves me!

God the Master Gardener

It was 12 years ago in April that we moved into our current house. Everyone was extremely excited. We had lived in an Earth Contact/ basement home for 7 years. It was half the size of our new home and it had no windows. The new house had tons of them. Plus we had more than twice the acreage with a yard with grass as opposed to woods all around. Things were looking up. When we got settled in my husband told me of some of his plans to make this place truly our own. One of his first ideas was a garden.

To be honest, if I were a cusser, at the time that would have made me cuss. All I could Think of was WORK… I begrudgingly opted to help him out. Neither one of us really knew exactly what we were doing but we gave it a try with some success. But by July our nicely tilled, freshly fertilized plot looked like a giant weed experiment. All I could think of when I went out to get stuff was how much easier it would be to just buy frozen produce and call it good. But he loved the idea of gardening, and continually told me how I should get into gardens and flowers and such. After several attempts I told him, “Look Gardening is not my thing. It’s your thing. I’m not going to do it anymore.” So for the first time since moving here, we went without one.

Life got busier and more complicated and I found myself fighting things inside me that were bigger than my ability to figure out on my own. So I ended up trying counseling for the first time. After talking a little, my counselor asked me, “Do you like to garden?” I replied, “I don’t know. I’m no good at it. All I grow is weeds.” She said, “That’s because you really haven’t tried.” I told her, “I don’t know what I’m doing…”. She said, “You can learn anything you want to. That’s why they have YouTube and Pinterest.” I went home that afternoon and told my husband, “If you want to do the garden thing again, I’m willing to give it a try.” He was like a kid at Christmas. We planned, we planted, we worked it, and we ate all kinds of goodies, and though I have hated to admit he was right. I should get in to gardens and flowers and such…Now it’s become an ongoing project for the past 3 years that I have a newfound joy, along with landscaping, flowers everywhere, and my new found love of bird feeders. I think I’m morphing into my mom and grandmas. I love it! And come to think of I actually do have a green thumb. I just never let it come out until now.

Most mornings in the summer, I spend some time with a cup of coffee and my Bible. Then I head outside to take care of the garden and plants before the heat of the day. When I’m out there, the sound of birds singing, cow mooing in the distance, bugs making their noises, etc. fills the air. There’s been many times I’ve thought to myself, “I think I understand why God has a thing for Gardens.” He’s the original gardener. When I’ve spent time pulling weeds, I think about how it parallels Bible stories I’ve read. When I pick the veggies, verses come to mind about bearing fruit. It’s kind of a spiritual experience along with the physical one. Good stuff.

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to borrow a dvd/book/ Bible study by Beth Moore a couple of months ago, “Chasing Vines”. I hesitated. Beth Moore is known for being in-depth and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be engaged in an in depth Bible study. In between just finishing up quarantine and the governor’s stay at home orders and a lot of other stuff going on, I wanted to do my thing and not get too in depth. Yesterday I saw it sitting there and I picked it up. Let’s just say what I had resisted looking at, turned into an adventure. (kind of like the garden dream 12 years ago) The first chapter was all about God and gardens. The more I read the more I realized, “I’m going to have to buy Joy a new copy of these books because I have got to underline and write in them.”

Then of all things, a verse Beth Moore quotes hits me. “”I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.”
‭‭John‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬ I’ve heard it in other versions as “my Father is the vine dresser.” God is the “Gardner”. The Gardner who gets a kick out of working in the soil of my heart. Planting new plants that He enjoys watching develop and bear fruit. God loves to spend time working in the heart of me. He loves to cultivate, prune, and pick so I am the most fruitful I can be. In fact, He loves a beautiful garden. I can be assured that the garden of my heart is beautiful because of His constant attention and care. He’s been at this Garden development in my heart since before I was born actually the Bible describes it as “before the foundations of the world.” Ephesians 1:4.

God’s great Garden work in my heart brings me to an assurance that His intentions for me is to “bear much fruit.” Just as a garden has different seasons that continue to work the garden, so does my life. There may be a time of rest, where snow covers the ground. It may look like my productivity is frozen during cold temps and freezing precipitation. But all this contributed toward the goal of productivity in my heart. Nitrogen released from the snows of winter is needed for a great harvest in the summer sun.

Nothing is wasted in the garden of my heart and I am assured that God is not done with me. He promises me fruitfulness now as He tends my life and that fruitfulness will continue even into old age- Psalm 92. What was, what is, and what will be are all under His care. And I must always remember “He has done all things well”. Mark 7:37. That includes me. God’s not just a gardener. He is the Master Gardener working in me.