Extending Grace to Ourselves and to Others: Reflections on Growth in the Vineyard

One year, I celebrated my June birthday with my daughter and family in California. To my delight, Beth took me to my vineyard for lunch at the lovely restaurant there.

On the way to the Temecula vineyard area, I was amazed to see how the former ruthlessly pruned vines were now covered with lush green leaves.  You may remember those stark vines in a former post.

That was just a little over 3 months before!

I wondered about the fruit though, because I do know that usually harvest season is in the fall.  So after lunch, we went to see if we could find my vine.  Beth lifted some leaves, and we saw a bunch of beautifully formed green (not ripe) grapes.

I was amazed at the transformation in such a short time.  However, the growth wasn't complete yet.  The promise of a harvest was evident, but it wasn't yet a harvest.

Those green grapes set my mind and heart thinking about growth and maturity and waiting on God, the Master Vinedresser who knows the process from the beginning to end.  He has promised,

He who began a good work in you will perfect it till the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

So often, I'm impatient with myself and others, wanting instant maturity or expecting "fruitfulness" before its time.

I think of Moses as a young man in Egypt.  The book of Acts says that he knew about his call to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and actually tried to do so before God's time.

When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.  And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.  He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. Acts 7:23-25 ESV

God still had work to do in Moses life to bring him to the end of himself.  Then he would be ready for the mature "fruit" of being God's instrument of deliverance.

It's the same way with us.  God the Father, our Gardener, promises that as we abide in Christ His True Vine, we will bear fruit in increasing measure:

...fruit,...more fruit,... much fruit. John 15:2,5.

He has us in His process!  The Father does whatever is necessary to bring our lives to fruition.

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he lifts up [alternate translation], and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2

Our job is not perfection, but abiding.  But rather we are impatient and really...immature.  We want to experience mature fruit before God's time.

This reminds me of when we were kids in the 1950's.

Linda, Janet, & Nancy in Arizona circa 1954

In the 1950's, my family lived on the edge of a desert in Tucson, Arizona in a new housing area consisting of cinder block duplexes, but little else.  Not much grew out there.  But one thing that did grow was melon.  The way I know that is when we kids would eat watermelon, we would spit our seeds to one side of our front porch.  After a time, a watermelon vine would grow carrying a beautiful new melon.

Would we wait till the melon ripened to open it up?  Oh no!  We impatiently and prematurely cracked open that baby, only to see white hard flesh where juicy sweet redness should be.  What a disappointment!

And maybe that's why we are disappointed with our own lives and the lives of our children and others close to us!

There's an interesting verse in the New Testament addressed to fathers, but it could very well be addressed to mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.  Just substitute alternate relationships for the underlined words:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Col 3:21

How do we exasperate and frustrate our children and others?

By unrealistic expectations of perfection?

By building walls instead of choosing love in difficult situations with others?

By giving up and not counting on God's working?

In reality, full maturity will will not be reached on this earth.  Rather it will come when we meet Christ face-to-face.

So in the meantime, dear brothers & sisters, let us abide in Him, keep on growing, and extend to each other (and to ourselves) God's grace:

And now, little children, abide in him... Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 2:28; 3:2

But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

I Saw a Tree by the Riverside...

Back in the late 1970's, my husband John was a junior high youth pastor at McLean Bible Church in McLean, VA.  During that time, the junior high kids turned us on to Evie Tornquist's uplifting music.  Often when "our kids" would meet at our house, the Evie albums would come out of their covers (yes, they were LP's in those days). Our son Jeremy was a toddler at that time.  So before our Bible studies would begin, he would entertain all of us by dancing to "Step Into the Sunshine" or another of Evie's upbeat songs.  And even during our at-home times together, Jeremy and I would dance and sing along with Evie's simple, yet spiritual music.

A few years ago, I tried to find what had been my favorite Evie song, but to no avail, until...

My friend Kitty just "randomly" shared that she had been looking for a song about trees and found one by "someone named Evie."  Eureka!  My song!

So here it is...simply titled, "The Tree Song."  But first why I like it...

This song makes me think of Psalm 1 and how I long for my precious son and darling daughter to grow like the sturdy tree that sinks its roots deep...deep into our Lord God and His holy Word.  And I also long for this for my amazing grandsons.

So with a prayer to that end...and the Psalm...and the treasure of a song!  Thank you, Evie...and thank you, my friend Kitty!

Psalm 1 NLT

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly.

For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

Tree Song by Evie Tornquist

I saw a tree by a riverside One day as I walked along Straight as an arrow and pointing to the sky Growing tall and strong How do you grow so tall and strong? I said to the riverside tree This is the song that my tree friend sang to me.

I've got roots growing down to the water I've got leaves growing up to the sunshine And the fruit that I bear is a sign of life in me I am shade from the hot summer sun-down I am nest for the birds of the heaven I'm becoming what the Lord of trees has meant me to be A strong young tree.

I saw a tree in the city streets Where buildings block the sun Green and lovely I could see It gave joy to everyone How do you grow in the city streets? I said to the downtown tree This is the song that my tree friend sang to me.

I've got roots growing down to the water I've got leaves growing up to the sunshine And the fruit that I bear is a sign of life in me I am shade from the hot summer sun-down I am nest for the birds of the heaven I'm becoming what the Lord of trees has meant me to be A strong young tree.

Take a look at my new Bible study/devotional book -- The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension