"Happy Birthday, Dad!" Trey yelled, running to meet Tom at the door. "Thanks for going to work today!", he added, remembering our daily routine.
Earlier in the day, Trey and I had visited a small grocery store owned by a local Amish family to buy Tom an apple tree. One of my husband's passions is our fruit orchard here at the homestead, and Trey and I talked all afternoon about our surprise for Daddy.
Knowing that Trey wouldn't be able to keep the secret for long, I ran out to get the tree. "Close your eyes, Daddy," I called out.
Before I could make it into the room, I heard Trey's excited stage whisper: "It's an apple tree!" The surprise was short lived, but the smile on Tom's face was awesome.
It struck me that our relationship with God requires similar care to tending a home orchard.
First, we need to keep our friendship with God free of weeds. Tall weeds of discursive thoughts and words: discontent, gossip, anger, harsh words and unforgiveness quickly choke out a healthy relationship with God, distracting us from focusing on God and His plan for our life.
Second, we have to control the thorns of outside influences: the seemingly inoccuous diversions. What we listen to, read, watch on television or on the internet; excessive anything (food, alcohol, shopping); unhealthy relationships; and emotional issues we refuse to work through - these all can contribute to creating a useless jungle of debilitating life issues and God-less thought patterns.
Lastly, ruthless pruning protects our friendship with God. Self-righteousness, legalism, over-committment, and approval-addictions can quickly take away our freedom in Jesus and weigh us down with the heaviness of 'doing it right'.
When our friendship with God is healthy, He promises to send us gifts, "...much like the same way that fruit appears in an orchard -- things like: affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal (gather) and direct or energies wisely."
(Galations 5: 22b-23 MSG)
Dear Father God,
My heart is your orchard. Teach me to recognize the weeds and thorns that are choking out my friendship with You. Please give me courage to prune the branches that are weighing me down, keeping me from the freedom Jesus promises (Galations 5:1).
Thank you for the promise that you have blessings piled up and waiting for me when I worship you. (Psalm 31:19 MSG) I commit to living your way, aware of our friendship, so that you can bring the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control into my life. (Galations 5:22-23 NIV)
In Jesus' Name, Amen.
"We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well."
(1 Corinthians 10:24b MSG)