The theme of Punch and Press, and of Brandon’s life, is developing people and cultivating potential. True to his nature, and to the roles he plays in my life, pastor, friend and boss, Brandon challenged me to grow when he asked me to write a guest post for Punch and Press. I’m so thankful that he shoves me right out of my comfort zone on a regular basis! – Lisa Malstrom
voracious: (adj.) excessively greedy and grasping
The last few years have comprised a particularly busy season of our lives. My husband and I have been focused on our kids, who were finishing high school and beginning college; our aging parents, who suddenly required more assistance from us; and our jobs, which were fulfilling but demanding. Yard maintenance fell to the bottom of our priority list. We did pay some guys to come mow the grass each week, and when a weed in a front flowerbed became tall enough to pull without bending over to reach it, I usually took the time to yank it out. Truthfully, we put forth these meager efforts mostly to avoid threatening letters from the neighborhood association.
When we recently decided to downsize and put our house on the market, I surveyed the true condition of our landscape. For the first time in many years, I looked at our yard with fresh eyes. The shrubs had branches poking out at wild angles, reminding me of little boys with crazy bedhead. The begonias I planted last year (in a brief, deluded effort to compete for yard of the month) had succumbed to relentless heat, mischievous squirrels and general neglect, leaving behind just a few ragged stragglers. Most shocking, was the cheeky vine that had appeared in the flowerbed along our back fence. Not only had the vine swallowed the flowers, invaded the bushes, and scaled the fence, it had also leapt to a nearby branch and blanketed the entire canopy of a large oak tree!
During this busy season of life, I have allowed the landscape of my spiritual life to become messy and overgrown as well. I’ve tended to the outwardly visible parts just enough to avoid criticism from those around me who might be watching. When a bad habit or sinful attitude becomes obvious, I usually take the time to yank it out. Occasionally I resolve to become more holy by starting a new devotional or Bible study (perhaps in a brief, deluded effort to compete for Christian of the month?) Like my shabby begonias, those efforts suffered from half-hearted intentions, and general neglect. Most shocking, are the cheeky little vines! My salvation is sure. I am saved by God’s grace, but at times the fruit of my walk with God is obscured by pervasive little vines:
- giving in to timidity instead of sharing my faith and my life with others
- neglecting healthy spiritual disciplines like focused prayer and soaking in scripture
- wasting hours on social media and other selfish pursuits
- valuing other people’s opinions of me more than God’s opinion of me (see above!)
- neglecting to intentionally invest the talents God has given me
We asked our friend, Craig, to help us spruce up our yard. Because he is a professional landscaper, he knew exactly what the yard needed and he had the tools to accomplish the task. Within a few hours, he had pruned, mulched and prettied up our property. He even tamed the brazen vine! I could not believe how great our yard looked after some tender care from an experienced gardener! I was reminded of John 15:1-4 where Jesus tells his disciples,
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
Our now beautiful yard is sure to impress buyers. While I am not looking to impress anyone but God with my spiritual life, it’s time to be more intentional about caring for that as well. I will start by asking the Father to prune out fruitless habits. I will mulch with the rich, protective covering of God’s Word, and I will trust Jesus to make my life beautiful as I remain in Him.