Monday, December 03, 2007


I'm no greenthumb, but house plants have always held a special place in my heart. My Mimmaw Snyder could grow African violets like nobody's business and always had a variety of cheerful colors brightening up her little home. My mother was fond of her Schefflera, Wandering Jew, and heartleaf Philodendron. I loved to tease her that she took better care of her plants than she did her kids.

After Mom's memorial service last September, I brought more than a dozen beautiful plants home with me. Knowing I couldn't care for all of them, I gave some away to family and friends and carefully tended the remaining half dozen with all the care that my mother gave her plants over the years.

I watered them, fed them, talked to them, gave them plenty of sunshine on pretty days, and brought them inside on cold winter nights.

And so you can imagine my heartbreak when I awakened this morning to the sight of a half dozen frozen plants on my deck where it rained all day yesterday and then dropped down to 22 degrees last night. Some of them had to have warm water poured around their bottoms to even pry free.

Disappointed, I nearly threw them out with the morning's trash, but something stopped me. Perhaps they can be saved, I thought. But then I looked again and saw no signs of life in the frozen foliage.

I left them on the kitchen table as I departed for school, planning to do something with them when I returned later.

Much to my amazement, when I prepared to toss them out later in the day, hiding deep beneath the dead black leaves, now thawed and hanging listlessly over the sides of the pots, I saw something that made me rejoice. GREEN! BRIGHT GREEN LEAVES!

With my sharpest pair of kitchen scissors in hand, I proceeded to cut away everything that the ice had destroyed from the cruel night outdoors, and when I was finished, I was left with a half dozen naked houseplants.

As I thought about the new growth that would be permitted (and encouraged) by removing the dead foliage, I thought about the pruning God does in the lives of his children to encourage their spiritual growth.

The dead leaves and vines piled up around me, reminding me of the unpleasantness that must be purged not only from my ailing houseplants but also from my sinful heart. Jesus reminds us of this when He says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). Doing so makes the tree bear better fruit, grow higher or to give the tree a more lovely appearance.

Just as my sharp scissors were the perfect tool for pruning my plants, God's Word is the perfect tool for pruning us. God’s Word is sharp so that it can remove unwanted branches in our lives without harming us. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

I have no idea whether my plants will survive this experience or not, but I do know that my own pruning -- as unpleasant as it can be at times -- will allow me to grow in God's character and to be more fruitful in His kingdom.

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