Graze: To feed on growing grasses.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

-Ps. 23:1-6

Growing up on a farm, I used to watch the cows, sheep & horses graze in the pasture. Each morning we would open the gate to the barnyard and they knew there was freedom from that small pen they were in. They also knew there was nice green grass beyond the barnyard. Once the gate was open, look out because those animals wanted to get where the tall, green grass grew – the pasture! They would take off sometimes even running up the old fenced lane that went up over the hill through the cornfield to the lush green pasture on the other side of the farm. There they would graze for a while then lay down and rest for a while then graze some more. They did this all day long. Come evening we would go over to the pasture’s edge and call the cows – 'come boss, 'come boss. They would gather at the pasture gate. Sometimes we would have to go round up a few stragglers and when all were accounted for, we’d open the lane gate and back over the hill they would go to the barnyard for the night. The next morning was the same routine, day after day.
What a life, huh?!

Oh that we could just graze and rest in shady green pastures all day long! But we can rest and graze in God’s green pastures and restore our souls . . . The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Ps. 23:1) I believe God wants us to slow down and “rest” and “graze” and “feed” on His Word. Life throws so many things our way and we are so busy – busy doing good things. But are we running on empty a good share of the time? Are we feeling stretched to extreme? Are we content with who we are in God’s divine providence? Slow down and take some time to just leisurely graze, rest a while, then graze and feed on the good things God has provided for you. Graze, rest, and enjoy the “shady green pastures” of God’s abundant love, grace, and mercy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Apple Tree

I sat in the back yard at mom and dad's and was taking in all of the surroundings.  The tall corn swaying back and forth with the soft blowing breeze across the corn field, the birds sweetly singing their nature melodies, the fruit trees in the orchard, the grapevines clinging to the guide wires in two neat little rows - the sights and sounds too many to mention.  But as I sat there scanning the back yard and orchard, my gaze stopped short at one of the apple trees.  Several of the original fruit trees have already been cut down for one reason or another and cut into logs. Probably already burnt in the fire place or in a bon-fire.  But I couldn't help but notice this one tree over in the corner of the orchard.  It stood out. It was different. It probably had a story all it's own to tell - if only trees could talk!!!  There wasn't much left of the tree, just a few main branches here and there.  It was obvious that this tree had been more than "pruned". It had some major branches cut from the main trunk of the tree.  I had to take a picture of it so you could see for yourself! 

I told mom that there wasn't much left of that tree.  She said, "no, too many storms had hit it and broken limbs out of it".  I sat there looking at what was left of the tree, thinking of the many, many storms and the bolts of lightning that had passed by that tree down through the years. Some lashing out at it's very limbs - bending and breaking them, leaving some of them hanging from the tree and some falling to the ground with a thud.  I've seen dad go out to the trees many a time with his trusty saw in hand, climb up his ladder, and finish cutting out the bent and broken limbs.

The storms of life can take a toll not only on trees but on you and me as well. Sometimes the storms hit us with great force bending and breaking us, sometimes the lightning strikes, sometimes the wind just blows us to pieces but we have a great God that will see us through the storms of this life.  Sometimes we may need a little pruning and some dead branches cut away so that we can bear fruit.  John 15:1 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."  Just as dad cut away the rough, torn, ragged dead branches so does God take away the rough, torn, ragged dead branches of our life that will only drain the good from us and hinder us from bearing fruit. 

As mom and I sat looking and talking about the sad looking apple tree in the corner of the orchard, she made a very positive encouraging statement - she simply said, "we can't cut it down - - - it's still bearing fruit"!!!  WOW!  It's still bearing fruit! I like that.  It doesn't have a pretty picture-perfect shape - but it is still bearing fruit! It is not very tall since so many branches have been cut off - but it is still bearing fruit!  It doesn't yield bushels of apples - but it is still bearing fruit!  It doesn't offer much shade to sit under - but it is still bearing fruit!  It doesn't even offer many branches for the birds to sit on - but it is still bearing fruit!  Mom was right, we can't cut it down because it is still bearing fruit!  And you can bet that mom will be picking those apples off of that somewhat wounded-looking, battered up apple tree and making dad some mouth watering home-made apple pie!  And it will be one of the best apple pies you ever tasted!! 

Yes, it is still bearing fruit and so can you and I - no matter what or where we have been.  God will prune us so we can still bear fruit just like the tree in the corner of the orchard that is "still bearing fruit"!!

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