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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blue Marsh Lake, Berks County, PA 6/30/11
Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County, PA

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"The Blessing Of Pruning"

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:1,2).

Last week Brooksyne and I visited Eaton Farms, a large commercial farm north of Reading Pennsylvania that grows trees, shrubs and perennials for the wholesale home, garden and landscape market. I know the owner, Don Eaton, through his association with "Convene", a Christian businessman's group I also associate with.

The farm covers 200 acres and since we enjoy home gardening and landscaping we really were blessed to view his operation. Don and his wife, Kathy, along with five of their six adult children, work on the farm as well as his sister and her husband. Like many farms it is truly a family operation! After our visit in his office he had a golf cart brought up and told us to have a look around. It was a joy to ride through the vast property and observe all the plants and trees in their stages of development.

Pennsylvania Pride Time after Time HydrangaDon has a passion for growing.  His enthusiasm would make anyone want to garden after hearing him describe the various new hybrids and plant types his farm has developed and is growing. He was especially excited about a new variety of "Pennsylvania Pride Time after Time" Hydranga that needs little attention and yet blooms all summer with beautiful elegant flowers.

He seeks to operate his business using godly principles. In fact the following verse included in his mission statement sums it up well, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men"  (Colossians 3:23).

We have a small Japanese weeping maple tree that got off to a bad start last year.  I picked it out of a selection of plants that were being disposed of. I suppose I find joy in taking something that is intended for destruction and nursing it back to health, though a major contributing factor was that it was free.  In addition I really wanted that type of tree!

One-sided Japanese weeping maple 7/5/11To compound matters I planted it where it deals with strong winds from the west. It is growing and the leaves appear healthy but all the life is on the east side while it's bare on the west side (not the most desirable shape for a tree nor a nice view for drivers who pass by). I described the situation to Don and asked what I should do. He advised me to prune it early next spring by cutting the branches back heavily on the east side. Based on my description he felt the tree has a good root system and explained that after the heavy pruning it would round out to the desired shape we want. Well this got me considering another type of pruning!

The daily Scriptures are the very words of our Lord Jesus. The typical interpretation is that Jesus is the vine (or in the case of a tree like the main trunk) and we are the branches of the vine (or tree). The Father cuts off branches that bear no fruit, which has been variously interpreted by Christians through the ages. Some see the branches as aspects in our life that are undesirable and that God "prunes" them to make us more fruitful.

Today I consider the latter part of the daily text, "every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Are you bearing fruit today? All who follow Christ are called to bear fruit. In fact Jesus ended His teaching with this statement, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:8). All fruit-bearing Christians are subject to pruning (notice "every branch"). The purpose of the pruning is that we might be "even more fruitful."

Scriptural fruitfulness is both the development of the fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22,23 (Christ-like character traits) and effectiveness in ministry Colossians 1:6.

The nature of this "pruning" is seen by many to be the trials that are an inevitable part of our earthly existence. I can't speak for you, but I 'm rather uncomfortable with the painful pruning experiences of life. Too often I'm willing to settle for the fruit I already have rather than focusing on being "more fruitful" which follows the pruning action. But I go back to that detail I pointed out earlier: "Every branch," Jesus said, "that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

May God give each of us an assurance that the pruning experience is evidence of His love. He is cultivating our spiritual life, making us more productive and effective in that which He has called us to do.  Ultimately pruning is a blessing!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You are the Master Gardener who is growing me into the likeness of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  As I remain in the Vine You assure me that I will bear much fruit lasting far beyond one season. When I consider the fruit You want to grow in me I recognize that it is all based on character traits seen in the Son. Help me to respond in accordance to the pruning knife of the Word of God as it penetrates my soul, judging the very thoughts and attitudes of my heart. Cut out that which hinders my growth and submerge me in that which will make me flourish making me fruitful for the Kingdom of God. In Jesus' name I pray.  Amen.

Eaton Farms

Don and Kathy Eaton 6/30/11
Don and Kathy Eaton

Eaton Farm greenhouses 6/30/11
We looked out from Don's office, which sits on a hill overlooking a part of the farm, to open greenhouses with a variety of colorful stock. It was a stunning view and this photo only captures a small part of it.

Eaton Farm irrigation 6/30/11
We thought the irrigation provided a pretty scene, kind of like a water show, minus the music and fancy lights.

Eaton Farm trees 6/30/11
The trees are planted in the ground in pots. This type of farming takes patience since many of the crops are not ready for harvest each year but may require several years of growth and attention before they are ready for harvest (ready to sell).
There's a spiritual lesson here: See Galatians 6:9

Eaton Farm red trees 6/30/11
I have always liked red trees but don't see this many of them all together in neat rows!

Eaton Farm topiary 6/30/11
The topiary require a lot of human attention.

Eaton Farm t-shirt wisdom 6/30/11We met up with Don's brother-in-law working on the farm as we "jetted about" in our golf cart.  He was wearing a T-shirt that reminds readers of the importance of farmers and the valuable farmland that we rely upon for our daily bread. Lancaster County and this part of south central Pennsylvania has some of the most fertile soil in the world but much of it is now covered with houses, building structures and parking lots rather than fresh, healthy vegetation!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Today we considered songs on pruning and all we could recall was an old children's song that states, "He prunes back the branches when the branches get too high... but that didn't seem suitable for this message!

However the consideration led to this song:

"Bring The Rain"  Video  MercyMe

This song in turn prompted another song as a tribute to two older saints that recently finished their journey on this side and went home to be with the Lord; Catherine Fry, 91, and Mary Dourte Martin, 97.  These women were faithful to the very end and we are thankful for their faithful walk with Christ.

"I Can Only Imagine" & "Finally Home"  Video  MercyMe

Here are two websites related to Don Eaton's Farm:
Eaton Farms  
Pennsylvania Pride  On this site you can view growing tips by Don, including how to prune a Japanese Maple!

Eaton Farms is located near beautiful Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County PA.  This satellite photo gives you some idea of the size of the operation!

"Convene" is an association of business owners who seeks to run their businesses in a Christ-like manner.  Ron Hoover is a local chair and shares a video here.  Ron has been a tremendous source of encouragement to our ministry!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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