We live in a lovely community of eight homes called Sandia Shadows where each large lot has something in common, several rows of grapevines. The overall impact is just one of the features that attracted us. Apparently this area used to be the Talbott winery that existed long before we moved to Albuquerque. With our home comes some rich history. But to live here peaceably, we’ve had to accept some quirky easements and curious HOA rules.
Everyone must keep and care for their front grapevine that faces the circle drive. Our shared ‘crusher fine’ driveway is owned by our neighbors, making it their responsibility to maintain. Our irrigation system, that we service, includes the common entrance area. And strangest of all, we own adjacent land and pay taxes on it, but can’t use it — at all.
In spite of this, there has been little turnover. Neighborly cooperation has been constant. To lessen the grape theme we’ve made several interior changes. We painted over the fresco scene of an Italian countryside in the large niche entry and dismantled the floor to ceiling purple velour drapes that obstructed our mountain view. The metallic grapevine light fixtures and grape tile back splash have been replaced and we are still not done.
Not so fast
I have come to realize however, that if you’re an independent lone ranger type, living here can drive you a bit crazy. Colored Christmas lights, for example, are unthinkable. As we consider a more significant exterior change, like adding a casita for example, it becomes very complicated. The lawyer we consulted to review our deed mostly scratches his head. An unknown amount of legal work and expense will be required before we even learn if our idea is possible. So for now, we accept things as they are. We go with it. We abide.
That was my word suggested by Dayspring. After learning it, I sat with it for awhile. I researched it’s meaning from both the dictionary and the Bible. To be honest, for days I still felt confused. It sounds so passive, so non-productive, so not exciting, so not me. While brain storming to enhance my understanding of Abide more words came to mind — Remain, Inseparable, Not volatile, Secure, Stay, Steady, Connected, Endure.
I prayed. “Lord is ABIDE the word you have for me? Really? What are you telling me? Please give me a picture that will etch the theme on my heart, a picture that will provide understanding and stay with me throughout 2020.”
Today while taking down our HOA recommended warm-white icicle lights that drape our grape vines exactly like all of our neighbors, the picture came to me. I am a branch, but not just any branch. I’m a stubby, pruned, doesn’t look like much branch connected to a been-there-forever vine.
John 15:5 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Relationship with the Lord
My prayer and study has been fruitful. Ha. No pun intended. In John 15, Jesus prepares His disciples for his imminent death and departure using the vivid illustration of a vine and branches. In my opinion there is no clearer teaching to describe our relationship to our Lord. This passage emphasizes our absolute dependence on Him as well as our ultimate purpose.
As He has enriched ‘my word’ with a deeper understanding, I have new marching orders. I get it. It’s true, abiding may be seem passive and non-productive, but for a control freak it is easy to overlook. Abiding is FOUNDATIONAL for virtually everything including life and purpose.
The first truth I notice is that abiding goes two ways. Because I abide in Him, He abides in me. To state the obvious, staying connected to Him gives me access to His power and keeps my pilot light burning.
But, while the branch is completely dependent on the vine for its very life, the vine can use other branches to accomplish its work. This truth motivates me to appreciate the privilege it is to serve Him. I want to be in on the action and contribute to His kingdom. As a stubby branch, I may look and seem insignificant, but He sees promise and knows my great purpose as long as I abide.
Through the winter our grapevines are dormant. After a fall pruning, things look dead and bare. And yet, I know this July our vines will be heavy laden with fruit. Even if I wanted to, I can’t accelerate the process. It’s not up to me. And so it is with His work in my life. I get frustrated when the future is uncertain and I can’t see a way forward. And yet, just because I can’t see His work, doesn’t mean He isn’t working. Winter barrenness is a vivid reminder of what trust looks like. Even if you live in Minnesota, spring will eventually come.
In Greek (meno) “abide” means to remain, or stay, or continue. The work of a branch sure seems boring. Nothing flashy about hanging out on a vine. But abiding is exactly what He wants from us. Practically that means we accept the ‘what is’ while we go on trusting, keep on depending, and never stop believing. To abide in Jesus is to persevere in Jesus and his teaching.
The way I see it… abiding is simple obedience. It’s an intentional step back to the basics and an acceptance of His sovereignty. It doesn’t demand a crisis decision, a burdensome commitment or a mystical experience. It means keeping the words of Jesus in front of our minds and in the center of our hearts so that His truth restores, influences, and motivates us.
Whether or not ‘your word’ for 2020 is abide, I’m certain, He would want you to embrace this truth as the foundation for whatever He has for you. Join me as I abide in Christ and look forward to a fruitful year.