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Summer 2009

Ordinary people and their extraordinary acts
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Summer 2009 - Department | St. Alban’s Minute

Pruning Vines (And Other Things)

It began long ago with a few varieties on a one acre plot and later expanded into a full two-and-a-half acres down White Road, a long dirt gravel drive with numerous potholes. 
This is my grandfather’s small farm in Waimea on the island of Hawai‘i. He grows flowers, beginning with proteas and now, most recently, orchids.  For as long as I can remember, my “grandpa” has had a green thumb.  I remember orchid benches in the back yard of their house in Honolulu, going to orchid shows at the Farm Fair at McKinley High School and later spending many of my school breaks  - winter, spring, and summer - on the farm in Waimea.  The tiny cuttings that grandpa, my brother, and I planted have now grown full and rich.
Grandpas have a way of keeping grandchildren happily occupied, entertained, and helpful at the same time.  He would hand us clippers and tell us to cull back the plant: trim the flowers that had over bloomed, become deformed, or were, otherwise, not marketable.  Given the sheer number of plants and flowers before us, we could have worked the entire day and made only a dent.
But it was more than busy work. It was necessary for the health and well being of the plant. This is, of course, true not just of protea, but also of tomatoes, roses, and any number of other plants.  My secret wish would be for a garden that I could plant and walk away from and then come back when the fruits of the harvest are ready.  
Such a thing does not exist, really. Gardening is hard work. Growing anything requires both patience and some effort to enable things to grow properly, or else we are left with a patch of overgrown plants and weeds.
When it comes to  raising our children and to our spiritual lives, we must also take an active role. Like any parent, we guide, shape, trim and discipline our children in order that their fullest potential may emerge.  We do a good job of feeding our children’s minds, but how do we feed their souls?  That is the deeper question.  Our children must be more than consumers and competitors, more than wanting to pursue awards and accolades.  Their success and our own should not be measured by fleeting yardsticks. Spiritual qualities like kindness, compassion, service, and integrity are the real measure of how we live.
In the Gospel of John (John 15:1-11), Jesus speaks to the disciples about being the vine and God the Father being the vine grower.   The healthiest and best vines are ones that are tended, pruned, shaped, and cared for. Such actions allow the sun to shine deeper into the plant, strengthen it and produce better fruit.   
More importantly Jesus says, “As the Father loves me, so have I loved you, abide in my love.”  "Abide" means to find active ways to live out the example of love set for us. To abide and to participate in the love of God means to look at the garden that lies within us, be active in pruning and shaping our hearts and souls to allow the light and love of God to go deeper – and find a home - in the very center of our being. 

The Rev. Daniel L. Leatherman