Faith & Family

Finding fruit in unlikely places

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Diann Catlin

I’ve been teaching 1 John for months to a group of ladies who never tire of opening God’s Word to scavenge for nuggets of truth and application. As you may know, in 2Timothy 3:16, the Bible shares that it was “breathed and inspired” by God for the believer’s equipment to hike this rocky terrain we call life. Like a perfectly stuffed backpack, my water – living water; my snack bars – solid food; and, my bug zapper – the sword of the Spirit, are packed and ready for application for the challenges we face on this glorious hike.

God used men’s “pens” and Himself as inspiration to write the handbook I depend on to find my way. God used His disciple, John, to pen the Gospel of John, Revelation, and my new best friend 1 John (and 2nd and 3rd). 

Why John? Because the man majored in love. He had his Ph.D. in love, and he mixed love and truth as beautifully as Paula Deen mixes pounds of butter with an elongated drawl of “y’all.”

Teachers of the Word sometimes take tiny, always scenic detours to other parts of the Bible. Like a scenic overlook with a primed “pinnacle scope,” complimentary Bible verses focus and clarify the vision at hand, cementing its oil-painted strokes not just in the eye but deep into the heart.

To really chew 1 John in a cow-like, rotating jaw, moist, get-every-drop-of-delicious-tongue-movement, my “pinnacle scope” took me to John 15. Here the disciple speaks of the vine (Jesus), the vinedresser (God), and the branch (me)! He exposes simple gardening 101 concepts like the vinedresser will be pruning for more growth. The branch, in obeying the cleaving to the vine, drinks in all it needs to produce not only more fruit but much fruit. 

The vine is key to the branch. I must stay attached, and I must abide like a nursing baby on the vine. Otherwise, there will be no fruit, or certainly not much fruit.

Every time I have taught John and 1 John, verse by verse through each book, I have envisioned “fruit” as those delicious winter oranges, dripping with sweetness and overflowing waterfall-like juices. Maybe I would “taste” the fruit as grapes, not tart and sour, but firm and borderless sweetness.

But this weekend in my quiet time, as I put on my fruit-inspector hat, I said out loud: “Where is my fruit? I don’t see any fruit. I am on the vine, I am certainly being pruned; where are my oranges, grapes, bananas, and mangoes?” 

My husband came in, asking who I was talking to, and to tell me that our seasonal neighbor’s children had been visiting for a week, were heading back to Florida, and wanted us to have some of their leftover groceries. Because I was fruit-inspecting and my baskets seemed to be rattling in emptiness, I said “great” and went back to lamenting over my crop.

Later that night, when it was time to prepare dinner, I started woefully singing the repeated refrain of “Oh my gosh, woe is me, open the fridge, and what will I see?” But this time when I opened it, I saw the most amazing professionally-packaged bag of shiny clean, red, green and yellow elongated peppers, given to us by the guests next door. I had been wanting chicken stir-fry. It seemed like there was enough for the whole block. And, I had fresh boneless chicken breasts and a new bottle of olive oil. Can you do a happy dance over such a wonderful gift? Why yes you can! 

You see, the gift was much more than dinner, it was my “pinnacle scope” showing me that fruit comes in many forms. Today it was in vegetable shape and pungent tastes that actually crunched and simmered to bring out their hidden scrumptious flavors.

When you are serving the Lord, you stay on the vine. You do indeed have seasons of pruning, and even a season of resting. You have a season of producing and hopefully some seasons make

the baskets completely overflow. Your “fruit” looks different from other’s fruit, and – drum roll – sometimes your fruit is vegetable-like, and not citrus. If you start comparing your fruit to other farmers you will be less grateful for what the Lord is doing with you for others.

If He has you planted on the outskirts of a war zone, like the library battle for me, He has you there for a reason. If He has planted you by the backdoor of a hospital, to heal hurting believers who have drifted from the truth, He will provide the bandages. Your fruit will grow for His glory, not your own. 

Stay on the vine, embrace the pruning, and never expect your fruit to be the same as anyone else’s. His promise is for much fruit. It is not for identical fruit. He chooses the colors, the tastes, the shapes, and even the packaging.

We choose to abide! Great choice, don’t you think?

Pictured above is Diann Catlin and her husband, Bodie.

Diann Catlin lives in Macon County, is a retired editor and writer, and serves on the Macon County Library Board of Trustees.