The Vine and the Gardener

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

I wanted to write this month about new life, about rebirth. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s Carol’s birthday this week. And life is something to be celebrated, not just once a year, but every day. It’s when we wait to say how much someone means to us that we risk the possibility of waiting too long.

Yet, as I was doing my research for this devotional, I was reflect on the winery that I enjoy working at. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s powerful imagery here that I’m still dwelling on, hoping it will shape itself into some kind of coherent teaching lesson or article. Who knows?

Many of us are familiar with John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Less familiar, perhaps, are the verses that lead up to it. In it, Jesus talks about the work of the gardener, before the vine can bear fruit. I know from firsthand experience that when a new vine is planted, it goes through many difficulties that must feel unnatural to it. [Read more…]

Jonah 2:8-10

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.”

Jonah 2:8-10

The recurring theme of the day yesterday seemed to always come back to gratitude. Early in the day, I was asked, “How do you create and maintain optimism?” This led me to reflect on my own practices that give me encouragement and hope, all of which stem from seeking God’s leading for my life and this day.

Later in the day, I was again, “What’s one piece of spiritual wisdom you’ve learned from times of difficulty?” It’s to be aware of all of the blessings He’s given to me. Sometimes they seem small and inconsequential, and yet they can still be deeply touching once you stop and actually see them.

I had a friend who died years ago. Some of you will remember him from this church. His name was Rudy Gerger. Rudy always had a song in his heart and a smile on his face, and almost every conversation with him ended with “Have a grateful day.” His words still echo regularly through my ears. I even sometimes take a chance and use his signature parting words. [Read more…]

Proverbs 19:21

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

I’m all for planning.

When I work with my clients, we create plans. Marketing plans. Editorial calendars. Content strategies. Sales projections. Lots and lots of plans.

As a Mom, I find myself doing the same thing. Who needs to be where, and when? How will I manage to be 3 places at once, or who’s drawing the short end of the stick this time?

It’s always something… My ever-growing To Do lists reflect that.

I’ve actually begun to nervously wonder if the next time I update my will I should leave at least one or two of them to someone; just to make sure they don’t get forgotten. [Read more…]

Romans 8:28

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Have you ever felt like God is trying to get your attention? Perhaps you keep hearing the same phrase, or having different people tell you the same thing. Or maybe, during your prayer time, it seems like God keeps telling you something that you’re just on the verge of understanding, but not quite there yet.

I’ve been going through some tough things recently. It seems like there’s never enough money in the bank, time in the day, gas in the car, food in the fridge… Well, you get the idea… There’s just one of me and suddenly way too many things clamoring for my attention.

At the same time, I have one teenager who’s been conscientiously reminding me that there are only 18 more months until she leaves home for school. And there are so many things I still want to teach her before she launches out into the big wide world.

Then there’s my son’s upcoming birthday. I’m seeing him become a young man before my very eyes, and wondering whether I’ve taught him enough to be a good husband to someone some day, or what’s missing that his future wife will lament I never taught him? [Read more…]

Philippians 3:13-14

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

As with the start of any new year, we tend to focus on New Year’s resolutions. What are the goals we want to set for the year ahead? What will it take to get there?

As writers, do we even have resolutions? The inspiration for today’s devotional comes from Paul’s statement to the Philippians about pressing on toward the goal.

In each one of our hearts, God has placed thoughts, inspiration, and wisdom. His intent is for us to share what He’s teaching us and what we’ve learned. But if we don’t take the time to write down what He’s sharing with us, it may be lost forever. As time passes and we grow older, memories of days gone by fade and lose their meaning. [Read more…]

Anticipating God

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jerermiah 29:11

As believers, we strive every day to find God’s will for our life and to remain within it. Some days, we do better than others.

It’s easy to think, if we know God’s will for our life, we know where he’s taking us. But that’s not always the case.

When Jesus was in The Garden of Gethsemane, he knew where the Lord was leading him. And he knew that path led to the cross. But he’s one of the few examples we’re given in the Bible where the outcome was as expected.

When Abraham took Isaac to Mt. Moriah, he expected to sacrifice his son there. It seemed inevitable that it was where God’s will was leading. (Gen. 22)

When God told Gideon to tell all of his soldiers who were afraid to go home before the battle with Midian, I’m sure it seemed like God was setting Gideon up to lose. Yet when God told Gideon to test the men and only keep those who lapped water like a dog, Gideon obeyed. It was where God’s path was leading him, and it seemed that path led to certain destruction. (Judges 7) [Read more…]

Acts 12:37

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.

Acts 12:37

We read in many places in the Bible about people waiting.

Abraham spent decades waiting for the Lord’s promise to him to be fulfilled, that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars.

Simeon, an old man, had waited all of his life for the coming of the Messiah since God had promised him he would see him. (Acts 2:25).

Yet, Acts 12:37 reminds us that waiting isn’t about passively doing nothing. Waiting is an active verb. Sometimes, like Abraham, we become unclear as to what it is that God would have us to do during that time.

At other times, like Simeon, we hold fast to what we know, remaining righteous and devout, trusting that the presence of the Holy Spirit will be enough to make the way plain to us. [Read more…]

Genesis 19: 17, 26

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19: 17, 26

Sometimes, major changes in our lives come without warning and without our willing participation. The results can leave us feeling shell-shocked and unclear as to what we’re supposed to be doing next.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Lot’s wife this week. When the angels of the Lord commanded Lot and his family to leave Sodom and flee for Zoar, they gave the strict instructions not to look back. They didn’t say “don’t look back or God will turn you into a pillar of salt.”

They simply said “Don’t look back!”

How often in our lives do we waste time looking back? Thinking on the destruction or devastation that’s just been foisted on us or is soon to come, and unwilling to let go and run? We can become our own worst enemies.

As Lot and his family fled to Zoar, they were promised safe passage. The Lord was with them. No harm would come to them. All they had to do was trust and obey. [Read more…]

Philippians 4:19

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

There’s a cartoonist that I follow on Facebook named Jim Hunt. Last night, he posted a drawing of a woman sitting at her computer with a hot mug of coffee nearby, looking a bit hum-drum. The caption read: Some days, I’m reminded that my problems are quite small in the big picture… This is one of those days.

Between the bombings in Boston, the plant explosion in West, Texas, ever-mounting tension with North Korea, and the manhunt in Boston all in just this week, not to mention the rising increase in earthquakes and other natural disasters around the world, it’s been easier this week to slow down, enjoy the company of those we love, and remember that our To Do list is only useful if God’s the One writing it. [Read more…]

Matthew 26:39

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 26:39

As Christians we all strive to be more like Jesus. After all isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?

One of the things that I often find hardest, is when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s there, it’s nighttime, and he is alone, afraid of the pain and torment that’s to come.

He stepped apart from others in order to spend time with his Father. He poured out his heart to the Father, acknowledging the fact that he was afraid and didn’t want to take the path that was set before him.

He knew what was needed, and that it had been part of God’s plan all along, and yet the idea of what lay ahead was so overwhelming to Jesus that he asked “Father, if there’s any way to take this cup from me then let it pass.”

Yet he finished that prayer with the following statement: Thy will be done. [Read more…]