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Yes, that is a picture of Catholic priests playing bluegrass instruments. Yes, the next 6 paragraphs are about tomatoes. Yes, it’ll be worth it.

For those who don’t know, my parents, my wife and I enjoy gardening. We have a decent little garden at my parents' house where we will start taking early crops out to plant soon. We grow several crops like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, basil, onions, garlic, pumpkins and several other things. For simplicity sake, let’s just talk about tomatoes for a little bit.

In a few short weeks, we are going to put about 50 tomato seeds into some dirt in my parents basement. After about 8 weeks of love, care, water and intentional light, the 29 healthiest plants will be planted in the garden. If all goes well, 10-12 weeks later we will start harvesting tomatoes.

29 plants is a lot for two families. If I’m being honest, we will probably grow a couple tomato plants in our backyard on top of those 29. Why so many? We are going to make spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, pickled tomatoes, tomato paste and probably a couple of other things I am forgetting. We want fresh tomatoes for salads, sandwiches and other meals throughout the summer. And we enjoy having the luxury to share with other family and friends. We want our plants to bear much fruit.

We obviously are looking to harvest a large quantity of tomatoes, but we are also after a high quality of tomato. That doesn’t just happen, it takes time, effort and focus to achieve. I can very clearly point back to a moment when work started happening that will directly impact the tomatoes we harvest this summer. May 2020. My dad convinced my mom to get 7 chickens and we moved them around in a little coop over an area that had been a garden space probably 6 or 7 years before. Then we got some more chickens and we built a chicken run in the exact same spot our garden is now. Those chickens quickly killed the grass and pooped everywhere. We added wood chips and the carbon from the chips and nitrogen from the poop broke down into rich compost.  

Then we got more chickens and we made a bigger chicken run. We added more chips and they pooped a lot. We throw food scraps out there for them to eat as well and anything they don’t eat mixes in with our leaves from the fall and the chips and poop to make a very rich compost that we harvest for our garden beds. We have very intentionally not tilled our garden beds in 2 years mainly so that the microbiology happening from previous root systems breaking down to microbial life in the soil isn’t disturbed. We do something called broadforking the beds before the season starts to help aerate the soil. We cover the beds to help keep weeds down when they aren’t in use and top dress with the broken down compost from the chicken run.

Then when those tomato plants that have been so well cared for indoors make their way into the garden, we keep weeds at bay, we tie them up to a trellis so they can vine up it, we water them daily, we prune them, we plant marigolds nearby to help keep harmful insects away and that is all incredibly important. But, what we have done over the last 3 years is just as, if not more, critical to the quantity and quality of the tomatoes (fruit) we will harvest this summer.  

You see, the desire that sparked this 3 year vision Patrick introduced on Vision Sunday and Devoted23 was a desire to see fruit in the lives of the people at Bridges. We want to see you, your families, your relationships, your careers, your small groups, and your ministry teams bear much fruit.  

After explaining that He is the vine, His Father is the vine dresser and we are the branches, and we must remain in Him for apart from Him we can do nothing, Jesus says in John 15:8, 

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

It is easy to say that we want to see fruit in our lives next week, right? It is easy to say we want much fruit tomorrow. But the reality is that it takes time to bear fruit. Even a tomato takes about 20 weeks from seed to become fruit. But those are 20 weeks of hard work, preceded by years of hard work to bear much fruit. To remain in Jesus is not something that we can choose to do today and forget about the next if we intend to see fruit. It is choosing day after day to give up your desires and seek His. It means daily giving up control to move where He moves.

Now about those priests. They are the Hillbilly Thomists, a band of friars of the Order of Preachers. This is a real thing, they have 3 albums and even played at the Grand Ole Opry last summer. Their last album spent 4 weeks on the Billboard Bluegrass charts and topped out at #5.  

They have a song on their newest album called “Good Tree.” It references just about all, if not all, of the botanical references in scripture and it’s amazing. It uses all of those references to paint a beautiful picture of the kind of life we are called to live as followers of Jesus. How to be a good tree.

I hope that as we dig deeper into Devoted23 and this 3 year vision, that as we seek to bear much fruit, we learn about the areas of our lives where we need to remain in Him a little better and make intentional decisions each day to be more like Christ. It’ll take time, but it’ll be worth it. Oh to be a Good Tree.

If you want to listen to the song, (who am I kidding, you have to now) the link is below.