LENT DAY 29 – Grow

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. – John 15

I sit here today with a serious game of mini hoop basketball going on near me.  A lot of yelling at the referee and each other.  Lots of barking dogs who are in the middle of the game.  I am thinking about how different my writing space has been lately.  I’m used to a a very quiet house.  I sit at my dining room table and write.  The dogs either sleeping under the table or in the sunshine near the patio door.  Lots of time to reflect in solitude.

Now I’m at the same dining room table but I am in a very different space.  Very loud and distracting.  It has made me think about all of those people trying to work from home while life goes on around them.  All the teachers that are trying to conduct online classes at home with life going on around them.  I’m starting to realize that a lot of things take growth.  That I have to grow and adapt to my new normal – even if it’s just temporary.

This morning I had my 17 year old daughter cut my hair.  My hair was about at my shoulder blades and I asked her to cut it up near my chin.  She had cut my hair one time before but just a trim.  She was scared and was only able to make one cut.  She didn’t want to mess things up.  I told her there was nothing to be scared of.  If I didn’t like it, we were quarantined and it wouldn’t matter anyway!  Furthermore, if I didn’t like it, it would grow back.

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer.  He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes.  And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.  You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me.  Make your home in me just as I do in you.  In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.  Separated, you can’t produce a thing.  Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.  But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.  This is how my Father shows who he is – when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Reading these words I realize that my faith has grown like the story describes.  I have had moments where I have been growing rapidly, some where the water has been sparse and the growth has slowed and died, and even moments where I have had to be pruned in order to grow into my potential.

I have always loved God.  I was raised in a house where we went to church and were active members.  But when I became an adult I strayed from finding my own church home.  I didn’t stop believing but I wasn’t active.  In fact my behavior probably gave you the opposite view of what I supposedly believed in.  I got married and my husband and I started going to church again.  Not necessarily because we wanted to be active, but a little because we thought that’s what we had to do.

Then we had babies.  I was lost in the trials of being a stay at home mom and having two children to take care of.  This was a dark time for me.  A time where I was battling with depression and anxiety that were at extremes.  I knew at this moment in my life that I was missing something very important but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.    Nothing I tried worked.  Looking back I saw many ways that God was trying to break through my walls and I just wasn’t seeing or responding to them.

It would be years later before my husband and I finally sat down to discuss how we really wanted our life to play out.  It was then, that we decided we needed to make the God we loved the center of everything.  Our relationships with God were the most important and raising our children with that love of God would be next in line.

We decided at that point, that we needed to look for a new church.  A church that spoke to both of us.  That was a place that filled our spirits and hearts and was a place we wanted to be.   Not just a place we had to be.  We decided our love of God had to be so important that our actions followed our beliefs throughout the week.  It wasn’t just about going to church on Sunday for an hour and then forget about it until the following Sunday.  We wanted more.  We wanted God to touch our lives every moment from Monday through Saturday – outside of a church building.

That’s when the magic happened.  I felt like we had broken through the walls of whatever had held us back and we were experiencing joy within the walls of a church, and inside the walls of our home.  We talked about God at home and brought him into our lives.  We were able to make our faith journeys our faith journey’s.  Not that of our parents or grandparents, but ours.  It was a decision made as a married couple and a family, that brought us deep rooted peace.

“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me.  Make yourselves at home in my love.  If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.  That’s what I’ve done – kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.  This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.  This is the very best way to love.  Put your life on the line for your friends.  You are my friends when you do the things I command you.  I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning.  No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

This is when my personal relationship with God really started to grow.  I saw changes in my thoughts and behavior.  I took credit for mistakes and apologized more.  I sought out the council of God in my everyday life, and sought out his forgiveness when I went astray.  It didn’t mean my life was always joyful but it did mean my life started to be rooted in a peace so deep that I was living with joy.

When I handed myself over to God I learned what my gifts were.  When I handed myself over to God I became more aware of the needs of others.  When I handed myself over to God I became acutely aware of my mistakes and was quick to bring them to God.  My faith is always growing and will continue to be fed and pruned throughout my life.  I am always maturing in my faith and that provides me with infinite peace and joy.  I pray the same for each and every one of the people that reads this message.

Continue to grow in your faith and you will continue to grow deeper into God’s peace and love.  He chose you and he wants you to be filled with a joy that goes farther than your circumstances.  He wants each of you to experience a peace so deep that you are living with joy.

“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil.  As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

“But remember the root command: Love one another.

STUDY – John 15 (The Vine and the Branches)
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer.  He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes.  And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.  You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
“Live in me.  Make your home in me just as I do in you.  In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
I am the Vine, you are the branches.  When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.  Separated, you can’t produce a thing.  Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.  But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.  This is how my Father shows who he is – when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me.  Make yourselves at home in my love.  If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.  That’s what I’ve done – kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.  This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.  This is the very best way to love.  Put your life on the line for your friends.  You are my friends when you do the things I command you.  I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning.  No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil.  As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
“But remember the root command: Love one another.

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