Intentions

Love…  is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Satan seems to be on a rampage, at least in my family.

My adolescent children go to battle daily against one another – these alien beings who once were the closest of friends. Just this morning, there were names and accusations flung without the slightest regard for sanity or the feelings of others.

Words flung like darts, drawing blood, stirring up wrath, and making me question the enormous cost of private school when I could at least be physically present to mediate arguments if they were still home schooled.

Either way, this afternoon I must attend to one of the more unpleasant parental duties. Lord, be my guide…

On a wider scale, there is ongoing conflict in my extended family. Once again, people who love one another now wound and are wounded with brutal words and fiery  perspectives.

And all around me, it seems I hear murmurs of anger seething in the undercurrent of society. Social media is engaged for antisocial purposes. Marriages crumble and children are ruined by the shrapnel. Wives mock their husbands. Husbands disparage their wives. Christians do not wait for the adversary’s fiery arrows but inflame one another with an unceasing barrage of “friendly fire” kindled in our hearts.

It is heartbreaking; truly, truly heartbreaking.

Yet through it all, my God speaks to me, reminding me that while I can grieve for the sins of my children or others, I can only repent of my own.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:12)

In the midst of the wreckage, I must not fall  into the perilous rut of my own sinful tendencies, responding to anger with more anger.

Now more than ever, love is needed to quench the not only the fires of fury, but also the smoldering coals which lie beneath ready to burst into full flame at the slightest spark.

This morning as I spoke with my Lord about these things, He reminded me of Paul’s letter. I was struck by the very depths of our depravity.

We so rarely act in love.

I so rarely act in love.

I can be irritable. I have been resentful. In the midst of conflict, my tendency is to assume the worst possible motives of the other party.

And my friends, that assumption is nearly always a monstrous lie.

Why is it that we tend to paint our own actions and attitudes in glowing colors, justifying our every wrong by some fault of another, and yet we presume the most diabolical and vicious motives of those around us?

We take everything personally but do not mean anything personal when we are the speaker or doer. We expect mercy  for ourselves but are quick to lash out before questioning if our grievance is real or merely perceived.

We carefully store up every offense against us, keeping not only a record of wrong but preserving each complaint as diligently as we would a marvelous treasure, bringing it out from time to time as some twisted talisman of justification.

Church! Today is not the day to stand against our brothers and sisters! Today is the day to stand against evil; to rejoice with the truth; to refrain from bitterness or resentment; to bear all offenses; to believe the best in others; to hope for reconciliation in the Spirit of God; to endure all things – including the exquisite prick of conviction reminding us to purge our own hearts of the ghost of grievances past.

In love, let us assume the best of one another when we speak. Let us embrace forgiveness, remembering the Gracious Redeemer who has forgiven the massive accumulation of wrongs we have each committed against Him.

Where we are wronged, let us search for ways we have wronged others – and repent. Where there are past hurts, let us pray for the power to release them, asking God to heal the poisonous blight of bitterness in our hearts.

And above all else, let us love each other well, striving daily to fill our hearts with the love of the Most High God so our mouths will speak His goodness and praise.  Whether husband, wife, child, parent, sibling, or any other relationship, let those of us who are in Christ earnestly seek humble hearts, reserving our most critical judgement for ourselves and choosing to believe in the best intentions of others.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
(Psalms 133:1)

120503_1423Lord, forgive us and guide us. How we need Your redeeming power in our relationships today! Help us to walk in the only perfect Love the world has ever known and reconcile us with our brothers. May Your grace shine in us and unify us in Christ, amen. 

 

 

 

 

**Before I go, I do want to jot a note that I will soon be offering my first ever book review and giveaway! Today, however, the need to cry out for Love to intervene in some ugly situations eclipsed my heart… Stay tuned!

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The Dreaded “S” Word

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
(Ephesians 5:23-24)

Like many aspects of the Christian journey, submission does not come naturally for most of us. In fact, according to our modern values, the idea of a wife submitting to a husband is not only unpopular, it is almost shameful.

Yet there it is, plainly spelled out in not one but two ancient letters now accepted as part of the canon of Scripture:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
(Colossians 3:18)

But of course we could object and say that Paul was a chauvinist pig and simply had a grudge against women… except for the fact that Peter used the same Greek word (here translated with a different nuance) in one of his letters as well:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,
(1 Peter 3:1)

As a woman growing up in a cultural climate proclaiming, “What’s good for the gander is good for the goose,” and other girl-power statements, this was not a teaching that I easily adopted when I became a disciple of the Messiah. However, I did adopt it, and I would love to share my experience with the concept of submission.

You see, I became a Christian as a youngish adult whose life had just been turned upside down by some pretty poor choices. At the age of 25, I found myself pregnant and living with the man who would later become my husband. Clearly, neither of us knew or obeyed the Lord at this time.

But God had plans to use this mess, and the new life that was growing inside me fostered a desperation to find out if there was a God. For the sake of space, the nickel version is that I began to read the Bible while challenging God to prove Himself to me if He was real.

He did.

So it was that my eyes were first opened to my sin and rebellion as well as the astonishing love of God and the breathtaking humility of Yeshua (also called Jesus). I was floored. What’s more, as I talked with God through what was to be the first of many readings through His Word, I was guided by His Spirit to take what I read literally where it was rendered literally and symbolically when it was clearly stated as a symbol.

For me, that included submission to my new husband. This did not come easily, particularly before my husband also became a Christian. Yet Peter’s words from chapter 3 of his letter dogged me.

I admit that I implemented submission with a touch of resentment at first, sorry little rebel that I am, even after my husband devoted his own life to Christ.  And I had many, many heartfelt and teary discussions with the Lord about how difficult it was to be submissive.

Until one day, God finally opened my eyes to three truths. First and foremost, He knows. When I say that, I mean He has actual, experiential knowledge of how difficult it is to go from a place of authority to a place of deference. He has done it on a grander scale than I ever could.

Secondly, He showed me that not submitting to my husband had less to do with failure to trust my man than it did my failure to trust God Himself.  If I submit to my husband, even when I disagree, I am trusting in God to lead my man effectively – even if it means difficulty or learning from poor choices. After all, the most enduring lessons I have learned have been through my mistakes… and often the very place where I disagree was the place my husband turned out to be right, after all.

Besides, by not submitting to my husband, I was refusing to submit to my God. This one gave me pause.

As a Christian, I am commanded to act in humility; a necessary ingredient for submission. Now I am not saying I have never spoken a contrary word to my man. I have, and often. I am not afraid to express dissent, yet I present my disagreement respectfully, just as I would to any other authority. While my man always considers my feedback, my man does not always decide in favor of my way.

This takes especial humility on my part when I am convinced that my way is right, and through it I have certainly been humbled to discover that I am wrong much more frequently than I once believed!

Finally, God gave me a sense of the cost of responsibility the husband’s authority carries. After all, right or wrong, it is he who will answer to the Almighty for the decisions made for our family and for the direction of his leadership.

Let that sink in a minute.

Ladies, our husbands are accountable before God for their leadership – right or wrong.

When the Lord put it to me that way, I began to feel both genuine relief not to shoulder this grave responsibility and sincere respect (even awe) for my husband who bears it all.

When I think of it in those terms, submission is not such a bad position to be in, after all!

TrumpetFlower002

 

 

And Behind Door Number One…

Confession: Sometimes I doubt my calling.

Am I alone here? Probably not, yet even so I easily slip into feeling alone; into doubt and discouragement instead of faithful perseverance. I am particularly prone to such mental agonies when I have been praying for a door to open yet find myself standing in a hallway filled with doors which are all securely barred.

Or worse, when my efforts are called to mind with the crystal-clarity of hindsight and I recall all the ways that I failed to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest during my stint as a homeschool mom. My blunders stretch as far as the eye can see; great heaps of error which threaten to topple and bury me in inadequacy.

And yet… my King reminds me that not all obstacles are blockades.

In fact, my current situation kind of reminds me of Moses. In Exodus 3, we can read about God’s dynamic calling on Moses’s life – the burning bush and the undeniable command to speak to Pharaoh and ask him to free the enslaved descendants of Israel:

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
(Exodus 3:10)

Personally, if I had heard the very voice of God speaking from the depths of a flame that did not consume the vegetation it engulfed, I like to think I would move forward in my calling rather eagerly and certainly anticipating a high degree of success.

With all the ways the Lord equipped Moses – a staff that became a snake, an apparent miraculous manifestation and subsequent healing of leprosy – I imagine myself in his place approaching the great Pharoah with a slightly cocky swagger and a confident demand for the freedom of the Jews. Most likely while I stepped jauntily up to the throne, my mind would be filled with a pleasant fancy of the grateful masses hoisting me upon their shoulders and roaring, “Three cheers for Moses!”

But Moses did not exactly sprint from the burning bush to the throne room:Shh006

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  (Exodus 3:11)

Not only did Moses begin his conversation with the Almighty with this apparently self-deprecating question, he continued to hem and haw and generally drag his toe through the dust like an unwilling child through a rather lengthy dialog, eventually submitting his final request:

But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”  (Exodus 4:13)

If I am brutally honest, that sounds more like the actual me. When I look at the strewn remains of my failed attempts, I hear my own voice echo very similar words: “Do I have to, Lord? I don’t seem to be very capable. Can’t You find someone else?”
Eventually, Moses did go, albeit reluctantly and only after God agreed to send his brother, Aaron, along as the key spokesman. Of course we do not know whether Moses entertained grand fantasies of being hailed as the rescuer of the people or not, but naturally one would expect a seamless success from such an unmistakably clear calling, especially when bolstered by the confidence of the people:

Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.  (Exodus 4:30-31)

Things were bound to go well from here, right?

Wrong.

The first interview with Pharaoh did not precisely result in an open door to freedom. Instead, the door slammed firmly in Moses’ face:

The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’   (Exodus 5:6-8)

And rather than receiving honors and accolades, the formerly worshipful group of slaves now criticized their mighty deliverer:

“The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”  (Exodus 5:21)

This was not going well at all.

Of course, most of us know that after many such interviews, several broken promises, and no small amount of signs and wonders which Pharaoh’s stubbornness escalated to dire proportions, the people were finally allowed to go free. The Egyptians even gave them much in possessions, very possibly in the hopes of being well rid of the calamity.

Persistence and faith won out in the end, and at some point Moses even gained enough confidence to take over the office of spokesman from his brother. Yet the fact remains that Israel’s circumstances became much worse before they improved.

Today, I am reminded that not everything that looks like failure is.

Just because my calling has not brought the success I imagined does not mean I have misunderstood it (although that possibility remains!). Sometimes, obstacles in the path make the journey more rewarding in the end.

But at other times, the obstacle is the point. Real-life success often appears in different clothing than fantasy success, and not all locked and barred doors are impassable.

Sometimes, learning to trust God in the face of repeated failure is what we were called to do all along…

 

Diplomacy and Other Poetic Sentiments

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14

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“With all my heart, I tolerate you.” 

Oddly enough, I have yet to see these words splashed in false gold-leaf across the front of a sappy floral greeting card.

When I consider the amount of airtime the word, “tolerance,” is given, I have to wonder why it has not yet received this high commendation of public approval in the sentiment department. For $3.99 or thereabouts, an average human can purchase a bit of folded paper in order to proclaim undying love and devotion, wish a friend a happy birthday, send all manner of random holiday greetings, or even express sympathy over the loss of a cat.

Yet the only “tolerance” cards I can find have been sardonic parodies meant for a laugh. I have yet to hear any young man blubbing out an ardent and passionate confession of tolerance for a woman or a furious teen shrieking, “I tolerate you!” at the top of her lungs to her life-ruining mother.

Tolerance, it would seem, is a bit inadequate as an emotion.

So what’s all the fuss? Oh, yes; I remember. Tolerance is supposed to pave the path to peace.

What a heartwarming image that evokes – a room full of people representing widely differing cultures, races, and viewpoints all tolerating one another with tender, brotherly toleration.

Or perhaps the scene might more accurately be described as a room filled with heads bent over a wide variety of electronic devices upon which people tap out their knee-jerk responses to a staggering volume of bullet-point, shock-and-awe headline sound bytes, because really there simply isn’t time in the day to process it all.

I guess that’s why the author of that ancient letter now titled “Hebrews” in English translations of the Bible felt the need to qualify his call to “strive for peace with everyone.”

Peace alone, it would seem, is also a bit inadequate.

For one thing, we are urged to “strive.” That alone tells us that achieving “peace with everyone” will not be easy. This is going to be a matter of good, old-fashioned blood, sweat, and tears… the most precious of which were shed some 2000-odd years ago upon one of the more heinous modes of public execution that my species has invented.

But I digress…

The point is that peace is not enough. We must also strive for holiness, because without that key ingredient, no one will see the Lord; they will only see the friendly neighbor or the pacifist.

I find it interesting to note that the admonition to strive for peace and for holiness comes immediately after a discussion of the importance of discipline in training and the author’s coaxing to “lift drooping hands and strengthen weak knees,” which in today’s vernacular may or may not be slightly akin to “man up” or “put on your big-girl panties.” I can’t be sure because I am not privy to the nuances of colloquial Koine Greek.

At any rate, the import is that peace and holiness are not easily achieved. In fact, I would postulate that it takes something very unearthly to attain either true peace or holiness ; nothing less than the very life and breath of God in us… or at least that’s how I understood the Messiah’s words, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

With all this in mind, I think I love the Complete Jewish Bible’s translation of Revelation 3:19 most of all because it so beautifully reflects the idea of expended effort (and ironically is written to the lukewarm Laodicean church):

As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins!
Revelation 3:19, CJB

Exert yourselves, and turn from your sins…

Hmmm… it seems to me that some of this striving for peace and holiness stuff might require me to first expend some effort in a reversal of my own faults, flaws, and outright crimes. That puts some punch to the Lord’s statement about denying self and taking up crosses in order to follow Him. He certainly did not carry His cross to the Roman equivalent of Disneyland.

It could be that what the world needs most is not so much tolerance as it is a stout number of Christians willing to take a sober look in the mirror and Biblically evaluate how well the Kingdom ambassador peering back is doing in his or her representation of the Most High God.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

Personally, I am humbled by that thought…

 

At the Risk of Redundancy, Some Thoughts on Thought

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
(2 Corinthians 10:5)

This is a unique season in my life where my days are no longer filled with endless circling like some featherless vulture, swooping periodically among my three children and snatching a stray variable out from an algebraic equation or pecking at a choppy paragraph or the occasional furtive word from the “Banned Words” list.

It isn’t that I am overloaded with free time – not by any stretch of the imagination. I am still sloooowwly working my way through a course in Biblical Hebrew, working part-time as a sort of tutor/life coach to a teen with a burden too heavy for her thin young shoulders, working one day on a second novel and the next on a non-fiction work (or articles, or proposals, etc.), and I still have a household to manage, however ineptly.

But for the first time since the birth of my son, I have a little space to breathe. And in that space, I have been contemplating the importance of my thought life.

It’s no big secret that the general moral climate of my nation has become so relaxed that one would be tempted to think it was asleep if it weren’t so darn cheeky.

After all, much that was once considered shameful and intentionally obscured by darkness is now quite literally paraded in the streets in the full light of the sun. Words that were once scandalously taboo may now be heard on any public broadcast or even read on an interstate billboard.

More sadly yet, even those who claim to be followers of Christ engage in activities and entertainments that reveal an attitude so far from holy and appropriate fear of the Almighty that it could quite easily be mistaken for something very like cursory fondness; sort of the spiritual equivalent to that nod you give the new grocery clerk when you pass them stocking an aisle.

Except me, of course. I’m apt to smile and greet them by name, because… well we won’t get into that beyond saying that I spend an inordinate amount of time at the grocery store. But I’ve mentioned that before, and now I have badly digressed…

Maybe it is because in the lackadaisical, anything-goes atmosphere of the modern age, we have forgotten the importance of the little things. We have overlooked that just because something is culturally acceptable — or even culturally encouraged — does not mean that it has ceased to be morally reprehensible.

Maybe in the breakneck information overload of inescapable connectivity and an entertainment glut where thoughtful pursuits have been largely sidelined in favor of cut-to-the-chase storylines soaring high on action but slender on plot, we have forgotten that one ought to take the time to think.

Perhaps, even, in a culture of insane rush in which news is thrust at us with fanatical shock-and-awe violence one day and forgotten the next in the melee of the next great scandal; when many people glean their news from headlines alone and their truth from a combination of popular opinion, cat memes, and “Verse-of -the-Day” apps, we have lost sight of the incredible, undeniable power of thought.

Today as I walked and thought, ruminating over Scripture I had just read and other sections that I had previously stored up in my heart, the importance of what our minds are set upon was impressed upon me.

As Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Romans 8:6-7)…

…and to Philippi: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)…

…and to Colossae: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)…

…and as some now-obscure computer geek once wrote, “GIGO” aka “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Certainly, there is enough information and entertainment in this world to occupy every spark of mental energy we can muster, flying past at rates so ridiculous that we have barely processed the first image or word before the next thirty come hurtling by.

But there is a lot to be said for the good, old-fashioned exercise of unhurried thought as well. Perhaps it is because my migraine-prone brain is quick to short-circuit at such speeds, but really I believe it is mainly because I like to spend time. I enjoy mulling over God’s Word, or His character, or His creation. I love contemplation, and I feel incredible satisfaction when I have time to savor it.

And not only that, but in my four decades, I have realized that without a doubt, if I do not take every thought captive to obey Christ, then each one of the irresponsible little devils goes and makes itself a slave to sin…

On that note, I will be unplugging for a few days, so I’ll catch you on the other side of the weekend!

Impetus

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
(Lamentations 3:24)

When our small church was unable to meet corporately last Sunday due to a scheduling conflict in the elementary school where we meet, some of our friends and family decided to move our worship outdoors. Because of the unusual opportunity and the beautiful weather, we met to hike a portion of the Fiery Gizzard Trail in South Cumberland State Park.

The plan was to take a 9-mile loop that included a stop at a scenic overlook about half-way. However, due to a, um… slight disagreement about the direction to take after our  stop, we wound up hiking down a steep gorge and back up again. Meanwhile, my intuition, which has been honed by playing, “Hey, guys, let’s see if we can get lost in the woods” with my cousins when we were children, dogged each step with a cerainty that we were headed the wrong way.

As we took the rough stone steps, I recall thinking that our navigator may be in some slight danger of mutiny if we had, in fact, taken a wrong turning. Not until we had climbed to the bottom of the  ravine and back up the other side did we all stop and look at one another with the absolute certainty that we were not on the 4.5 mile loop back to our cars, but on the 8-mile stretch that headed to the trail’s southern end in another town.

Frustrated with himself (and possibly nervous about the possibility of violent mutiny), our navigator took off back towards the way we had come, as, with a few scattered murmurs, the rest of us collected ourselves and followed him.

It was absolutely glorious.  

There is not much I love more than hiking, and this particular trail is on my personal top Mom01110 list. Each step of the way back, I brought up the rear with my mom (who turns 66 today – happy birthday, Mama!). She had tweaked her knee somewhere in all the elevation change and had to take it a little slower. This was fine by me since it afforded an opportunity to drink in all the splendor of my Father’s handiwork.

All told, we hiked approximately 14.25 miles and by doing so answered the question of about how long we would need to plan to hike the Fiery Gizzard end-to-end (13 miles). It’s easily doable in a day, even leaving time for my beloved Nikon if we start early.

And as is my habit, the whole trek got me thinking about my walk with the Lord.

Some of our number who are not as giddily in love with the forests and hills as I found the last leg of our trek to be sheer misery. A fair amount of complaints were vocalized, as were several wistful wishes for extra water or a nice, juicy steak.

But for me, even the accidental detour was delightful. Even through the discomfort of thirst and the annoyance of arthritic feet, I enjoyed the quiet beauty of the woods, the surprising red-orange of occasional mushrooms, the steady plashing of the streams. In my experience, I have found that focusing on trouble only makes it that much harder to bear.

The difference, however, was not only focus but motive. 

True, I chose to concentrate on the scenery rather than ponder hunger or the pain of sore feet. But the bigger reason for the disconnect in our various experiences is that I love hiking for hiking’s sake. A short jaunt into the woods, particularly after a long drive, leaves me feeling cheated, so an entire day spent reveling in the Master’s artistry was a rare and wonderful pleasure.

Likewise, my walk with the Lord – and for that matter, all my relationships – are affected by motive. If my motivation for following God’s trail is solely what I can get out of it, be it blessings, comfort, peace, provision, or anything else, then I stand to be disappointed when things take a wrong turning.

However, following my Messiah for His own sake – well, that, my friends is where joy in the journey is found; not merely joy because of circumstances but even joy despite them. There – in Him – is true and lasting peace.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
(Isaiah 26:3-4)

Remain

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
(John 15:5)

I am a firm believer that every single trial we have in life is allowed by God in order to test our mettle, usually with the aim of showing us where our fortitude or character is a little bit lacking.

I mean, if we are honest, any one of us can be immeasurably bold, incredibly courageous, and are capable of great gallantry… theoretically.  It’s that sticky place where heroic imaginings meet with a leaky fridge or an explosion of teenage drama over a five-minute departure time that we sometimes find our integrity falling a bit short.

Or pain. In my case, I have to confess that a month or two of near-constant headaches will quickly shred any guise of righteousness I may have concocted in my mind and lay my weaknesses rather painfully bare.

Strange though it may seem, I see this as a good thing.

In a recent reading of John 15,  the Lord’s discourse grabbed my attention in a new way, and I have been thinking about it since.

Really, there is so much packed into this one passage that I could go on forever (don’t worry – I won’t; at least not today…), but the what stood out to me was the emphasis Jesus put on abiding, bearing fruit, and loving before He launched into a sort of warning about the persecution and difficulties that lay ahead for the disciples.

In the illustration of the vine and branches, the Lord makes twelve references to abiding or remaining in the first eleven verses.

Now I know that the Lord did not begin this agricultural analogy to His disciples by announcing, “Verse 1 of Chapter 15 begins, ‘I am the true vine…'”

I also know that He was most likely speaking to them in Aramaic or Hebrew and not in either English (my translation) or Greek (the language the text was translated from).

However, in any language if a speaker repeats the same concept multiple times in a brief span, that speaker kinda wants the listener to hear it. It’s worthy of note the other concept He reiterates is love: loving each other, remaining in His love, etc.

As I have mulled all this over while simultaneously dealing with the afore-mentioned month or two of head pain along with the inevitable adolescent ire, and yes, even the leaky fridge, it has been driven into even my somewhat thick and murky consciousness that the one way we are going to endure hardships, difficulties, and trials is to love each other well.

And the only way we can love each other well is by remaining in Him.

While that may seem self-evident, the lesson my Father has been hammering home here lately is that “remaining in Him” is more than an hour or two of pre-dawn Bible study and prayer. It is an all day,play-by-play reliance on Him to provide me with the ability to do what I cannot do on my own.

As an example, take the watermelon vine in the photo above. That yellow flower and the other little buds each hold the promise of delectable, mature fruit to come. Yet if at any time the flower or the ripening fruit becomes severed from the vine, there will be no scrumptious melon but only decay.

Also, there is absolutely no way to attach the melon to the vine for a few moments or hours. Even if there were, such partial nourishment would never be enough to sustain a truly juicy melon through the scorching Tennessee summer. The fruit would certainly wither.

Even so, a few minutes or an hour alone with God in the morning is not enough to sustain me through yet another day of pain, be it the physical pain of migraine or the emotional frustrations of navigating through the volatile Land of Adolescence as a parent.

No, I need much more than a brief connection. If I am to love my family well and endure the pain of life, I will have to remain connected with Him every single second – for there is not a single second of the day in which I do not need a greater strength and a fiercer love than the shriveled parody I can conjure on my own.

And that is where true joy begins…

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 15:11