Monday, August 30, 2010

The Vine(s)....and the wrestling

John 15:5-6 (NIV) 5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

We worked in our yard recently. This is somewhat unusual as our yard is big and lots of things grow and live in it. Unless our yard has been mowed recently, it is probably the yard that bugs neighbors and people who really love yard work. I rarely appreciate more than the entrance way to our front door. I get busy, have to much to do....the yard just doesn't always seem at the top of the list. I guess it would be safe to say that I always wanted a garden....until I got one....and realized how much work it is.

When I actually took a walk around the yard with trimmers to cut down the plants that threaten to take over more than their fair share of space, I really looked. I don't know why, but I always feel bad cutting stuff off. Even if it is weeds. Some weeds really are quite pretty. Some are horribly ugly with some nice features like the prickly plant that gets bigger and bigger, but has some neat purple flowers that open eventually.

My goal for this yard excursion was to trim the vines that grow up through the cracks of the deck. They are actually rather nice looking, but they grow out of control. They grab onto the rails of the deck and work their way up. This time I caught them early enough that their grip had not tightened to much.

Upon further inspection of some of the trees at the backside of the house, I noticed that there were similar vines in the tree. I started pulling. Many of the vines required me pulling back with all my weight....and I still could barely move them. I looked closer and was amazed to see the detail of curves and grip and the toughness of the vine. One vine would have many offshoots and had wound itself around the branches of the tree.

I was reminded of the verse of the vine and the branches in the Bible. I debated how I was going to write this so it tied together because I was focusing on the vine being in the tree...instead of the vine. I started reading up some on vines. Most don't like shade, they want the sun. They grow upward and outward. Some spread very quickly. They are STRONG! (as I found out when I wrestled).

Jesus wants to be our vine, our support in our faith. We doesn't want us to stay in the shadows and darkness. He wants us to keep growing toward the light of the Son. As branches and offshoots, we are supposed to stay connected to the vine to keep growing. We need to be careful what we're clinging to and wrapping ourselves around.

Tonight, was the rest of my lesson. I had successfully wrestled and cut vines. I left them laying in the yard and the hot sun. They were removed from the source. Instead of being green and leafy, they had dried and died.

As an offshoot of the vine, I've removed myself many times. I've loosened my grip. I don't pray as much. I don't read the Bible as much. I don't take time for devotions/quiet time. I start to wither. If anyone wrestled with me, I'd pull away easily.

How about you? Are you a strong and healthy offshoot branch? or Are you feeling a little withered and in need of some help from THE Master Gardener?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Use What You Have

2 Kings 4 (NIV)

The Widow's Oil

 1 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."
 2 Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
      "Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil."
 3 Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."
 5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.
 7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left."

I am not writing about oil because of spills ( BP or Kalamazoo), however it is pretty timely! 

I am thinking of this story because of the message of using what you have.  When asked what she had, the widow responded she had nothing except some oil.  From the response, it's easy to see she is focusing on the nothing....not the except or focusing on what she does have.  When she uses what she has, she is given more.  The limit becomes one of how many jars she has to fill up.  Elisha even told her to plan big and not just ask for a few.

During these tough economic times, it is easy to look around and say we have little or nothing.  What we do have is not always monetary.  We may have family and friends that are willing to stand with us through the feelings of fear and frustration of not being able to provide for our family the way we would like to.

We live in a time of bigger, better, more.  We need to realize that sometimes we need to use what we have to get to where God wants us to be.

God deals in exceptions.  Even if we have nothing, EXCEPT God....that can be enough.  Time to change our focus from what we do not have to what we do have.  Even when it seems we have little or nothing, that exception is something when it is in the right hands.

Father in heaven: So many times we limit you on what you can do and want to accomplish in our lives and through us to bless others.  Help us to realize that you are not a God of limits, you are a God of more than enough.  Help us know that often we don't need more, we need to use what we have and are already blessed with.