Thursday, December 26, 2013

31 Days of December #26: Hot peppers and spiritual fruit

This is how many peppers W removed
from the last half the dish, in prep
for taking leftover home. There
were a lot of chilis in that chicken.
We've slept well and woken refreshed. By lunch, W is craving Szechwan chicken (double-fat fried, small breaded bits of chicken with dozens of chilis and a few green beans.) We eat at Bamboo Garden with Kirsten. I'm hungry for noodles but they're served dripping oil, not exactly the perfect accompaniment to fried food. I think my appetite is off.

Kirsten and I do some shopping. She has returns to make and is looking for a purse. I'm along for the ride; I haven't purchased a handbag in years. She finds the perfect one for herself, and finds me a classic black bag at less than half price. Just what I need: I usually tuck a wallet into my coat pocket when I don't want to haul my big black bag. It's a satisfying and relaxing day, rare mother-daughter time to enjoy each other's company.
My new little CK handbag

All week, I've been mulling John 15. For a few days, I turned over and over the phrase, "Abide in my love," spoken by Jesus in his illustration of the vine and the branches. How different that is than the rule-keeping or people-pleasing our hearts instinctively seem drawn to, in our quest to please God!

Today, re-reading the passage, I don't get very far. In V.2, Jesus warns that "every branch in me that does not bear fruit will be cut off by the Father." I stop dead with something to think about.

Have I ever noticed the "in me" part of that declaration? Jesus is not talking about unbelievers or those who have refused God's invitation. He's warning those who claim to be connected to the True Vine (himself) that we are expected to be fruitful or expect dire consequences. Removal. Separation.

The second idea that catches my attention is the counterpoint: "Every branch bearing fruit [God] prunes to be even more fruitful." I love winter pruning. I set the direction of the new growth of spring: the bud under each cut will produce a new branch.

When God prunes us, he likewise determines the direction of growth. We may feel wounded and restricted by the separation from what we thought was lively and healthy. But God's cuts determine the direction of our future. Perhaps a door slams shut on "the perfect job opportunity" or a relationship fails. Sometimes our plans fall through or someone backs out of a promise.

Later on, we often marvel at how God has shaped our path, no matter how hurtful the process seemed.

The third idea I'm mulling over is this: vineyards trellises carry the weight of the vines and the fruit. What kind of relationships, structures, or organizations am I leaning on? Are they trustworthy? Have I chosen supports given by God?

I'm still chewing on those thoughts tonight as I wrap up the evening. How fruitful is my life? Has the love and kindness of God flourished in me so it can be savored by others? Has my relationship with Jesus grown in the direction he desires?

What would you ask yourself (and answer) about your connection to Jesus and the fruitfulness God expects?

Read more:
O Lord of hosts, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Isaiah 37:16 ESV

*Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." Luke 2:28-32 NIV

*(Jesus) “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15: 1-8 NIV

*Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3 ESV

Moravian Prayer: God who births us and was born to us, our connection to you can never be broken. You know us fully in your divinity and are fully known to us, through your humanity. Praise be to God! Amen.

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