Sunday, September 16, 2012

Are you connected?

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”   John 15: 4-5

While doing my weekly maintenance to my houseplants, I noticed that some of the leaves were beginning to turn brown on one of my favorite Philodendron vines. After close inspection I also noticed that though there were no sign of mites or any other pest; at the area where the vines met the soil they seem to be shriveling away.  This plant was given to me as part of a dish garden many, many years ago and I had taken excellent care, or at least I thought, to this plant.  So it surprised me when I took it over to the sink to spray it down with water and as I lifted the vines, the whole plant lifted up and came away from the soil as easy as lifting one’s hat from their head!

I then remembered that the week before, I had vigorously given this plant a good spraying as I lifted its heavy vines. And in so doing my “good” maintenance, I must have separated the vines from its main root!  And though it still looked nice and green just sitting there on the stand, I soon found out that it was in the process of slowly dying from being separated from its root.

Some of us may look alright on the outside but are we really connected to God? Lots of churches had their little promo’s going a few years back to get folks to stay in church and get involved. Many had lapel pins and banners displayed with sayings like “Are you connected?” and “I’m Hooked”. All with the noble intention I’m sure of encouraging members to be connected to their church organization.  But in the scripture above John writes about hearing Jesus speak of us being connected with Him.
Now before you get into a speech about …forsaking not the assembling of ourselves together…” let me say that I believe in the Church, it was God’s idea remember?  But the “church” that we see today is not what was described in the Bible’s book of Acts. Many good things have come out of these organizations and we should be committed and loyal when we give our word to be a blessing to that organization.  But first and foremost we must be “connected” to Christ and Christ alone.  He is the only one that can sustain us.

The church organization and its members can be a blessing to each other in times of need; to agree with you in prayer, to be by your side in times of trouble, even to bring meals over during a rough time; and I have experienced all of these selfless acts by wonderful fellow church members.  But I have also seen church members that appear on the outside as if everything was just fine when they really had lost their true connection and were slowly dying and withering away; because their connection was with the organization and not God Himself.
Paul wrote “…that I might know HIM…”, shouldn’t that be the cry of our hearts?  He is the vine and we are just branches. He is our true source.  My prayer: “Lord, I want to stay connected to You, because You are my Life source.” Amen

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Learning by heart...

"...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ..." Philippians 1:6

I was in the 3rd grade and the buzz and excitement was about our annual school play; which would be "Alice of Wonderland."  You can only imagine my excitement when parts for the play were being chosen.  All us girls wanted the part of Alice, but it was given to a girl in my class named Linda, who had long curly hair and to me was kind of snooty. But just when I was about to go into my "poor me" persona, Mrs. Brown, my teacher came to me and said with a smile "We want you Veronica to be the Narrator because you speak so distinctly."  At first I was little upset, though I did not show it, I mean as a 3rd grader I had not heard the word "distinctly" too much nor it's meaning.  When I got home and my Mom explained to me what the word meant, I was happy again.

After weeks of practice and nearing the time of the performance,  Mrs. Brown (really her name) came to me and said "I hope you have learned all your narration by heart, because even though you will be holding a large book, there will be no words on the final pages!"  Though we were just in the 3rd grade Mrs. Brown always expected the upmost from us and encouraged us to be the very best that we could be. She went on to explain that my job as Narrator of the play was to "set up" each scene, get the attention and stir up the anticipation of the audience as I "read" from what would be a large ornately decorated book.  According to her I had a very important part in the success of this play!

The night for our performance finally came with me dressed to the nines in a new dress with so many crinoline slips underneath I could not sit down, patent leather mary jane shoes shining to perfection and the largest bow that my mother could find in my shirley temple curled hair!  As I walked out on the stage, I remember seeing my mother and father in the audience and almost getting choked up, not for being sad, but for being so happy that they were there as they always were for me.

The lights dimmed and as I held up that book which was about half my size, I began to tell a story of a little girl on an adventure, all by memory, all by heart. As I turned each blank page in that book, I learned that I did not need the written words before me to tell a story that had been written in my heart. With all the practices, rehearsals, Mrs. Brown's encouragement and a desire to make my parents proud, somewhere in the process,  Alice's story had become alive in me and I could tell it without hesitation or fear.

That was so many years ago and yet I was reminded of it as I meditated on my life, "My story".  The past few years I believe God has allowed me to live "my story" by heart. After many, many years of being involved in my church and community, I was wooed to take a back seat. At first it was so hard, but as I submitted to what I believe God was calling me to do, much to the disapproval of many well meaning people, I finally got peace about the transition.

I believe that God was inviting me to take all that I have learned and experienced all the previous years and walk it out. I have read the Bible many times over, but what good is it if I don't live it each day? So with hesitancy at first I began this adventure, much like Alice; but oh! what lessons I have learned! I am living by heart, God had given us His Book, the Bible and He expects us to not just read it but to learn it by heart so that even though the pages may appear blank we will have no problem remembering what He has taught us!

What I call "Walking your life out by Heart" is work! I think I'm busier now than I was before, less physically, more spiritually; but there is such satisfaction when you know that you are doing what He has asked you to do. God wants to complete the work that He began in us. I don't think He is so much concerned about what we do and how busy we can be, but He's interested in us becoming who HE wants us to be; and sometimes that means you have to take a few steps back and take a really good look at yourself.

Learning by heart...and then walking it out...what an adventure!