Category - Uncategorized

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Training Pea Plants
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“What kind of god is that?”
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Waiting for Roots
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Training Pea Plants

I’m clingy. Just ask my husband. Tuesday morning I kept hugging him even while he was brushing his teeth.

I also like to cling to objects that I deem valuable. Take my brand new pack of scrapbook paper for example. It’s the prettiest paper I’ve ever owned. I purchased it for the sole purpose of using it, and yet, when it came to scrapbooking a gift for my cousin’s graduation, I didn’t want to use it.

My heart is like those clingy little vines on my pea plant. In a matter of hours, they shoot out dozens of tiny tendrils that wrap around whatever is closest to them.

But last week, I realized they were choking themselves to death. They were grasping onto each other and themselves, which was actually squeezing their vine too tightly and breaking them. One even clung so tightly to my bell pepper plant that it squeezed off a bloom, thus preventing a bell pepper to grow. Not okay. So I set up twine for them to grab and climb up. I had to completely break off the tendrils that were killing it (and my peppers) and tie some to the twine to get it started.

If I’m not careful, my heart will latch onto things around me that aren’t good for me, too. That’s the stuff that’s called sin.

It’s not good enough for me to say that I need to “turn away from sin.” Turning my back on one sin can very well mean that I’m turning to a whole host of other sins. Just like my pea plants will have to learn to cling to the twine, I need to learn to cling to Christ.

But it hurts to let go. Just ask those pea tendrils that I had to snap off. God issues a call to repentance (AKA turning from sin)  in Joel 2:12-13.

“Even now – this is the Lord’s declaration – turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God…”

Repentance is not a little matter. It’s not a quickly admitted “sorry” as though we are feuding preschoolers on the playground. True repentance from sin involves a change.

Stop turning away from sin and focus on turning to God. Once we learn to focus all our efforts on Him, then and then only will we see that God has turned us away from sinful things.

Repentance is a both/and. We both turn to God and away from sin. God does not promise an instant, pain free existence. Did you catch the phrase, “Tear your hearts, not just your clothes?” Our hearts latch to our sin. They don’t want to let go. It’s only in tearing it off the world that we will be able to live for Christ.

“What kind of god is that?”

“This Son is a god who spent most of His time telling stories, talking. This Son is a god who walked, a pedestrian god – and in a hot place, at that – with a stride like any human stride, the sandal reaching just above the rocks along the way; and when He splurged on transportation, it was a regular donkey. This Son is a god who died in three hours, with moans, gasps and laments. What kind of god is that? What is there to inspire in this Son? Love, said Father Martin.” – The Life of Pi

I’ve watched some of my closest friends do a lot of stupid stuff in the name of “love.”  In middle school, one intentionally injured herself simply so that her mom would take care of her. In high school, one refused a  full ride scholarship to her dream college so that she would not move away from her boyfriend. In college, one gave herself to several guys before marriage in order to keep them around longer.

Each of these friends would claim that they acted out of their desire for love. The problem is that they were looking for an unbiblical picture of love. Merriam Webster defines “love” as 1) a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (and skipping #2-3); 4) unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.

When we say that God is love, we do not mean that God merely feels affection for us. I feel affection for my local minor league baseball team. I even cheer them on at our almost-weekly attendance of their games. I am fond of the team. I even have an attachment to them. But nothing more than that.

God has the #4 kind of love for us. As Pi says in his quote, we have a God who died “with moans, gasps and laments.” He asks, “What kind of god is that?” Pi is stuck in his limited perspective. When he hears that God died, he thinks that means God is weak. Rather, it means that God is love. His love is so unselfish that He died in our place.

God’s love is more than mere attachment. It’s devotion; it’s the kind of love that keeps loving even during the most difficult times. It’s the kind of love that loves us even when we don’t love Him back – more strongly – it’s the kind of love that loves us even when we hate Him.

Waiting for Roots

My coworkers have potted vines on their desks. They are easier to keep alive than flowers but harder than fake plants. Last summer, two of the vines had reached the floor. They told me that if I cut them off at the joints, I could stick them in water and they would grow roots. Then, I could plant them in dirt and start my own potted vine.

So I cut off two long vines, put them in a water  bottle, and stuck them on the windowsill of our apartment. A week later, my husband approached the subject with as much tact as he could muster.

“Renae, we’re not keeping those vines in water bottles forever, are we?”

I laughed and replied, “No. Just until they grow roots. Then we’ll plant them in dirt and let them grow.”

I watched them every day for three weeks. And every day for three weeks Kevin asked me, “Any roots yet?” My answer stayed the same, “Not yet.”

I had faith that my vines would grow on their own. For years, they have relied on other parts of the plant to bring its nutrients. It was the growth of another’s work. These leaves were merely the decoration that hung down the desk.

But then on week four, a little white thing looked like it was sprouting. Over night, it had grown a three inch root!

At the beginning of our walk with God, we are like that little vine. We (hopefully) are  discipled and taught how to follow Christ. But it’s not until we put the responsibility of having an individual quiet time on ourselves that we learn how to have a personal relationship with God.

John 16:7 says, “Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.”

The disciples could no longer rely on the physical steps of Jesus. They had to rely on a spiritual faith, one of listening to and obeying the Counselor, in order to grow in their relationship with God. And so do we.

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“Your god – he is very powerful.”
 
He stopped gazing at the cargo ships in the harbor and looked directly into my eyes. The Lord had blessed us with many conversations about His love that summer, but that one statement wast he first time an adult came to the realization that our God is more than a character in a book.
 
My friend Joy and I were in Singapore the summer of 2010. The family we lived with decided to host a party in order for their friends to meet us. Somehow in the middle of dessert, we got to talking about an F4 tornado that had caused $40 million of damage to our college campus in 2008. After showing them pictures of the wreckage, they could not believe that God had spared every student’s life that night.
 
And that’s when it happened. For the first time in his life, this man realized that this God our host family had been telling him about was, indeed, a powerful God. Yet, despite this strength, He still chooses to walk with us today.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying, “God, I wouldn’t be sinning this much if only you walked with me in the garden like you did with Adam and Eve.” Or maybe, “God, I would stop struggling with my doubt if only I could be one of those twelve disciples that followed Jesus around.”
 
We have been fed the lie that the Holy Spirit is somehow the inferior member of the Trinity. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will dwell in us and guide us once we believe that Jesus is Lord.
 
We worship a God who is actively working in our lives and in the world. He is a God who sent His Son to the earth to get his feet dirty as He proclaimed the truth that God is the great “I am.” He is the God who walks with us through the good and the bad times. He is our pedestrian God. Praise the Lord!

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