Thursday, April 18, 2013

Joseph and Me

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected.  So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why do you look so sad today?"
Genesis 40:6-7 

In the passage above, Joseph has been imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit after being sold into slavery by his own brothers.  He has every right to be a bitter man, but instead he has chosen to rely on the Lord for his strength.  By relying on the Lord, he has left himself open and ready to truly see and notice those around him.  Rather than focusing on himself, perhaps even throwing a continual pity party for himself, he instead is finding his hope in the Lord and passing that hope on to others as he builds relationship with them.

As I studied Genesis 39-40 this past week, I was struck by Joseph and these two verses in particular.  Joseph shows sincerity and thoughtfulness in these verses, and it left me wondering if I would've done the same.  Would I have taken the time to notice the sad faces of those two men, or would I have been too caught up in the other things around me that I'd deemed important to even really see them?  Would I have been paying more attention to my check list than to the people around me?  

Thinking through these questions helped me to see something in my own life that I need to work on, but they also helped me to see how well people have been caring for us recently.  We brought our daughter home from Ethiopia almost 4 weeks ago, and the days have been challenging.  Yet, in the midst of the challenges, we have had so many who have seen our needs (or possible needs) and have offered to help.  They, like Joseph, have been ready to ask us how things were going and not shy away from being there for someone in need (even if they, too, are busy--which of course they are--we all are).

In the past few weeks, we have had over 20 people sign up to bring us meals.  I have received texts, messages, and emails asking how we were doing.  We have had people volunteer to run to the store for us.  Earlier this week as I had a particularly hard day with our daughter, a friend brought me a drink from Starbucks to brighten my day.  I could go on.  People have seen us, and they have responded to the season we are in with mercy and grace.  It has been such a beautiful representation of the Body of Believers serving well, and I feel privileged to see it firsthand.

But I don't want to stop there.  I don't want to simply receive and move forward.  I want to be like Joseph, too.  I want to see someone and being willing to take the time to stop and ask them why they are sad (or angry or upset or whatever).  I want to be Jesus to those I encounter.  And I'm wondering, do you want to try it, too?  Who's with me?  Who wants to stop looking past people and start looking at them....not to judge but to help?  To make a difference, even if it's simply giving a smile to someone who hasn't smiled in days.

Let's do it--let's get serious about this Jesus life.  Let's be Jesus to those around us and see what happens.  Whatever happens, I have a feeling it's gonna be great!  Let's go!

(And if you have a story to share, please feel free to add it in the comments--we'd love to hear from you.  Let's change the world one step at a time.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lessons From The Vine: Glorious Grapes

Okay, okay, so mayyyyyybe I'm a little stuck on the whole grapevine thing. (I wrote about them here and here.)

Probably because it's the only plant during the past ten years that I haven't killed.

Well, okay, so maybe I did kill it once, but it came back to life. A regular ol' Lazarus of a plant.

But more than that, the vine is brought up so often in scriptures (both in divine threats as well as in messages of hope) and every time I look at it I get some kind of new revelation of how it truly does compare to the relationship between us and God.

As I've watched the vine bud this year, it's been with a bit of trepidation, I'll admit. You see, I stopped pruning it last year near the end of the season and a lot of the leaves withered and browned and fell off. I was afraid that perhaps I had finally done the deed and sent it off to the great vineyard in the sky.

So, this year when those glorious, itty-bitty buds began appearing I was so relieved. And then I was ecstatic as I watched them burst out in beautiful grape leaves! I carefully arranged the branches that had fallen from where I had trained them last year, and then I noticed something about the buds and the branches that had me a bit crestfallen. The tips of the branches weren't budding. They weren't growing. They weren't showing any signs of new life. I was afraid that my vines weren't going to grow any longer.

When my husband pointed out the same thing, I responded with a little dejected, "I know." He responded, "But these are new branches. New areas of growth for the grape clusters to grow. They are coming from the branches that we grew last year."

And immediately again I had my God-Grapevine-January moment.

Sometimes, I want for my spiritual growth to happen in the exact same way. on the exact same path. following the exact same formula.

I want Jesus to train me as He has always trained me before. I want to know what to expect. I want to be able to plan for what is coming.

But, so often, God takes a 90 degree turn and shoots me off in a direction that I had not expected. Just like those grapevines. He is making new growth in my life from the branches that He grew in me last season! The journeys of faith (and faithlessness, I'll admit) that He and I have gone through over the past few years... those are sorta, stopping. There are new journeys that we are embarking upon together. A new direction.

New journeys that will result in new fruit, new "grapes", in me. And that fruit is what brings God glory!
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:8
Them is gonna be some downright glorious grapes!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lessons From The Vine: Experiments With Grapes

My son, like a lot of boys out there, loves to do "experiments". The most recent one was a request to mix up his lemon-lime gatorade with some milk and see what would happen. When I replied that we couldn't do that experiment because it would be wasting food, he looked at me and replied incredulously, "But MOMMMMM, it won't be wasted. I'm going to drink it."

Pretty sure I threw up a little in my mouth at just the thought.


The "experiment" that he wanted to do just before that one was a little more tame. Almost a year ago, I wrote about our grapevines in this post, and well, they have been blossoming the past couple of weeks. It is so exciting to all of us! The blossoming represents SPRING! which represents WARM weather! (well... eventually) which represents playing in WATER! which, to my boys, represents hours of endless FUN! and, to me, represents hours of my boys being easily OCCUPIED by something other. than. me.

Can I get an Amen?

When my experimenting son, Pasco, asked me to explain how a grape turns into a raisin, I put on my Mommy-Knows-All hat and explained away. So intrigued he was by the explanation that he requested that we get two grapes and leave them out to dry in the sun. Hmmmmm. Two grapes. Yes, we could spare two grapes in the name of science.

So, we placed the two grapes on a Lighting McQueen plate and left them in the 80 degree sun.

After I put the boys in their rooms for naps/room-time, I went back outside to have some sanity-time... oh, I mean... alone time in the backyard. I sat there looking at those grapes and then looking at the vine. at the grapes. then at the vine.

And it sorta struck me. In a month or so, grapes would be hanging from that vine under a hot, Texas sun. Luscious. Juicy. Full of Life.


If you separate those exact same grapes from that vine and put them out under that same hot, Texas sun. They will be Shriveled. Dry. Dead.

Boy howdy.

Aren't we just like that???

Connected to The Vine, we are vibrant and joyful. We are bursting with praise and worship and kindness and goodness. We are full of His Life!

Separated from The Vine, we can become depressed, cynical, or embittered. We sometimes draw inward, saving each ounce of happiness just for ourselves. We tend to lose all hope and future.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing... When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:4-5,8
Now, please don't allow this to make you think "You need to do better. You need to read the Bible more. You need to go to church more often. You need to pray more. You need to... You need to... You need to..."

That's not at all what I'm trying to convey.

And remember, Jesus (who said all that stuff in those verses up there) also said, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30

Yes. Reading the bible is going to keep you connected to Him. Yes. Going to church is going to keep you connected to Him. Yes. Praying is going to keep you connected to Him.

But think about those grapes that will hang from that vine. They don't "do" anything! They just... remain. They stay attached. That's all. GOD is the one that fills them with nutrients. with water. with flavor. So, if I'm encouraging you (and oh, believe me, I'm speaking to myself here as well) to "do" anything, it's to stay attached to Him. to remain in Him. to cling to Him.

And He'll be making big, ol, juicy grapes before you know it.


Monday, April 1, 2013

More Wisdom from Proverbs 31

Our ladies' bible study in Proverbs 31 continues and I am continuing to learn more and more about the woman that God desires for us to be.  First of all, remember - this woman described in Proverbs 31 is an ideal, not a living, breathing woman.  There may have been women during Biblical times that embodied most, or even all, of these qualities or was capable of accomplishing all of these things.  But, that's not the point of this chapter. The purpose of this chapter is for the mother to impart to her son all of the qualities that he should look for in a wife.  That being said, I truly believe that there is relevance  to us modern day moms and wives. 

Proverbs 31: 15-19 tells us that:

She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking. (MSG)

The first thing I notice is that she's an early riser and that she gets prepared for the day before anyone gets up.  Man, this is a hard one for me!  But, I am here to tell you that when you get up, put some clothes on, spend some time with God and get a jumpstart on the day, the rest of the day goes a LOT smoother.  I have, within the last year, starting getting up to go walking in the mornings. Given our early and busy mornings, this means setting my alarm for 5:15 which is much earlier than I would like.  The bonus is that I spend my walking time in prayer.  Even though I am not a fan of the early morning hour, I am a fan of starting the day off with my focus on God while I get my blood pumping.  So, there's some modern day relevance - start your day off taking care of yourself as well as your family AND get your mind focused on God first thing in the morning.

This lady is also not afraid of hard work.  In fact, it seems like she never sits down.  Where is the modern day relevance here?  To me, it seems like we should not be afraid to work hard for what we want or to challenge ourselves to set goals that cause us to stretch outside our comfort zones.  I have never been one to make New Year's Resolutions or make an actual list of short and long term goals.  I am learning, though, that this is a necessary part of growing as a woman, a wife, a mom and a Child of God.  A part of setting goals is being prepared for whatever your life brings you.  The Proverbs 31 woman buys a field and plants it so her family and servants will have food.   She knows how to spin thread and yarn so her family will have clothing to wear as well as furnishings for her home.  I know that most of us don't buy fields and plant gardens or vineyards but that doesn't mean we shouldn't shop responsibly for our family's food.  My friends all tease me about my well-stocked pantry and freezer but it is rare that I am not able to come up with a last minute meal - instead of resorting to a fast food dinner when we have a busy night. 

So, where's the relevance here?  Be prepared for both the short and long term.  Plan ahead so that your and your family's needs are met.  Be responsible and don't be caught off guard with life's curveballs. 

I don't know about you but all of these concepts continue to challenge me.  But, I also know that God is always there to help me become more like this Proverbs 31 woman. 

God bless all of you ladies in this journey!