fruit is meant to be eaten

 

My uncle sent me a text not too long ago after I asked him about the farms in southwest Iowa. It read, “Many mouths will be empty in the world, I fear.” The summer has been a big, ugly drought here in the Midwest.

And that has me thinking about provision.

There’s no way around it – we need food. We might be confused about how much we need, but the fact that we need it is not up for debate. We are wired to need food.

The reality that we depend on food is something God uses every day to remind us of our dependence on Him. When we have daily bread, we are thankful. When we lack daily bread, we remember that He is the bread of life. Whether we are hungry or full, God is always the Provider.

As I think about the fruit produced in John 15, I wonder what happens to all of the produce. Have you ever thought of that? God is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in Him, we will bear MUCH FRUIT. It is clear that God is the Provider – what branch can produce fruit separate from the vine? But, for the person who remains in the Lord, what is to become of the fruit he/she produces? Does it just accumulate and then fall to the ground under the fruit-heavy branches?

Fruit is meant to be eaten, at least where I come from. I love the summer months that bring blueberries and sweet bing cherries. I love the fall months that bring Honeycrisp apples and grapes and pomegranates. I love the winter months that bring out the canned peaches and strawberry jams. I love these fruits because they are delicious.

So, what if we thought of the fruit on our branches in the same way? What if, as we are remaining in the Lord – knowing Him, finding out what pleases Him, and delighting to do those things – we are a fruit factory

What if God serves up fruit through our lives so that others can taste and see that HE IS GOOD? Isn’t this what it says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine bright before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise the Father in heaven.”?

As we remain in Him, we cannot help but produce fruit – delicious, ripe, fresh-off-the-vine fruit. Now, if we could just find ways to serve others with this precious produce. Our fruit is not meant to rot on the branch, but to be shared and enjoyed!

The fruit produced by branches connected to the vine is meant to be eaten by others, enjoyed by others, and served to others. Let this be the way we handle the fruit of the Spirit.

te doy gloria

The chorus was like fingers playing my heart strings.
It was like a cool glass of something I forgot was my favorite.
It was like realizing I stood shoulder to shoulder with an old friend.

And it went something like this:

te doy gloria, gloria
te doy gloria, gloria
te doy gloria, gloria
a ti Jesus

I know what you’re thinking… “that’s it? that’s all it took?” And, yes. It was that simple. I was standing in the church service this morning with people from El Salvador and Mexico and Guatemala and the chorus came in like a wave on my soul’s shore.

I give you glory, glory
I give you glory, glory
I give you glory, glory
to you, Jesus

It is not a new truth – that the Lamb is worthy to receive glory – but it is a truth that feels weightier when felt the world over. This morning I sang it again in the language where I witnessed miracles, the language that made me desperate for miracles. And when I sing about giving Him glory, I do just that. I give Him the glory.

With each day, I’m tempted to write another chapter in Ecclesiastes and with each day God gives more reasons to be glorified. And so I sing. Sometimes the simplest phrases can best put all the tangled messes of daily toil into proper perspective. Sometimes the simplest chorus carries with it deep and complex theology about sovereignty and supremacy and hope. Yes. It’s that hope I pressed into as I sang with families in the chapel at the retreat center, because we are desperate to give glory to the only One worthy.

The bridge rings out a phrase weighty enough to follow all the glory giving:

con una corona de espinos
te hiciste Rey por siempre

That was it – one crown of thorns and it crowned the King of forever. So, today, I sang. I sang to give God the glory and I did just that.

I’ve decided I should sing more.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

hit by a train

The second time she told me I was really listening.

It’s like I told you, Care. Being saved is like getting hit by a train. I imagine there are millions of pieces just splattered everywhere… and that’s the end of it. Only a miracle – a straight up act of God Himself – could manage to fit those pieces together. Only God could make me whole after a disaster like that.

She was talking about salvation and this time I was really listening. I already knew Alejandra’s life was a miracle, but hearing her tell her salvation story made me realize how little I had to do with it. It was really always this: she had stepped into the path of destruction and then God stepped in to offer a miracle – a life that is whole.

The next thing she said shouldn’t have been shocking, but there is always more to learn about salvation.

I don’t understand how people can have a middle phase to faith. I mean, when you get hit by a train, you either stay blasted in pieces or there is a miracle to make you whole.

And that’s the truth. There’s no “call me, maybe” in this scenario, no lukewarm in this salvation equation. The only way to be sure you are “in” is to think you must be “out” (to borrow from Tim Keller). The only way to experience the highest delight in this life is to know that it is a miracle of grace to experience anything at all.

We must never, ever lose sight of that train or the tracks that we tread toward our destruction.
We must never, ever lose sight of the magnitude of the miracle that put life in our dead bones.

And if you are still on the tracks, blasted into bits by your own doing, know that there is One who desires you do not remain destroyed. And He is the One with the power to do something about it.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

training is the best accountability

We’ve established I’m not a runner (see ‘lost in cornfield’ story).

But I do like to run. I like the the time it gives me to think and I like how all the jostling helps my loose marbles make some sense.

I set off for a run the other day and, as is usually the case, decided how long I would run based on my plans for the night. As I considered my route, I thought about why a runner trains. I remembered the first question people asked me after I finished Dam to Dam, “When’s your next race?” Everyone assumed I had become “one of those runners” who was always looking for the next race. I thought, “Sure, I’ll do it again.”

But as I mentally mapped out my route (that I’d determined should take me 45 minutes max), I realized why runners sign up for races.

signing up for a race is the best accountability for training for a race

I know it’s not rocket science, but it seemed pretty profound to me as the loose marbles starting making sense on Duff Avenue. The motivation for training comes from the goals for race day. Then race day happens. And then you sign up for another race. People have told me that you lose weeks of training in days and now I know it’s true. A whole lot of training and accomplishment and hard work amounts to little after a few days off.

And so, of course, I think about this Christian race we’re running. We stretch and train and beat our bodies into submission because we are training for something. And, I wonder if Paul felt the weight of “not having attained it” after every race he finished – every missionary journey and shipwreck and public sermon – he immediately signed up for another. His training built on training and there was never a time where he wasn’t preparing because there was never a time he wasn’t signed up for a race.

I wonder this because I can see the temptation after a race to wait, consider, and “rest” in a way that smacks excuses. When we finish something like a race, we feel accomplished and proud and (in some ways) as if we’ve arrived. When we believe it’s all about us, we will fall hard and fast clinging to the comfortable title of “accomplished” that seals our fate and renders us useless.

What a beautiful thing to always have the prize in front of us, to always strain towards what is ahead, to always have something worth training for even as we cross the finish line.

Training is the best accountability for runners and you only train when you are signed up for a race.
Today, I’m taking inventory.
Today, I’m making sure I’m signed up.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the human referral effect

Today, I put on my über hip (but less than hipster) tortoise shell glasses with the confidence of someone who needs corrective lenses and wears them with style. Just to be clear, I think glasses for fashion only is silly and a waste of money. If you do have to purchase glasses, then making it a fashion statement is a bonus. But why am I talking about fashion, which is so clearly out of my realm of expertise?

Because I bought my glasses online at Zenni Optical – which was WAY cooler than Factory Eyeglass Outlet, where my parents would take us to get glasses when we were growing up. Here’s the cold, hard fact: glasses are crazy expensive! You could pay up to $400 for glasses and that was $350 above my parents’ price range. You might assume I’ve really moved up in the world and am able to buy a $400 status symbol, but I haven’t. Actually, $400 glasses are about $375 above my price range and I’m now very thankful for those extra dollars my parents were able to spend on “any pair with the yellow sticker, sweetie.”

I heard about Zenni Optical from my friend Tina who heard about it from my sister, who googled cheap eyeglasses and then told everyone about her experience. It seems fake at first – almost like a really horrible practical joke because the price for a pair of sweet, hip lenses from their website is as low as $6.95. I know, I didn’t believe it either.

But then they arrived in the mail and you couldn’t pay me to NOT advertise for them. People would say, “Oh, your glasses are so cool!” and I’d always touch the corner, real studious like, and say with a shrug, “Oh, these? $12.00.”

No one believes me at first, but eventually I get them to write down the website and promise to look it up for themselves. At $12, you can afford to buy 2 or 3 pairs just in case one breaks. And, if you lose a pair, you just skip going to the theatre and you’ve evened things up for your wallet!

Zenni has since really snazzed up their website and have a feature where you can virtually try on glasses to see how they look on your face.

Wow.

I haven’t ordered a pair in several years, but I still get excited at the idea of someone else getting a good product for a good price.

And why all this about my glasses?

Because I read this article about the human referral effect in Forbes magazine that highlights another eyeglass outfitter who is committed to giving quality for a fair price. The author of the article, Alexander Taub (Iowa native, btw) talks about his Warby Parker purchase and the chain reaction of referrals that followed.

Bottom line: we like to point people in the direction of something wonderful… and not just the possibility of something wonderful, but the guarantee of something wonderful.

I love this idea.
I love that humanity is a fan of guaranteed wonderful things and that we want other people to have guaranteed wonderful things too.
I love that the human referral effect happens and that it happens so often and that Forbes magazine is taking notice.

What I wonder is if eyeglasses are the only thing we should be sending down this highly effective human pipeline. I wonder if this human referral effect is being extremely under utilized.

I wonder what would be the best thing for humans to refer to one another?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

childlike, but not children

worthy of chase?

I got interrupted on the corner of South Kellogg and 3rd Street last week, right in the middle of my blazing hot run.

I had my rhythm (desperate run the suns, walk the shades style because of the heat) and my focused race face. My next stop was Bandshell Park for the water fountain, but I was a good 5 minutes from that oasis when a scene unfolded in front of me. I felt like I was in an episode of Early Edition (that show where Gary Hobson receives the paper a day early and then prevents many disastrous headlines as a result). I didn’t get any forewarning, but I saw the scene play out as disaster and then rushed to change the ending and the image hasn’t left me since.

The little boy was racing down South Kellogg on his bike as the wind took a yellow balloon bouncing in front of him. His face was focused and nervous as he threw his bike down at the corner. The balloon bounced it’s way out onto the busy road and my words almost caught in my throat as I ran up beside him, “Wait, here buddy.” An SUV and a sedan sped by in two-way traffic as the boy heeded my warning and then when the coast was clear I nodded, “Go ahead, but hurry.”

He raced out to grab the less-than-inflated yellow balloon from the center line and raced back to get on his bike. I heard a “Whooopeee” as I crossed the road and continued my run.

Giddy anticipation of holding that yellow balloon pulled him racing down the sidewalk on his bike with reckless speed. The determined look in that boy’s eyes would have taken him right out into the middle of South 3rd, his little body completely vulnerable. I couldn’t get that look out of my mind as I raced on thinking about what almost happened. Maybe it didn’t… maybe I imagined how almost it really was, but it rattled me all the same.

It made me think about the tension between Mark 10:15 and Hebrews 6. The former reads, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And then in Hebrews we read, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…”

We are to be “like a child” but we are to move on from elementary doctrine. We are and we aren’t supposed to be children and this little boy stretched that tension taut in my mind.

The beautiful things about his excitement and wonder are often things adults miss. A half-inflated balloon blowing across a busy road is definitely not worth the chase. In fact, I know very few adults who would get excited about a balloon in the safest of situations. We are not awed by simple things.

But, there is a reason the adult will not run into the street and it goes beyond an awe of simple things. The world has roughened and toughened the adult so his critical eye sees danger and weighs risks. The windblown balloon bouncing across South Third is not worth it.

When the little boy grasped the balloon with both hands and ran back to his bike, his eyebrows looked different. They were no longer furrowed with mission, but instead rounded with success. He got what he set out to get and his loud, “Whoooopeee!” was the beginning of his enjoyment.

We are to be like a child in our delight of good things, in our discovery of good gifts from the Father, in our reveling in restored relationship with the Lord. We are to be reckless even about throwing off the things that hinder and running the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1). Shame and fear have no place when we are called children of the Most High. But we are not to be children. We are not to remain ignorant about the world, but wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). We are to throw all our childlike energies into knowing more about the Lord, finding out what pleases Him and doing those things (Ephesians 5:10). We are to let out our uninhibited “Whooopeeee!” as we relish the joys of living as children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5) who have access to the Father of Light.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

o love that will not let me go

“How did Jesus have power to do miracles?”

The question was like extracting one drop of water in a massive wave off the coast of El Salvador – marvelous and impossible.

I sat across from Anna and considered the fireworks in my heart. Oh, how I love my Jesus. I got flustered and stumbled over my words in excitement. My haphazard words fluttered out like they would if I was trying to explain that I’d found a key to a secret garden in the center of the city, where hydrangeas and peonies and lilies bloomed year-round. It’s too good to be true and my heart knows it.

The more we study the life of Jesus, the more willing we are to stand in awe – to marvel at the mystery. Anna’s question came from our summer Bible study, “Walking as Jesus Walked” by Dann Spader and my delight came from the response: digging deeper. My delight is not that I have answers, but that through the Spirit we have strength to comprehend the love that surpasses knowledge.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

As the weeks go by, my encouragement to these girls is to go digging – to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) over and over and over again. Nothing bad can come of studying the Word and asking God to give us insight. The Word never returns void. When we’ve uncovered verses that we think don’t make sense, it means digging deeper to uncover why they do.

The more we read God’s Word, the more we want to read God’s Word. As we study the life of Jesus, I am holding on to the love that will not let me go – the love that allows me to grow in wisdom and stature, in favor of God and man (Luke 2:52), just like Jesus.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy