{re}fresh

Month: July, 2014

Master Gardener

by Rob Dunne

hydrangea

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2

To say that I do not have a green thumb is an understatement. Years ago, someone gave me a Christmas cactus that theoretically should have been a breeze to care for. I managed to kill the poor thing. Given this understanding, I do not know what possessed me to try pruning the hydrangea behind our condo.

Long dry branches like the spindly fingers of a witch’s hand poked up out of the hydrangea. Carefully placing the pruning shears as close to the base as I could, I removed the lifeless limbs. Occasionally, the branch would simply give way, emitting a snapping sound causing me to question why I was doing this.

Spindly fingers aside, determining the existence of life in other parts of the hydrangea was not easy. Though not what one considers vibrant, some of the branches contained a shadow of life in them. Using my best guestimate, I chopped away. By the time I finished, my hydrangea looked rather pathetic. “Well genius,” I said to myself, “it looks like you have done it again!”

In spite of its hapless appearance, we watered and fed the hydrangea. Much to my delight, signs of life began to spring forth; a leaf here, a shoot there. Before my wondering eyes this once seemingly lifeless hydrangea sprang back. It even managed to spit out a couple of bluish/purple flowers. Take that, green thumb!

What I did to my hydrangea was an act of love. I don’t quite understand how or why this is so, but all of the dead branches were somehow preventing the healthier ones from producing. By removing them, life giving nutrients flowed into the healthy branches, allowing them to flourish.

In a similar way, God lovingly prunes each of his children. All of us can look at some aspect of our lives and see what is or isn’t producing fruit. He prunes those things that do not produce fruit. In doing so, God allows the Word and His Holy Spirit to nourish us. That nourishment flows into our healthy characteristics and results in an abundance of kingdom worthy fruit.

Galatians 5:22 outlines nine fruits that the Spirit grows within us. The first and arguably most important fruit is love. As we learn to love God, ourselves and others, the Holy Spirit helps us develop other fruit.

Let the Holy Spirit shine His light on your life today. If you are not producing the fruits of His Spirit, perhaps it is time to let the Master Gardener do some pruning. I promise the end results will be stunningly beautiful!

To learn more about Rob Dunne, please visit our Contributors’ Page.

In the Moment

by Wendy

liveinthemoment

 
 
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Luke 12:11, NIV

 Our maestro dispensed with pleasantries and quickly launched into deep waters. We sat on the edge of our seats waiting for downbeats and singing. Instead, we got profundity. “We really want to have that magic happen in performance,” he said too casually. “Too often we get there in rehearsal and then ‘mail it in’ for performance. Let’s try to stay in the moment so we can achieve that magic in performance.” Uh huh. Or something like that; I only half-heard his comments.

Singing… I was waiting for the singing.

We sailed delightfully through his signature composition, giddy when we finally heard the whole choir together for the first time. Eagerly we dashed into the second piece, expecting the same. Instead the conductor hop-scotched through measures and phrases, endings, beginnings, verses. Where was our start-to-finish?   Confused, I waited for another chance to hear the whole.

It never happened. How unsatisfying.

Taking a deep breath, I chose to trust our composer-conductor’s wisdom, but it wasn’t until after the concert that my pondering revealed the underlying pervasive challenge. It resonated then and still reverberates now as I hear from Jesus, as I speak and train, and even as I write.

How do I NOT peak too early? The first thoughts are brilliant, but the repetitions? Not so much.

How do I communicate the right words at the right time, until we all arrive at that perfect moment of understanding—that place of revelation and “aha!”—together?

I tussled with that same question once more this spring, just before I spoke at a conference. I wanted to make all my points and craft the impact “just so,” but after hours of trying, I couldn’t nail it down. Frustrated, I slapped my pen down on the table and ranted at God. “What?!” I demanded. “What is it? WHY can’t I get this down on paper?”

“In the moment,” God replied. I was instantly transported back to the concert and the maestro. Perhaps his helter-skelter approach to the rehearsals was not so random after all. He pressed the point, never allowing us the security of a concert program. Instead we had to wait and listen until he announced each piece. And here I was, waiting for my Conductor God to tell me the order of the program. And. He. Wouldn’t.

“Gah!!!” I spurted, exhaling as my shoulders sank. “You mean I have to face that group with no idea what I will say? No script? No outline? Nothing??” His silence confirmed what I suspected. Staying in the moment meant knowing my subject (or my music) and creating from what the Creator showed me. He knew where I was going and I had to trust He could get me there. It was definitely NOT the answer I wanted, but it was all He offered.

Plans in hand, would I trust Conductor God to direct my words?

“In the moment,” God said again. “The ‘magic’ will happen when you don’t anticipate, but stay in the moment.” Like the electric choir performance with a confident conductor, this conference talk would only work if I knew my topic, waited for my cues, and followed the Master.

Closing my notebook, I took a deep breath and stood in front of the audience, confident that I was, for once, truly “in the moment,” and He would not disappoint.

To learn more about Wendy, please visit our Contributor’s Page.

Homesick

by Dawn Aldrich

homesick (1)
 
Please welcome guest writer, Ben Lancia to {re}fresh today. Ben’s gift for prophetic words of exhortation led him to write his words down in order to remember them for the purpose of sharing them later. Of his poetry, Ben says, “The Holy Spirit has been speaking to me through poems over the past few years. This particular poem seems to be an exhortation for the body, not just for me, so I wanted to share it with you, here.”
  
Homesick
by Ben Lancia
 
When so much in life makes no reason or rhyme,
my thoughts seem more focused on home.
But no longer to a place far back in time,
where my heart has a tendency to roam.
 
Now it seems much more to me
that home is not just a place,
but really a Person who longs to be one with me,
reunited face to face.
 
He once gave us freedom to go on our own way,
and we chose to break His heart;
yet even as we rushed to go astray, 
He never lost sight of our selfish hearts.
 
But He took us back through the life of His Son
in the hope we’d choose Him above everyone.
So you’d think home to us now is where we’d find rest,
back in His arms on our Father’s breast.
 
Yet, now it seems to me that we’re just not content
to live as pilgrims below and wait for Him to take us home,
where even as we’re known, 
we will even know.
 
We’d rather drive stakes in this earthen sod,
convincing ourselves as heirs to our King,
we’ve the right to live as other gods,
forgetting our Father and clinging to things.
 
And though we are promised a celestial mansion
somewhere in the eternal sky,
if here on this earth we receive not what we mention,
we fail not to question God why.
 
And though we continue with our endless cries,
“we want what we want and we want it now,”
still someday He will wipe our tear-filled eyes,
for we’ve never been more homesick than we are right now.
 
 

Reality Television, Nelson Mandela, and Hope

by Mike McKinniss

reality-tvMany of us believe that in order to really be doing well in life, to truly feel like they are thriving, our circumstances–health, job performance, finances, love life, etc.–must be running more or less smoothly. We typically believe that things will be going well internally when things are going well externally. But this is not so.

Spend just ten mind-numbing minutes watching any kind of celebrity reality television, and you will not only relinquish your soul, but you will also find that you can have everything going for you and still be utterly miserable, no matter how shiny your Bentley.

Conversely, some of the poorest and most oppressed still retain an inner vibrancy that many long for. The late South African president Nelson Mandela comes to mind as one who, even while unjustly imprisoned for 27 years, seemed to effuse promise.

No, it is not positive circumstances, ultimately, that provides real buoyancy, but hope.

Hope, the expectation, regardless of external circumstances, that something good is coming, can at least keep us moving and at best give us the industrious purpose we need to push through difficult times towards a better future.

In my own journey, I have found that hope is indeed vital, but far more important is the actual locus of that hope.  Or perhaps I should say that where I’ve centered my hope has been critical to actually maintaining that hope and, with it, some vitality.

Too often, I tend to place my hope in some specific outcome. Following an interview, I’m eager for the job offer. I make a request of a friend and then I hope for a favorable response. Yet I find with alarming regularity that my vision is so narrow that I’ve completely misread the situation at hand and the outcome I had desired does not occur, nor was it ever likely to.

Far better to place my hope not in a particular result, but in God and his good character, without concerning myself too much with the particulars of where things land.

Everyone’s favorite keep-your-chin-up verse is Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). It is a salient reminder that even in the midst of the worst of circumstances, the Creator is tirelessly pursuing good. (And by good, we mean those things that bring life and peace and righteousness, which isn’t always a brand new convertible.)

What this means, in part, is that while I cannot always expect the Lord to bring about exactly the things I might hope for in a given situation, I must believe that he is always up to something good, even if I cannot yet see it and even if it is not what I had originally hoped. Far better to hope in God’s constant goodness than in the fickleness of anything else.

Armed with that knowledge, then, I think I could face just about anything, even possibly a night of celebrity reality television.

Breathing Lesson

by mandyade

Worship

A time is coming and now has come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23

People respond to love. We are created for this purpose- to worship as a response to unimaginable love.

As believers, we are a new breed of people; true worshipers, as  Jesus calls us. He said that the time has come for this new breed to worship and know God in the way we were created.

There are times when we may struggle to worship; pain, disappointment and other distractions may block our gaze from seeing God who is good. If we don’t see that God is good we will not be able to worship Him in truth. We will attempt to worship Him for other reasons–to appease Him and earn His pleasure or to appease our own conscience.

But true worship is a response. It is never self-generated. He first loved us long ago, while we were in our worst state. And He first loves us now and everyday- even in our struggles. His love for us doesn’t change. He is always the initiator of goodness- not us. Our worship is always a response to Him. If our hearts can’t grasp His love we are unable respond in worship.

True worshipers are those who see what God has done and put it before their eyes. When our hearts see His love, worship becomes like breathing. We breathe in His love and goodness and we exhale our worship. We cannot live without this breath.

There are times when we may struggle to worship. These times affect every part of our lives since we are not breathing properly. We struggle to worship when we forget to look at His goodness. Even in the darkest night we can worship as a response to His goodness, since He is always good and no darkness can quench Him.

“Even in death the righteous have a refuge.” God is still good even when the enemy presses in hard.” (Prov 14: 32b)

To help you thrive in worship:

1. Give gratitude space in your heart. God continues to be good to you & others even when the enemy tries to disfigure life. Turn your eyes toward His goodness and do as the old hymn says- ‘count our blessings name them one by one’. When gratitude comes- worship will well up as a response to God. List His kindnesses toward you until you feel worship come…

2. Breathe in His love- Exhale your worship- Repeat. God loves you now and is good to you today. He always loves first- even when we are too weak. You don’t have to love Him first- all He asks from you is your response to His love.

To learn more about Mandy, please visit our Contributor’s Page.

 

 

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