A Fruit Called Love

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. … 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. … If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. … As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. … You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you.

– John 15: 2, 4-5, 7, 9, 16 (OSB)

The words “love” and “fruits” are repeated so many times in this one conversation Christ had with His disciples. Coincidence? I think not.

We get it wrong so often. We think that God wants something from us other than our love, but He doesn’t. Literally everything that should come from our discipleship, our friendship with Christ stems from this one thing: LOVE. It’s so simple, and yet we insist on complicating it!

God = love. So when we abide in God we abide in love. Every fruit, every action and word, every outcome should be a direct result of love. Out of His love are we able to love – Him, others, ourselves. And that is why He says, “you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” When we truly dwell in God and His love, His desires become our desires – we no longer desire and seek silly or selfish things, but what God desires we will desire, and when we ask they will be done.

The deeper we delve into our relationship with God, the deeper in love we become and the closer to God we become – in our desires, our thoughts, our words, our appearance. It takes time and it takes effort: we are pruned just as a plant must be pruned to ensure it continues to produce good fruit, but the more time and effort we put into becoming more like Him, in abiding in His love, the more we become love. This is what we have been chosen to be.

And really, that’s what the world needs now more than ever, right? Love.

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For I Am Yours And You Are Mine

Blessed is he whom You have chosen and adopted; he shall dwell in Your courts.

– Psalm 64:4 (Orthodox Study Bible)

I definitely forget that I have been adopted, that I have been chosen. Think about the difference – with a biological child, there is always a chance that this child was unplanned, unexpected, or what have you. But when a child is adopted, is chosen, the process is long and sometimes grueling, and yet the parents are dying to be with and to have this child, no matter what it takes.

God chose me. He went through a long, hard, arduous, life-taking process just to have me for Himself, just to be my Papa. As much as an adoptive parent puts into getting a new child, God literally gave His life so I could be His daughter.

Why then do I act as if He wants to hold back from me what is best? What parent would go through all that to have a child only to hold anything back from her? When I feel like I am begging Him for what is best for me why do I think He hasn’t been right here with it in hand just waiting for me to be done with my childish tantrum to give it to me?

…we shall find Him ready as the morning, and He will come to us as the early and latter rain to the earth.

– Hosea 6:3 (OSB)

I am chosen.

I am adopted.

I am loved.

I am the daughter of the King.

Cracked Vessels

“I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, And restore comforts to him And to his mourners.”

-‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭57:18‬

This is kind of an incredible verse!

Here God is saying He has seen my ways — all my ways. Even the not-so-great ones. But instead of washing His hands of me He tells me He will heal me. Because I’m broken. My wandering ways are a result of my brokenness, and God not only acknowledges that, but He takes the brokenness and says “I am going to heal it”.

He doesn’t just say He’s had enough of me or my mistakes and failures. He heals me. He leads me. He restores me.

God is ready to take the broken, shattered pieces of my faults, my failures, my mistakes, and put them together. Once I realize that and finally let go of the pieces He Will put me together so that His Love and His Light can dwell in me and others can see that light in the cracks that make up my vessel.

So I lay down my pieces. I am done trying to put them together myself in all the wrong ways. How about you?

Man Oh Man, It’s Time For The New One

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

— Colossians 3:12-17

This passage really could not have come at a better time. The preparation week of Lent is coming to an end, and fully-fledged Lent is upon us. It is now the time to put our proverbial money where our mouths are and make a real change in how we are living our lives. I decided to take this passage and break it down, virtue by virtue and self-reflect, and I would encourage you to do the same. Here we go:

  • Tender mercies: not just mercy, but tender mercy; that’s a whole other level of mercy. Have I been merciful to those around me? Or do I get frustrated with others, refusing to let go of their faults and refusing to give the benefit of the doubt?
  • Kindness: do I show kindness to others around me? And when I do where is it coming from? Is it coming from the little that I have or does it stem from the kindness that I am receiving from God?
  • Humility: this is a biggie. What am I focusing my life around? Is it all about me or is it about those around me? Am I doing or saying things to keep attention focused on me? What are the intentions behind my actions and words?
  • Meekness: I don’t think we always know what being meek means, but it goes along with the theme of the rest of this passage. Am I gentle with those around me? Am I soft and calm? Or am I boisterous and loud and saying whatever pops in my head without regard for the consequences?
  • Longsuffering: Am I patient with the people in my life? How about with God? Do I allow Him time to work in my life or do I decide to take matters in my own hands? Do I live my life in the “my way or the highway” mentality or do I leave room for God to do His work on His time?
  • Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another: similar to the attributes above, how am I dealing with people I interact with? Do I forgive or do I insist on holding onto grudges and what I think is owed to me? Do I bear with those who feel like a thorn in my side?

I will be honest with those of you out there reading this, I have not been the best at basically any of these things lately. I haven’t been putting on love like Paul calls for us to do.

But that’s the beauty of this season! It’s another opportunity for a fresh start, to put on love, to be ruled by the peace of God, to be filled with the word of God.

Instead of being ruled by our passions and pride and selfishness and insecurities, let’s choose to be ruled by the peace of God.

Take Me Off This Roller Coaster

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise

— Hebrews 10:35-36

So I’ve been struggling quite a bit the last few months. The last few months have been filled with doubts and insecurities and disappointments…basically the opposite of confidence and endurance. I have depended so much on myself and on the hope I tried placing in others. So naturally I was let down. Repeatedly.

To be honest, things have really stunk lately. I have been riding an emotional roller coaster — no stability, nauseating, and filled with a lot more downs that ups. And for what? For nothing. I cast away my confidence in God and in His love and care for me, and I tried to depend on myself instead. What did I gain from that? Nothing but heartache. Nothing but misery.

I lost my confidence. I lost my endurance. If I’m really being honest, I lost my faith in God’s grace. No reward. No promise. Only bitterness and hurt. That’s what resulted.

Can anyone else relate to this? Lord, I hope not, but also kind of hope so.

But you know what? I’m done. I’m done trying to do things on my own. I’m done seeking after things that mean nothing if I’m not rooted in Christ to begin with. No more running after nonsense. It’s time to get back to where I need to be, where my soul will finally be at peace once more, where self-doubt will turn into love for who God created me to be.

I hope if you are struggling with self-worth, if you are struggling to find meaning or are just filled with hurt and doubts, that you will join me this Lenten season to throw all that out so we can fill ourselves with the thirst-quenching Living Water.

May we remember that the Holy Spirit is He who is in us. May we remember that we are the Father’s royal children. May we remember that we are the beloved of the Son.

Now is not the time to give up on hope. Now is the time to renew our confidence, to increase our endurance, and to prepare to receive the promises we have been given.

I Want To Be A Fearless Warrior

I’m sure that somewhere on this site, at some point I have talked about my love for Ruth. But here I am talking about her again. Because here’s the thing, Ruth was one of the most fearless women to walk this earth, and that’s a fact.

Think about it:
-Her husband dies, and when she’s given the opportunity to leave her mother-in-law and restart her life she doesn’t. She decides to stay where things are uncertain, with a woman whose loved ones keep dying. Not exactly what I would call a reassuring position to take.
-When she goes to this completely new country where customs are different from everything she has always known she doesn’t focus on how different everything is. She doesn’t focus on all the adjustments she will have to make. She focuses on her mother-in-law. She focuses on caring for the loved ones in her life. That being said, she goes to a completely foreign field where there are strange men everywhere and she is a vulnerable sole woman in order to provide for Naomi.
-When Naomi directs Ruth to go to Boaz, Ruth doesn’t question her. She obeys Naomi, against all the social customs, and goes into Boaz’s threshing floor and lays herself at his feet and at his mercy. Please try to remember how utterly scandalous this would be in the day and age this is all taking place. What if he decided that what she did was so inappropriate or impure that he would rebuke or shame her or make some sort of example out of her? Or what if that other random relative just decided he was going to marry her instead for the inheritance? So many things could have gone wrong.

Ruth was a warrior. She didn’t just give up when things were difficult or when life didn’t make sense. Instead she decided to pick herself up and follow after a new God and make a new life for herself. She must have seen something in Naomi that convicted her to leave everything she ever knew to follow this widow and her deity. And the moment she put her faith in this conviction, God provided more than she probably imagined.

Clearly Ruth wasn’t just focused on finding a new husband and having a comfortable, “normal” life. She wasn’t focused on living a life like the one she had. She wanted something else, something more, and she fought the norms and fought worldly logic to get it. She followed a widow to a strange land probably with the thought that she would live out her life serving her–what part of worldly logic would say that this was a spectacular idea?

How often are we hyperfocused on X, Y, or Z that we forget that there is Someone else providing blessings more than we have in mind? How often do we look around us at what everyone else seems to have and we think we need? How often are we Orpah, going back to the familiar, the ordinary, instead of going down the road less traveled in order to obtain the extraordinary?

I have been unbelievably jetlagged this entire week, waking up around 4 am every morning–something I usually don’t have issues with when I’m traveling–and I 100% believe this has been God trying to speak these words to me. After an hour of tossing and turning I finally decided to get up, open my Bible, and just read anything. As I pulled open my Bible, I don’t know why but I thought, I really want to read about Ruth right now, and with that God gave me the following reminder: no matter what my circumstance, no matter where I am or how uncertain I feel like things are, when I leave behind all my notions of what makes sense logically and hold onto the certainty of His love for me, He will fulfill every desire in my heart, often in an unexpected way.

fearless-warriorLet’s be fearless warriors like Ruth. Let’s not look back. Let’s not hold out for what the world is trying to offer. Let’s embrace the winding road before us with the certainty of God’s grace rather than the uncertainty of the turns ahead. Just look up, and what you will get from above will be worth so much more than what you thought you wanted.

Justified

The last few months of my life have been an adjustment to say the least. I moved to a different state. I started a new job. Everything I had left behind and was coming back to was different. At one point it seemed that I was “finding myself” as they say. I was trying new things, meeting new people. I was gaining all this life experience that I had no interest in during medical school. But in all this “finding myself” all I found was that I lost my identity. I lost who I was, and I had no idea how to get back.
Over the last few months I have had wonderful, beautiful experiences, but I also got caught up in the whirlwind until I no longer had a leg to stand on. I compromised some of my standards. I made choices that I’m less than proud of. For the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t just not right with God, but I was all wrong. I felt like I couldn’t even show Him my face. I knew that I had let Him down, but this time was worse than all the others. For the first time I couldn’t even talk with Him as I went about my day. I felt guilty asking Him for favors or sending up a little prayer. I avoided church on my one Sunday off because all I could think was that I didn’t deserve to be there.

All of these notions were wrong.

And He made sure to show me that.

You know how God protects you when you’re in tune with Him? You know that extra guarding you get when you run under His wing? Well, somehow I still felt that protection, even after running away from Him and betraying Him and disappointing Him. He was trying to make it clear that even though I ended up down this weird path that wasn’t consistent with who I am or who He intends for me to be, He wasn’t just going to give up and let me go. He made it abundantly clear that my mistakes don’t discount His love for me, and they don’t erase the fact that I am His daughter.

So finally I started to get the message, and I made my way to church, where I do belong, because I am a sinner. And that’s where He sealed the deal with the message from Acts that day: 

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (13:38-39)

He has justified me through His love and through His blood. Nothing I try to do on my own can do that. No law gives me that. Only the blood and the love of the Savior can justify me, can purify me, can give me redemption, can make me new once more.

I walked into church that day beaten down, broken, ashamed. I walked out ready to be renewed. And with that I ended up in Abouna’s office pouring out my heart, pouring out my shame and my mistakes. And I walked out redeemed. The thoughts of my shortcomings, the images of my sin, the voice in my head telling me I am worthless and terrible were finally gone. All that was left was the knowledge that I truly had been made pure again.


So here I am, once again, in a coffee shop, trying to put into words my experiences with the hope that maybe one person will read my thoughts and realize that you are royalty. Your Father won’t just leave you when you’re down for the count. He didn’t for me, and I guarantee He won’t for you.

Just remember, no matter what you do He could not love you any more or any less.