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.

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.

Tunics, Cloaks, & Miles

If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.”
– Matthew 5:40-41

secondmile

As a child of God, a follower of Christ, a member of the New Jerusalem, I am to be sanctified, consecrated, set apart. I am not meant to blend in, to be a member of the pack.

What does this look like? How am I supposed to be set apart? John 13:35.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

The love of God surpasses all love. His love goes beyond the love of this world. According to this world we love only those who love us. And by love, I mean we love until it no longer benefits us, then we move on. We “fall out of love”. We are taught by this world to love very conditionally, as long as it is convenient or we see that it is good for us. Why do you think people are so screwed up and why there is so much brokenness?
We accept this distorted, demented view of what the world tells us love is as truth.

Real love is nothing like this idea of love we have adopted from the world.

Real love is unrelenting.
Real love is uncontainable.
Real love is unconditional.
Real love is unyielding.
Real love is putting down my own life for the person in front of me.
Real love is death, even death on the Cross.
Real love is going the second, third, tenth mile when I am asked for one.

No part of love is about myself. Love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5), but seeks the joy and fulfillment and salvation of the people around it.

IS MY IMAGE OF LOVE SELF-SERVING OR IS IT SELF-SACRIFICING?

Heart On Fire

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

This is such a powerful verse.

How often do I pray for more laborers? I complain about how there aren’t enough people to help me or support me as I try to serve. But how often do I pray that God send me help?
And I pray for people to believe, to know the love and grace of God, but again, how often do I actually pray for laborers to bring others to Christ?

There is such power in this idea, in my opinion. I mean, what if we all prayed for laborers? What if we all united in purpose?

Can you imagine how full the world would be of hearts on fire for God?

heartonfire

Can you imagine how vast and how great God’s Kingdom would be if we united in purpose and prayer?

What Is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me

And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”…And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
(Judges 16:16-17, 20)

samson

There’s something I never understood about Samson: Delilah was so obviously against him! Every time he told her he might “lose his strength” she tried it! What kind of woman tries to weaken the man she loves?! What part of this situation could Samson justify? Bro! She’s trying to take your strength! Are you crazy? How could he not see that Delilah was conning him? It’s frustrating. It’s like watching a horror movie, and the girl decides to go out into the woods to figure out what the rustling noise is, and you’re yelling at her, “Stop! He’s going to kill you! Don’t go in the woods, and just call the cops already!” Samson is that stupid girl. For whatever reason he kept Delilah around despite her suspicious behavior. And she kept nagging him! Every day she “pestered him” until he was “vexed to death”! Why are you keeping her around, man?!

So frustrating, right?

And yet, sometimes I’m Samson. Sometimes I’m the stupid girl running into the woods. Going back earlier in the chapter it says, “Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (v. 4). How many times have I compromised my standards or my beliefs in the name of “love”? Emotions make things messy. Nothing is simple when emotions are involved. Sometimes I know that a relationship isn’t right or is harming me rather than edifying me as a good relationship should. But what do I do? I hold on to it because of “love”.

They say love is blind, but it really shouldn’t be.

If God is love, then love is light as He is light, and if I am being blinded by what I think is love, it really isn’t love. 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” So if there is no darkness in God, then there is no darkness in love. Love should shine bright in a relationship, keeping us accountable, so that we see our true selves and continually examine ourselves.

I need to stop being Samson because once I blind myself I begin to compromise who I am, and once that happens I will find myself far away from God before I even realize what happened. Just like Samson.

So it’s time now to look for the true, real love, the love that is pure and full of light.

Real Talk

Snapshot_20141227This is me. No makeup. No retakes. Okay, yeah, my hair is straightened, but I truly wasn’t planning this post when I woke up this morning.

Today I tried something one of my med school professors encouraged us to do years ago. I’ve always been weirded out by this idea, and I blew off this suggestion.

But as the day has progressed, parts of the past and of the present have tried to haunt me. Questions of my worth. What-ifs. Whys and how-comes.

Then this professor’s voice found its way into my mind, and I found myself in front of my grandmother’s full-length mirror. You are beautiful, I told myself. I looked into my eyes, looked at every feature of my face. Sure, you have some scars on your chin, and maybe your nose isn’t as narrow as you’d like, and yeah, your forehead barely exists, but you. are. beautiful. The more flaws I found on my face, the louder I repeated those words. Self-affirmation is what my professor called it. And self-affirming it proved to be. With each word I reminded myself that I am beautiful. I am unique. I was created so carefully and my beauty is found perfect to He who created me. And the flaws seemed to fade. The scars looked lighter. My nose looked more acceptable.

You are kind, I continued. You are compassionate. Your heart is so big and full of love. You see, sometimes I down on myself. I take for granted the good things about me as so many others have. I have told myself that I am too kind, I am too simple, and that is why people walk all over me. I have fed myself these lies until I began to believe them as truth. But what is life without kindness? What is life without genuineness?

I love, love, love Zooey Deschanel, and she has this quote floating around out there that I try to remind myself of:

“Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things.”

Don’t shut yourself down. Don’t tell yourself that you are too much or aren’t enough. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. Every single part of you is special and unique. Don’t let others tell you otherwise, whether by words or by actions.

You are worth so much, and you will only be able to live in that worth once you accept yourself the way you are.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5)

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14)

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:16)

Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty…” (Psalm 45:10-11)