“Grapes of God” (Inward Outward Reflection)

NOTE: This is a reflection from the Inward Outward emails I get.  It is written by one of the Missions of a church I was deeply involved with in Washington, DC for years and years called Church of the Saviour.  The title is a live link you can click on to learn more about it and subscribe to a variety of spiritual reflections. From N.C.

Grapes of God

John 15:1-8
(For Kayla)

Jesus is talking to his disciples around the last supper table. Moments before, he washed his friend’s feet, much to their bewilderment. The gospel writer lets us know how much Jesus has to say to them. Time was of the essence. There were a great deal of instructions. Maybe that’s why he washed their feet first. Getting them out of their heads. Honoring and blessing their bodies … those clay feet. The Word made flesh, said the most without speaking. Once more to draw even closer to their stubborn hearts … to knit them together. To weave them unto himself. “Make your home in me, as I have in you”, said the servant leader. And being at home in each other, is just about the most intimate thing we can do.

The son of the Farmer God, drawing upon this agrarian metaphor, coaxes us to allow this “greening” to happen. And like the Star Jasmine that unwaveringly wraps herself around my porch in the summer, so wrapped are we. A growing thing tells the story. An endless winding thread. It’s a claim on us, and a promise—A sacred daisy chain around our wrists, joining us one to the other.

As a grape on the vine, it’s not lost on me that I’m not the only one here. Grapes are tribal. What if my growing—this new born fruit—cannot happen without the growth around me? What if yours has everything to do with mine, and mine with yours? What if I lived my life with the heart knowledge that all of this fruit surrounding me is what makes me whole? There is no escaping our intrinsic connection, a thought both comforting and startling. Apart from you, how do I know who I am? What do we need from each other? These grapes of ours make the wine that Jesus blesses–the blood of his veins, he says–and invites us to drink. To become one with him, and each other, so that not even death can separate us.

Several Saturdays ago, we gathered at Wellspring, sang songs, told stories, and gave thanks for the life of our sister and friend, Kayla McClurg. We walked her ashes down to the lake of the saints, a place where many of our elders have been laid to rest. Each of us were invited to reach into the beautifully handcrafted urn, take her ashes, and scatter them into the water. I had never touched ashes before. I let Kayla go from my cold right hand, the thin grey lines of her remaining as I patted palms together, holding them in prayer. I felt such a deep connection to her, to those gathered, and to all living things, that my mind stoped it’s wandering and worrying for a moment, allowing only tears and soft groans of thanksgiving. And like each grape on the vine, every tear on every face tastes the same.

We can never untangle this beautifully twisting spiral of life in which we share our growing. Thank God for that.

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A Vague Memory of the Ever Present

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”  – Jacob (Gen. 28)

Note to Self: God is here, right now, in this place with me.

God is here right now with you.  And let the record show that I base that truth of how I am “feeling” and how much I actually feel God.  My emotions are not the best judge of whether or not God is the ‘Always Present.’  My emotions are as fickle as a 5 year old in the candy aisle.

But Jacob was speaking truth: for sure the Lord is in this place; and I seem to forget all too quickly.  God is the ever Present albeit invisible Reality surrounding me right here.  Sometimes it feels like God is nowhere to be found when the truth is God is Now Here.

What I love about this verse is the context of the story behind it.  It was spoken of by Jacob, the one whole stole both his brothers’ birthright and blessing (Gen. 27).  Jacob, the one whose name in Hebrew has several meanings including “heel” because Jacob followed Esau out of the womb holding his brothers’ heel.  But it also means to circumvent, to usurp or steal.  So Jacob, who after he wrestled the angel and become Isra’el, was the father of Israel and the father of the 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel.

It was this Jacob, Jacob the Thief (i.e., the criminal), who failed to recognize the presence of God in the place where he was – a place he had stopped to rest as he was fleeing his angry brother who was seeking to kill him.

So, it was in the midst of trouble and trauma, caused by lying and deceit, that Jacob had a dream and saw the angels of the Lord and realized God was in this place.  He did not recognize God in a sacred place, in the tabernacle or a church, but rather he recognized and experienced God’s presence while on the run from the consequences for his devious acts.

It was there, in his utter humanity, that he found and experienced the presence of God.

And so it will be with us sometimes.

God is at hand and miracles are everywhere.  Everywhere God is, is in truth a miracle.  God is closer to us than our very breath; God is in every breath we take.  And because God dwells within…everything therefore becomes Holy Ground.

 

Surrender to Win…

A note from Niles: You may have notice that the name has subtly changed from Wild Monk to Wild Mercy…click HERE  for a small explanation.

Corrie Ten Boom once said “don’t wrestle with God, just nestle with God.”  She and her family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her closet. She went to prison for those actions.  She wrote an amazing book called The Hiding Place, read it if you need inspiration.

Wrestle, don’t nestle is what my brain tells me.  No, no, no, nestle don’t wrestle says another voice, a small whispering one.

If I am honest, I choose not to nestle most days.  I choose to wrestle.  I think I get some sort of pleasure from it or else why do it.  In the Old Testament we are told Jacob wrestled an angel; and the angel “touched” him giving him a permanent limp for the rest of his life – a reminder that we can choose to wrestle with God but we are the one ones who walk away limping.

As a person in recovery, I am told by my recovery program to surrender, all the time, and to surrender everything…EVERYTHING!

I do not surrender easily. The words from others living recovery whisper above the din in my heart: Surrender to Win.  Bullshit says my brain.  This being the same brain that told me in my early thirties that drinking and doing drugs was okay, I could handle it, even though my father and his father were raging alcoholics.

I am supposed to listen to this particular brain of mine, the one that gets me twisted in knots and vainly trying to outwit God? But still I do listen to this fractured brain of mine.

My brain says surrender and lose everything. Jesus says surrender and find life.  My brain says” gimme, gimme, gimme, I need some more.”  Jesus says give, give, give and you will receive good measure, over flowing.

Hmmm, but my brain is a whack job. If I am honest, in the last few days I have entertained my brain far too often, listening to its lies and bravado and inconceivable notions all while pushing God’s gentle voice to the wayside.

My heart has been patiently waiting in the wings, whispering words of hope and truth, words like “God is with you no matter how you feel; the Kingdom is within; you must die every day in order to truly live; surrender to win; I AM with you always, All Ways!”

Could it be that the message of sobriety and spirituality are finally taking hold in my heart and beginning to become part of my life? Surrender to win is not usually what my heart would whisper to me. But today it has been.

I hate surrendering because most of the time I confuse surrender with resignation, and resignation leaves a bittersweet, metallic taste in my mouth.   They are not the same. Surrender is active and faith-filled; resignation is passive and fear-filled.

So, which do I believe? My brain which got me into this mess or the God Who has been my ever-present help in a time of need?

Good. Works.

Good. Works. We are called to do them; we are called to be them.  Good works are a response to God’s love; they do not earn God’s love.  Good works are a response to grace; they do not earn it.

Good works are the way we say “Thank You” to God for all the blessings bestowed on us by God; they are the way we live out our gratitude for life and love.  Good works are the hands and feet of the good news of Jesus.

Good works are necessary for me because as I have learned in sobriety, “I can keep what I do not give away.”

Not a sermon, just some musings…