Vine and Branches

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.” John 15:5a (NLT)

Today Dale and I finished cutting down the row of trees that separated our driveway from the back yard. The trees were fascinating to us when we moved into this home. They produced lovely flowers that attracted bees and were full of pollen.

At first, we did not know what the trees were, and shortly after moving in we found out that they were Rose of Sharon. That made us happy, as we feel the Lord directed us to this home and has blessed us with this home. One of the names of our Lord is Rose of Sharon.

Our love for the Rose of Sharon has greatly diminished over the years. It is an example of how the Lord should be in our lives, our Lord being an integral part of our lives whatever we are doing. The tree however makes certain it is an integral part of our yard. If there is a square inch of space the tree will grow there. No matter where we look on our property, Rose of Sharon are there.

This grouping though had honeysuckle vines throughout, which gave it a heavenly scent and we loved that. It filled the air with sweetness.

The past couple of days Dale has been cutting the trees and branches down and I have been hauling them to our wood pile. This has been interesting to me.

John 15:5 is one of Dale’s favorite scriptures. He will quote it often and I love hearing him talk about it. The image I get when I think of this verse is of a grapevine. Jesus is the main stock of the vine and we are the branches that go out from the center. I have never had another image of it, until today.

As I have mentioned we have been cutting and the honeysuckle is in the midst of the trees. We noticed yesterday that although the branches and the trunk were cut down we could not pull them free of the honeysuckle. This morning it was more of the same. Dale had to cut the vine loose before the branches could be moved.

I thought about the vines as I dragged the limbs up the driveway to the wood debris pile. I leaned down to pick up one more branch and noticed that the vine was like a rope, three cords wound together on the branch. As I picked up the branch I heard, “I am the Vine”.

The picture I next thought of was what I had seen happen. Dale would cut the branch, but it would be held up by the vine. What I interpreted from this is, when we have been grafted into the Vine, our Lord holds us tight. He wraps us up in Him. When satan tries to cut us away, cause us to shift our focus, we may be distanced from our roots, but our Savior is holding us tight. Keeping us wrapped in Him. The Vine giving us stability.

The rest of the above verse is followed by more illustrations. John 15:5-8 in the Message says, ““I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

After my morning lesson, I have continued to think about what I heard, saw and experienced. I hope that, like those branches now on the woodpile, I will cling to the Vine, having my Savior wrapped around me, helping keep me in His perfect will. I will lean into the Vine and make my abode with Him.

You Want Me to Do What?

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14b (NKJV)

When I taught English in Japan, I wondered how different the Japanese students would be from American students. I knew how I was in class, but I thought the Japanese students would be more serious, taking everything soberly. What I discovered was kids are kids no matter where you are. I spent many a night in the classroom laughing at the antics of my young pupils. They whispered and passed notes and giggled just like I did so long ago.

It was then that I realized that people are pretty much the same everywhere. So, once I had that revelation, I began to read my Bible differently. What we read in scripture reflects the lives of real people. I love studying the women in the Bible. I also believe they were women like I am. A woman with doubts, tears, and fears.

Esther has traveled with me and been the subject of my thoughts since 2019. I am currently re-reading the book of Esther. I find her fascinating.

She was raised by her uncle. She was devoted to him and was obedient to his wishes. She was placed in court, pampered, given beauty treatments and ultimately selected to become queen. That, in itself is a girl’s dream come true. You leave your life and become a queen. How many of us girls dreamed such a dream in our youth?

But, I wonder if she didn’t question in her heart the decision to go to court in the first place. She most likely thought, “You want me to do what?” At least that is what I would have reasoned.

Esther was a Jew. It turns out that one of the king’s advisors wanted to destroy the Jewish race. Her uncle wanted Esther to intercede. She came up with excuses, how she couldn’t just go into the court and talk with the king, or how the king hadn’t called for her in a month. Don’t we all make excuses when we are asked to do something out of the ordinary? Excuses can flow rapidly when we don’t want to do something.

Her uncle answered back, “And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews.  For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14 (NKJV)

A dose of reality hit her with these words. How many of us when hit like that are stunned? Hearing that maybe we are here for such a time as this is hard. I tend to think that the Lord has someone much more capable than me. I like sitting in my little corner living life as usual.

Today, while walking, the Lord spoke to me about this verse. I felt like I was supposed to write, but the first thing to pop in my mind was, You want me to do what? Then it was followed by, what if I disappoint You?

Obedience is never a disappointment to our Lord. After the excuses, Esther asked her uncle to gather together people to fast and pray for her for three days. After the excuses, the fear, the panic, she centered herself once more and accepted what was asked of her. The king accepted her presence in court, saved her people from destruction, honored her uncle and loved Esther.

Hard decisions may come to each of us. We can have the excuses. We can have our fears. We can (and usually do) panic. I will always yell, You want me to do What? But, with each task, the provision will also be there. It may not be easy. But, then again, it may.

We are on this earth at this time. We each have a purpose, a destiny, an assignment. For such a time as this.

In the book Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis Aslan tells Lucy, “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.” I often have to remind myself to not doubt my value, to be myself. As I mentioned earlier, Esther was like women are today. She had the same emotions. She most likely, when asked to help she doubted her value. Today, we learn from her. Her representation of respect, obedience, submission, and example is what we can strive for, (and yes, that was an acronym for Rose).

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NLT) For such a time as this, age, gender, amount of faith does not disqualify us from having an adventure with our Lord.

Roses, Dandelions and Purpose

In San Diego our yard was rock with a few grains of sand in between. Nothing grew in it. We had grass for a few months which turned to dirt and dust by late spring. Growing up in lush northwestern Pennsylvania where the greens were deep and fragrant, the lack of yard was distressing to me. Much of our property was filled with decking, so after many years I started to grow roses in containers on my deck. They were my joy and a pop of color. My husband loves red roses, so I had one of those. I love pink roses, my oldest likes white roses, and my youngest at the time loved yellow roses. I had a rose bush for each of us. I planted a mini rosebush and it flourished in the container. I prayed for each person while I watered the plant . It was my quiet time and my time to connect with something growing. I loved my deck garden, it was filled with many plants besides the roses. Here, my roses are delights for our resident deer. I see them start to bloom and the next day, they are gone, leaves, buds, thorns, all gone. I have once more started container roses so I can enjoy them. I place them on my front porch. I figure if deer want to climb the steps to the roses, then they are welcome to have them. So far, so good.

Last week I went outside and saw my first dandelion of the year. I know, to many they are a reason to grumble. Living rural as we do, dandelions are free to bloom. I smile when I see dandelions. I want to pick them. Yes, inside me hides a five year old girl.

Dandelions are the military child’s flower. They were designated that as dandelions grow everywhere. We had them in our yard in Norfolk, in Yokohama, Japan and in Nagai, Japan. Our yard was filled with them in Bangor, Me and Winter Harbor, Me. They even flourished in the rocky soil in San Diego. Dandelions represent military children because they too, flourish all over the world. I love that illustration.

Reflecting on the dandelion and the rose I wondered what the lesson would be. Roses are normally planted in a garden. In a row. They are orderly and beautiful. The fragrance is lovely, and they make gorgeous arrangements. They have their place and they grow in their boundaries.

Dandelions grow anywhere they can. The only dandelion bouquets you display come from the grimy hands of a young child who had pulled the dandelions up with their roots. The face of the child is what makes the dandelions precious.

In serving the Lord should we be roses or dandelions? Do we present our life in a crystal vase filled with roses and baby’s breath, or do we present ourselves with our roots showing, dandelions wilting and grimy hands and faces?

 “Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.” II Corinthians 9:6-7 (the Message)

Rose of Sharon

Joy of my desire, all consuming fire; Lord of glory, Rose of Sharon, rare and sweet. You are now my peace, Comforter and friend, wonderful, so beautiful, You are to me. I worship You in spirit and in truth.
Lord, I worship You in spirit and in truth.
There will never be a friend as dear to me, as You. Lyrics by Randy Rothwell

When this song was popular to sing in church services, I was, at that time, going through some difficult times. Many of my friends had left me. I felt alone and isolated.

Singing this one week in church, the words implanted themselves into my heart. I thought of my companions and began to learn what a friend is. A true friend is by your side in difficult times, they do not scatter to the winds. I found this verse and knew I was not alone. Psalm 55:12-14 in the NASB says “For it is not an enemy who taunts me, Then I could endure it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him.  But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my confidant;  We who had sweet fellowship together, Walked in the house of God among the commotion.”

We have a true friend in our Lord. Oftentimes we look upon Jesus as our Savior, our Deliverer, our Healer, as the One we worship. He is all of that, but He is our friend. He is by our side all the time. He knows us intimately. He knows our likes and dislikes. He knows what makes us laugh. That is a definition of a true friend. One who does not fail us or disappoint us.

What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! Joseph M. Scriven 1855

How blessed I have been since emerging from that season that the Lord has blessed me with gifts of true friendship. He truly is the great God!

What’s Up With the Roses? Part 3 Caught in the Brambles No More

The last time my granddaughter was visiting we took a walk.  We often take walks when we are together.  Walking down our steep road, she said she wanted to go see our creek. It flows through our property in our woods; our grandchildren love to play by it. 

As we veered off the road, I told her to be careful of the brambles.   She didn’t understand at first, so I told her that brambles were the thorny branches of the wild roses that grow on our property. 

Walking forward she learned what brambles were.  I tried to clear the path, but with each step she landed deeper into the mass of thorny bushes. She finally threw up her arms pleading with me to pick her up.  I leaned down, scooped her up, turned and gently tossed her up the hill where she landed on her feet.  The conversation back to the house was filled with her dislike of brambles.

How often in our lives do we start heading to a destination only to find ourselves caught in a pile of brambles?  We eventually throw our hands up, pleading with God to lift us from the thorns. He is faithful and removes what is keeping us tangled up.  But, our Lord, unlike this Grandmother, will gently pick you up, and lay us beside still waters to hear His voice and heal.   

Psalm 23:2-4, “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths,   bringing honor to his name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” (New Living Translation)

What’s Up with the Roses? Part 2 He’s Called Me Rose

Our home in San Diego overlooked a major freeway.  There was noise from the vehicles day and night. Right beside the freeway was a landfill. When we first bought our house, the landfill was a site for bulldozers and heavy equipment.  In a few years it looked almost idyllic sitting beside the never-ending traffic.  Where bulldozers once roamed the land, grasses grew, along with the California poppies in the spring. 

Our family room looked out on the freeway and frequently I would stand at the window watching the vehicles whizzing down the road.   This is also the room where I would have my quiet time and prayer time. 

I had a season in my life while living there, that I struggled with my first name, Mary.   That sounds silly, I know, but it was a real struggle for me.

I was raised a Catholic, and my parents named me after my aunt Jane.  She too was Mary Catherine, but my Mom once told me they called her Jane because she was a plain Jane.  Not a winning argument in me liking the name Mary. 

My family called me Cathi.  I was used to that.  I like it.  I had a rude awakening when I entered first grade though.  Being a Catholic school there were many Mary’s.  Mary Kay, Mary Ann, Mary Beth, you get the idea.  Each of the girls was called by their full name.  I was just called Mary.  I dislike being called Mary.  It’s a beautiful name, and I am finally beginning to like it, but I prefer my full name or Cathi.  

It was during this season in 1991 when I was wrestling with God about my name.  Often during my quiet time I would hear Him speak to me about my name.  I wrote in my journal one day in October of that year that I need to accept that I am Mary.  I needed to accept who I am.  I continued to write in my journal the following: “You need to accept who you are. Just as you are a Rose- you are a wild one, not cultivated and pruned and restricted.  You are an individual”.  I remember after writing this looking out the family room window imagining a wild rose growing on the hillside of the landfill.   A wild rose that no one really notices, but is there.  I saw the rose as pink, I don’t know why. 

Recently I went back in my journals and saw this entry.  I went online and researched pink roses.  Wild roses are likely to be pink; they are a symbol of love and admiration, and a carrier of secrets.

So many years ago I heard about wild roses.  I had a deck full of cultivated roses, and I never thought of a wild rose.  Years ago our Lord was telling me that I may not be noticed, but He noticed me.  He loves me and He knows me. 

Isaiah 43:1b says, ““Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”

I rest knowing that I am His. 

What’s Up With the Roses? Part 1 Background

Roses became a part of my life during our last few days living in Winter Harbor Maine. Below is the story of how that happened.

A group of ladies in Winter Harbor joined together each Tuesday morning for a Bible Study. We all lived transient lives, depending on the Navy to give us orders of where we would live and also let us know when it was time to retire.

Whenever one of us were retiring or changing duty stations, the girls in Bible Study would do what had become a traditional farewell gathering. Of course, we would eat (that’s a given), then we would each sign a book for the person leaving. There would be prayer for her and lots of tears and hugs. Parting is never easy, even when you know it is a part of the life you have chosen for yourself.

My going away party was no different. Brunch was served, book was signed and then the prayer time. One women had written a lovely note to me as she had felt God had given her. It talked about my life being a rose and that in our new life in San Diego I would blossom into what the Lord had planned for me. Pretty wonderful, right? I smiled, content in what I had heard. And then… there is always continuations, those three dots in your life, like waiting for a shoe to drop. The other shoe dropped shortly after that.

Another woman, while praying after the letter had been read cleared her throat and began speaking. I will never forget her words. She said, “And as a rose has many thorns for it’s beauty, there are many thorns awaiting you.”

Now, you would think that would deter me from lovingly following my husband cross country, a logical person would do so. Not me. Acts 21:11 says, “He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” (NLT) I had often wondered how Paul could continue his journey into Jerusalem, and yet he did.

The night of my going away brunch we went to a movie, I can’t remember what it was because I was thinking about Paul going into Jerusalem knowing what awaited him. I was still wrestling with what had been said to me earlier. In between the popcorn, candy and soft drinks I realized that although my feet and hands had not been bound, I was facing the unknown.

A few days later, we packed our U-Haul and started our journey. Our plan at that time was to go to San Diego, my husband do his tour on his destroyer, and he would get out and go to Bible College. Our plan was 7 years and we would head back to Maine. Proverbs 16:9 says, ” We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (NLT) Determine our steps He did. 28 years later we left San Diego.

Were there thorns awaiting me? Too many to count! Did I want to give up? Yes. Many times I found myself on my face pleading for God to remove things before me.

What I learned was strength, trust, prayer, and faith. Our God will never leave us. He is our constant source of strength.

May your day be filled with the goodness of our God.