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ARE YOU A BRANCH THAT BENDS OR SNAPS?

IMG_0444I took a walk in the woods yesterday in search of specific branches to make fall wreaths. It is not uncommon to encounter deer, turkey and rabbits along the trails that run through the wooded area which is one of the reasons I love my property and the wetlands that surround it.

My youngest grandson, Fischer, accompanied me on the walk. I looked for branches while he searched for a strong and sturdy walking stick; the kind of stick he could bang against trees and fight off imaginary animals. Every once in a while I would stop, clip a few branches with my pruning shears and continue down the trail. Eventually Fischer wanted to help me.

“Here’s one Neenee. How about this one, it is really long?” he shouted as he ran ahead of me.
My reply was always the same, “Sorry, buddy, but that one will snap and break as soon as I bend and twist it into the shape I need.”

“How do you know if a branch will break?”

I pointed to a dead oak tree and said, “See how there is no growth on that tree? There are many branches that have broken off and fallen to the ground; they are now filled with rot and decay and will eventually get burned in the fire pit.”

He responded with “Oh” and continued to skip down the path whacking everything within reach of his walking stick. I, on the other hand, continued to seek out branches that would willing bend to my purpose.

As I walked back to the house and dropped my bounty, the following scripture came to mind:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5-8

Let us seek to cling to the vine of Jesus so we can be shaped into His intended purpose.

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FAILURE TO THRIVE

IMG_3301I worked at Hurley Medical Center, a city hospital, for many years and one of the top medical diagnoses billed for children was a condition called FTT (failure to thrive). Failure to thrive refers to children whose current weight or rate of weight gain is significantly lower than that of other children of similar age and gender.

Treatment depends on the cause of the delayed growth and development and there are many possible causes. But the immediate cause is inadequate nutrition due to an underlying etiology.

Failure to thrive is a rather controversial term because it tends to define a set of symptoms that are not diagnostic. Some experts prefer to use more specific definitions, such as undernourishment, growth failure, or growth deficiency.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there is a failure to thrive epidemic among today’s Christians. We do everything possible to feed our physical needs but are content to be malnourished and deficient in our spiritual growth.

When we fail to increase our intake of God’s Word and ingest all the nutrients it contains to sustain us, we stunt our Christian growth. And just like in the medical profession, there are a number of causes for our inadequate spiritual nutrition, but the immediate cause is SELF.

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5

Our inability to thrive spiritually is because we are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. We profess our faith, but it’s only on the surface. If you are a Christian and continue to remain undernourished in your Christian faith, then it’s time to evaluate the intake of your spiritual calories.

Study God’s Word, take time to pray and serve God. They are the spiritual feeding tubes that nourish the soul and cause us to thrive.

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THE POGO STICK

PSWith great excitement, I opened the box delivered by my UPS driver. Inside were three pogo sticks for the grandkids; they were part of their Easter gifts. I flipped down the pogo pedals and inserted the handles grips into the metal frame. As I did, I remembered the pogo stick I had as a kid. It was bright red with black pedals and I thought it the coolest thing ever, next to roller skates.

Once assembled, I took it outside to give it a try. How hard could it be?  After all, all those years of boinging down the concrete driveway as a child made me a seasoned pogo stick professional and I was about to prove it. With great confidence, I jumped onto the foot pedals only to find myself dismantled after three jumps.

In disbelief I muttered,” Really.” It was more of a question than a statement because the suggested weight for the pogo stick was 10-lbs. less than mine. For the first time ever, my extra weight should have worked to my advantage and allowed me to pogo myself to infinity and beyond. It didn’t happen.

I repackaged the pogo stick and completed the return form with the reason:

NOT AS EXPECTED, lacks the power to boing.

Have you ever thought you could pogo stick your way into eternity?

It is the foot pedals of the pogo stick that move us forward and the handles that keep us balanced. Past successes don’t carry-over to the present. It is through repeated practice, determination and the full weight of God on the pogo pedals of our life that we are able to move forward to our eternal purpose.

If you find yourself being dismantled from life’s pogo stick, return it to the cross of Jesus.  Request an exchange with the return reason:

NOT AS EXPECTED: Please exchange and include a full set of instructions on how to move forward to eternity. I thought I could do it by my own efforts, but I failed.

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A PIECE OF HEAVEN

Heavens_carpetIt was a hot, humid day in Southern Missouri when my grandpa unloaded barbed wire and wooden posts from the bed of his pick-up truck to construct a cattle fence; I was age eight. When finished, he took a handkerchief from his work pants and slowly wiped his sunbaked brow. He lit a cigarette and inhaled the tobacco like it was a breath of fresh air and each time he exhaled, a dense cloud of smoke hung in the air. It’s funny the things you remember as a kid.

A few yards away, my grandma spread out a hand-made quilt beneath an oak tree and poured iced tea into plastic cups. As I sipped the cold drink, I pointed to something that clung to the base of several tree trunks.

I found a little piece of heaven.

“What’s all that green stuff, Grandma?”
“God uses that to carpet the gardens in heaven so you can walk barefoot without hurting the bottoms of your feet,” she answered.

“Grandma, do you think God would mind if I took home a little piece of heaven to show my teacher and classmates?”

She dug her fingers into a mound of moss and placed a handful into my empty cup and said, “I don’t think God would mind at all.”

I ran to show grandpa my cup filled with a foretaste of heaven.  As grandpa bent down to pick up another roll of barbed wire he pointed to a grassy area and said,

 “Over yonder, you might find some flowers for your heavenly garden.” I danced off in the direction he pointed to fill my cup with a little bit more of heaven.

For obvious reasons, the moss and wildflowers didn’t survive.  The flowers wilted in the heat and the moss turned brown from lack of water.  There was no opportunity to show classmates my little piece of heaven.

We are all given a piece of heaven while on earth.

God sees us as empty cups; vessels that need to be filled. He places a handful of abundant mercy and grace into our cup, and then fills it to the brim with everlasting life. The only thing that God requires from us is to water the contents of our cup daily with the Word of God and shade it from any heat generated by apathy.

 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  Isaiah 58: 11 (NIV)

When it’s time for show-and-tell before God and His heavenly audience, what will be the condition of the contents he placed within your cup? I pray it will be lush and green; filled with flowers that bloom in every season.