Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Cultivate a Vineyard

Isaiah 5:1-4
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a wine press as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.
"Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?"

The image of God's vineyard is a powerful illustration of his love for his people, and his grief when we ignore him and everything he's done.
This passage tells of the tender care of one planting a vineyard. Working hard to give it every opportunity for growth, all the odds are for this vineyard. The soil is turned, the stones are cleared, good vines are planted—ones that almost guarantee a good result—, a watchtower is built and a wine press cut out in expectation of the good fruit to come.
Everything necessary for a good result is right there.

"...what more could I have done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?" (V.4)

In the book of Isaiah, this passage is tucked in the middle of a large description of all the ways that the people of Judah are blowing God off in favor of temporary pleasure and gain.
They are worshipping idols, the women are entirely self/image obsessed, it's a real mess.

The issue? Materialism, of course. The people are starry eyed at shiny things that offer worldly pleasure and gain. The economy at that time is said to have been thriving. There was plenty to go around and yet there were people doing without, people in need but being ignored. Widows, orphans, outcasts.
How do you suppose God felt about it? He had clearly abundantly blessed and provided for his people, instructing them to care for those in need. What did they do? They kept the riches for themselves and left the needy in need.

The vineyard is planted, ready to thrive!
But the ones tending aren't tending it at all. They are merely playing with the blessings given, not seizing the purpose of them—To glorify the Lord and care for the people in need (and therefore glorify God all the more!)—

"...when I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?"
People's selfishness, egos, pride, money-clenching.
Question: are these things that people struggle with today?
Answer: absolutely. Welcome to the USA, where we have everything at our fingertips.
We have people rolling in riches AND people sleeping on the streets.
We are a nation with a lot of potential and a lot of missing the point.
God didn't plant a great vineyard for us to say "hey, thanks"
He planted a vineyard for us to tend and make thrive. But it's up to us to take up the responsibility. He's gotten us off to a great start, but if we are going to take up the classic selfish gain mindset, we are well on our way to a bitter end.

Isaiah 5:5-7
"Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away it's hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down it's wall, and it will be trampled, I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it."
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

We as Christians really should be seeking to know the heart of God. And if we get to know the heart of God, we find that his heart is for those in need. And we find that we are called to care for those in need and share our blessings with them.
I'm not pressuring you to donate half your life savings to an organization or to go spend the night with a homeless person.
I'm telling you that I personally feel a responsibility to look for the opportunities are in front of me today to be what I am called to be within that opportunity, whatever that looks like. And I'm totally trusting God to make that evident.
I'm seeing the emptiness of the world that will not last and desiring to invest my actions today for the good of eternity and the glory of God.
I'm desiring to cultivate this potentially beautiful, productive, vineyard with the blessings I've been given.

And may this not just be a blog post. Not just something on my mind today that passes away by next week, but a true motivation in my heart to live by the beat of God's heart.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fragile, Noble.

"Look Daddy, I'm strong" says the little 6 year old boy, flexing his 'muscles' for his Father to see and acknowledge. "Oh, yes, son. You're very strong." The father says, knowing full well that the boy would be helpless as a worm against a bird should he ever get into a tangle with a bully.
The boy continues, "and when I turn 7 next week, I'm going to be even bigger and stronger!"
The father imitates a bobble head to perfection as he pretends to believe whole-heartedly what his son claims to be true. All the while having a wider and more realistic grasp on reality, knowing that the boy would grow stronger as he grew older, but certainly would not change within the next week.

"Look Daddy, I'm strong" 
How many times have I tried to convince my Heavenly Father that I'm invincible.
How many times have I tried to fool my friends and family into believing that I'm a tough little, brave little, strong little non-giver-upper.
How many times have I thought to myself "this is no big deal. I can handle this."
How many times have I been deceived into thinking that I had the strength in myself to face the big, nasty world.

Guess what? God has always known how helpless and fragile I am.
I've never been able to convince him that I'm perfectly capable, thank you.
Because He's God. I believe he created me with specific weaknesses so that he could be my strength.
And He says it all over the place in the Bible and in my life, but did I get it?
Not too often. I didn't want to admit that I'm... I'm...Weak.
That I need help. That I can't breathe unless God permits it.
Because I have this issue that makes me want to be great, and it will do whatever it takes to avoid being hurt by anything, or worse, be looked down upon by someone who has their act more together than I. 

Basically, I've been about as eager to be vulnerable as a mule is to carry a wide load up a mountain. 
(Thanks for appreciating that analogy) 

The issue with being 'strong' is that you never grow that way.
The other day God and I had a chat, a good chat.
 I can just imagine Him saying to the angels, "watch. It's about time Chelsea gets the 'vulnerability' talk." 
--I really love my Heavenly Father because He does this stuff.
He always teaches me things at just the perfect time. (Imagine that)
And with such intention.--

So we had the talk.
It turns out that if you're unwilling to get into a place where you could be broken into tiny little pathetic pieces, you're not allowing yourself to be prime molding material for your Maker.
What's the point of asking God to renew your heart and mind if you're not going to be vulnerable enough to be humbled, which is when you actually are in the perfect place to be formed into something new!?

So I asked God to humble me. Yes, I did.
Have you ever prayed that prayer? Scary, I know.
But necessary.
Sure enough! I had a pretty awful week with lots of opportunity to be humbled.
Praise God.
I would rather endure much hardship and humiliation than be forever stoic and unmoving.
What good is a pretty statue of you to God?
He wants the real you with all your flaws and issues.
He wants you to know the freedom that comes in vulnerability,

He doesn't let us struggle for the sake of struggling, okay? God is truly a loving Father to His children. He wants us to become everything He has created us to be, even if we have to shed tears and be humiliated on our way there.
It's worth it.
Do yourself a favor and ask God to take you through whatever refining fire He has for you, but only if you're willing to be vulnerable and broken for an indefinite amount of time.
And if you're going through something that feels like that fire now, ask God what He's teaching you.
Whether you ask him or not, you will find out eventually. God doesn't stop halfway through refining you (that would imply that God is not good, which goes against his character)
But I bet if you ask him what He's getting at, He'll let you in on it.
(Unless of course he knows you're not ready for that grand revelation. In which case, hang in there!)

Goodness, I've rambled. I just felt the need to spill about what God has been doing in my life lately.
This is how I process things, I write, and I pray that if it is God's will, this post would be used to encourage you. And if not, I pray that He'd make the link to my blog quit working.

By the way.. Sorry about the whole "seven-month-gap-between-posts" thing.
I realize that that is very uncool in the blogging society and I have no right to claim the title of 'blogger' anymore.
That's okay.
I hereby claim the title of 'sleepy child of God writing at 11:47pm because she had something on her mind and it wasn't this late when she started writing and now she's going to shut up because this rambling is getting annoying'