A Monday Memo

A Monday Memo

Dear Blog Readers –

We wanted to pass along the message that Kelly is out this week ministering (and resting) with dear friends overseas.  She thought you might enjoy this photo from a young adult gathering she had the privilege of being part of in Milan on Sunday night.

Got to share in Milan, Italy tonight with this young adult crowd. The church was started by two dear friends 35 years ago. The last time I was here I was with my mom who had taken me on my first mission trip. I was 14. Tonight I'm celebrating God's faithfulness.

Got to share in Milan, Italy tonight with this young adult crowd. The church was started by two dear friends 35 years ago. The last time I was here I was with my mom who had taken me on my first mission trip. I was 14. Tonight I’m celebrating God’s faithfulness.

Also, if you are missing your Monday Morning Meditation today (as we are), we would encourage you to visit the Morning Meditation archives and read back through the incredible installments published over the past few months.  Click HERE to read them all.

May you encounter the Lord in a mighty way today.

Blessings,

“Team Kelly”

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Opening Our Eyes To See The Harvest

Opening Our Eyes To See The Harvest

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples on the heels of a significant encounter He’d had with a woman from Samaria. He’d met her at a well while the disciples were off buying food. When they returned they were surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman, not to mention a Samaritan one with whom the Jews had few encounters. While the disciples had been busy running errands, Jesus had revealed Himself to this woman as the Messiah who had come to redeem both Jews and Gentiles alike. This included her, a promiscuous woman who’d all her life tried to slake her thirst at the wells of husbands and boyfriends and live-ins. She’d finally been found by the One who could satisfy the longings of her heart and who wouldn’t leave her thirsty, or leave her at all. So she dropped her water jar and bolted back to town to tell everyone she knew that the long awaited One, who miraculously knew every detail of her life, had come to town.

The Harvest Is All Around Us

The disciples missed all this, not because they were out doing anything deviant, but because they didn’t know what they were supposed to be looking for. Privately they were wondering why in the world Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman, and publicly they were concerned He’d skipped lunch. But in a sense Jesus was eating because He explained that His food is to do the work of His Father. What was that work? At the moment it was tending to a woman who was desperately unfulfilled at the end of a long chain of men. The disciples were standing in the midst of a harvest, whose stalks were brushing up against their shoulders, yet they couldn’t discern it. I’m afraid this is me more often than I realize.

The Harvest is Now

Jesus’s choice of a harvest imagery is interesting here because all of us go in and out of sowing and reaping seasons, each demanding a different outlook. When you’re sowing, you’re working and waiting; when you’re reaping, you’re working and gathering what you’ve been waiting for. There’s an urgency to harvest time. The season is swift and you don’t want to miss it. I think the disciples might have mistakenly thought they were in a sowing season, waiting for Jesus to take over, perhaps, as a political or socio-economic powerhouse. In John 4:35 He turned this notion on its head. He was showing the disciples that what He’d really come to do was set captives free, mend broken hearts, wash the stains of sin clean by laying down His life. And the time was now.

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Open Your Eyes

Every time my sister Katie visits me in Nashville she spots a celebrity. Every. Single. Time. On her last visit she sent me this text me from a boutique. “Just saw Sheryl Crow, and I haven’t even turned my famous eyes on yet.” When Jesus told His disciples, open your eyes, I think He was saying, turn on your spiritual eyes. Turn on your hurting-people eyes. Be looking in the right places: The Harvest Field. This is simply the people we encounter in our neighborhoods and workplaces, elementary schools and coffee shops, family gatherings and mission trips. People who need an encounter with the same Jesus who changed this woman’s life while she was going about her daily business.

The time is still now. The harvest is ripe and hearts are ready.

We need only turn our harvest eyes on.

 

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Morning Meditation: Encourage While It’s Called Today

Morning Meditation: Encourage While It’s Called Today

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

Yesterday I was rushing to get out of the house for an afternoon walk with a friend; I am a professional rusher of a human. (Is it a concern that I frantically walk to get to my walking?) I find that God is also quite adept at slowing me down. As sure as we turned the corner, sweet Miss Corrine, eighty-two years young—and I do mean she’s youthful—pulled into her driveway, rolled down her window and fingered us over. This was not going to be fast.

She had just lost a friend who she’d known since she was six years old—the history on my street is thick. We listened to Miss Corrine empty her weariness as the primary caretaker for the family these past three months. She was plain exhausted, not having slept from watching the horrors of death and being present for the family. After several minutes of conversing with this gem of a woman and neighbor, we told her we’d check on her later this week and sprung across the street. Because we were walking, you know.

And then the reprimand. The place of our failure. The question:

“Now aren’t you two even going to give me a hug?” She said this from the other side of the street with her palms open.

We’re pathetic, I thought. We’re the worst, my friend mumbled. We trotted back across the street and Miss Corrine stuck her wise old head straight against my friend’s chest, her white hair lace wigs all wrapped up in my friend’s arms. I prayed over her, and then she reminded us of Romans 12:1 about offering our lives as living sacrifices, which is what she’d been doing. It was a sweetness we almost missed: Exchanging words of encouragement while it was still called “Today”.

Encourage Daily and Today

When the author of Hebrews says to encourage daily while it’s still Today, he’s talking about two different things. The daily piece means exactly what we might think: every day we need to speak words that lift the people around us, point out their strengths, pass out the cold water of cheer and comfort that keeps them running toward Christ. We need to do this daily, sometime while we’re in between sunrises. I want to be more this way, to offer the hug and prayer before someone has to chide it out of me.

But what about the “Today” part?

We’re to encourage because we won’t live in “Today” forever, and that doesn’t only mean in the 24 hours we’re currently breathing in. Today is this era of grace in which we’re living where people still have the opportunity to call on the Name of the Lord. We’re alive in a period of history when we can repent of our sin and receive the forgiveness and grace that is found in Jesus. This is on offer now, Today. So we encourage others with a peaceful sense of urgency—while we still can—pointing one another to the heart of Jesus.

Encourage For Soft Hearts

The author of Hebrews gives us an interesting reason for our dispensing encouragement often: so sin’s deceitfulness doesn’t harden our hearts. In some ways I find it surprising that out of all the combatants for sin’s deceitfulness, encouragement is the big remedy. Yet I also find it experientially true. When I reflect on the times in my life when the pleasures of sin felt so perfectly right and fulfilling, it was that good word from a friend or mentor or parent who said, remember God’s good promises, remember who He’s created you to be, remember He rewards obedience, remember God’s ways are always the best ways… I suppose in many respects it has been this encouragement that has kept my heart from callousing, since the encouragement is what often catapulted me to obedience, in turn protecting me from sin having its hardening way.

Encouraging each other is more powerful than we often understand it to be. Click To Tweet

As we were leaving for our walk, Miss Corinne gave us a charge: “Don’t you ever forget us old people. We have a lot of wisdom, you know. And when you pass us by, don’t forget to smile or wave or talk to us. Let us know you see us.”

Indeed, we will, Miss Corrine. While it is still called “Today”.

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Morning Meditation: Three Truths Jesus Taught About Bearing Fruit

Morning Meditation: Three Truths Jesus Taught About Bearing Fruit

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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.” John 15:4-5

I grew up in a pastor’s home. This meant many things, not the least of which was a certain familiarity with spiritual vocabulary. For instance, the use of the phrase “fruit bearing” was a normal part of language for me. I remember giving my high school basketball coach a card at the end of our season thanking her for a very fruitful year. This was so weird. What high school junior calls a basketball season fruitful? Well, me. Totally me. Because bearing fruit is a concept I was raised on, and this carried over into my basketball seasons, apparently. The word fruitful might not have gotten any more mainstream since my high school days, but it’s a word I pray will define my life.

When Jesus talks about bearing fruit, I believe He’s talking about the impact our lives are meant to have. 

This past weekend I was in Michigan speaking at a retreat when I happened upon this apple tree. (Please appreciate my climbing skills). One side of the tree’s branches draped over a lake, bombing gorgeous apples into the water. The ones dangling over land and within reach had vanished to other visitors. In my zeal to not leave the state of Michigan without picking one fresh apple I deftly shimmied up a branch. (This was actually not at all how this went, but just imagine me light and agile.) This prompted a reflection on John 15, and three things I learned about bearing fruit.

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1. Remain in the Vine

One of the things that strikes me about a fruit tree is its ability to stand so quiet, without strain or mayhem, while getting things done. I mean, how does a branch produce fruit without the swirl? Do you know what I mean by the swirl? It’s the striving and chaos and energy I often leave in my wake when trying to make things happen, sometimes even for God. In this passage Jesus presents us with an entirely different way.

The word “remain” (abide or dwell) in the Greek means: “not to depart; to continue, to be present; to be held, kept, continually; to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure” (Vines). The idea is that this is a very restful place to be. If we as the branches remain in Him as the Vine, we draw energy and marrow to produce the fruit He longs to bring about in our lives. It’s all about our attachment and connectedness to Him. This doesn’t mean our lives will be void of activity or the expending of energy, simply that we’re able to draw everything we need to bring forth meaningful fruit that will last. As restfully as a tree beside still waters, because have you ever seen an apple tree freaking out?

2. Embrace The Pruning

Earlier in the chapter Jesus points out that God the Father is the One who prunes our lives so we will be even more fruitful (vs 2). The problem for me, historically, has been quite simple: I don’t always enjoy the pruning process, turns out. Maybe you’re in one of those places where God is refining your character by cutting out a massive tumor of greed or pride. The disease of bitterness is being scraped back. Perhaps that particular false god you were really quite attached to just got lopped off, plummeting to the ground in a most unpleasant way. As I’ve learned a bit about gardening over the years, pruning spares the nourishment of the vine for the branches that are most viable. If God is paring back an area that is presently painful, it is only for the bearing of more fruit—A life of greater impact for His glory (vs 8). So let God do His work and have His way in your life. Don’t resist the hard good He is doing.

3. Expect A Harvest

When Jesus says that if we remain in Him we will bear fruit, this is a promise. Part of the beauty of a fruit tree is that its prolific bounty is an annual and rather predictable offering. No one on the camp grounds seemed all that taken with the fact that this tree had fruit hanging from its branches. In October, the Michigan apple is to be expected. You can count on it. Essential pieces of our existence—like apple cider, apple pie and cider donuts—depend on this reliable reality. How much more can we rely on the spiritual premise that remaining in Jesus means bearing fruit that will last?  In other words, as we abide in Christ we can confidently expect the fruit He will bring about.

May we abide in Him so our activity is peaceful and not full of strife. When the Gardener sharpens his shears, may we let Him have His loving way with us. And as we dwell in the Vine, let us expect the certainty of bearing fruit. Fruit that will last.

Fruit more sure than the autumn apple.

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