Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fruit ... glorious fruit. It's mentioned several times and in various contexts in the New Testament. We're told we'll know people by their "fruit." We're told that we should tend the "fruits of the Spirit." But that supposes we have some idea of what "fruit" is. What does it look like in the life of a Jesus follower? What would the term "bear fruit" look like? How do we, as followers of Jesus, "bear fruit" in our ordinary lives?

That's the theme of this month ... fruit or bearing fruit. In whatever ways those terms hit you, let us know.
My post today is in response to the above prompt from Syncroblog. Here's the terms totally hit me these last few days! And, incidentally don't miss the Photo Credits at the end as they're quite relevant too. Enjoy!

Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” As always, I pray that God graces me to be of greatest possible service ... I pray the same for you." Thursday, April 17, 2015

That was the response I received Thursday from someone I respect deeply, love dearly, and have tried to serve faithfully. I lost emotional control, could not stop crying, and even began to hate myself. Here's my story.

I was contented, deeply happy. My spiritual life which had been thrown out of whack by the decision of Irvine Pres. leadership to leave the PC (USA) finally seemed to have sorted itself out. A volunteer project (technical systems development) to which I'd given months of my life, and which had seemed dead, had suddenly came alive. I'd been struggling with time-management and financial issues ever since I returned from my trip to India in January. Every one seemed to be miraculously working out. So, I was little Miss Pippa, very much feeling "all's right with the world." (I should have remembered the complete context of Browning's Pippa Passes though!)  But within days I was dismissed from the systems project, after having barely got it off the ground. my heart was literally broken. It wasn't having the project taken away from me that hurt; I felt disrespected and distrusted by the way in which it was done. Once again, I knew I must speak up and so I did. The response was unexpected and that was what started the tears that Thursday that did not end until Friday evening. My lived experience was discounted. This is what sent me into that tailspin of despair. You see, I am the "other."

God though was powerfully present, blessing me by already having answered the prayer. He was going to help me pick the "fruit."

On that same day, Thursday, the very first email I read was an unexpected invitation to serve at the national level. While I was excited about it, I didn't realize until right now, that it was also an answer to a prayer. While it sounded so very life-giving and exactly what I wanted to do, I was already over-committed, over-volunteering and I've never abandoned anything mid-way. How could I accept this? I decided to pray about it carefully. On Friday too, I had three other blessings, of which I will only focus on one major one here today. This time it was another unexpected Facetime call, from halfway across the world. This one led to the reconciliation and closure of a two-decade long conflict. The peace of mind that this brought me cannot be described. On Saturday, just in case, I had any more doubts, it was all put into perspective for me when I went to worship. Preaching on the Emmaus Road story in Luke, my pastor asked us,"How have you experienced God in your life at a time when you thought he wasn't there, but later realized that wasn't so?"

Picture upon picture rushed into my mind of all the losses and suffering in my life. In every one of them, yes, even during the time I'd left the Church because I couldn't hear or see Jesus, I saw yet again, how God had been actively present. I'd already recognized this gracious presence when I did the Ignatius Examen many years ago. The finding and acceptance of my own "prophetic" voice, though, is much more recent. I understood "fruit" as fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-26): love, joy, peace, and so forth. Thus, in the life of a diligent follower of Jesus these qualities are the ones that would predominate in their relationships and environments. I was also aware of "fruit" in the context of false prophets.  I never gave this much thought. If a disciple/follower of Jesus was not truly a good follower, their "fruit" would reflect it. Disharmony, conflict, strife would be present, and "good stuff" would not come out of anything they do. Except I could look around and see that many good people did rotten things and they still enjoyed success and more. So, what does "bearing fruit" mean in the context of someone who is seeing differently from the majority and saying it too? Does "fruit" help us distinguish the minority voice as false from the majority true? Most importantly, what was I? A false prophet or a true one? A tree that bears good fruit or one that needed to be cut down and thrown into the fire? (Please note that I'm not as into defining or understanding my spiritual gifts as much as I am concerned by walking in the Spirit of Jesus).

"You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles?" - Matthew 7: 16

Part II forthcoming

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