Vine Support

By Melodious Monk

I’m still very much a novice gardener and one plant I’m still scared of is the vaunted, precious, glorious gem of the summer crops – the vine ripened tomato! Perhaps I’m still haunted by the tomato plants that unexpectedly caught disease last summer and died before producing fruits, but I still find myself delicately reverencing the great tomatoes, afraid that too much action (pruning, fertilizer, or water) or not enough of the same will result in a failure to produce fruit at the end of the summer.

Tomato signOne particular tomato plant is teaching me a lesson this August. It’s a tall tomato plant at the front of staked row, one that has a stout 8 foot stake to climb, and, even with faithful succoring, it has grown well above this height. The stalk is a sturdy with a straight trunk, about an inch or more thick in places. After a recent heavy wind storm, a tall main branch was folded in half at about 4 feet above ground. I found it the next morning, nearly broken in half, collapsed to the ground. Instantly the anxiety began to rise, my fears were coming true: here we are in August and the entire growing season is going to be for naught! I was about to cut off the large sprawling branch, to throw in the brush pile and quickly hide the shame I was starting to feel of ruining this beautiful plant. I should have tied it up better, maybe added another stake, I’m thought to myself.

I assumed the branch had no chance of survival, since only a paper thin outer strand was keeping it connected to the rest of the plant. As I took hold of the branch and tugged, it remained surprisingly, but solidly, fixed on the main vine of the plant. I’d heard that as long as part of the branch is still connected to the main trunk, it’s possible for the branch to still get nutrients, to heal and keep living. With not much to lose, I figure why not try an experiment. I grabbed a flat 6 in piece of wood that was lying on the ground nearby and tied a splint along the stem. Surprisingly the branch held even with the twisting and bending to move it back upright, and with a few extra supports tied to the tomato-heavy top, the branch felt relatively secure. The next day it was still standing, still green, and a week later you’d never know it had been within a tinsel thread of its life.

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” In dark, doubt filled moments, we must remember that no matter what storm may cause us to fall off the vine, we always have the choice to reconnect even the smallest thread to the main vine, and continue on our path towards producing good fruit–and our healing.

Tomatoes

Arms that welcome

By Sister Nun Other

I have a friend who considers the Bible the world’s greatest encyclopedia. She reads it in search of answers and is never disappointed! Recently, she told me of a verse, for her and me at least, newly discovered. That verse was Isaiah 50:10, which reads: 

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord. This morning I woke up anxious, not quite sure of my way. Then words from an eighteenth century hymn writer, Joseph Hart, cut a path through my musings.  He wrote, “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power. The hymn goes on to call the thirsty, weary, and heavy laden, and ends, “All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of Him. Essentially, it’s a parallel message to the one from Isaiah, both coming within a single week! For those of us who sometimes wander (and wonder), it’s a recommendation well-worth considering.

Coffee on the Fly

By Sr. Nun Other

If you’re like me (and others I know), there are certain things you rely on. Morning coffee is on my list. A day or two ago, I poured a cup, added dry creamer, sipped, then went to answer the phone. I returned to discover a fly had invaded sacred space. I won’t divulge HOW I discovered this. Let’s just say it was unpleasant. I was on the cusp — with one foot over — of letting this experience define my day.

Another source of unrest is a lost “necessity.” And it can be anything. For one sister it was a missing mechanical pencil, her favorite pencil, the one she couldn’t be without. When a thorough search failed, she became anxious, and believed the pencil would never be found.

These are simple situations, but I’ve found that feelings are much less reasonable than reality. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we’ll eat, wear, etc., not if we’ll eat, which is a much larger problem. He knows the danger of our obsessing over little things, losing our focus, and sometimes our way. The sister I mentioned decided to “let the pencil go” and not let it distort her perspective.  The result? She found it the very next day and has vowed to put her name on it. Just in case.

The Community of Jesus

 

Walking on Water

By Melodious Monk

This past Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration here at the Community of Jesus. Because our church is named after this feast, we always celebrate the feast on the Sunday closest to the traditional feast date of August 6th.

As the Gospel story was read aloud, I was drawn to St. Peter’s words first words to Jesus, “It is good to be here.”  But the Transfiguration gospel also made me recall another story about Peter and Jesus.  I’ve just been re-reading one my favorite books titled Walking on Water: reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle. In the final chapter titled “Feeding the Lake”, she writes:

“When Jesus called Peter to come to him across the water, Peter, for one brief, glorious moment, remembered how and strode with ease across the lake. This is how we are meant to be, and then we forget, and we sink. But if we cry out for help (as Peter did) we will be pulled out of the water; we won’t drown. And if we listen, we will hear, and if we look, we will see.

That sounds so simple –all we need to do is step towards Jesus and we can partake in the glorious impossibility of walking on water.  But the tiny word IF can become a stumbling block — IF we can listen, and IF we can hear.  We all are capable of hearing the divine voice, but how quickly we forget to do this!  We forget to cry out for help.  Scripture tells us Peter was apparently scared both stepping onto the water and when he witnessed the dazzling white light on Mt Tabor as Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared with them. But even in being scared, Peter proclaimed,”It is good for us to be here!”

When I’m scared, that’s the last thing I think of. Usually I want to protect, run the other way, or fight.  Many fears come up every day, in relationships, over unexpected events, through anxiety, or perhaps real physical dangers. I mostly want to avoid the things I’m afraid of, rather then proclaim that it may be good that I’m here. I don’t usually remember that perhaps this point of fear is good for me today.  For if God brought this fearful point into my life today, instead of running, perhaps I can conquer this fear.  Perhaps I, like Peter, can take just a step or two walking across new water.  If I don’t listen, and if I don’t look, the alternative might be to miss out on some of the “brief glorious moments” that God most certainly designs uniquely for us.

L’Engle moves on to write: “The impossible still happens to us, often during the work, sometimes when we are so tired that inadvertently we let down all the barriers we have built up. We lose our adult skepticism and become once again children who can walk down their grandmother’s winding stairs without touching.”  If we listen and if we hear…..we can be transfigured in ways we can’t even imagine or understand.

The Community of Jesus

 

Abide Not Hide

By Sr. Nun Other

I love when the Holy Spirit brings new understanding to a familiar scripture. This week, I found inspiration in words from Psalm 11 — In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings.” I think of my many mountains. Some are actual objects, like ice cream in the freezer, a good book, or newspaper where the news is worse than my own. But more often, it’s an inward mountain of my own construction. When I’m anxious, uncomfortable, hurt, or ashamed, I’m adept at remaining physically present, but emotionally far away. It takes courage to say (and mean it), “In the Lord I take refuge.” It requires standing firm while the enemy within tells you it’s safer to head for the shadows. Why choose a lonely place, when life and healing are a simple prayer away?

The Community of Jesus

 

Worrier or Warrior?

By Sr. Nun Other

In Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus tells us not to be anxious. He reassures us he’s in control, and we have nothing to worry about. I’ve always found comfort in that concept, but I think its intent is more than to make me feel better. It really is a command and an important one, mentioned multiple times in the New Testament. Jesus knows what we can carry and what we cannot. When I allow my mind to dwell on all things negative, I become weak and ineffectual. I’m no longer a spiritual warrior, focused on my spiritual journey. Worrier or Warrior — it’s a daily choice.

The Community of Jesus

In All Circumstances

by Sr. Nun Other

I was thinking about praising the Lord. Obviously, it’s not something I do on a regular basis, or I wouldn’t be considering it! I find it curious that it’s so much easier for me to complain and express negativity than to praise. Psalm 118 instructs us to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Its writer found himself in an unthinkable situation: enemies swarmed around like bees; he was pushed to the brink and beyond. Not to worry. He cried to the Lord and was rescued from his enemies. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be freed from his enemies, especially the inner ones of fear, doubt, and mistrust.  I want to make the distinction that we praise because He loves. It isn’t always love as I wish it to be, but it’s a thorough love that addresses my deepest needs.

The Community of Jesus

 

At Cross Purposes

By Sr. Nun Other

The idiom “at cross-purposes” is defined as two opposing viewpoints with goals that interfere with each other. On many days, that would be God and me. I expect that life should be as I want it: free of anxiety-producing situations. (Hello, unreality!) God desires me to be whole and complete by facing and walking through my fears, not alone, but with Him. Jesus said, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23  In retrospect, the crosses I’m given are wonderfully light and perfectly designed.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Perfect Wine

By Melodious Monk

Striving to be perfect is a crippling way to live. For me it’s a compulsive attempt to cover up all the inadequacies I feel about myself. Being free of this drive is largely why I was drawn to the Christian walk in the first place. But to this day, I find this addiction very difficult to give up. I want life to be black and white. I want there to be a textbook that lists the right ways and the wrong ways to do things — then I can master the text book and get straight A’s!  The problem is that life doesn’t work like a textbook exam. I know it sounds silly, but what may be more silly, is that day after day I fall into the same trap of trying to drive my own life!  That’s a lot of pressure to get straight A’s, and try to stay one step ahead of whatever might be coming next in life.

It can be terrifying to try and follow, to not know the plan ahead, or have all the answers for the next move. But it is also thrilling, exciting, relaxing, and necessary if we want to walk with Jesus. I’m reminded of His words, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” Let’s not have our arrogance lie to us and tell us we need to be the vine also.  For through His vine, we are offered a taste of the very best wine.

The Community of Jesus

When the road takes a sharp turn

By Renaissance Girl

I recently embarked on an adventure. I was starting something new that, actually, made me quite afraid.  It was outside of what seemed logical, and it forced me to ask God at every turn “what do I do?” It took some preparation, and each decision I made felt like I could be making a huge mistake — but it seemed like it was what God was asking, so I tried to do it. I wish I could say that I am familiar with living like this — abandoned to God — but I am not and that made it all the scarier, and yet at the same time, hopeful.

And then, suddenly, just when things were wrapped up, the road took a sharp turn. What I thought I was going to be starting didn’t work out. I find myself asking God what he intended in all of this, and what I should do now. What was the point of the preparation if only to run into a road-block?

I will tell you I don’t have answers yet. What I do know is that every day, every moment, is a choice. A choice to ask the question again and not retreat into anger and disappointment and accusation. A choice to trust, even when “logic” says to be skeptical, because if this didn’t work out, maybe the next thing won’t either. My pride desperately wants to save me from getting excited about something only to see it pass by.

I opened a card yesterday that someone had given me when I was preparing for this adventure. They included a prayer about trust — and in that moment I saw God. He knew I’d need this prayer even more in this moment — when I was most tempted to distrust:

Trust, you say, and so I will.  But at times its thread wears thin, and rubs raw the palms of my hands.  Yet I cling to it, for you have shown that in every circumstance, trust leads to Love eventually. Take the pieces of my life and make them one. Smooth the edges, mold the shapes until, with perfect symmetry, they interlock and become the “me” you long for. I can’t make this “me” puzzle fit, though I often try. Master Craftsman of body, mind, and spirit — let it be so, for I trust in you.”

The Community of Jesus