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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TO DIE FOR

John 12:24-25- I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.


        If you hold onto a dry kernel of corn in your hand and it will always just remain one kernel of corn.  You can put it away in a drawer for a month or two, then when you take it out...you will still have only the one kernel.  You can put it away in a jar and it will not change into more than one kernel.  It will not do anything except maybe rot or turn into dust.

However, if you take that same kernel and place it into some fertile soil at the right depth, cover it, water it, then this time due to the correct conditions, the seed will begin to die in order to reproduce new life.  All of the matter in the soil, the heat from the sunshine, the moisture from the precipitation all work to break down the hard outer coat of the seed.  When it softens, the most miraculous thing happens!  A fragile little green sprout pushes through the seed coat, pushes up toward the light above the soil, and at the same time that it goes through its metamorphosis above the soil, the roots are extending deep down and wide to establish the plant.

From a handful of seeds that eventually are obliterated in the process, enough corn is produced to eat from as well as to save for the next year's planting.  In order for this life-giving process to begin... there has to be a death of the original seed.  It loses all of its previous properties.  It is completely transformed.  There is no trace of it or much thought of it even.  No one misses that one little hull of the grain when so much has come from it.

This is my life as well.  You and I are that kernel.  We keep to ourselves.  We plan the perimeter of our lifespan.  How far we will go and in which way.  Just think.  There is a scope and a depth that we cannot conceive of that is waiting for us to discover and become.  We each must break out of the mold that others try to put us into and only be satisfied when the creator, the one who breathed life into us, comes with his suggestions.  For he has known me from before conception.  He saw my body being knit together in my mother's womb.  But he also fashioned my soul and his passions that he placed in my very being.  I have deep rivers flowing from within that want to pour out and be who I was created to be to the very fullest.

I want to die to the distractions and things that the world wants to dangle before me.  I want to stay on track to finding the treasures in life that will not rot or cannot be destroyed.  I want to uncover the joy of living in the now and not in the what ifs or what may be.  Daily, I want to mature and grow in the wisdom of the Most High.

This is the picture we need to tack to the wall before us!  This is what is happening so many times as we will groan, complain, or cry out, "Unfair!" 

Picture this:  A mother and father love their child so much and just adore her so they cannot bring themselves to ever tell her, "No."  That would curb her curiosity, or thwart her personality, the parents might excuse.

A few years later, they are unable to go anywhere because their little darling has become such a tyrant with no boundaries.  The couple is lonely, unhappy, and feeling like failures.  They have few friends with children who are eager to have them over because of the misbehaving, rude, and selfish child their daughter has become.  They tire of being bossed, sassed, and ignored.  Her room is a mess, her manners are non-existent, and their regrets seem to come too late for a remedy.

Now, most of you are guessing what the remedy might have been from the beginning.  All of you see that there has to be change and it has to come with the parents setting the standards and the child learning that there are sometimes responses to their wishes such as, "No." "Not now."  "Maybe later, when you have finished..."

What was missing with the child above is also missing in many adults these days.  We think because we can afford it, that we should buy or do whatever we want.  We want it; we get it.  We want to; we do it.   What happens when we don't scale things down ourselves, or balance it with service to others is that we become that arrogant, selfish individuals that most may tolerate, but those that don't have to be around them, ...simply avoid like the plague.

In the natural world, we grind flour to make bread and enjoy using the flour for our nutrition.  It fills us up.  We crush up peanuts to make a creamy smooth paste that many of us enjoyed in sandwiches as children.  Apples are mashed and made into applesauce, and pressed even more to make cider or juice.

Spiritually, God has to allow life events to put the squeeze on us also.  He may not crush our arm, or body, but it is our self-will he has to crush as part of our maturation process.  Too many times we are striving after the things we think we need to do or have.  We continually run on the endless treadmill to satisfy our never ending thirst and to satiate our desires.  Not everything we want is good for us, or does it benefit our development.

Striving, if it is our main motivation in life, will soon give way to a raging ambition.  Keep feeding this and you will always be in bondage, never content, never have enough, and always on the move, or in the rat race to get ahead.  It can become a prison that you never break free of.

Instead, we are handed the privilege of a life filled with freedom.  Freedom from living a life of comparisons.  Free to become our true selves, rather than who we are pressured to be.  Freedom to give as well as to take.  Freedom to experience trials without becoming depressed.  Freedom to embrace differences without judging.  Freedom to experience God's love and be a river of life to those nearby.

Jesus would not have had the following if he was just lifting himself up to be popular, famous, or a superstar!  He actually told people that he healed and delivered not to tell anyone.  He wanted them to be whole and to just to be thankful to God. (The lepers were an exception, they went to show the priest they were no longer plagued by leprosy so he would declare them clean and fit to move normally in society.)  Jesus just gave out of the pure love and goodness that he was.

Jesus clearly taught us not to worry, asking, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?"  For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (from Matthew 6:31-33)

My mother-in-law had a pillow on her couch that summed up the approach to life that many of us share.  "Why pray when you can worry?"  Self-centeredness and self-sufficiency have just a fine line between them.  Who do we think we are?  Just because I have a good mind, does that mean that I am too good to bother God?  No!  On the contrary, if I know so much, I should also know how much I still have to learn.  I need God more these days than ever.  I need his grace, his strength, and his wisdom.

God delights in me when I finally get to the state of joyful living where I can live worry free.  He gave me a standard for work, finances, family, and relationships.  He makes it plain who should be the center of my life.  He makes it clear what are healthy attitudes.  He clearly explained love and loving well.  He laid out his game plan or what I like to call my owner's manual.  If I will just embrace God and let him into the fabric of my life.  If I will read the instructions he gave for living my life.  If I spend the time to ponder over these things.  I would not forget them so soon.

But, when I have forgotten, fallen, or broken the standard operations, then I need to take a step back and consider where I strayed.  I mess up my life and the lives of others around me usually when I try to do it all my way.  As Michael Jordan always said, "Get back to the basics!"  I have to start all over again.  When I do, I find I am free again.

We simply cannot out give God.  I remember many times when I felt that my time was being used up all day long with tasks that I repeated over and over.  Changing diapers, washing dishes, washing clothes, mowing the lawn ... surely my talents were not being used in these things!  Yet, as I submitted rather than question, or complain, then I found a deep satisfaction.  Washing dishes could be a time when I listened to music and meditated.  Washing clothes, when I still hung laundry outside, was a great escape into the outdoors for me, and playtime for the kids.  Dusting, vacuuming, mopping; they have all become so common place and there is a satisfaction to putting things in order.

There is a time to play, a time to clean, a time to teach, a time to prepare for special events, a time to enjoy the laughter of children and laugh along, and a time to comfort neighbors, and those reaching out to you for support, when going through troubles of their own.  In these things, God is showing me that all these times are spent with Him.  He shares all of life with me. 

I have never been alone.  He has been there at my birth, commencements, childbirth, nights I wondered how to make ends meet, times I was scorned and belittled.  All of those events that seemed too difficult at the time were just adding the pressure it took to send me back to my creator.  These trials were the crucible that God used to cleanse and burn off the crumby stuff of my life.  These were times when Jesus stood by as my constant companion.  He waited and comforted, yet allowed me to come to the place where I desired to remain in harmony with God, and his will-regardless of the circumstance.  He was not the one ever in question.

So, now I try to think, "Ok, I know that you are working something good out of this... I trust what you are allowing to happen right now.  This little discomfort, this missed opportunity, this broken friendship, well... I am dying and letting go so that the better things that you desire, can come my way.

So, if it seems that I sit around complacent, dying to my dreams, and my destiny.  I say phooey.  I am living my life joyfully.  I am at peace, content, and just where I am supposed to be right now at this moment.  If I compared myself to 5 years or 25 years ago, yes, I do see great changes.  I also see that the good ones are directly due to the daily letting go and letting God work through my ups and downs.  It's par for the pruning course: part of the grinding, the polishing, the oiling, the final adjustments- to become the real me.  I am expecting bumper crops!

Perfect freedom: is to perfectly trust a perfect God.
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