Jackfruitlings and the “Next”

There I found myself, standing over the counter in the kitchen, doting on my jackfruitlings, resisting the urge to tear off their seed covers. It was a strange feeling. I felt pride that I, who had once killed an aloe vera plant, had been able to coax these two green seeds into sprouts. It had been 3 weeks since my mother-in-law presented me with the jackfruit. I had heard about this mythical fruit for as long as I had known my husband. My sister-in-law had finally found one. It had only taken 25 years. Of course, I wanted to see if I could plant them. Now, I beamed down on my strange green sprouts, wondering why I was so obsessed with the large wood-like structures surrounding them.

“Leave them alone!” I yelled internally. “Why can’t you just let things be? They are not ready yet!”

Maybe the seeds had come to represent my dreams and I was making excuses for the fact that I’m not further along in my work. The hulls come off of alfalfa seeds after about 4 days. These seeds took three weeks. Granted, jackfruit seeds are much larger than alfalfa seeds and I’m much larger than a jackfruit.  Maybe that’s why it’s taking so long for my shell to come off…

I had to walk away from the kitchen or I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. What if I ripped off the shells and broke my seedlings! I would be so sad. Just like all the other times I couldn’t wait for something to progress to the next stage and jumped the gun.

This constant desire to reach the next step confounds me. I would say that we coexist, but we don’t. The need to see things completed exists and I seem to follow after it. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.” I was reminded of this verse the other day when I asked my son what his favorite part of the Bible is so far. He is 2 months away from turning 7. He recently finished the book of Genesis. His answer to my question was initially puzzling. He said, “I like the parts where people die.” I was taken off guard. “Why do you like the parts when people die?” He thought for a moment and said, “When somebody dies, a new character gets introduced and a new story starts.” Gracious me, I think the kid has it too. The end of a thing holds this endless fascination because something new will start. But what about where I am now? What about the present?

For all the things I have completed in my life, I’ve always had my eye on the next thing. When I think back to major milestones in my life, my move to California, my marriage, my Masters degree, my son’s birth, they were all overshadowed by the “next” they held. I moved to California and got to work on getting into a school. I got married and put my head back into my studies. I got my Bachelors and rushed the same summer into my Masters program. I finished my Masters and ran into a job. I had my son and have eagerly anticipated every coming stage. There is always more. There is always “next.”

I don’t actually even feel that accomplished when I reflect on my accomplishments. I think about what I’m working on now that isn’t finished. I think about what I should have been able to do already that I haven’t. In sum, my past completions only compel me to present work which holds the promise of future completions. All the while, I’m battered by a sea of endless mental to-do lists and no task gets left behind.

Number one on today’s to-do list: Liberate the seed.

They say you can’t help everyone, but you can help someone. I’m not sure it’s the seed I’m actually trying to help. Watching the plant emerge for the last 3 weeks has reminded me that this world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve left my egg and I’ve never stopped running. This life is short. Our time to do things on this earth is fleeting. This truth is what keeps me running.

Someday, I will close my eyes to this place. My story here will end and another will begin in Heaven. In the meantime, I run to the next thing while there is still time to run because when time runs out, there are no second chances.

In John 9:4, Jesus says, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” Whether the obsession with what comes next is a Godly one or not, I’m not sure. I know that night is coming and all I have is now. So, I will run.

Although I showed restraint in that moment, the next day, I gently peeled the hulls off the great, green shells. Maybe it was because I felt better, but they looked happier to me. Good night, strange burgeoning jackfruitlings. You are free. And I can’t wait to plant you…

I think I might be a cranberry…

So, after my last post regarding pride, I found it very difficult to write. I felt like anything I shared would be pompous and ridiculous… possibly self-righteous. The result = nothing for the last two months. However, upon cooking a late pot of cranberry sauce (for the first time), I had a revelation. I think I might be a cranberry.
“What’s that you say, crazy lady?” I know, I know. But really. Here’s how I reached this stunning conclusion…
I read the package for the cranberries, which included a simple recipe for cranberry sauce. We are nearing Chanukah and the time for Thanksgiving recipes is past, but I impulsively bought this bag of cranberries and I needed to use them before they went bad. There’s no time like the present, so let’s make some cranberry sauce! The recipe said to let the berries simmer until they start to pop. I thought, “Ok, popping sounds fun.” Sure enough, no sooner did my overly ripe cranberries hit the simmering pot of freshly squeezed orange juice, wild honey, cardamom and clove (you should know I cannot follow a recipe to save my life – always have to make it interesting!) they started a-burstin’. Then it hit me: “OMG, a cranberry I am.”
Before I sat down to write this post, I thought about what I should write. I thought about what’s been rattling around my head the last few months, what have I been doing with myself, where have all my missing neurons flown to… The one thing that I kept coming back to was a recent interaction I had with someone very close to me. It started off as passive aggression, led to a huge screaming match (thank God, they are a rare occasion in my life), then a quiet, humbling conversation. At the end of everything, I felt hurt, vulnerable and exposed. There I was, in the simmering saucepan of life, under pressure and overheated, and I finally popped. I lost it. I felt myself unwittingly leaking all over the place – emotions, thoughts, half-finished sentences, tears, possibly snot – and I felt horribly bare. This conversation has haunted me for the last several weeks. I find myself thinking about it when I’m washing dishes, I have strange dreams about this person, I keep thinking that I want to pull away and protect myself.
It’s not an easy thing to live among people. We are broken, hurtful, and self-centered. But God is love. Yeshua set very high standards for what a community should look like. It didn’t look like a “hi, how are you doing?” on Sunday. It didn’t involve limp handshakes at Thursday night Bible study. It didn’t include selfish self-preservation or entitled attitudes of injury. Messiah called us to Grace and Love.
I am a cranberry. This person is my fellow cranberry. Together we live in a simmering pot. This could be the most idiotic metaphor for my life I have ever thought of, or it could be the beginning of a new understanding of my life in Yeshua. Now that I have popped and this person has popped as well, here we are with our proverbial cranberry guts spilled out in glorious and sweet fellowship. We can’t separate ourselves anymore. We might as well give in to the fact that we will eventually be one. I can’t put myself back together or separate myself from this person because I am not supposed to do either. No one ever did anything in the power of the Holy Spirit by “having it together.” Fake-it-till-you-make-it was not a mandate of God. It is, however, how the majority of us make it through our lives, especially in regards to our relationships.
I am good at being on my own. There was a time when I prided myself on my ability to need no one. Then I let someone in. And someone else. And someone else after that. The more I have opened my heart, the more there is inside. It’s a cliche that’s often repeated and rarely understood. You have to give love to get love.
I don’t love this person because they’re perfect. I don’t love them because they’re always right or always nice. I don’t even love them because they love me. I love this person because I can’t help myself. And I hope the help never comes.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8 ESV

 

There are no lattes on the battlefield!

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Reverend Russell McCollough preach a message at Impact Church titled “The Lion, The Snow and The Pit.” It made me laugh quite a bit and, honestly, I was in need of a good laugh. He preached from 2 Samuel 23:20, “Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day.” After reading this verse, he opened his sermon with this admonition: “If you have to kill a lion, don’t do it in a pit and, definitely, don’t do it on a snowy day.” Now, call me corny, but I thought that was pretty funny. He shared during this message that he is a veteran of the Korean War, so I took this message to heart even more, realizing that this man knows a little something about a battlefield. The Reverend went on to say that when conflict comes, it is always unequal, unavoidable and untimely.

There were two things he said that really struck me. First of all, he said that when God told Gideon to take the 300 men who lapped water by bringing their hands and to send home those who had lapped with their tongues (click here if you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about), God was looking for men who were alert on the battle field. A war is no place for people who bury their faces in a river to take a drink when your enemy could bear down on you at any second. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you, as is a person who brings water to their mouth with their hands and keeps their eyes watchful as they drink. He then proceeded to say, “You can’t sit and sip your latte in the battle!” Again, I laughed. However, the truth in this is as unavoidable as the battle itself.

Yeshua said in warning His disciples of the coming day of the Lord, “Stay awake!” (Mark 13:35-37). At Gethsemane, He said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38) Again, in the parable of the ten virgins, they all fell asleep, but only those who had oil in their lamps were able to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). Peter says, “Be sober-minded and watchful,” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Most importantly, as we are so close to the Glorious Day of Yeshua’s return, in Revelations 3:1-3, Yeshua says to the Church of Sardis, “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.” Finally, in Revelations 16:15, as the evil armies are being assembled against God, He says, “Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on.” God does not repeat Himself needlessly. Anything He sees fit to say multiple times is of vital importance.

The willing spirit and weak flesh, the virgins with oil in their lamps, they all imply a need for the only One that can keep us awake and alert – The Holy Spirit, the Living Breath of God. Yeshua said that He died so that the Holy Spirit may come to us and He knew that we would be in desperate need of Him (John 16:4-11). Read the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is busy. If you have a real, day-to-day fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14), you will not fall asleep. You might want to because the enemy will bring the battle to your front door every day, but you will be constantly aware of His Presence going before you into battle. He sent the Holy Spirit so that we may not be orphans (John 14:15-18). A Father does not let His children get eaten by the lion. Even still, we allow ourselves to be eaten when we are not vigilantly seeking the Holy Spirit’s direction and allowing His power to work in our lives. The moment you take your eyes off of Yeshua to look at the adversary, he wins. Be alert, be awake, and be watchful. The Holy Spirit is faithful to guide you through the battle. Fellowship with Him is what we were made for and it is the only way to live the life that Yeshua meant for us to have on this earth.

The second thing that Reverend McCollough said, and this was the most encouraging sentence of the entire sermon for me. “When you find yourself in the snowy pit with the lion, there is only one way out: Victory!”

I tell you what, if I hadn’t been working on teaching my 20 month old to sit quietly in my lap during service, I would have shouted one heck of a “Hallelujah!” That’s what I’m talking about! He didn’t say, fight the lion or get out of the pit. He said victory!

Victory is what we are in for if we stick with God. I go again to 1 Peter 5:9-11 – the present anthem of my soul, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” I totally understand why Peter suddenly broke out into that last sentence. When I read those verses, my spirit yells something like, “Amen times infinity!!!!” 

There may be no lattes on the battlefield, but I’ll tell you what there is: There is victory. Even unto death, the worst that this world can do to us, there is eternal victory for those whose hearts belong to Messiah Yeshua. TO HIM BE THE GLORY, HONOR AND POWER FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN!