Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wayward Roots

My grandmother is an avid gardener. In her 70s and struggling with Alzheimer's disease, gardening is an area of her life that my grandmother confronts with gusto. She grows beautiful sunflowers that point their faces up to the very throne of God and she has a thicket of trumpet vines. The trumpet vines fascinated me the last time I went to see her.

"Gran, they are beautiful! I love the orange and green together!" I remember telling her. But her answer surprised me.
"Oh, I can't stand them. I'm going to have to pull them all up at the end of the season. They are ruining the yard and the rest of my garden. They take over everything!"

I was shocked that this woman who takes such pride in God's handiwork would criticize something growing in her own garden. But then that English major in me came out and I saw a convicting analogy. Before I explain this though, here are a couple facts about the Trumpet Vine.

According to a website called "Growing and Controlling Trumpet Vines", these vines:

-attract bees, hummingbirds, and wasps, all of which help pollinate your garden
-they love direct sunlight and grow in almost any soil
-they provide good privacy and can survive in extreme temperatures
-they have a tendency to take over and are hard to control
-their roots go everywhere and often, like my grandmother's garden, can inhibit the growth areas of other plants.
-some suggest that you plant it beside sidewalks or a stone wall to help contain it's growth

So here's the analogy...for those of us that are Christians we are called to flourish. We are like this beautiful trumpet vine...a masterpiece, aesthetically pleasing, a sweet smelling aroma displaying the knowledge of God as 2 Corinthians 2:14 says. Our God is a lover of beauty and if all things were meant to glorify Him, even this trumpet vine can do that. We flourish in the light of the Son. We need a strong wall to sink our roots around, to shelter us, and keep us from straying. We can withstand the harsh elements of life because the Lord never promised easy but He did promise to walk with us.

But here is where the analogy gets convicting. As I listened to my Gran rant about these flowers, I realized where they became a hazard. The roots, when not tended and managed consistently, spread their roots into areas where they don't belong and endanger other plants. These plants bask in the sun. If we represent these gorgeous plants and the sun is Jesus Christ, when our focus slips, we sink our roots into areas they don't belong and endanger others. When our trust fails and our eyes slip off of Christ, we are no longer rooted and grounded. Ephesians 3:17 says, "Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will go down into Christ's love and keep you strong."

There comes that tie back to love. Sinking our roots into His everlasting love keeps us strong. Then we no longer let our roots wander, but we are rooted deep in Him and are much more effective in being a sweet smelling aroma to share the knowledge of Him!

Rooted in His love,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Warring Worldviews

It has recently come to my attention that the generation born between the 1970s and 1990s is now being loosely called "Generation Me." How unflattering! But unfortunately, so true. It is rooted in the most narcissistic roots. You've heard that story right? In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter known for his unusually handsome appearance. He was a proud man, disdaining those around him and seeing them as inferior to his magnificent beauty. It is said that while out hunting, he came across a pool in the woods and was so captivated by looking in the pool at his own magnificent beauty that he wasted away. In another version, a goddess took pity on him and turned him into a flower so that he could forever gaze at his own reflection in the pool.

This story may seem crazy or irrelevant, but look at a few things that parallel our generation. We set a high priority in our appearance. In a new TV show called "True Beauty", a group of young singles battle to become the face of Vegas, all believing themselves to be more beautiful and more deserving than most other people. It makes me cringe to see the absolute idiocy of people who believe they are privileged because God chose to make them beautiful or rich or smart. If we are honest with ourselves, though, how many of us think that way and just never voice it? I know I have on occasion. My generation focuses on "loving self before loving others," and "looking out for #1." We are a self motivated generation, believing we should be handed top positions in companies without working hard for them or justifying stepping on others to get there. This is the worldview we hear ringing from every street corner and skyscraper. This is the worldview of Generation Me.

But here is where a warring of worldviews enters the scene.

During high school, I picked a verse a year to memorize and make my goal to achieve. My senior year of high school, I was seeing a lot of changes among my friends as we prepared to go to college. It was often difficult to reconcile with these new changes. 1 Peter 4:7-11 became one of my favorite passages of the Bible and continues to teach me great lessons. And it completely spits in the face of the worldview of Generation Me.

"Above all have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover over a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

First of all, that fervent love is describing a love that is "strong and steady, unwavering." How much does that contradict the idea in our society that says our affection for others is based on how much they can give me? I see very few marriages today that understand the depth of fervent love that is unwavering.

In our society today, how many of us understand what it is to serve, let alone do it without complaining? My college group went on mission trips to Los Angeles, CA every spring break to help improve and encourage underprivileged churches in some really terrible areas of LA. We would crawl out of bed at 6 in the morning, hop on the bus while struggling to keep our eyes open, and then get to work roofing or painting or building as soon as we stepped off, often until 6 or 7 that night. If the job was still not done then we would go back and finish after our nightly worship services. I will be honest and say there were many times when I longed to sleep in and be at home in my own bed. But these mission trips taught me to serve, to completely disregard my needs and look to those of others. Sadly, this flies in the very nature of who we have become as a culture.

How many of us look at our gifts as a way to minister to others instead of getting ahead? What a concept!!! I have determined to remind myself daily that success in the eyes of the Lord is often not viewed as success in the eyes of the world. But He who has called us to use the gifts and strengths and blessings He has given us has promised to bless us and be with us.

Loving one another first and looking to their interests first completely rejects the ideologies of Generation Me. If we are to be a Body of Believers who confronts culture and determines to live according to what the Lord has called us to, we must determine to be a people who LOVE and love DEEPLY, FERVENTLY, AND WITHOUT STRINGS ATTACHED. We must be willing to SERVE. Imagine how we could change the world if we determined to love as we have been commanded! Serve with me, love with me, and let's see the God with whom all things are possible make this generation that is so self-focused point their eyes and hearts to Him! The thought gives me goosebumps.

Determined to love and serve with you,