Caught in the Web: Getting Free*

Caught in the Web: Getting Free*

Look carefully! Can you see it? A perfectly formed circular spider web hanging across a path, suspended by a thread! Th is is the amazing sight that my friend Penny and I happened upon early one morning as we were walking down some little-traveled paths in a wooded area in my neighborhood. Here was one spider who was serious! She was ready to get a good catch that day!

There was a period of insecurity in my life when I was a good catch in a craftily constructed web—not made by earthly designs but that of the Father of Lies (John 8:44). It started out with a series of real, and perhaps imagined, rejections which then developed into a lie. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I had recognized it for what it was, but I didn’t. And so I embraced it as truth and struggled for many years.

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Revelation -101: How NOT to See & Hear God

Revelation -101: How NOT to See & Hear God

You read that right "Revelation MINUS 101." 

I wish I didn't have to write this post, but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't.

And can I be honest? I've been cranky . . . crabby . . . "out of sorts" . . . ok, nasty! Ask my husband. I had gotten tired of being a "punching bag" in little ways in a certain relationship. My house is torn apart with a pending reconstruction project. I feel in limbo emotionally (aftermath of my husband's and my retirement?) . . . all potential reasons but very poor excuses!

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Children Incognito!

Children Incognito!

In April 2005, my husband John came home from work and said, “I’m going to Shanghai next week for work!”  Now you have to know that neither John nor I had been world travelers and haven’t even really had that on our “bucket list”.  The idea of his going (by himself, mind you) to Shanghai was very terrifying…to both of us!  As he was preparing to go, he was prayed over and encouraged by our kinship/small group to trust the Lord in this test to his faith. I took him to the Dayton airport very early the morning of his departure. After John checked his bags, I cried, kissed him good-by, and prayed.

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Keeping God's Word Fresh: a Guest Branch

Keeping God's Word Fresh: a Guest Branch

If I want to keep my relationship with Jesus strong I need to keep the lines of communication open. We speak to God through prayer and He speaks to us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. 

Sometimes it can seem like a chore, however, so I’m always looking for ways to keep the Bible “living and active”. 

I discovered a fun Bible last year. It’s called The ESV Journaling Bible. It has room on the sides to write notes or to draw or paint. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting as a hobby so what better way to elevate God’s Word! 

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God's Coloring Book: Praying & Reflecting in Colors

God's Coloring Book: Praying & Reflecting in Colors

In my last post, we reflected on living our life in full color rather than in muted and dulled shades. I also shared an amazing song discovered as a delightful "God-wink," God's Coloring Book.

So in keeping with the theme of color and our spiritual walk with the Lord, I would like to share some possible ways to use color to help nurture our souls.

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Living the Colorful Life

Living the Colorful Life

God lives a colorful life . . . or maybe better said, God lives His life in color!

All we need do is look around. Color is everywhere . . . in nature, in people, even in feelings, ideas, and circumstances.

But as Christians, who embrace a color-loving God who gives us fullness of life through the indwelling Spirit, we most often live inwardly in colors muted and shaded and not alive.

Why is that, I wonder? 

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Rejoicing, not just Weeping

Rejoicing, not just Weeping

Why is it easier to weep with others in their suffering than rejoice with them in their success?  Jealousy?  Insecurity?  Self-importance?  Disappointment with my own life? Scarcity mentality (that there's not enough "good stuff" out there for me too)? Have you found that it's much easier to find others to weep with you in your distress than rejoice with you in your success...even among your friends and loved ones?

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When the Unfolding Gets Hard

When the Unfolding Gets Hard

Today the "Unfolding Fullness" of God in my life just got hard . . . not hard like cancer or broken marriage or wayward children- type hard. It was the stress of my plans being rearranged- kind of hard. Now I love spontaneity when it's MY spontaneity (a.k.a. my own change of plans). So today didn't start out well . . . until my husband John reminded me, "It's His Unfolding Fullness." 

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Unfolding Fullness

Unfolding Fullness

At the beginning of this calendar year something interesting happened . . . the Lord gave me "a word" for my year. Have you heard of having a word for your year? I had a few years ago, but I never really had one . . . until 2016. The word He gave me was "unfolding." But it didn't stop there. I sensed the Lord adding to it . . . "fullness." So it became "Unfolding Fullness."

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Alone on Mother's Day?

Alone on Mother's Day?

There are lots of emptyings in life.  There are deaths and losses of every kind.  There are ends of relationships...ends of jobs...ends of school-years...ends of eras...ends of phases of life.  Some of these are expected.  Some catch us by surprise! This Mother's Day, I think of an emptying that affects all mothers sooner or later...the emptying of the nest!

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A New Beginning

Welcome to the newly refreshed, renewed, and reconstructed "A Branch in the Vine."

My thanks to my designer, tech specialist, and did I mention, my amazing son, Jeremy J Loyd. Well done, my precious one! You have kept me current, although more and more my inner self fights change.

Jeremy J. Loyd

 

So, dear friends, pray for me as I learn the inner and outer workings of this site.

Thank you for following "this branch" as I rest and abide in our Life-filled Vine. Let's continue to journey together as conduits of His pulsating Life as He produces fruit, more fruit, much fruit through us to the glory of our Father, the Vinedresser. Amen. 

I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.

Welcome to the Vineyard...Afresh

Welcome to the Vineyard...Afresh

Welcome to the Father’s Vineyard.  I’m a branch in the True Vine…just a branch…but a beloved one.  I’m not THE branch, for there are many…multitudes, in fact, from every tongue and family and tribe and nation. But I am in THE Vine.  There is only One, you know, in the Father’s Vineyard.  The True Vine is more than enough to supply life to all of us beloved branches.  And fruit?  You should see the baskets full that come when each of us branches really makes its home (“abides”) in Christ, the Father’s glorious Vine! (John 15:1-5)

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Resurrection and a Spring Facelift

My Redeemer lives!
My Redeemer lives!

Christ is risen...He is risen indeed! He's alive and so are we! And so we celebrate the LIFE that Jesus rose to, and we rose with Him...glorious mystery! In keeping with the New Life that is portrayed by so many new and blooming things, "A Branch in the Vine" is also preparing to bloom into new life. We are getting a "facelift" thanks to my dear, generous, designer son Jeremy J. Loyd of Sparkbox and the creator of my blog.

To make things easier on him and to give this "branch" time to learn new things, we are taking a break from posting for a short time.

So just in case you, my dear fellow branches, would like some devotional material for your days, I have a couple suggestions:

First, I would like to suggest my "spiritual fathers" series. Here are the links that will take you to stories and quotes from some giants of the faith who have been very important in my life. You too may find encouragement there for your souls.

bread-for-my-souls-journey/ J. Henri Nouwen

abide-in-christ-in-faith-filled-surrender/ Andrew Murray

a-modern-day-prophet/ A.W. Tozer

abbas-child/ Brennan Manning

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The-With-ness-of-our-God-cover-temp-3-210x300
The-With-ness-of-our-God-cover-temp-3-210x300

Next, at the risk of appearing self-serving, I want to invite you to read my book, The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension,...not because I wrote it but because it reveals a God who is intimately and securely united with us in every possible way.

If you are struggling to feel connected to the Lord, though you may know in your head you belong to Him, please consider this little volume. In it you will receive manna for your heart, not just your head. You will find not only simple, practical instruction, but also meditation, stories for application, questions for journaling and just pondering...and more.

Or maybe you aren't struggling but just want to go deeper...this is for you too. You can dive into the deep or stay on the surface...your choice.

Springtime also brings occasions for gifts, such as Mothers' and Fathers' Day, weddings, birthdays.

And the book is very accessible and affordable.  You can purchase on online (see links). Locally, volumes can be purchased for a reasonable price at The Booksellers at Austen Landing and at BellHOP Cafe in Bellbrook.  And I've priced the ebook at the lowest allowed, $3.99.

So please take a look and consider walking with us on this journey into The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension.

And thank you for your grace!

Publisher website: www.janloyd.com

And a link to my blog page that has lots of goodies in addition to endorsements, pdf files, etc concerning the book.

http://www.abranchinthevine.com/with-ness-of-our-god/

Abiding...

vine with many branches

vine with many branches

It was almost 30 years ago now that I "discovered," as if for the first time, that I am a branch...a beloved one at that, but just a branch...in the Vine, the Father's true Vine, that is. And I love being a branch, because a branch doesn't have to be smart or strong.  All a branch has to do is what Jesus told His disciples just hours before His death on our behalf. And what is that something? Let's take a look as Jesus tenderly prepared His beloved disciples for the days ahead by following His walk through a vineyard on the way to Gethsemane.

Jesus to His disciples:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. ... Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, and neither will you if you are not connected to Me.

I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing. ... If you abide in Me and My voice abides in you, anything you ask will come to pass for you. Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory to the Father.

I have loved you as the Father has loved Me. Abide in My love. Follow My example in obeying the Father’s commandments and receiving His love. If you obey My commandments, you will stay in My love. I want you to know the delight I experience, to find ultimate satisfaction, which is why I am telling you all of this. John 15:1-17 VOICE

Abide...Jesus seems to love that word. Abide to bear fruit, abide to live in His love, abide to do anything.

What does it mean to abide?

My spiritual father Andrew Murray starts us off with reflections on abiding (click on his name for more about abiding):

On my part abiding is nothing but the acceptance of my position, the consent to be kept there, the surrender of faith to the strong Vine still to hold the feeble branch.

Found in my file from years gone by is this quote from Discipleship Journal, titled "Life as a Branch":

Perhaps one of the most profound things I am learning about abiding is that it never takes you out of the moment you are in ... Abiding is not primarily about cloister and quiet. The invitation to abide is the invitation to draw spiritual sustenance directly from its Supernatural Source amid the dailiness of life! ... If we abide, fruit happens! We do our part,  but there is a life that flows up through the roots and branches that is beyond our ability to understand or produce! Abiding is and always will be a moment by moment thing!

A young friend of my children, Tess Augustine, wrote recently on facebook about contentment, an aspect of abiding:

One of the most important lessons I've learned is the JOY of being content. That's not the same as settling or giving up. That's not forfeiting dreams or "goals" because of your current circumstances. It's about being QUIET in the waiting. It's about learning to cheer others on, as they are blessed and able to do more, and help more. It's about being okay when someone's impact, abilities, talents and purpose instead of trying to do it all and be it all. It's not possible to do EVERYTHING well. It's about being joyful and loving to people and being okay when they may not return the feelings It's about humility. It's about being thankful THIS VERY SECOND and not losing your mind over what everyone else is doing, saying, or gaining. Being content is a much deeper and better feeling than any material gains or accolades one could possibly acquire in this life. Take a deep breath; be thankful for what you have now and what you've had in the past. Be hopeful for the future, but not consumed with desire and comparison. And, for the love, just. be. you.

And last, the way I say it:

Don't fight your TODAY life! Embrace it, hug it to your breast, live it (from your union with your Lord, of course), and be thankful.

Are you abiding today, dear friend? Have you discovered the freeing realization that you are just a branch? A beloved one, but just a branch, a conduit for the Life of the Vine ... and that's all you ever have to be!

And our Lord's promise is that you WILL produce much fruit! Praise His holy Name!

fruitful vine

fruitful vine

Holy Week: 7 Sayings of Christ with B.C. 2001

www.johnhartstudios.com.

A few years ago, I came across an inspiring cartoon in my "Easter" file (See enlarged image below).  I think my husband John, who had been the family reader of the Sunday funnies in years gone by, cut it out and gave it to me back in April 2001.  So there in my file, this little treasure has been tucked away for all these years.

For those of you who have been following the Lenten Meditations on a branch in the Vine, this piece serves as a fitting climax during Holy Week.

There's an interesting story behind this controversial cartoon.  Apparently for Easter 2001, cartoonist Johnny Hart wanted to do something special. He stated,

I noticed one day that the center section of the Menorah -- the sacred symbol of Judaism, bore the shape of the cross. I wanted everyone to see the cross in the Menorah. It was a revelation to me, that tied God's chosen people to their spiritual next of kin -- the disciples of the Risen Christ. http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/BCcomics_easter.htm

This year as I reflected on the final amazing image of the cartoon, I couldn't help but think what an arresting contrast the Menorah as the cross and the communion cup in the empty tomb represent: the movement from the condemnation and death under the Old Covenant to the forgiveness and life under the New Covenant. Think about it!

And then peer deeply into the empty tomb, and remember HIM!

Behold the Lamb (Communion Song)

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away, Slain for us - and we remember The promise made that all who come in faith Find forgiveness at the cross.

So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of peace Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Torn for you - eat and remember The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life Paid the price to make us one.

So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of love Around the table of the King.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin, Shed for you - drink and remember He drained death's cup that all may enter in To receive the life of God.

So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of grace Around the table of the King.

And so with thankfulness and faith we rise To respond, - and to remember Our call to follow in the steps of Christ As His body here on earth.

As we share in His suffering We proclaim Christ will come again! And we’ll join in the feast of heaven Around the table of the King

Words and Music by Keith and Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na8Xue4VEw4[/youtube]

Devotions for Holy Week:

Perhaps for the days of Holy Week, you would like to meditate on Christ's sayings one by one.  Here is a summary of the links from our Lenten Meditations at  A Branch in the Vine.

Last Words and Conversations:

  1. Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34 -- a Word of Forgiveness
  2. I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 -- a Word of Salvation
  3. Dear woman, here is your son...Here is your mother. John 19:26-27 -- a Word of Family Affection
  4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Matthew 27:46 -- a Word of Abandonment
  5. I am thirsty. John 19:28 -- a Word of Personal Need
  6. It is finished! John 19:30 -- a Word of Completion
  7. Father, into your hands I commit My spirit. Luke 23:46 -- a Word of Reunion

BC

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Reunion

Now I lay me down to sleepI pray the Lord my soul to keep If I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take

So goes a traditional nighttime prayer taught by American moms to their children for generations.

It may seem odd to us today that there would be the mention of death in a child's prayer.  But scientists say that sleep is the closest we come to death while still alive.  The Greeks even had a proverb,

Sleep and death are brothers.

However, in the first century, Jewish moms taught their children a different bedtime prayer...quoting Psalm 31:

Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.

Sound familiar?  It should...they are the final words of Jesus as He breathed His last (Luke 23:46).

For most of us, death comes suddenly and often without warning.  But for many, there is a sense that death is imminent...and it even seems that in some cases, the dying individual yields his spirit after seeing that treasured love one or after receiving permission from an important someone, "It's okay...you can go" (perhaps merely giving in to the inevitable).

But not so in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ!  His death was totally voluntary...under His control...in submission to His Father's will:

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46 ESV

About a year or so earlier, He had spoken of this voluntary quality of His death in the beautiful metaphor of the Good Shepherd:I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.... I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep... For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. John 10:11-18 ESV

Later in that same beautiful passage, Jesus says,

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-31

Talk about intimacy and security!  And this with our Father God through His Son, our Lord!

So in this last word from the Cross, the God-Man Jesus Christ recites His familiar childhood prayer...the prayer learned at His mother's knee.   In doing so, He consciously and in full control yields His life and returns to the bosom of His heavenly Father.  Why? for love of you and me!

Lord, we are overwhelmed...thank you...thank you...thank you!!!!!

Calvary's Love -- S Green

Only Jesus, Only He Brings redemption, full and free There's a yearning, in all our lives That only Jesus satisfies

Calvary's love will sail forever Bright and shining, strong and free Like an ark of peace and safety On the sea of human need

Through the hours of all the ages Those tired of sailing on their own Finally rest inside the shadow Cast by Calvary's love across their souls

Chorus: Calvary's love, Calvary's love Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of The deepest sin can't rise above Calvary's love

Calvary's love can heal the Spirit Life has crushed and cast aside And redeem til Heaven's promise Fills with joy once empty eyes So desire to tell His story Of a love that loved enough to die Burns away all other passions And fed by Calvary's love becomes a fire

Chorus

Calvary's love has never faltered All its wonders still remain Souls still take eternal passage Sins atoned and heaven gained Sins forgiven and heaven gained

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqoPnatf6cA']

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Further Application:

Consider making this your nighttime prayer as you drift off to sleep each night. You may also want to read and meditate on all of Psalm 31.

Further Meditation:

During Holy Week, you may like to join me by going back through the meditations...one or two each day. Journal what the Holy Spirit highlights to your heart. Last Words and Conversations:

  1. Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34 -- a Word of Forgiveness
  2. I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 -- a Word of Salvation
  3. Dear woman, here is your son...Here is your mother. John 19:26-27 -- a Word of Family Affection
  4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Matthew 27:46 -- a Word of Abandonment
  5. I am thirsty. John 19:28 -- a Word of Personal Need
  6. It is finished! John 19:30 -- a Word of Completion
  7. Father, into your hands I commit My spirit. Luke 23:46 -- a Word of Reunion

Bible Students: Explore these Shepherd passages and be blessed! Psalm 23 -- the Lord, my Shepherd Ezekiel 34 -- contrast with false shepherds Luke 15 -- seeks for lost sheep John 10 -- the Good Shepherd John 21:15-23 -- feed My sheep... Heb 13:20-21 -- the Great Shepherd of the Sheep 1 Peter 2:25 -- the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls 1Peter 5:4 -- the Chief Shepherd