To the very, very end.

11 10 2014

pruningtool1(A slow walk through John 15)

“He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b)

It’s really dumb to think you can be perfect, but sometimes I think I have achieved some measure of it. When things are rolling just right

I’m on time,

work is done,

made a list,

followed the map,

double-checked,

said something smart,

was extra nice,

my ego kisses the mirror. It’s delusional, but it happens.

If it was simply about doing things the best I can, that would be one thing, but behind it I know I want to be right…and standing behind that I don’t want to fail…and behind that is a fear of exposure…and behind that is a fear of rejection…and behind that stands a whole row of fear and lies and this my friends is why John 15:2b exists.

Yesterday’s post was all about “non fruit bearing branches.” You get the impression the gardener is trimming whatever is stubbornly refusing to really be a part of His design. I have never wanted to be that person. I have stayed as far away from that line as possible. I have always wanted to live the way the Bible leads us to live but here I read even the ones who are on track, producing fruit, get pruned.

“There is no one righteous. Not even one.” Romans 3:10

No one gets a pass. No individual branch is “right” or good to go, not even one. There is no exception or loophole, every branch is tended.

This could really be fuel for the perfectionist to add to the to-do list, but as I have been reflecting on this, I realize how important it is to remember who is doing the work in this passage. It isn’t me deciding what pet-project to work on today, it is the Gardener pruning. The Gardener deciding what must go, what must change, what needs binding, what needs supporting…it is the Gardener. He can tell: the Vine is One Way and if we are another the Gardener can tell. To anyone else we may seem just fine, but He knows. He knows about the lineup of fear and lies that get in the way of the Life and Freedom He offers.  This is not about adding something more, it is about trust and surrender.

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” (Psalm 139:1)

The Gardener looks at me, what is inside of me, and sees what I can’t or what I refuse to. It may be the smallest thing or it may be an elephant but, for my own good and the good of His kingdom, it has got to go. Maybe it can go with one little snip; maybe it will take years but we can be sure that all of us will receive this kind of attention. This kind of loving, hard, patient, persistent attention.

I am 46 and my earliest memories all include Jesus. I have always loved Him and have wanted to be a follower in “right” standing. At the same time, I have always known I fail at this. I am a sinner. At 46 I haven’t stopped sinning but at this age I have a deeper understanding of it. When I was younger, I really thought I could trick the system, but at 46 I know I do not have the capability.

In my heart I see sinful tendencies, so there is no way I could ever accept that I am a “good person.” I can think noble things, do noble things, but lurking there in the shadows is always the ignoble. My confessions come quicker, my admissions are more readily made. My gratitude is more profound. I think I am more honest today then I was when I was 20 and still attempting to be perfect.

I recognize pruning more than I did back then. Here too there is pride, and not the good kind: I ask myself, “Really, at 46 you haven’t learned (interpretation: perfected) this?” No, I haven’t. But at 46 I recognize God’s love mixed in with the pain of His pruning. I still squirm when I see those shears; I wish I sat still right from the start, but I don’t. It taxes the plant to be pruned, that’s for sure, but I do know it is because I matter enough to my Father that He prunes me and this is pretty amazing too. In the end it will be good.

God is all about the good.

One day, as my mother was dying she was very restless. She was literally wrestling in her spirit and asked us to pray for her. I could see the turmoil and I was a little angry with God that this woman of faith should have to experience such a hurdle at this point,

“Really Lord? She has to go through this now? Hasn’t she been through enough?”

And then, some time later this peace washed over her and she said, “I needed to know, am I really forgiven? Is it true what Jesus has said, that He has really forgiven me for my sin? I am really loved?  And yes. I am.”

It was like the Gardener could see in her that little doubt and to finish her walk here on earth, for the very last bit of her journey He wanted this branch He had tended for 75 years to be free of that lie, the one that says Jesus is not quite enough and we are not quite adopted.

Fellow sojourner, He prunes every branch, even the ones so dedicated to bearing fruit, so that we will bear more fruit. There is no retirement, no Florida, no “old and useless.”

We are branches planted by the water, roots drinking from the stream, not fearing when heat [or pruning] comes; leaves are always green. We have no worries in a year of drought and never fail to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8 paraphrase).

Green to the very, very end.

— Teresa Klassen

Must interrupt this series as I head off to India for a few weeks…





Needing a Trim

9 10 2014

pruningvine(A slow walk through John 15)

“He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in Me.” (John 15:2a)

This is referring to us now. Jesus is the vine. The Father is the gardener. We are the branches and right away we need to admit that branches can be about themselves. Branches can take from vine, drink in its goodness but grow rogue.

  • They can be glory seekers
  • Then can be false teachers
  • They can be selfish saints
  • They can be followers in name only.

Verse two is blunt. I like this about the Bible, it doesn’t really mince words or dance around subjects. Time is of the essence and followers of Jesus need to face who they are quickly:

  • Sinner?
  • Helpless?
  • Repentant?
  • Surrendered?
  • Saved?
  • Following?

John 15:2a is like this. It is an immediate heart check with 12 words that ask, who are you? We are to be off-shoots, little representatives of the vine: same look, same heart, same fruit (check Galatians 5 for fruit identification).

So what about these branches who don’t bear fruit. Everything in the Bible points to a God who fights for us. He doesn’t run His hand along the branches and snip us off just like that. He is so patient. He leaves so much time, puts so much energy into coaxing us to be fruit-bearing branches. I see this in my own life: the tedious work of keeping me grafted in. The Patient, tender, relentless, merciful, fine-tuning work of the Spirit.

I have felt it when he has adjusted me to be closer to the sunlight, the degree of change in the shade. He has come out late at night, tarp flapping in the wind to cover me in a sudden rainstorm.

Every last effort is made.

What requires trimming? It is revealed…

  • When we are in a hard season it will prove where our beliefs lie
  • When we are shaken, our next step tells a lot about us
  • When we are pressed or angry or confronted, our words tell a story
  • When we plan our calendar it says something about  us
  • What we do with and how we feel about our finances shows our colours.

As a branch, I have never known “me” as well as when I am in times of uncertainty. I hit the wall of my belief and unbelief hard then. Finally, with a few more bruises than I would like (I can be stubborn) I end up opening my hands and pleading, “teach me,” because I realize how much I have to learn.

But some branches will have none of it. Some refuse counsel and shun the expert handling of the gardener.

This verse says the Father will let go of what will not bend. There are those who will only serve themselves. There are those with a clear yes and a clear no. Let us not be mistaken, with 12 words John 15:2a says let us not be mistaken. There will be some who “depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Not my will, but Yours Lord. Win in me, please win in me.

— Teresa Klassen

 

 

 

 

 

 





26 Years: It’s Complicated

8 10 2014

mikeandtDear Michael,

I can’t let the day go by without giving it space here. It is our anniversary. Number 26. Today I was thinking about how people describe the status of their relationship and, when at a loss for words, they often just say: “It’s complicated.”

I actually think this is a great way to describe True Committed Love: It’s complicated.

We match each other and are opposite of each other at the same time but not for a second would I want anyone else.

We conspire with each other and disagree with each other and not at any time would I want it to be different.

We love spending every second with each other and sometimes we are on opposite ends of the earth and I can’t imagine any other journey.

We are each others biggest cheerleader and most honest critic and this is hard and awesome every day.

We know so much and yet have so much to learn and this isn’t going to change.

It’s complicated.

Over the past twenty-six years we have gotten under each others skin in a pretty literal way. Your life is wrapped around mine and  mine around yours so that I can’t even tell anymore where I begin and you end. We are still two individuals, but the colors are all mixed now. It’s complicated.

How two people can do this, be with each other like this, how we hold each others attention, how we make decisions, how we pray together and agonize together, together, together. It’s complicated.

Especially right now — in the season we are in — we get each other and don’t get each other, we agree and disagree, we trust and we question, we decide and second-guess, we are filled with ideas and then filled with question marks. It’s complicated.

I want you to know, I love being in the dead-center of complicated with you. Our cord of three strands has not been broken by anything, we have 26 years to show for, and I’m not going anywhere.

Thanks for your stubbornly committed love to me, to complicated me…

TNT

Trees.

 

 





Life From The Dust

8 10 2014

gardener2(A slow walk through John 15)

After Jesus describes Himself as “the vine” He says, “And my Father is the gardener.” Roles. What does a gardener do?

  • Decides where to plant
  • Prepares the soil
  • Plants
  • Tends
  • Weeds
  • Feeds
  • Troubleshoots
  • Harvests.

When I first wrote out this list, I left something out. It didn’t occur to me until I was reading a commentary where it says the Father “planted the vine of his human nature and filled it with all the graces of the Spirit. He supported it, upheld it, and made it strong for Himself, for the purposes of His grace, and for His own glory, and took delight in it…” (John Gill’s Exposition). Funny that I left off how the gardener takes pleasure in the plant.

I am by no means a gardener, yet when something lives I am SO happy! I have four violets I tend religiously. One is blooming right now and I look at it every day. I am so happy it is doing well. I am so proud of myself that I haven’t killed it. I think about my violets, try to put them in just the right kind of light, and I try not to over-water them in my enthusiasm. When I go away I am concerned for them. I went out and bought some nice pots for them and, yes, they give me pleasure. One of my little violets is struggling, but it too gives me pleasure.

All these feelings and hopes and delight I have in a simple little plant and God the Father is described as a gardener. What gardener does what they do just for the labor? Who does not stand back and take pride in the straight rows? Fooling the crows, fighting off the intruder? Picking that first delicious carrot? Who doesn’t urge that struggling one along? Who isn’t proud of the work of their hands?

For me, for me, the Father does this: He finds ways to help me grow and takes delight in the whole process, the whole person! In the cool of the morning, in the garden of His making, “He walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am His own…”

I was thinking of a coffee I had recently with a friend who had been to Africa. She showed me pictures of a garden her missionary friends so carefully planted. They surrounded their garden with a thick hedge of thorny branches, provided water for the parched desert soil, and all this effort produced a little green crop of Swiss chard. The desire to grow something in impossible places is an idea “planted” by the Father, I think…to bring life from the dust.

Today I spread my heart out like an open leaf, mindful that I am not the vine but a branch off it, tended so carefully by a Father who takes delight in working with me. He is not content to see me wither, to age dry and brittle, but urges me to drink deeply of the Living Water and thrive.

— Teresa Klassen

 





Upside Down In the Jar

7 10 2014

vine(A slow walk through John 15)

Something I read challenged me to read through the first part of John 15 s-l-o-w-l-y and meditate on it. I agreed, so here goes.

I don’t know where Jesus was the day He said, “I am the vine,” but I have a hunch it was a vineyard. It isn’t hard to imagine, since little Israel has hundreds of wineries even today.  I live in vineyard country as well, in this little jewel of the Okanagan Valley called West Kelowna. Everywhere I go there is a vineyard or a winery, it is impossible to miss. I love staring up a hill at the row upon row of well-tended vines or going for a walk along the border paths. Often there are gardeners pruning this, weeding that, making little adjustments all along the row to help each vine thrive.

It should be noted there are many varieties of vines, not just grape-vines. Mike and I planted a creeping vine on our hill a few years ago. It is the kind that is supposed to grow rapidly and cover a lot of ground. It is green in its growing season, turns red and orange in the Fall and then eventually loses its leaves and is dormant for the winter months.  I like it because it requires little attention, which is best for someone like me who lacks gardening skills. This is not the kind of vine Jesus was referring to however because our vine, as nice as it is, does not produce any fruit.

Translations of this verse often add in the word “true vine” or “real, true vine” and that is important. Jesus isn’t just any kind of vine, as we learn if we skip ahead. Jesus is the kind of vine that bears fruit. If a branch begins to grow that is only about leaves, if it is “anti-fruit” it is out of place. Jesus’ life produces life. If I am a part of His way of living it is never a question of whether I might be like Him. If I am wanting to follow Him, I need to decide: is that what I want to look like too?  Am I willing to allow Him to make me that way?

I think it is a harder question than I think. Do I actually want to be worked on so that I am like Jesus? Wouldn’t I rather hang out with Jesus and get away with just being myself the way I am. Wouldn’t I rather blend in? I think I can seem like I am growing His way but not actually be.

Without going on and on about it, I know I am being worked on right now rather intensely. My blog has lain dormant for some time because I have not had the words to put together. I have been wrestling with God and His work in me. I have been upside down in the jar. I would like to say something that sounds spiritual, I would like to be Billy Graham but I think I have been more like Silly Billy (follow the link if you don’t recall the story, which is by now in the vintage category). Less a stalwart saint and more a somewhat frayed and bedraggled one.

The Vine I am a part of is all about life though, I know this. The fruit He bears is wine producing: He fills my cup with celebration and I am to pass that cup on and fill someone else’s with the best that He offers. Though I cry “stop pruning” now, I remain because I know that after it will be good. He promised.

— Teresa Klassen





Classroom Size: What About This?

27 08 2014

tableIf you want my opinion, I think the right people aren’t at the table. Not THAT table: the one between the BCTF and the Government. That table just frustrates me. I am talking about the table where a group of people who have one motive and are FOR each other, sit down and brainstorm. I am talking about the table where fresh eyes look at the old institution and ask, “What if we tried this?” That one interests me very much. Since I most likely will never sit at the table, I can only imagine that I would start by asking…

What about Classroom size? Is making the class smaller really the solution?  If you have 40 children and 10 of those have significant learning challenges or behavior issues is that any different from having 10 children with 4 of them who require significant attention? Honestly, having worked with children in different settings, it really only takes one child who dominates the room to completely challenge a learning environment.

If you have a classroom with 40 kids who pay attention and respond appropriately to guidance, class size isn’t even an issue. Even children who struggle to keep up can receive the attention needed when there is a conducive atmosphere in the room.

So, then the issue becomes about alternate options for children, assistance and discipline. A teacher simply can not do his or her job (which is to teach) if they are constantly managing the unique needs or disruptive behavior of their students.

In our current system, we have counselors, CEA’s and other support staff hired on to tackle these issues. But how much money does the system need in order to really get at this problem? We propose smaller classroom sizes and/or more staff, right? But come to the table and help me understand why there has not an alternative to this idea. There is an alternative, but we have not even touched it.

The RCMP of our city could not do the job they do without a significant volunteer work-force known as Auxiliary Officers. These men and women go through a very similar process to the hiring process of regular officers. They are interviewed, screened, checked and double-checked. They are trained in the classroom and in the gym. Eventually they are given the authority, under the supervision of a member, to carry out select policing duties in our city. Many people aren’t even aware that there are volunteer members, because they look so similar to the hired ones, but riding in the car, at events, on bikes, at intersections in schools and all over the city are these trained and trusted volunteers.  There is a branch with hired staff to manage this volunteer force.

Every year the RCMP of our city have a banquet to honor these Auxiliary Officers. They count the hours they put in (in the hundreds for each of them) and they express their gratitude to men and women who would put in so much time for the sake of the force, and our city.

Back to schools: we don’t do this. We don’t tap into something that could save our schools. I was going to say, “Save our schools money,” but I literally think it could save our schools if we would only think through how we could use volunteers on a weekly basis. If the RCMP can give authority to this kind of work-force, why can’t schools?

We need to throw out some rules and regulations that prohibit the use of volunteers on campus and maybe some pride along the way too. There isn’t a single reason I can think of that we could not begin to train and use volunteers to be a significant help and presence in the day to day classroom to shrink the problem. I am talking hands-on, taking on some teaching strategies that they are being trained to do.

Every day in our province we have parents opting to home-school their children, and you know what? They are turning out some pretty fine graduates. How is this possible if they are not “teachers”? Depending on the program they enroll their child in, they may have a lot of support from an online teacher, or very little. They have accountability, but they also have a world of freedom. And it is working. So, while qualifications are beneficial, they aren’t everything. Don’t get me wrong: I value the time and money teachers and support staff have spent on getting an education themselves. Couldn’t their education also be useful in training people without the degree to be significant contributors in our children’s education and daily care? Just because you don’t have the degree, it doesn’t mean you don’t have skills.

Here is what I wonder…

1. Couldn’t volunteers do a lot more than come for the odd volunteer day to help with a craft or sit with a child and read? Important, but still limited. I realize there are other roles for volunteers (hot lunches and the like), but lets be honest, it’s spotty. In my district I haven’t seen a significant organized volunteer work force to lighten the load of teachers IN the classroom.

2. I don’t think teachers should be responsible to manage a volunteer force, but couldn’t someone be? When that volunteer walks into a classroom, they are not another job for the teacher; they have a job and the teacher can be confident they will carry it out and in doing so, provide relief.

3. Couldn’t a training process be put in place for different kinds of roles in the school? Taught in house so that it is easier to access? Why can’t we train interested volunteers to work with children who are ESL students, are there children with autism, are there children with ADHD? Why can’t we have a basic training program that equips volunteers to help? I am not saying we have all the strategies a CEA would have, but we could be in the class giving the one-on-one attention needed. We could assist CEA’s.

4. Why can’t a volunteer take on some of a teacher’s administrative tasks?

5. Perhaps some roles are too time consuming for a volunteer. So why can’t a district/school fund-raise and hire people for some unique roles in the school? Maybe a great volunteer has become one of those super-volunteers you’d like to hire. Maybe it is for minimum wage, or an honorarium. There are plenty of people who aren’t really looking for a ton of money to do something, but even a bit of a wage would be helpful along the way. I would have done this in a heart-beat when my children were in school.

I could go on. When you open the door to this idea, a hundred other ideas of how the community could get involved begin to blossom. I really wonder if it isn’t time to step outside of the system and get more hands involved. I believe a lot of people don’t want to be just spectators on the side, but if invited in, would come in.

And maybe there should even be a responsibility to come in. Maybe you don’t get to just drop off your child at 8 a.m. but every parent is also a partner.

I know some people will immediately leap to the holes in this idea and kill it before it has the opportunity to speak up for itself. I know there are a lot of things I have not thought through, but couldn’t it be thought through?

I don’t think bargaining around problems is the answer. I think brainstorming is. So, if we are going to raise a concern about classroom size, can’t we at least think about classroom size in a different way?

– Teresa Klassen





A Thousand Thoughts of You

11 03 2014

0007_###She would have come up the stairs today with her list and before I was even awake enough to have a single thought, she would have asked me the questions she had been thinking about for an hour already.

  • By any chance are you going grocery shopping today? I am almost out of cranberry juice.
  • Before too long, we should fertilize the lawn…
  • Did you notice there is a shingle missing off the roof?
  • I forgot to give you a bit of news from Aunt Hildegarde…

These were the kinds of things that were on my mother’s mind at the crack of dawn.

Usually there were dishes on the counter from someone’s late-night snack. These she would clean up immediately. Then a cup of coffee. A bran muffin. A greeting to everyone. She was never (and I do mean never) in a bad mood in the morning. Back downstairs to read her Bible and pray.

While everyone would be rushing about to get out the door, Nathan would always run down to say goodbye.

He is still saying goodbye, we all are. It is March 11: a year from the day she passed away.

If she could send a letter it would be in point form no doubt, but I would dearly love that. Then again, I forget to pick up the mail all the time now. Mom checked the mail…religiously. These days, the junk mail stacks up and the Carrier is cramming our letters into the box before I remember there is a postal system to contend with.

This past year I have thought a thousand thoughts about her, everyday things. She comes up all the time in conversation, “Mom would have…” or “Grandma would have…”. Lots of remembering. Lots of sighing.

There is never a good time to say goodbye to someone you really love. Then again, it doesn’t get any better, being able to say goodbye to someone you really loved. It is a good kind of grief to have — as Tennyson said, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.”

In memory, a little Nat King Cole:

A thousand thoughts of you
Will haunt me ever after
The music of your laughter
Will serenade my heart.

A thousand thoughts of you
Will roam the night and find me
With chains of love, they’ll bind me
To dreams that won’t depart.

Your face,
Your smile,
The moonlight in your hair

Your lips,
Your eyes,
I’ll see them everywhere.

A thousand [memories], too
Will keep me reminiscing
For there’ll be no dismissing
A thousand thoughts of you.

With fondness…

— Teresa Klassen

momsbookcover

For What We Are About To Receive

This is the book she and I worked on before she passed away. It is filled with every day stories of her walk with God.

It was published recently and I so wish I could give her a copy.

See it/Order it here.

 








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers