Monday, January 28, 2013

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

I am spending this winter thinking about fruit. Spring is not here yet, but the trees around us are getting ready to bud. They will produce flower, fruit and seed. And soon enough, we will be able to visit the orchards and enjoy the blessing of fresh-picked fruit

Jesus and Paul talk about fruit also. “I am the vine and you are the branches,” Jesus tells us. When we are attached to him, good things will grow in our lives. “You will bear much fruit” is what happens when the branch remains attached to the vine. Paul describes the flavors this fruit comes in: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Here's a story about one of those flavors of fruit:
The kingdom of heaven is like a Thanksgiving dinner

 It was a house filled with happiness. Grandparents, parents, children, cousins, aunts and uncles gathered for the annual tradition. Food was shared in abundance along with stories. Uncle George shared stories everybody had heard at least once before. A few people rolled their eyes, but most everybody still laughed at the familiar places, and there were some friendly backslaps at the predictable punchlines.

After the meal, a group went to the den to watch football. The cheering and groaning that accompanied each play could be heard throughout the house. Some people went over to the couch and continued to share stories, talk about food, and catch up on news. Some of the women headed to the kitchen to clear and clean – and grumble, in a not-too-serious way, about the lack of help from the others.

Annie had to herself into showing up, but it wasn't easy. She was going through a tough time. Money was very tight. Her job wasn't going well. And of course there were relationship issues. Thanksgiving dinner with family is supposed to be a happy time. She didn't feel happy. She didn't feel like laughing at Uncle George's stories. A roomful of people making a lot of noise about football was not going to make her feel any better.

Annie did manage to laugh at some of the stories, but other stories reminded here of her own difficulties. After dinner, she helped with the clean up and joined in the grumbling about the lack of help. Then she found a quiet corner.

Aunt Maggie could see that Annie was unhappy. She followed Annie to that quiet corner and simply asked, “What's going on?” Annie began to talk about the money, the job, and the relationship issues. Aunt Maggie listened. Aunt Maggie listened some more. And after some more listening, Aunt Maggie shared some stories from her life. These stories didn't have punchlines, but they spoke to Annie's needs.

Annie left the house with the same burdens on her shoulders, but they seemed lighter. She discovered that she was not alone, that there was somebody to sit alongside her and listen to her. She was part of a family. There was a feeling of joy that began to push away the unhappiness that she was carrying.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. . . I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.”

Prayer: May I grow in my attachment to Jesus an others and may his joy fill up what is missing in my life.