Connect To The Vine

Cindi Gale

If there is one thing you learn in life, let it be this:

The Vine and the Branches

John 15  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;apart from me you can do nothing.6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such…

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Don’t Be Them

Should you ever find yourself the victim of other people’s bitterness, smallness, or insecurities, 

remember it could be worse …

You could be them.


This quote is making the rounds on Facebook. Coincidentally, a chapter of my current read, The Brothers K, elucidated the same point.

Though I thought myself a baseball non-enthusiast, author David James Duncan has made me care about what matters to the Chance family—that makes baseball paramount. Papa Chance once played professionally. To the lustful coaches at the Chance kids’ high school, his four sons are viewed as a steady supply of potential star players for their teams.  

Oldest brother Everett has already graduated. “He made up in desire what he lacked in ability,” is the best the coaches can say about Everett —they’ve already forgotten his name and call him Herbert. Currently excelling at the varsity level are the next two Chances, Pete and Irwin (Winnie).  

I am smitten with the wise words of the youngest of the Chance boys, the bespectacled Kade:

To reach the crappy little ballfield where we JV B-teamers went about the blooper-riddled chaos which we, with the crazed optimism of young Zen students, also called “practice,” you had first to traverse the football field and the quarter-mile cinder oval where the track team worked out, then skirt the varsity baseball team’s posh diamond. So every day, if I dawdled along slowly enough, I got to sneak a look both at Irwin—the new Washington State prep record-holder in the javelin—and at Peter—the two-time All-State center fielder—before slinking off to my Sorry-State career as a B-grade first baseman.

Like all earthly pleasures, though, dawdling had its price: those wide-open, grassy expanses were, for me at least, a psychological minefield. The “mines” were a number of adult American males, all of whom happily barked in reply to the name “Coach.” The “explosions” were caused by the coaches’ unending readiness to ignore the “Comparisons Are Odious” adage. It was my being one of the family Chance brothers that brought on the comparisons. And it was my athletic abilities that made them odious.

That I wasn’t ashamed of my baseball prowesslessness is, I think, eloquent testimony to the noble character of my family. I was close to spastic on a ballfield, and they all knew it, but with Papa’s eternal minor-leaguing setting the cautionary example, my family had become as athletically tolerant as Babcock (the dogmatic pastor of their mother’s church) was intolerant.

“Who’s that sorry little tortoise?” the varsity track coach, Bobby Edson, bawled into the face of the JV A-team baseball coach on April 20, 1966—a date I remember perfectly because (1) it was Hitler’s birthday and (2) it was the day I hung up my mitt, cap and cleats forever. Bobby Edson, like most coaches, was a kind of mystic: he believed the cosmos was endowed with an ineffable muffling system that rendered all the racist, sexist, tasteless, and denigrating remarks made by coaches inaudible to the students about whom they bellowed them.

“”That there, believe it or not,” bawled the JV skipper (another muffler mystic), “is the youngest Chance brother.”

“Naw!” Edson blored. “I mean that fat kid, with the goggles. The one gapin’ at my Winnie tossin’ his javelin out there.”

“Yup. That’s Toe’s youngest. Katie, they call ‘im. Appropriate too, I hear.”

“Think he might firm up any?” Edson wondered. “Wasn’t Winnie kind of a chunk at that age?”

I felt their eyes on my back now, probing my bike tires, X-raying my infrastructure, analyzing my aura for signs of “Late Bloomer” potential. “Nope,” the JV CAT-scanner finally sighed. “Winnie’s a rock. Always has been. Damn nice kid’s the rap on Katie there. But no speed, no suds, no arm, no nuthin’.”

……. The three coaches called Kade over and tossed around blithering insults, not-so-subtle sexual innuendos, and general idiocy. Kade stood under the banal barrage of degradation, bound to politeness and submission to authority figures, and tried to hide the slow incineration of his face.

And now the best part, the thing I want to share today: Kade’s moment of awakening, an enlightenment possible for us, too ……

Then a wonderful thing happened: for maybe five full seconds the coaches went dead, and the day grew not perfect, nor still, but still enough to hear perfectly the singing of a thousand red-winged blackbirds in the swamp beyond our diamonds—a choir, tremendous, convening there daily, their ecstasy reduced to white noise by our first catch or throw—till this moment: the coaches’ decommissioning: a word … and their song came raining out of the cottonwoods, innocent, joyous, pouring over anyone willing to listen. The rush of understanding was too quick and condensed and physical to call a “thought”: I simply knew, via song, sunlight, redwings and cottonwoods, that there was a world I was born to live in, that the men I was standing beside lived in another, and that as long as I remembered this their words would never hurt me again. I knew—the redwings were all telling me—that there was ancient ground here, and ancient songs, and that if I laid my mitt, cleats, and uniform aside I could stand on that ground, and maybe learn to sing on it too . . .

I felt free to like all three of these men now, because I’d realized I didn’t have to become them. I was standing right next to a world in which Everett was Herbert, blacks were Jabooms, Pete and Irwin were heroes, and I was a no speed, no suds, no arm nuthin’. But I was not standing in it. Some simple shift inside me had turned their words into the harmless white noise, and the blackbirds’ singing into the heart of my day.

Ospreys eat fish. Deer eat foliage. Switch their diets and they’ll die.

I gave my first unguardedly friendly nod ever to each coach, told them I had to go, walked back to the locker room, took off my baseball uniform, put on my street clothes, and set out unencumbered into the singing, the cottonwoods, the entire spring day.

(Excerpts from The Brothers K, by David James Duncan)

Irresistible Destiny, Part Two

Cindi Gale

Destiny by definition:

1. something that is to happen or has happened to a particular person or thing; lot or fortune.

2. the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events.

From experience, I can verify the irresistible aspect of destiny. It beckons. It takes me forward despite all of my human shortcomings and fears. I do not want to resist it. I could, I know, and thereby prevent a whole chain of events from transpiring. But I don’t want to do that.

Why allow myself to be taken forward into the unknown, into a wilderness, even into a wasteland?

Because I sense something wonderful ahead. From what I’ve stumbled upon so far in this new, unfamiliar wilderness, it is good. Very, very good.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:9 NIV)

Despite the challenges and insecurities, I choose to proceed in the unknown. Why?

Because I am…

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The Empowerment of Truth

John 8:32 – Then you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Is it scary to hear the truth? Often it is. If you’re praying and asking for the truth in your circumstances, be prepared that the truth might be tough to take. Nobody wants to realize truths like:

  • The person you love is using you.
  • Your spouse is cheating on you.
  • That woman posing as a friend intends to steal from you.
  • The person you fully trust is committing fraud and extortion against you.
  • A person you thought was above that level of cruelty, lied to turn your children against you.
  • A trusted friend or family member abused your children.
  • Your loved one is racist, or militant, or deceitful, and they feel no guilt about it.
  • Your friend or family member is blindly and wrongly loyal, and an accomplice in harming others.
  • The person you trusted is a manipulator.
  • You have been fooled; you have been manipulated.

Truths are not always good news. But if it’s true, staying blissfully ignorant is not in your best interests. Being a pawn of some thing, or some person with selfish intents is not a good place to be.

Whether we like the truth or not, it is empowering to know it. With the bad news, you need a strategy. You need to look out for you, as well as others involved. If a thing or a person you trusted will throw you under the bus — if they will use and abuse you — you have some big decisions to make. Wise decisions.

To learn truths like that is a blow. God knows how much it hurts. But it’s best for your well-being that you know the truth. If he has shared it with you, he knows it is bearable. And don’t forget the silver lining, that empowerment I mentioned before. This is the point when the power is shifted from your “user and abuser” to you. Be patient, restrained, righteous, and wise with that power.

Brace yourself for the unexpected. God may disclose the source of your trouble as spiritual.

Ephesians 6:12 – For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

1 Peter 5:8 – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

If that’s the case, stop accepting your circumstances and start resisting.

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

You need to take action instead of acquiescing to evil circumstances—you have God’s blessing and direction to resist the current that swept you away. You can get out of the harmful river and be free of it.

raging river, for blog, cropped

Once you get yourself to safety on the riverbank, study that river and see that it didn’t really hold you in it. You just thought you were captive there. Knowing the truth made a monumental difference. You are not a victim. You are free. It is the river that is powerless to keep you in it, or to force you back in.

Let’s go back over this. When you’re in the cruel current, it tells you that you can’t get out. You think, “It’s fate. It’s from God. It’s in my DNA. I am powerless.” You believe that. It pulls and threatens and overpowers you till you are swallowing water and gasping for air.

But once you are out of its pull — often it only takes a mental shift — you see it doesn’t have the power it appeared to.

You are on solid ground with a gentle breeze and warm sun on your head, free of the raging water. It isn’t drowning you anymore. You can’t believe you ever fell for the philosophy that it was your lot in life to be in that horrible river.

Now you know the truth. You are free, and standing on solid ground.

As the old hymn goes, On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

When there’s no way TO IT but THROUGH IT, Just DO IT

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Originally posted on Cindi Gale:
? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIQVZH48P-k You can be perfectly centered on your God-led road of life and still have trouble on that road. Sometimes it is through a vast, fearsome valley that you must travel. I can attest that it is dark, overwhelming, and intimidating in the valley. Promises and hope for your…

A New Thing

Cindi Gale

Could it be that in your quest to make a difference or leave your mark on this world, you are in fact on the cusp of realizing it, yet it doesn’t seem so? It was put this way through the prophet Isaiah: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?”

Perhaps the bigger the “new thing”, the more time needed to be able to look back and see what you were a part of.

As long as I’ve known him, my stepfather, Vern Wilson, has been casual about his seventy-five years as a musician. Actually, I doubt he’s ever called himself a musician, he just says, “I played with ___ band in this town,” as we pass through on drives, or “I never learned to read music, I only play by ear.” Only play by ear – I wish I…

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Hidden Gifts

We say, “I could never do that.”

Paul Smith says, “What can you do?”

Paul the Apostle says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians. 2:10)

An excerpt from one of my previous posts, “Coached to Excel” says,

“God knows what you’re capable of. He knows what is still uncovered or undeveloped within you. He knows how to unveil those gifts, and coach your potential to excellence and success.”

Hear the coach’s speech: “You are exceptional. Let me show you what you are capable of; what you haven’t experienced yet. You are a diamond in the rough. You have untapped potential within you. We are going to uncover your abilities, talents, gifts, skills, insights, and more. Let me show you how you can gain mastery, accomplish much, and express your strengths superbly. Raise your expectations to match mine. Don’t settle—think excellence. Form habits of excellence, so I can give you success.”

It’s never too late to change attitudes and habits. Think excellence, let God be your coach, and show the world what you can do. We need your distinctive influence and glorious achievements.”


Video credit belongs to John Stofflet, news anchor and reporter, KING TV (2004)

Looking Forward

Cindi Gale

“For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.”  Romans 5:2 (Living Bible, TLB)

This verse in the Living Bible translation points us to a joyful future, a time of becoming who God originally meant us to be. Imagine what might have been if God alone had raised each of us since birth. Who would we be today?

Instead, each of us were shaped by the people, cultures, and environments we were born into.

crocus in the snow, pic 2

As vulnerable humans in a blustery world, it is no surprise we gradually morphed from the person God intended. We developed impaired habits. We wore useless grooves into our characters by our own unmitigated behaviors and misguided thinking.

To put it bluntly, we are marred…

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God Misrepresented

Throughout history men and women have tried to tame God. I liken it to damming a river to control the normal flow of the water. What’s possible with rivers is also possible in religion. A group of people can claim that a portion of the river is theirs. They construct dams to control the living water, pave a parking lot, pop up a building, and hoist a sign with a catchy company name. Let’s call ours Choppy River Church. The river is real, but already altered by the dam. Domesticated. Cultivated. Tamed.

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Choppy River Church advertises, “Come whitewater rafting on God’s true river of life!” When you arrive, you’re handed a life jacket with the company logo, then shuffled to the formal boarding area where you step into a raft emblazoned with the brand name. Reps from the company man the rafts and guard the shorelines. If your raft catches an unexpected rapid and sends you off the man-made course, workers on the shore use long poles to push you back where they want you. The river is so controlled it no longer represents who God is.

When your ride on that short section of the river is over, you are expected to gratefully disembark and say complimentary things about the company. And its management. And the exciting river. Any honest reactions to the adulteration of the river are quickly met with disapproval from peers or company leadership. If you still don’t comply with the unspoken codes of behavior, you are summoned to a meeting for a stern rebuke. Those inclined to question or resist further find themselves evicted from Choppy River Church.

If that sounds familiar, you might think you were rejected from the river of God BY God. But that’s not the case. Not at all.

White_Water_Rafting[1]

There is a river that extends far beyond the trifling range of Choppy River Church. There his river is unaltered by man. The water is unrestrained. Exhilarating. Powerful. Potent. Anyone is welcome at any time. People who gravitate to it are inclined to respect, love, and treasure the river. They bring rafts and ride the waters at will. Rafters come and go much like nature lovers come and go from the earth’s forests, deserts, and mountains—they leave it like they found it. Spotless. Pristine. Natural. Wild.

The river is available for all, but owned by none. Even those who work there full-time as whitewater rafting instructors don’t assert it’s theirs. Those who choose to frequent riverside buildings do so to exalt God together. And to support each other. Nobody aspires to subdue the river. They wouldn’t dream of exploiting it for profit or power.

They value it for what it is: Bigger than man. Mightier than man. Unpredictable and fearsome. But, paradoxically, also soothing. Calming. Restful. Healing.

Choppy River Church does not equate to God. They are not one and the same. A place that claims his name might be contrived, but he is not. He is infinitely more than a controlled, tamed, ineffectual river, and yours for the asking.

Beneath the Surface of Trouble

Let’s talk golf. Specifically, let’s talk hazards.

By definition, a hazard is an area of a golf course which provides a difficult obstacle, and is usually of two types: water hazards such as lakes and rivers; and man-made hazards such as bunkers. Bunkers are designed to be impediments to golfers’ progress toward the green.

There are man-made hazards in life, too. They are abundant in quantity, seeped in varying degrees of injustice or cruelty, and often come from unexpected sources. Who are these people who choose to be bunkers, who aspire to catch us in their traps?

  • They are the trolls at gatherings or on social media, baiting whoever will bite with untrue or bombastic statements. They like to inflame, to goad us into reacting, to pull us into their broiler. The antitheses of peacekeepers, they are Fight Seekers.
golf course with fire hazard

  

  • They are the self-serving plotters, strategists who design ways to take from us, to harm us, to come out ahead at our expense. When they succeed at both plotting and implementation of deviousness, we land right where they want us: in the rough; in the sand; in the deep water of injustice.
golf ball underwater
  • They are the malingerers, with goals of living out their days in perpetual trouble. While others endeavor to get out of hazards and put trouble behind, they stubbornly adhere to the bunker they built. They don’t care if we drown in their masterminded troubles, they just want us in there with them.
golf underwater, for blog
  • Unlike those in true need, they are the Hazard Makers. They pose as unaware victims, as having no idea where the trap originated. If they don’t advertise their rotten luck or the contrived injustice done them, they can’t get our sympathy, our anger and action against their so-called “enemies”, or our service to their fabricated needs. These people don’t want solutions, they want problems. Problems put them front and center as the object of our attention.
  • They are the impeccable actors and actresses in everyday life, good at their craft, and unmindful of truth or who they malign. Their bunkers are deceptively attractive; our entrapment essential to their hidden motives. We’re caught the moment we believe their falsehoods.

As the saying goes, “We have but one life to live.” We can choose to avoid the bunkers, battle our way out when we do land there, and play out our lives on the fairways and greens. We can do our best to never be a hazard to others. We can offer to help people out of the rough, point them to the smooth fairways, support their progress toward the greens, and applaud their well-earned victories.

Choose for yourself who you will be — a hazard or not — and how you will play your game. As for me and my house …