Revue: Like Lemon Drops

© 2017 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing,”

~John 15:5

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

No one ever doubted Grandma’s piety.  In a quiet, unobtrusive way, it found its way into her everyday life.

Each day dawned with God as evidenced by the well-worn, black leather Bible sitting next to a large bowl of candy lemon drops on the small table beside her favorite chair.

As a child, of course, I was most interested in the lemon drops.  And somehow, even as an adult, I continue to associate my grandmother’s favorite candy with faith.

My wicked sense of humor, however, imagines Grandma standing at the pearly gates and doggedly insisting that Simon Peter submit that glorious entry to a white glove test.

After all, she subscribed to the Puritan principle:  “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

So convinced was she that she shook her head in perplexity whenever Mary and Martha were mentioned.

However, I believe that gospel account is less about housekeeping and more about grace.

Jesus had come to see Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  And Martha prepared a meal and looked after the needs of her guests.  No problem there.  I get that.

I imagine Grandma standing at the pearly gates and doggedly insisting that Simon Peter submit that glorious entry to a white glove test.

Martha, however, began to grumble. Perhaps, she believed Mary was inconsiderate. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha served.

In what appears a resentful tone, Martha asked Jesus to encourage Mary to help.  And Jesus replied, ‘Martha, Martha.  You are worried and bothered by many things. As for Mary, she has chosen the better part.’

That part of the passage troubled Grandma who felt Martha’s unselfish service may have been under-appreciated.

This snapshot becomes clear when we consider the overall context of Jewish life at the time of Christ.  Truly, life for a first century Jew was filled with laws… with doing many things.

The religious leaders had divided every God-given principle into miniscule components.

Rules existed for every aspect of their lives.  Yahweh’s followers were “worried and bothered by many things.”

In contrast, Christ called his followers to a life of relationship rather than rules (Matthew 22:37-40).  He replaced religious effort with relationship’s abiding.

Yet, even as an adult, I continue to associate my grandmother’s favorite candy with faith.

Grace trumped all manner of complex ‘Do’ lists.  The Prodigal returned to an undeserved feast; the tax collector known as Zacchaeus entertained the Messiah.

Of course, if one heals lepers freely, without strings attached, one takes the risk that only a single leper will return in gratitude. Yet, to the gracious God of the universe, the love of a leper is worth it.

The Shepherd eagerly seeks a solitary lost sheep.

In this, I see the extraordinary difference between my way and God’s.  My human nature tends to complicate things.  I look for ways to self-improve.  I create my “Do” lists. True, my lists differ from those followed by first century Jews; however, I gravitate to lists even so.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes, like the Prodigal’s older brother, I define my relationship with Abba in equations. I even expect guaranteed outcomes if I follow self-imposed formulas.  I struggle, straining to “grow.”  Certainly, I try “doing” my way into Christ-likeness.

But in the midst of it all, the Holy Spirit gently reminds of Christ’s analogy of the vine (John 15).  Connected to Him, you and I grow.  We produce fruit.  It isn’t self-betterment or self-righting.  And so there resentful comparisons have no place.

When I abide or rest in Him, all of that self-effort and self-focus is unnecessary because my eyes are on the Gardener.  I can’t work my way into Christian maturity.  Yet, if I will surrender to Him, He tends to it. He promised.

After all, the branches of a vine, or the blooms of sunflowers do not grunt and strain, or chant, “I must grow, I must grow.”  The branch does not complain about the water provided or demand another diet.  It doesn’t suggest alternative pruning methods to the Gardener.

Grace trumps all manner of complex ‘Do’ lists.

Branches and flowers simply absorb what the Master Gardener provides. They yield to the Master’s plan moment-by-moment.

Rain falls, the soil’s nutrients rise, and the sun gently streams. Flowers, in turn, face the Sun. His loving kindness is irresistible.

It isn’t complicated. Grace invites me to discover what it means to abide.

There, in His presence, I find rest. Sitting at His feet, I yield to God’s work in me both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).  And His Spirit cultivates Christ in me.

Then, in God’s time, my Savior’s love and grace blossom through me; I give to others as a result of His love working in me rather than in response to any “Do” list.

And that’s why, for me, a relationship with the God of radical grace does not mean enduring a white glove test, but rather sitting and savoring His Words of Life . . . and enjoying a side dish of  lemon drops.

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14 thoughts on “Revue: Like Lemon Drops

  1. The Mary and Martha story has been one my mother and I share, when either one of us gets too busy, we remind each other, “Don’t be a Martha.” I love the picture, and the meaning behind your story. 🙂

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  2. Lovely words and painting. Makes me think of lemon drops. I used to make sure my public speaking students would have a lemon drop prior to presentation. It cleared the palette and allowed for better articulation. Besides they taste good.

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  3. I Love the Paintings Lynn and your uplifting and beautiful words, some are below, they are indeed assurance of God’s Loving embrace.

    There, in His presence, I find rest. Sitting at His feet, I yield to God’s work in me both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). And His Spirit cultivates Christ in me.

    Yes God does lead us to do His will Lynn so we may be Perfected in Love putting our Carnal Flesh to death by The Holy Spirit and being Born Again, we are than like Jesus in this World.

    2 Corinthians 7:1 Having therefore these promises dearly beloved let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, Perfecting Holiness in the fear of God.

    Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto Perfection not laying again the foundation of Repentance from dead works and of Faith toward God,

    1 John 4:17-19 And we have known and believed the Love that God hath to us. God is Love and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God and God in him. Herein is our Love made Perfect that we may have boldness in the day of Judgment because as He is so are we in this World. There is no fear in Love but Perfect Love casteth out fear because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made Perfect in Love. We Love Him because He first Loved us.

    Christian Love Always – Anne.

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    • Thank you so much, Anne! And thank you also for your thoughtful comment. God bless you greatly in your blogging ministry! I’m glad to have met you here. Years ago, my husband and I almost moved to Australia to join a ministry there, but my husband ultimately decided to stay in the church to which he had been previously called. For this reason, as you can well imagine, I have a special place in my heart for Australia…You are truly blessed to live in that beautiful country! Huge hugs in the Lord!

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