TITLE: The Song of the Vine
By Sherry Wendling
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Jumping off from a Scripture passage is rather new to me, and I would greatly appreciate analysis and critique. (I used up nearly the whole 3,000 word limit, so if the only comment I get is You kept my interest all the way to the end, Ill be elated!)
Tuesday, April 17
OK, here I am. Iām not sure you want to talk with me any more than I do with You. Especially considering our deal. Well, my deal, I guess, because Iām the one who bailed out of our relationship. I was expecting Youād return the favor, but now it looks like weāre stuck with each other, at least for the next seven days of this journaling assignment. After that weāll just have to see what happens.
I think itās pretty sneaky of You to use Bible Study Methods 201 to make me start writing to You again. I really donāt see what journaling has to do with study methods, but Prof Lund says itās about making the Word personal, not just theological. I never expected to get graded on my daily thoughts!
At least I get to pick my own passage. Piece of cake! After writing and singing Song of the Vine for over a year, I know John 15 like the back of my hand. Well, at least the first eight verses. (Better give it a break; Iāve been humming āCome drink the wine of the one True Vineā all afternoon!)
Speaking of songs, Iād like a word with You about Dawn Newcombe. How could you put someone so gifted in my same class, my same dorm, my same floor?? Her songs make my lyrics sound like dead leaves soaking in a mud puddle. And that voice, smooth as fresh cornsilk. So alive, tender even. She says she learned āsongingā from her Uncle Seth, who plays by ear in a mountain bluegrass band. (Sigh!) All my years of piano lessons and vocal study, out the window!
Last night, when Sophie talked Dawn into doing a song for us, I turned so green I wanted to slither under the bed. But I was jammed between Sophie and Katie, so all I could do was lean back and hide. She began it with this cool picking style, then launched into something about her soul feeling like an abandoned child, huddled in a corner. When she got to the part where You tenderly call her out, we had to pass the Kleenex. (Big sigh!) A lot of musicians own sound systems, but Dawn has a built-in astound system. I wish I could hate her.
Come to think of it, sometimes I wish I could hate You, too. Iāve been going to church my whole life, and no matter where I go it feels like theyāre praying to some cosmic Stuffed Shirt who hovers above the earth with a big megaphone, thundering, āDONāTā! I resent being sent to a Christian college, but on the other hand, Iād probably be miserable without good old rules, rules, rules. Stuck in the middle, and itās all Your fault!
I probably wonāt hear You very well in this frame of mind, but at least Iāve sat under enough sermons on John 15 to make Lund happy.
Wednesday, April 18. Day One: John 15:1 (HCSB) āI am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.ā
Itās a sunny spring day, so Iām writing this longhand while lying on a blanket beneath a budding rhododendron. Right now itās not difficult to picture a woody stem with roots. Thatās Jesus, the True Vine. I can see the smaller branches, spreading out from the stem. Thatās us. And thereās the Father, watering the Vine and checking to see if thereās any fruit yet. I doubt Heāll find any on my branch.
Thatās why Iām so blown away about the check in my mailbox. I nearly choked when I read the amount!! āSpend it any way you like,ā Sissy wrote. She and Alan were expecting a tax refund, but it mustāve been more than they thought. With the baby coming in three months, I donāt know what would possess her to share it with me. Is this supposed to make up for wearing her hand-me-downs all these years?
But hey, Iām not complaining. You KNOW where Iāll be headed, right after Western Civilization lets out. Steltzer Piano & Keyboard, yeah!!!! That is, if I can hitch a ride with Joey Burke.
God, I suspect Your sneaky hand in this one, too. But if Youāre the Vine, then this branch has You to thank for this kindness, even when I was giving You the cold shoulder. Maybe I wonāt disconnect myself just yet.
Thursday, April 19. Day Two:
Itās bedtime. Sophie has turned out her light and rolled over, but I canāt sleep. I keep admiring my brand new Yamaha keyboard, gleaming silver in the corner. We overhauled the entire room to squeeze it in, but boy, does it sound gorgeous through those on-board speakers! The whole floor crowded in here tonight to have a listen, and their eyes popped!
Naturally, Dawn was here with the others. I know she meant it when she smiled and said she was real happy for me. There canāt be a competitive bone in that girlās body! Maybe thatās why itās so hard to hate her. Even so, it did feel good to be the center of attention for once.
Oohā¦I just remembered. Iāll have my silver beauty with me for the grand opening of our new coffeehouse Friday night! (The Root Cellarānow, thatās a cool name!)
Your wayward little branch,
P.S. This is totally bizarre. Verse six in my Holman Study Bible says, āIf you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.ā Well, I just peeked in an old journal from over a year ago, and read myself asking You for a new keyboard synth! Iād forgotten all about that. Back then I was walking close to You. But You did absolutely nothing about it till now, when Iām being a complete jerk! Can I possibly be āremainingā in You with this attitude? Go figure.
Friday, April 20. Day Three: John 15:5 (HCSB)āāI am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.ā
I can do nothing without You? Itās awful to think that all my singing, tithing, church attendance and worship could add up to ānothingā. How do I know if what I do is connected to You? It doesnāt always feel that way. But then, I suppose a branch doesnāt feel itself growing fruit, either.
In Galatians 5 there are nine kinds of fruit of the Spirit and I havenāt even gotten the hang of Number One, which is love! Love? Wait, I need to check 1 Corinthians 13. Wowā¦If you read Galatians 5:22 beside 1 Corinthians 13, you can see how love contains just about all the types of spiritual fruit within itself! I never saw that before.
This may be off the subject, but Lord, could You please help my nerves? Itās about the coffeehouse tonight. Iām totally desperate to make a big splash, but the basement of Deglin Hall is NOT my idea of great acoustics. And out of eight different acts, mine is the only one complicated by digital electronics! Anyway, Iād appreciate Your help. I guess we all get āup-frontā jitters sometimes.
All except Dawn, that is. I canāt figure her out. Itās almost as though she lives above what people think; sheās just happy to sing for anyone, anywhere. Itās effortless. (Is that fruit? More to think about.)
Anyway, Iām sure glad to be slotted early in the program. Iād be a nervous wreck trying to follow her!
Saturday, April 21. Day Four
I canāt understand why Dawn looked so depressed this morning at breakfast. After last nightās gig, kids are swarming her. Oh, they complimented me too, the way I twinkled all over my fancy keyboard and made it sound like a band-in-a-box. And of course everyone always likes the folksy, unplugged sound of Joey Burke and Ramon Santero. But then she got up there with nothing but her battered old twanger and knocked their socks off! Two standing Oāsāwhat has she got to complain about? I wish I knew whatās bothering her.
As for the John 15 passage, well, verse six scares me a little. If I donāt āremainā in You, it says I get thrown out like a dry branch, then wither up. After that I get thrown into the fire with all the other worthless branches. Pastor always said, āOnce saved, always saved.ā But it seems here that some choose not to remain in the Vine. No grapes, so out they go, and āthey are burned.ā Whatever that means. Iād hate to find out the hard way!
But then thereās that place in Romans, where Paul said even though the children of Israel were a ācut offā branch, through Christ they could be grafted in again. So if a branch gets thrown away, could it repent later, just in time to escape being burned up? And You could graft it back on the Vine and make it stay?
Oh, I hope so, I hope so! Yikes, Iāll be late for Western Civ!
Sunday, April 22. Day Five John 15:8 (HCSB) ā āMy Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.ā
Sorry to be skipping around the verses like this, but something is popping out at me here in verse eight. Itās the word āglorifiedā. Jesusā whole life on earth was one big desire to magnify His Father, wasnāt it? I donāt think Iāve ever experienced that passionate kind of life-focus. Sure, I want my music and my songs to be about You, to celebrate the goodness. But deep down Iāve coveted a good chunk of the glory for myself, and that disgusts me.
When I was growing up, everyone made a fuss over my smarts and my music. But outside of that, I felt no one really heard me. (I guess thatās what happens when you have a bubbly, lovable big sister and youāre the melancholy one!) Maybe Iām afraid no one will appreciate or love me just for me. If I had no music to offerā¦Ugh! Iād feel naked. Empty. Ashamed.
Back again. Sorry for the interruption. (Katieās boyfriend is tossing her emotions like a salad, so Sophie and I prayed with her.)
Now let me get to the point. Only two days left to journal, and I still donāt have my answer about how the branch remains in the Vine. What, what, what are You trying to say here?
OKā¦If I was a branch, what would I think about all day? (Hmm, did I ask myself that, or did You?) Iād probably think about how horrid it is, stuck here on this plant when thereās a whole world to explore out there. But then, with an attitude like that, what sort of grapes would I grow? (Sour ones, ha ha!)
Funny thing; Sissy just flashed into my mind. With my little nephew growing in her belly, all she thinks about is food. āSheās eating for two,ā Mom says. She mostly wants good things inside her, like steak, potatoes, bananas, and salad. Vitamins, too-- probably to offset her snacking on Breyers and Doritos!
So maybe the branch is like an umbilical cord. It clings to the vine for dear life, sucking the Vineās juices, because thatās what it needs to grow grapes. No, wait. The branch isnāt trying to grow grapes, any more than a baby is trying grow fingers and toes. The branch is simply designed to be hungry. Itās natural for the branch to draw life from the vine. And the vine-juice is so good!
I think Iāve got it. Remaining in the Vine is simply wanting You, more than anything else, and doing everything out of that one need ā¦ If the branch is plugged into You, fruitās going to happen, as surely as the sun rises and sets.
A further thought: If the Vine (Jesus) wants the farmer (the Father) to have all the glory, then the branch canāt keep any glory for itself, either.
Wow. I think Iāll take a walk on the bike path and let all this sink in.
Monday, April 23. Day Six: John 15:2 (HCSB)āāEvery branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.ā
Itās so quiet here. Everyoneās gone to chapel. Iām sitting on the bed with the window wide open. A playful breeze is tickling my cheek. And Iām hearing You. I just heard You say Youād always be with me. I guess in Your mind there never was any ādealā about ending our relationship, was there?
I finally know, deep down, about remaining connected to my Vine. Thatās what I want, more than anything. Just to be close to You like this, to drink Your love.
Itās been so long since Iāve heard You this clearlyā¦What would You say to me, Lord? What else is on Your heart?ā¦
Ohā¦NO! That canāt be You! But my heart is beating so hard I can barely hold this pen. The voice was so clear. Oh, dear Godā¦
OK. Yes, Lord. Iāll do it. Iām sorry about wasting nearly a whole box of Kleenex just now, but You understand how hard it is.
Steltzerās gave me thirty days; Iām sure theyāll take the keyboard back. Especially if Iām exchanging it for something else and not demanding any cash. Joey Burke works there part time; I bet he could pick out an absolutely fabulous guitar for Dawn.
Wow, I feel as light as a feather! (Is this an example of pruning?) Canāt wait to see the look on her faceā¦
Tuesday, April 24. Day Seven
You know, nothing went the way I imagined. I showed Dawn āmyā new guitar and let her try it out. Then I said, āYou like it?ā She sure did. āWell,ā I said, āitās yours.ā
I donāt think she believed me. No squealing, no throwing her arms around me, no quiz show drama queen. She just stared at me, like someone had doped her with morphine.
Finally I broke the silence and told her it was a gift, straight from You. I even confessed how envious I had been of her talent. I think that shocked her. She said, āThank you,ā in this tiny, soft voice. Then her roomie came in , so I left.
I leave it with You, Father. Whatever happens, this week is etched in my memory forever.
John 15:3 says I am clean because I have heard Your Word spoken to me. When my heart is an open channel, I can hear and know what You want from me. All the clutter disappears. No frustration about choosing a major. No sweaty little strivings to impress people. Those are all nothings. I do feel clean. Itās like my whole existence boils down to the one little pinpoint of obedience in front of me at the moment. Just You and me, and whatever glorifies Father.
JesusāI just have to write this downāI love You more right now than I ever have in my whole life.
From: Dawn Newcombe [email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 4:42 PM
Subject: (no subject)
I feel like a pure coward sending you this as an email. But I had to get it in writing before I start bawling.
I guess you wonder why itās been so hard for me to talk about your amazing gift. A professional Taylor folk guitar? I never dreamed of such an instrument. And knowing you traded in your new keyboard to buy it just knocked the wind out of me.
See, I grew up in the mountains, and we never had much. My scholarship wasnāt as big as I hoped, and it took five big brothers to pool together for my first year.
Then late on the night of the coffeehouse, I got a call from home. Daddy was in a logging accident. Oh, heāll mend, but for now my brothers will have to support Ma and young Jelie for at least six months. I love it here at Groveland, but thereās no money in sight for me to come back next fall.
Iāve been journaling on John 15 for our BSM assignment. You know, where Jesus talks about the Vine and the branches? When you gave me that guitar, boy, did I get pruned! It really hurt. I could feel His shears, snipping off my pride and independence and self-pity. Doubt, too.
But hereās the amazing part. Yesterday Dean Lasland called me into her office. She has an uncle whoās a big boss with Sparrow Records out in Nashville. He told her if I can get a demo CD ready by the end of the semester, heāll personally audition me. Well, I about fainted!
The past three weeks have been a roller coaster. A beautiful new guitar. Then no more money for school. A surprise invitation to Nashville. I donāt know how all this is going to come out, but your sacrifice is bearing a whole lot of fruit. I will never doubt Him again!
When youāre done reading this, come on by my room. I want to give you the biggest hug this side of the Mississippi! (smiley)
Love, your sister in Jesus,
P. S. Oh, Christy, your Song of the Vine is so beautiful!
My roots plunge deep
So My branches might keep on growing
Iām My Fatherās Vine
So just stay where His life is flowing
Iāve been singing that part over and over on my new guitar. Would you teach me the whole thing? Iād love to include it on my audition CD.
Ā©2006 Sherry Wendling
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