Accepting Twig Status

img_1087John 15: 5-8…(Jesus Teaching) “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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you will bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

I have a problem. An identity assignment problem if you will. You see, my mind thinks it’s this big beautiful tree with glorious roots diving deep into the soil. But reality says otherwise. I’m a twig. A lowly, fragile, don’t know squat about squat…twig. Sticking awkwardly off the branch going every which direction with the wind, and totally dependent on the branch, and further, the tree, for every need.

The mind says – “What a loser. Jump down in the earth idiot, and become a tree yourself. You just think you need that tree, but that tree is just using that to control you. It’s a rigged game. All the trees are in on it. Jump!” The branch says – “I’ve told you the truth. You know it’s the truth. But the choice is yours. Jump and die, or stay and live.” I look around my surroundings in the beautiful land my tree stands, and I see mounds of fallen trees, branches and twigs. Dead. In big heaps. Storms, wind, age, fire…take your pic. Death is everywhere in the forest. So is life. I surely will stay. I made that decision a long time ago. I believe the branch, and I love and trust the tree. So what is my problem?

The issue here is that until I fully submit to the fact that I’m a stupid twig, I can’t fully turn into the thick and growing branch the tree wants and needs me to be. Perhaps I’m being a little hard on myself here…but that’s how it feels. Maybe I’m like half twig/half branch. With little tiny buds of fruit starting to blossom. But then I stunt them by going right back to dreaming about being the tree. The ground calls out…”Hey stupid twig, are you still listening to those fairy tales? You’re a special kind of stupid, aren’t you?” But I know they aren’t fairy tales. I know the fate those voices will sooner than they imagine will face. It’s right there all around them. But they can’t see it…they just walk around it, talk around it, and squawk about it. Even if I never become anything more than this twig/branch hybrid thingy, the branch, via the tree, have given me eternal life. They have time to be patient with me.

I love them so for that. I want to be more for them. It burns inside me. Grow up, twig…grow.

I took this photo on sabbatical this week in Cades Cove, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountain National Park. It reminded me of those red letters of Jesus…and inspired this pondering. I hope it gives you cause to ponder, too…maybe. My fellow twigs.

Gary Abernathy





Jesus is the First Responder


Luke 19:10…”For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

If you are a transforming Christian you know exactly what Jesus meant when he spoke those words. We understand that moment with vivid detail because we were that lost and broken soul reaching out to be rescued. In this story from Luke’s gospel, Jesus had entered the town of Jericho and a huge crowd had surrounded him. Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector with a great life, but he had heard of this Jesus and wanted to see him. Jesus knew exactly who he was coming to see that day, but for Zacchaeus, he just wanted to know if something more than the emptiness of his ill-gotten gains existed. He was a short man so he had climbed up into a sycamore-fig tree to get a better view.

When Jesus came upon him he yelled up, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5). Can you imagine? Jesus Christ standing below you as you sit in a tree yelling at you to get down immediately because he’s coming over. NOW! The town people were astonished. “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” Zacchaeus was relieved. Humbled. Rescued. “I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount,” said Zacchaeus. Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Recently I was at a Target store near my home and I happened on a first grade girl crying in the main aisle with desperation screaming from her eyes. Before I reached her two grown women pushed their carts right by her without a word. I gently approached her and asked her what was wrong. She was wearing the school shirt of the same elementary school both my own daughters attended. “I can’t find my mom…I don’t know where she is.” I know that moment. I thought of it right then as I stared at this young girl. Lost, broken, confused…seeking so hard to find home but everything is a blur. Then I considered that in that moment with this young lady, I was Jesus. He had come to me when I was in the same condition. He had taken my hand and brought me home safely. He was my first responder. Now here I stand in his shoes.

Maybe I am reading too much into it and she didn’t feel what I sensed, but this girl was very calm with me as if she knew I was good. I was a stranger, a man, in a big store, and all she’s ever been taught to this point is to run from me in that situation (as we all teach our children), but she trusted me right away. I’m certain she saw Jesus through me and not me. Eventually she disclosed that she knew her Mom’s phone number which I found very impressive, area code and all, which was different than the one we were in. I called her mother and told her I would wait upfront near management until she got there. When we saw her “red hair in a ponytail” round the corner, I started waving my arms so she could see where we were. This woman never made eye contact with me. When she got within 10 yards her daughter ran to her sobbing. Mom looked relieved and frustrated but not joyful to have averted disaster. Anyone could have taken that child. She never spoke a word to me. Not even a simple thank you. They quickly whisked away.

Jesus is the first responder to the trauma in our lives. He’s there when this little girl needed a lighthouse, he’s there when Zacchaeus was filled with nothing but emptiness and excess, and he’s there for you in every moment your heart is calling out from within your soul. When the addiction can’t be broken, when the abuse can’t be stopped, when life just can’t be lived straight…he’s there. It leaves us with the choice. Are we to keep our eyes down and pretend he doesn’t exist because it’s too painful and too shameful to look up, or do we go as far as to even climb a tree to find him in our desperation? He is always there but we have to accept him. We have to look him in the eye. We have to sense that he is good…he’s the way home.

Where do you stand? Are you in a tree looking over the crowd for him? Or is your head down like you didn’t do your homework and the last thing you want is to catch the teacher’s eye? Either way you know he’s there. That’s why you’re reading this. Get down from that tree immediately. Jesus is coming to stay with you. Your rescue has arrived.

Gary Abernathy