Bearing Fruit – Staci Stallings

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Bearing Fruit

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. –John 15: 1-2

    Every so often a misinterpretation corrected sends shock waves through my life. Thus it was with this Bible verse.  I had always defined “bear” as meaning to produce.  In other words, “Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit, He takes away…”  Then I began reading about how God doesn’t expect us to do things for Him, no, He wants to do things through us if we allow Christ and the Holy Spirit to take over our lives to such a degree that it is Them doing the doing and not us.

    Okay, but there was still this verse.  Clearly it says if I am in Him, I will produce fruit.  Right?  Well, maybe.

    I give you this new insight to ponder, not so that you can accept it outright, but so that you can try it on in your life and see if it fits.

    There is a second definition of “bear” I had never considered. It is actually the first definition of the word.  Bear means to carry or to hold.

    Does that make any difference in how you read this verse?  “Every branch in Me that does not hold fruit, He takes away…”  To me, holding is much different than producing.  Holding is passive.  Someone else has done all the hard work to produce it, all I have to do is be strong enough in Christ to hold the fruit He’s producing in my life!

    You know, looking back, I wonder how much fruit I didn’t “hold” because I was so busy trying to “produce” fruit on my own.  I wasn’t focused on what God was doing in my life, I was focused on what I was doing for Him.  Trust me on this one, the difference between the two in theory and in practice are huge!

    The funny thing is, since I’ve stopped trying to produce fruit for Him, fruit in abundance of abundance has come into my life.  In my books, in my kids, in my marriage, in our finances.  Things I used to work so hard to accomplish (which never seemed to work out) are suddenly heaped upon me in blessing after blessing. I am convinced it’s because I stopped trying to produce and started being content holding that this change has come about.

    So, as I said before, consider this simple yet profound modification in the way you define “bear.”  It may well change your entire life!

Copyright Staci Stallings 2006

The Value of Being Humble by Staci Stallings

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The Value of Being Humble

    Recently a writer friend asked me what I thought about him going in a particular direction with a story.  Was it a good idea to pursue one type of publication over another?  It’s an age-old question with us authors.  “I want to be published.  What’s the best way to do that?”  Like most of the population, we want to set some goals and pursue them, but we kind of want to know that the goal we set is the right one.

    I read a piece the other day about the importance of leaning your ladder against the right building.  The author talked about how frustrating and spirit-destructive it is to spend hours and hours climbing a particular ladder—to wealth or in your career or in accumulating possessions, etc.—only to wake up one day and realize the ladder you’ve been climbing is leaning against the wrong wall.

    That’s what my writer friend was trying to avoid, putting lots of hours into an endeavor that might ultimately prove fruitless and a waste of time.  I understand.  I’ve been there, and I visit “there” quite frequently even now.  “What should I do?  Would X bring me where I want to be, or should I do Y?”

    The temptation in living in the world when someone asks you this question is to stand up on your own understanding and give your best advice.  “Well, I think X is a waste of time.  You really need to do Y.”  The problem with this is that there is no way for each of us to judge the buildings either.  In truth, there are pros and cons of each, and although our experience may give us some perspective, there is no guarantee that our perspective holds true for another person.

    So, I did with him what I do with myself.  “I think you should go to God and ask Him.”  But how to do that?  I have known people who’ve twisted themselves into knots trying to discern what God is asking them to do.  They want to do it right, and they are convinced that God does too, but for the life of them, they can’t figure out what God’s will is.  It’s paralyzing and often destructive.

    I’m quite sure when Peter started sinking on the sea after walking on the water, he was probably thinking, “Hello!  I’m such an idiot.  I must’ve misunderstood what Jesus was asking me to do because this ain’t working out too well.”

    Peter’s failure of faith had to do with taking his eyes off Christ and remanding them and his situation to his own control.  That’s deadly as Peter nearly found out.  You don’t know what’s best.  You can’t.

    But God can, and He does.  The trick is to learn how to listen for Him in ways that lead you to what He’s asking you to do.

    That’s why I gave my friend my sure-fire method of finding out what God has in mind.  I call it “Peace or no peace.”  You get really quiet, breathe to settle your spirit, and then ask.  “Doing X, peace or no peace?”  Then listen and feel in your spirit what the answer is.  If there is another option, ask “Doing Y, peace or no peace?” Your spirit will feel at peace with the right answer. Then you have to have the courage to do that answer.

    Doing that will give you spirit-wisdom guidance in which wall you should lean your ladder against.

    Now you may wonder what all this has to do with being humble.  Well, the other night our pastor said a line that stopped me in my tracks.  “The more humble we can be; the less judgmental we will be.”  Talk about profound!

    And he’s right.  The more humble I become in subjecting myself to God’s will for my life—taking the steps He’s asking me to take, saying what He’s asking me to say, doing what He’s asking me to do—the more I realize how little I know, how little I control, and how awesome He is.

    As I realize I don’t have all the answers, I can so see that others don’t either.  In the fog of panic and fear, they make bad decisions that lead to more heartache and trouble.  From this perspective, I can see what God means about hating the sin but loving the sinner.  I have become far less judgmental than when I was trying to puff up my own life value by telling everyone what I thought they should do.

    But it goes farther than that, the more humble you become, the more often you remember that you don’t have all the answers.  The best part is, you get so ingrained in going to God in your own life, that you remember to point them to Him for their answers as well.

    I highly recommend seeking humbleness—saying you don’t know when you don’t, going to God when you’re confused, frustrated, afraid, and learning to trust His answers, and helping others to learn to do the same.  It’s a really cool way to live.

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2007

Fearless

Fearless is a true story about an American hero.  Author Eric Blehm paints a vivid story about the life of Navy SEAL Hero Adam Brown. For all readers, particularly those part of an U.S. military family, I can wrap up this review in 2 words: Read It. Fearless will touch your life.

As a military wife & mother, Adam’s story made me proud of our warriors and the country with which they serve. Adam gave his heart to Jesus while as an adult. Adam’s and his family’s strength is truly God ordained.

To learn more about Adam and America’s Navy SEALS, visit Military Movies & News.

Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown.

Author Eric Blehm

May 21, 2013

WaterBrook Press

Woman by Staci Stallings

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Woman

    We were supposed to study Adam and Eve in Sunday School.  As the teacher, I had been boning up on Genesis and the whole getting thrown out of the garden thing for weeks.  I knew the story.  I knew about when God came back into the Garden of Eden after the fall, and Adam and Eve hid in the bushes.  I knew about God banishing them from the garden.  I’d also just read the actual wording of the banishment.

    What struck me is that they are not referred to as Adam and Eve in the story.  It is only after they are cast out of the garden that “the man” names “the woman” Eve.

    Therefore, prior to that God referred to her only as “Woman.”  When He asked her “Why did you do such a thing?”  Eve, known only at that point as “Woman” answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

    Let’s see, how do we put this mildly?

    That was a very bad answer.

    She took no responsibility for her actions, nor did she ask for forgiveness.  She did what we’re all guilty of, she looked around and found someone else to blame.  So God said to the woman, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children.  Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.”

    Duly noted.  Then I went to church, and the Holy Spirit decided to show me just how much I don’t yet know about the finer points of His plan.  The readings were about Jesus at the Wedding at Cana.  It is in this story that one of those, “Huh?” moments happens.  You know, one of those moments that I’m like, “Why did He say it like that?  What does that mean?  It sounds wrong.”

    In the story Jesus and His disciples attend a wedding.  Midway through the ceremonies, His mother comes up.  Now I would rightly assume that Jesus of all sons would have a great deal of respect and love for His mother.  Yet when she comes up and says, “They have run out of wine,” He turns to her and says, “Woman, how does your concern affect Me?  My hour has not yet come.”  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very respectful especially to your mother.

    I dare you.  Next time you see your mom, call her “Woman” and see if I’m wrong.

    So the question becomes why.  Why did Jesus call Mary, “Woman”?

    It is only when you put this passage with the Genesis passage that the pieces suddenly make more sense than they do apart.  God’s curse was on the woman.  He referred to her as “Woman.”  And His curse followed her poorly thought-out answer to, “Why did you do such a thing?”

    The Wedding at Cana is a clear answer to this very moment.  Mary doesn’t hem and haw, make excuses or cow-tow. She doesn’t look around and find someone to blame. What she does is say what Eve should’ve said, “Do whatever He says.”

    The answer when we are faced with temptation and doing things our own way, in our own strength, with our own resources is to repeat, “Do whatever He says.”  Not what I say, not what Satan says, not what the world says.  Do whatever He says.

    By answering what Eve should have, Mary set right our relationship with God once again.  She showed the way to lifting the curse from the garden… “Do whatever He says.”

    I taught on this principle that very same day in Sunday School.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit is so smart that way.

Copyright Staci Stallings 2007

The God Hole by Staci Stallings

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The God Hole

I was reading “How People Change” by Timothy S. Lane and Paul Tripp the other day.  In it there is a story about a hole.  They call it the Gospel Gap.  Basically, it’s that hole in everyone’s life that can only be filled by God.

However, they say (correctly) that we try to fill that hole with all kinds of other things that don’t fit and instead get stuck in there.  As I read, I was reminded of another true story that happened in a town not far from where I live.

The reason I remember it is because my husband is a carpenter, and he works on schools.  So when it happened, guess who they called.

Here’s how it went.

I live in the Panhandle of Texas and that year it was dry.  I don’t mean drier than normal.  I mean it was DRY!  And windy.

Well, this school had a drain pipe at one end of the roof of the building.  The roof was sloped slightly toward the pipe so that rainwater would drain down it.  Great idea except they forgot one tiny detail–the wind.

It had been dry so long that the wind had carried all of the trash and tumbleweeds and junk over to that drainpipe where they lodged.  Some went in the drainpipe, some stayed stacked against it.

Do you see where we’re going with this?

One day, over that particular school they got what my mom always called a “gully-washer.”  In short, it rained several inches in one spot over the course of about an hour.

Following me, yet?  Do you see the problem?

Here’s a question for you–what happened to that rainwater?

Clogged drainpipe.  Lots of rain.  Nowhere for the rain to go.  It gets heavier and heavier until…

You got it:

The roof collapsed!

Which sent all that junk and all that water all over that part of the school.  What a mess!

As I read this description of things that clog our God hole, I thought about this school.  That’s what happens to us.  We start filling that hole with things–material things, ministry things, money, social networks, whatever, and pretty soon, the God water can’t even get through it anymore!  In fact, many of us experience a “dryness” in our Christian walk when our God hole is being filled with other things.  We can’t quite figure out why we don’t feel close to God.  When water comes–either blessings or trials–it can’t drain out of us.

So it sits there and stagnates, and sometimes it actually collapses part of our life roof.  Maybe we hit burn-out.  Maybe our marriage hits the rocks.  Maybe we end up with kids we don’t even know.  Maybe we just feel our lives are one, freak thing away from completely collapsing.

The point is to start now to unclog that God hole.  Pull out the tumbleweeds of anger, resentment, and discontent.  Learn to forgive and to let go of control.  Stop putting all of your faith in material things and money.  As you do these things, replace their spot in your life with God.

Prayer.  Church.  Slowing down the craziness.  Good Christian music.  Quality time with your family.  Putting God first.

Whatever you choose, now is the time to get that thing unclogged before you have a REAL problem on your hands!

By:  Staci Stallings

Solve for Y by Staci Stallings

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Solve for Y

My mother never particularly liked math, but I remember one thing she always told me when I was younger about algebra.  When kids would say, “But algebra?  When are we ever going to use this?”  My mom would say, “I use it every day.  Algebra says, ‘Let x stand for the unknown,’ and let me tell you, there’s a lot of unknowns in my life.”

The other day I was reading a book about how to make a quality school or a quality classroom.  As I read, the author kept saying how it is critical to get a student to understand why they need to learn whatever you are teaching. He said the failure to do so is one reason students get burned out and tune out.

The famous question, “When am I ever gonna need this?” comes to mind.  If kids don’t see the correlation between what they are learning and what they are going to need later in life, a few might learn it.  Most will learn it and then promptly forget it.  Others will never bother to learn it at all.

We see this as adults in people we work with.  They show up to work.  They even do some work.  But they do it half-heartedly and can’t wait for five o’clock to show up so they can go do something that really means something to them.

Unfortunately we also see this in our families these days too.  Couples get in a rut of going through the routine of days until the routine has become the relationship instead of the relationship setting the routine.  With our kids we have short fuses and even shorter attention spans.  It’s ever so much easier to set them in front of a Playstation and forget they exist than to make an effort to connect with them and get to know them.

I think the main issue behind all of this “opting out” of life goes back to algebra.  We are not solving for y.

Why am I doing this?  Oh, we ask ourselves that in a fit of frustration, but we never really bother to answer it.

Why am I raising this family?  When we get to the end, what do we want this family to be, and are the moments we have now pointing in that direction or some other entirely?

Why am I at work?  To earn a few dollars that will be gone in a month or a minute?

Why am I alive?  To “get through”?

I don’t think God’s answer to why is about surviving or getting through or just anything… I think God’s answer has to do with abundance of living.

If we are “just getting by,” why are we settling for that?  Of course, we don’t have to make wholesale changes like quitting our job or moving to a new state.  We can simply shift our understanding of why.

Why am I raising my family?  Because God granted me the gift of these children and this spouse.  No, they are not perfect, but even God doesn’t require perfection.  My job is to love them, to guide them, and to support and encourage them the best that I can with God doing most of it through me.  That is my y.

At work, the answer is much the same.  I’m not working to be top dog because if I am, someone is coming up very quickly to knock me off of that spot.  No. I’m at work to share Christ’s love—not necessarily by evangelizing but by loving those who work with me.  I can pray for them.  I can help them.  I can support them.  That can be my new y.

I plan to ask my Sunday School class when we start a new year to solve for y.  Why are you here?  Why do you come on Sundays?  Why is this important?

So now I ask you that question:  Why are you here–on this planet, in this family, in this situation right now?

Solve for y.

It makes a difference.

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2008

Website of the Week

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Welcome! I took a few weeks off from this topic as life had kept me busy off line. However, I really enjoy our authors & sharing their sites with you. Perhaps these simple posts might assist you in discovering a new author to read and enjoy.

This week I’m showcasing my friend Missy Tippens. In addition to being a prolific author, Missy is a pastor’s wife, active in their church, mother, daughter, neighbor and friend. How does she possibly manage to fit all this in? When you visit her website, you’ll find that Missy is a joyful, energetic woman who places her trust in God.

You can visit Missy’s website at: http://www.missytippens.com/