1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.
Israelites often saw themselves as part of a vineyard God tended (cf. Psalm 80:8-18, Isaiah 5:1-7). A golden sculpture of a vine over the porch of the Jerusalem Temple reinforced the image. But when Jesus used that image he made it more personal and more challenging. Only as his followers stayed united to him like branches to a vine, Jesus said, would their lives bear the kind of fruit God sought.
Lord Jesus, you are the vine; I am a branch. Keep me so closely connected to you that I will be a branch that bears good fruit. Amen.
Ever hear one of those sermons that just resonates with where you are at? I did--this week. This fall our small group decided to study gratitude. When we were deciding what to study a common theme of dealing with kids who are ungrateful kept coming up. Clearly as parents it was important for us to get to the bottom of where this ingratitude was coming from. Little did we know (or maybe we did and just didn’t want to acknowledge it) most of it comes from us and the model we set for our kids. Gulp. It’s led to many great discussions as a small group, and also for me and my husband as a couple. This Sunday we were talking about how keeping our kids busy is counter productive to helping raise grateful kids. When our kids feel like they need to be entertained constantly they forget how to just be kids. What’s worse is that so many of us feel that we need to help our kids be the best at something and so we shuttle them from practice to practice, pushing them to be the best. The schedules just keep getting fuller and fuller. I heard of one mom who kept her kid home from school the day after they had a full night of activities because her kid was just too tired from all the activities. What are we doing?
We are teaching our kids that busyness equals productivity, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Being busy doesn’t make you important or cool or worthy. It just makes you busy--and tired. What’s worse is it leaves you with no space to see yourself in the bigger picture of God’s plan for His creation. When we are rushing from place to place, we don’t have time to stop and notice what’s going on around us. At worst it makes us apathetic to the needs of those we come across. At best it just means we are missing out on God’s best for us.
So what do we do? The answer isn’t to sit your kids down and explain that you are moving to a remote area with no cell phone coverage and no sports leagues (as tempting as that might sound). Instead, as parents we need to start by taking a good look at what we are prioritizing. Where do we need to prune our lives? What good things do we maybe need to say "no" to in order to put some space back into our schedule? Every time I need to say no to one of my kids who wants to add something to the family calendar I make sure I use that time to explain why the answer needs to be no for now. I also try to make sure that when I pass on an opportunity for myself, I let my kids see that too.
Don’t get me wrong. As a family of 6 we have our share of busyness. The key we’ve found (and it’s starting to become a mantra) is to prioritize what is most important making sure that downtime is on that list too. It has to get scheduled just like dance class, swim meets, volunteering, youth group, date night, etc. All the things we add to our schedule are good and meaningful. But it's the unscheduled time that seems to be the most meaningful, as it is often not where God shows up but where I have the time to notice what He is doing. Where are you creating space and modeling it for those that are looking to you for an example?
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