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“Fruit Basket”, oil on wood“I am the Vine;  you are the branches.  Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit.  However, apart from me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”   John 15:5

Fruit is not necessarily the result of productivity and hectic schedules.  We are driven to succeed, to prosper (at the expense of our souls) and to produce results that can be measured and taken to the bank.

People are no longer referred to as people, but as consumers, customers, or even (as was said to me once by a star-struck elder) as cattle, to be driven down the hallway and given information on How to Become a Member.  Emerging from the room some thirty minutes later, with their steak knives and information packet (never mind that they went forward for prayer, not membership) they go forth glassy-eyed and pacified, back to their unexamined and unexplained lives.

This is not fruit.

When God tells us to be fruitful, he is saying far more than just increase in number.  Earn more. Be more. Fruit is both quantifiable and qualifiable;  it means increasing in soft skills (think interpersonal relationships) and in competence.  But before any of that can happen, and far more important to God, is to increase in the Fruit of the Spirit.  Outward success means nothing if we’re not known for our love, our gentleness, our patience with people.

Pastors are front-line mental health workers, whether they want to acknowledge that or not.  Most people seek some form of pastoral counseling when they need help;  we want our questions answered, even more than we want our problems solved.  We want God with skin on.

We can’t do this without spending time with God, in the Word, in prayer, and worship.  Ministers can’t minister, can’t pastor, or shepherd the people, without this.  It’s not enough to just want the title, or the office.

Being out of work for the last year has been a blessing in disguise.  Since 1998, it has been non-stop trauma, hardship, and crisis: domestic violence, adultery, divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy, illness (emotional and physical) two college degrees, single-parenting two teenagers, and endless car trouble, financial difficulties, and housing problems.  I haven’t stopped or slowed down, until this past year, because if I stopped, it would all fall apart.  This took a huge toll on my spiritual life, which affected my emotions, my thinking, my physical health, and my finances.

Now that the world has stopped spinning, and I’ve been disentangled from other people’s agendas (pastoral or otherwise) I can finally breathe.  I will be forty-eight years old next month.  There are things I want to do, and things I never want to do again.

I wrote awhile ago that I was finished with secular counseling, and I have great peace about that.  They don’t have any answers, or any spiritual authority, or knowledge of the Word and ways of God.  For me, personally, pastoral counseling works.  Someone who knows how to take the tools of the mental health world, and integrate (graft) them with the power of the Holy Spirit, and be God with skin on.  The best counselors and teachers I have had, including those in secular settings, have been Christian.  On the other hand, some of the worst counselors and teachers have also been Christians.  Go figure.

All I can think is that it has to have something to do with bearing fruit.  When a pastoral counselor veers too far off track into the limits and dictates of the clinical world, we waste time and money.  When we ignore the clinical pieces, and treat everything as though it’s a spiritual problem, we get flaky.

I have to go and get ready for a doctor’s appointment, and then to stop and look at office space.  The doctor’s appointment is for my ongoing battle with depression over this ongoing situation with my own counselor, and the office space is for……well, we’ll see.

Have a blessed day, people.

Bartolomeo Bimbi Citrus Collection des Medici

Bartolomeo Bimbi Citrus Collection des Medici (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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