Fruit: Artificially Flavored

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Fruit Loops have long been on my list of favorite breakfast cereals, though I admit the list is hardly exclusive. If a cereal contains at least 70% sugar, it’s made the cut. But Fruit Loops stand out in that they’re vibrantly colored – like an edible box of Crayola crayons. Not only are they splendidly striking, but each and every hue ushers its own flavor. Now I understand the grape-flavored loop isn’t chiseled from an actual grape, but the taste is quite similar, or similar enough. At the very least, it reminds me of a grape, which has to count for something. Right? Being both colored and flavored as such, it must somehow channel the benefits of a grape, the nutritional value of the bunch. Naturally, we all know this isn’t true.

See, the Fruit Loops brand pulls no punches when it comes to its contents because it’s legally bound to disclose the information. And that is how I know Fruit Loops are artificially flavored. There isn’t an ounce of actual grape in a grape Fruit Loop, not a shred of real fruit. It is entirely fabricated and offers little to no nutritional value, not even a hint compared to its archetype. Our Christianity is often guilty of the very same.

Jesus was clear as to how we might produce real fruit, “Abide in Me.” He was just as clear as to what we’re capable of on our own, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” Yet so often we find ourselves forcing fruit where there’s none to be found – artificially flavored without a hint of value. We attempt days or even weeks apart from Him while going through the motions. Our souls recognize the cheap imitation and long for the nutrition of the true fruit found in a relationship with Him. And just as Fruit Loops can be considered an unhealthy option in relation to its intended source, so too can our artificial fruit do harm. Our actions independent of Jesus are not innately neutral, but rather starkly sinful. Again, we can do nothing without Him. We can produce nothing without Him.

If we, as followers of Christ, are to yield authentically organic fruit, we must remain connected to the Vine. The call to be grafted into Christ is ideal in illustrating how a useless stick can be used to produce the fruit of the vine in which it’s grafted. It further shows that when properly grafted, the branch has no choice but to produce fruit. It’s simply a byproduct of its connection. Artificially flavored fruit is not fruit at all.

Let’s be sure to produce real fruit the way God’s designed us to. Let’s abide in Him and forsake our fabrications.

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23

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Ripe for Romance

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“Yes. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.” Bambi’s owl friend wasn’t referring to a popular type of social networking, but rather the art of romance. While women are nearly always susceptible, a man seems to gather courage in the budding season, and with renewed determination, pursues his princess with everything he can muster. In college we even teased of a guaranteed success during this time of year, “Ring by spring or your money back.” What is it about this sprouting season that lends to year-long affections being put into action? Sure, Valentine’s is a great kick-off, but even that can be drowned in the rest of February. Perhaps it is the world around us, as if all of nature were in chorus, brimming with possibilities and flourishing with opportunities. Regardless of reasons, we are yet again in the thick of it. And for those with propositions in mind, the time has never felt more right.

Engagements are an incredibly unique part of a relationship; an all-important tarmac from which a marriage takes flight. The speed, the angle, and the even the trajectory of the relationship depends on the condition of the runway. Unfortunately, the tarmac is often overlooked. What’s often found disconcerting is dismissed as unimportant or is hoped to vanish once the couple is up, up and away. The runway’s obvious cracks are ignored. Its signals and directions are disregarded. And its length is frequently cut short. All of this can create an unstable launch with devastating consequences, some seen immediately, others while later in flight. So what is a couple to do in preparation or even reparation? Start from the ground, up.

My two, young daughters love playing with Mega Bloks. Never interested in just a block or two, they empty the bag completely, every time. Some blocks are sprawled under the couch, others are haphazardly kicked into the hallway for me to step on later, but the majority are kept within reach, ready for construction. The goal is nearly always the same, a tower. A big tower. They build it as tall as they can, one block upon another. Yet perhaps not too surprisingly, the tower always topples. Immediately they attempt to build the same tower the same way which ushers the same demise. But this is where Daddy shines as I’m able to aid in three ways primarily. First is my experience. As a kid once myself, I’ve built many block towers and have failed just as many times. Second is my objective observation. I can see the building process from a new, different perspective than those in the process and can easily identify a potential weakness. And third is my accomplishment. Through continual effort, I’ve built my own tower successfully.

During your engagement, invite others into your relationship. Seek those who know how to build a base, how to identify cracks or inconsistencies in your relationship, and how to successfully launch a marriage. And don’t settle for building as high as you can reach, but rather how high God can reach. It truly is a wonderful time of year, a sentimental season, and one ripe for romance.