John 15:1-3 (NKJV)
“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, that it may bear more fruit.”
There is a little crepe myrtle tree in the backyard that I rescued from the garbage many years ago. My father had been pruning several large trees in his yard and kept some branches for neighbors who wanted the same. He threw one in the car encouraging me to plant it and just see what happens. A tree happened right in my own back yard that each year produces an abundance of tiny pink flowers. We cut back all the crepe myrtles for winter just as we always do. Living in Florida, all the plants and trees struggle with the seasons because it gets really warm one day and will dive back into the freezing temperatures the next. That’s why pollen is such a problem in heavily wooded areas. Anyway, the little tree isn’t showing signs of growth yet. I am wondering if I cut it back too far this time. Did I prune it so much that now it cannot grow and produce its array as before? It has come so far from the skinny dead stick that it once was that it would be a shame to see it die after all. There is one tiny leaf that seems to be budding if you examine a limb really, really close. Lord, I pruned it but you must bring it back to life.
I have been pruned by the Lord. Our daughter and son-in-law have announced that they will be moving to New Hampshire (21 hours away) to answer the Call of God on their life at a new and upcoming church. Onset emotional overload. Like a band aid being slowly ripped off my heart, I wonder if this time Lord the cut will be too deep. I have a carefully constructed expectation of what our life would be like now with cancer behind us and the wedding done. This would be the time that we enjoyed the peace and joy that comes when our mourning is turned to dancing. It has been three tough years for our family so now I just knew that the Lord would redeem our time together. Now this… I know that it is God calling them. I know where He calls you that He equips you. I know that every need they have will be met. I know that God is going to prosper them from the inside out and reach many people with the Good News of Jesus. Five years ago our oldest son answered the call of duty and spent a year overseas. It was hard to have my heart stretched 7000 miles around the world but we made it through and the Lord brought him safely back to us. Then for three years we have fought cancer with our son, he is now cancer-free, back in school and living life. Without any recovery time, our daughter married and left the nest. Now just five months after, she will embark on a journey miles and miles from home. My heart is full of pride and expectation but in the same moment it is cut and bleeding in desperation.
The Lord is my vine. I must remain in Him to thrive and prosper in this life. God is the vinedresser. It is His Responsibility to ensure that the fruit of His Spirit burst forth from my life to satisfy my soul and complete that which He created me for. I am being pruned today as the Lord cuts through my hard and callous heart yet again to expose me to the growth potential found in surrendering all my plans and expectations to His Word, Will and Way. I not asking the Lord, “Why” these two are going. It is quite clear. They have a message in their heart of a God who saves. They want to share it with the world. They are fruit from our life being released to the world. I just want to survive being pruned.
John 15:3-4 (NKJV)
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
New growth always requires removal of dead things. When the leaves reach past maturity and die, the wind whisk them away to become compost and fuel the next generation of trees. When fruit is ready for consumption, it will fall to the ground to die if not picked and consumed. The fruit bears the seeds of the future that will continue the reproductive cycle. Pruning allows us to move from season to season of life without growing comfortable in the process. Rather than living off the overripe and dying fruit of the past, God prepares us to produce new things for the future. We do not have to waste our energy, effort or resources sustaining those things which are past their season. God is always looking to prosper our soul and completely satisfy us. If we try to hold on to the past, we will live there. If we try to sustain our future with what has been provided for today, we will starve. If we refuse to surrender our life to His Pruning, we abort that which carries us into the future and forever. The more that we seek to abide in Jesus Christ, the weaker we become in our fully dependency on the Lord. His Grace is made manifest in our total weakness and complete submission to Him. It is in this place of engrafting when we can honestly say with a bleeding and exposed heart, “Not my will, but Your Will God” that we are finally going to experience His Glory in our life. It is the moment that we feel that we cannot survive in our naked and exposed state that we truly understand the necessity of full dependency on the Lord.
Deuteronomy 30:6 (NKJV)
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live.
When we think that we have nothing to give the Lord, He shows us what we have left. Coming into this year, I have prayed for revival and restoration in my heart and soul. It has been a long, hard and dry winter. I have exhausted all my resources to survive. I just knew that the Lord would begin to rain down in our life to refresh and renew us. This new change seems so drastic. It is fast and furious. Panic overtakes me sometimes but then peace like a river comes flowing, too. I have been very candid with the Lord. As I feel the knife poised over my heart ready to circumcise my flesh to expose His Spirit, I am not sure that I will survive. I don’t want to make this sacrifice for His Kingdom. Looking in from the outside, many would say that they are missionaries and praise God that our children are serving the Lord. Amen and amen! But when it is your kid that you are loading on a moving truck and moving across the country when you just got used to them not living in your house, you can judge me. For now, I am absolutely heartbroken that my baby is moving. Our family is close and very tight knit. We have dinner together on a regular and ongoing basis. We share our lives not just our names. I love that they love the Lord and have a heart to serve Him. But I want them in my life, too. So as we shuffle and rush to get their affairs in order with all the packing and planning that is going to be crammed into less than two weeks, I know that the Lord is working in my reluctant. The Lord is yet again circumcising and pruning my heart. His Effort is not in vain but to expose me. I want a deeper walk with Jesus. I do. I really, really do. So as I call on His Name to keep my heart from being irretrievably broken – it is with total trust that I can say it is that it is well with my soul. See I am falling apart, but in these moments it is the Lord holding me together. Who knows maybe what this is all about anyway? Less of me and more of Him. I am decreasing and He is increasing. My flesh is slowly dying giving way to more of His Spirit.
Psalm 34:17-18 (NKJV)
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit.
The Lord is near. Oh, I know that He is. He is the One who is catching my tears for His Redemption. He is the One who is making sure that they hit every seed that we have planted by faith. He knows how hard this is. He is sustaining me in my weakness. He is my Comforter in the mist of change. How do you explain a God who facilitates change and yet is our Source of comfort and peace through it all? He is a Good God. He is working out every detail of our life for Goodness and His Glory. He is the Vinedresser who is pruning my life to produce an abundance of new life. But He is no ordinary farmer, but provided the Vine who is my Source in the challenge of change. When my weakness is exposed, He becomes my strength. When I am powerless, He is all the strength that I need to hang on until His Plan falls into place. When I am broken hearted the Lord moves in closer than ever before saving those who surrender their spirit to accept His Life-Giving Spirit of Love. To know God is moving and causing discomfort, but then providing the Comfort I need to get to the other side of change is overwhelming. I cannot naturally understand how the Lord does all these things, but I know that He is.
Psalm 103:15-18 (NKJV)
As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His Covenant and to those who remember His commandments to do them.
I sure hope that I have not killed the little crepe myrtle in the backyard. It has been through too much to lose it now. I want to see it grow again and prosper with its array of tiny flowers. Imagine how much more the Father loves us and how He feels the same way with an even greater intensity. This is only a season of life. It may seem that we may not survive it but we will do more than survive if we remain connected to our Source of Life. His Name is Jesus. He is doing a work in our family’s life. I know it. As He prunes us – it is with purpose. We will know Him more in these moments if we run to Him rather than from the change that His Pruning is producing. I would love to talk these crazy kids out of this ridiculous move. But the truth is that I know it is God calling them. I want Jesus for my children more than anything else. So with a heavy heart, I will gather more boxes and answer more questions as I help them get ready to go. I know the Lord will sustain me as He prepares me in this season to prosper in the next. Lord, bring on spring. I am so ready to move and grow. Hold me and help me survive this season of preparation. Make me new in You!
Matthew 6:28-30 (NKJV)
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”