1 I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

John chapter 15, verses 1 and 2, from the New Living Translation

We live out in the country. Now for you city-folks, it’s a rural area. We could look to the south and there are lots of trees. Look to the east, trees! Look to the west, trees! And up until this week, we could look to the north and see trees. But not now. That property has gone through what is known as “clear cutting.” With the except of a few very small trees, all of the trees are gone. We do have a view now of the next hill over–but because there are no more trees. It’s a beautiful view–but still–we miss those trees. The landscape looks much different now than last week. 17 acres of trees are gone to be repurposed for other things. And it’s our changed view that inspires today’s musings.

You are probably familiar with this morning’s passage about pruning. There’s a high probability that even though you are not a horticulturist (but then again, maybe one of you are a horticulturist), you understand the principle of purning. But like a lot of principles of the Bible that you may understand–they take on new meaning when it’s happening to you. Sure, we all understand what Jesus meant by “pruning”–but when WE are the ones being pruned–well, that’s just different; even though it’s not. Let’s get blunt right here, right now. Pruning is often painful.

We think we’re doing pretty good. We’re starting to see the fruit being produced; maybe even in great quantities. Life is moving along rather smoothly; well, at least as smoothly as it can. Then all of a sudden–BAM!!!!!! God’s pruning shears are turned in our direction. It “feels” different than when we look at it from the outside! And drastic changes happen; changes we never anticipated or saw coming. So, how do we handle the times of God’s pruning? Are YOU going through a time of God’s pruning?

We didn’t see the clear-cutting coming. And the property owner never asked us what we thought about clear-cutting his property. But it happened, baby! Now we have a choice in front of us. We can whine and reminisce about the good old days when all those trees were there. Or, we can take in our new view, a beautiful view that we couldn’t see until all those trees were harvested. We can grumble; or we can anticipate watching the new growth appear in the coming months and hopefully, years. I’m a deer hunter–and this “pruning” has really messed up the area I hunt. I probably won’t see many this upcoming season at this spot. But I understand that in a year or two, it will get much better. So, I’ve just got to be patient–and appreciate what we are now seeing. Besides, I have access to other hunting spots!

Back to pruning! Pruning isn’t about taking away–it’s all about preparing for even more than before! Remember this if and when you enter into the pruning times. And to my United Methodist friends, sisters, and brothers–this is true for us as well. As we discern God’s Future for us, there will be pruning; pruning is necessary for growth! Pruning isn’t a little snip here and a little snip there. We may lose some things we thought–ONLY thought–were important and we just need to hold on to them. But. . .if we see and gladly accept the things we might lose as God’s Pruning, then we are going to see even more and greater fruit.

Twice a year we venture down to see family and friends in central Florida. That journey takes us by orange orchards; both active and abandoned. It’s obvious to notice that some orchards have been abandoned. Their limbs haven’t been pruned. And the quality and the quantity of fruit greatly dimishes. Many of the orange trees are either dying or dead. All because they haven’t been pruned. But the active orchards–the ones being pruned–are green and alive with fruit. And what pruning does for orchards–God’s pruning does the same for us.


Making For A Better View

Well, our last full day at this cabin. As I was sitting on the back porch, my eyes were not drawn to the beautiful mountain peaks, but to something unexpected. It wasn’t beautiful at all. In fact, it was in great contrast to those Smoky Mountain peaks we have enjoyed this past week. Would you like to see what I noticed? It’s nothing like the pictures I have posted, so a disclaimer is in order: Not for immature audiences due to it’s starkness:

Blue Mountain View Cabin

One might wonder why in the world would someone, anyone cut down those beautiful trees? I’m not a ultra-extreme tree hugger, so it did not take me long to figure it out. They were cut down so we, and others who stay here, could see those majestic peaks. See?

Blue Mountain View Cabin

There are other benefits to the removal of those trees. One is that the undergrowth is given a better opportunity to grow, thus reducing the amount of erosion. The tree trunks and limbs begin decaying, adding back to the soil, making it richer and better. Then there’s that view. None of these would happen without the chainsaw cutting down those trees. There’s a spiritual lesson for us right here. Tree huggers may not see it, but it’s here.

Remember the benefits of controlled cutting: undergrowth can thrive reducing erosion, decaying limbs and tree trunks add nutrients to the soil for plants to grow better, insects collect around the cuttings for birds to have food, and one can see the view for which we came. Sometimes things in our life can grow so tall that we cannot see our God’s desired destination for us–which is to become more and more like Jesus.

Sometimes there are things in our heart and especially our mind that must be cut down. We call this “God’s pruning”. He cuts off the dead parts of our life because they are a threat to the living parts. Now get this, He even cuts off productive parts of our lives as well. Why would he do that? Glad you asked. The answer is found in John 15, verses 1 and 2:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of Mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

New Living Translation (emphasis mine)

Speaking from personal experience, pruning is neither easy nor pleasant. Truth be told, pruning is downright painful. But I am understanding the purpose, and the love behind God’s pruning. What is cut away in my life is like those limbs and tree trunks–it’s enriching the soil of my life. My “mess” becomes His “Message”; not a bad trade if you ask me. Furthermore, the pruning of my productive part will decrease my production for a short time, but the long-term result is an even greater production for my Father. Again, however you look at it, this is a really great deal. It’s like trading in an old clunker car for a brand new car–without paying for the difference between the two.

So, if it feels like God has had His chainsaw out–it’s for our good. And when the pruning shears come out–get excited! There is a greater harvest coming for Our Father!