Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let the 10 day outreach...begin

Well folks, tomorrow is the big day. We and my team leave for the small village of Caton to serve the church and the community for 10 days doing random things. We will be visiting ladies around the village, drinking tea, doing school assemblies and lessons, drinking tea, putting on youth groups, drinking tea, putting on girls nights, drinking tea, leading 2 church services, and yes, you guessed it, drinking more tea. I’m very excited about all that we’re going to do and am excited to serve them. They’re a great little church and are very excited about using us to launch out into the community and start what they’re calling, Faith-in-Action. Because of this theme we are bringing to the youth groups a little Hume Lake…with some Excusez Mwa videos. It’s going to be great!

Our host families are all lovely and make the best food. We aren’t going to go hungry that’s for sure.
Please pray that our team will shine Jesus’ light so brightly that we won’t be recognized, only Jesus. Pray that our team bonds together and works like a well-oiled machine using all it’s parts to produce greater output than we could alone. Pray for us individually, Katie, Corinne, Carita, Dillon, Laura and Friedi, that as we experience these 10 days Jesus will move and work in our own lives as well. Pray for the community, that they will be blessed and will come into contact with Jesus Christ over these next few days and the days beyond.

I’d also like to ask for prayer for me. I came down with a really nasty headache, cold, and cough last night and have spent all day in bed trying to get better for tomorrow. I’m the team leader and although I have an awesome team who can do just fine without me, it’s kinda important that I be there…especially since I am the only one who knows about Hume ;)
I don’t think I’ll be updating until I get back on the 7th…and then we only have 10 days left of this place called Capernwray. Oh. My. Gosh. It’s going by too fast.
Keep us in our prayers! Love you all!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

One month...

The 18th marked one month until school is over. 5 months ago I wrote talking about how it’s already been a month since I’ve been in England. I can’t believe it’s been 5. Time has flown by SO FAST. Seriously. I feel like only a couple of weeks ago I jumped off a plane all alone with a huge smile on my face, because I had been waiting for this moment for so long. Now, I’ve seen Big Ben, flew to Italy, ate Italian Gelato, saw the Coliseum, ate Crepes under the Eiffel tower, learned about Jesus in so many new and interesting ways, made lifelong friends who care about me and challenge me to be the best person I can be, and have had God rock my world in SO many ways. It’s incredible.

Today as I was heading back in a taxi after a lovely birthday party extravaganza in Lancaster with some of my favorite people, it hit me that it’s not always going to be like this. In 29 days it’s all going to change. These people who were strangers have become some of my best friends, and soon, we’ll all be leaving. Leaving to different parts of the world, putting what we’ve learned into practice, and knowing these girls, absolutely rocking this world for Jesus. I am so excited to see what God uses these amazing women for, I just wish they were all close to me so I could see it. You better believe that there will be lots, and lots, and lots of tears. Mascara dripping, choking, sobbing tears on the night of the 17th. These women who have become my family, only to be seen whenever we can afford to see each other. However, I am VERY excited about going to Canada, I feel like a Canadian now, I’m completely surrounded by them!

29 more days to soak up everything Capernwray Hall Bible School has to offer. 29 more days to walk in the beautiful green hills and scare sheep. 29 more days to perfect my English accent. 29 more days to meet a British boy and marry him- as long as he has a great fishing pond of course, (no daddy, I have not forgotten your conditions). 29 days to enjoy every moment of this place I’ve been blessed to call home for the last 5 months. I can’t believe it’s almost over.

I can’t wait to go home and set America on fire either.
And give my family a big hug. A really, really, big bear hug.
37 days until I come home. I hope you’re ready for me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Beautiful Sunshine

Spent the day praying for the world. Went on a walk with Jesus for 2 hours in the English Countryside full of green hills and sunshine. The most peaceful feeling I might of ever had. He told me that everything I’m worrying about will be ok. He’s got it.

A song that hit me in the heart was by a band called Tenth Avenue North. It’s called Empty My Hands and I hope it rocks your world today like it rocked mine.

I've got voices in my head
And they are so strong
I'm getting sick of this
Oh Lord how long
Will I be haunted by the fear that I believe
My hands like locks on cages
Of these dreams I can't set free

But if I let these dreams die
If I lay down all my wounded pride
But if I let these dreams die
Will I find that letting go lets me come alive

Empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with you

With you, with you

Cause these voices speak instead
what’s right is wrong
And I'm giving into them
Please Lord how long
Will I be held captive
by the lies I believe
my hearts in constant chaos
and it keeps me so deceived

But if I let these dreams die
If I could just lay down my dark desire
But if I let these dreams die
will I find you brought me back to life

Empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with you

Cause my mind is like a building burning down
I need your grace to keep me, keep me from the ground
My heart is just a prisoner of war
A slave to what it wants and what I'm fighting for

So wont you empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with you

With you, with you
I need you now Lord, with you

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Call me crazy.

I was reading my bible the other day, (like a good little Bible-college student does of course ;), and I came across a verse that rocked my world a bit. In fact, it rocked it so much I had to write it on my arm so I could remember it for the rest of the day. The verse was Isaiah 43:1
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

You are mine. What an incredible thing to be called. The King and Creator of the Universe calls us His. He has called each of us by name. He chooses us, us! to proclaim His glory. I was awestruck by the fact that in all the bazillions of people both in the past, present and future, God calls each of us by name and says that we are His. What a thing to identify yourself with. I know in my life I search to find my identity in so many different things. My friends, my family, my hobbies, the things I’m good at, however I never really place my identity in Christ, the one who calls me HIS. Why is it that for God it is so easy for him to say, “You are mine,” while us saying that Christ is ours is a totally different story? Why do we not place our identity in him? Are we afraid of what other people will think? Do we like the identity we’ve made for ourselves? Or are we afraid of knowing that an awesome, powerful and mighty God is able to change our world’s radically around if we allow him to be our identity?

Another part in Isaiah 43 that rocked my world was verse 6-7. “Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

We are called to bring God’s sons and daughters out of their chains. We are called to gather them and bring them back to the one who Redeems and Saves. We are called to bring the captives of this world in front of the God who calls them His and created them for HIS glory. HIS glory. Not ours. We are called to bring back a lost and dying generation to the founder of all safety. The one who calls us by His name and calls us His. That is our call, that is what we are here for.

Reading that blew my mind. My job here on earth is not to get a good college education, get a fancy job, make lots of money, marry a devilishly handsome man and have 5 children and a fast car and a fancy house with a picket fence and blue shutters. Those are nice things, and God can choose to bless me with them one day, but my first calling is to bring back the captives, the lost, the searching, and lead them to the Holy King who calls them by name, who created them for His glory. That is our purpose in life. That is what we are here for.

It’s a crazy mission….but I guess I’m crazy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ilkejraougbasldkjarepqoiudayudfhajksncv,aio. yeah.

Well, it’s been quite the tiring week. This whole week was designed for planning out 10 day outreach. We’ve had workshops on things like leading adult meetings, youth work, preaching, and object evangelism. It’s been really helpful and so interesting to learn so many different ways of spreading the word of God to all kinds of people.
Because of all this stuff going on though, I’ve been so tired! I’m pretty sure I’ve taken a nap every day. It’s crazy how fast the days are going and the weeks as well. Soon it’ll be my birthday, then it’ll be 10 day outreach, then there will be 9 days and Tiffany is coming, and then 1 more day and this Capernwray experience will be over. I’m actually quite sorry that Tiff is coming at the time she is, because I’m not going to be any fun, I’m going to be crying all over the place. I’ve absolutely loved this experience and all the things I’ve learned and all the friendships I’ve made. It’s so sad to me that most of these people I’ve been living with for the past 6 months I’ll probably NEVER see again, this side of time at least.
I’ve been to 2 workshops, leading adult meetings and preaching. (Yeah, weird right?) For my preaching we have to come up with a creative introduction that will lead into a sermon on Luke 15. For mine I’ve written a little ditty, (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, I think God is really instilling in my this gift,) and I thought I’d share it with you because other than that, I have nothing too exciting to share with you. So here it is, an intro to Luke 15.

I closed my eyes and turned the volume on my iPod up to drown out the sound of my dad’s tears as he paced back and forth on our balcony overlooking our Vineyard. “Get over it already!” I screamed in my head. “She’s gone! Just forget about her!”

I would never say that to his face of course. I loved my father and didn’t want to hurt him as much as she had. I always did what I was told, always followed his rules, never complained. I worked hard for my money, and I never once asked for more.

Her, on the other hand, never worked hard like me. In fact, she would often make me do the work for her as she sneaked out to whatever new and fun adventure she was going on. When Dad would have her work she would cry and complain that he didn’t love her until he would sigh and she’d kiss his cheek and leave. The morning she announced she was leaving I was coming to get Dad’s signature on a project. I stood at the door as I listened in horror as she said, “I want to experience life daddy! Give me my college savings and let me be who I am!”

I was silent as my dad slowly reached into his drawer and handed her the check with the amount of her college savings written in his bold, black ink. “I wish you wouldn’t do this.” He said in his calm and gentle voice. “You can’t hold me down! I’m going to live my life the way I want!” she yelled as she stomped out of the room. I quickly hid behind a curtain as she stormed out. I went back to the office, I did not want to see my dad’s face.

Months went by as I worked harder than ever before, trying to heal my father’s pain by my good works. I just wanted him to forget about her. What she did was unforgivable! Even as my Dad would receive word of all the things she was getting into, he continued to stand at the balcony, waiting for her to come home, his cell phone in hand, waiting for her call. The night we heard word of her getting into drugs, he continued to wait. The day we found out about the abortion she had, he continued to wait. Finally, the day we heard she was working in a prostitutes house, surely, surely he will not forgive her now, yet after his tears were dry and he had been on his knees in prayer, he stood up and continued to walk. Back and forth, his eyes stretched out, hopeful for her return.

2 years later, I was working hard again in the office, wanting to be the best daughter I could be, when I heard a noise. Music? In our house? There had been none of that for 3 years. Partying? Champagne? I could smell the BBQ and the smell of gramma’s baking. Foreign things, things my brain had not known for so long. I entered into the great room, to see all the staff, all my friends, all my dad’s friends, celebrating. Then, I saw her. She was sitting there, in a brand new dress from Burberry, one I had been saving up for months, smiling as people came and hugged and kissed her. My father, his hands on her shoulders, was absolutely beaming. The glass I had in my hand fell on the tiled floor and shattered, and all eyes were on me. “What is SHE doing here!” I seethed through my teeth. “Your sister has come home!” my dad rejoiced. “Be happy for her love, she was once dead, and now she’s alive!” I closed my eyes and then looked straight at her. “If only you knew, what this family has gone through, what our father has suffered, what I’ve done in order to help us forget your little stunt, if you knew, you would not of come back.” I ran out of the room as hot tears fell from my eyes.

How many of you feel as your life as a good Christian is not as special as those who’s stories are more exciting, more sinful? There’s a story of this in the Bible, a story of an older brother, who did everything right, but never felt recognized for being good. Turn with me to Luke chapter 15.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Vineyard

So I kind of, sort of, wrote a short story. I guess it's come out of what I've been learning lately with God pruning me to produce better fruit in my life. It hasn't been easy, in fact it's hurt having him pull me out of things I was so entangled in, even when they seemed like such good things. But I know that this will produce the sweetest fruit if I allow him to fully cultivate me into the woman he desires for me to be. I call it The Vineyard.

The Vineyard.
The door creaked open as the silhouette of a shadow shone through the dimly lit hallway. “Time to wake up, beloved,” a old man whispered to my still sleeping mind. “7 more minutes” I lazily told him. He chuckled, a laugh that was drenched in life and love. “If we wait any longer, you’ll miss your own surprise.” The suggestion teased at my slowly waking mind, and I bounded out of bed. “Give me 5 minutes.” I told him. The same laugh echoed through the hallway as his boots pounded down the stairs. I quickly pulled on my dad’s old sweater and a pair of jeans. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I needed to feel as comfortable as I could today. I quickly glanced in the mirror, only to frown with the same frown that found my face every day when I looked at the reflecting glass. “Not much of beauty again today, are you?” I tugged at my normal brown hair, looked down my slightly larger nose, and stared at my green-blue eyes that never seemed big enough. “Are you coming, Beloved?,” the old man called from the bottom of the stairs. “Yep.” Another sigh into the mirror and I walked slowly to the door, closing my mind off to all the negative thoughts inside my head that would wage war inside me later no doubt. I walked down the stairs to see the old man holding out a pair of gloves that seemed so ancient that the dinosaurs probably invented them. “Take care of these, you’re gonna need them today.” I reached for them begrudgingly, not excited at the thought of doing anything that had to do with the use of gloves. “What are we doing today?” I asked as the old man opened the giant oak door to a crisp, cool morning just woken up by the glittering sun. He turned to me and smiled a sad smile. “Pruning, beloved.” He reached out his old, weathered hand towards mine and pulled me out the door.

We walked out towards the vineyard, enjoying the sound of the bird’s morning orchestra, and the sight of a new day, clean, forgiven, all of yesterdays mistakes forgotten. I looked out towards the vineyard, stretching out from eye to eye. The old man had many vines, and he took care of each of them on his own. I never knew how he had time to take care of them all, but he never failed to touch each one every day. We came to a row of newer, younger vines, and the old man stopped me. “Do you see this vine here?” he asked. “Yes.” “Well, this is a very special vine. It’s quite new, but I am especially fond of it. This vine is slowly growing into something much stronger that will bear much fruit when I’m done cultivating it.” I carefully searched the vine, trying to see what the old man saw, but all I could see was a small branch, slowly wrapping itself around the bigger branches. I scrutinized it some more, until I found something that did not look quite right. “What is the vine doing right here?” The old man knelt down beside me. His old eyes got sad, and the wrinkles around his mouth formed into a sad little smile. “It’s trying to attach itself to the weed. Little does this little vine know, the weed will only choke the vine until it withers and dies and can no longer bear fruit. The little vine does not understand why it can’t be apart of both weed and branch. However, we have to let it stay attached to it a while longer, before it can be properly pruned.” He smiled and patted my head. “Come on beloved, I have more to show you.” I stood up slowly and started to walk behind him, but my mind was on the vine. “Why would it attach itself to something so harmful?” I wondered. Suddenly, I saw myself looking through the door of my room, watching myself frown at myself in the mirror. My heart throbbed and there was a pain around my wrist that I hadn’t felt before. I rubbed it, trying to make the aching stop. “Are you coming, beloved?” I heard the old man call. “Yes, I’m coming.” I said as I held my wrist and started to run after him.

We walked for what seemed like forever. The old man telling me stories about his vineyard and the crazy things that had happened to him. We walked and talked and the old man gave me grapes off the vine to taste. When the laughter from our mouths echoed into the vineyard the old man turned quiet and continued to walk. The sad look in his eyes growing brighter as he looked towards the now bright lit sun. “What is it?” I asked, hoping that talking about it would take away that same sad look. The corners of his mouth turned up and he sighed. “There are vines here that are harmfully choking themselves and the vines around them with the weeds. We have lots of pruning to do here in order to help them grow strong and in line with the great vine again.” He put on his own pair of worn gloves and touched the most tangled, messy vine. The vine looked hopeless to me. Destructively tangled around every weed imaginable, forming itself in the shape of something reckless and un-vine like. “I don’t think you can save this one, sir. I think it’s too twisted.” The old man lifted up his head, and there was a different look in his eyes. A gleam that anything was possible. The corners of his eyes crinkled up as he smiled his gentle smile. “Yes, it is twisted beyond what your eyes can see. But I don’t just see what everyone else sees when they look at the vine. I see it’s potential, I see a straight vine that when tethered to the stronger branch, will produce more fruit than anyone else thought possible.” He looked back at the vine, closed his eyes, and took off his gloves. Using his old, sure hands, he straightened the vine, pulling it out of the weeds and gently twisted it around the stronger branch. Sometimes, he pulled off pieces of the vine that were too engrained in the weed. With each pull, something pulled at my heart, making me remember things of my past. With each tug I saw myself lying to my parents, sneaking out at night, talking bad about my friends, trying that first sip of poison in a red cup, kissing that one boy. It felt as if he was tearing out all the bad things I’ve done, scraping them until they were raw and honest. Bending the branches of my life into a new formation, bending them around the greater vine. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of the past which I was ashamed of. I didn’t understand why he had brought me here. The old man suddenly lifted his head and his eyes locked with mine. “Come here, beloved.” He whispered. I sat down in the dirt next to him. “Give me your hand.” I slowly lifted my hand towards his, stopping when I saw fresh blood on them. “Why are your hands bleeding?” I asked, curious. “Why didn’t you use the gloves?” He chuckled, lifting his eyes up towards the sky. “The gloves get in the way when I’m trying to heal the vine. Only when I use my hands, can I feel the vine and know where it’s trying to go.” “But doesn’t that hurt? Especially when you’re untangling the vine from all those weeds?” The sad gleam in his eyes sparked again. “Yes, beloved. It pains me every time I have to straighten out the vine and pull it out of the weeds. The weeds are thick and sharp and they cut into my skin. But when I see that vine that seemed so hopeless before, now straight and growing in the right direction, the pain in my hands is forgotten.” I smiled a sad smile. “Whenever you pulled the vine out of the weeds, all I could remember were bad things I had done.” I told him, admitting to the guilt that was pulling at my heart. “Yes, that happens sometimes.” He replied. “Let’s keep walking” He reached out his hand, and only then did I notice that it wasn’t just old and worn, it was completely covered in scars. Especially at his wrists. One giant circle of a scar peeking from behind his flannel jacket. I grabbed it, and let him pull me up. As he grasped my hand, warmth spread through my body, and the guilt that I was feeling vanished. “Come on beloved, there’s so much more to do.”

We walked until we reached a darker part of the vineyard. The sun hid behind the clouds, taking it’s warmth with it. I could smell the faint smell of smoke. “What is this place?” I asked. The old man said nothing for awhile, and I watched as faint tears spilled out the corners of his eyes. “These vines are dead. I twisted them as much around the greater branch as I could, but they continued to wrap themselves around the weeds which choked the life out of them. They did not like my pruning, and they withered away. We have to burn the branches now.” I watched as he laid his hand on the dead vine and slowly pulled it out of the weed. With a quick thrust he pulled the remainder of the vine out from it’s grave. Carefully, gracefully, he placed it in the fire, watching as it turned to ash. “It really hurts you to put your vines in the fire, doesn’t it?” I questioned. “Yes, beloved it does. I do not want any of my vines to end in the fire. I long for them all to produce good fruit. But sometimes the weeds become more appealing in the now, instead of the future of good fruit, so the vine attaches itself to it. I do all that I can to save the vine, but in the end, the vine has a choice, and sometimes it chooses it’s way rather than my way. Then there’s nothing left I can do.” He sighed, as he watched the growing flames. I scrutinized what was left of the branches. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed something, and called out to the old man. “Look!” I exclaimed. There, underneath the branch, was a small vine, slowly forming itself around the greater vine. The old man smiled as he stroked the vine. “Sometimes, out of the fire from the destructive vine, a new, clean vine grows in the right direction. There is not always fire for those who wrap themselves around the great branch, even those who play with it.” He patted my cheek and grabbed my hand. “Come beloved, I have one last thing I wish to show you.” I smiled as I looked at the slowly forming vine, and started walking again with the old man.

The sun was setting as we reached a spot I had seen before. Here was the row of newer vines, young and fresh and full of potential. The old man led me to the vine he had showed me earlier, the one slowly attaching itself to the weed. My heart grew sad as I looked at the vine and remembering all I had seen this day. I truly hoped this little vine would not go through the fire. “What are we doing at this vine?” My eyes searched the old man’s face. Once again he smiled that sad smile. “This vine needs a bit of pruning, beloved. You see how it’s slowly attaching itself to that weed? Well, we have to take that away. But I’m not going to do it this time, you are going to.” “Me?” I asked. I didn’t want to prune the vine. It seemed painful, even though it was just a vine. “I don’t think I can,” I told him. “Why not,” he asked. The question seemed dumb to me now. Why couldn’t I prune the vine myself? I looked at my hands and looked down, ashamed. “Because I don’t want to get scars like yours.” I whispered quietly. “I think pruning that vine will hurt me, and I don’t like being in pain.” The old man put his hand under my chin and lifted my face up to his. “Yes beloved, I know it hurts, the pain will be deep, and the scars will last for awhile, but just wait until next season, this vine will produce such sweet grapes, so much sweeter than they could now, and your scars will heal. All scars do.” He kissed my forehead, and handed me the pruning tools. “I’m going to go check on some other vines now, they need my help now.” He said, and started to turn away. “You’re not going to stay here with me, and make sure I’m doing it right?” He chuckled, “I’ll still be with you, but sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes. Just make sure you engrain the vine around the great branch, you’ll get it right, I promise.” He whistled as he walked away, and the sound soothed me. I looked at the vine, and sat down in front of it. I stared at my hands, seeing the naked skin, un-wrecked with scars, and sighed. “Scars heal.” I muttered as I grasped the vine. Pain seared my hands, burning them. My eyes closed and I could see me the day I was first told “No” for doing something wrong. My hands continued to twist along the vine and more memories flashed before my eyes. My first temper-tantrum. My first spanking. The first time I said a bad word. The first time I lied. The first time I disobeyed my parents. The first time my friends brought me to a party with drinking. The first time I woke up on the bathroom floor, drunk. This morning, when I criticized my body. Faster and faster they came, hitting me like a ton of bricks as I worked my hands through the small, tangled mess of the vine. I could see the blood on my hands from the small thorns that had grown on the vine, cutting into my skin. But I could not stop, I could not stop until the vine twisted itself around the great branch. I tried to ignore the thoughts racing through my mind, but they continued to haunt my thoughts as I worked. When I reached the part of the vine attached to the weed, I pulled and pulled, but it would not let go of the thing destroying it. Tears spilled out of my eyes as I saw my life through the mirrors of my eyes. “You’re life is a waste” a new, haunting voice whispered to me. “Why not enjoy it and do whatever you want while you have one?” The haunting voice grew louder in my pounding ears. “Live for yourself. Do what you want. Be who you want. You want to be pretty? I can make you pretty,” the voice taunted. “You want to be thinner? I can do that. You want luscious hair? I can do that. You want bigger, prettier eyes? Oh my sweet, I can do all those things. Just wrap yourself around me. These ‘weeds’, as you call them. Are they really that bad? I think they’re fun. I think they’re new. Much more exciting than that boring old branch. My fruit is sinfully delicious. It can make you be anyone you want to be. Just wrap yourself around me, my darling. Choose my branch….choose me!” The voice was screaming in my head now, the tears spilling down my cheeks as I gripped the vine with all my might. “No!“ I heard a voice unlike mine say. Suddenly, a gentle whisper broke through the chaos that was around me. “this vine will produce such sweet grapes, so much sweeter than they could now, and your scars will heal…” I opened my eyes, and saw my hands. They were caked in blood, and the scars were deep. The pain was immeasurable. I held them tightly together, the salt of my tears making them sting. A few quiet moments passed me by, until a light hand touched my shoulder. “Beloved,” he said. “Can I help you finish?” I nodded my head slowly as the old man knelt down beside me. He grabbed my hands in his and together, we twisted the vine around the great branch, forming it into a new creation. As we did this, I could see not only the blood from my scars sealing the new branch into place, but the old man’s as well. With one last twist, the vine was secure in the hold of the strong branch. I smiled as the old man took both my hands in his and kissed them. He said nothing, only looked in my eyes. I didn’t need to say anything. Somehow I knew he understood all that had happened as I pruned the vine. He pulled me up, and put his arm around me. “What will happen to the vine?” I asked. He smiled that old, familiar smile I loved. “Just a little time longer, and you’ll see.” He chuckled and pulled me close as we walked back towards the house.

“It’s time beloved.” I heard the old man say into my sweet-filled dreams. I opened one eye, to see light pouring through the lace curtains in my room. I got up, put some jeans on and pulled a sweater over my head. The mirror caught my attention again, but before I could look into it to see what a mess I probably looked at, the old man’s face peered through the crack at the door. “You are beautiful beloved. Come now, there’s something I want to show you.” I turned away from the mirror and grabbed his hand and smiled as he squeezed it gently. I could feel his scars. Somewhere, I knew there was a scar shaped like mine. Only, mine in the few months, had quietly begun to fade. We walked out the old oak door to the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. The sky was painted with pinks and oranges, streaming with sunlight that poured through every pore. “It never gets old, the sunrise?” I questioned. The old man turned his old, worn face to mine. “No it doesn’t beloved. It’s a new day, full of new mercies. Absolutely full of them.” He smiled and guided me towards the vineyard. We reached a familiar spot. My heart quickened at the sight, remembering what had taken place months before. The scar on my hand began to tingle, and I held it tightly. The old man guided me to the vine, and smiled. “Look there, beloved. Can you see that attached to the vine?” I looked, dreading the little thing to be attaching itself to more weeds, but all I could see was two grapes, dangling from the vine ever so gently. They were perfectly smooth, round, and had the deepest color of purple I had ever seen. I laughed as I looked at it, and the old man began to laugh with me. “Miraculous, isn’t it beloved?” I smiled at him, remembering the pain that the vine had gone through in order to produce such beautiful fruit. “Now,” the old man said, as he delicately plucked the two grapes from the vine. He placed \one in my mouth, and I closed my eyes as I savored the richness of the sweetest juice I had ever tasted. His eyes sparkled as I smiled. “Cultivating the vine is hard sometimes beloved,” he whispered. “But when done in my care and love, it produces the sweetest fruit.” He hugged me as silent tears of joy pooled at the corners of my eyes. As we walked back towards the house, I turned back one last time to see the vine, my vine, and smiled as I saw it slowly forming itself around the strong branch; a branch in the form of a cross.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing..” John 15:1-5

Friday, February 4, 2011


Jesus never said following him would be easy. He never promised a life absolutely filled with rainbows, puppies and sunshine. He said there would be storms, he said things would be hard, he said we would have to be pruned sometimes.

What is this pruning? Pruning is when a vineyard man, I don’t know what the technical term for him is, cuts off bad pieces of the vine, throws them in the fire, attaches what’s left of the newly formed vine to a stronger vine and tethers them together so that they will grow together into a stronger vine that will produce more grapes.

Jesus does this with us. He pulls us out of the weeds we’ve attached ourselves too. He cuts off the bad pieces that are producing sour grapes. He attaches us to the strong vine. His vine. He tethers us to Him so that as we grow, we grow together, and that the fruit we produce is stronger, richer, riper, sweeter, than any other fruit in the vineyard. But it hurts to be the vine. It hurts to have the weeds you’ve made yourself comfortable with torn away from you. It hurts to have your body stripped of the bark that makes you feel secure and cozy. But as soon as the gardener grafts you into the new vine, the new vine, the tears start to fade, and the water from them goes deep into your roots. New bark grows in harmony with the new vine. Bark that is stronger, firmer, deeper. And then after the seasons go by attached to this vine, spring comes and the grapes are giant and juicy and make the sweetest juice.
Pruning hurts. It shakes everything you hold onto and throws it on the ground to be put in the fire. It breaks branches. It removes bark.

But the fruit from the pruning produces the sweetest fruit.

And at the end of pruning season, Jesus takes us by the hand, hands us a great big glass of grape juice, and tells us to look at the vineyard. And as you lift your eyes out, you see the vine has grown. And it’s wrapping around a giant branch shaped like a cross. Forming itself to be more like Jesus.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit….”