This song may have just brought me close to tears. Easily becoming my prayer right now.
"God I look to You
When I was little, I would look out my bedroom window every February/March and watch my dad prune all the apple trees in our yard. One by one, they would go from tall gangly, scragly trees to a stubby little plant that looked a bit like one of those funny metal wire back-scratchers, but upsidedown. The first year I watched him do this, I remember running out and asking why he was killing the trees… were they bad?
'No no no…' he replied. 'Only if I cut them down will they be able to grow big and tall again and grow very good apples for us to eat.'
It still doesnt make complete sense to me… why fruit trees work that way. And I still hate to see the chopped-off apple trees every spring. I think they’re ugly.
….and that’s how life feels right now. A bit ugly, and quite a bit hard. I had not really been able to figure out what was going on for the last few weeks… it felt like life was regressing. But today I read John 15, and suddenly it all made sense.
John 15 is the chapter in the Bible where Jesus is talking to his disciples about the Vine and the Branches. Now I’m from Washington - we have apple trees, in abundance. But Jesus lived in the middle east - where grapes, well, they’re ‘the thing’ over there. And while I’ve never watched my dad pruning grape vines, the analogy still makes sense.
I won’t quote all of John 15 in this post, since you can read it right here: youversion
But basically, Jesus has to prune us. There are times in our lives where he wants us to move FORWARD, but before we can move forward and bear wonderful fruit, we have to be pruned. The lackluster ‘branches’ of our lives have to be cut away so that only the good ‘branches’ can continue to grow strong and healthy.
And good golly, it’s not a fun process.
In the last few weeks i’ve felt confused about friendships, i’ve felt my confidence slipping, i’ve made some weird choices and hung out with even weirder people, and all the while just kind of disliked what was going on in life. I felt discouraged and even angry at times. A couples times I asked God what was going on, but I never stuck around long enough for an answer, so I just stopped sticking around, since I was a bit mad at Him, too. But after John 15 today… it is kind of all making sense.
I’m being pruned.
And yes, pruning sucks. But, if you read past the pruning part, into the middle of John 15, there’s hope:
We get to have God’s joy! We are named as friends! We are no longer servants! These things are SO much better than being approved of by the world. In John 15:18-19, Jesus says the world will hate us because it hated him; when we are confused about how the world treats us, we have only to realize it treated him that way first, and it is because we are becoming like him that it treats us that way.
And here’s the truth of the matter: I would rather be friends with God and have his joy than not go through pruning and only have fellow lost humans by my side. Hands down.
So with that revelation… I embrace the pruning and look forward to the JOY. :)
John 14:7 - “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
This is one of the most important parts of the Bible for people to read often/have memorized, in my opinion. Not because its important doctrine or theology or good for answering questions about Christianity… but because it is God’s heart for YOU. for ME. And with so much swirling around us all the time - opinions, people we compare ourselves to, hurt from the past and hurt still to come… this verse is integral to our remembering who we are IN CHRIST.
[follows is Isaiah 43:1-4 in the MSG version]
It’s just amazing. He would trade all creation for US. that’s hardcore love.
I’ve been thinking about peace today.
Or, rather, I’ve been needing peace today.
My mind is crazy. It goes at a mile a minute. I analyze situations, I question my decisions, I obsess over things… I never stop thinking 5 steps ahead. And sometimes, that’s just not really helpful. And by helpful, I mean peaceful.
So today, amid many emotional highs and lows, I realized I needed to just be at peace.
But how do you do that?
Well I dont know about you, but I looked up a bible verse. A couple, to be exact. I actually googled “peace bible verses” and came up with a whole list. Multiple whole lists.
So here’s a few of my favorites/ the ones I’ve been meditating on today:
Servant or Leader?
As humans, we naturally organize people into two categories: servants and masters, or leaders and followers. But there is a third category that Jesus asks us to participate in… many know it as the “servant leader”.
I’ve had small bits of leadership during my life, and this is never something that i’ve thought deeply about. Servant leading? Yeah, okay, totally. I’ve heard that term since I was a kid, in sunday school and on mission trips.
But in the recent future I’ve suddenly begun to have real leadership positions… I have people working under me, and I have to lead WELL… and I’m glad that there is a learning curve, because I have a lot of work to do! I like to lead, but I’m not always necessarily GOOD at leading, I’ve found.
And then today I stumble upon John 13. (well it wasnt too much of a stumble, really - since I’m reading through John)
This is the chapter of the Bible where Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Wow. Its kind of crazy. He is the leader of ALL, and yet he’s stooping to do something dirty and menial, but he’s doing it FOR THEM. He isn’t too much of a leader to serve. Because the right kind of leader is one who serves. Yes, a leader is needed to stand up and give instructions and organize and hold people to deadlines and all that… but there’s also this part of being a leader - a very important part - that included being willing to SERVE those who are following you. To be willing to do their jobs, or even jobs below what they do, in order to help them or care for them.
When you become a leader, you get a whole lot more responsibility. You become partially responsible for those who are following you, or working for you. Its easy to just get caught up with finishing your task, and forget about serving those you are working with.
And I’m determined to learn how to NOT do that. Like Jesus.
“I keep kicking at the curb with my worn out shoes
I keep running into strangers that say I know you
I don’t want to be a proud man, I just want to be a man
a little less like my father and more like my dad.
I want to hunt like David
I want to kill me a giant man
I want to slay my demons
but I’ve got lots of them,
yeah I’ve got lots of them.”
- NOAH GUNDERSEN - “David”. A song for men.
Strong as a Rock
I love Peter. My church is beginning a new sermon series on Peter after Easter, so I’ve been sort of doing my own “research” beforehand. This website: http://www.guidedbiblestudies.com/topics/simonpeter.htm has sort of a basic overview of Peter’s life/time with Jesus. It’s awesome.
The more I look at Peter, the more I see myself. Peter was passionate and loyal, but also frail and weak-hearted and rash when he should have trusted or had better faith. John was the “good child”… Peter was the leader. How many times have I been that in my life?
I love seeing how Peter’s change from fisherman to founder of the Church wasn’t instantaneous or even easy - it was JOURNEY, much like that of Pilgrim’s Progress. Peter makes sooo many wrong choices, some of which may even have been well-meaning. But he, like King David, always LEARNED from his mistakes. John was the devoted, loving follower. Peter went in and out, fearing and then trusting - but when he came out the end, it made him into a ROCK.
When Jesus named Peter “Petrus”, he was not referring to Peter’s PRESENT state - he was referring to what he would become.
How often do we not believe God’s words in our life because we look at ourselves and say “me? now? yeah right.”? But God doesn’t look at us NOW - he looks at what we can BECOME. Like Peter, he knows we’re humans.. we mess up… but he also knows that if we make it through, we will be strong as a rock when we come out on the other side.
All this pain