Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Purposeful Pruning

“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”
(John 15:2).

My husband and I recently took a trip to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. Although I was more interested in the flowers, I did see the bonsai display in the huge conservatory. I didn’t know too much about bonsai other than the fact that it involves much pruning and training to achieve the desired appearance. As I looked at the tiny trees, I was amazed to discover that some of the pruning had begun as much as 80 years ago!

Two thoughts came to me as I looked at those incredible plants. As a bonsai tree grows, the pruner must vigorously cut off various branches to develop the right shape and size. Even healthy growth must be cut if is not going in the planned direction. There is also much waiting involved. Sometimes it takes decades for the plant to become what the pruner desires it to be. Once that goal is reached, there will still be maintenance pruning as long as the tree lives.

I realized that my life could be compared to one of those trees, and that God my Father is the patient pruner. He started me from a small seed and has watched me grow for decades. Many times He has cut off unhealthy branches in my life, but He has also cut off what seemed to me to be good growth as well. He will cut what is necessary for my life to take and keep the shape He has designed specifically for me.

Those bonsai trees achieved the purpose for which they were created – to display the creativity and patience of the people who shaped them, as well as to provide enjoyment to those seeing them. If and when I don’t like the pruning and shaping God is doing in my life through my pain, I want to remember that I am being conformed into the perfect image He has chosen just for me. And it is good.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, whether painful for pleasant, help me to trust Your pruning and shaping of my life. Amen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Courage through the Storm

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50)

We have experienced very severe storms here lately on the east coast. Watching the torrential rains and hearing the severe winds, I remembered a recent sermon our pastor gave.

The above verse is from the story of Jesus walking on the water to the disciples during a storm. Our pastor pointed out something new to me. Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him. The word “made” here means to compel or command. Jesus knew the storm would come, yet he made the disciples go out into the lake. Of course at the time they had no idea what was ahead of them, but Jesus did.

In the throes of this storm, when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water they were terrified. Jesus’ words, “It is I”, are the same words used by God in the Old Testament when He revealed Himself to Moses as “I AM that I AM”. The Eerdmans Commentary defines this expression as follows: “God will prove himself to be ever dependable and sufficiently resourceful to meet every need.” Jesus was saying to them that He was there with them, in total control of everything – the Great I AM. They were to take courage and not fear.

At times we may question why God would deliberately send us out into the storms of ongoing pain or illness. We may feel He doesn’t care that we are sinking, beaten by the wind and waves. Yet God uses these storms of life to show us who He is. He is our Deliverer, our Savior, and in control of every crashing wave and raging storm that we face. He sometimes has a bigger plan than simply our comfort. He wants to change our hearts so that we will have the courage and faith to trust Him completely, regardless of our circumstances, perhaps impacting others in the process as well. Take courage! Whether He calms our storms or holds us through them, He is still the great I AM.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me the courage to trust You through each storm I face, knowing Your power and presence are with me through them all.