Monday, March 30, 2015

Ugly Stump

There was a season in my life where God was doing some major pruning - from my job, to ministry, to relationships and friendships.  It came in different forms, this hacking off of branches within my life, from circumstances, to decisions of others, to close friends.  This pruning came in unexpected ways, and it felt relentless, and I felt betrayed.  It wasn’t like God was gently tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Now this is going to hurt, but this is why I need to remove this…” 

I felt shame, for that which once was a full thriving vine was now a stump.

And it hurt a lot…, and my faith was rocked as I asked God WHY?!, and tears flowed as the wounds bled.  

I felt ugly, exposed and alone.

I turned to His Word, and read the popular verses in John 15:  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.

I was familiar with this, and understood the concept that in order to produce better and stronger fruits, such as the fruits of the spirit in my life, like love, joy, peace, pruning needed to take place, but, what I did not understand. - Why the pain?  I kept reading in John 15 and verses jumped out at me.  

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.  You are my friends if you do what I command.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  John 15: 8,13,14,16

God calls me His friend.  God chose me.  He is pruning me, so that I can bear greater lasting fruit.  But…what about the pain!?  This feeling of being an ugly stump left all alone?  Why?

Then I re-read …Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.  You are my friend…  And I think about how there was a time in Jesus’ life where He felt betrayed due to circumstances, and the decisions of others, and from close friends. 

And it hurt a lot…, and He asked God why?!, and tears flowed as the wounds bled. 

He felt ugly, exposed and alone.

...Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?  (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"   Mark 15: 34

Joy and pain go hand in hand to reveal God’s glory.  

Why? It is a mystery.

   The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:26-28

 So my question of why does pruning hurt?  Just as I participate in Christ’s pain, I receive joy in the revealing of His glory.   Mysterious indeed, but I rest in that hope and wait for His glory to be revealed.

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13

- Sue Parrott

Monday, March 23, 2015

Replacing Our Wardrobes

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)

Have you ever been around someone who is starting a journey? Perhaps it’s a journey to lose weight, maybe a journey to stop smoking. Or maybe the goal is simply to live healthier all around. There is always the first phase of making the goal and getting excited to start. Then there is the second phase, or reality, as I call it, of actually going out and changing your habits to reflect your new journey. If you’re anything like me, the first phase always seems easier than the second.

                I entered my college years on a journey of renewal. I was the “Christian kid” in my public high school, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell if you spent any time with me. My lips were filled with filthy language, my attitude with anger and rage, and my lifestyle was probably not too far away from that of the Colossians in some respects. Though I had set a goal to stop using filthy language and change my lifestyle, I was still in phase one of my journey. It was not easy for me to suddenly change my habits, and I slipped up numerous times. Still to this day, I am so thankful for my roommates my freshman year, who put up with me and really lived by Paul’s words. At times, I’m sure they were “bearing with” me as I learned what it meant to truly follow Christ, and I can’t imagine how much gentleness, patience, and compassion that took. I can never thank them enough for showing me Christ’s love, by daily clothing themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…and bearing with me as I entered stage two of my journey.

   Here I am, almost nine years later, having finished Bible College and seminary, looking back on the progress I’ve made, knowing that I am, as my pastor would say, “radically flawed, and radically forgiven.” My college roommates demonstrated Christ’s love to me, and it’s that love that continually spurs me onward to daily replace my wardrobe; throwing out the old clothes of anger, bitterness, malice, slander, and filthy language, and replacing them with the new clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

As we approach Easter, remembering the humiliating death, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus, we can all be reminded that it is by his blood that we are made clean, dying to the old ways, and being resurrected with Christ in his new life. I’m convinced that we will never complete phase two of our journey until Christ’s glorious return, but through his death and resurrection, we are able to see who we were, and be reminded to daily replace our wardrobes. The journey never ends.

- Jake Houf

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


One of Jesus' disciples asks, "Lord, teach us to pray". (Luke 11)

He begins by sharing what we know as “the Lord’s Prayer” which most of us are quite familiar with, but then Jesus continues with this:

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’  And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’  
Luke 11:5-7

Sometimes in our intercession we encounter difficulties such as obstacles or silence in God answering.  It’s as if He is saying, “Sorry, you’re on your own, can’t help you right now.”  It isn’t easy to continue to trust that He hears and that He cares during that time of silence or apparent refusal to answer.

But God urges us to persevere:
 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11: 9-13

God knows how to give “good gifts” to His children.  Sometimes part of the gift IS the waiting!  Seems strange, but think about it...  Can you imagine what it would be like if we went before God, asked what we wanted, got it, and went on our way?  We would never grow in our spiritual life, or fully understand the relationship we have with God.

Just like in education when a child grasps a lesson and it becomes easy, the student advances to the next level to continue to develop the mind and achieve a higher understanding.  God allows difficulty and silence so we can learn and discover our weakness, causing us to commit our spirit to Christ and to crucify our will.  Then we receive newness of life, a further understanding and deeper relationship with our Father. 

Think about our example in Jesus of how to pray.
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22:44

Alone in the coolness of the night and the glow of the moon, at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was sweating, persevering in prayer.

And in His final moments on the cross, Jesus calls out His last prayer, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

Through His trials and difficulty, His will was crucified and death was overcome! 

Tuck Me In
Lord, tuck me in, this world is cold.
Darkness has come.
The silent moon floats in the sky,
Casting deep shadows that reach for my heart.

I lie here, unprotected.
The chill of the air the only blanket for my soul.
I curl my shivering body tight,
As I wait for You, in the silence.

 Father, thank you for your gifts!  Thank you for the difficulties that cause me to persevere in prayer.  Thank you for your silence that allow me to appreciate your good gifts.  Thank you for teaching us, your disciples, how to pray.  Thank you for your gift of grace that was given through the intense trial and difficulty of the cross.  In Jesus Name, Amen

- Sue Parrott

Monday, March 2, 2015

I'll Pray for You

I recently watched the movie Entertaining Angels – The Dorothy Day Story.  I was mildly entertained by this movie until the very end in which the final scenes gripped my heart as I saw the passion that burns within my soul portrayed on the screen in a story of this woman who did so much for the poor and hurting souls. 

Near the end of this movie, Dorothy feels betrayed and abandoned by her team of workers as they shared they had reached their breaking point from being overwhelmed and under-resourced as they served food and sheltered the homeless.  She leaves them and enters a church, calling out to God, “Where are you!?” and continues to dialog in a prayer, pouring out her heart, broken, spent and confused.  She leaves the church, resigned to be done doing His work. 

Late at night, she returns to the shelter and happens upon a female patron who was an alcoholic, stealing the shelter’s stash of money.  Chasing her to the door, she blocks her way.  The woman grabs a cane and begins to beat her trying to get her out of the way.  Out of defense and anger, Dorothy grabs the cane away from her.  The woman falls and Dorothy holds it up to strike the woman, and she stops.  You sense the revelation inside of her and she begins to speak to the woman with gentle kindness and love, although the woman screams that she can’t mean what she is saying because she is unlovable.  Sobbing the woman relents and Dorothy simply holds her. 

During the commotion her team is awoken and they begin to come out.  After taking care of the sobbing woman, Dorothy addresses her team in a beautiful speech.  She apologizes for her pride and renews her commitment to love the unlovable.  She shares that their ideals of their mission is never going to look like what she or any of the team would like it to look like, and they will never be able to live up to those expectations, but that God will not hold that against them.  Instead they are only to be faithful and to do just their part in what God is calling them to do.
 Dorothy Day put love into action.  She responded to God’s prompting.

Her story makes me think about how we sometimes comfort ourselves in the knowledge that if we fail to listen to God’s prompting within our hearts that God will use someone or something else to meet that need.

We see someone hurting, or in need, and we tell them, “I’ll be praying for you” and we may carry through with it and cover them in a prayer, but are we too quick to dismiss HIS prompting to do something? We think, “I would help them, but I just don’t have the time right now, or I’m doing enough, my plate is full or it’s not my place to step in.  I’ll pray that God will call someone to help them.”

And sometimes that is what God chooses to allow to happen, and someone else is blessed with the act of serving and touching their life in a meaningful way.

But…sometimes that is not what happens.  He called on you to act, to move.  And do not fool yourself… just as innocent people suffer the consequences from the actions of other people’s sin, so do innocent people suffer from our inactivity, from us not following God’s prompting in our hearts and minds. 

You not responding can cause further suffering on the hurting, those that feel unlovable. 

The reason God tells us so many times to love each other is because we learn that we, our beings, our very selves are lovable or unlovable from other people.  
“It is people who are important, not the masses.” 
-Dorothy Day

“Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.” 
-Dorothy Day

I John3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

- Sue Parrott