Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Paul Bunyan Pruning


When I was in college I came home one weekend to find that my dad had cut down every single tree in our backyard, including my favorite, the one with the limb that had curved into the small of my back just right, the one where I spent hours reading Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Secret Garden.

I understood why he did it. It was the apples, of course.

Inedible crab apples plunked off the trees, littered the grass and rolled onto the driveway, where they were squished to a brown pulp every time my parents backed out the car. As a kid I filled bucket after bucket with rotting apples melted warm and cidery in the blazing sun and hauled them up to the edge of the yard, where I dumped them into a stinking pile. The worst ones teemed with ants and worms or were half-eaten by God-knows-what, huge bites chunked out of yellow skin. I’d pick one up, and it would crumble with a splat, sending a cloud of fruit flies up my nostrils.

After years of contending with the mess, I understood why my dad snapped. He’d had enough of those gooey, rotten apples. Still, it was a shock to pull into the driveway and see that treeless yard, the lawn yawning wide and empty.

My sister and I called my dad Paul Bunyan for a full year after that.

I thought of my Paul Bunyan dad when I read John 15 this weekend, the verses about God cutting useless branches and pruning others so that they may bear more fruit:

“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.” (John 15:1-3).

I love that analogy. It prompts me to question all the areas in my life that might need a good pruning:

Am I spending too much time online at the expense of God and my family?

Am I overscheduled? Have I overscheduled my children?

Am I wasting precious mental energy on negativity? Am I being judgmental or self-absorbed?

On the other hand, though, the story of my dad and the apple trees reminds me that I can over-prune, too, even when I have the best intentions.

A year ago I realized my life needed some dramatic pruning. I had spread myself too thin, and my frenetic lifestyle had diminished the time and energy I had to write. I realized the fruits God had given me were rotting and falling from the branches, untended as I frittered my time in other ways.

So I pruned.

I “retired” from “The Edgy Bookworms,” the group of seven women whom I’d met with monthly for more than five years for dinner and conversation about literature.

I quit seeing my girlfriends for coffee and scones on Friday mornings.

I declined opportunities to meet for a movie or drinks or dinner.

I stop running three or four days a week as I had done for two decades.

In short, I cut out all extraneous activities so I could focus on writing about faith and God.

The result was not what I expected. Not only was I not more productive, I also spiraled into depression. I’d pruned so dramatically that nothing remained except writing, my job and my family and household responsibilities. Not only was it lonely and isolating, it also wasn’t very inspiring. I’d literally cut myself off from the community and life experiences that in many ways fed my creativity.

Just like a tree doesn’t rely solely on its trunk, but needs its branches, leaves and buds to sustain and nourish it, I realized, after that dramatic pruning, that I need a community, joy, relaxation and exercise to sustain and nurture my creativity.

In the end, I made one critical error when I pruned my dead branches: I forgot that it’s God, not me, who is in charge of the process. I held the scythe in my own hands and turned inward, bent on solving and controlling the problem myself, rather than listening for the solution God might offer.

Had I listened to God, I might have heard him urge balance, rather than radical extremism. Had I listened to God, I might have heard him say: "Abide in me."

If you read John 15:1-8 you'll see that the word "abide"[or "remain" in other translations] is used by Jesus seven times in eight short verses. It seems perhaps he wants to make sure we get the message. "Abide in me," says Jesus -- and this time, I'm listening.


Welcome to the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday community. If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up. Or, if you're easy-breezy, copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and simply paste it into your post.

And remember, you don't need to write exactly about Sunday's reading or sermon; you can simply write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up -- it stays open until Friday. Thanks so much for participating...and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts this week if you can!

Kendal  – (April 10, 2011 at 6:12 PM)  

abiding. remaining. peace. thanks for hosting. and letting in on your journey.

GLENDA CHILDERS  – (April 10, 2011 at 6:24 PM)  

Ah, that pesky and important issue ~ balance.

Fondly,
Glenda

Sandra Heska King  – (April 10, 2011 at 6:27 PM)  

This is so good, Michelle. Learning to abide and let God wield the scythe is a hard lesson. I don't know if we can ever be truly balanced, though. Sometimes its a matter of ebb and flow with the seasons.

nance marie  – (April 10, 2011 at 6:45 PM)  

This is a good story and wonderful reminder to abide.

Shaunie @ Up the Sunbeam  – (April 10, 2011 at 7:04 PM)  

I love this Michelle! I can relate to so much of the story you've shared here. Thank you for the reminder that isolation does not feed creativity, and that God is a much more skilled pruner than I can ever be--I'll leave it to Him!

Hands to Work, Hearts to God  – (April 10, 2011 at 7:05 PM)  

I remember that before I got married, God asked me if I was willing to be pruned, because marriage was a pruning. Thereafter, my husband called himself a pruning hook! But it looks like he's the one being more pruned! I find that our adventure with God can be really exciting if we abide with him. He's really creative with how He teaches and guides us and He has a sense of humor too! Patsy from
HeARTworks

Leslie  – (April 10, 2011 at 7:19 PM)  

"I forgot that it’s God, not me, who is in charge of the process."

Oh, that is SO easy to do. Thank you for the reminder to simply, abide.

Laura@OutnumberedMom  – (April 10, 2011 at 8:58 PM)  

Ah, balance...hard to achieve without an ear inclined to Him.

Great reminder, though, Michelle. Instead of hacking away indiscriminately, we need to tuen our ear to Him...and abide. (Love that word.)

Cassandra Frear  – (April 10, 2011 at 9:43 PM)  

Well, I am thinking about my blog and what needs to be done with it to find a new balance in my life. I won't have as much time in the months ahead.

What is the best way to make necessary changes? I thought about dropping it altogether, but that would be over-pruning. I should keep writing, but scale back to a less challenging schedule.

Jenny Forgey  – (April 10, 2011 at 9:49 PM)  

First of all, I love the way you write. I hope to become as clear, concise, and powerful after years of more practice! You inspire me.

Secondly, I'm currently trying to pound out a blog post on balance. It is something that is deeply important to me, something God has been speaking for over a year now. It's so important, it's been hard to write...hard to get right. Hopefully, it will be up and live soon!

Last but not least, thanks for the reminder about over-pruning. Isn't it annoying when we take a good gift or word from God and make it our own, instead of continuing to listen for His still, small voice as we figure out HOW to walk His will out? Hate that. :)

alicia  – (April 10, 2011 at 9:54 PM)  

Michelle, I love this and so needed it tonight! Once again it has been 2 weeks since I have even opened a blog. I felt the need to not even read any since then I feel guilt over not writing. And I didn't feel I could write anything without taking time to read others and so I did nothing. And in the end, I end up feeling alone and isolated and drowing in a sea of chaos without the encouragement I normally find from my online friends.

Great reminder that we can over prune.
Abide... remain... yes...THAT is where I need to be...
BlessingS!

Jen  – (April 10, 2011 at 10:25 PM)  

The thought of over-pruning had not really occurred to me. But then again, I think sub-consciously, I fear over-pruning. On the outside, it looks good to rid, just like it feel good to clean out a closet, but then, if you clean out too much, you just feel naked.

Connie@raise your eyes  – (April 10, 2011 at 11:54 PM)  

Oh how we need this, Michelle...let's determine to keep reminding each other...He is The Gardener!

Why do the branches keep trying to prune themselves???

Christine  – (April 11, 2011 at 6:12 AM)  

This post Michelle, THIS POST has just filled me right up to brimming this morning, in a way that I desperately needed. I've been doing pruning of my own, and I'm floundering, trying this and trying that, and you remind me that trust is the most important part. Have a little faith that someone knows better and that HE will lead the way. I'm working on it!! Thank you.

H. Gillham  – (April 11, 2011 at 6:52 AM)  
This comment has been removed by the author.
H. Gillham  – (April 11, 2011 at 6:55 AM)  

My church has so been pruned --- and the pain of that pruning has left scars -- but the healing is coming... that is the beauty of a cut -- the softness of healing.

BTW: I have in no way enjoyed the church prunin', just sayin'.

BTW 2: I once again tried to add what I learned Sunday to a post, and it just comes out hollow. How can Ephesians be hollow?

Argh.

I so want to play.

Kristy  – (April 11, 2011 at 11:56 AM)  

A great post for spring. I have to overshare and tell you that when I first started reading, I remembered, "Yes, I remember coming home one day from college and my dad had cut down our trees and bushes and shaved the dog." He had gone off his bipolar medication.

Jennifer  – (April 11, 2011 at 12:58 PM)  

Oh, wow, Michelle. This post was kind of scary for me to read because you hit a nerve (in a good way); in fact, I'm writing on the same sort of issue tomorrow! I have found myself on this quest for joy, and it wasn't until this weekend that I realized why I didn't have it.

Basically, I'm tired. But not in a good way. I've not allowed any time to relax, squeezing out productivity of every minute and feeling guilty when I don't.

What a beautiful post today!

Courtney  – (April 11, 2011 at 2:14 PM)  

Oh, this is so timely for me! I am doing some pruning and I am trying to let the Lord lead me. Trying to listen to HIs voice and do what HE wants me to do. It is hard! Thanks for your words. They help.

Deidra  – (April 11, 2011 at 5:43 PM)  

We had apple trees (yes, plural) in our backyard when I was a kid. The idea of them was great...but what a mess! You've described it perfectly. Unfortunately, I never saw them with a creative eye, the way you have here. It was just a mess that ate away my Saturday afternoons and made me vulnerable to stings from the bees that might be hiding on the bottom side of one of those apples. But I digress...

Yes, this pruning thing is important. But the abiding thing? Oh so critical to this faith walk...

messiahmom  – (April 11, 2011 at 7:57 PM)  

this is such an important issue to keep in mind, balance. And, even more poignantly, balance under the guidance of God.

thank you for your beautiful and challenging words.

peggy aplSEEDS  – (April 11, 2011 at 10:11 PM)  

thanks for sharing this inspiring reflection

Ashley Sisk  – (April 12, 2011 at 8:11 AM)  

Another wonderful message - I too have been guilty of over pruning. I think God wants us to find balance in our lives while letting him lead the way!

Vicki  – (April 12, 2011 at 9:46 AM)  

as i was reading, i was thinking, oh no, don't prune your friends away!...and i too wonder if i spend too much time on the computer, daily. this is my first time linking with you!

Kathleen T. Jaeger  – (April 12, 2011 at 1:26 PM)  

My life has been very busy lately and I, too, have been thinking about the need to prune. Thank you for this example of radical pruning by the bush instead of listening to the Lord and allowing Him to prune instead. I'm so glad that He hasn't truly called you to cut off all those wonderful relationships (I am a relationship girl). And I am energized by them. Thanks for the encouragement.

By the way, I am here for the first time via Jen at Finding Heaven.

Kathleen T. Jaeger  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:54 AM)  

My life has been very busy lately and I, too, have been thinking about the need to prune. Thank you for this example of radical pruning by the bush instead of listening to the Lord and allowing Him to prune instead. I'm so glad that He hasn't truly called you to cut off all those wonderful relationships (I am a relationship girl). And I am energized by them. Thanks for the encouragement.

By the way, I am here for the first time via Jen at Finding Heaven.

Hands to Work, Hearts to God  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:54 AM)  

I remember that before I got married, God asked me if I was willing to be pruned, because marriage was a pruning. Thereafter, my husband called himself a pruning hook! But it looks like he's the one being more pruned! I find that our adventure with God can be really exciting if we abide with him. He's really creative with how He teaches and guides us and He has a sense of humor too! Patsy from
HeARTworks

nance marie  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:54 AM)  

This is a good story and wonderful reminder to abide.

Post a Comment

All material and photographs copyrighted Michelle DeRusha 2012

  © Blogger template Shush by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP