Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Through the Grapevine

Today I thought I'd take a well-known passage of Scripture, a passage which has been misinterpreted and warped into a club to keep people in line, and debunk the fear-based myth surrounding it. I am using the NASB which most scholars agree is the closest readable translation of the original Greek. 

John 15 || 1I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

The very first thing that must be clear is that there is a divine order in this analogy. We are branches. We have NO life in ourselves. He is the Vine; He has life in Himself and we have grown out of Him. He has begotten us (birthed us). We are (in this analogy) grape branches. If separated from the Vine, we do not become apple branches. Or weeds. We only become useless. Our life source is Him. We are part of Him.

Second, He says that the vinedresser (gardener, husbandman) is God the Father (remember this for later), and that "every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away." Hmmm. Every branch IN ME, He says, that doesn't bear fruit... so it IS possible to be IN HIM and not "bear fruit." (More about what that fruit is later.) And if that is the case, "He takes it away." God removes people who are born-again and who are not producing any fruit in their lives. The meaning is clear. He moves them to a place where they will abide in Him and bear fruit - or He takes them to Heaven. 

If our lives produce any of His fruit at all, He prunes us (the Greek word - and you can see this because it's used interchangeably - is one of "cleaning.") And He tells the eleven that "you are already cleaned (pruned) by the Word i have spoken to you." (vs 3) The pruning is hardly comfortable. God removes things from our lives that are hampering our growth in Him. He looks after us, and His desire is that we receive life from Him unhindered. Not so He can punish us for our sin (He has already redeemed us from that curse!) Not even so He can keep score of how much fruit we produce, but simply this: because He knows that this kind of life will bring joy to us (vs 11). 

That is abiding. That resting in His life, that utter and total dependence on Him ... that is life, that is living. That's why He said "Abide in Me, and I in you." It's a total intimacy, one that cannot escape the fact that He is the life source and we are His well-beloved offspring, continually dependent on Him. It isn't a conditional statement. It's a love-statement: a mutual resting, a mutual staying. We are one with Him: us in Him,  He in us. We have been forever changed because of having been born into His family through Him rescuing us. 

Here is where the misconceptions start. We read, "Abide in Me ... As the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me." And we think - foolish humans stuck in religious thinking - that it is up to us to stay connected to Him. We are already connected to Him!! He has given birth to us! We are His!! What Jesus is warning us about is thinking that we have to "stay saved" in order to maintain that life-connection to Him. Nothing could be further from the truth

Here's where the error creeps in: we think that once He saves us, we need to "keep ourselves in Him" so (not wanting to "fall away") we "do" things to ensure that we don't find ourselves in the fire: we pray, we read the Word, we go to church, we tell others about Him (whether that is a co-worker or someone in another land). I'm not saying that those things are wrong in themselves. I AM saying that if we are operating out of fear (a fear of being separated from Him) then we are trying to do these things in our own strength in order to stay in the position that He has bought and paid for us to be in!! Can we not see the futility of this? He has said, in concluding this thought, "...because without Me you can do nothing." (vs 5b) 

Photo "Ripening Grape Clusters On The Vine"
courtesy of satit_srihin at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
We need Him to abide in Him and to produce fruit (vs 5). WE don't do it. HE does through us! Does the branch TRY to produce fruit? Does it TRY to stay in the Vine ... or does it just rest and draw life and strength from the Vine and the fruit just grows naturally, automatically?

Okay so what IS this fruit anyway? When I was a child, I was taught in Sunday School (and later in church) that the fruit was new Christians. "Producing baby believers" was the work I and every believer was called to do. (What about "No one comes to the Father except by Me"? (Jn 14:6) What about "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn 6:44)?) I later came to understand that the fruit that He was talking about here in John 15 was the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus was providing a final teaching for His loved ones. In chapter 14, He tells them He's going away and not to be sad because He was going to come back. In chapter 15, He tells them that remaining connected to Him in the meantime, would help them to lead a fully joyous life (leading to the question, "HOW?") and in chapter 16, He tells them (and by association, us) how: by His Spirit. By HIS SPIRIT. NOT by our own efforts! ("Without Me, you can do nothing."vs 5b)


Think about this: it does absolutely no good to "go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Mk. 16:15) if the Holy Spirit of God does not lead us. It is actually counterproductive. It does HARM to the cause of Christ to speak of His love and His grace if we ourselves have not experienced that love and that grace so much and on such a continual basis that it can't help but overflow into every facet of our lives. If that is not there, nobody will listen to the message. This is precisely what is happening today, when people in our society listen to Christians talk and can't hear the good of what they are saying ... simply because of the rigid lifestyles of the Christians who are speaking the message. Our unloving and ungracious attitudes, our unhappiness, our intolerance, our joyless spirits, our commitment to duty before love, pervades everything we do when we are so busy trying to keep ourselves in the Vine. It's a religion based on fear and duty, not a relationship based on love and gratitude. If we fear excommunication, we are not operating in love - because there is no fear in love.

THIS is what Jesus warned about when He said, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away ... and withers..." (vs 6) Thinking that we can produce fruit in our own strength is as ludicrous a ventriloquist's dummy (if it could think) thinking that it can move its mouth without the ventriloquist's hand inside, and insisting that it can talk and make people laugh without its owner. It can't be done. Abiding isn't straining and grunting and striving to keep God from casting us out. THAT'S NOT ABIDING. THAT IS SEPARATING OURSELVES FROM THE VINE, trying to do it on our own. We abide in the Vine when we realize that there is absolutely NOTHING we can do to keep ourselves there. We are totally dependent on Him. TOTALLY. Remember He said that GOD is the Vine-dresser - it is God who looks after our spiritual life; all we need do is rest in Him, receive life from Him. The fruit will take care of itself. It just will.

And this is how: The fruit of the Spirit (that fruit that we bear when we abide in Him) is love, first and foremost. The rest of the fruit (joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control) are the different facets or expressions of that love. Pure and simple. Nothing complicated about it.

If you think that isn't enough - that we have to get out there and fulfill the Great Commission - let me tell you that unless and until we abide in Him (i.e., let His life infuse us, empower us, love us with an inexhaustible Love), the fruit of the Spirit will not be showing in our lives. Therefore, all that will manifest to the very ones we are trying to reach is how rules-based, how full of fear we are. They will prefer their own lifestyle to a life lived from a place of fear and duty.  NOBODY will be attracted to that. NOBODY. Not only that, but we will approach mental and spiritual exhaustion, and crash and burn in disillusionment and bitterness. How many people I have heard say (referring to what passes for Christianity in our society), "I tried that, and it didn't work." When I questioned them, I found out that they were desperately trying to do-do-do and didn't understand or experience the grace and love that is the motivation and the strength for all the doing.

Once we depend on Him and draw our life-source from Him, those fruit will automatically appear in our lives. We won't have to work our tails off to keep from falling in the mud or falling off the Vine; we will be happy and free and energized, and people will WANT to know what's different when tumultuous things happen to us and we face them with faith and peace and yes, even joy (recognize the fruit of the Spirit?) in the midst of circumstances that would just make them shut down. 

I can still hear some objections. I can still hear you say, "But what about the burning? doesn't it say that we'll be cast into the fire and burned?" 

Okay, let's look at that. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and they gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." First, if we interpret "not abiding in Me" the way that I have mentioned above, that means He was talking about those who are trying to live the Christian life in their own strength, trying to follow all the rules so that God will be pleased with them. These are the ones who are [already] cast away, "fallen from grace". (Read the book of Galatians for more information on that, especially chapter 3:1.) But look. Even though they are cast away, "They are 'cast away as a branch'..." Those who are cast away don't stop being branches. NOT ONCE. And then look at who gathers the branches for burning. "THEY." The KJV says, "men." The implication here is that these are people who are not part of the Vine (otherwise they'd be branches.) The world will destroy you and rip you apart IF you are fear-based and rules-based. Your 'great' testimony, your brilliant words will fall to the ground and the ones you want to reach the most will not respond to you, starting with your children. You'll be treated like firewood ... useless twigs fit only for fueling their rejection of the Message. 

Then He makes the most amazing promise. This goes over and above what anyone could expect. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (v. 7) So, if we let ourselves be loved by Him, if we let ourselves experience the wonder of His grace, we will want to know what He has to say to us because we love Him in return (not because we are commanded to do it, but because He rescued us from certain death!) ... From such a grateful heart, can any request that is out of His will and contrary to His heart be possible? Of COURSE the request will be granted, because we would not ask for something that was selfish after He gave up all that He had and all that He was just to be near us! 

Can we get our hearts and minds around that kind of unconditional love? Can we?

Can we grasp the supreme fulness of His grace, the awesomeness of His care of us, and let Him flow in and through us unhindered by our own efforts, dependent on Him for everything? Can we begin to lay hold of that simple truth that He has done it all? that nothing we can do can make Him love and accept us more than He already has?

I often wonder what would happen, how our world (both inside of us and the world with which we come in contact) would be transformed, if we really could "get that."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

He LOVES me!!

It's an iconic picture of girlhood, standing in a field of flowers with a daisy in one hand, plucking off the petals one by one, saying, "He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not...." 

And that same girl, crestfallen (though briefly) when it turns out to be that "he loves me not." Undaunted, though, she picks another daisy and starts all over again. "He loves me, he loves me not..." 

At our breakfast conversation this morning, my husband and I were exploring that picture as a metaphor for what a lot of believers (including ourselves at times, possibly most of the time) think of when things happen in their lives. We base our perception of whether God loves us on the circumstances of our lives.

Let me illustrate. 

I get a new job. "He loves me."

The boss is a jerk. "He loves me not." 

I come home and see a beautiful sunset. "He loves me."

I get home to find that the dog got into the garbage and threw up all over the floor, and I get to clean up garbage AND vomit. "He loves me not. Grrr." 

My child gives me a card she made herself and tells me what a great Mom I am. "He loves me. I feel so blessed!"

That same child irritates the life out of me. Or has set her computer monitor on fire, leaving black smoke hanging in the air. "He loves me not. I'm such a failure." 

And we can treat our spiritual lives with that same sort of insecurity.
 
Photo "Girl With Daisy" by
Clare Bloomfield at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
I pray, and God answers my prayer with an immediate, miraculous YES. "He loves me." 

I pray again, and things get worse - things look hopeless - or someone I pray for dies.  "He loves me not. I must not be trying hard enough. I have to try harder. Maybe I'll give more money to the church." (Word to the wise - any other motivation for giving than love ..... always backfires...)

I give more money to the church, and the car breaks down. (See? now I'm out the money I gave to the church PLUS I have this huge hunking bill...) "He loves me not. What in the world does He want, anyway?" 

I sense His presence in worship, or He heals me of some ailment. "Oh, how He loves me!!" 

Not all that much later, I can't seem to feel His presence, the heavens seem made of brass, and I keep making the same stupid mistakes. "He loves me not. I'm so sinful! How come I keep doing this?" 

Sound familiar? 

I have good news for your heart and for mine. I know you and I have heard this so often that it almost seems to go without saying, but here's the thing. There's hearing and then there's HEARING. Our minds give assent to this thing because we hear it so often, but our hearts have yet to fully grasp what it means, let alone accept it.

Here it is - drum roll - in the first person so that everyone can say it with me: 

HE LOVES ME! HE REALLY, REALLY, LOVES ME!!

Whether I feel Him or not, whether I do things for Him or not, whether good things happen to me or not, whether it's raining or sunny, whether the guy in the next lane cut me off or not, whether the diagnosis is cancer or the common cold ... 

HE LOVES ME! HE REALLY, REALLY LOVES ME!!

He (as my husband put it so eloquently this morning) bankrupted Heaven ... for me. He turned the gates of pearl inside out, gutted Glory, gave everything He had - just to rescue us. Just to rescue me

That's how good He is. That's how much He loves. That's how much He thrills when we talk to Him. That's how much He longs to bless me, how intensely and completely He has already forgiven me and accepts me. 

Period. No guesswork, no wishing it were true, no pulling the petals off daisies. Just lift my eyes to ... two arms spread wide. 

On a cross.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Greater Things

I was reading an email earlier this month and I stumbled over the sentence, "People cannot progress beyond their leaders." 

Huh?

I started seriously thinking about that, pondering it. I think the person meant that students can't learn more than their teachers know (if the only source of learning is the teacher.) 

Even though the person who said it certainly did not mean it in the following way, there is a sense in which that kind of statement limits the power of God. 

Jesus told His disciples that they would do the works that He did, and even greater things, because He was going to His Father. (John 14:12)

He had only been there for three years or so, working miracles left, right, and centre by the power of the Spirit, and He wanted them to know what to expect after He left. Answer: MORE!!

It's been just shy of 2000 years since He did those works, and yes, His followers have healed so many sick, raised so many dead, cleansed so many lepers and cast out so many demons that it would be impossible to count. The works are greater in number, exponentially! 

They've been greater in geography too: now people all over the world have been saved, delivered, healed, cleansed, and given new life, not just in the old Roman Empire but in places the original disciples never even heard of. 

Illustration "Giving To The Poor" by
David Castillo Dominici at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
They've been greater in visibility. Modern technology has made it possible to see thousands of people gathered and dozens, even hundreds at a time having their lives transformed by the power of God. 

Jesus also told His followers that the Holy Spirit would lead them. He'd teach them to remember Jesus' words when they needed to remember them. He'd direct them which people to talk to, and what to say and do when they got there (no matter how small; remember, He's the architect, so a bolt is just as important as a beam...) The Holy Spirit would show them which people would be responsive to the message, and which people needed to have a seed of hope or faith planted. Living life in the Spirit would grant His followers (including US!!) the same access to the power and direction of God that Jesus did when He was here on earth. 

The same power. The same access. The same
Wow!!

This is one reason why, if teachers teach the students how to listen to the Spirit, the students can indeed go beyond what the teacher knows. It's no fault of the teacher and it is no virtue of the student; it is just a function of the Holy Spirit to go beyond what we can imagine.

After all, with Him, all things are possible. 
 (Now where have I heard that before??)

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Valuable Pearl

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
~ ~ Matthew 13:44 NASB

 "All of my life," he explained to me, "I've read that little story in the New Testament and - because of my upbringing - interpreted it to mean that the gospel was the pearl of great price and that I needed to give anything, everything I had to possess it." 

I nodded. "And?"

"As I was reading it over again it dawned on me for the first time ... what it really meant."

I grinned.

His voice grew husky, and his eyes misted over. 

"I am the pearl."  He cleared his throat, blinked hard once, twice. "God gave everything He had to purchase me." He grew silent; his eyes brimming. "I ... I had it all backwards." A tear spilled over and nestled in the hollow beneath his eye. He took his glasses off and wiped the offending water away. 

"You realize what this is, don't you?" I prodded. 

He nodded. "It's the beginning - the very beginning of an answer to my prayer." 

"I remember that prayer. I've been praying the same thing for you."

Photo "Rose And Pearls" courtesy
of Victor Habbick at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
His voice sounded like he was far away. " 'Show me that You love ME, not just me as part of the world, but ME personally.' I prayed. Never dreamed He'd do it."

"I'd call this a pretty good first step." 

He nodded thoughtfully. "I guess so." 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's personal. God's love is personal!! 

One whispered prayer in the middle of the night, one heart's cry, one sigh, one tear - whatever form it takes - He hears. He loves to answer those kinds of prayers, and He will tailor-make the answer to the person praying the prayer. The harder the challenge, the more broken the heart, the more delight He takes in orchestrating events, timed down to the last detail, to show us how much He loves us in a way that only that individual can understand and receive. He really, truly, intimately loves us. Each of us.

He does. It's why He came - because you are the pearl.

Just ask Him. He'll show you.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Battle Cry

I know someone, someone very close to me, who all her life has felt abused by the church. She loves the Lord, and she talks to Him and hears from Him on a regular basis, but when she considers going to an assembly, she shudders and her stress level skyrockets. 

The reason is the people. People have certain set standards of behavior that they impose upon her. They judge her for various reasons, none of which have anything to do with the gospel or with grace or love. 

She's been bullied and belittled in front of others. She's been given the "eagle eye" by those who have taken it upon themselves to be her judge and jury. She's been manipulated by guilt and shamed into doing things that she didn't agree with. She has concluded that church-goers are - by and large - a bunch of self-serving, bigoted, small-minded control freaks. 

I can't argue, much as I would like, because I know people like that - to be fair to us Christians, both in and out of the church. 

But here, in this forum, I'm talking to believers.

Jesus wasn't ... ISN'T ... anything like these people who criticize and judge, who try to impose their values on those who don't measure up to their standards. 

I like what one believer did when a group of anti-abortionists (I'd say pro-lifers but there wasn't anything pro or life about what they were doing) staged a protest in front of a clinic, shouting inflammatory things at women who were entering. This guy trimmed his beard, dressed up in a white robe with a purple sash, stood about thirty feet from the protesters, and carried a sign that said, "I'm not with them."  

I'm not exactly sure why folks have to think that because they're in a war, that the enemy is the world and its anti-God system (but not only that, the enemy is also every other Christian that doesn't subscribe to their particular code of behavior.) They write their politicians, they sign petitions and put graphic content on Facebook or into flyers and posters where little children can see it and be traumatized by it, and in their meetings they rant and rave, they stomp and shout ... and this is supposed to ATTRACT people to Jesus??? It sends people in the opposite direction! When they ostracize and bully new believers who are like the tender, bruised reed spoken of by Isaiah, they participate in the extinction of the church to which they adhere. 

"We do not wrestle against flesh and blood," Paul wrote, "but against [spiritual] powers..." The world's methods (such as political involvement or carrying placards) and the world's reactions (such as shaming and manipulation) JUST DON'T WORK in the church or when used BY the church. Or rather, they don't produce the results we are aiming for. We are aiming for as many people as possible to embrace the gospel. That is the only way to change society: one heart at a time. All those other methods we're so drawn to - because they give us the illusion that we have control over other people's behavior - don't do anything to further that goal. Acceptance does. Grace does. Forgiveness does.

The Captain of the Lord's Hosts (Jesus) is all about LOVE. His modus operandum is GRACE. And believe it or not, the only warfare that we are called to do is not about pushing back the darkness or taking back what the devil stole, or any of that stuff. That's not love, that's theatrics based on the lie that we have any power within ourselves. The power belongs to HIM. 

Yes ... yes we are in a battle. But traditional battle tactics are useless. 

Our battle cry is not in fierceness or intimidation. No... it consists of one thing and one thing only. It is a battle cry of LOVE. 

We humans are spiritual tuning forks. God's music is love: pure, intense, blazing love that is lavished upon us and into us by the Holy Spirit because of Jesus. When we resonate with that love, when we worship Him out of that love which He has given us in the first place, THAT is our warfare. It is unstoppable, indescribably powerful because it is in line with His nature. 

Photo "Happy Jumping Child" by
chrisroll at
www.freedigitalphotos.net
Worship - not because it is mandated or legislated but because we are responding to His love - is the ultimate weapon, the only weapon that we need. Walking in His love, in a constant attitude of worship and listening to His promptings, is incredibly powerful. 

In worship, in love, is the ultimate delegated authority, the kind of authority that Jesus gave to His disciples just before He left - the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. Not to PRAY (read here: beg, plead, as if God would be doing you a HUGE favour if He'd "just" do this, as if He needed convincing, as if He wasn't good...) that God would heal the sick, but to activate the power of Jesus by actually SPEAKING to that dis-ease in the love of Jesus (repeat, the LOVE of Jesus for that person) and watch in wonder while  that horrible thing leaves. 

There is a reason why the authorities in Paul's day said that the Christians had turned the world upside down. They never organized one march against Rome. They never protested against the stoning or beheading of Christians. No. They turned loose the power of God's love, worshiping Him and loving people as He does, and the results were miraculous, one or two (or ten, or twenty) heart(s) at a time. People with incurable diseases were healed. Those with mental anguish, who were consumed with fear and anger and hatred, were set free by the power of His love. 

And that's why they listened to the believers' message. That's why the world got turned upside down. That's why God added to the church DAILY. People WANTED that. They were ATTRACTED to that.

When I hear Christian people speaking in spiteful tones about this or that group, this or that practice, planning their battle strategies, I cry inside. I believe that that weeping is my spirit resonating with His Spirit as He grieves for those who could be so much happier and freer. They'd be so much more peaceful and joyful if they just accepted and reveled in His love and shared that love with those who need it, while respecting their decisions and not judging them.

This is the battle cry - His love. That's all we need; that's all anyone needs.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Stop striving

I was at a gathering one day recently where the speaker passed around a whole pile of little devices. Each was essentially the same as the next. There were enough for everyone. 

Here's mine:

Trying to get out of the thumb cuffs -
an exercise in futility...
They are called finger traps, or thumb cuffs. (Some folks use an ethnic term in front of that - such as Chinese or Mexican. That kind of doesn't sit well with me.]

He told us to put a finger or a thumb in each end, all the way up to the hilt. Then to pull. Our fingers were trapped. 

The harder we pulled, the tighter the thumb cuffs got. If we followed our natural instincts to escape, there was none. 

The only way to escape the finger trap was to do the opposite: push those digits TOWARD each other so that the little tube would loosen. Then use the other fingers to remove first one side, then the other. 

Since that little demonstration, I've been thinking about all the situations that are exactly like that in our lives. There are so very many applications!! Dead-end jobs, complicated relationships, parent-teen struggles, and even our relationship with God or how we approach our spiritual life.

We get stuck in a certain mindset and it limits us in our thinking and reactions to things. Take prayer, for example. 

We know that God answers prayer. We know He has the power to do anything. A horrific situation arises. So we pray. And - as sometimes happens - nothing happens. 

Enter the finger trap. We think that it must be something we are doing wrong. So we pray harder. Still nothing. We fast. We ask others to join us in prayer. We do a Jericho march. We claim Scripture. And still nothing. The bands get tighter and tighter, and we don't know what's wrong. After all, God is perfect, so the problem must be us ... and yet we've done everything right, right? 

Maybe we even begin to doubt His goodness. But we push that thought away. No, that can't be it.  We must not be living right. We aren't spreading the gospel enough. We aren't reading the Word enough. We aren't serving in the church enough. The list is endless. 

We are well and truly trapped. All our striving has gotten us so bound up in rules and obligations. We find ourselves trying to twist God's arm, manipulating Him into giving us the answer we want. 

It doesn't work that way. Really. 

Prayer isn't about getting what we want. It's about relationship. Our relationship ... with HIM. His relationship with us. We keep striving, but what we need to do is to STOP IT. Relax. Let go. Know He is God - and we aren't!! Thank and praise Him for His presence through it all, accept that He will do what is best. And trust.

Trusting is the hardest thing; it means taking our hands off it, removing our thumbs from the thumb cuffs and letting Him be God. No matter what. 

No matter what... stop striving. (Psalm 46:10). We are weary and burdened. Let's let Him give us rest. (Matthew 11:28-30).

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The View From Here

It seems like forever since I found myself down here, down below the surface, away from the sunshine. I'm not exactly sure why this was the place where someone thought I should be... but it's where I am. I've worked hard to accept it, because try as I might, I've not been able to extricate myself ... not from lack of trying! 

Wait. Wait and you will see. You don't need to understand. All will be made clear.

I can't help thinking how dark and slimy it is here. It's been a very long time since I've seen any lasting rays of light. I used to be so thick-skinned, but now the least little thing seems to pierce through. 

You are being softened. Trust. I am near.

I know that there are things that are happening within me. But I can only feel discomfort. I can't see anything beyond this oppressive, fetid place. I can't see any growth in me, just stirrings of irritation. I feel like I'm being split in two, that my whole life is coming apart. 

There is life. You are growing inside. You can't see it yet because you're too close to the situation. What you are feeling is normal. Relax; it will take time. I am in control. 

I feel as though I'm reaching in all different directions. I'm vaguely aware that I am growing, but I can't see how. Where is the sun? I feel like I'm losing myself to this process ... I'm not even sure I know who I am anymore. 

You are becoming. Who you used to be is being transformed. You are being rooted deeply. Soon you will see. 

Every movement is an effort, a struggle. I'm tired. I just want things to be easier, safer, less exhausting. I admit that now I can feel the warmth of the sun a little, but slogging through this dark place takes all the energy I have. I have nothing left over. 

Your growth is beginning to show. This is the hardest part, just before your breakthrough. Keep feeling that warmth, drinking in the nourishment I send. Soon you will see ... and gain strength to grow even more.

Photo "Young Plant" courtesy of
amenic181 at
www.freedigitalphotos.net