Thursday, June 27, 2013

To Prune a Heart

When I was young, I used to watch my dad cut back his beloved rose bushes every spring. I’d be in charge of putting the cut stems into the trash. 

After we finished the roses we’d go around the yard and trim all his fruit trees. It was a meticulous task and often times I’d watch him carefully consider which branch to trim. He would consider how the tree would grow before he snipped anything. 

After a while, I would get bored standing there picking up the pruned branches, and I’d sigh in hopes of being relieved of my trash duty. But instead, that was his signal to fill the boredom with how and when to prune a tree. 

I’d watch as he’d cut back what I thought were perfectly good stems and branches. He’d say, “you take off one-third of new growth, even if it is flowering with the promise of fruit. You’ll be happier the next year when the branch is stronger and can hold more fruit.” He’d say the same thing about the roses too. 

And then he’d fall into the murmuring details of how pruning is necessary for all living things to flourish. As a teenager, you can imagine just how interested I was in hearing that. 

But guess what? Now I have a yard with roses and fruit trees and yes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…” as the saying goes. 

And you know what I learned? My father was right about all living things...especially me.

It seems every fall and winter for the last few years the Lord has worked silently and diligently pointing out  my faults, my shortcomings and asking me to let go of my pride. Boy did (and does) He have his work cut out for Him!

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)

He takes away every branch…

Here's how my life worked...

Me: I am going to make more time to write this year…

                   Snip.               Snip.

Maybe not. I spent over 7 hours a day last school year driving carpools, kids to sports and taking others to doctor’s appointments. But I ended up with more one-on-one opportunities to talk to my kids about their lives. I built deeper relationships with each of them.

Okay next...

Me: I am going to take more time to keep my house cleaner and decorate it.

                  Snip.                Snip.

My mom had health challenges all winter. But it offered me opportunities to be with her as we went to doctor’s appointments, sat in waiting rooms or waited to hear of results. I spent precious time laughing about growing up memories and taking in my mother’s love. 

I see a trend.

This spring, my good friend, Robbie Iobst gave me a word that came to her mind when she was praying for me.


My heart knew this word immediately. 

It was what I had been struggling with all winter, in fact all year. 

Every time I desired things to be my way, God reminded me of the bigger picture. It’s not about me. And when I try to make it about me, I’m not really that happy. 

I took a wonderful class this spring on the Book of Psalms.  I learned so many things, but one of the most powerful, life-changing concepts I grasped was how much happier and at peace the psalmist was when he relied on God instead of himself; when he remembered the promises God made instead of forging ahead with his own will.

Hmmm...relevance to my struggle?

Jesus continued to say, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)


You know what? When I gave in, when I finally allowed all the pruning of obedience to take place, something miraculous happened (at least it was miraculous to me anyway). 

I finished the biggest writing challenge I’ve ever had, and I did it—not with taking more time to write—but relying on God to give me small amounts of time and then inspiring me with the right words and concepts to fill the pages. 

And now, forever on my pruned heart, I will carry the branch that says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

Snip away, Lord! You are the Master Pruner!


gabriel said...

Wha tdo you mean by father of Jesus (P.B.U.H) ?

This is a very scientific topic. Isn't it ?

darien said...

I read this to Nancy because I thought it was so lovely,

and her immediate response was "oh my goodness that was a beautiful, beautiful post".

Then she said, "let the snipping begin". You've spoken to us this morning dear friend. Bless you for it. We love you.


Loretta Oakes said...


I'm not very smart, what does PBUH stand for?

When Christians talk about the Father of Jesus and the F is capitalized, we are talking about God the Father. Christians believe that God is Trinitarian...God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus' earthly father Joseph was a great role model for Jesus growing up, teaching him the art of carpentry and how to respect women, but he was Jesus' father here on Earth.

You are right, this is a very scientific topic. Nature and how it works. It's it wonderful how God so completely blends science with spirituality?

Hope you are well. Blessings,


Loretta Oakes said...


So glad you and Nancy enjoyed it. Could you send me a picture of Samantha the bird, that is my next blog since it fits so nicely with this one. Thank you!

If you feel it appropriate, you can mention the blog to your FB friends as well!

Hope you two get alot accomplished.



Loretta Oakes said...

And Gabriel:

Thank you for pushing me to post! I had been thinking too much and not writing. You are a blessing to me!


Judy Cauhorn said...


I loved the mental picture of you and your dad in the garden/yard working together. What a precious memory!

Anonymous said...

Lovely. Just lovely.

Miss you!


Loretta Oakes said...

Thank you Judy, they are great memories :)

Susan, miss you too!

Anonymous said...

Loretta, I love how you write and what you write. I've got to share this post. What's that I hear? Oh - yeah, more "snip, snip". I love you!

Loretta Oakes said...

Thank you Helen. I love what you write too! Thank you for sharing. I appreciate it! Trying hard to sell this non-fiction book so all the promotion I can get will help. :)

love you!

Robbie Iobst said...

Snip Snip!!!! LOVE IT!! Thank you friend for being a flower - an encourager - in my life! Love you!

Loretta Oakes said...

Thank you Robbie, for being in MY life! Love you...

gabriel said...

(P.B.U.H) is used to show respect it means Peace be upon him. Muslim use this for all Prophets

Loretta Oakes said...


I did look up the reference so I did understand it then.

Question: were you referring to peace be upon Jesus or his Father? I assume Jesus. :)

I realize that Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet. What does "prophet" mean to Muslims? What is their job? What was missing after Jesus finished his earthly mission? I am very curious.

Good to have you back. Love our discussions.


Gabriel said...

why jesus came when moses finished his earthly mission?

and Peace be upon is used specifically for prophets. (Your assumption is perfect :))

Same here

Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

So Christians believe that Jesus was not a prophet, but the Messiah who fit the descriptions of what Isaiah and the Old Testament prophets predicted.

Even Jesus said he was the Son of God..Matthew 16:15-18 “But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it.

So Christians believe this sets Jesus apart from the other prophets.

So my question was after Jesus finished his mission, why would there be a need for more prophets? I think that is a better question than what I posed to you before.

I love the "praise be upon him" phrase. Very nice. I think we should always praise God and His Son who gave his life for us to open the gates of heaven. However, I don't put Moses or the other prophets on that same scale because 1. they did not claim to be the Messiah, and 2. they were human only, and 3. they did not sacrifice their lives for the rest of us (nor could they because they had no power to open the gates of heaven).

Does this make sense? So does this bring any other questions to mind?

Hope you are well.


Gabriel said...

Ahh. How many languages you can speak or read ?
I'll try to give you the most systematic and ligical answer

Loretta Oakes said...


I can speak and read French (though I'm much slower since I haven't read French novels in 20 years and conversational Spanish, but really and truly I can't use them very well when talking scientific jargon. I haven't taken the time to learn science speak in other languages. I'm sorry if that is not helpful.

How about you? What languages do you know? You seem to do very well with English.

You don't need to worry about systematic or logical answers, Gabriel, we can figure things out together.

Hope you are well.


Gabriel said...

Your religious books have been translated from hebrew to latin and then to other languages. But somehow translators failed to translate grammatical gestures. Like where God was used as a pronoun ( Translators changed it into noun).e.g at some place in bible word 'Gods' is English translation but in Hebrew it was 'gods'. It's potent of changing the meaning.

Well i am good at urdu, punjabi and little bit at English.


Gabriel said...

Your religious books have been translated from hebrew to latin and then to other languages. But somehow translators failed to translate grammatical gestures. Like where God was used as a pronoun ( Translators changed it into noun).e.g at some place in bible (English) word 'Gods' is used but in Hebrew it was 'gods' not gods. It's potent of changing the meaning.

Well i am good at urdu, punjabi and little bit at English.


somehow muslims of subcontinent are suffering too with this translation problem.

Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

Your comments about translations is interesting. However, there has been a movement for some time for Christian scholars to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the New Testament in Aramaic.

I'm not sure I follow your sentence about "potent of changing the meaning"..are you saying it is strong in changing the meaning? And what meaning are you referring to? I'm just making sure I am following your comments.

It is important to note that the Israelites used gods (lower case) to denote false gods. They did not use gods to denote God the Father. Ever. Nor did they ever think God was more than one being, so I'm not following your sentence with the "Gods" versus "gods" idea. Perhaps you can explain further?

It wasn't until Abraham that "Abba" or "Father" was used to with reference to God. It was then that humans realized the relationship that God was trying to have with humankind.

The idea of the Trinity was implied in the Old Testament especially in Genesis 1:27 when the author says, "Let us make man in our image" which denotes plural. And until Jesus Christ came and talked about the Son of God and the coming of the Holy Spirit that the idea of the Trinity was fully established. It is difficult to consider a three in one concept with our limited 3D minds, but I've tried to point out examples such as a water molecule that allows such an entity to exist. You can read my series of posts on water starting here:

There are scholars who've taken on the task of knowing Hebrew...AND understanding Hebrew and the references to which it eludes. They do a great job of helping those of us with just English background understand WHY things happened or WHAT it meant to the Israelites when things occurred. It is very cultural and historical. Both. When we learn to understand the context of what is being said, then we can grasp the full meaning of what Jesus was saying to his Jewish brethren and us.

Thank you for keeping the conversation going!


Gabreil said...

well i missed Greek before latin.
Continuous tansaltion

Its like filling bowls of water manually with a bowl instead of water pipe.( which results in a lot of wastage). Muslims believe that there is no god except one and Mohammad(P.B.U.H) was his last Prophet.(like every other prophet). Each Prophet is equal to us).

Newton used to have the same belief about Jesus.

Loretta Oakes said...

Again, Gabriel:

I believe the idea that there've been many translations and therefore are errors in the Bible is a misnomer supplanted by those to seek destroy the underpinnings of the Christian faith. I will re-iterate that there are scholars constantly reviewing the original language with the translations. Maybe you can help me understand something: how do Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet if not by the writings? Is it tradition only?

However, I do have one example for you which I will expand on:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created...
The original Hebrew words are: In the beginning of God's creating...

So there is a tense of verb change. I believe the following about that: 1. It doesn't change the fact that God created everything. 2. It does tend to indicate that God finished creating since it is past tense. However, we know that God continues to create.

The take away from this should be the following: the Truths that the Bible brought forth are 1. There is a living God who loves us and wants us to call him Father. This can be seen continually through the history presented in the first 5 books (or Torah). The history of the Israelites and their relationship with God is presented throughout. Jesus comes as God his Father promised to change the covenant that existed between humanity and Himself. No longer were we bound by 613 laws but by the commandments that Jesus reiterated, Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Gabriel, I am interested in understanding why Mohammed was the last prophet. What did he finish that Jesus did not? What was his purpose in other words.

Also, I don't know that I follow what you are saying about Newton. Are you talking Isaac Newton? And what are you saying he thought about Jesus. Could you expand?

Thanks for being patient with me. We've had family things going on here and I haven't been checking my blog as often as I'd like.

Hope you are well.


Gabreil said...

Dear Loretta,

These translation problems are not new it started after 500 AD. And the purpose of Muhammad was to rectify these mistakes in Abrahamic religion (Christianity).

And Quran tells us about Jesus and his mother Mariam(Mary). There is a whole chapter in Quran about Jesus's Mother.

No problem
Hope you are well too.

Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

Thank you for your comment.

My first inclination is to distinguish between Jesus and Mohammed. What is the definition of a prophet? What is their purpose. I know I asked this before, but I really didn't understand your answer. The distinction between prophet and messiah is huge.

A prophet is someone who comes to speak to the people and tell them that God is coming. He/she keeps their hopes in line with the teachings that God has placed with humanity and remind them that God is coming.

A messiah is the ONE who comes to fulfill the prophecies announced by the prophets.

To say that Mohammed came to fix the things wrong with Abrahamic religion says something completely different than saying Mohammed came to fix things wrong with Christianity. Those are two different religions because Abrahamic religion is Judaism, which is the precursor to Christianity. Since that statement is confusing, perhaps you can clarify what you are referring to.

Why do I make this distinction? Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy of a king and savior. He helped the Jewish people understand the idea of love as opposed to just law. In giving his life, Jesus promoted the understanding of sacrifice.

So when you say that Mohammed came to fix Christianity, I would ask the question: If Jesus is the Messiah, AND son of God, and if God is perfect, what is in need of fixing?

I hope this all makes sense.
I hope your day goes well.


Gabriel said...

Dear Loretta,

In Islam, It is believed that every religion is the continuity of Abrahamic religion and every Prophet is the successor of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). To understand this I have a counter question and that is what was the religion of Jesus’s Mother and Father ( I am sure that they were not Christians and If they were not Christians then what was their faith or religion ? and what about their Fate ?
As far as Islam is concerned & Quran the name of Prophet Jesus is mentioned more than Prophet Muhammed.
It is also believed in Islam that Jesus was not crucified and he’ll return before the Judgment day. And Islam is not considered as religion, Muslims all over the world take it as the way to live a life. It’s not because it’s their religion or Quran is their Holy book. It’s because it touches every aspect of life. A single book (Quran) .It touches every aspect ranging from Laws of taxation, Economics, finance, Ethics and subjects like Science subdivided into Astronomy, Embryology and much more.
I hope i have answered your question. ( If not i'll try to come up with the references next time)

Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

I fear I haven't done a good job communicating to you because I mentioned a couple times that Jesus was Jewish. Therefore his parents would be Jewish as well. The gospel of Luke points out Jesus' genealogy, all the way back through time so it is very explicit about his roots and that he came from the house of David. I hope that clears up your question better than I did in our previous comments.

I am not sure what you are asking when you ask about their "Fate?" What do you mean? Are you referring to what happened to them after death? Let me know what you are asking.

From your reply I get the impression that if Jesus is a prophet, then the Messiah has not come yet. Is that what you are trying to say?

I am curious as to why Islam says Jesus was not crucified. What does Islam believe about his death and resurrection? Ascension?

Hope you are well.

Gabreil said...

Dear Loretta
Hope you are well too

Would you like to tell me the exact meaning of word "messiah" and its origin.

And this word Jew came from the tribe of JUDAH. You can search the tribe of Judah and its relationship with Jews from Wikipedia.It has nothing to do with Religion.

And if you have sufficient time i can forward you a very comprehensive book related to Crucifixion with reference from bible and Gospels.( You have to Promise me that you'll read it )

Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

We have a tradition here about Wikipedia. Tt is written by everyday people who are sometimes considered experts, but most times are just people interested in the topic. It is not necessarily checked for facts and kids are not allowed to use it for references for school because it contains many things that can be misconstrued.

I am interested to see what book on crucifixion you are referring to. I have probably already read it. I have done alot of research as well. I did not come by this faith blindly...remember my science background. I question everything.

I welcome your version of the definition of messiah. Let's share!

I have to tell you that I'm getting the impression that you are not interested in true dialog here because I've asked several questions that you still have not answered. I'm still waiting for the answer to what you mean by Jesus' mother's and father's fate? And why you asked what faith they were. I'm trying to understand the point you are getting to. Otherwise we just keep going down rabbit holes and not finishing any discussion. I love how our discussions started out, really sharing, but now I sense something different. Am I wrong?

Have a great day.

As usual, will wait for your response.


Gabriel said...

Well, you are quite right. You may ask a single question every time.
It'll keep me in one direction. Several questions on different topics need a lot of work and research which take time. And your unanswered question are unanswered because of the same reason.

And the question about Jesus's mother was to know what you think of their fate. I assume we are on same page. And the word Jew came from Judah(P.B.U.H). I referred you to wikipedia so you can get unbiased information.

And About Crucifiction you can read this very small but comprehensive book whose link is given below. It contain references from Bible and Gospels

And i beg your parden if i have offended you by any means


Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

You have not offended me at all. But I will admit I have been confused by several of your comments. Usually when people desire meaningful dialog they take the time to answer fully each question that is asked. I don't mind if you have to do research at all, I am patient. How does that sound?

I felt that I was answering each of your questions in turn, so I am surprised that you did not feel that way. So how about we take your suggestion and start here with your thought:

Jesus' mother's fate. You said you assume we are on the same page. Could you explain your train of thought on this subject? I am not following what you are trying to say. I don't know what you mean by "fate" or that you assume we agree since I don't know what we agree on. :)

Let's start there.

Thank you!

Gabreil said...

It sounds great

Jesus mother "Fate" is Heaven to Muslims and i assume that you believe the same

did you read that Book on Crucifixion.

I hope you are well and enjoying the best of health

Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

I have read this book in the past. I will give you three different reasons why I do not take this book to be one that understands Christianity well at its basic foundation.
1. Just in the first page, it designates the real founder of Christianity as St. Paul. I would refute that claim and remind the author that St. Paul propagated Christianity, but was not the author. Jesus Christ was the author. Michael Hart's assertion that St. Paul was more influential comes from the fact that Jesus did not travel outside his boundaries of evangelization. Paul's whole job was to propagate Christ's message of salvation outside to the gentiles. Jesus had three years of ministry (in which he shared the truth and philosophy and guidelines for how to reach eternal life), Paul and the other apostles had many more years to propagate Jesus' truths. Jesus was both divine and human in nature, the rest of us are human. His ability to open the gates of Heaven is impossible for humans. His task was to take on our sin, die for those sins, open the gates of Heaven and lead humanity to that eternity. So while I think Hart's take on who is influential is interesting, it does not value the message of what was being taught, only the real estate in which humans traveled. I believe a much different book would be written if we could see beyond this veil of our human existence in 3 dimensions.

2. I find it interesting that Michael Hart's work is on the first page of the book. His background is physics and math so I don't know how anyone could possibly consider what he has to say about history with any seriousness. I could definitely talk about what I've seen in the world of education of children, but no one would ever take any book I wrote on the subject seriously since my degree is not in education. Therefore, Hart's book is a non-starter for me.

3. When the author of the crucifixion book says that Jesus claims salvation only comes through the commandments (Matt 19:16-17) he is misquoting the Bible as well as taking the conversation out of context (read the actual words). If the author would have read further he would have gotten a much larger picture. Jesus told the man that to be perfect he needed to sell everything and FOLLOW him. Also, further on when the disciples question Jesus asking who can be saved, his response is, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible." (Matt: 19:26) and continues to say that those who give up everything for "the sake of my name" (Matt 19:29) will receive eternal life. Therefore, the conversation is taken out of context. It is like me describing another human being to you. If I tell you their eyes are blue, I have only told you one attribute and you would not be able to discern the rest of who they were. For example, in John 11:25, Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." That's more of the story.

When I read such misinterpretations just on the first page of the crucifixion book you referred me to (going into each malformed assertion in that book would require a dissertation), I cannot hope to find truth within. Just as with a science experiment, if the hypothesis for the experiment is incorrect, the data that follows will be incorrect. The hypothesis for the crucifixion book was incorrect, therefore the data that follows will take on divergent meanings that do not follow truth.

I hope you understand where I am coming from. I do not wish to anger you, but I do feel the need to be truthful.

And yes, then we do agree that Jesus' mother, Mary, did go to Heaven. After all, if it weren't for her "fiat" of saying yes to being the mother of Jesus, we would not have Christianity.

Thank you for your words of health and know I wish the same for you!


Gabriel said...

Dear Loretta
its really good to know that you read that book. But I believe that the author is really good. He was a Memon ( Caste in Indian subcontinent). Memons are known as very honest and intelligent. They are the business tycoons in India and Pakistan. Its widely believed (Just a Joke) That if a memon gets mad he'll still be a merchant and Valuable.

I am very much interested in Inter-religion and i am glad that you are too. It'll be helpful for me if you keep answering me.

I usually read this mans books because i believe he was an honest man.
you can also watch him over the youtube just be searching Ahmed Deedat.

Hope you are good

Gabriel said...

I am really bad at typing. Reading it after posting makes it worse.

Really sorry for the spelling mistakes. Really Really ...

Loretta Oakes said...


You ARE fine! I don't care about the typing, I care about the meaning. So if you feel there you are not saying what you'd like to say, I am very patient. Try again! But if you're worried about the typing, don't be. I'm not. I appreciate you are willing to say it in English since I am at a disadvantage here.

Now for your comment: Please understand that being intelligent doesn't always mean being well read. I have no doubt the author is intelligent, he puts together thoughts that make sense. But I will say he has cursory knowledge of Christianity and therefore cannot argue one way or the other.

For example, I know some great authors. Heck, if you look at the best sellers you'll see famous names that look intelligent. However, when you begin to read their work you realize they have no knowledge of the craft, but somewhere somehow along the way someone liked their story and they got a start.

Does that analogy make sense?

You simply cannot argue for one religion or not if you don't have an in depth knowledge of them all. The author used one statement to justify all Christianity and truly that would be tantamount in the science industry to being called, "a rookie mistake." I hope he was being honest and not manipulating words for his own reasons. We all have to answer to God and honesty, truth, and respect for each other will play a big role in how we are judged.

What I am glad for is that our exchange is genuine and we respect each other. THAT is true dialog.

Hope you are well!

Thanks for continuing.

Gabriel said...

Not very well, Since its Ramadan Here. Its a holy month. we continue to fast for 30 days. Fasting time here in Pakistan is nearly 17 hours starting before sunrise and ending at sunset. Fasting in Summer is really tough,( since we are not allowed to eat and drink anything).

Loretta Oakes said...

Dear Gabriel:

One of the reasons for fasting is to allow us to completely rely on God and to remind us that sustenance is a gift from Him.

The saints used it as a way to purify themselves and focus completely on God.

Best wishes and know that if you focus on God, all things are possible!

Gabriel said...

Waiting for your new post