Walking in the fields recently I came across an old friend. Isolated in the centre of an open meadow stood a single, large tree. But this tree held my gaze because it was unlike most others. Half the tree was obviously alive, covered with leaves and apparently vigorous. But half was clearly dead, with bare and sterile branches pointing starkly skywards.

One tree, but half alive and half dead.

It was many years ago that I first noticed this same tree, in just the same condition, and at that time the Spirit seemed to impress on me that it was an accurate picture of ‘the church’; half alive & half dead. At the time, and no doubt betraying a good deal of pride, I supposed that the Spirt was referring to the state of the church in the nation, and I prayed accordingly. Perhaps that was true.

But this time the Spirit gently prompted me to consider that perhaps the tree might also reflect the state of ‘my church’. And – still more insistent and still more discomforting – that perhaps it also reflected the condition of my own life. There were surely parts of my life that were healthy, fruitful and deeply alive. But surely also parts that were largely dead or dying, sterile and unproductive.

And the point (for me at least) is that ‘dead wood’ is not OK. It is not merely unfruitful and unsightly; it weakens the healthy parts. It distracts from what is good, and absorbs the moisture and nutrients that should be fully sustaining the fertile areas.

“…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.” (Jn 15:1-2)

So Father, show me (gently please) the areas of my life that are unproductive and need removing.

And the fruitful areas that nevertheless need your pruning, in order to increase their yield for the King and for the Kingdom.