Let’s Get On With It
By Fred Pruitt
(I first wrote this about five years ago, but never published or posted it. I thought at the time that it was a bit much “about me.” I came across it again and re-read it recently. There is more to be found here than some of my life’s little historical details. Let the reader receive by the Spirit what is for each.)
There are times when we know that we are at a new launching point, a point of departure from one place where we’ve been for a long time, into a new place where we have never been before. We all have those times. The night before our wedding. Graduation Week. Sitting strapped in the capsule of a Saturn rocket waiting for the lift-off.
It’s a really exciting, tense time. Things are happening fast. The new is coming in faster than the old can go out. Everything up to this point has been to get to this place, this moment. And here it is, pretty soon now, it’s about to happen. We’re going to say our vows. We’ll walk up to the platform and get our diploma. The countdown is coming to an end and the rocket is going to take off. We are finally realizing that we are at that moment, when everything we’ve been gearing up for throughout all our preparation days is about to happen.
If there is time to reflect at all, we could remember everything and every day that led to this moment. Everything that prepared us for it, without our even knowing it. Sitting there, strapped in our space suit chock full of sensors, communicators and life-support systems, maybe there’s time to remember being a little kid and making a space ship out of a refrigerator box, imagining with only a child’s imagination, that we were launching out into the depths of space and exploring alien worlds. And we might think, “What that child’s vision and desire has brought forth!”
This is a time like that now. I would say I am speaking just for myself, but I think it is more than that. Because we are all interconnected, and my story intersects everyone else’s, and everyone else’s mine. So I think it is for everybody, that I tell a little more of this story.
Very shortly after the Lord met us that Christmas night in 1972 and changed everything in the blink of an eye, as if that wasn’t enough, He did something else that turned everything upside down and I’ve never known right-side up since.
I was minding my own business one day in early 1973, sitting in our blue velvet easy chair in our living room, being a good Christian boy and reading my Bible. I had fought that book so hard, for so long, that when the scales fell from my eyes and I began to hear God speak to me from it, it became the most precious thing I had ever known. It was like a chest bulging with treasure, that every time I opened showed me a new piece of glittering gold or a new rare precious gem.
I was reading in 2 Timothy when the words came. All the words in the Bible had become enlightened to me, but up until that time in a general sense. But THESE words, THAT day, THAT moment, seemed to come right out of heaven, with a special light about them, and I knew they were especially FOR ME! And in the same instant, I also knew they were more than the words on the paper; they were a commandment, a commission, a life’s work, a living empowerment, spoken to (in) me in three little words that have thundered inside me every day since: “PREACH THE WORD.” (2 Tim 4:2).
Now that sounds very dramatic and almost the stuff of Hollywood, but it is true. That is exactly what happened. I jumped up and started running around shouting, “Hallelujah,” because I knew this Word was true and had been spoken to ME! I hadn’t a clue as to what it meant or how it would happen. I just knew He had spoken, and that I was in for it now.
So began everything that led up until this current moment in time.
“Okay,” I thought, “I’m going to be a preacher. Where do I go?”
I went to see Bob Beeland, the rector of the Episcopal church we were attending. Bob was a believer, a charismatic, an anglophile, a friend of Norman Grubb, and a L.A. (Lower Alabama) aristocrat. Therefore, he spoke with an aristocratic, anglophile-effected, lower-Alabama southern drawl.
And he was a huge man compared to me. We were sitting in his study in the parish house when I told Bob I wanted to enter the ministry. He sighed and leaned his massive frame back into his chair. He hemmed and hawed, and then in that slow aristocratic lazy southern drawl said, “Well, one cannot just stand up in the Episcopal Church and announce, ‘I got a callin’ to preach,’ and they make you a priest of the Episcopal Church.” (Did I mention Bob was also a snob?) Bob then went on to explain how one had to do things like finish college or university, go to seminary, etc., to become a priest, all of which of course took years and years. I had left college a while before, well-short of completion.
To my young mind (21) then, that was just too far off. I felt I had to have something more immediate to get this thing going. Not long after that, Cary, the fellow who had prayed with us to receive Jesus that previous Christmas Day, sent me a letter and invited us to join the ministry he was part of, based in a church in Monterey, California.
We went through a bit of rigmarole making our decision to go, fleeces and such, but after a time we determined it was the Lord’s will that we should go to California. I can’t get the image of the Beverly Hillbillies out of my mind when I think of our trip in that 1959 VW bus. What made it so much like the Hillbillies was the fact that we had our rocking chair in the back, and as we crossed country at <50 mph, alternately on Route 66 and the yet to be fully completed I-40, we rocked two-month old John, our first child, all the way to California. (We got stopped, twice, on the freeway by state troopers, once in Arizona and once in California, for going too slow!)
I knew we had come to the right place when we arrived in Monterey. It really had been a shot in the dark to go, because we only went on Cary’s word, and the Lord’s. Of course everybody, friends and family, were now convinced beyond doubt that we were crazy to the max. We literally didn’t know another thing about the place. But oh the delight to find a community of young believers, all “on-fire” for the Lord, whose sole purpose was as a group to “preach the gospel to every creature.” We were told on arrival that this was a “ministerial training course,” and were immediately taken into the “full-time” community.
They had just purchased a huge house and grounds a block from the church building. It had formerly been the residence for a group of Catholic nuns. There were two out-buildings on the property. Our little family was given one of them. It was a one-room little house with a bathroom with only a sink and toilet. No tub or shower. But that was okay. Anything for the Lord. We bathed at the brother’s and sister’s houses, respectively, and bathed John in a little plastic tub on the floor with water heated by a hot plate. We took our meals at the kitchen in the church, where we ate communally with the other brothers and sisters two meals a day.
We started every weekday in the church sanctuary with an hour of Bible study at 7:00 AM, followed by an hour of group prayer, then classes in evangelism, pastoral studies, etc. Depending on the day, we might finish the morning’s devotions by going out and witnessing on the streets, down at Fisherman’s Wharf, or going door-to-door. The rest of the day we all had jobs to do. We were remodeling the church at the time, so most of us young men worked on the construction project, while the ladies did other things.
We literally sang songs to God while we worked, or we spoke about the scriptures and the works of God in our own lives. It was spontaneous and truly joyful! Everyone there was like Janis and I – we felt we had been rescued and had found life and peace in Christ. It was like being in a Pentecostal monastery, except we had spouses. I’ll have to say that at least part of that early time was one of the most joyous times of my life. We woke up praising the Lord, went to work praising the Lord, and went to bed at night praising the Lord. We were mostly very new believers with little mature knowledge in the things of God, but oh, did we have zeal and love aplenty!
Time doesn’t permit telling much more of this part of the story, but perhaps I will one day. After some six years in that training, (the years I had wanted not to have to endure to become an Episcopal priest), along with a whole bunch of others, I was ordained into the ministry. I got a Cross pen (which has long since gone), a certificate (which must be with the Cross pen), a title, (“Reverend,” which I’ve never once used), and fiery Holy Ghost prayers.
I have never been able to use the “ordination” we were given, since there were no other of our churches out there in the world. We had planned there would be, but it never came about. However, I’ve never forgotten the prayers and receiving the laying on of hands for the work of God. It was no light thing then, and it is not a light thing to me now, either. That has always been a serious matter to me, and I took the prayers and the commission of the “mantle of Elijah,” and to be “filled with the Holy Ghost for empowerment in the work,” as serious business with the Lord. (And in later years, when I tried to do a Jonah thing and run away, the Lord reminded me that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Rom 11:29). (Once caught, no escape!)
But the next year, the Lord took us out of there and back to Georgia. Not very long after we settled in Rome in 1980, Janis and I had our first sit-down with Norman Grubb, who told us, “You’ve got the Teacher in you!”
Thus began phase two of the Lord’s perfect training course began for me. From then on, I no longer had an outer director for my spiritual life, because this next period of my life was all about learning to hear the Inner Teacher myself, learning the difference between soul and spirit, and walking in the Living Word.
Those were the exciting Union Life Magazine days, when people were coming out of the woodworks from everywhere to drink of the Lord’s union reality. The air was almost electric in those days. Our conferences sometimes had attendees in the hundreds. During “conference seasons,” which were normally in Spring and early Autumn, there were conferences almost every weekend it seemed like, in various parts of the country, from California to New York. There was a camp every summer where numerous people went with their whole families for weeks at a time, to hear and learn the union message. Where there were no conferences, groups and isolated individuals rose up, desiring the small group of teacher/sharers who were traveling at the time, to come and share with them.
Then that “calling” came rising back up in me. I HAD to be a part of that. It BURNED inside, that I HAD TO get out and share this glorious liberation of our union with Christ. Surely, this was my time, I thought. Then in 1985, after having worked in a yarn mill in Rome for a few years with nothing but “this” on my mind, I left my job and with my friend, Brian Coatney, started another union-oriented magazine. We began to travel the US together by car sharing everywhere our union with Christ. We went to England, Canada, and almost every state in the union. (Except Hawaii – which I would like to make up for.)
I left my yarn mill job and we stepped out on the Lord alone for our living, believing first that we were called and therefore God always takes care of His workers, and secondly that we could take Jesus’ words literally when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
And we saw it! We saw the hand of the Lord time and time and time again, as He continually took care of our every need. Even though we were in an organization at the time, we took no pledges, made no financial appeals, had no salary, but trusted in the Lord’s perfect provision through His people, and He was unfailing.
But many will also remember that was a time of tremendous conflict among our little group. For various reasons we began to splinter into factions. One bunch went this way, another that way. Differences arose. Trouble, arguments, disagreements, splits, differences in doctrine, differences in application all began to rise up and be at the forefront.
For a couple of years, it seemed like it was more that than anything else. Just continual argument and controversy. And I was in the middle of all of it, as vocal for my cause as anyone else. No one wanted to get one of “Fred’s letters” in those days!
But eventually it broke me. I couldn’t keep it up. I began to hate the conflict. I didn’t know then that was part of that sword Jesus came with. (Matt 10:34-39). I knew there had to be a cross to take, but I didn’t know the conflict was part of it, or at least I didn’t want the conflict to be a part of it. I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, so I fled.
I didn’t really mean at the time to go all the way away, so that I had no contact with anyone from those union days. But that’s what happened over time. We moved first from Hopkinsville KY to Nashville, then back to Rome, GA, then way down to Macon in central Georgia. All together we were gone from our union friends, with almost no contact during that time, for almost ten years!
The Word fell silent in me. I never denied Him, but I thought I had failed Him. I thought I had had my chance and blown it. My first pastor had drummed into us that the worse thing one could possibly be was a “John Mark,” about whom Paul and Barnabas had such a controversy, because he left them in the middle of the work. It was tantamount to “taking up the plow and looking back.” (Luke 9:62). I thought I was toast as far as the work of God was concerned. I didn’t think He’d have me back. I thought I was John Mark and that I had taken up the plow, and looked back.
Jesus had other plans though. And of all things, He used “Y2K” and our son, Andrew, to open my eyes to Him again. I had lost the joy of my salvation and the inner comfort of the Lord for a time, and it seemed that failure in everything, had become my only reality.
In mid-1999, Andrew came like a whirlwind into our house for another stay. He came carrying with him fear about Y2K, and what would happen afterwards. He was convinced we might be at the end of time and was very disturbed for a while. I was so dim in the Spirit then, I had nothing to offer him for comfort. I had no comfort myself, so what hope could I offer him?
But then something started stirring in me. I didn’t work it up. I didn’t look for it. I still remembered the conflict and the pain, and I wasn’t keen on experiencing any of that again. It was like the Lord, Who Himself was the instigator and not me, was revealing Himself in me again. It was just a little spark, but I could sense the fire starting to burn again.
I got a wild hare, and called the Buntings in Louisville, whose annual September conference “just happened” to be going on at the time. I still remembered their number by heart after not dialing it for ten years. DeeDee Winter answered the phone. She immediately knew my voice – I didn’t even have to say who I was – and then Luli got on the phone. It was like we hadn’t been apart a day! John came with a pastor from Kenya, Jared Mutsembi, to visit us shortly after that. Then all this stuff, all these words, all these concepts, and the Spirit of God, began to rise up in me all of themselves. I began to consciously “know” again, after I had forgotten it for so long, that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
By the time the next September rolled around, in 2000, it had all come back. We planned to go to the conference in Louisville, but didn’t have the money and our car was a piece of rickety crap. The CV joints were crackling and Janis asked me if we should make the trip. I said, “We’re going if we have to hitchhike. I don’t care what it takes to get there, we’ll do it.” Somehow the money was provided and we drove the nine hours to Louisville (and back) without mishap or breakdown in our rickety, axle-joint popping car.
It was almost magic to me to be back with our friends again. I had forgotten the main ingredient in all this, during our days of disagreements and conflict. I had forgotten how the “brethren love one another.” O what a breath of Life it was to be loved again in the Lord. We made many new and dear friends all the days we were gone from our other friends, but we had not had fellowship in the depths of the Lord in all that time. The water of Life is unmistakable and unable to be duplicated. There is nothing like it, and how gracious of the Lord to fill us again after our wanderings! How wonderful to slake our thirst in that eternal well again!
At the end of the conference, we had our nine-hour drive facing us, and as is always the case, I was sitting in the car with the engine running while Janis was saying thorough goodbyes to half the world. Finally, I saw her talking to Linda at the top of their driveway, and when she got in the car she said, “You know what we were talking about?”
“No,” I replied, “What?”
“Luli and I were talking about the possibility that we could move up here and stay with them a while, and you could start traveling with John.”
It’s amazing how one sentence can sometimes change everything. To make this long story short, we did just that. We were back in Louisville in less than a month, and poor Buntings, they put up with us in their home for six months. There could be no more gracious hosts than they were to us, and the proof of that is that after we lived with them for six months, we’re all still friends!
Which almost brings me to the present moment. All who get this should know that after we had been here in Louisville for a few years, in 2005 I heard the Word again, that this was the time to step out again into the Lord’s provision for the work He had called me to do.
John had been traveling for the previous few years with our precious Dan Stone, who went to be with the Lord in late 2004. That left a vacant spot in John’s car. I couldn’t possibly fill Dan’s place, but the Lord graciously put me in the seat anyway, and for the past 10 years John and I, often accompanied by others, have been traveling and sharing everywhere we go the sufficiency of Christ in our present moment lives through finding our self-identity only in Him.
But this time, it wasn’t as I had remembered it from my previous days in the 1980s. It had been so electric then, and there weren’t enough of us “teacher/sharers” to get around to everybody, because so many were coming up and wanting to know. Now there seemed only a few who were interested. Many from the old days had gone on to glory, and some had lost interest and were into other things. Not a few were willing for us to come by, but weren’t especially interested in getting into the depths with us. Many remembered the conflicts from the past, and like me, were not anxious to repeat all that.
John and I were glad for the ones and twos here and there who were interested, but it seemed so slow, and I wondered how it had gotten like that and what should we do about it. Where had the crowds gone? Why were so few interested enough to have us come visit and share with them and their groups?
We kept talking among ourselves, wondering why we were doing this. We knew we were willing to drive anywhere, anytime, at the Lord’s bidding, to see even one person if that was what we were to do. And more than once we drove hundreds of miles to see one person! I kept thinking of the story John told about meeting the missionary in the mountains of Kashmir. This man, named Irshad Dudah, (I know I’m spelling that wrong), was in his 90s. He was challenged by Norman Grubb when he heard a word of commission in 1950, when he was getting out of the Indian military, to preach the gospel and live by faith. He had gone back to Kashmir to do just that, and for the next fifty years he walked the mountains for only handfuls of converts.
John met him in 2000 when he went to India, after he and Linda had corresponded with Irshad for about 20 years by mail. John described meeting Irshad like this: “I looked up into his eyes, and I saw Jesus.” In his 90s he was still hiking those mountains of Kashmir, and still had only handfuls of converts throughout the region, a region filled with war and conflict and religious controversy, because of the rivalry between India and Pakistan, and between Hindus and Muslims. Everywhere he went, Irshad was respected by the locals as a “holy man,” but I couldn’t get over how he’d walked and labored all those years for only a handful of folks.
I thought, “Lord, if that is what it is to be for us, then that’s ok. You’re in charge of this. Numbers mean nothing. You call who You will, and speak Your Word through us. That’s all we can do. You give the increase and whatever increase you give we’ll thank and praise you for it.”
Then the Lord showed me something else. It came several years ago, as John and I were about to step out into the third year of our travels together.
It’s all about fruit. All that “electricity” that we felt twenty and thirty years ago, when things were happening so much and everybody we knew was abuzz about “the message,” was the fruit of a previous generation’s labor. In our group, it was mainly the fruit of Norman Grubb’s labor, and all the rest of us, including the teacher/sharers who went out during that time, were Norman’s fruit either directly or indirectly. Though he had headed the WEC for years whose primary goal was world evangelism through missions, Norman’s personal commission had always been to share our union with Christ. He felt it was a special commission “to the whole church in the whole world,” and we all joined in with him in his commission. For years and years before the 70s and 80s when all this stuff began to flourish, he had driven the country and met with ones and twos and groups and churches here and there. People hardly understood him. Only handfuls here and there. But he kept on and on. Whoever would have him, wherever they would have him, he would go. He used to take the Greyhound or train or whatever means of transportation he could find.
When I came on the scene, it was all his labor coming to fruition. All of us were basking in the electricity of the Spirit as He brought Norman’s life’s work into view of all of us, and let us share in the bounty of God through it.
Now the Lord has said to me that what is happening now, is this generation’s time, this generation’s labor, and the time for this generation’s fruition. A tree has fruit, and the fruit falls to the ground and dies, and then a new tree grows, which has its own fruit. God works from generation to generation and is completely new in that generation. We build upon what we have been given from the past. In our case we feel strongly the DNAs of both D.L. Moody, who lead Studd to Christ, and Hudson Taylor, the spiritual father of C.T. Studd in ministry. Then we have C.T. Studd’s DNA, because Studd was the spiritual father of Norman Grubb. And then we have Norman, who has been spiritual father to hundreds of us in our time. Their blood and spirit are coursing through our veins.
But now they have gone and passed the torch to us. They planted us as a new tree of the Lord, which comes to fruition in its own time and way. We cannot rest in the fruit of the past. If we try to, we find it rotten on the ground. No, we take the seeds of that fruit, from that tree, and when planted in the ground in the invisible, it soon becomes a new tree, with new fruit, for a new generation, which will repeat again and again.
Now I understand. Nothing is wrong. All is as it should be. Julian of Norwich is right — “All manner of things shall be well.”
Which brings me to this present moment. We are in the beginning of a new day. This is what I sense. Everyone knows my propensity to draw from the stories in Genesis – Deuteronomy, and this is no exception, except the Lord has now begun to take me across the river into Joshua. For me personally the word is, “You have eaten the manna of the wilderness until now. You have been sustained day by day in heat and cold, hunger and plenty. But the day has come to possess the Land. From now on, the manna has ceased, you will eat of the fruit of the land, even as I told Joshua and the host of Israel.” (Joshua 5:12).
Well, that’s that.
What a challenging time we live in. The enormity of the problems facing the world are overwhelming for most of us. How do we solve them, or can they be solved?
Nevertheless, our eyes are still on the Prize! Shall our God fail us now? Does He bring to the birth, yet does not give strength enough to finish it?
Have we really grasped it? Have we truly been taken into the heavenlies in Christ, so that we “sit there” now, with Him?
Do we know we are He expressed as us?
Do we know that love is our only law and only conviction? All the Law and the Prophets are swallowed up and completed in Jesus Christ. Love works no ill to its neighbor. That is our only “law” but it is not really a “law” in the sense other “commandments” are law. Everything the law tells us to do, before we know who we are in Christ, leads eventually to frustration. Our hearts are on fire with the love of God but are blocked in their outflow by the “Law,” which keeps us focused on ourselves and “our” maturity or progress in the Spirit. It’s a very frustrating situation.
But love is not like that. There are no “shoulds and oughts” in love. There is only be, or be not. There is only one “commandment” for love to fulfill. To be itself. Which isn’t hard, since “to love” is love’s “nature.” And now love is OUR nature!
How do we do it? Is there a manual to read and memorize? No – one needs no manual to be what one is. God is love, and He lives in us. Therefore, we are love, too.
Deus caritas est.*
- *”God is love.”