ripening in order to bear fruit

“The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of one poor little person
to save a multitude of others,
redeemed like her at the price of His Blood.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a slight blush begins on the persimmions / Troup, Co Georgia / Julie Cook / 2108)

Therese of Lisieux, known as ‘the Little Flower’, was only 24 years old when she died
from tuberculosis.
Despite her sweet and tender disposition, her Chrisitan spiritual impact was to be
tremendous as she today is known far and wide both inside and out of Catholic circles.
Next to Saint Francis of Assisi, Therese is the second most popular Catholic saint.

Therese lost her mother to what is thought to have been breast cancer when Therese was
only 4 and a half years old.
An older sister stepped into the role of surrogate mother to the young Theresa.

It wasn’t long after that time that Theresa’s two older sisters each left home as they
sought to join the cloistered community of the Carmelite order.

Carmelites are a religious order founded in the 12th century near Mt Carmel,
hence the name.
It is a religious cloistered order known for a contemplative lifestyle—
that being a life of prayer.
Community, service, and prayer are their central focus.

At first, Theresa was devastated as she had first lost her mother and now was
losing her two sisters who had taken her mother’s place in her life and heart.
Theresa was known for being a bright child who excelled in school yet was very
sensitive and was often the victim of vicious bullying.

Soon she developed what doctors labeled as “neurotic attacks”—
uncontrollable tremors, a result
as her body’s way of dealing with frustration.

Her oldest sister would then write letters of encouragement to Theresa speaking to her
of faith, Jesus, and mother Mary.

“Christmas Eve of 1886 was a turning point in the life of Thérèse; she called it
her “complete conversion.”
Years later she stated that on that night she overcame the pressures she had faced since
the death of her mother and said that “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up
in an instant…
On that blessed night … Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me,
saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood”.

(Wikipedia)

And so at the age of 15, Theresa left home to also join the Carmelite order.

She leaned heavily on the writings of two Spanish Carmelite mystics,
St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.

Theresa was fervent in her desire to draw ever closer to God.
“In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish
heroic acts, or great deeds, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God.
She wrote, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love?
Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers
and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the
least actions for love.”

Wikipedia

And so Theresa had learned one of life’s most difficult yet important lessons…
that in order to accomplish big and great things,
these things must be accomplished in small and almost insignificant ways in order to have
the most lasting and powerful effects.

It was this humble yet steadfast approach of hers in developing a deeply intimate
relationship with God, Jesus and even Mary and in turn offering that intimate relationship
to others, that seems to have drawn so many admirers, both Catholic and not,
to this simple young nun.

In her short 24 years, she made such a tremendous impact on those who had known her…
so much so that it was just 28 years following her death that she was declared a Saint
as well as Doctor of the Chruch.

Another small yet giant of a woman, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, would eventually borrow
the name of Theresa, taking it as her own when she professed her own vows as a nun…
that woman was Mother Teresa.

And so it is with our ripening little persimmon which helps to remind us of the wisdom
of the little flower, St. Theresa.
We are all waiting, in some fashion or other, during our own individual time of ripening and
growth—waiting for the right time when we can finally bear the strong and powerful fruits of
a heart rooted in the belief and wisdom of Jesus Christ—

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing
in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:10

good fruit, bad fruit

“Beautiful, enticing, forbidden fruit will be offered to you when your “hunger” is greatest.
If you are foolish enough to reach for it,
your fingers will sink into the rotten mush on the back side.
That’s the way sin operates in our lives. It promises everything.
It delivers nothing but disgust and heartache.”

James C. Dobson

It never seems to fail that at this time, each year, I offer up some thoughts
on the gathering of the harvest.

The notion of fruit and or vegetables–be they good or be they bad…

This as I muse over the idea of the labor of one’s hands as well as the required patience
and persistence of both watching and waiting for that labor to come to fruition.

And that’s because I am usually in the beginning stages of harvesting something
this same time of each and every year…

A few years back I posted a great deal about our vegetable garden.

From the tiling of the soil, to the planting of the seeds, to the nurturing of those
tiny first shoots, to the building of a scarecrow in order to keep pesky critters
from eating me out of house and home.


(our scarecrow 2014/ Julie Cook)

We had actually named the scarecrow Tom… after one of my husband’s lifelong friends.
They did favor just a tad.

There was even the tale of the cutting off of slivers of Irish Spring soap and scattering
said slivers around the outer edges, along the periphery of the garden,
as an “old timer” had told us it was an excellent critter deterrent.

Of which seemed to work…for a while.


(the soap and deterents from 2014 / Julie Cook)

But then my dad got sick and needed me.

And I couldn’t tend to Dad and a garden at the same time.
The garden was big and demanded a great deal of attention and time…two things
I had suddenly found myself without as the time and attention needed for Dad far
outweighed the time and attention needed by the corn and squash.

So the garden was abandoned.
Filled in and covered up about 4 years ago.

Yet happily, I still manage to find a few things in the yard of which I must
gather and harvest.

Be it those first deep purple blueberries fresh off the 4 ever growing blueberry bushes…
or those first blushing shades of color coming from the tomatoes I’ve managed to plant
in a few containers perched in the flower beds,
Or simply the monitoring of the growing apples…
I still find a deep sense of satisfaction when gathering and harvesting.

Those of you who have been with me for a while most likely recall that every year,
around this same time, we have trouble with our apple trees and the peach trees.

You may recall the tales of when the sun goes down in our neck of the woods
and we go off to bed, that there’s a magic signal which goes out to all the deer in the area…
a dinner bell so to speak, clanging in the night, for one and all to come and get it…
come on over to Julie’s house and nibble on her fruit trees.

And let’s not bring up my husband’s pecan orchard that he planted about 3 years back…
those 50 “trees” I lovingly refer to as our green Q-tips planted in long rows out in the yard…

Their plight has been equally perilous.

With our resident deer, it’s more of a mindset of eat, kill and destroy any
and all of Julie’s trees.

Their idea is not to merely eat the fruit but rather to eat all the leaves as well as
the entire tree, limbs and all.

And so it’s a bit of a chess match…
waiting ever so patiently to see who makes the first move—
me or the deer.

So as it was today, with the sun was shining and it being most pleasant out,
I went to inspect the remaining 3 out of the 4 apple trees.
Sadly the deer simply ate up the 4th tree.

That victimized apple tree, plus the nearby equally destroyed peach tree,
are what I refer to as the sacrificial trees…as in the hope is that by eating up two of
my trees…that will be enough—
leaving me with 6 out of the original 8.

And whereas I see plenty of signs of snapped limbs and a few unripened fruit spent
on the ground…blessedly, I also see trees full of goodness.


(a fallen apple without the opportunity to rippen is now food for the ants / Julie Cook / 2018)

And so as I go about my yearly task of surveying, harvesting,
and finally gathering what there is to gather,
I am reminded, once again, about the importance of being known by our fruits.

Good healthy fruit or bad, diseased, soured, unripened and spent fruit?

What do I have to offer to those who come with a need or to those who are in search of
something thoughtful, fulfilling and full of ripened Grace?

Well if the deer don’t get involved, then may it be an offering which is good, plentiful,
abundant and more than filling.

By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 7:16-20

after the rains

“… millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves
on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

― Susan Ertz

It is amazing how quickly after a rain a mushroom sprouts its “fruit” and within a mere few hours
has “blossomed” into its full regalia.
And yes this one is indeed poisonous.

“Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the skies rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation may sprout forth,
and let it cause righteousness to spring up also;
I the Lord have created it.

Isaiah 45:8

seeking and hiding

“In moments of exaltation one expressed sentiments that outstripped
one’s spiritual capabilities by a vast span; and she knew well that
unless God is sought for Himself alone, with a selflessness
of which she was at present incapable,
He is not to be found.”

― Elizabeth Goudge


(wild blackberries are ripening deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)


(the ripening blueberries bushes out back in the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

I go to great lengths when it comes to seeking out, and subsequently picking,
those glistening seasonal black and blue ripening gems…
those succulent orbs and globes of juicy blueberries and now
the incoming crop of wild blackberries.

I have been known to go to near daredevil feats in order to fill a basket, bowl or bag
with these precious little beauties.
I have braved chiggers, ticks, snakes…as well as bleeding to death due to digging deep
into the proverbial briar patch.

This obsessiveness over berry picking worries my husband.

He seems to believe that I do not possess the gift of lithe or grace when it comes to say,
walking…let alone standing on my head while reaching deep into a thicket of the unknown
in search of the elusive black or blue jewel.

I think it comes down to the fact that he’s going to hold that broken ankle business
against me for the rest of my non broken life.
It wasn’t my fault I fell in a drain hole while putting out the pine straw that spring…
a hole he’d dug out just days prior and failed to fill back in before I stepped in it.

So when I must balance on a narrow brick wall,
while leaning over as far as I can with one foot planted on the ledge while
the other leg is sticking straight out behind me in some sort of yoga like pose…
all the while as I’m reaching as far as I can
without face planting into a mass jumble of branches,
fruit and leaves…
well, I don’t know what the fuss and worry is all about.

I mean, I watch for the snakes, bees and ants.
I try my best not to fall, really I do.
I can’t help that I’ll be covered with red whelps the following day that will itch like
nobody’s business…
I can’t help that I scream the word “STOP!!” when we’re happily and quietly driving down
a road in the middle of nowhere when I suddenly spot a lovely ripening bramble bush
along the side of said deserted road… beckoning to be picked.
He likes the pies and cobblers…so what’s all the the big worry???

So naturally while I was reaching and digging deep buried up to my elbows in stickers,
all during the throws of my berry seeking session yesterday,
oh so busy about the task of finding and picking…
I was stuck by a startlingly similarity between my hyper focused quest in seeking
the elusive hiding fruits—the object of an almost obsessive determination, and
the lengths to which I know God goes when He wants, nay yearns, to seek out and
eventually find….us….

As we have the tendency to hide, always painstakingly out of arms reach…and
yet a loving God painstakingly seeks his own…
for He will go to even much greater and even more daring lengths in His quest for us
than dare say I do over a mere berry….

And boy how grateful I am that He does!

I will seek that which was lost,
and bring again that which was driven away,
and will bind up that which was broken,
and will strengthen that which was sick:
but I will destroy the fat and the strong;
I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:16

apples are apples… yet sometimes they just might be an orange….

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9


(one of our two little apples on our four apple trees…Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas an apple a day supposedly keeps the doctor away, historically apples have often
fallen in and out of favor….both literally and figuratively.
in part due to a loss of translation or simple miscommunication.

A member of the rose family, apples were most likely the first trees to be cultivated
by man.
Historical records have even credited Alexander the Great with most likely
discovering a dwarf variety of apples that he later brought to Macedonia from Kazakhstan.

And it was the early European settlers who are credited with having first introduced
cultivated varieties of apples to North America as the crab apple was the only native
“apple” species on the continent.

Thus having originated in central Asia, it is often speculated as to whether apples were
even known to exist as an actual fruit or tree in ancient biblical times.

And as any biblical translation scholar will tell you,
Hebrew translations may or may not always have a corresponding word in
English as an equivalent…
just as we observe with the use of the word apple in Psalm 17.

Verse 8 mentions “keeping me as the apple of your eye…”
Meaning that ‘I am to be held in the center of your heart and attention
I am your pride and joy…..”

As the Hebrew translation of the psalm does not use the word apple as we
know the word apple to be today, but rather it translates as “little man of my eye”
and refers to the pupil of the eye and not an actual apple because the pupil was
thought to be a round hard ball, much like an apple.

And yet it was the eye to which early civilizations looked as being key to the essence of a person.
So keeping one as the center of the eye is to have kept them at the heart of one’s being.

The word apple is laced throughout various verses and passages in the Old Testament
with a direct Hebrew translation often referring to pupils and or actual eyeballs…

So perhaps apple is wrongly transposed from the more accurate notion
of that of an aperture, with aperture being the center of the eye…
as an aperture is a hole in which light passes through, such as in a camera lens….
which in turn equates the pupil of the eye, which is the hole allowing
ligt to pass to the back of the retina….which is in essence how we see…
thus apple is meant as aperture.

And as we read the story in Genesis regarding the exchange between Eve and the serpent:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but God said,
‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

We see the same sort of translation issue arising in this story as
the Latin translation of the word “apple” is closely similar to the translation of “evil”
“with the Latin words mālum (an apple) and mălum (an evil),
each of which is normally written malum.
The tree of the forbidden fruit is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
in Genesis 2:17, and the Latin for “good and evil” is bonum et malum.”
(Wikipedia)

So we see that the end result is often that time has a way of cementing
certain words to certain meanings.
While the gist and the story remains pretty much the same and understood…
the symbols of various words take on a variety of meanings.

As in these two examples with the word apple…
In the one instance it is seen as something ominous and wrong with a sinister
and evil connotation…
while next it is meant as something special, endearing and solely important…

And it is often here, in these confusions of translations and multiple meanings,
that skeptics often point…
as skeptics love to use perceived confusion as a smoke screen of defense.
Their’s is a very loud and very vocal piece of the hysterical….
“see, that isn’t right, that isn’t what was really intended….
so how do you, how can you, claim to even know what is right or what is wrong…
maybe you’ve just been misguided all these thousands of years…”

However as we often see in these sacred stories and narratives that although there
may be multiple words that are being used in a variety of different contexts…
the meanings and lessons conveyed are still always the same as originally intended…

It’s just that we may have exchanged an apple for an orange…
Which means that sometimes the words are defined as the same thing,
and at other times they are not…
perhaps meaning or relating to a variety of different things such as
feelings, thoughts and emotions….

….such is the joy of language…

But one thing is always certain…
God’s word will always remain the same…as well as unchanged…
God’s meaning, intent and His words are never altered or changed despite man’s
often erroneous and misguided attempts of expressing such…
For His words stand the test to both time and translation….

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

how shall you be known?

“A lie is a delusion of the mind, while evil is a delusion of the will.
The sign by which one is distinguished from the other is the judgement of God Himself…
that which He teaches a man is the truth;
that which He leads a man to will is the good.
But whatever contradicts this is entirely false, entirely evil.”

St. Nicholas Cabasilas

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“Watch out for false prophets.

They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

By their fruit you will recognize them.

Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
(Matthew 7:15-20)

Where it is important that we should be able to recognize what is true, real and pure…
that which is not a falsehood, a lie, an evil…

Is it not equally as important that others should be able to look at us,
both you and me,
and recognize what drives us, guides us, leads us…?

What do they see?

Can they see what we stand for, what directs us, what motivates us…

Are we a mirror, reflecting the Grace, Mercy and determination of Christ

Or do we cast shadows of obscured light…

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(persimmons / Troup Co, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Romans 1:18

limeaide?

Since you cannot do good to all,
you are to pay special attention to those who,
by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances,
are brought into closer connection with you.

Saint Augustine

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(my first limes from my little lime tree / Julie Cook / 2016)

I certainly know all about that seemingly simplistic little adage…
You know the one…
when life hands you lemons,
make lemonade…

Sometimes that seems so much easier said then done…

Plus it sounds somewhat childlike, sappy and far too sweet for the more caustic moments of life.
For it is a far cry from the reality of the nitty gritty lives we are living.

It’s kind of like saying, Life just handed out a pile of crap and now you’re suppose to turn it into something sugary sweet and oh so refreshing…

Not happening.

My lemons on my lemon tree aren’t ripe yet, but the limes are.
Or so I thought they were…
So I wanted to test them…
Turns out they are good and ripe…

DSCN4190

Life right now is anything but a time for sipping a nice long, tall and cool glass of lemonade.

Now granted I did grab a lemonade from the drive through at a Chick-fil-A yesterday,
in-between taking Dad here, there and yon…
and their lemonade is the best I’ve found….
but it’s just that somedays even the thought of a refreshing lemonade falls flat on our hearts….

For life is now hard.
It is pulling while pushing.
It is relentless and frightening at the very same time.
While there is both physical and emotional pain.

A friend of mine recently confided a haunting confession…
that he’s been feeling as if a steel curtain had been drawn between him and God.

I think there has been an almost palpable distance and or dryness.
That there has not been that usual deep spiritual connection between him and God.
His feelings have been dried up and most likely rusted tight.
He’s been going through the motions but simply not feeling the Love as it were.

I think St John of the Cross called it the dark night of the soul.

I don’t know a single Believer who has not experienced living in that dark vacuum at some point of other during the course of their life as a follower of Chirst.

Mother Teresa recounted that she had actually spent the better part of her life
living in that darkness.

And yet we see what she was about doing, during the course of her life,
with that feeling of distance and longing heart…
trudging through the darkness, always moving forward toward the Cross.

The naysayers and militant unbelieving will immediately jump on the
“God is maniacal, mean and even evil” train.
Mocking all who dare to believe…yet seemingly struggle and hurt.
Sharply pointing out that this God of ours sits upon His lofty throne
sadistically watching us squirm in our suffering…

And that’s the thing.

Even when it gets hard, dark and painful…
Even when our hearts and bodies are broken.
With or without feelings…
we muster on toward the Cross…

because we were given the very same Divine example….

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5