fruits of our labors

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Psalm 128:2


(bluebird on the peach tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tis the fruiting season…
that time of year when blooms are blooming, pollinators are pollinating, and fruits
are emerging…

And perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the season that we mark those
most important passages of both age and time…
For this is also the season of graduation.

A time for the young and not so young scholars to begin the journey of bearing the fruits
of their long arduous labors.

Commencement ceremonies are abounding as prolifically as the springs flowers in bloom…
And so it is with this ultimate rite of passage that the speeches offered on behalf of
all graduates, those lofty words of inspiration and hope,
are flowing from the lips of the wise, the wizened, the sages, the politicals, the learned,
and the elder…
those who have been chosen to do so because of their seemingly wise years lived.

Yet I was taken aback yesterday when I listed to one such speech.
Troubled by the “wizened” offerings.

It was the speech delivered by Hillary Clinton to the graduates of her very own alma mater
Wellesley College in the small hamlet of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Commencement speeches are intended to inspire those who have just spent the last
4, 6, 8, 10 or even more years laboring to get to this coveted position—
sitting in a crowd of look-a-likes…individuals all donned in black cap and gown,
sitting in a chair marking the time honored tradition of passing the torch as each
college and university readies to send forth its best and its brightest into the arms of
an awaiting world.

Hoping, nay expecting, that these new graduates will hence forth go outward,
sharing and prospering….
in hopes of making the world a better place…

Yet Mrs Clinton’s speech was not so much about hopefulness as it was about regret…
and that regret being her own.

Not only did she share the tale of her initial morose following the election with a bit of
comic relief regarding her long walks in the woods (we may remember the news story of
the young mother out walking the day following the election who literally came face to
face with then former candidate Clinton out seeking a bit of solace in the woods)
to the depressive ritual of cleaning out one’s closest while ending with her last little
quip that also… “Chardonnay helped”…

But it was her whipping up the crowd of these eager young women who were hanging on each
word uttered, each breath offered…that I found most troubling.

Clinton reminisced about having delivered a similar speech during her own graduation
at Wellesley as then President Nixon, who was accused of breaking Federal laws,
left office disgraced under the cloud of impeachment as she likened that past sad political time
to our very own current time…with the elephant in the room being the current sitting president…
all to a resounding hoot from her enraptured audience.

She next told the girls to be proud.
To be proud of their anger….

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think fanning the flames of anger is something that boasts of
hope and bright futures but rather entrenches the thoughts of division, disrespect and alienation.
She was whipping the flames of all things defiant and all things of the resistance she is now
focused on leading with her latest “foundation” endeavors.

So not so much a speech highlighting the thought of what we can do to work together unifying
this great Nation of ours, but rather a speech hammering home the idea of discord…
A Nuremberg moment of great enthusiasm and fanfare yet disparaging about never getting over a
loss while spreading the rhetoric of anger, hate and mistrust.

So don’t go out bearing the fruit of your years of study having labored to acquire
vast skills and knowledge…
knowledge and skills that are suppose to help make this world a better place,
more prosperous, more hopeful and brighter for those who will come after you….
but rather go out as an angry militant, lashing out at any and all who you feel oppose
your views.
Be intolerant while emasculating the men in your lives, as you shout no we won’t
rather than yes we can…

It just seems that these are not the types of speeches that enrich our lives, but rather work
at tearing us apart…

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1

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

fruits and umbrage

“Whenever anyone has offended me,
I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.”

René Descartes

The Bible, that powerful book, has many effects:
it comforts, counsels, instructs, and brings us into the presence of God.
But trying to erase offense as one of its functions is a fundamentally misguided task.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

The first and most essential means of making peace with those who offend and
persecute us is to pray for them,
according to the commandment of Christ.

–Saint Leo of Optina

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(my first fig from my small tree / Julie Cook / 2016)

We are known by our fruits, just as we may know others by theirs…

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

Meaning…
It is to the goodness and the positive…those good deeds, exploits and actions we do for
which we will be remembered and recognized…

And yet sadly on the opposite side of all of this, many of us are actually recognized by the bad fruits and the negative things that we do.

As we are more likely to remember one bad offense while forgetting the 99 good—

All of which is human nature I suppose…

And as I have stood watching all of this election business of ours..
the good, the bad and the very ugly…
Just as I have watched this racial unrest or ours,
This polarization of ours,
This ever deepening and widening chasm of ours…
splitting this Nation of ours in half…
All with both amusement and alarm,
sorrow and bewilderment,
disdain and even wonder…
I am left to ponder as to the fruits that we are to recognize in our fellow man / woman
That of which we shall see and be drawn to and remember….

I’ve never seen anything like all of this growing spectacle of ours.
This debacle of democracy.
It’s grown into something so laughable and so ridiculous,
that I want to stop everything and just ask one simple question…
can we simply start all over??

As we are about to have to decide between the two people who are currently
seeking the highest office in our Nation…

One has proven herself to be a liar who…
has spent a lifetime covering up so very much…
conveniently forgotting so much…
all the while…
living with spilt blood on her hands…

The other one lacks tact, decorum, civility and often decency of thought and word…
all the while forgetting to shut his mouth lest he shoves both feet in for a snack.

And yet I am being chided into voting for the woman of this pair for the mere reason that I too am a woman…

As when Madeleine Albright so ridiculously and even threateningly stated that “there is a special place in hell for women who will not for vote for a woman…”
It was shades of Dante’s Inferno…
however her motives were not nearly as pure or just as our dear Dante…

Is that not just another way of saying vote white because you’re white,
vote male because you’re male,
vote black because you’re black,
vote latino because you’re latino….

As ludicrous as that all is–that is exactly how many out there are coaching fellow
voters to in turn vote….

And yes, I have taken grave umbrage with such…

Why?

Because I am a woman and I can vote…
that is in itself the very reason why I can vote for someone other than a woman…

And at this rate, Charlie Brown is looking pretty darn good….

We’ve definitely got a mess on our hands and there is, I’m fairly certain,
neither divide nor doubt about that from either party or side.

So here’s the thing…
We can either honor God and His covenant to us, His children.
We can either honor the Nation of Israel, the land of God’s chosen inheritance
We can either turn back around from our wicked, yes wicked, ways…

or…

We can continue down our path of destruction…

So what are we to do?
Who are we to vote for….????

We pray……..

The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.
“For does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
all my help and my desire?

2 Samuel 23: 1-5

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The beauty of the harvest

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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(offerings from the yard–Yellow tomato, yellow bell pepper, thyme, basil / Julie Cook / 2014)

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9

Oh how we marvel at the wonders that seem to literally sprout from out fingertips. We toil and labor—tilling, sowing, watering, watching, imagining. . .then triumphantly sit back in self righteous wonderment at the results and fruits of “our” doings. . .

When in actuality, with little to none of our input, buried in the cloak of darkened soil and hidden away from all to see, lies the true and marvelous mystery of Creation. As much as we boast about the results of our toil and labor, there is not much that we, from our hands and talents, will have done which can actually permit us to take full credit—-for we are merely the co-workers in this mystery of life and growth.

It is the Master of Creation, who with one single sweeping motion of His hand, has sent the seed in motion—germinating, sprouting, growing and unfurling into a fanfare of sustenance. Oh yes we may till and work the ground, we may gently lay the seed, we may weed, water and watch, but it is the Master who works in hidden silence.
Constantly, consistently and mysteriously providing for both you and I.