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

What separates Christians from the rest of the pack…

“Life [had] replaced logic.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


(a soon to bloom peony / Julie Cook /2018)

The image of the bloom used in today’s post is that of a peony.
I call this peony my resurrection plant because I bought it two summers ago, in July.
It was a very expensive plant.
Yet anyone living in the deep South knows you don’t sink a lot of money into a
plant, dig a hole in the hot dry ground, plop in said expensive plant and expect it to live…
especially in July and especially in a summer experiencing a full-blown drought.

I wrote about this plant last spring and the reason as to why I call it a resurrection plant—
of which you can read from the following link…
but that is not the true gist of today’s post

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/resurrections/

Today’s post is a reminder of what the Resurrection is all about…
and if you are a Chrisitan, it’s a reminder of what that exactly means to you.

The reminder rests in the fact that we’ve just celebrated Easter…

Easter being holiest celebration, besides the birth of Christ, within the Christian Chruch…
Some would argue that it is the sole holiest celebration…but I suppose we can’t have a
resurrection of our Savior without his immaculate conception and birth…
all of which supersedes the ability of man’s small mind to grasp and process…
hence so much of the consternation in mankind since that very first miraculous morning.

After watching the latest edition of Anglican Unscripted featuring our favorite
rouge Anglican Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gavin Ashenden, I’ve come to realize that
there are many in our fold who really don’t know what they think about
the Ressurection…
And what is even more startling, many members of the clergy don’t quite
know what to make of it either…

In a nutshell, it is the what which separates Christianity from every other religion.

How in the world can you offer anyone, let alone speak of such things as
Hope, Salvation, Grace, if you can’t find the words to say that you believe, without
a doubt, in the Ressurection of Jesus?

You can’t.

Because the Resurrection is the defining key to our faith.
It is the impetus to faith…the belief in that which is a mystery, undefinable,
and greater than oneself.

Without the Resurrection,
Christianity is nothing… nor is it any different from a myriad of other belief systems.

C.S. Lewis explained this very point in 1950

I heard a man say,
“The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival,
evidence that the human personality survives death.”
On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men,
the difference being that in Christ’s ease we were privileged to see it happening.
This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought.
Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened.
Christ had defeated death.
The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open.
This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival.
I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival.
On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion,
Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost.
The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection
as something totally different and new.
The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death;
they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe.
Something new had appeared in the universe:
as new as the first coming of organic life.
This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”.
A new mode of being has arisen.
That is the story.
What are we going to make of it?
The question is, I suppose,
whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis.
That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe,
down to manhood—and come up again, pulling it up with Him.
The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost.
It is either lunacy or lies.
Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.

C.S. Lewis,
“What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” (1950)

So if you claim to be a Chrisitan and yet find yourself unable to acknowledge the mystery
and the might behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you need to rethink your allegiance.
And if you are a member of the clergy and find the words and concept uncomfortable,
you need a new profession because the calling, was not for you….

the bittersweet

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy
are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but
to mature and transfigure us.”

― Hermann Hesse

“Our sweetest songs are those of saddest thought.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley


(image of the bittersweet herb Rue as seen on an herbal supplement site)

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint,
rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.
You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

Luke 14:42

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are numerous references to
both plants and herbs.
With each, along with salt, having been seen as taxable commodities.

Since these were items that were sold, traded and bartered,
and whereas people were making money from the sales of such items,
officials naturally wanted to impose a tax.

And with such an early example of something so simple being taxed,
is it any wonder that something like tea, which would lead to a
rebellious bunch of colonists tossing crates of such leaves into a harbor, be of
any surprise…

And since both plants and herbs were playing such a pivotal role in early commerce
we began to divide them into categories…
with both sweet and bitter being the frontrunners in the categories of taste, use,
perception and enjoyment.

Enter the Passover seder with it’s mix of bitter herbs
And they shall eat flesh in that night, roast with fire,
and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Exodus 12:8

Or the admonishment of self restraint and to approach things with moderation….
A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

So all of this talk of herbs and bitter and sweet came flooding in yesterday…
not because of Seders, or cooking, or bartering, or taxes or planting or even quiet reflective Biblical readings..
It actually came about as I busied myself getting ready for of all things…
to take a baby shower on the road.

For you see this is the first big family event that is taking place
without well, family.

We’re having a big baby shower in Atlanta for my son and daughter-n-law this weekend
and I’m the one putting this little shindig together.
There will be about 60 friends and family, old and young, near and far who will
come help them, as well as the grandparents to be, celebrate…

It will be there at what was Dad’s house…with what was once my childhood room now becoming a nursery.

Usually when I do these sorts of events, my trusted helper is and always has been,
right by my side—that being Aunt Maaaatha (aka Martha).

She would have flown up earlier this week, coming with her sleeves rolled up,
ready to jump in with both feet as we’d cook, prepare, buy, shlep,
and haul things here, there and yon.

And whereas I’ve been busy making plans, making orders, purchasing,
cooking and packing everything up… getting ready to transport
things to the big city, I can’t help but feel that tinge of bittersweetness.

What has always been a team effort is now a solo event…
Each time I stop long enough to take a breath, I am a bit haunted by what’s missing.

My dad’s only remaining cousin, who at 92 is the oldest and last living member
of that clan, will be making the trip.
My aunt, my dad’s sister-n-law, who is also 92, will join us as well.
As the top tier of the family now prepare to welcome the newest forthcoming member.

Yet knowing who won’t be with us physically at this party has left me a bit wistful.
But whereas I know there will be those who will not be with us physically,
I do know they will there in spirit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life,
which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

it’s time again…to share

“When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief.
Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry;
the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it;
the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes;
the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”

Basil the Great


(a freshly watered monarch butterfly caterpillar, who happens to be eating the
new baby parsley / Julie Cook / 2017)

In the waning days of summer, as the humidity races skyward to meet the relentless
midday sun, those once ever hopeful potted plants and herbs…
those once oh so spry, succulent green and promising beauties, are one by one,
beginning to loose the will to survive.

A southern sun will do that to you.

The dill has long gone to seed as have the parsley and the basil.
Drooping, drying out and dying is the current game of the summer garden party.
As it’s really just time to cut things back, pull things up and simply
hang on for a couple of more months until the heat just might slowly begin
to retreat.

This tiny new parsley plant hasn’t got nary a chance now that the monarch caterpillars
have found it.

Despite my watering, they remain unfazed…
eating and constantly devouring around the clock until everything is gone…
as they fatten themselves up, preparing for the time of transformation…

Because who can complain about the birth of a butterfly….


(all images of both the Monarch and or Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16

morning wake up

“There are two ways of waking up in the morning.
One is to say, ‘Good morning, God,’
and the other is to say,
‘Good God, morning’!”

― Fulton J. Sheen

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(a deer who uses my flowerbed as a mattress / Julie Cook / 2016)

I don’t know who was more surprised…
me or the deer.

Come each morning, as I roll out of bed,
I immediately head to the laundry room in order to grab the cats their food.
It never fails, as soon as my feet hit the floor, the cats make certain that I don’t do a single thing other than feed them.
It is as if they will immediately perish if I fail to fill their food bowls the nanosecond I’m up.

As I make my way to get the cat food, bypassing my sacred cup of coffee, the ritualistic trip to the loo,
I instinctively open the shutters, casting the welcomed morning light into what was my nightly shuttered world of darkness.

On this particular morning, as I routinely pull open the shutters…
imagine my surprise… when, what do I spy sitting directly outside the window… in my flower bed,
a deer who had obviously decided to bed down…on top of my daylilies no less!

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The signs have been there for weeks.

Bushes and plants nipped down to the nubs.
Most of which have had to have been dug up and now replaced with “deer” resistant plants…..
while allowing other plants and bushes to simply fend for themselves…

I knew that the deer had been enjoying themselves in the middle of the night…
using my yard as a giant salad bowl…
but here before my bleary eyes was one of the nonplused culprits.
One who took her own sweet time readying herself for the day.

Eventually she and her baby fawn roused themselves from bed, as they made their way to the edge of the woods where they would no doubt spend the heat of the day, simply waiting to come back to feast at night in my yard….

As I’m off to Atlanta to take Dad for his pre-op before Friday’s surgery…

A happy Monday to deer and all…..

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Isaiah 12:4-6

The gift of a peach

“The nectarine, and curious peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.”

Andrew Marvell

Dwell not upon thy weariness,
thy strength shall be according to the measure of thy desire.

Arab Proverb

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(my very own little peaches / Julie Cook / 2015)

I watched you today.
I knew you didn’t feel well.
You were quiet.
Not yourself.

I saw the worry on your face and heard it in your voice.
I could feel your preoccupation with the heaviness and grief.
I watched you take the last couple of pills out of the bottle
to help soothe your stomach.

Yet I knew you were still keenly aware of your surroundings.

I heard you mention how deep blue the sky was today as it was
accented by the new green growth of all the towering trees.

I watched as you ambled up and down the aisles of the garden shop,
snapping pictures of the blankets of new blooms exploding on every young plant.

I saw you plant the new little lime tree,
watching as you hoisted sack after sack of dirt in order to fill the pot.
I noticed how you forgot to put on the gloves,
growing agitated that the dirt got under your nails.

I watched your excitement when you noticed the tiny peaches sprouting out on the equally
tiny peach tree.

I’ve watched you labor with the tiny tree, ever since you brought it home two years ago.
It was a sad stick of a tree sitting in that hardware store.
You’d asked your husband if you could buy two of them hoping to eventually have your
own peach trees.

I felt your frustration when you unwrapped them and one of them was already dead.
I marveled as you planted the sole remaining little tree anyway,
offering it your care and your hope.

I watched as you watered it.
Fertilized it.
Moved it in and out as each season dictated.
You’ve defended it from the spider mites.

I’ve watched you over the years relish in the peaches you’d bring home from market.
Gently feeling each one for ripeness.
Placing your nose to each peach, breathing in deeply for that distinct scent.
I’ve watched you as a little girl bite into a ripened peach,
as the juice dribbled down your chin and the fuzzy skin tickled your tongue.

I had hoped you’d see the buds.
I wanted them to fill you with anticipation and excitement.
I’ve known things haven’t been easy and that you’ve felt lonely and overwhelmed.

I wanted you to know, through the tiny bud of a peach, that I am here. . .
That I do see you,
hear you,
feel you,
Love you. . .


“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:18

“For He looks to the ends of the earth
And sees everything under the heavens.

Job 28:24

Ripe yet?

Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.
Soren Kierkegaard

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.
Frederick Buechner

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(unripened blueberries / Julie Cook / 2015)

By the looks of these blueberries, they still have a ways to go before they’re ripe enough for picking. More time is needed for basking in the warmth of the sun’s rays before they’ll be a deep purplish blue bursting with juicy sweetness. And I must admit, the thought of soon to be syrupy fresh blueberries is a comforting thought.

Life with Dad these days has precipitated any sort of garden this summer, which makes me sad—
yet at the same time life is as it should be—with me being able to travel back and forth, helping to care for him during this particular stage of his life’s journey. . .It makes for long hectic days, with some days being good and some days being not so good. We made a minor crisis run to the doctor’s today, and are waiting on more test results- – but for now, just this minute, it’s “steady as she goes”. . .

So being able to come home with a chance to wander a bit in the yard, checking out the progress of the blueberries, watching the birds dart in and out of their bird boxes, and just relishing in the muffled sounds of a late rural afternoon is a welcomed respite from the worries of a stress filled day.

And as I check on the ripeness of my pale green berries, my thoughts wander to my own sense of ripeness.

Most folks might think that at 55 I’m probably pretty good and ripe, with hints of pruneiness here and there. I’ve had life experiences both good and bad that have worked to shape and mould me into the person I am today.
Painful as well as pleasant, sweet coupled with sorrowful.
Yet one look at my 87 year old dad, pale and feeble, I think to myself “now here is someone who must be ripe–” And yet there are days I think he’s often just rotting on the vine as it were, wasting away with little effort to stop the decay.

I know my dad, I know he’s not where he needs to be, yet–and I doubt, knowing Dad, that he’ll get there in time. Which might mean that none of us are ever fully ripe as perhaps our lives are just one long ripening process. God works throughout our lives deep within our hearts and souls. He lovingly takes us, shifting and shaping, pushing and pulling. He allows the sun of his love to warm us while the rains of our sorrows water us. We are given ample opportunity to fertilize ourselves by His word, yet we don’t always take advantage of His available resources.

Some of us choose, sadly, to wither on the vine, preferring to never allow the Master Gardener the chance to prune, train, trim or nurture–we’ve even been known to actually rebuff His attempts.
A terrible waste of good fruit really.

So many of us spend our lives seeking God with hopes of establishing a deep rooted relationship with Him. Yet such relationships, as well as us each of us individually, are ever changing, growing, shifting and deepening. We scratch the surface finding some sense of satisfaction that only leads us to wanting more. We hunger and thirst for a deep feeding and watering as we long for sustenance that only He can offer. . .just like a tender plant yearns for and needs nourishment to survive. We find ourselves not only needing but wanting more of His time, His attentions, His care, His concern.
This becomes an unquenchable desire which spans the course of a lifetime.

So as I wander aimlessly surveying my tiny green orbs which dot my blueberry bushes like the decorations on a Christmas tree, all with a sense of great anticipation of things to come, I marvel at the fact that I myself am far from ripe—I’m just as green as my berries yet equally hungry for the warmth of His tender nourishment. . .

Prayers are now offered up for a deep feeding. . .
Here’s to His nurturing and our growing. . .