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. . .

To prune or to be pruned. . .

For before the harvest, as soon as the bud blossoms And the flower becomes a ripening grape, Then He will cut off the sprigs with pruning knives And remove and cut away the spreading branches.
Isaiah 18:5

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(pruning a few young shoots off the new apple trees / Julie Cook / 2015)

If the truth be told, I’m not a very good gardener.
Oh I love to dig, to pot, to re-pot, to plant, and on occasion, to weed.
But the pruning part, well, that’s another story entirely.

It’s like when we’ve planted our vegetable gardens over the past several years. . . the nice little seed packet of squash or zucchini directs one to put in 4 to 6 seeds in a little mound.
The directions further instruct the gardener that, as the tiny sprouts emerge,
one is to pull out all but 2.
Why not just plant 2 to begin with?? Why the sacrifice??
I know, I know. . .you’ve got to factor in the variables like some seeds not germinating, seeds being whisked off by opportunistic birds, or just plain ol bad seed.

Less is more, more often than not, when it comes to gardening.
If 5 squash seeds are allowed to sprout and grow, the plants will overcrowd one another as they vie for growing space. The blooms will be few. The plants will fight for nutrients, water, sun and the squash will be small, if the little plants “fruit” at all. . .
Still I just can’t bring myself to pluck away a seemingly healthy little seedling.

Same thing with my fruit trees and pecan trees.
A good looking branch to be, being cut away, will help with top growth, spreading of the canopy,
balancing the shape, ward off insect infestations, and aid in fruit production. . .
Sadly, for me, it’s just so terribly hard to look at a healthy young branch or a dependable old branch while holding a pair of pruning shears in one’s hand.
It’s as if I want to tell the tree, “it’s for your own good.” I want tell the little branch “you’ve got to take one for the team. . .” and of course, “I’m sorry” as I close my eyes preparing to cut or whack.

A good gardener knows that one has to sacrifice a little to in order get a lot. Again, “less is more” sort of thinking.

People who deal with wildlife populations refer to it as culling. They have to “thin” the herds. It’s done for the wellbeing of the entire herd. Too large of a population is more prone to devastating disease as well as destructive in-breeding.
Just knowing I could never look a Caribou or a deer in the eye and say, well, “it’s just not your lucky day. . .”

And yet these sorts of decisions have to be made by farmers, ranchers, wildlife management specialists, biologists, agriculturalists all the time. Even Vets know when it’s time to “put down” a beloved pet whose time draws nigh for whatever reason—
However I’m not going there today—Not an option. . .

And so as I made my way to the apple trees, with shears in hand, I was poignantly reminded of the pruning that I, as a child of God who is the Master Creator, must constantly undergo–as in He is constantly having to prune me, we, us.

It’s hard and not always pleasant for either Pruner and prunee.
I would imagine He must not always be fond of having to pluck, cut, whittle, pull and even re-pot as He knows that such upkeep will not be easy on us. He does so, however, with a loving eye turned to the potential of what will be. He sees ahead and knows what must be removed in order for us to receive the abundant blessings of Life as we are to, in turn, pass blessings on to those we meet along our journey of growing.

He sees how we’ve grown leggy, how we’ve spread out too much, and how we’ve grown too dense and thick. We become non productive, root bound, we become diseased, we wither and fail to thrive. . .

We are often left feeling stunted, betrayed, lost, hurt, abandoned and alone.

Yet just as a gardener must prune his plants and trees in order to yield the proverbial bumper crop, so too must God, the Creator of the Universe, prune the children He loves.
He does so, as the wise gardener He is, out of a deep and tender abiding love for you, me, we. . .

Here’s to pruning, weeding, sorting as well as sprouting, thriving and growing. . .

To prune and to be pruned

“All gardens, even the most native and naturalistic, benefit from the hand of an artful pruner. In this season where the garden is poised for the green flood of springtime, remember that our gardens are co-creations, shared with mother earth. And like any good mother, she expects you to tidy up your room. Now get clipping!”
Tom Spencer, Soul of the Garden

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(the sweet demure bloom of the Quince / Julie Cook / 2014)

To prune a garden, shrubbery or a life takes careful thought and consideration.
It is a task not for the faint at heart nor is it a task for the weary.
It is a task for those possessing patience and for those with an eye for what may be.
It is not a task for the quick minded, the “hurry up and be done” mind.
Rather, pruning, is a task which requires time and thought.

Oh it’s easy to whack and hack here and there— cutting away willy nilly for the pure sake of cutting.
Chop off this and cut away that—be gone overgrown and growth!
Take it all off, to the ground I say–be gone eyesore and out of control!
Take this and take that, you, the unsightly nuisance of my world

And the litany of no more goes on and on. . .
No, pruning is not a chore for those whose vision is simply of the here and now. . .
. . .For pruning is a deliberate act of the future.
It is accomplished with care, concern and hope.

Even the tools of choice must be considered carefully and artfully.
Does one choose the more controlled and deliberate instruments of cutting which offer the ability to chip away slowly with precision and direction?

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Or does one, whose main objective is merely to obliterate what is perceived to be the immediate problem—that of the surface only, choose something lethally quick yet destructive? A device which says to its victim “be gone and be done”—a device which takes away everything– leaving only the bare and barren behind with the fleeting backhanded thought that things will surely come back just as before?

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A loving Creator, who looks out upon the broken landscape of our lives, surveys much which needs pruning and weeding.
No small task.
Not a task for the faint hearted or weary indeed.
For He is neither.

The pruning and weeding of our lives is skillfully accomplished by the hand of One who loves tenderly and deeply, yet also fiercely. It is a task mastered by One who is not afraid to inflict the initial pain which is a result of the initial pruning because it is He who has the eye for what will be.
He is the One who sees the possibilities for perfect growth. That which was once overgrown and out of control can be and will be tamed, trained, thinned and trimmed all by the loving hands of this Master Gardener.

There is pain in the pruning by the hand of the Creator. Whereas the pain may be physical, it is also mystical. One which burns yet is tender and sweet. . .one which seems long lasting yet is gone in the blink of an eye. For no temporal pain caused by the pruning of affliction and suffering lasts an eternity.

It is the eye of the Master who sees that which He loves, drawing it ever closer to His hands.
He tenderly trims and cuts—He staves the oozing and bleeding, gently binding the wounds.
His vision reaches beyond time, for He sees to the moments of regrowth and reemergence, as the tender new shoots, slowly at first and ever so gently, begin to curve upward.

And as He looks upon His handiwork, this Master Gardener smiles, as that which was out of control and overgrown, is now neat and tidy. The weeds which choked out the tender shoots are now dug up and gone. The tangled mess of branches and sticks are now neatly cut back. Miraculously the once hidden tiny buds, receiving the full warmth of the sun, now joyously begin to reopen in all their splendor and gratitude.

All is well, all is well. . .all is now, finally well, with my soul.