infestation

…but they do not realize
that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
they are always before me.

Hosea 7:2

“Some day the soft Ideal that we wooed confronts us fiercely, foe-beset, pursued, and cries reproachful: ‘Was it then my praise, and not myself was loved? Prove now thy truth; I claim of thee the promise of thy youth.’”
James Russell Lowell

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(chives infested with black aphids / Julie Cook / 2016)

The innocent chive is laid claim by a myriad of tiny pests,
far too many for the eye to number…
Which is all but too similar to the same dark irksomeness which befalls man’s very soul.

They cover the poor buds and blooms…
feasting on the very life juices which coarse through the plant…
All the while an insidious darkness, which vies to blanket man’s soul,
leaches forth all that is decent and good.

The ants have arrived in order to protect the mindless aphids, farming them as it were,
all for their own selfish pleasures and symbiotic delight…
Just as the master of darkness soothingly whispers that it shall all be well…
longing to hold on to one more soul in his ever collusive world…

Spray as one must, vainly attempting to rid the plant of these pests,
the seemingly endless siege momentarily abates…
only to return, growing exponentially more fierce.
As our own trials of the will dip in and out of sight.

With the chives survival ever insight…
A total ridding and annihilation of each tiny black pest is the only true solution…
While man, in turn, labors to waylay his own invasive scourge

It may seem drastic at best, if the chive is to live,
but total eradication is the only option should the plant be spared…
just as the total yielding of the will of man is the one and only hope…
for the eternal life free from sin’s deadly infestation

“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace;
Thereby good will come to you.
Receive, please, instruction from His mouth,
And lay up His words in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up;

Job 22:21-23

Unblemished

“It is far more important to me to preserve an unblemished conscience than to compass any object however great.”
William Ellery Channing

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(new beauties snapped on the IPhone at the local garden center / Julie Cook / 2015)

A trip to the garden shop, especially this time of year, is nothing short of mesmerizing topped off with a color filled overload of spectacular.
Rows upon rows of picture perfect annuals, perennials, biennials and any other ennial you can imagine. . .
Talk about things that sell themselves.
Who wouldn’t want to walk away with a cart, or two, filled to the brim with the likes of such beauties. . .large, tall, spiky, showy, red, blue, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, lavender, green, black, two tones, monotone, sweet, sassy, demure, austere, even those of the exotic bordering on the erotic. . .

These flowers and plants are perfect.
Nary a blemish to be found.
Perfectly watered.
Fertilized to perfection.
Protected from wind, rain, and the relentless burn of the sun
Picture perfect and gorgeous.

But just get them home. . .
Get them repotted and replanted,
Add your own special TLC, step back and bask in the glory. . .
That is until the blooms begin to fade, eventually dying–oh did you forget to deadhead?
The leaves curl or turn yellow.
Wooops, you forgot to water when you went away for the weekend. .
Talk about drying out.
Looks like you over watered. . .
And it actually died from root rot.
Applied too little or too much fertilizer. . .
Wait, whoa. . .what about those Japanese beetles, aphids, white flies. . .
and the birds—who knew they liked to eat those flowers or was that the deer, or chipmunks,
or rabbits, or armadillos or. . . .

Things always look better in the store as there is an army in place to ensure such.
As in it obviously takes a massive village of caregivers
to keep everything prime for the shopping public. . .

For those of us who are Christian believers. . .
do you remember how it felt when you first made that conscious decision to be a follower of Christ?
That moment in time when you were brought to you knees. . .
Do you remember those first couple of days of the giddy excitement?
You felt clean and no longer bruised or full of blemishes
You basked in the warm glow of joy, peace, acceptance.
Your burdens had been reduced and you actually felt good for the first time in a long time.
You felt strong and bold, unafraid.
You felt like the teflon king or queen, as in nothing any one threw your way would stick or hurt.
You were walking on cloud nine.

And then, without your cognizant acknowledgement, life crept back into the picture.
What once seemed like a life of endless joy and energy gave way to frustration and irritability.
You quickly discovered you weren’t exactly indefensible or indestructible.
Your significant other decided to leave.
Your boss gave you your walking papers.
Your kids got in really bad trouble.
You got sick.
You got in a wreck.
You got robbed.
That joyous high that you had been riding seemed to crash right down on top of you. . .

“Oh where is your God now” they whisper?
What?
Does Mr / Ms religious have a temper?
Did you just curse?
Are you feeling guilty for thinking all those bad things about those who have hurt you?
What happened to all that forgiveness and pie in the sky loving of yours. . .
All of this as the bitterness creeps slowly back in.
You’re heard to murmur sarcastically “thanks a lot God”
A slick voice is heard encouraging you that you’ll be better off without Him.
“Forget about Him, see how He deserted you, let you down. . .He wasn’t really real. . .”
“Come back to your old ways, your old friends, your old life. . .you were comfortable there, accepted. . .”
As in. . . all the current misery is loving all the present company. . .

I once heard a sermon where the priest reminded everyone in attendance, who had decided to establish or reestablish their relationship with Jesus, not to be surprised if they actually lost their job the following day. . .
Hummmm. . .

Was that what you signed up for?

Be mindful. . .
Where the Sprit works, there also dwells Satan.
A power struggle ensues for each and every heart and soul.
The faithful will be battered and hit with all manner of harm.
For ours is a fallen world.
We cannot change that fact.

We are like the pretty plants and flowers we bring home,. . .those that are so full of hope.
Yet we get a hold of ourselves and things don’t go so well—either by our own devices and ignorance, or at the hands of Life which is beyond our control, delivering a one two punch.

Doubt
Despair
Hate
Resentment
Pride
All of which rapidly creep in whispering into our ears the endless lies. . .

But all is not lost.
For God has never walked away despite those lies we are told.
He has never left, never given up. . .
on you or I. . .

Yet let us be reminded once again, we live in a fallen world.
A battle zone of Good and Evil
Yet thankfully we live with a God who Loves without ceasing.
He tells us to get back up, again and agin. . .and to simply follow Him
Never mind the bruises, blemishes, cuts and scrapes. . .
He tells us to gird ourselves with the armor of Truth.
His armor, His Truth.

However, for any of that to be true, to be real. . .
You’d have to believe in Good and Evil
You’d need to admit that there is indeed a God in Heaven
Or that there is evan a Heaven
Or a Hell
Or a Satan. . .

You’d have to admit that the soul of man hangs in the balance
You’d have admit that there is a Divine Design and not a random design
You’d have to let go of self, ego and pride
You’d have to be willing to become less in order to get more. . .

Many may scoff that unlike those unblemished flowers in the garden shops, ours is a life
full of imperfection, struggles and challenges, falls and scrapes, bruises and blemishes. . .
Yet just like those well tended and pampered flowers,
We too have an arsenal, a team waiting in the wings offering aid, assistance, defense from the struggles and trials of life. . .

We have a Master Gardener who has given us His all,
In order to afford each of us the chance to not merely survive,
but rather the gift to thrive . . .

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. . .
Psalm 92:12-13

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. . .