Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘good fruit’

palm treeSometimes it’s hard to believe that there is still life in a thing, in a situation. As people grow older and face their own mortality or, as in my circumstances, walk through the death of a loved one, time seems to be a kind of betrayer. We no longer appear to have the time to do anything new or worse, the energy to even begin, to try, to initiate. And when that happens, we go from stasis to decline. Unless–

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;

    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” [Psalm 92:12-15, NIV]

What is bearing fruit at my age? Generally, it’s a metaphor for having children, but what else? I had an evangelist friend who maintained that bearing fruit meant bringing people to Christ. His quiver then, was full of “saved souls” [Psalm 127:3-5]. Others focus on the fruits of the spirit  [Galatians 5:22-23a]: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, looking to improve their characters through acts of generosity toward others, for truly, these fruits are mostly relationship-based. Still others interpret fruit as prosperity, bringing forth a cornucopia of wealth and plenty (aka, fruitfulness).

For me, today, I put forth a very simple meaning: fruit is the natural outcome of any living thing. We are all bearing fruit, all the time, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The nature of this fruit depends on our make-up, our beliefs, and our intentions.

seeds in the wind“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. People don’t gather figs from thorny plants, nor do they pick grapes from prickly bushes. A good person produces good from the good treasury of the inner self, while an evil person produces evil from the evil treasury of the inner self. The inner self overflows with words that are spoken.” [Luke 6:43-45, CEB]

Today may be the result of my decisions made in my past, but tomorrow has the potential for anything, and depends so much on my choices today. And so goes the cycle, I learn to walk the day I made while at the same time, I can blow seeds into the days to come.

I have a future. Today I can plant a dream, still.

Read Full Post »

Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

A parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” [Luke 13:6b-9]

One more year; one more growing season to change; one more opportunity to work with the gardener and produce fruit.

We’re not so great at parables anymore, or maybe we’re just as dense as the disciples were back in Jesus’s time. So many times the disciples had to ask Jesus to explain the stories. But not this one; this one is up to us to figure out.

Who is the owner of the vineyard? Who is the one who cares for the vineyard? Who is the fig tree? What is the fruit? Why didn’t the tree produce fruit? How would the soil be fertilized? And what does it mean to be cut down?

God is the owner. Jesus is the farmer/caretaker. I am the tree. But what is the fruit?

I did a little investigating and apparently the fig tree was one of the most valuable trees in Israel at that time because it bore fruit three times a year. So, in the parable, that means that this particular tree, still hadn’t produced fruit in any one of the seasons that had passed. So, why keep this tree? It was planted for the purposed of yielding fruit. That was the job of the tree, not acting as a shade tree, not as an art object, and not as a road marker. Fig trees bear figs. Fig trees don’t bear apples or peaches or cherries.

Each human “fig tree” has its own fruit as well. Oh, sure, there are the fruits of the spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23 if you want to review the list). And certainly, all trees should have these attributes. On the other hand, a friend of mine said that the fruit of the tree is more believers, more followers of Christ, more like-minded, like-spirited people. This interpretation makes me feel like it’s a numbers game (how many people have you “saved?”).

No, I’m much more interested in the specific and unique fruit that comes from me. Or you. Or any other believer. We each bring something to the table of community and to the Body of Christ. Sometimes, it’s a complex recipe and my part may be small compared to another, or vice versa. I know there are seasons I have missed. But I am grateful for a merciful gardener who is willing to tend and nurture my soil. I am still growing. I am still in the orchard.

The soil is fertilized through prayer and study and relationship.

I can only say, I am still here. And as along as I am, then I will take comfort that my seasons are more fruitful than I may realize. It is not I who must judge the harvest.

Read Full Post »

I have studied wisdom in the scriptures off and on for some years. Wisdom, as she is personified female in Proverbs, intrigues me. I had forgotten, until now, that wisdom reappears here in James. And she is freely available to me, if only . . .

James 3:17
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

First of all, I think it’s important, in this case, to remind myself (and you, dear reader) that the kingdom of God is within me by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And yet, as big as God is, obviously, not all of God is within me either, just my share. But, as surely as that portion is within me, then my portion of wisdom is there as well. Both wisdom and the Holy Spirit are part of me, working in me to bring about my sanctification, my fullness in Christ, the light, released in totality, my actions a mirror of what is good and right, living through generosity, sacrificial letting go, and holiness.

These are the kernels which I have not yet appropriated from wisdom: purity (of thought, actions, motives); loving peace more than being right; being considerate of others without judgment or obligation; submitting my way to the Holy Way; offering mercy first; manifesting the good fruit of love in action; impartiality toward those who are rich or poor, sick or well, strong or weak; and above all sincerity and authenticity, plainly in view.

Wisdom is my fraternal twin who I have ignored most of my life.

What prevents our closeness, our unity? Envy and selfish ambition. These are my step-sisters. They are the ones I brought into my Christ relationship years and years ago. I hid them in the closet, believing they might still be needed one day, their personalities tempered by the Presence. Instead, when they came out, they were the same. And like Cinderella’s step-sisters, they were still cruel taskmasters, who take advantage of my every situation, point out what I am lacking, what I should have, who I could be, where I could live, if only . . .

They are the drum beat that never stops. They are the ones who taught me that what I have is never enough. They are the ones who encourage perfectionism. They are the ones who surround me like 360 degree mirror to show me all of my flaws and weaknesses and drive me to run faster, harder, longer.

Envy, Selfish Ambition, I want you to meet my other sister, Wisdom. She is going to live here now too. She is strong and knowledgeable. She is my advocate.

And she wants me to try on the glass slipper.

Read Full Post »

What is a useful crop? I’m sure there would be lots of answers to this question depending on one’s point of view. Is my life producing anything useful? Beautiful? Memorable? Helpful? What is ultimately driving me? I am so very busy all the time. Maybe it’s time to rotate the crop?

Hebrews 6:7
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

When I was a younger Christian (back in the day is the latest phrase — of course, the kids who use it crack me up, it’s hard for me to consider their tween lives as “back in the day”), I was taught a similar sounding verse from John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” and that fruit meant converts. My fruit was supposed to be notches on my belt, the number of people “brought to Christ.”

But really, is it just about that? Or is fruit like the crops and what is truly important is that they be “useful.” Whatever I produce should have some purpose. Naturally, sharing my faith with others and the story of my transformation as a result of that commitment to the Christ is useful. But, there are other things: providing food and shelter for those who don’t have it or giving a family to an orphan, or guiding someone to resources they need to take the next step. These are all good.

What about beauty? Is art useful? Is music? Is drama or writing?

Too many people lose sight of the power of the arts and nature to feed the soul and to transcend circumstances.

Yesterday, I read in the New York Times Magazine about a young African American who grew up in the projects where deep poverty and casual violence was the mainstay of his life. And somewhere along the way, Ryan Speedo Green found the joy of music and now, he won an “idol” type contest by the Metropolitan Opera. Someone gave him this opportunity and it was more than “useful,” it was life-changing.

We never know who we will touch with our fruit but as long as it is nurtured with love and is an authentic expression of ourselves, there will be someone to eat.

Read Full Post »

Here it is, something to ask God to do for me every day: fill me with the knowledge of His will. Think about it! The perfect solution to every situation, every setback, every decision, and every sorrow embedded in the knowing of His will. This is my new “catch-all” when I am overwhelmed.

Colossians 1:9
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

There is a second fall-back scripture for me in times of trouble, “. . . We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” [Romans 8:26] I allow the Spirit to guide in these circumstances.

But now I have this other way, this simple prayer for knowledge of his will. And I’m pretty sure I won’t have a conscious awareness of the knowing. Instead, I will have the effects of it [Matthew 7:18]: the fruits of the spirit [Galatians 5:22-23], the ability to endure and to be patient and to manifest a spirit of thanksgiving in all things [I Thess 5:18].

This is a prayer God will always answer. It’s not one of those “yes, no, or maybe” prayers. Paul prayed in this fashion for others. I can do the same and I can pray it for myself.

When Paul was “kicking against the goads” [Acts 26:14], he was going against the will of God in such a dramatic and determined way that he experienced a physical miracle — and not a pleasant one, no matter how “spiritual” we’d like to make it sound. He was thrown from his horse, lost his sight, heard voices, and had to be led to Damascus in disgrace. After that, he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days. He despaired and expected his own death.

I think I have experienced my own version of going against God’s will, I can tell by the fruits of it: impatience, anger, discontent, harshness, and even cruelty. When my mouth and mind engage in all those sorrows and negativity, I am operating in a vacuum and missing God’s will.

Fill me today, Lord. Fill me to overflowing that the knowledge of your will becomes a sweet aroma to others. Amen.

Read Full Post »

The good work is transformational. God initiates that good work and the Holy Spirit contributes to its continuance in partnership with me. The part that I play is my unique contribution. The light is pure while I am the nicked, scratched, yet functioning crystal prism.

Philippians 1:6
. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The good work is polishing the glass, repairing the damage, making my vessel a more accurate expression of what is within.

Sometimes I lose my confidence that God is still working within me to transform me. But then, in brilliant moments of clarity or flashes of understanding, I see Truth. My role is to embrace my life and all that has been given to me, the challenges as well as the joys, the hardships and the plenty, the health and the disease, all of them are my share of the good work.

As I hold fast to the unwavering inner light, that one and only Holy Spirit, I can give that hope (also called the blessed hope) to others. I have never been moved by the salvation message regarding some heaven or hell of the future, but I am sure of the power of God to fill a life today to stand against all things, from the tragedies of Job, to the ravages of war, or the blindness of greed and ambition.

This is the hope of glory: the Light within working goodness outward.

Read Full Post »

Print by Missy Mohn Schwartz

In how many ways do I have to be told that the essence of walking after Christ is birthed in the Spirit. This is an inside-out faith, not the outside-in. The law was created to initiate the “external” expression of faithfulness. The Messiah finished this work by planting it within.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If I can operate in the center of love, joy, peace, etc. then the law is unnecessary because I wouldn’t break the essential laws (10 commandments at the least). One doesn’t lie or covet or kill someone we love or cherish. The gentle soul does not rage or participate in sexual orgies. Self-control brings all things under its umbrella.

At the same time, none of these Spirit fruits can be manufactured externally alone. I can’t act in a patient way without being patient. I can’t exhibit kindness without knowing what kindness is . . . or goodness. . . or peace. Love (in this context) is not just a that girly-boyfriend feeling, it’s “agape” and carries the deepest of meanings and expressions. There are inner motives that drive these fruits of the Spirit. They are fruits that must come directly off the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And as these fruits become ripe within, they become ready for harvest. And when they are harvested, they are distributed freely to all those around us. . . slave or free, gay or straight, black or white or brown or red or yellow or mixed media, Muslim or Hasidim, Mormon or Witnesses, young or old, male or female, . . .

If we are fruitless, then there is nothing to harvest and the only protection we have, the only way to curb our less admirable desires, is the law. First, there is the spiritual law that God gave as a covenant to the people. But, if that fails, then there is the secular law. Neither is particularly known for mercy or grace.

Perhaps we should be more like those cliche mothers who are reaching out encouraging others to “Eat, Eat, Eat,” or like Jesus, “Take, eat; this is My body.” [Matthew 26:26b]

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: