Last month I spent a day with my friend Erica. She lives right on the Susquehanna River, and our goal that day was to kayak across to an island where there is a natural wading pool area to swim in. However, the river is particularly high this year, and since we had my little guy along, we decided to just paddle around near the bank for his sake, then spend the day hiking. Her house is banked right in the side of a mountain that backs up to 300 acres of land owned by the Boy Scouts. When Erica and her husband bought the property for the riverfront, they didn’t realized it came with acreage on top of the mountain for quite some time until a neighbor told them about it! (BONUS! – She just kills me!)
We spent the better part of the afternoon hiking around the Boy Scout property which was fascinating. There were lots of trails of course, bridges and ponds, two old stone cottages that clearly predate the boy scouts, challenge courses, and even an old wild-west kind of town made of false fronted buildings.
We found plenty of wild raspberries, blackberries, and wineberries along the way which added a bit of deliciosity to our day. (Deliciosity should be a word.) But it wasn’t until we reached her property that I found the mountain-top fruitopia!
Her bonus acreage is largely populated with Paw-Paw trees! What are Paw-Paws you ask? They are only the largest native North American fruit, yet most people have never heard of them. If you have, it’s probably because you remember Jungle Book. In fact, Lewis and Clark recorded that they ate many of them on their expeditions here. They taste like a tropical banana custard (ish), and give an amazing twist to a fruit salad. How do I know? We grow them.
Our back yard would fool you if you drove by our house which is one of the last two standing in the middle of what is now the commercial end of town. The other house is next door and belonged to my late in-laws. They look like two peas in a weird little pod with our nearest neighbors being a Sheets convenience store and a Comfort Inn. Across the street there is a shopping center which includes a grocery store, three banks, and a Pizza Hut. But step into our back yard and the commercial stores and traffic almost (but not quite) disappear. Our houses are currently on the market, so we have stopped replanting when trees run their course, but it has produced some true Lancaster County bounty over the years ranging from apples, pears, peaches, multiple varieties of grapes and cherries, strawberries, red and black raspberries, blackberries, figs, plums, apricots, plumcots (a crossbreed between the two), persimmons (one of my favorite) and paw paws! There are nut trees too, most of which feed the squirrels; even a hazelnut tree.
When I first met my husband, I was studying for a certification in natural health and had just learned about the almost 60 medicinal uses of the paw paw tree. You can imagine my elation when I learned he had them growing in his back yard!
The point is, I of all people should recognize a paw paw tree when I see one. However, it wasn’t until we were half-way across Erica’s property that I realized it. Why you ask? Because for as many as there were, I didn’t identify them until I saw their fruit. (Chew on that for a moment – Pun intended.) Once I saw the fruit, I began to notice that they were everywhere. It was literally a mountain-top grove of paw paws with an occasional hard wood mixed in. I think you know where I’m going with this…
In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus is talking about how to identify Christ followers from the counterfeits.
You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? ~Matthew 7:16 (NIV)
If we identify ourselves as Christ followers, we ought to be producing a rich harvest of good fruit. There is a big difference between relationship and religion my friends. Jesus hated religion. If you doubt that, go check out the choice words He had for the Sadducees and Pharisees – the “Religious” leaders (counterfeits) of that day. Jesus came because the Father desired to restore relationship with us again. The kind of relationship we had before the fall, when He literally took walks in the garden paradise called Eden with human beings. Sin separated us from that relationship until Jesus Christ took on the wages of our sin by dying on the cross in our place.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 6:23 (NIV)
The moment Jesus said, “It is finished” and gave up His Spirit, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence resided separate from the rest of the Temple, was ripped in two from top to bottom. Read the Penteteuch my friends – that veil was not a thin, sheer curtain purchased from K Mart!
This was a declaration by the God of the Universe that we are no longer separated from having a personal relationship with Him. No more religion! Instead, Relationship.
And that’s how we produce fruit. By walking with Him. By talking with Him. By listening to Him. By spending time in worship and just abiding in His presence. (If this sounds like work to you or something you should check off a to-do list, that’s religion. Walking with God in relationship is an adventure like no other!) Most importantly, we produce fruit by living a life yielded to His will and way – a life of surrender. If you have trusted Christ for Salvation, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God resides within you, and that the fruit of the Spirit of God should be growing in abundance.
Just as the sweetness of the aroma and the beauty of fruit itself causes us to desire it’s deliciosity, (yes, I think that word should go in the dictionary), so should the fruit (evidence of God’s indwelling Spirit) cause others to desire to walk in relationship with our Savior as well. Jesus’ words:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ~John 15:5 (NIV)
I’m sorry to say that all to often unbelievers find themselves in a forest of paw paws (Christians) without even knowing it. Or worse, they smell something bad (rotten fruit) because that Christ follower hasn’t allowed Him to do the pruning in their lives that is needed to cause them to flourish in the way the Gardener intends for them to. (There is that “surrender” word again.)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
I am excited to tell you that without any unforeseen delays, my first book is set to be published next month! It is entitled, FRUIT FABLES, and is a treasury of 9 short children’s stories written in a catchy poetic fable form unpacking each one of the meanings of the Fruit of the Spirit. I am told that although they are cute and clever little stories, they also carry a lot of meat. I’m interested in the feedback I receive from adults just as much as the children whom they are reading to. The Bible says that the Word of God does not go out and return void, but accomplishes what God intended in the hearts of those on whose ears it has fallen. Children’s stories they may be, but the truths from God’s Word that they impart are ever so powerful.
I don’t claim for a minute to have reached the pinnacle of success in these attributes. Sadly, I have dropped more rotten fruit from my branches than I care to admit causing me to require a great deal of pruning. And just about the time I think I’m doing well, God allows another situation in my life that launches me right back into the refining fire. Hear me…we are all a work in progress. I know the ugliness of my sinful heart and my weaknesses are many. But I am a woman whose roots run deep. I stand forgiven with my feet firmly planted on the solid Rock of my Salvation, Jesus Christ, and I know the joy (one of the fruits of the Spirit) of walking in relationship with my Savior.
I hope you know that joy as well. I hope you know Him. I hope you are a willing participant, uncomfortable as it may be at times, to the pruning necessary to allow you to live a life of abundance – a Holy kind of Fruitopia so to speak. I aim to reap a rich harvest. How about you?
Stay tuned. (There’s a place on my home page to subscribe to this blog.) I’ll be sure to let you know when FRUIT FABLES becomes available and where you can pick up your own copy (or 2, or 10 – wink!). Until then, know that no matter what season you may find yourself in, there is a time for everything under the sun – sowing, growing, reaping, pruning, resting, etc.. But no matter what season we find ourselves in, it’s always time to walk in relationship with the Lover of our Souls. Click below and listen in to me telling the little bird that lives in my coo-coo clock to go home and stop interrupting my time with Jesus. And if this blesses you, I’d appreciate it if you pass along this post as well as your feedback.