Monday, August 6, 2012

Berries and Battle, Fruit and the Fight

 One of my pleasures of summer is picking black raspberries that grow wild in our woods. There are several layers to this food, solitude, beauty and a sense of hidden treasure. Over the years this has become a precious time with God, usually in the early hours of morning with all the stillness and promise of a new day. Having five kids, I have relished the hour or so that no one is calling my name. But deeper than these gifts are the unravelling spiritual insights God keeps unveiling as I walk through the woods with Him to gather these little, purple gifts to me. We live in a world at war in the heavenlies and are also promised His provision and opportunity to bear fruit...this is what is truly speaking to my heart as I berry pick.

Mosquitoes and thorns abound in raspberry bushes. These two enemies of the berry picker are what keep my kids from joining me...oh, they love to eat the fruit; they simply get scared off by what stands in the way. I have learned to arm myself with long sleeves and pants for the mosquitoes...much like donning spiritual armor in Ephesians 6, you can stand and advance on the battle field if you are equipped! The buzz in my ear is a constant reminder that those blood thirsty pests are lurking, just like the barrage of lies the enemy of my soul whispers hoping to discourage or back me away from all God has. The armed berry picker uses armor AND bug spray to keep these pests at bay...much like prayer, incense rising to the throne of God that keeps truth in the forefront of my mind and settles deep in my heart such that I have no fear and can persevere. While the thorns are a reminder that I live in a fallen world, there are plenty of thorn-free areas to grab to move the stalks out of the way...its all about discernment and reaching focusing on holding God's hand instead of all that's wrong with the world. Kingdom focus versus frustration with the fall is a matter of what you gaze at!

The fruit/berries grow by God's gentle hand...through His rain, the soil nourishing and the nature of the plant abiding in where it is planted to bear the fruit. Doesn't this sound like John 15 about abiding in the vine...fruit is the natural product of abiding. This takes some pressure off to conjure up ministry...fruit in our life MUST come from drinking deep of water that satisfy the soul (His spirit), nourishment from His Word and knowing our calling (what type of plant He created us to be)! Then trust fruit will come out of desire internal to the gifts He has planted in our hearts as we are fed from Him. In the woods, berries literally fall off the bush when they are ripe...this has taught me about timing. God's timing is perfect, fruit comes at the right time and can't be rushed. It requires patience and trust that more is coming when you see those luscious berries turning from creamy white to red to maroon to ever-deepening purple. This is true in our own fruit bearing whether it be internally or externally...wait upon the Lord and trust His timing and expect good fruit from the wait.

Gathering berries is a bit like a treasure hunt...their exact whereabouts is a bit of a mystery. While you can spot a bush yards away, only by stepping closer can you actually observe if there is fruit growing. Then step by step, reach by reach, purple nuggets are collected one by one, sometimes handful by handful. Places that were bountiful in previous years may be barren, and new areas may produce a bumper crop. This is a good reminder that God doesn't work the same way twice...just because He previously blessed an area in my life doesn't mean that that is where to camp assuming more fruit will come in the same way and through the same process...He's way too creative for that! Since He longs for relationship and not religion/routine, He delights in our taking risk in new areas where He is leading and not simply returning to old ways of blessing. As we take steps nearer to the path He is calling you to, He will make the way obvious...the promise of Is. 30:21 "Whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way walk in it!" AND don't assume by what you see...there have been areas in my berry patch that looked empty of fruit, however, bending over either out of curiosity or from losing my footing and stumbling, has revealed hidden treasures not seen by where I was standing. Much like prayer and humility, surrendering to Jesus gives new perspective blinded to the independent heart. Truly on our knees we can see more!

Once the berries have been collected, there are several ways I love to enjoy them...right out of the bowl, on cereal or pancakes, frozen for future pleasure, made into a pie, the joy of giving them away...some of these are simply savored by me, some of these are enjoyed with others. This is the kingdom of God...nuggets dwelling richly in me and also made sweet through fellowship or simply given away to bless others in their journey. In all of it may He be glorified and may the riches of the kingdom be gathered, savored and multiplied!

You may not be bitten by the berry picking bug that I have, but I hope you ARE simply longing for more fruit in your life. Yes, the fruit is always there for the picking...remember the fields are ripe, but its the workers that are few...I encourage you to keep your eyes on the fruit and not the thorns (what stands in the way of what God has for you). Arm yourself to avoid the buzz of the mosquitoes (the whisper campaign of the enemy), grow up in the robe of righteousness with which Christ has robed you and practice using His mighty is what will protect you on the battle field for your heart and the hearts of others. There is LIFE and TREASURE to be found step by step if only you would desire it above all. Like the fruit I gather, there would be none if I didn't desire it and invest well to win the battle for berries! The same is true in the Kingdom, take the risk...Go for fruit...Avoid sitting on the sidelines discouraged by the mosquitoes and thorns...Seek your Commander, Engage in the battle, then taste and see that the Lord is good!