Several different places have been home to us for a season, each with its own beauty and special blessings of harvest particular to the area.
Along about this time of year, a craving for juicy peaches picked fresh in the Niagra Peninsula starts to creep into my imagination. Or the discovery of wild blueberries at the edge of an evergreen woods along backroads in New Brunswick. Or succulent plums and cherries dripping sweet nectar with each bite from a PEI neighbourhood. Or baskets of rosy McIntosh apples in neat lines at roadside farmer’s markets in rural Quebec or Ontario.
And of course, strawberries.
Early summer has held the anticipation of juicy red berries on warm biscuits or cakes topped with mounds of whipped cream in each location, whether ‘pick-your-own’ in farm fields or backyard gardens; whether store bought in pints or much larger baskets.
The woody tasteless flesh of GMO berries arriving from great distances in winter months which have ripened during transport rather than in sun-soaked furrows of rich earth cannot compare with succulent fruit carefully selected and picked on the day when it has reached its natural peak faithful to its true genetic makeup.
Delicious local produce in its time. Refreshing. Mouth wateringly good.
Wherever we’ve lived, we’ve discovered beautiful gifts in the fruit of lives attentive to the cyclical seasons of grace where a steady maturing process allows the life of the Spirit to bring about sweet blessings in appropriate ways in his perfect time. In these gatherings, refreshing desire to spread out as servants offering his tasty wholesome goodness naturally arises through a common intent to ripen into a people through whom others will find the nourishment of Christ and his generous provision both physically and spiritually.
There is always something wonderful to expectantly look forward to wherever we are because of the Spirit at work in his people … but let’s be honest.
Buried beneath the outward appearances of acceptable social graces and strawberry socials is a mix of both short and long straws, some representing bare and open ease where brothers and sisters are joined in rows of devotion waiting for his Spirit to complete his good work begun in us, and others revealing dis-eased crawlers moving out across furrowed brows to start new crops of very straw-like churchiness much less than we are meant to be.
The straw man of outward friendliness we may sometimes encounter among groups of people where tough issues have piled up unattended is barely concealed by the piles of special toppings no matter how high. Silky smooth and creamy smiles hiding wounds upon the soul. Pale fleshly immaturity passing for a healthy church bearing the deep red marks of seasoned love brought to full fruition by the Son. It can be deeply disillusioning when we take that first bite and it bites back too tasteless or too tart … unless we remember the mix in ourselves as well.
We dream of being other places with what appears to be delectable fruit when called to serve up harvest blessings of his love among those unprepared to act on the lessons of reaping what we sow or knowing that what we keep covered in mouldy pretence spoils the batch if left to sit in bowls of belligerence or plates of hatred for any length of time.
But the berries of beauty found in each place become bowls of blessing wherever we are when we willingly pass under the knife of conviction to check the veracity of good fruit or poor within and gently lead others to do the same.
Will we abide in the vine to bear the fruit of Christ and his sweet love wherever we serve?
‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruity, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5)
‘Lord, help us wait through the preparation of pruning and longing for the lovely gifts of home wherever heaven and earth become one as we ripen in your hands. May the fruit of your goodness be plucked from our ministries in the shape and form you design for this particular season of our lives ready to serve you with all that we are. May we not settle for artificial crops of abundance passing as your fruit along highways of deception, but may we wait instead to discover small pockets of genuine sweetness tucked away in narrow lanes closest to our lives each day where the experience of his love is offered one by one.
And if there is one who has fallen to the ground, be quick to swoop them up and make of them the sweet jam of comfort to others who have also known crushing as your love is released in even greater measure through seasons of suffering. Amen.’