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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Short-cut to fruit-bearing

If you have ever had something begin to grow in your garden and then wondered what it might be, you may have left it grow a little longer because you think it resembles a flower or perhaps a plant which will produce some type of "fruit".  As it grows, you can begin to tell if it is what you thought it might be or not.  When it no longer resembles what you thought it was, you pluck it up because you now recognize it as not being the "fruit-bearing" plant you imagined.  I feed birds - this produces a variety of "undergrowth" in my flowerbeds because they fling seed everywhere.  I have seen one-eyed susan, an occasional sunflower, and a lot of tall blades of grass as a result of this "seed flinging".  There is also a whole lot of stuff in there I don't recognize.  I just pluck those out right away because I have no idea what they will produce. A whole lot of "seed" gets "flung" in life, doesn't it?  Much of it can begin to grow wherever it is "planted" - but not all of it is beneficial.  Some of the fruit produced may not be as helpful or beautiful as others.  

You will know these people because of what they do. Good things don’t come from people who are bad, just as grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.  (Matthew 7:16-18 ERV)

What I am doing when I first take notice of these little sprouts in the garden is something you might label as being an "inspector".  I am looking for evidence of two things - I have to recognize what it is, and I have to know if it is beneficial to leave where it is planted.  These are two very important points for us to keep in mind in our own lives as these two principles can guide us in relationships, spiritual pursuits, and emotionally charged times. We need to be able to recognize the "seeds" for what they will produce, and we have to know if what is produced will actually be of any value to us in the long run.  Some call this being "inspectors" - I call it being wise.

Much of what is offered to us today in life is in the form of "short-cuts".  We have all kinds of ways to produce something which "resembles" the "real deal", but it really falls short of the original.  For example, we have instant mashed potatoes.  Add water or a little milk, heat in the microwave, and we have mashed potatoes, right?  Nope, we have reconstituted powdered potato flakes. They look similar to the real deal, and even taste a little like fresh mashed potatoes, but they lack something in the consistency and appearance. What we have produced is "close" to the original, but truthfully, it is only a substitute for the original produced through a series of short-cuts.

Things produced in life are a result of what takes root.  Fruit comes because there was first a root.  You cannot have one without the other.  These things which sprout up quickly in my garden take root easily.  They are flung on the surface and don't need much depth to take root.  A word of caution - when something doesn't need much depth to take root, it usually is a weed and the "fruit" produced will oftentimes give you more headache than heart-peace! Things which matter - producing luscious fruit - are things which take a little longer to root and are almost always planted more "purposefully".  Short-cut "fruit" is rarely as rewarding or satisfying as that which is "purposefully" produced by being planted, nurtured, and harvested in season.

As you may well imagine, fruit is often a key indicator of what has been taking root.  I don't make my own mustard, so a tiny mustard seed taking over my garden with one sprouting plant may look nice for a little while, but it will soon crowd out the rest of what I have growing there.  The birds may like it, but it produces nothing I can actually "use" in my life.  What we allow into the garden of our hearts and minds begins to take root in our inner man.  How do we begin to analyze what has taken root.  Oftentimes, the "behavior" is the evidence of what has taken root on the inside.  Some behavior is to be trusted at "face value" while other behavior is a cleverly produced "imitation" of what we think is going to produce good fruit.  Becoming clear on what is "good fruit" and what is not will help us accurately judge what might be at the root of the behavior we are producing.

Remembering what I proposed earlier, we have to both recognize what is planted and know whether it is good for us or not.  Recognition comes with a little help from some tools we have at our disposal - the Word to guide us into truth, the Holy Spirit to prompt us when "truth" isn't accurate, and our conscience to assist us in weighing the "truth" in response to the values God is working into our hearts.  Knowing if something will actually produce worthwhile fruit takes a little practice.  The instant mashed potatoes will put dinner on the table quickly, but they don't provide nearly the nutrients as the ones I peel, boil, and mash with milk and butter.  They aren't as rich in flavor and they aren't as satisfying to the palate.  Sometimes I have to taste a little of the fruit to really become aware of what has been produced!  This is a little sad really because some of the fruit produced in my life has been a little bitter!  Yet, when I get a good taste of the bitter fruit, I know it doesn't belong and I seek to get it out.  

I think all God wants for us is to become a little more proficient at recognizing the fruit of what is taking root.  Remember, shallow roots may produce fast growth, but will it be lasting and fruitful?  Not too likely.  So, do more than just accept the "fast growing" and begin to allow the "purposeful planting" of what God knows will produce "good fruit".  It isn't in the "short cuts" we produce our "best" fruit - it is in the tender-loving care of his watchful eye. Just sayin!