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Clarity, Purity, and Beauty

If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree. (Matthew 12:33)

If you have mastered this art of jelly-making, you know under-ripe fruit that is too green actually makes the jelly a little cloudy in appearance. It affects the clarity of the jelly. The fruit must be ripe, but firm - not too mushy. If it is too green, it does not go through the "straining" process well. If still too green, it will cook down to what you think will make a good jelly, but you will have to exert too much pressure on it to get the juices out of it in the straining process. It actually makes the resulting "juice" for the jelly very cloudy. If you have ever tried to "force" fruit from your life (or had someone else trying to do it for you) - producing some semblance of "jelly-quality juice" from your life - you might have seen some of the issues of being "squeezed" too hard. Yep, you "produced" something, but the quality of what was produced only produced something which lacked clarity - it looked okay, but it didn't look great!

Are you impatient? I will admit there are moments when my patience is tried - I want things to go as planned. I want fruit in season - but sometimes I want to 'rush' the season! For the clearest jelly you allow the fruit to sit in the strainer, juices dripping freely from it. You don't squeeze the fruit to get the juice - it comes naturally in the straining process! You add the fruit to the cotton flannel bag, then you wait - patiently. We might want to squeeze a little here and there, hoping to get just a little more out, or to speed up the process. The important thing I needed to recognize is that fruit comes forth in a process of patient and consistent growth, just as much as the clearest juices are extracted in allowing the process of separating to occur. No amount of my "squeezing" will produce anything as beautiful as the slow, but consistent process of having the separation of those things which will "cloud" my life. Left in the hands of God, readied fruit will come forth as clear and consistent beauty.

If the fruit is cooked way too long, the jelly-juices which are produced are just made cloudy by the "over-cooking". Mushy fruit produces little particles of fruit which escape the "straining" process. In turn, they make the jelly cloudy. The clarity is produced by cooking the fruit ONLY until it is tender. To be able to produce the clearest jelly, God doesn't just put all the fruit inside of us, turn up the heat, and walk away. He tests, retests, and then finally he is pleased with just the right quality of "tenderness" which will produce the excellence desired. He allows the "mixture" of fruit in our lives to be brought to a boil, but he doesn't want it to be "over-cooked". He looks for us to be just "tender-enough" to produce the clarity and beauty he desires. When we reach this point, he removes us from the heat - so as not to "over-cook" us! There is an 'art' to "pouring off" jelly into the jars. Pour it too slowly and you allow air bubbles to get in - giving it the appearance of being cloudy. Pour it too rapidly, and you might actually over-fill, splash hot juices onto yourself and be burned. Letting the jelly sit in the pan for any length of time before pouring it off allows it to begin to "set up" where it is.

I think we all probably struggle with some of these ideas as we look at how God brings fruit from our lives. He "picks" the right combination of ripe and "under-ripe" fruit in our lives - to make the clearest "jelly"! He allows the straining process because he knows the "sweetness" and "richness" of the end product when it is allowed to occur through patient "processing". He might be able to produce "more" juice from the fruit by squeezing the "straining bag" a little, but the sweetest and clearest juices are produces from allowing the fruit juices to "pass through" the straining bag over the course of time. The goal is not the "quantity" of "jelly", but in the richness and clarity of what is produced. God doesn't let us "over-cook" - he is attentive to the "fire" in our lives. We may only feel the heat, but he knows when we are just "tender enough" to produce the most flavorful of juices. The next time you pick up a jar of jelly, think about what "jelly" God is working on in your life. The mixture of "fruit" he is using, the care he is taking in getting it "just tender enough", and the patience he exhibits in waiting for it to be "strained" to purity. When he finally "bottles" the fruit in your life, he indeed will be delighted by the richness of it! Just sayin!

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