Fruitful Focus

Just look at all of those beautiful red berries! What a lovely bush . . . from far away.

Barberry

I’ve written before about the barberry bush (Barbs or Blossoms? and Planned). It really isn’t one of my favorites, with its long, sharp thorns lining each branch. Sure, it’s got cute little flowers in the spring and lovely shades of red in the fall, but getting close to it can be a bit painful.

Although it’s not really near and dear to my heart, this shrub makes an excellent example of being fruitful! Let me show you what I mean.

Someone needs to do a fall cleanup around here . . .

Pictured above is the area just in front of the barberry bushes from the first picture. Let’s zoom in just a little bit more.

It’s a jungle out there!

They aren’t all the same color, but there are at least five new barberry plants in this photo that have popped up where they shouldn’t be! Those cute little berries have done their job.

I may not like the plant itself, but I’ve recently learned that the berries themselves may actually have some health benefits (as opposed to the burning bush that I like, which has poisonous berries)! Maybe I’ll be brave enough to cook some barberries from the bush behind my house into our rice tonight. I’ll let you know tomorrow if we survive!!

Left: Poisonous Burning Bush berries; Right: Edible Barberries

Fruitful Lives

Christ followers are called to be fruit bearers. Following is just a short collection of verses from Scripture, beginning with words straight from Jesus:

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing . . .When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

John 15:5 & 8

Paul wrote a few times about fruit, as well.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22-23

May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Philippians 1:11

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

Colossians 1:9-10

Did you notice in these verses that fruit is a byproduct of something else?

  1. It is a result of abiding in and remaining attached to the vine (Jesus Christ), drawing strength and life from Him.
  2. It comes as we submit to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
  3. It is produced in our lives by Jesus Christ, in the form of righteous character (see #2).
  4. It is a natural effect of increased knowledge of God’s will, tied together with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

The barberry bush isn’t out back all year thinking, “Oh, I hope I make some berries this fall! I wonder how I can make more berries. Will my berries be any good?” It just grows. Its roots grow down into the soil, its leaves make energy, and its branches grow ever higher toward the sun. And voila! Berries appear!

Our focus should be first and foremost on our relationship with our Heavenly Father, who gave us the gift of salvation. He adopted us as his own children, has promised to never leave us, and has an inheritance waiting for us when we leave this life. He is always good, He is always loving, and He is always faithful.

The deeper our relationship grows with God, the more we will start to look like Jesus. He will begin to work in us and through us, causing our lives to bear fruit and bring him glory.

And what is the natural outcome of bearing fruit? Fruit contains seeds of new life! The fruit we bear can lead to others coming to know Jesus. The fruit is not our focus, but it is a natural result of a life lived close to God.

What is one thing you can do today to invest in your relationship with your Heavenly Father?

*I know you’re wondering, and it’s kept you awake at night…we all survived dinner!

Incognito

Look at this beauty! Our burning bush is a lovely accent of bright red every fall. At over nine feet tall, it’s quite an eye-catcher! Who knows how long it stood there before we bought our house a few years ago.

Burning Bush

Our property has a variety of large, colorful landscape bushes, each showing off in its own season. Along the edge of the property that lines the road, we have a long row of forsythia that brightens the view in the spring.

Each year I spend time cleaning up one area, wrestling my way through the mature (read “overgrown”) shrubs. The next year I’m off to another area.

We’ve got one corner I haven’t spent too much time in yet. I thought it was just a jumble of more forsythia and a wild rose plant. But I was wrong! There was an imposter hiding . . .

In the spring and summer, the imposter just blended in with the forsythia beside it. Look at the leaf shapes. The two left leaves are forsythia, and the two right ones from a burning bush. It’s hard to tell a difference between them if you’re not looking carefully! I just figured this one didn’t want to bloom for some reason.

But fall has arrived, and the evidence is clear. That is not a forsythia. That red is just too bright!

So I cleared up the area just a bit to see what we’ve really got.

Wait a second, what is that peeking out from behind? It’s another one!!

The tiny, bright red leaf gives it away.

I must add this disclaimer: our state, among several others, prohibit selling or planting Burning Bush plants because they are so invasive. They may be pretty, but they can quickly spread, crowding out native species.

Our big beauty gets mowed around often enough that I never saw suckers growing up around the base. I’ll have to keep my eye on these two new discoveries to make sure they don’t take over the woods next door.

These bushes got me thinking about our Christian walk. Are we living incognito?

Do we blend in with our surroundings? Or do we stand out? If folks discover that we are followers of Christ, are they surprised? Or does it explain why we behave the way we do?

Here are a few verses from Scripture to ponder.

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.

1 Peter 1:14-15 NLT

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Ephesians 4:21-24

Holy: different, set apart because we’re special to the Lord. As we allow the Spirit to renew us, is our difference apparent to others?

We can’t be true followers of Christ in name only. Our lives need to be increasingly submitted to God. That growth, in turn, will produce fruit:

A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.

Matthew 12:33

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

These days make for a wonderful season to show our true colors, my friends. Take some time to contemplate how you can follow Christ in obedience today, letting His character shine brightly through you.

Framework

What a jumbled mess! I’ve encountered this vine from South Carolina to New England. These tough, thorny vines are the bane of anyone wanting to clear a little land by hand. Cat brier grows as a single stalk from seed, and produces an underground bulb. The longer the plant survives, the more underground bulbs are created. Most of these bulbs just lie in wait. When you think you’ve removed all of the vines, either by cutting or pesticide, the dormant bulbs will send out new shoots! For this reason, cat brier is eradicated more efficiently with a shovel than with shears, the sooner the better.  Continue reading Framework

Mushrooms or Toadstools?

Mushroom

As I was heading out to pick raspberries this afternoon, I discovered mushrooms growing in the yard.  I took a tour, and found three different kinds!  So I snapped a few pictures, and decided to do a little research.  Wow, did I learn a few interesting things…where was I in Biology class?? Continue reading Mushrooms or Toadstools?

Crop Development

The wild black raspberries growing in our backyard don’t need any help from us. They’re quite independent, spreading out a bit more and producing a slightly larger crop every year. This year we may get enough to try a jam recipe!

The thing is, the berries aren’t all ready for picking at the same time. Some are black and juicy, some smaller and bright red, and some are smaller still, mostly green with barely a hint of red showing. Continue reading Crop Development