Fruit

Pullano Pumpkin Patch July 2012

More Reflections from the Garden

I made space in my garden this year for a pumpkin patch.  I thought it would be fun for the kids to pick pumpkins from our very own garden in the fall. My one attempt at a pumpkin in last year’s garden didn’t turn out so well so this year I went all out and dedicated an entire “patch”; smart thinking when you know exactly what went wrong and how to fix it….

At any rate, I followed the directions on the seed packet, made lots of little mounds and planted the seeds.  In no time I had little seedlings that gradually grew to resemble actual pumpkin plants. As they grew I vaguely noticed there were some variations in their appearance (I actually think one of the plants may be a watermelon?)  but one mound in particular had me wondering.  The leaf didn’t quite resemble any of the others.  Still it was green and healthy and growing very similarly to all the other plants so I certainly didn’t want to risk yanking out a perfectly good fruit plant.  I left it to grow along with the others knowing it would be exposed for it’s true identity sooner or later.  Sure enough all the plants began to sprawl and flower and produce tiny little baby pumpkins, (or watermelon) except that one.  The writing was on the wall for the imposter.  It was time for the now giant weed to take it’s leave.

Mt 7:16-20 “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. “

Jesus is speaking here of false prophets and it’s certainly a relevant warning today in the face of all who are rising up on a global scale to mislead Christ’s church.  So many Catholics and Christians alike have a shallow faith, like the seed that fell on rocky ground and was scorched by the heat because it had no roots, they are easily misled and fall into the trap of false thinking based on seemingly good and noble ideas.  Mainstream society has fallen victim to these false prophets for generations, but particularly in recent decades as is evidenced by the “bad fruits” rampant in our world today.  When you consider the state of marriage and the family and the value, or lack thereof, that we place on life at all stages, it becomes obvious that for all of our ‘do-gooding’ today we simply are not better off.

In the name of acceptance and political correctness and standing up for rights, we have managed to stand for nothing and certainly not for the love and justice that Jesus preached.  He warned us over 2000 years ago and, against all odds, that warning is in black and white today for the world to read.

Later in Matthew’s gospel Jesus warns, “Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.” (Mt. 24:11-12)

An example in the United States is the legality of abortion.  Our laws and government promote a pregnant woman’s right to choose, in the name of freedom, but the fruit of that ‘right’ is millions of murdered babies and millions of women facing grief, depression, anxiety and a long list of post-abortion syndrome side effects.  I would venture to guess that the tentacles of pain and suffering are far more widespread than meets the eye.  It would seem the love of a great many has indeed grown cold and the depth of deception is staggering.  A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Abortion is a bad tree and it bears horrific fruit.  It seems so simple and yet it is a subject of so much controversy and division and even hate.

On a smaller scale in our own lives and communities we can probably recognize a few false prophets. People who are deceived and misguided and misled and speak in the name of Christ.  Jesus says beware of these wolves in sheep’s clothing!  As followers of Christ, every single one of us bears false witness to God’s teaching when we don’t follow his laws of life and love.  When we claim to be Christians, yet our lives don’t set the example of a Christian, we are being false prophets.  If we are not bearing good fruit in our lives we are exactly what Jesus was warning against in His message.

St Michael slaying a dragon

St Michael slaying a dragon (Photo credit: tortipede)

And it wasn’t a vague notion he laid out but rather a hard and direct truth.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit WILL BE cut down and thrown into the fire.

The imposter pumpkin was bound to be exposed for it’s true nature and had I left it in my patch it would have taken valuable water and nutrient away from the real fruit bearing plants.  There was no choice but to dig it out.

Of course we will all fall and we will all sin but holiness should always be the goal.  As christians, that is, as a people who Love God’s will more than our own we are called to be beacons of light and hope in an ever darkening world.  We need to have an awareness that we bring Christ’s light, His message and His Love to all who are watching.

Or not.

God, we pray you would open our eyes to all the ways we do or don’t live the Gospel in our lives and give us the grace to live your Holy will in all ways. Amen

Evangelical Earthworms

More reflections from the garden:

Yes I am writing a catholic blog post about …. earthworms.

Earthworms are a good example of soil-dwelling...

Earthworms are a good example of soil-dwelling detritivores (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They really are fascinating little creatures and I decided that if God put the time and energy into making the slimy little things then they are definitely worthy of a little Godversation!  For sure they do really important work in the soil.  I’m certainly no expert but I do know that lots of worms = good soil!  Luckily I have lots of them in my little garden and as I’ve been preparing for planting  I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe their activity.

What strikes me is their strength of purpose.  They instinctively know exactly why they were created and what they are supposed to do in God’s ultimate design and they just do it.  No fuss, no muss.  They slither into the soil and eat it up and poop it out.  Over and over and over, all day long.  And I bet if you dig up a worm a thousand times it will gracefully disappear back under the soil all one thousand times.  It won’t stop to whine and complain and question.  It won’t get distracted and stray from it’s task.  It won’t get bored and decide to sow it’s wild oats elsewhere for a while.

It’s simply an obedient and purposeful little creature that was created for a specific and necessary purpose and it does it’s part no matter how insignificant it may seem.  As a general rule they don’t aspire to be anything other than what they are.

“In Him, we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28

They embody that verse and I think it’s a tremendous model for all of us.  Yes, I am saying that we should all channel our inner earthworm!  All creatures great and small glorify the Lord by being exactly what we are created to be and all of creation gives testament to the amazing wonder of God’s ultimate design when we play our part in it.  This is evidenced in the delicate balance of our ecosystem working harmoniously over the Earth.  When any one piece is missing the whole system goes down!

It would be crazy to think God created us for a purpose but didn’t give us the tools we’d need to achieve that purpose.  In the same way it would be crazy to think that He created us with no purpose!  Of course not.  If he fashioned that ugly slimy little worm to play such a vital role in our world, then how much more vital are we, his beloved and cherished children?  He created each and every one of us with purpose, for a reason, with a plan in mind and He’s equipped us with all that we need for that purpose. We are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) to achieve what he’s laid out for us, and when we cooperate we find fulfillment and joy and happiness.

The real kind.  Not just the temporary and temporal.

But unlike an earthworm we’ve been gifted with free will to choose if and how and where and when to become all that we were created to be.  Or not.

Sometimes our greatest gift can be our greatest pitfall. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  If you are anything like me, we are not always as obedient and cooperative as, say, an earthworm but God loves us anyway.  He will never stop encouraging us to achieve the perfection for which we were created.  Not actual perfection of course, because no one gets there this side of the pearly gates (Rom 3:23) but the perfection of our purpose! A perfection born of Love that the Father has for each and every one of his children.  He sees us perfectly, wonderfully and fearfully made (psalms 139:14), even when free will and sin interfere with the grand design.

Saint Anne with child Mary (Св. Анна с младенц...

Saint Anne with child Mary (Св. Анна с младенцем Марией) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the bible God has sent prophets and angels and evangelists to shepherd his people. He is always guiding and teaching us truth and wisdom.  Ever notice that you know exactly the person you need in a given situation?  Ever notice the worms in your garden being little evangelists?  The truth is that we all evangelize by being what we are in our walk with God.   We are called to holiness.  We are destined for sainthood.  Take the example of St. Anne living out her vocation as a wife and mother.  She kept her house, took care of her children, taught them to know the Lord, and remained a faithful and dutiful wife.  Imagine the moment she found out that her daughter would bring forth the Messiah of the world!

God has placed us and will use us!   The only prerequisite is to simply be what God has created us to be.

Bedtime or is it???

Putting my younger kids to bed sometimes takes the patience of a saint! And while I am certain that by the grace of God I will one day achieve that status, I haven’t yet done so.   Anyone with toddlers probably knows the drill; brushing teeth, reading one story or many, saying prayers, tucking in, going potty, getting a drink and all in a certain ritual order and probably more than once!  The other night I was particularly exhausted and tried to take shortcuts to hurry up the bedtime stuff so I could crash-land myself into bed.  But what’s that cliché about haste making waste?  The more I tried to hurry the process the more they tried to prolong it!  It was an exercise in pure frustration and after a while I threw up my hands and stormed off leaving them crying and upset and anything but nicely tucked in and settled.

While I will not be taking any mommy-of-the-year awards for this particular episode, God nevertheless used the opportunity to teach me.  In my human weakness I have limits.  God our father does not.  I will always lose my patience when I’m pushed far enough.  God our father will never lose patience with his children.  I will always falter and fail but God will turn my failings into fruit.  I won’t always set the best example but Jesus came and gave us the perfect example once for all.

Icon of Jesus Christ

Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In those moments that I felt guilt and failure God himself offered me a do-over.  It is in recognizing and accepting our weaknesses and faults that we give Glory to God by our humility.  I failed.  I will fail again.  With the help of His Grace,  I will try to do better.  This is the very Truth the Church has taught and offered sacramentally in the confessional since Jesus instituted it,  and we affirm it every time we say the act of contrition, “…I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin”.

God in His infinite mercy and endless love doesn’t merely forgive us our transgressions, though that is a priceless gift in itself, rather he renews and restores and builds us up.  He transforms us through our weakness when we turn to His loving counsel.  He turns an exhausted and guilt-laden mother into a creature of Joy and Love and renewed energy and strength by His Love and Mercy. He is constant in His example of being merciful to others, as well as to ourselves.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:48)

I will always be an imperfect parent but He will always be guiding me perfectly.

Lord I thank you for your loving example and perfect guidance.  Amen

Another Bag

I put out a family favorite dish of homemade salsa and tostitos chips for snack the other day. My younger kids were gathered around and devouring it with gusto.  As the chips started to dwindle the kids started getting nervous. You could tell because they went from taking one chip at a time, to a few, to all-out fighting for the bag before their own little stockpile was gone.  Screeching and complaining ensued and my pleas to share and not be greedy went largely unheeded.  It was clear that they heard nothing I was trying to teach them! They became so focused on hoarding chips they didn’t even realize that they probably couldn’t eat them all.  All that fuss obscured the goal; happy healthy snack time together.

It struck me as familiar. How often do we get so caught up in our own desires and wants that we fail to see the error of our ways in achieving them? Sometimes we lose sight of a path that God lays before us because we think we have a different and better path. Or just because we, in our limited human capacity,  don’t see the wisdom of God’s plan plainly, perhaps we dismiss it as less worthy than our own.  Perhaps we are simply so driven and so focused on our own course that we neglect the critical prayer for discernment. How often does God try to get our attention and teach us in our “teachable moments” of life but we can’t or won’t hear Him?

Isaiah 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations

If my kids would have stopped to listen for a minute, they would have heard me trying to tell them something important, “Fear not, Mom is the savior of snack time.!” I have another bag!”  In teenager speak that would be “I got you”. How much nicer snack time would have been if they had taken the hand I held out to them.

And how much more is that true of God in the whole of our lives?   He is Sovereign and He’s got us covered!   When our own plans go awry and we feel like we’re swimming upstream, we need to understand and trust that God definitely has a better way or a better plan.

Isaiah 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

Turmoil, confusion, dissatisfaction, and hurt are not God’s “ways” for us.  Achieving any end by means of sneaking, cheating, lying, being greedy and selfish is never in God’s plan.  Any course we embark on that neglects Love at its core is less than Excellent.

Lord help us to be attentive to your teaching in all the situations of our lives and always show us your “still more excellent way”(1 Cor 12:31) Amen!

God’s-eye view

My kindergartener recently had a conversation with grandma that went something like this.
Grandma: Pretty soon you will know how to read Andrew, and then you can just pick up a book and read it!
Andrew: You mean I will just go into school one day and I will be able to read?
Grandma: Well you will have to work and learn how to do it but then you will know how to do it forever.
At this point he shrugged indifferently and ran off to play…

If only he could see what he’s missing from an adult perspective!!  How do you make a 6-year-old understand  that the whole world will start to blossom  once they do the relatively short work of learning to read?  At age 6 he simply has no idea what he’s missing and how his window to the world will expand exponentially!

God our Father must feel this way about his children all the time!  He sees not only the great potential we have of our own power but the limitless potential we have when we live through Him.   He knows the world will blossom in ways we simply can not imagine when we trust in His ways.  But to do this requires work, it requires obedience and prayer and humility and a desire to serve the will of our father more than our own. It requires perseverance in the face of self-doubt and worldly failure. Sometimes it requires a single-minded focus that is near impossible to come by in a world full of distractions. It requires patience so at odds with the attitude of instant gratification prevalent in American culture.
God is always ready and willing to teach us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11)

I wanted to shout after Andrew and call him back and explain all the wonders awaiting him.  I wanted, somehow, to make him understand.  Even as I write this I’m at a loss.  The impact of knowing how to read is so undefinable.

The same thing can be said of our Loving God.  We can’t begin to define Him or understand all that he has in store for us.  Only through the steady and faithful building of a relationship with Him will our eyes be opened, will our minds be enlightened, will our hearts be filled.  Are we eager and excited to know Him or do we shrug indifferently and run off to carry out our own plans?

Lord, help us tune out the world so we can focus our attention on you, who makes the world blossom in our minds, our hearts and our souls!  Amen

LOOK UP!

Look Up! Look Up! Look Up! Melissa Look Up! Look Up! Hurry Look Up! Just lift your head and Look Up! Look at me. Look at me Melissa. Look at Mommy! Look at my Face! Look Up!!!

This is pretty much how bath time goes with my 2-year-old every time. I shampoo her hair and when she knows the rinsing is coming she looks down to try to shield her face and cries louder and louder, probably to be heard over my pleas, until she reaches full-out hysteria… and we’re done. I’ve tried reasoning and explaining, but my normally brilliant 2 yr old, just can’t seem to get the message.

If she would only listen to me, and trust me, and obey me, then the water would pour nicely down the back of her head and hair washing would be a non-event. Bath time would be considerably more enjoyable all around and I would simply have a shiny happy toddler.

If she would only LISTEN to me, and TRUST me, and OBEY me… God our Father has been saying the same darn thing to His children for thousands of years! Over and over and over we fall back into relying on our own ways and means. Old habits die-hard I guess. And we suffer for it!

Listening is critical to our prayer life. We are told to “pray always” and “be persistent in prayer” but at times it can feel like we aren’t effecting any good or getting any answers.  Perhaps because, like little Melissa,  we are overcome by our own fears and prejudices and aren’t able to quiet ourselves enough to listen. Sometimes it’s pain and suffering holding us captive or excuses of busy lives. For any number of reasons we might ask but not truly make the time to Listen to what God has to say.  HE  will ALWAYS come into our prayerful silence.

“Be still and Know that I am God” (Ps 46:11)

In the quiet stillness of our minds and souls at rest we will feel conviction in our hearts, we will know truth in our minds, we will feel moved by a gentle stirring or holy fire.  Our souls will hear Love and Truth and recognize it every time if we are listening.  For this we were created and no less.

And if we hear from God we must Trust in His almighty providence as ruler in body, mind and soul. To do anything less is cheating ourselves of the fullness of LIFE in Him.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Mt 22:37)

Through prayer or otherwise, we must then do the work of obeying the Lords’ commands. God wants nothing less than our acceptance, our fiat and our total surrender to His holy will.  Often we have to put aside our own agendas and ideas of how things should be because as mere humans we can not calculate the effect of grace in any given situation.  It is through our obedience that Grace can be at work.  God knows exactly how to calculate the effect of grace in our human situations and he sends it in abundance.  We have to trust him on that!

Our trust and obedience will bring peace. Imagine if Melissa would have just listened and really heard what I was saying to her. What if she simply said, “ok Mommy” and then tipped her head up and not insisted on doing it her own way?

In my infinite wisdom as a parent, (ahem…) I’m sure that my advice would have worked out for the best for my child whom I love. And how much more perfect is the advice of God our Father?

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11)

God, as our loving parent, sees all and knows all, and he’s not just interested in what’s best for us, rather He sees and wants perfection for us!  So many things would be easier, better, more enjoyable if we would remember in those moments of panic and fear and indecision and temptation, to just look up. If we had the courage, despite the voice of this world that tends to drown out all else, to wholeheartedly Trust in the Lord, we would be happier.

Plain and simple

God gives us every grace we need in the moment that we need it. Always, unconditionally. We have legions of angels and saints as intercessors, especially our Lady who loves us better than our own earthly mothers. We have no excuse to live without trusting our Heavenly Parents. We aren’t 2 after all.

Lord, help us to Listen prayerfully, trust in you always and obey without reservation and may we ever remember to “Look Up”! Amen