Life’s Lessons Learned from a Blackberry Bush

Faye, her mother, and brother Freddy at a blackberry bush alongside a rural road through Alabama
Faye, her mother, and brother Freddy at a blackberry bush alongside a rural road running through Alabama

MY FRIEND, LINDA, recently recommended the book Thrive by Mark Hall, the lead singer and songwriter for the Grammy Award-winning band, Casting Crowns.  The purpose of his book is to encourage the reader to grow in faith.  Quoting the author:  “Notice what Jesus uses as his first object lesson.”  Luke 6:43-45 states  “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.”

Reading this made me wonder  “Does the fruit of my spirit look appetizing?  Am I cultivating the fruit of my spirit until it flourishes?”  I finished reading the book, put it on a shelf, but the following questions lingered in my thoughts.  What am I doing for the Lord?  What am I doing for others?  What am I doing for myself?  I pondered over this for a week.

In the meantime, as I was looking through some old photographs, I saw one that brought back a slice of memory pie.  Early on a summer morning, my mother, brother, and I walked from our house on Lake Martin in Alabama down a rural dirt road to where the wild blackberries grew.  Mama warned us to cautiously reach into the gaps in the plants to prevent the thorns from penetrating our skin.  We were not dressed in long sleeves, pants, boots, and hats to protect us from sun, ticks, and chiggers.  Despite the thorns and thistles, Freddy and I enthusiastically attacked the big juicy fruit.  She informed us,  “If the berry is deep black, plump, and shiny, pull with a slight tug.  If it is red or purple, it is not ripe.”  In those days, I didn’t think about the rattlesnakes lurking in the bushes waiting to attack me.  I’m sure Mama was watching and listening for rattling sounds to ensure that we didn’t come in contact with a viper.  Maybe that’s why she talked constantly and moved noisily to scare them away.

Blackberries for the cobbler
Blackberries for the cobbler

Mama said, “Don’t pick the blackberries from the bottom of the bush.  They are for the rabbits. The ones at the top are for the birds.  The ones in the middle are for us.”  We picked until our fingers were purple.  Returning with our harvest, the weight of the upside down metal cake cover that was filled with berries, demanded rest, the heat required refreshing lemonade that was waiting in the refrigerator, and our passion for Mama’s culinary skills increased.  Those tiny, tart, wild berries would soon be blackberry cobbler topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Now, fast-forward about sixty years.  I am reliving that experience and connecting it with the questions that prompted me to write this blog.  As I think about it now, I realize that the canopy of the bushes provided a protective cover for the snakes from the sun and from their predators and a safe place for them to prey on other animals who were attracted to the berries.  God provides me protection from the evil one when he attacks.  When I experience thorns of life and I walk down that dusty, dirt road of life with its twists and turns in the wrong direction, God’s assurance gives me a slight tug so I won’t become the thorn in my own spirit.  The thorns that got stuck in my fingers that were so painful to my skin were only a small irritation in comparison to the things that happen to my spirit and body.

Back to my first question:  What do I do for the Lord?  The best is at the top.  I strive to place God first in my value system.  It determines my actions toward Him.  God expects and demands my best.  After all, He gave me His best, His only begotten son.  Giving my best is about a “living sacrifice.”  He showed me a great example by giving Jesus Christ as a sacrificial lamb for the restoration of humanity to the original position in God.  My love for God compels me to do whatever pleases Him.  Making Him the center of my life changed my thoughts, words, actions, and my life forever.

I must keep His commandments, worship Him from my heart with all reverence and sincerity.  He is a giver.  God gives me everything that I need and more.  I tithe cheerfully.  Leviticus 27:30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed or the fruit of the tree, belongs to the Lord.  God is a precious privilege available to me only if I am obedient to Him.  Jesus wore a crown of thorns for me.  I serve a risen savior.

My second question:  What do I give to others?  My service to others is giving something that no one else can give—me.  I had to search for what is rare and divine within my soul to share with the world. This has required me to dig deeply into my abilities, my talents, and my personality. Several years ago, I participated in a church sponsored class, Discovering my Spiritual Gifts, taught by Dr. Bobby Haney, DDS.  During the first session, I learned that my gifts were teaching, mercy, and helps.  God gave me the ability to understand and communicate in a clear and relevant manner so my students will understand and apply learned knowledge.  God gave me a strong ability to empathize with others via compassion, words, and actions; therefore, through my gift of mercy, I can serve others.  I attempt to have attractive lips by speaking words of kindness.  I strive for lovely eyes to see the good in people.  In all things and at all times, I give others my honesty. He, also, gave me the gift of helps where I enjoy working behind the scenes to get things done.  God gave me two hands.  One hand is for helping myself.  The other hand is for helping others.  Several years later, I took this class again, only to realize that I had thrived in my relationship with God.  I now have the gift of evangelism.  My Christian faith is stronger, and I have the desire to see others have the same joy that fills my soul.  Added to my gifts was prophecy, or perhaps my awareness of this gift was revealed.  I receive direct and clear words from God to give to others in order to help edify and build them up or to help them out of something specific that may be challenging them.  I am His messenger.

Somewhere between God and others is me.

Okay, now, I am at the point of What do I do for me?  So, what DO I do for me?  This was not an easy question to answer.  I reflected on ME.

I take time to be still and quiet, open my eyes to see the beauty that surrounds me—the sun’s rays, sunset with its vibrant colors, nature clothed in delicate blossoms, birds of the air, scurrying animals, and the people around me.

I have learned to listen to the sounds around me.  I enjoy the lonesome whistle of a distant train as it squeaks over the tracks traveling through the small Texas town where I reside.

I smell the fresh scent and feel  a cool breeze after a gentle rain shower.

My thoughts are silent words that only God and I hear, but those words affect my inner being, my health, and my joy.  Through prayer, Jesus and I have a two-way communication, and He gives me the strength to carry out His instructions effectively.

I don’t apologize for being me.  After all, I belong to Jesus.  He molded me and made me who I am.  He makes no mistakes.  I choose my friends wisely.  I surround myself with happy, positive people who know the meaning of honesty, loyalty, and goodness, and who share the same Biblical principles.

Giving of myself has helped me achieve a level of spiritual maturity, freed me from being enslaved to pleasures, freed me of self-indulgence.

I stopped watering the weeds in my life and started watering the flowers.  Although I am a reminiscer, I make the most of the moment I’m in.  I don’t live for yesterday or tomorrow.  I have a willingness to face whatever life offers and meet it rather than wishing to edit and change the inevitable.  God will tell me what comes next in my life.

I continue to thrive.

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