Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fruit Stands and Orchards

Banana Joe's Fruit Stand 1-20-2014 7-04-009

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.   Galatians 5:22,23   NIV

I’d like to walk up to a fruit (of the Spirit) stand and place my order.  “One pound of joy and peace today, and a one of those ripe kindness fruits.  No, you’d better make that two–I’ve got a church committee meeting tonight.”

Banana Joe's Fruit Stand 1-17-2014 9-36-043

I’d like to plunk down my cash and walk away with a basketful of fruits of the Spirit already grown. I’d like somebody else to do the hands-in-the-dirt, protracted orchard work.

I confess.  I don’t like the hard, long, waiting times, the-start-small-and-watch-it-grow times, but God does.  Fruit is grown, not materialized in a science fiction replicator.

Banana Joe's Fruit Stand 1-17-2014 9-35-002

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We used to have an apple tree in a low, sheltered spot in the corner of a field.  The tree was covered by handsome, red apples every year.  The walk from the dirt road and along the fence was short, and the low branches made it easy to pick.  However, this tree had a major flaw.  The apples didn’t taste good.

The seedling had probably grown from an apple core thrown out a truck window.  The fruit had the  attractive shape and color of a Delicious apple, but no pleasant taste or aroma.  It is extremely rare for a tree grown from an apple seed to have desirable fruit.


So how are apples grown?  Branches or buds from a tree selected for its good qualities (the scion) are grafted onto another tree. There are many methods of grafting, but all take advantage of the tissues of the two types of trees growing together, ending with the characteristics of the scion tree being transferred to the other.

The two parts are joined together and become one tree within a matter of months.  The two parts–me/you and Jesus–are stuck together and grow together.

The Spirit of God in us changes our wild, weedy, undesirable ways and gives us God’s own character.  We get the good fruit that we couldn’t grow on our own.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Galatians 5:22-23   MSG

My prayer for us all:

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!    Romans 15:13   MSG

Banana Joe's Fruit Stand 1-20-2014 7-03-032

photos by Barb Briggs

  linking with Jennifer Lee Dukes

Small Beginnings

I confess.  I want my life, my faith, my ministry, answers to prayer full grown.  I want them now.  I don’t like the hard, long, waiting times, the-start-small-and-watch-it-grow times.


God, however, seems to be perfectly happy with small things and small beginnings:

a small tribe that births a Messiah

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

Micah 5:2   NIV

small coins given with a wide-open heart,

But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”  Mark 12:4243   NIV

small fish, small loaves given to be multiplied,

His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”  . . .

They all ate and were satisfied.  Matthew 15:33,34, 37


small seeds that grow into mighty plants,

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”   Matthew 13:31,32


small children presented to be blessed,

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 10:13-16   NIV

small bricks stacked and mortared together to build a mighty wall.

. . . the Word of God came to me: “Zerubbabel started rebuilding this Temple and he will complete it. That will be your confirmation that God-of-the-Angel-Armies sent me to you. Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!”   Zechariah 4:8-10   MSG

Who dares despise the day of small things . . . ?  Zechariah 4:10   NIV

Who, indeed?  Lord, teach me to give thanks for small beginnings, as you did, and help me to wait for the miracle.

When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.  The people ate and were satisfied.   Mark 8:6-8   NIV


sunflower photo by Barb Briggs

Five Minute Fridaylinking with Lisa Jo Baker

(five minutes of writing, extra time to add Scripture quotes and photos)

linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Coffee for Your Heart 150

linking with Holly Gerth

Hearts and Scars

Hearts . . .


Hearts are in every shop window, but in two weeks a new display will be hung.


Hearts shout at us from every magazine, newspaper, blog, and TV show, but soon they’ll be relegated to the “trash” to make way for something new to catch our eye.


Heart-shaped pizzas, heart cookies?  They are consumed and then forgotten.

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Heart shapes in nature?  This snowy shape sheltered in a wind-blown nest is already buried in a drift.


Hearts sparkling from the jewelry counter?  Surely precious metals are more enduring than snow, but gold bands wear thin, and silver chains rupture at the weakest link.

Where can we find something of real permanence to speak to us–every single heart-beating day–the language of Love?

Maybe if we look to the heavens, there will be something more permanent like these nebulae (called Heart and Soul), but even nebulae are changing from and changing to.  They are the birthing and dying chambers of stars, and we only see a slice of their slow motion, life dance.

Where can we find a way to remind us of Love, to burn in our minds an unchanging icon that will tell us about a Love that last forever?

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The knife slipped as I was chopping cabbage for coleslaw, and I sliced my finger instead.  My daughter, who was beginning to learn the alphabet, recognized the shape of the curving red gash.  She said it looked like the first letter of her name:  a “J” written in flesh and blood.  A fine, white line is still visible.  Although the “J” was accidental, the scar does remind me of my beloved daughter.

One faint mark, that fades each year.

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In the Old Testament the garments of the High Priest were described in detail.

 Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord.   Exodus 28:11, 12   NIV

Twelve names were engraved in gem stone. Twelve sons of Israel to be remembered by Aaron. Twelve reminders to the Lord of His beloved children. Twelve stones that can fracture or be lost or stolen.

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We need a living reminder of Love, one that can’t fade away.  We need a heart that speaks Love day after day, one that beats forever and never wears out. We need a Savior, the Savior who was crucified, hands and feet nailed to a cross, out of love for us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5   NIV

Do you remember Isaiah’s prophetic words of a love that endures forever?

I have engraved you on the palms of my hands Isaiah 49:16   NIV

Engraving isn’t ink that fades. It isn’t a pale scar that dims with passing years. It’s not carving on a stone that can shatter.

Engraving is permanent.

We are engraved on Jesus’ two living hands.

Look closely, and you’ll see that the scars spell your name.


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Heart and Soul Nebulae photo by Leonardo Orazi.
Thanks to Mr. Orazi for allowing me to share this photo. You may view a high resolution image on Mr. Orazi’s site.
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linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

After the Storm


A welcome sight:  the sun after a storm.

  linking with



The storm began as powdered-sugar frosting on the fir trees and hydrangeas

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and meringue silently topping every rooftop.

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Then the north-west wind began to howl and push the accumulating flakes into drifts like dunes of sand.


The storm blurs the outlines of trees into ghosts wrapped by white, wraith-like fingers.


As the wind begins to blow straight and hard, the edges of the road and the horizon disappear.

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Some of us experience blizzards, but all of us live through the kind of storms that don’t show up on the radar:

when you walk down the dark, basement stairs and find frozen, broken pipes have flooded the floor,

when you watch a parent slide down the rocky slope of Alzheimer’s,

when a forever-promised spouse seeks “greener” spaces,

when a child walks the prodigal road,

when the doctor begins a conversation with “I’m sorry.  There’s nothing else we can do.”

All is white.  All is storm.

We find ourselves in distress.

The disciples were terrified as they found themselves in distress in the middle of a storm (and some of these men fished for a living!).

Then [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”   Matthew 8:23-27   NIV

Jesus amazed them, even after all the miracles they’d recently witnessed.  After they were safe on shore, I wonder if they remembered David’s prescient Psalm.

Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:  23-30   NIV

When we’re in distress, the dictionary explains that we suffer “great pain, anxiety, or sorrow.”  The common Latin word, from which “distress” arrives, is districtus, which means  “divided in mind.”

Like the disciples, who watched a miracle one day and watched their courage melt away the next.

Like us.


We are divided in our minds.  We trust Jesus’ care for us when the sun shines, but in the middle of the storm, we question God’s power and goodness.

. . . because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.   James 1:6

The good news is the Lord knows all about our storm-tossed faith.  In Psalm 107 this refrain repeats.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.

Even after God’s people rebelled and despised His plans, (Psalm 107:11) God’s love wraps around them.   This is the other phrase that repeats:

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

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The antonym for “distress” is “comfort.”

The antidote for distress (a divided mind) in the white-out, stormy times is giving thanks and wrapping yourself in the comfort of God’s warm love.

The Lord’s comfort is a quilt made with the scraps of fear and doubt, high waves and deep drifts, trust and faith, all stitched together with God’s unfailing love.

linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

Coffee for Your Heart 150

linking with Holley Gerth at

Sunflower Seeds and Manna

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I had seen a pair of cardinals in our yard and heard their metallic chip, chip, chip, so I hung a new bird feeder near a picture window, hoping I could entice them to eat from it.


I’ve been hungry for color during these dark, winter days, and I hoped to see the the cardinals close-up, but they were afraid.  All that bird seed that I’d put into the feeder reservoir remained uneaten.  I wished I could somehow communicate to them that there was an endless supply of their favorite seeds, food that could help keep them alive during times that other food was scarce.

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I sprinkled some sunflower seeds on the porch railing, where I had seen them light before.  First the male came, and then the female, cracking open the sunflower seed shells.  Finally, they began to perch on the bird feeder and eat there.  I quit putting seed on the railing–I didn’t want our cats to think this was a buffet invitation.


How often have I sat near the food that feeds my soul, but not feasted?   How often have I been more concerned about what to cook for dinner than digging into the Bible verses in my devotional?  Jesus dealt with people just like me during his life, people who were eager to eat the miraculously multiplied bread and fishes, but slow to receive the “bread from heaven.”

After Jesus fed the five thousand, the crowds found him again and their questions showed they were still thinking about the here and now instead of about eternal matters.  Jesus answered them

“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”   John 6:26,27   NIV

But the people wanted a sign, another miracle.  They asked

“What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.   John 6:30-35   NIV

If the cardinals can trust my provision enough to overcome their fears, surely I can overcome whatever might hold me back from taking in the bread that gives life.  Is it fear or disorganization or plain laziness that keeps me from spending more time praying and reading my Bible?

The cardinals come to the feeder before the morning sun has painted the horizon.  Maybe morning is the best time for you to spend time in prayer and Scripture.  For years, when my children were young, I had a quiet time for devotions during afternoon nap time.

Or maybe you’re like the woman in this post by Jennifer Dukes Lee:

“The Lord wakes me up. Every night, He wakes me up. When I go to bed at night, I am so happy because I know He’s going to wake me up at 3:30.”

When God rings, Almarie answers. She gets out of bed, picks up her Bible, walks to her easy-chair and starts reading where she left off the night before. She reads, and she prays. For a whole hour.


Find the time of day that works for you.

Find the Bible version that speaks to you.

Pray:  adore Him, confess your sins, thank Him for His blessings, and ask for His help and intervention.

Breathe in the aroma of freshly baked bread that is the Bread of Life.  It’s waiting for you.  He is waiting for you.

linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

TheWeekendBrewButton  linking with

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