Friday, July 15, 2011

The Mulberry Gospel

God talks to me through plants; mostly weeds and berries. Lately mulberries are talking. Seems strange, I know, but I don’t really care if I am strange.

When I was younger, I would feel depressed and go running to try to ward it off. If I was really sad, sometimes by chance I would happen upon some blackberry bushes full of berries on the side of the road somewhere, and I would stop and they would say to me that life is dry and dusty and full of thorns, but God still loves me--- He drops little bundles of sweetness into my life just like blackberries on thornbushes. That happened a lot. It helped me get through. So lately, I have been running again, not because I am depressed, but because I want to be fit. And there is this totally amazing mulberry tree in front of my neighbor’s yard that every day has more ripe berries on it than I can eat. They’re like soft blackberries with no thorns or seeds, but with delightful little stems that pop.

Everyone’s heard of mulberries, right? Hardly anyone has eaten them. I think maybe they don’t keep well enough to sell in stores. The trees are pretty enough, but extremely messy. That’s why people who build track homes plant the fruitless kind, for shade without mess. The ground around the real kind is black with berries that didn’t get picked, and if you venture too close, your shoes are permanently stained and nastied, and then you carry that gunk to wherever you go next. If you pick and eat the berries, your fingers and teeth take on a nice purple discoloration. Stinkbugs also love mulberries. If you aren’t paying attention, and you eat a stink bug, you will suffer for it, I promise. I made a stinkbug-mulberry smoothie once, and didn’t know what the gross flavor was until my bug-savvy husband tasted it. Yes, indeed, I will never forget that smoothie. Eeeewwwww.

The neighbor that owns the tree doesn’t eat the berries; thinks they’re too messy, kind of a curse. He didn’t plant the tree, doesn’t water it, or fertilize it, or care about it---it was a volunteer that has been growing there since long before I ever considered living here.  Kids who walk by on their way to junior high pick the berries and make them into little stain bombs that they assault each other with. Older people walk by without ever looking up, just trying to keep their shoes clean. Other people go by, afraid to eat the berries, because they think maybe they’re poisonous or that maybe they’re not allowed to.

But every day I go running, I tell myself that my reward is to go to the tree and eat until I am nearly sick. Every day, there are new beautiful black mulberries that ripened overnight in order to be ready for me when I get there. If they’re ripe, they fall off in your hand when you gently touch them---just like the mercy of God, new every morning, all you have to do is take it. And just like Jesus, everybody’s heard of Him, but all some people can see of Him is religion, with its messy reasons not to go there and immature people throwing stain bombs. Or maybe they have eaten stinkbugs and sworn off mulberries altogether, thinking that sometimes it just tastes like that, and who wants to take that chance? Nope, that’s not why I love this tree. That’s just mulberry trash you’ve got to be wise about avoiding.

The love of God is sweet and kind, faithful and free and real. You’ve got to get it from Him yourself, because it isn’t for sale. Don’t get focused on the stinkbugs or the nasty mess at your feet or you will miss the incredible bounty hanging right above your head. Those berries will make me run 3 miles and smile the whole time, and not care if my fingers are stained and my teeth are too, my running shoes are wrecked, and people driving by stare at me like a freak as I stuff berries in my mouth. “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” that’s what the mulberries are saying. 

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