Friday, February 29, 2008

A Walk Through the Orchard

Al and Joe were neighbors and were in the habit of walking each day after work along the road next to the orchard. They each had their own path but sometimes their paths crossed. They would speak politely but walk on. It just so happened that one day they met along the road and fell into step. From that day on it seemed they were always walking together and so it became a routine they both enjoyed. Aside from their daily walk, they seldom saw each other.

Early one Saturday morning they got to discussing how lovely the orchard looked with it’s ruby red apples among the green leaves. Joe stepped into the field to the nearest tree and looked up. “What a wonderful apple. It is the prettiest red I have ever seen. I bet it is so sweet and juicy.”

Al moved to get a look. “Well, I don’t know. It looks all right but you can never tell. I think the apples that come though my plant are the best looking in the world.”

“You work in an apple plant?” Joe looked quizzically at Al. “I didn’t know that.”

“Well, it’s a fruit and juice plant but I am an apple inspector. It is my job to inspect every apple that comes through the plant to insure that only the best apples are allowed into our packages or juice.”

“Apple inspector?   Wow. You mean that if it doesn’t pass your inspection, it won’t be in the juice?”

Al pulled his shoulders back, hitched his belt and sniffed. “Yep. That’s the way it works. It is my job to make sure the bad apples are identified. Bad apples are dumped.”

“So, what do you look for?”

For a minute Al pondered. “Well, we look for bruising, cuts, scars, color, and bugs.”

“Hmmm. Well, all these apples look fine to me.”

Al shook his head. “You can’t tell just by glancing at the tree. No, you gotta examine it real close to find any flaws. I mean, you can’t find scars and bruising just by looking at the tree from here, now can you?”

Joe hesitated and looked the tree over. “Well, no, but why would bruising, scars and cuts be on he fruit that is still on the tree?  I mean, I would think that would only happen in storms or if the fruit gets knocked off someway and lands on the ground. But even then, it might still be good to eat. If you don’t mess with the fruit it won’t get bruised up. Fruit on the tree just needs to be picked and eaten.”

“Only perfect apples get in my juice.”

“Well, why would color matter?  I mean a good apple can be any color.”

“Color could indicate ripeness. We want apples that are just the right stage of ripeness. I mean the juice could be bitter if the apple is not ripe enough and the taste might be a little off if an apple is too ripe. No, I have to be real careful about color, too.”

Joe studied the tree. “I still say these apples look great. I didn’t eat this morning and I am kind of hungry. My mouth is watering just looking at them.” Joe reached up to the apple nearest him. “Just look how plump it is and how shiny.”

Al shook his head, “I’m telling you, Joe, unless they are inspected by a trained eye you shouldn’t mess with them. There might be something wrong with this tree.”

Joe hesitated but pulled the apple off and sniffed it. “It smells good, too.”  He bit into it eagerly. He closed his eyes, “Mmmmmmm, Al, that is the best apple I ever ate. I am so hungry. Try one, I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“Not me. If I want apples I get ‘em at the supermarket . . . after they have been inspected. Besides, I don’t really care for them much. I see so much bad fruit it kinda turns you off them after awhile.”

Al and Joe resumed their walk. Joe munched on his apple in silence for a long time. Finally, he said, “Al, you ever think about another line of work?”

“No. Why?”

“Well, why do we need fruit inspectors?”

“So, unsuspecting folks don’t get sick from eating bad fruit?”
“Don’t you think a person could inspect their own fruit and determine if it is bad or not?”

Al didn’t respond directly but said, “Well, the owner might not be honest enough to admit he had bad fruit. Fruit inspectors are necessary to keep folks honest. We insure the safety of the innocent. Anyway, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. What else would I do?”

Joe munched his apple for a moment then a light seemed to go off in his face. He looked at Al and said, “Maybe you could GROW apples.”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance . . . .” Galatians 5:22-23.

We have all read or heard that verse dozens of times but one Sunday morning as the Bible class teacher read, something went off in my mind that I can only describe as a small nuclear explosion. I was awestruck as a new understanding broke over me. As I hurried to write down the thoughts before they slipped away, I remembered something else. Several weeks earlier, on the preceding page of my notebook, I had made a few notes regarding another scripture.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”  Matt. 7:20.

Weeks before those scribblings had led nowhere but that Sunday morning the pieces of the puzzle fell together perfectly and the picture that emerged was breathtaking. On Sunday night, while getting ready for bed, came the story A Walk Through the Orchard.

 There is one basic question that we all ask when faced with the realization of eternity. “What must I do to be saved?” Most of us believe that we know the answer. But then, I took a walk through the Orchard.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve walked thorough the orchard and passed beautiful, sweet-smelling, fruit-filled trees. The fragrance of the ripe fruit permeated the air around her. But Eve didn’t’ stop and savor those fruits. Instead, she journeyed to the center of the Garden and looked on the one tree she had been forbidden. As she gazed at that fruit, a craving pulled at her soul and consumed her. Her mind registered the visual image of a tantalizing fruit. The image she saw answered three questions that her craving had provoked. She saw that the fruit was good for nourishment, it looked good, and it would make her a better person.

But Eve was not hungry. She had no reason to be. Nourishment was never truly a factor in her craving. There were thousands of trees in the garden from which to choose. She could have walked up to any other tree and picked the fruit of her choice. Any other fruit in the garden would have fulfilled her every need and she could have eaten as much as she wanted. In fact, all the other fruit in the garden would provide nourishment, it would look good, and it would make her a better person. She lied to herself. But, instead of walking away, she looked at the forbidden fruit, the bad fruit. She picked it, she ate it, and she died. We have all been inspecting fruit ever since and, like Eve, it is not because we are hungry.

In Mark 11:12 and Matt 21:17 is the story of a fig tree that Jesus approached in search of figs. When he saw the leaves but no figs he cursed the tree and the next day it was withered and dead. Interestingly, Mark is careful to note that it was not time for figs yet. So, Jesus cursed a tree that didn’t have fruit when He needed it. Jesus was hungry. Jesus was searching for good fruit. He needed something to eat right then, but the tree was bare. Because the tree did not provide for the need, he cursed it. And the tree died.

In A Walk Through the Orchard, Al and Joe marched along different paths for a time but eventually they fell into step. All along their way were trees filled with fruit. Al knew all about fruit. But Joe was hungry. Joe began to search for nourishment. And it is to the heavily laden trees along his path that he turned. He searched and satisfied his hunger with good fruit. But Al, who knew so much about fruit and had fruit all around him every day, had none to share and had no desire for good fruit. In fact, Al was afraid to eat any of the fruit that hung within his reach because he had not inspected it. Al viewed his lot in life as a protector of the innocent. It was his job to root out the rotten fruit. He lied to himself. In reality, he wasn’t protecting anyone.

There are Christians who feel a need, who believe it is their job, to inspect the fruit of others. In reality, they are searching for that which is missing in their own lives. They have no fruit to fulfill the needs of those seeking nourishment nor are they seeking nourishment for themselves. They don’t desire fruit anymore. All their time is spent on inspecting, searching for the bad fruit, not producing. They are barren and only by pulling the fruit off others, do they feel useful.

The problem is, when you start handling fruit, you damage it. You leave bruises, scars, and wounds from all the rough handling. Sometimes, the fruit will be so ready to eat that it can be easily knocked off the tree or bruised. Fruit that is knocked on the ground may never be eaten because it is so badly damaged from the fall. As a result, someone will go hungry because the fruit that was there to nourish has been destroyed.

Christians are NOT called to be fruit inspectors. Jesus never suggested that. At the time Jesus stated Matt 7:20, the disciples were not born again; they were not yet Christians. Jesus was talking to sinners and warning them of false prophets. He was telling sinners that if they were hungry there would be signs telling them where to get nourishment. Later, when he cursed the fig tree, he gave a profound example on the fate of those who fail to feed the hungry. The hungry are supposed to be the fruit inspectors. As Christians, we are expected to have the fruit available to feed the hungry. If we don’t, we will die.

I grew up hearing about winning souls but I never heard advice on exactly how one is to do that in a world where no one wants to listen. And suddenly, in one awe-inspiring moment and with brilliant clarity, I knew. It is the fruit that feeds the hungry. Fruit saves a dying world from starvation. Fruit sustains the weak. Fruit provides nutrients for growth. Fruit answers a craving for sweetness in a bitter world. We can preach a thousands sermons, recite the entire Bible on a street corner, but if there is no fruit hanging out there in the branches, the hungry will look elsewhere to be fed. And so, as I sat through that Sunday morning service, I had an overwhelming desire for fruit. I wanted it so badly I could taste it.

I found myself ashamed. I realized that far too often I spend time inspecting the other trees in the orchard for bad fruit and not worrying about whether or not I am producing good fruit. How many have come by needy, looking for nourishment and gone away hungry because they found nothing. God help me!  I want fruit, so much fruit that the boughs break under the weight of it, so much that the fragrance fills the air around me. And I want to be hungry!   I want to see a starving world fed with the fruit that satisfies all hunger. Winning the lost is not done with pretty speeches but rather by feeding starving souls. I don’t want to be a fruit inspector. I want to be a producer of fruit. God give me fruit so that anyone who takes a walk through the orchard can be fed!

“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

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and Darkness

I am very interested in science. I actually like reading articles relating to astronomy and the creation of the universe. Yes, I am a Christian who believes in science! God is a lot smarter than we give him credit. He actually understands the theory of relativity far better than Einstein did when HE told it to Einstein! And since time was created as a plaything for man and means absolutely nothing to God, he isn’t all tied up in controversy about how long it took to create the universe. I like that about him. We can talk.

Today, I ran across this article on my MSN home page New Cosmic Theory Unites Dark Forces. It drew me in and I am glad it did.  “A new theory says that dark matter and dark energy could arise from a single dark fluid that permeates the whole universe.” © 2007 All rights reserved. More from

I ended up reading several articles on the topic. It is fascinating reading if you understand basic astronomy and a general idea of the dark matter theories.  If you don’t, by the time you read them you probably will have a fair grasp of the subject. It gave me quite a lot of food for thought that, since I am a Southern woman whose culture says food should be shared, I thought I’d share.

A lady once told me that we can find truth anywhere. You just have to look for it. I learned this to be true. If you don’t search, you won’t find. Searching requires that you question everything and everyone. Science is all about questions but Christians are discouraged from asking questions. To us, questions signify doubt. To question God would be doubt and doubt is sin. I know, we're nuts a lot of the time. I lost my fear of asking God questions when he started answering them.

Sadly, there is such enmity between scientist and Christians that I doubt it will ever be resolved but both camps are right about some things. You notice I didn’t say between science and Christianity? It’s people who have the problem. The biggest problem is they both want to be right about everything. That’s impossible.

So, I read, I study, I ponder things not many women my age and background study. I allow myself to question and let those questions percolate. Then I ask God, “What about this? Is this possible?” He usually grins and says, “Anything is possible.”

I’ve spent the last couple of hours reading these articles and formulating questions and tossing out a few of my own. The conclusion I arrived at is surprising. . . to me, anyway. I’ve provided several excerpts from three articles that will reveal my discovery. The links will take you to the articles themselves.

The above article describes dark matter and dark energy: “Dark matter, as originally hypothesized, is extra hidden mass that astrophysicists calculate is necessary for holding together fast-turning galaxies. . . . seems to be everywhere, acting as a scaffolding for galaxy clusters and the whole structure of the universe.” In other words, everything that exists is suspended from this structure.

“On the other hand, dark energy is needed to explain the more recently-discovered acceleration of the universe's expansion. . . . It supposedly exists all throughout space, delivering a pressure that counteracts gravity.”Gravity, remember, pushes against things. As I understand this, dark energy acts as a restraint on the effect of gravity. It sounded like cement to me. And what do you know, in the next article I found my confirmation.

In Dark Matter May Lurk Between Galaxies the scientist says, “Dark matter acts as gravitational glue, holding millions or billions of stars together in galactic globs or disks. Without it, "our own galaxy should have fallen apart by now," said Frederic Bournaud, an astrophysicist with the French Atomic Energy Commission. "So dark matter — this unseen force — is somewhere keeping it glued together.” © 2007 All rights reserved. More from

So how do they know this stuff exists? Who says it is even real? Can you see it? Can you feel it?

Well, in Dark Matter Mapped in 3-D Detail the scientist says: “Decades' worth of observations have found that all the matter we can see in surrounding galaxies doesn't account for the gravitational effects of those galaxies. In fact, there appears to be six times more dark matter out there than the ordinary matter we can see. . . . there is no picture of it and there's no known way to detect it directly.”

“Even though the matter itself couldn't be seen, astronomers detected its effect by analyzing the gravitational effect of that matter on light rays from more distant light sources.” © 2008 MSNBC Interactive

This had become positively religious! There is something out there, holding it all together that no one can see. I’ll insert a long pregnant pause here while you digest the ramifications of this.  It also means that while they can’t see it, they know it exists because they can see the effects of it on other visible things, like light.

Wow, a substance they can’t see but they believe MUST be there . . . something that holds the universe together.

Do you see it, too?

The final statement in this last article is brilliant and so powerful I am amazed. "Frankly speaking, these are just fancy words we use to name something we do not understand," he said. “If a simpler model (with a single word) can explain all the data, then cosmologists will gladly accept it,” Boehmer said.

A single word?

Uh. . . God?

And Boehmer was wrong. They never accept it.