Thursday, August 9, 2007

An Old Apple Tree

The mountainside on which we live, in a former life was a beautiful hillside ranch estate, complete with an orchard.
Not the entire ranch has yet been reclaimed by modern real estate. The neglected house and barn were finally torn down earlier this year, but much of the ranch is still wild where the bear and the deer freely roam.
Some of the fruit trees also still remain, though they are decades old.
The last remaining trees of the old orchard can almost be seen from my kitchen window.

My husband and I went to pick apples last night from the Transparent Apple tree.
The photo above is actually flattering to the probably 40 year old tree. It is gnarled and twisted, with many branches old and dry. Many years have passed since a gardener carefully pruned its limbs, dug around its trunk, or fertilized its roots. Blackberries have taken advantage of it and threaten to choke it.
Though it looks its age, it still bears fruit. Beautiful, big yellow apples that are the best for mouth watering apple pie or apple sauce.
I stood and looked at the tree as Vic was up the ladder picking the fruit and throwing them down to me. I was struck by the faithfulness of this neglected, forgotten tree was that was still producing fruit. It was doing what it was meant to do.

The thought crossed my mind, when I am old and gnarled will I still be as faithful as this old tree and continue to bear fruit?? Even if no-one is watching or cares?

I thought of the verse in John 15:8 “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you….that you should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain…”
That is our purpose --- all our earthly life--- to bear fruit.

And isn’t it comforting to know that even if the world is looking the other way, or it appears that our ‘fruit’ is not desired by the masses ‘shopping’ in more appealing places, that God looks for and appreciates our fruit??
And even more that He is the gardener who never neglects His orchard, and cares for every ‘tree’ – even me and you, and pours His strength and life into our limbs so that we need not produce the ‘fruit’ in our own strength.
“He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit…for without me you can do nothing!!” (John 15:5)

I am reminded of a friend’s grandmother-in-law.
Though my friend visited her regularly she always spoke with tears in her eyes of this old, arthritic crippled lady who did nothing but lay in a bed in an extended care facility.
She could not get up, she could not walk. She lived for the times her children could spare a few moments to visit her. It seemed life had passed her by and she was just in an endless wait for death.
Ten years had passed in that hospital bed.
My friend would often speak of this lady’s joy when they would stand at her bedside where she could see them….never a word of complaint passed her lips.
Yet, one could not help but wonder….why was this lady left to live in such a pitiful state?

Her death finally did come and when the family was going through her meagre belongings they came across a poem that she had written or dictated to someone to write down. I wish I had a copy of it.
The poem was entitled, “My Hands”
Stanza after stanza the poem spoke of the joyful tasks her hands had accomplished throughout her life: babies held and cared for, countless meals prepared for hungry mouths, laundry, gardening, canning, housecleaning, sewing….the list went on.
But it was the last stanza that brought tears to every eye who read the words.
“And these last ten years, my hands have been folded in prayer!”

Her life was not worthless, fruitless after all. She was still bearing fruit, bringing her family’s needs before the throne of God. To all who looked at her, it appeared her life was over, but no --- God saw her beautiful fruit…and who knows but that the last ten seemingly worthless years of her life did not bear the best fruit of all!!!!

My prayer is that I will be like the old apple tree or like my friend’s grandmother…that I will never let the difficulties of life prevent me from bearing fruit, fruit that 'will remain' .
That I will be faithful as long as I live.


Sara said...

Very poignant and well stated. I join you in your prayer!

I am reminded of Jeremiah 17:7-8 "Most blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in and relies on the Lord, and whose hope and confidence the Lord is. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not see and fear when the heat comes, but his leaf shall be green; he shall not be anxious and careful in the year of drought, nor shall he cease from yielding fruit." Amen and amen!

May we always drink deeply and nourish our roots in the water of God's word.

Carolanne said...

That is so beautiful!

We often wonder if we'll be faithful when no one else cares, or seems to care but as you said, the "Gardener" is always there.

I also like the verse Sara shared.

Very moving post, Julie!

ru4real said...

As I read the story of your friend’s grandmother-in-law, I was reminded of the life of Amy Carmichael (I read about her in the “Heroes of the Faith” book series). Though she was she was abundantly used by the Lord in her younger, healthier days, she wrote many edifying newsletters, prayers, and books after suffering a life-long injury. She wrote that she wished to be useful again – little knowing that those prayers and writings have continued to encourage and edify Christians some 80 years later.

May we be like your old apple tree – still faithful and productive, even when we are withered and gnarled.

Demara said...

Yes I too pray this prayer with you.

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