Archive | December 2016



West Virginia: a joke for people who don’t live there, right? John Denver called it Mountain Momma, almost heaven, and its original second name was the “Little Switzerland of America.” And just to get even with all the people who make the jokes, West Virginia is one of the few states that boasts a rare tree of amazing size that produces a fruit that is beginning to be appreciated and available to consumers: the lowly PAWPAW. You’re sitting there saying “papaya, you mean,” and I’m saying, “No.” If I meant a papaya, I would have said so. It’s paw-paw, just as in grandpa. A multi- sized fruit that is shaped not unlike a figure 8, green speckled skin (when it’s ripe), and a yellow, seed infested, inside with the consistency of a banana. And if you want further proof that such a fruit exists, find a YouTube video that sings “Where O Where Is Dear Little Mary?…. Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch!”

My daddy was a man who lived in the wrong era. He was a tool-maker by trade, a Hillbilly by birth, and an un-diagnosed Asperger victim on reflection. He had all the classic symptoms of Asperger’s, but was a creative genius and a tool-maker that defied the odds of not only making the tools, but designing the dies that made the tools. And then he’d make a bunch and give them to his fellow-workers! Yes, they got the patents. Yes, it bothered us. No, it didn’t bother Daddy. He could grind a tool down to less than 1/1000th of an inch, my uncle always told me.

What has this got to do with the Pawpaw, you ask. Well, if you’re raised in West Virginia, early on you learn to eat what is available, and one product was the pawpaw from the huge pawpaw tree. It grows to magnificent size, and has clumps of fruit that is almost impossible to describe: sort of like a banana, mango, and peach rolled into one, with huge black seeds layered through it. You take a bite, spit out the large seed, and keep eating.

When the time came that Daddy’s wanderlust kicked in and forced our family to leave West Virginia for Ohio, we’d make a yearly trip back to Roane County, where tons of pawpaw trees grew. Next it was North Carolina, and he’d still make the annual trip, only now he brought all he could load in the car, and freeze them when he got home. He’d eat them until the next year. No, they don’t freeze well. No, that didn’t bother Daddy. I think Mother was the only thing that bothered Daddy. Eventually the trip wasn’t enough to satisfy him–he wanted his own pawpaws. No one had ever successfully grown them in the heat of NC, as far as he knew, but that didn’t stop him. He kept the seeds and started trying to get little plants to love the NC soil, and tolerate the NC heat. After some time–and long before we knew of anyone else trying the same thing–he became the lone producer of pawpaws in Beaufort County, NC. (This was about fifty years ago, or about fifteen years before someone else decided to try it, and like Daddy, succeeded–and just as with the tools, the man became known as the father of producing pawpaws for farmer’s markets.)

Every year at blooming time, he would load his neighbors and friends down with all the pawpaws he could give away. Most people, not having had them from birth (like West Virginians), weren’t overly fond of them. Occasionally someone would find them delectable, and now, of course, it is becoming known that they are one of the healthiest of fruits. Yea for West Virginia!

The one thing I found surreal (and not able to be explained) is that he had a beautiful grove of pawpaw trees. When he became ill in the early part of 2000, the pawpaws would soon be blooming. He died on March 1, and that year they did not bloom. It was the first year since he had planted his grove that the trees did not bear his pawpaws. Although Mother kept the garden and orchard going, those pawpaw trees never bloomed again.

So what’s the point, you’re thinking. Well, if you read this whenever the mood moves me to write, it’s because God has caused some verse in my daily devotions to blink with brilliant neon lights. And so He did this morning. In Matthew, the 3rd chapter, John is baptizing, and Jesus comes to be baptized. (My daughter, when she was a little squirt, used to say “bathtized,” which I thought was quite appropriate). In verse 7, the Sadducees and Pharisees come to be baptized. John is very politically incorrect and quite intolerant so far as the opinions of today’s millennialists go, and berated them soundly: “You brood of vipers! Who warned YOU to flee from the wrath to come? Go, produce fruit that is in keeping with repentance!” As I read that, I realized that we so often are tiptoeing around the subject of someone’s salvation–and so we most often should be, I suppose–but there comes a time when behavior, if it is a lifestyle that is not causing conviction, shows us the condition of someone’s heart, and it’s okay to recognize that they are not bearing fruit that is in keeping with repentance. They are probably not, in fact, bearing any fruit. Especially fruit that would be what we would term “good.”

In Florida my husband and I tried many times to grow tomatoes. No matter what we did, they would start getting brown spots on the young, green tomatoes, and we would end up losing all the fruit. But the fruit of a person who claims to be a Christian, (meaning “little Christ”), is good, and bears testimony that you are in fact what you claim to be! I had not looked at it like that, although (of course) one has always known that God expects that those of us who are “grafted” into the Branch will produce fruit.

I think of my dad again. He was not someone whom I could say definitely was a Christian. I hoped he was. Mother hoped he was. But there was no fruit. Anyone–saved or unsaved–can do “civil” good (give to neighbors, give to charities, give to humanitarian organizations, etc.) but only Christians can do righteous actions that shows their heart and daily living is striving to please God with the way they conduct themselves. I never saw that in Daddy.

The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering [putting up with someone who bugs you], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You don’t even have to labor to grow these–they are a normal by-product of a healthy relationship with the Father. Can you imagine what it would be like to strain, grunt, squeeze your innards, and groan, trying to produce a fruit that wasn’t going to come?

So what kind of fruit are you producing? Do you have to make yourself work hard to show the qualities above, or are they present in your life daily? Sure, we all have bad days, but underneath all the pain, there still should be the young healthy fruit that is growing. Satan can rob us of many things: our family sometimes, our money, our time, but he should not be able to rob us of our fruit: our joy, peace, gentleness, etc.

The next time you feel like you’re not having a good fruitful day, look up the video and sing along to “Where O where is dear little Mary?” and go back to that pawpaw patch to gather your fruit. Surrender it all to the Lover of your soul, and ask Him to give you some extra Living Water!



Because It’s the Right Thing To Do, That’s Why!


What a long day! It seemed as though it had lasted for a week, and it felt so good to sit down, take off my shoes, wiggle my toes, and be at home. Some days–whether you want to live like that or not–are just totally out of control from the moment your feet hit the floor. Don’t be smug: if you haven’t gotten there yet, say a quick prayer of thanks, for your day will come. We all have to have days when we give and give and give.

Morning had started with a sick grandchild needing to be picked up at school and taken to the doctor. Glad for my elderberry syrup, which I swear by, I hoped I had built up an immunity to whatever might be stirring in the young one’s body. Later, sitting in the pediatrician’s office was a grandma’s nightmare. At least the room was divided by a “half wall” where well children were kept on one side and those with fevers, viruses, and all sorts of rampant germs who were just waiting for another host were on the other! That was the side we were on. The runny noses, the coughs, the red cheeks… sigh. It wasn’t long before we were taken back, the dreaded swab done, temperature taken, etc. There was no strep (they said. Turned out they were wrong). Back to the little one’s house for bed.

Leaving there, the phone rang again. Could I stop by and pick up the gifts for a friend’s Angel Tree child? Sure, no problem. I would deliver them to the church. And while I was heading in that direction, I needed to stop by a building at the University and drop off some paperwork. Actually, it was a week overdue. Oh well. Better late than never. Better to ask forgiveness, right?

That done, my husband called: could I pick him up at the shop where the work on our cars is always done, so they could keep it overnight? Sure. I’m in town. No problem. Do I want to eat out? No. He eats out three times a day, just to make up for all those years of working, I think.

The phone rings again; my daughter is in town (versus a few miles out), and wondered if we’d like to meet at the pizza restaurant with the grandkids. So much for not eating out. By then it was almost supper anyway, so we ate. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had just eaten anyway, mention pizza and my appetite goes into overdrive.

Afterwards I did the last few errands, and as I got back in the car, a friend texted. Her dad had been taken to the ER. He had ripped out a newly inserted port, not understanding why it had to be there. She could not get it through his mind that it was going to keep him alive. They were on the way to the small ER in her town. Over the next hour we texted back and forth as the ER was unable to re-insert the port, and he would have to be transported by ambulance to the bigger hospital in our town. The day was now late. She was tired, and the last thing she felt like doing was accompanying the ambulance an hour to the larger ER. But–it is what it is. You do what you have to do.

We continued to text, and it was going to be a long night. The ER was so packed that beds were lining the hall, theirs included. On one side a woman was throwing up every few minutes; on the other was a suicidal man who did not want to be there. Not a place you would be want to be, and the evening had just started. People who work ERs should have extra angel wings.

My mind started bugging me. By now I was home, settling in for the evening, praying for my friend, her father, the wait–and all the time my mind was asking questions of itself: wonder if she had supper? I bet she didn’t think to bring a book, a tablet, something to do while she waited. Our ER is notorious for eight to ten hour waits. Seriously. Did she have anything to do? Was she feeling like she had to stay right by her dad, even in dementia? Yes, I was sure she would. Was her husband there yet? No, he wouldn’t be leaving work until late. She was as tired as I was. I was home. She wasn’t. I was sitting in my chair. She was sitting in the hall at the ER.

Recently our pastor preached about a faith that is active; one that acts when it wants to be passive. I knew what I had to do. Was I going to get up and do it? I had to. Not because of guilt, of trying to earn points with God, but because I had a sister in Christ who needed to know someone loves her. I packed some food, got some books, and took out, texting as I drove (at red lights) so that she would not think I was doing anything except resting, since she would feel she had to talk me out of it.

She figured it would be two hours more than it had already been, and best case scenario, they would let her drive him back to the facility where he “lives.” Worst case scenario, they would wait for the ambulance transport, probably most of the night. Miracle of miracles, about the time I was half way there (it is a thirty minute drive for me), she texted and said they were letting her take him back to her town–and soon! I looked at the food, thought about the time, wondered if I should have tried to have gone, but I knew my answer: yes. This was my friend. She needed encouragement. She needed reinforcement that she wasn’t alone. That someone else who had been there with a dementia parent was on the way. It wasn’t the gift, it was the thought. I was glad I had made half the journey. I told her I had been halfway there, but would head back home. She knew she was loved.

Home again, it felt so sweet. Sweet to know I did what I felt I had to do. Not because of a sense of anything except the desire to say yes to the Lord to feed one of His sheep, to love my “neighbor” and to show her that her value was placed above my own.

In other words, I did it because I wanted to serve, to put my faith in action, and to know it’s what God wanted me to do. How much better does our Christianity get than that?