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Winter berries

Winter berries

Soon, they will be the only color.

Walking in the woods near my home, it’s clear that autumn is wrapping things up. Trees have shed most of their leaves, which lay underfoot, sodden from recent rains. They exude a musty, dank odor which, frankly, matches the dour mood of a low, gray sky.

This is not fall’s colorful celebration. This is nature hunkering down for winter.

And yet, dots of brilliant hues decorate the bushes. Now that I’ve noticed the berries, I can’t stop seeing them: crimson, deep blue, vibrant orange fruit, some clustered, others spaced evenly along branches.

They’re brilliant in another way, as well – a genius scheme for propagation, wrapping seeds in nourishment in an environment where food is scarce.

Alone at the edge of a wide field, I stop and meditate on these berries. Producing fruit is a clear New Testament analogy for the Christian life:

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15:8

I usually think of an abundant vineyard when reading those words. But these berries might be closer to the reality of being a follower of Christ in this age.  (At least in Western countries.)

Winter approaches. I look around a secular cultural landscape and am not surprised to find disconnection, distraction, and discontent. Every older generation decries the changes going on around them, but there is a bleakness on the horizon now that grips even the young.

We need the nourishment of hope. Jesus is the source of that hope. And we are the fruit of his vine.

And so, I pray. Alone in the field, I ask Jesus to make me, like these berries, a source of sustenance for the world around me. I ask that my creative work might embody his sweetness, might carry a seed of truth and grace within it to people desperate for new life.

As I walk past a cornfield, the rasping of dry leaves and brief bursts of fluttering wings tell me that birds are moving about within, looking for food.

People, too, are hungry for the real nourishment of the gospel.

They may need winter to force them to find the berries.

Jesus, we can only bear fruit if we abide in you.  We seek your face.  Send us out into a dying world with your life-giving sweetness.

Reader: is there a bush-berry that catches your eye in your world?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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