Skip to main content

Lopping off the "good"



We have some gardening tools that we call "loppers". I don't know what they are really called, but we use them to cut off dead limbs of plants and unwieldy branches. We use them to lop stuff off.

I had to use them yesterday, and that made me unhappy. We have two small bushes at the end of our driveway ("variegated wiegala", if you care), and one of them had a lot of stuff that HAD to come off. The other one was doing well, but dear husband said it needed to be cut back anyway: "It needs to be done. It will be good for it." I knew that, but it was hard to cut off live branches with fresh leaves on it.

We hang out with a bunch of Franciscan Sisters, and they have a big farm, including an apple orchard. My friend Julie was working in the orchard one spring with Mother Mary Ann. Mother Mary Ann told Julie that they had to strip some of the freshly-sprung apples on each branch of the tree, so that the fruit left would get the nourishment, sunlight and inspiration it needed to grow. Julie didn't want to: why take off perfectly good fruit, she argued? Mother Mary Ann, a wise woman, allowed Julie her way with one branch. "Leave the fruit", she told Julie, and Julie did.

In the fall, when we were harvesting the apples, Julie could see the fruit of her labor (couldn't help that; sorry): a branch with tiny, hard apples, unfit for, well, anything. The rest of the tree, with fewer apples on each branch, offered bright, shiny, beautiful, sweet fruit. Julie had been wrong.

Julie and I have both learned a hard truth: sometimes you have to lop off what appears to be good in order for growth to occur. If a tree or bush tries to spread itself too thinly, so to speak, the fruit suffers. We are the same way. We try to stuff too much stuff into our lives, and we wither. We might be doing really great things with our time: reading edifying books, hanging out with the smartest and wittiest people, curing leprosry and making millions. But too much of a good thing is still too much. We end up with a lot of bad fruit, weak branches and tiny flowers. As hard as it is, we have to lop stuff off.

The real trick is knowing what to cut out. And that is where God comes in. He sees not only the whole tree, but the entire orchard. If we leave ourselves in the hands of the Master Gardener, He will trim exactly and only what is needed. No more, no less. That means we will end up with healthy, strong and beautiful fruit: a life of bounty and abundance, if we are only willing to be lopped.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Trying to "end run" God

If you're a football fan, you know what an end run is. From Merriam-Webster:
a football play in which the ballcarrier attempts to run wide around the end of the line We try to "end run" God a lot. I do. I figure I know better. I've got this - no need to worry the Big Guy about such a trivial thing.

Of course, it never works.

Like the puppy above, when we try and evade the tough obstacle (even though we KNOW we will eventually have to do it), we end up - well, off in the bushes.

But oh! How I wished my way worked. I'd love to take a flying leap and land smoothly and gracefully. People would be in awe, as if watching Simone Biles nail a balance beam routine that no one else would even attempt. I would shyly look down and blush - just lightly - and acknowledge (But humbly! Oh so humbly!) my achievement.

But no: I am the one pulling myself out of the bushes, scratches all over my legs and twigs in my hair. I'd hear that gentle but loving voice of God saying, &quo…

Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.

Be Transfigured

From today's readings: 

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the and his clothes became white as light.

...we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. For whatever reason, Jesus brought three of His disciples to Mount Tabor to witness this miracle. They weren't sure what they were seeing, but they knew enough to throw themselves to the ground in the presence of Almighty God. St. Peter (who never did anything halfway) excitedly declares that he will erect tents on the mountain as a way of memorializing the event. But Jesus tells him and the others that they are not to tell people what they witnessed - at least not yet.

In the second reading, the requirement to be quiet has bee…