I went to the apple orchard recently.
It brought back so many memories.
We used to go when the kids were little; such sweet times.
We’d climb on a hay filled trailer pulled by an ancient tractor and hold on for dear life as it bounced and bumped us out to the fruit laden trees.
I still remember so clearly.
The kids would jump off when we finally pulled to a stop and run between the rows and rows of apple trees, squealing with delight.
And, oh, the juicy goodness of those fresh apples; store-bought ones can’t compare.
Those were the days.
On this day, the one more recent, we piled out of the car to crisp mountain air. They don’t call it Sky Top Orchard for nothing.
The drive up was breath taking, if a bit unnerving.
When we walked into the open air barn it was like stepping back in time. The rugged building was meant to fit in with the mountainside, fancy would never be used to describe it. There were small lights hung in rows from the ceiling and tables were loaded with freshly picked apples and pumpkins. Pickled apples and homemade jams lined the walls in mason jars and there was a flurry of activity.
We decided we’d like to pick our own apples right from the tree, even though there wasn’t a child among us. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe so we could relive former days or maybe because we knew our watches were counting steps. Whatever the reason, the brilliant blue sky beckoned us to come and play.
We stood in line, paid for a basket and started down the trail. Our route was highlighted on a cryptic map given to us by the nice man who worked behind the counter full of apple samples.
As I said, this orchard is on the side of a mountain so the views are spectacular, but that also means you’re either going down or up. Down is not so bad, but up, well that’s not for the faint of heart.
The ground was wet and our tennis shoes soaked up all the moisture they could, causing my socks to sound like a duck calling to its friends across the pond.
But, I didn’t care.
I was enjoying the smells and sights and batting away the occasional bee.
It was like living a Hallmark movie for a few minutes.
And, you know how much I love Hallmark.
We were all aglow with delight.
But, as real life would have it, we took a wrong turn somewhere in the orchard and wound up on the exact opposite side of where we wanted to be. This is no small place, so it was a bit discouraging to realize we had to trek back down the path from which we’d just come. Or maybe it was up the path or both, whichever, we were tired and it was hard.
I had my mind set on making some homemade apple pies and I wanted a certain type of apple, like the one I had sampled in the rustic open air barn.
No other type would do.
And that reminds me, who knew there were so many types of apples?? Did you know there is one that tastes like a pear?? Asian Pear in case you’re wondering. It’s confusing to your taste buds when you bite into it. Is it a pear or an apple?! And if it’s an apple, why do we need pears?
These are the thoughts of a simple mind, namely mine.
As we walked along, our socks honking, I noticed a tree standing proudly in the middle of all the others that had exactly zero leaves on it. I did a double take because it looked so very out of place amidst the green glory of this mountain.
What happened to this tree, I wondered.
Interestingly, it had small apples all over it.
How was this tree, so dead looking from the outside, bearing fruit?
As I walked closer I noticed something.
All the apples on the tree were small.
Like too small to be of any use.
They were stunted and undergrown.
All around us was life brilliant with color. There were juicy apples hanging on trees literally right next to this one.
And yet, here it stood, looking lifeless with unhealthy fruit trying unsuccessfully to blend in.
What happened to it?
It had the same water supply, the same minerals from the soil, and the same amount of sunlight as all the rest and yet, it was dying.
The Bible talks about trees in Luke chapter six.
“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.” Vs. 43 NLT
Luke goes on a couple of verses later to compare our heart to trees; good things come from a good heart and evil things come from an evil heart.
I looked at the half dead tree and then the healthy tree next to it, it was a perfect example of these verses in Luke.
Each tree had the same opportunity but one was dying and the other living.
I wonder, if trees could think, if that tree realizes it is half dead. I wonder if it wishes to be green and leafy like it used to be. Or has it been dried up for so long it no longer has any hope of change?
Settling for barely living because it’s forgotten what it feels like to be fully alive?
But, trees can’t think.
And life is hard.
I long to be fully alive. I want to chase hope until it captures my heart. I want to grow strong and healthy through seasons and hardship until I am truly ALIVE.
Ah, if only this were an easy task.
But, this tree stands as a tangible reminder that I can have ALL I need exactly where I need it and still be lifeless.
I can read God’s Word, attend church, be kind to others, put encouragement on Facebook, give to the poor, rescue lost puppies, witness to the lost, tutor kids who need it, lead Bible study, sing in the choir, listen to the lonely, volunteer for Meals on Wheels, I can do ALL THE THINGS but still stand there with brown limbs and useless fruit.
What makes the difference?
For me, it’s putting the WORK of God AFTER the WORD and WORSHIP of God.
I have to keep it in the proper order.
Now, I am no botanist, I have absolutely no advice on how to help this tree.
But, I’m no dummy and I can tell you something in its life needs to change.
Can you relate?
Is there something in your life that needs to change so you can feel alive again?
So you can produce fruit that is worthwhile?
So you can be vibrant with spiritual health?
Ask the Lord today to show you what needs to change, He is faithful, he will show you and he will walk with you into a better place flowing with hot apple cider and homemade apple cider donuts.
Oh Lord, I didn’t mention the homemade donuts, did I?
When we finally made it back to the barn, our basket brimming with fresh apples, we treated ourselves to heaven on earth in the form of a donut.
They were amazing.
Dredged in cinnamon and sugar with pieces of fresh hot apple inside.
My goodness, steaming, hot perfection.
They were a perfect finale to a perfect afternoon.
And now my life is now complete.
Even so, Lord Jesus come.