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October 28, 2010


[One angle at Pastor Appreciation month.]

The very first thing I remember about the pastor is Kevin berries. It was about twenty five years ago, standing somewhere in the woods of southwestern PA, hunting ginseng with my father.

Ginseng. It's not a mystical herb of the orient. You can find the "white" variety right here in PA. All you have to do is hike through the right type of woods at the right time of year, sight the fairly rare plant, dig up the roots, dry the roots out over a period of weeks, then sale them to distributors who supply the supplement companies. Simple as that. 

ginseng roots
The point right is not to examine the various claims and scientific findings on Ginseng. The stuff is in demand. A lot of people apparently would like to do more pirouettes on the beach. But I have no doubt that the most therapeutic thing about Ginseng is the autumn hike through the woods with your dad.

Back in the hills of southwester PA, dad explained the difference between the red berries that help you identify a valuable ginseng plant in the fall versus another fairly toxic plant that also has small red berries. By their fruit you will know them.

Well, dad didn't put it quite like that.

"See here. These are red berries with five-pronged leaves, but they're NOT Ginseng. These are Kevin berries."

"Kevin berries? Like, uncle Kevin, the one from Harrisburg? What's he have to do with it?"

"Oh. Well...he's a clown."

good "fruit"
Kevin Berries!
Dad told the story. My grandfather took his knucklhead son-in-law Kevin into the woods hunting ginseng. Through the woods, Kevin would shout, "Paap. Paap. Found some." Pap managed his way through steep rocky knulls to find Kevin standing by the counterfeit ginseng. There were red berry lessons, but the whole process repeated itself too many times. Kevin breaking the still autumn air with excited yells. Pap hiking the ridge. Kevin proudly pointing at the wrong type of red berries.

 So that's where it started. Your uncle Kevin is a clown, and don't be fooled by the Kevin Berries. And that was dad trying to be nice.

You know when Jesus warned about being able to identify false prophets and scoundrels who appear to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves? Well, here you have someone who actually had a bad fruit named in his likeness.

These days, Kevin often speaks about his life before he came to know Jesus. Kevin berries were the least of it. When the Browns packed up and took off for Boston (and then Harrisburg) to be all religious and stuff, I can understand the eye ball rolling that must have ensued.

But do you know what happened over the years? A lot of good fruit fell from that tree.

-Kevin, always the one adult horseplaying with all the kids in Grammas pool, grunting, grasping blindly as the bucket head monster. I was moved to tears this past summer, at the site of the exact same bucket monster defending himself against a new horde of children.

-My gut reaction upon hearing that the Browns were headed "back home" toward Pittsburgh around holidays and vacation times. The "religious" people were not prudish bores. It was kind of the opposite, in fact. It was surely going to be a barrel of monkeys, and I wanted me some of that.

-The reaction of the family; all of the family taking them seriously, at least to their faces. When the Browns came in, uncle Bill (who lived with Gramma then) took down all the girly posters and hid a bunch of movies in his closet.

-The words. I wasn't around a lot of bad language as a child. But I did notice that each person's language was at least 10% tighter.

-Feeling weird and uncomfortable with their "Lord this" and "Jesus that" when they prayed before meals. It sounded like it came from the heart. It was different than the faith community I was raised in. Praying like that felt very odd and very good.

-All the occasions where Kevin made time to simply show interest in me. I can't imagine he gave a lick about my baseball season or remote control cars or Sega Genesis. But I remember him asking about those specific things; whatever I was into, just to have some common ground.

-Playing house and ongoing. I've had the opportunity to simply be present to observe a Christian's response to real life outside of the church. For anyone who tends to be too academic and skeptical toward life offerings toward a God who is unseen, witnessing how the leader lives makes all the difference in the world

Behold good fruit. This is how a person of faith testifies to the glory and honor and power of the Creator. It's how a man who loves Jesus validates his words of worship and admonition. It's how any sinner does the will of the Father, from a place of peace and grace.

I cherish and appreciate these pieces of fruit. Kevin is clearly no clown, no wolf, no false prophet. He's an honest, funny man who owns up to his foibles and mistakes. My earliest impression has been buried under baskets of good fruit. I'm certain the rest of the family is with me on that.

A bad tree cannot bear good fruit. And them ain't no Kevin berries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never heard of Kevin berries before Bob. I'll be sure to pay closer attention next time I'm hiking. Thanks for the share.