“Be mindful of the sharks!“ My mother-in-law shouted as we headed out the door to the beach. While our kids never set foot in the ocean that vacation, her cautionary phrase has become a family favorite. It reminds us to be intentionally aware of danger.
Growing up on a farm teaches you a lot about being mindful... bees when you are weed-eating, poison ivy, rushing water, and copperheads around the edge of the barn. Cows are also worth their weight in deserved caution. You must always be mindful of the bull’s location and when walking close to a cow, stay away from her back legs, which can kick you into tomorrow.
These days it seems like much of culture wants us to be mind-less instead of mind-full. Laws are even being passed to promote yet another substance to dull our thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, the practice of emptying our minds as some religions or philosophers encourage might simply open the door for evil to come in and fill it. Instead scripture tells us in Philippians 4:8-9 to FILL your mind with things that are good and deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable...and God will give us peace.
Being mindful is harder than you think and occasionally things go awry. A recent magazine photograph showed several individuals lying on mats in a botanical garden. The caption said the establishment, which I’m sure is run by intelligent people, offered “mindful forest bathing“. I chuckled to myself at the absurd idea and then wondered if I could make mindful forest bathing profitable in rural West Virginia when I move home. I was brought back to reality when I heard my mother-in-law‘s words echo through the fancy botanical branches “be mindful of the sharks!”
Early this summer Mom and I strolled through the Vineyard on Balli Mountain checking grape status and became cautiously optimistic. The vines were loaded with more pods than we’d seen in years! But—some had already gotten that tell-tale black spot. We’d seen it many times: the black spot fungus gradually overtakes the grapes until they are nothing but shriveled up hard “mummified” ruins. Admittedly, part of the problem is a huge pile of pruned, discarded (and diseased) vines left at the edge of the Vineyard. Regardless, Mom and I vowed to spray the grapevines faithfully throughout the summer and see if we could save the grapes.
Interestingly, God knew he had my attention and I realized a life lesson would come through this year‘s harvest OR a failed crop. Being mindful of our “shark” (the black spot), we called a higher authority – the Department of Agriculture who recommended a specific fungicide. Then mom and I intentionally took action. We sprayed diligently, sometimes working so late into the night we used tractor headlights to guide us. The black spots seemed to be held at bay, and before we knew it the grapes were ripe. My daughter, Mom, and I got 345 pounds and made juices and jellies. Relatives picked, friends picked, and community members picked. Facebook posts told stories of multiple generations blessed to be in in the vineyard harvesting together.
1,701 pounds of grapes later I am left shaking my head in amazement of God’s grace. The life lesson is: if we are mindful of dangerous “sharks“, then maybe we should be proactive to make it better before it gets worse. Do we notice a child or friend going down and unhealthy path? Do we need to stop a sin “fungus” that will gradually destroy our marriage? our body? or our relationship with God? Is it time to call a Higher Authority? Despite our piles of imperfections, or sin in the world at the edge of the vineyard, through God’s grace we are able to bear fruit, and there can still be a glorious harvest!
Janet Cowger- Fliegel