Brown Moss

IMG_4830 edit.jpgHave you ever made a judgement of something or someone, only to find out later that you were entirely wrong?  I’m going tell you one of my own such errors, the tale of me and a bank of moss.

I’ve walked past this side of a hill many times.  It’s the kind of open spot in an otherwise forested area where it’s painfully obvious that it was at one time scraped into by some large piece of power equipment, leaving a gaping scar in the earth.  Over time, as God blessedly made it to do, vegetation had slowly crept back in to attempt to heal the wound.  In this case, that vegetation was moss.

But the poor, dry soil seemed had gotten the better of it, and it was mostly rusty brown, dead moss!  I always rather pitied that ugly mossy hillside and hurried past to prettier things.

And then, one day, I decided to take a shortcut to where I wanted to go and actually walk straight up that hillside.  I expected the wasting moss to crunch and crumble beneath my feet, my feet to slip in exposed clay.  But to my utter surprise, what I found instead was a soft, thriving, cushioned carpet of lush rusty-brown very-much-alive moss!  What from a distance had appeared brown and dead, wasn’t dead at all!  It just happened to be a naturally reddish-brown variety!IMG_4821 edit.jpgAfter that, I forgot what I was going to do on the other side of the hill.  I was down on my knees, then on my stomach (sorry, baby), an explorer in magnificent new miniature world.  I’ve always loved the world of fungi, and it was exhilarating to meet varieties I’d never seen before in person for the very first time.

And I felt rather foolish.  How many countless times had I walked past, loftily thinking I could accurately judge what I saw from a distance, never taking the time to actually get up close and fact-check my judgement?IMG_4826 edit.jpgThere is the judgement between right and wrong, truth and lie, meted out by courts of law, mothers weighing out eye-witness accounts and facts to determine who actually took the cookies, and by God at the end of the world.  This kind of judgement is good, righteous and necessary for order and justice.

Then there is this kind of judgement I made on this mossy hillside.  Not the justice kind, but the writing off kind.  That moss is brown, I thought, therefore it could not possibly be anything but dead.  I based this “fact” off of past experience and (what I thought) was a good understanding of moss.  But it was not a fact, it was an assumption—and even though it was an educated assumption, I was wrong.  This is called “leaning on my own understanding”, which the book of Proverbs warns against and is basically thinking so highly of our own discernment and knowledge that we ultimately end up making fools of ourselves.

I’d like to say this is the only time I’ve ever made this mistake.  That I’ve never misjudged anything or anyone more significant than a bed of dead-looking moss.  But I’ve made plenty of other such errors.

I’ve assumed I wouldn’t like certain foods because my parents didn’t.

I’ve “judged a book by its cover” without ever cracking it open.

I’ve failed to shop at a store based on it’s exterior, without ever entering.

Though I may have missed out on enriching experiences, these too-quick judgments will likely not affect my life negatively in the grand scheme of things, of course.  There’s one kind of mis-judgement that I truly regret, however.  It’s that I’ve sometimes based how I think of a person off of stereotypes, other people’s prejudices or my own pre-conceived notions instead of finding out what they’re really like for myself.IMG_4831 editI’ll never forget the time my wise father encouraged me as a young person to reach out to another new young lady at church.  Without having ever spoken to her, I had already decided, in all my youthful “wisdom”, that we probably wouldn’t have much in common and had foolishly written off the idea of friendship.  Out of respect for him, however, I agreed to make the effort to introduce myself, though I expected little to come of it.  And what do you suppose happened?  You guessed it: we not only met but became good friends, and a relationship blossomed that would be a tremendous blessing to me in upcoming times of unexpected loneliness.   I often think about how much I would have missed if I had followed my foolish inclination to write her off instead of stepping outside of my comfort zone.  It’s a lesson with a happy ending that I will never forget.

Can you think of something or someone in your life that you might be making this same mistake with?  If so, I hope my stories might make you consider going back to double-check your facts.  You never know: you might discover a new variety of moss or even make a new best friend.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

“…you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly.  If it is true and the matter established, [then]…” (Deuteronomy 13:14)

“…the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)

In Search Of: Morel Mushrooms

IMG_6237Ask a fisherman around here where he pulled in the latest big catch he’s been bragging about, and he’ll quickly turn vague on you.  “At an area lake,” he might reply, with a twinkle in his eye.

Ask the neighbor lady where she found the wild blueberries in that luscious pie that fetched $75 dollars at a local pie auction charity, and she’d reply with a smile, “Oh, just around, you know.”

Favorite fishing holes and wild berry patches can be pretty closely guarded secrets in our neck of the woods.  But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered secret-ism as great as those of mushroom pickers.  If someone really likes you they might offer a few tips on the kind of habitat to look for, but that’s about it.  If you want to go hunting for wild mushrooms, it’s a commonly accepted fact that you’re mostly on your own.morel mushroom / rejoicing hillsThe thing is—they’re not exactly easy to find, even if you’re fortunate enough to happen upon the right spot.  Check out the photo above, taken from a very short distance away.  Now imagine standing up and stepping back several feet, add in a generous tangle of thick forest, brush, foliage and sticks, and you might begin to understand what I’m talking about.  It takes patience and practice to learn how to spot them, and a lot of time spent crouching low, scanning the forest floor.  They don’t grow in rows or clumps (the pair above is unusual) but pop up from the forest floor at complete random.  Sometimes you’ll only find one, sometimes you’ll find a lot.  You never know.

But—it’s so worth it.

Morels are a delicacy in the world of mushrooms, and not just because they’re elusive to harvest.  They are also the most delicious mushrooms I’ve ever tasted. Granted, this statement is coming from a mushroom lover.  But I’ve even known firmly avowed mushroom haters to go back for seconds of morels.

Recently we spent the good part of a rainy afternoon crawling around the woods with some fellow mushroom lovers and empty ice cream buckets—and came home with these beauties:bowl of morels mushrooms / rejoicing hillsWe rolled them in a simple breading of flour, salt and pepper, with just a hint of parsley and cayenne, and sauteed them in butter.  The members of our mushroom picking expedition gathered around the platter with forks and you should’ve heard the exclamations of satisfaction as we savored the reward of our labors!  They were gone in no time, and plans were already being made to go in search of more.IMG_6286Some things in life are worth every bit of time, energy—and, yes, even the scratched ankles, sore backs and wood ticks—required to secure them.

Kind of like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Of course, morel mushrooms don’t even hold a candle to the kingdom of heaven in terms of value.  But as I scrambled over fallen trees, listened to the periodic triumphant cries of “Found one!” echoing from various parts of the woods, and scanned the forest floor with such intense scrutiny that my eyes hurt by the time the day was over, something occurred to me.  What if I put this much time, energy, enthusiasm, and even sacrifice into seeking the kingdom of God?  This man did:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

We’d do well to take a lesson from him.  Maybe you wouldn’t consider wild mushrooms worth your time;  if not, fill in the blank with anything you’d give a great deal to find or secure.  The bottom line is, earthly treasure, of any sort, is temporal and fleeting;  heavenly treasure is of infinite, eternal value.

Jesus said: And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom…Provide yourselves…with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroysFor where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34)

What kind of treasure are you seeking?morel mushroom / rejoicing hills