Two things today: (1) The anti-bullying bill I mentioned earlier is apparently dead in North Carolina, bullied into submission by conservative Christians stirred to action by misleading hype that the measure was really a pro-homosexual bill.

I continue to be amazed at the level of homophobia among many Christians, and the ease with which politicians or denominational movers and shakers can frighten people and get their way by twisting both language and logic to portray something they oppose as part of a homosexual agenda. The hot-blooded opposition to spelling out that it’s not okay to harass people based on sexual orientation should be Exhibit A for why the language is needed: children learn from their parents, and prejudice is a primary lesson.

(2): While it makes me sad to see the name of Christ used as a big stick in the political process, there are other causes for joy this summer. I continue to wonder at creation’s glory, exemplified in something as simple and often overlooked as wild blackberries. I wrote earlier about a morning of quiet praise in a “blackberry cathedral,” but my blackberry exploits have gone far beyond that this year: as I’ve picked over blackberry bushes near our home during the past month, I’ve managed to make multiple cobblers and even put up seven pints of homemade jam.

Okay, so only the last two pints actually jelled, but the other jars sealed, and make a scrumptious blackberry conserve for use on pancakes or in recipes. In the process, I discovered a downside to suburban living in yuppie neighborhoods: most of the groceries stores have very skimpy canning supplies. I refuse to make jam that’s more sugar than fruit, which requires a special type of pectin (like “Sure-Jell“) for use with low or no sugar. After trying several other stores, I finally found what I needed at good old Food Lion, which had not just one, but two different brands of what I needed. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it quick enough for those first five pints, one of which I’ve already eaten.

Back to blackberries, which a botanist would point out are not true berries but “fruit aggregates” made of many “drupulets.” Blackberries hold a special place in my heart, I’m sure, mainly because of childhood memories or picking blackberries and eating homemade blackberry pies and savoring the taste of summer with blackberry jelly on my toast in the winter. Grape jelly and strawberry jam have their place, but in my book, blackberry jelly or jam stands atop the podium.

Picking blackberries is an obvious metaphor for life. There are cultivated varieties that have no thorns, but you can’t pick wild blackberries without picking up some scratches along the way. If you’re not careful, you might pick up some chiggers, ticks, and poison oak as well. Blackberry picking can be hot, itchy, tiresome work, but a bucket of berries and cobbler in the oven makes it well worth the trouble.

The application needs no elaboration.

I promise this will be my last column on blackberries (for this summer, at least). Soon I’ll be off for Prague, the Czech Republic, where I’ll be participating in and reporting on the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance, followed by the seventh Baptist International Conference on Theological Education. The blackberries will be gone when I get back, but there should be good pickings here, as I’ll try to post at least one entry each day, beginning Tuesday, July 22. Whether you’re interested in BWA or just pictures from Prague (and commentary on Czech food), I hope you’ll drop by and bring your bucket.

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