Red-Orange Berries

In 1960, the U.S. Air Force gave my husband, Captain James Irwin a new assignment. He had been selected to attend test pilot school, and then continue with space school training. We left Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio and drove to Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. The Mojave Desert was dotted with strange-looking Joshua trees which seemed like giant cacti to me. These trees thrive well in extreme, dry heat. What also thrive well in the desert are tarantulas, poisonous scorpions, horny toads, venomous sidewinders, and big bull snakes. Within five years, we had encountered each one of these unwelcome creatures.

Our grassy back yard had a five foot cinderblock wall to keep out harmful wildlife. Planted along that wall was a row of beautiful pyracantha bushes about three feet high. In the fall, their bright, red-orange berries looked like Christmas decorations. Since we had four young children, my neighbor warned me that the berries were poisonous as they contained hydrogen cyanide which acts as a mild neurotoxin. After that, between the wildlife and the poisonous berry- pomes, I was always on “red alert” when my little ones were playing outside.

red orange berriesOne morning, when the pyracantha was heavy with berries, I looked out of the patio door. To my amazement, the yard was littered with dead or drunk-looking birds! Obviously they had been feasting on the pyracantha berries. Some of the birds slept-off the effect of the hydrogen cyanide, but the rest Jim collected and hauled away.

Looking back on that incident brings to mind a story in II Kings 4:38-41. “Elisha came back to Gilgal during a famine in the land. The sons of the prophets were sitting before him, and he said to his servant, ‘set on the big pot and cook pottage for the sons of the prophets.’ Then one went into the field to gather herbs and gathered from a wild vine his lap full of wild gourds, and returned and cut them up into the pottage, for they were unknown to them. So they poured it out for the men to eat. But as they ate of the pottage, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the

pot!’ And they could not eat it. But he said, bring meal’ (as a symbol of God’s healing power). And he cast it into the pot and said, ‘pour it out for the people that they may eat.’ Then there was no harm in the pot.” (The Amplified Bible)

Sometimes our eyes can get us into trouble, just like the birds that were attracted to the tasty-looking berry-pomes. In this world what looks harmless may not be, and could be as deadly as the gourds in the Biblical soup pot.

FATHER GOD, please keep your children from walking into destructive temptations and deliver them from the evil one.

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