Le petit baton rouge*
By Curt Iles Creekbank Stories copyright 2006
Of all of the memorable places to visit in my home state of Louisiana, Avery Island is one of my favorites. Situated on the coastal marsh below Lafayette, “The Island” is an elevated area that rises above the surrounding flat marsh. It is not really an island but is a high area due to sitting above a salt dome.
It is home to many species of waterfowl as well as alligators that may be seen when the weather is warm. We always encourage our Northern volunteers at Dry Creek Camp to visit Avery Island which is about 150 SE of us.
When you step out of your vehicle at Avery Island, a sharp pungent odor burns your nostrils. It is the smell of hot red peppers in the drifting in the air.
You are now standing at the home of Tabasco Hot Sauce. Avery Island is where this famous unique hot sauce is processed. Among the three major ingredients needed for hot sauce (salt, vinegar, and peppers) salt is in great supply there in the nearby underground salt mine.
A few years ago while touring the Tabasco plant, I first saw the red stick shown in the picture. Our tour guide explained about “le petit baton rouge”* as it is called in French (or “the little red stick” in English.)
Every pepper picker for Tabasco carries a stick like this in their hand. As they harvest the peppers, they use the little red stick to insure that they are picking the fruit at the exact color shown on the stick. When the pepper is at this redness, it is perfectly ripe to give the exact taste needed to produce the Tabasco taste that millions enjoy daily.
This stick, painted this very particular shade of red, is used as the standard for picking. Picked too early when they are still green, or too late after they’ve lost some flavor, is not acceptable. The pickers carefully compare the fruit on their bush to the red stick. Only those with the right ripeness/color are picked.
Here’s a neat application to le petit baton rouge:
As the world looks at the followers of Jesus, they are seeking to see a difference in our lives that is caused by our Savior. They are not as interested in our churches, music and preaching as they are in seeing a difference in our lives.
Here is what they are looking for: It’s a simple word called love.
When folks look at our lives, they will compare our lives to the teachings and love of Jesus. In other words, they compare our fruit to the le petit baton rouge of the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus very clearly emphasized the defining mark (or color) of a Christian in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (New International Version)
There it is: the fruit of my life as a follower of Jesus is to be the color of love. A love that begins by loving those around me as in “love one another. . . ”
But it’s also a love that refuses to stay indoors among our own kind. This Jesus-kind of love flows out in a ripple effect where lives are changed and enriched. Others are watching. They are using their petit baton rouges to judge and compare our lives. But here’s the scary part: Jesus himself, the living Son of God, is also applying his red stick to our lives.
We can never come close to meeting his standard. He was perfect, is perfect, and will always be perfect. However, by growing closer and closer to Jesus… we will take on “His Color.”
…And His Color is always love.
His “petit baton rouge” was not really petit (or little.) It was large… a large wooden cross… an instrument of death.
And just like the stick from Avery Island, it was dipped in red.
The red color on the cross was from the very blood of the Son of God.
And here is the best part: He willingly went to that cross personally for you… to pay for your sins.
What will you do personally about that? You have two simple choices: Embrace that love-gift of Jesus and commit your life and heart to Him personally… or walk by it rejecting the chance to be in relationship with the very Son of God.
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* Our state capital Baton Rouge was so named by the early French explorers who while coming up the Mississippi noticed how the local Indians had driven red-painted sticks along the riverbank. Therefore this spot became known as “Baton Rouge.” Even today in Baton Rouge there are many businesses and addresses featuring the name “Red Stick.”