Tag Archives: Fields

Voices on the Whispering WInd

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The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.

Psalm 67:6 (NIV)

Growing up in the city, I had very little personal exposure to the agricultural industry that fuels our region. The news radio my dad had on every morning made a big deal about farming and markets, but it made no sense to me. I have this one memory of riding along with our dad in the family station wagon. I had to have been about five years old. I watched my dad jump a fence into a cow pasture to collect dried piles of cow manure into the back of the station wagon which he used to fertilize the garden in the backyard. That’s pretty much it other than driving through the fields to my grandparent’s house.

As an adult, I’ve spent about twenty years of my life in small rural towns where agriculture is all around me. Behind our back yard is an open field. There are cows on the other side of the golf course that winds through our neighborhood. The building where our local gathering of Jesus followers meets is next door to livestock farm, and when the wind is blowing just right the smell motivates you to high-tail it inside. I don’t have the buffer and insulation I had as a kid. Agriculture surrounds me at all times.

Because of this, and the fact that Wendy grew up on a farm and her dad taught Agriculture, I’ve gained an appreciation for the people, the lives, and the industry that helps feed the world. It’s also helped me understand and appreciate, with greater depth, an important spiritual principle: me, my life, and my circumstances, are of little regard to Creation. The Great Story constantly reminds me to keep my life in perspective:

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall”

1 Peter 1:24

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.]
    There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
    but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
        planet earth.
The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
    then does it again, and again—the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north.
    Around and around and around it blows,
    blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
All the rivers flow into the sea,
    but the sea never fills up.
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place,
    and then start all over and do it again.
What was will be again,
    what happened will happen again.
There’s nothing new on this earth.
    Year after year it’s the same old thing.
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”?
    Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday.
    And the things that will happen tomorrow?
Nobody’ll remember them either.
    Don’t count on being remembered.

Ecclesiastes 1 (MSG)

Without faith, these are kind of depressing thoughts. With faith, it becomes essential spiritual perspective. The fields yielded their fruit again with the autumn harvest, things will die in winter and new life will emerge once again in the spring. Just like it did for the The earth continues to spin, the seasons continue to cycle, the planets continue their dance around the sun. The sun continues its dance around the galaxy. The galaxy continues its trek in the universe.

The coronavirus is nothing in the grand scheme of eternity, and neither is a presidential election. I grumble and complain, yet if I incline my ear to the whispers on the wind of history I hear voices, millions of voices, calling out.

200 million voices of those who died in the Black Death in Europe and Asia in the Middle Ages.

56 million voices who died of Smallpox in the 1500s.

40 million voices who died of the Spanish Flu between 1918-1920.

30 million voices who died in the plague of Justinian. In 541, it is estimated that there were 10,000 deaths per day and there were so many bodies they couldn’t keep up with burials so bodies were piled up and stuffed in buildings and left out in the open.

And still, the whole of creation continued its dance. The earth danced around the sun every 365 days or so. The seasons came and went like clockwork. The crops sprouted each spring, they grew each summer, they yielded their fruit each fall before the death of winter prepared for another annual resurrection.

In the quiet this morning, I’m listening to those voices on the whispering wind. My heart grumbles, but it never grumbles with essential spiritual perspective in mind. Grumbling only happens when my momentary circumstances deceive me into putting on my blinders of self-importance.

Thanksgiving is in 10 days. When I finish this post and podcast I’m headed into town for coffee with a friend. I’ll drive past the fields that have, once again, yielded their abundance. Those same fields fed families and provided for those who suffered through three years of the ravages of Spanish Flu. They will still be feeding generations who will have long forgotten my existence when the next pandemic makes its way through humanity.

Essential spiritual perspective that Jesus used the fields he and his followers were sitting in to make this same point.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Indeed. Today, I give thanks.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Raised in Flyover Country

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:1-2 (NIV)

When I visited Israel just over ten years ago, the first days of our journey were in and around Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a big city, and it has all the hustle and bustle of a big city. When you layer the never-ending religious tension between Christians, Jews, and Muslims on top of the din of activity, it is a fascinating experience. If found that my guard was always up in Jerusalem. I felt that I always had to be aware of my surroundings. I don’t know that I ever felt relaxed.

Several days later we headed north, to the region of Galilee. There was something in the transition from Jerusalem to Galilee that felt very natural. It was like leaving downtown Chicago and finding yourself in the farms and fields of Illinois and Iowa. I stood on Mt. Arbel and looked out over the fields sprawled around the Sea of Galilee (see featured image). Small towns and villages dot the landscape. Farming and fishing are the livelihoods in what Jerusalem residents surely consider the “backwater” area of the nation. Israel’s version of “flyover country.” And, I felt right at home.

Even nominal church attenders who make an annual pilgrimage on Christmas would recognize a couple of the verses the prophet Isaiah penned in today’s chapter. One is pasted at the top of this post. The other is:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

What I had never connected before, is that Isaiah calls out that this Light that will shine, the child that is born, will honor Galilee. It wasn’t going to be in the hubbub of Jerusalem and the center of the region’s worldly power. The Messiah would bless the simple folks scratching out a living from the land and the water far from the pomp and prestige of civic and religious authority. It was of Nazareth, in Galilee, that Jesus’ own disciple sarcastically asked, “Does anything good come from there?

There’s a sentiment that every child of Iowa knows.

This morning I’m thinking about life in flyover country. I’m thinking about my small town, filled with good people who live in concert with the land and the seasons. I live in a place that generally brings up vague, usually incorrect, notions from the people you talk to on the streets of New York or Los Angeles.

“Iowa? Oh yeah. With all the potatoes.” [No, that’s Idaho.]
“Iowa? I heard of it.” [Nice. You still remember 2nd grade geography!]
“Iowa? I had a great Aunt that was from there.” [But, you still couldn’t find it on a map, could you?]

This morning I’m taking solace in the fact that the Messiah came from a place like Iowa. He grew up working with his hands in the trades. He knew small town people scratching out a living from the land, living in concert with the seasons of planting and harvesting. It was here in flyover country where God wanted Jesus to be raised. I get it. We grow good kids here, as well as crops.

Plant Much, Harvest Much

Corn growing, Minnesota, USA
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NLT)

Driving through the fields of Iowa yesterday I paid special attention to the fields. Dry weather has caused the corn to prematurely turn to a golden brown. Many of the other crops maintain a deep green hue while the tall corn has turned a golden brown. The contrast of color and texture is striking in the hot September sun and cloudless sky.

Make no mistake, the corn fields are dense with corn. There appears to be little or no room between stalks and rows. Over the years, agricultural technology has helped farmers maximize the amount of corn they can successfully grow per acre in order to maximize their harvest yield. The Iowa Corn Growers Association estimates that Iowa farmers will harvest 2.45 billion bushels of corn this fall across just under 14 million acres. Contrast that with one friend of mine, a self-described “gentleman farmer,” who shared with me last week about the tiny patch of  corn he planted in his back yard. His harvest was a paltry few ears of corn that had already been half eaten by deer.

Contrasting the Iowa Corn Growers with my Gentleman Farmer friend, I have a perfect visual illustration of the word picture Paul used in his letter describing the truth about financial generosity: “Plant a little, harvest a little. Plant a lot, harvest a lot.” When we give our money to those in need, the amount of good that others harvest from our gift is in direct proportion to the amount of money we have planted in their hands. We can all give more.

 

 

My Zombie Garden

zombie gardenLet the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
    Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise
Psalm 96:12 (NLT)

I’m terrible with growing things. I got two mini-rose bushes this spring. I repotted them, fed them, watered them, and they both died. Over the past two years I’ve added three rose bushes to our poor excuse of a flower garden. Only the rose bush that survived was here before we moved in is still alive. The only thing growing in our flower garden is Hostas (seriously, they are zombies of the plant world – you can’t kill them and they keep multiplying). Despite my faithful weeding and feeding, my yard looks like the aftermath of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The bed of the undead. Only weeds and zombie Hostas survive. What can I say. I have a brown thumb.

I do, however, live in Iowa. It is among the most fertile soil in the world (which just makes me feel even worse). Each year I watch the crops spring up, grow, produce  good fruit, and be harvested in the fall. It’s a subtle and beautiful thing to watch the gray and brown fields transform into a sea of lush, living green each spring.

Psalm 96 is an “eschatological” song which means the lyrics muse on the end of time: God is on the throne. Nature takes on anthropomorphic (human-like) properties in praising God. The nations gather to pay God tribute. God judges the earth and the nations.

I love the idea of nature praising the Creator. The trees rustle their praise. The seas roar and pound the shore in praise. The fields of Iowa burst forth (along with the weeds and zombie Hostas of Tom’s garden) with joy.

I have to drive to Des Moines today. The fields of corn are bursting forth with their golden tassels which add this amazing transparent layer of gold across the deep green of the fields. I think I’ll take it all in, and add a my own offering of praise to the Creator (along with an apology for my zombie garden).

Chapter-a-Day James 5

English: Deer on Winter road in Alberta, Canad...
Image via Wikipedia

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. James 5:7 (NLT)

As I read this verse from today’s chapter I thought about the season of Advent. Our church is focusing on the Christian calendar this year, so the messages leading up to Christmas have been about Advent, which is a latin word meaning “coming” or “revealing.” It’s the season of expectation prior to Christmas as we await the coming of the birth of Jesus.

As I read this verse in today’s chapter I thought about the warm autumn rain that’s been falling for the past day here in Iowa. The fields are brown and death-like, and yet there is already anticipation of next year’s crop. The moisture is a welcome sight for farmers who are waiting and already thinking and planning for planting next Spring.

As I read this verse in today’s chapter I thought about my dinner conversation last night with Wendy. With our Vikings at a miserable 2-11, we are already talking about baseball and all of the changes for our beloved Cubs this off season. Christmas is almost here, then  a sojourn through January. February means the beginning of Spring Training and suddenly it doesn’t seem that far away.

Through the journey I’ve learned that I can be an impatient person. I don’t like waiting. God’s timing is so rarely my timing. More often than not I find myself waiting and expecting. It is woven into the fabric of the journey. We stand on the path, but our eyes stare ahead to the horizon.

God, help me to find the balance between contentment and expectation. Help me to balance my desire to get to my destination with the patience to appreciate the place that I find myself at the moment and accept all that the journey is creating within me.