Tonight I am giving devotions for the annual meeting of the Wabash County Farm Bureau. I thought I'd share my thoughts with you.
He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. (Proverbs 28:19)
I am a city-boy who married a farmer’s daughter. My late father-in-law, Chester Clark, came to Indiana in the early 1940’s to work in the Chrysler at NewCastle and to make his living on the land. Chester had suffered a farm accident as a teen-ager while using a sickle to cut grain that left his left leg permanently straight. Through his high school years and a year of business college, he honed his farming skills in spite of his leg. His only regret with that leg was that it disqualified him from serving his country in World War II – but not for a lack of trying to enlist!
The reason I’m telling you about Chester is because I am a city boy who married his daughter. I was born and baptized in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Findlay, Ohio. When I was a kid, I had a paper route of 175 papers in three city blocks, including three apartment buildings. I graduated in the class of 1976 with 700 other classmates. To me, bread came pre-wrapped, bacon came pre-sliced, and hamburgs were what my Dad put on the grill during the summer months.
Then I married into a farm family. When Chester retired from the Chrysler, he could devote his entire time to farming. I began to watch the cycle of farm events that Proverbs 28:19 talks about . . . “he that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread.” Plotting and planning, bargaining with the elevator and watching the market –all this was a part of farming I never realized. Each spring Chester would plow up a huge plot near the house for my mother-in-law’s garden. Summers were filled with Chester in the field and Angie in the garden, getting ready “plenty of bread.”
For years, my in-laws’ basement was lined with rows of Ball jars filled with beans, tomatoes, corn, and other fruits of the garden. The freezer was full of meat they raised themselves (graduates of the 4-H Fair, if you will). They truly embodied the spirit of King Solomon’s wisdom.
In tilling the land, Chester gained more than just “plenty of bread.” He learned that keeping close to the earth keeps a man humble before God. His experience was that we come into the world with nothing and we are dependent on God for the very basics of life . . . the fruits of the earth for sustenance, the animals of Creation for assistance, and the God-given power of sun and rain to nurture and develop the crop. He could tell what kind of weather we’d be having by the patterns of the heavens, long before the weather channel sent up satellites. He also knew that all the herbicide and fertilizer, disking and cultivating, crop rotation and no-till don’t bring a harvest – that’s what God does.
The contrast of Chester and Angie’s life and the life of those who would follow “after vain persons” is obvious enough. Another Bible version describes “vain persons” as those who “chase fantasies.” We live in a world of get-rich-quick schemes and “ten steps to solve your problem.” We are tricked into thinking that everything can be solved within an hour of television, whether we want to be a rock star, solve a crime, or lose those love handles. We want a quick one-day workshop to put our lives in order so we can continue chasing fantasies the rest of the year.
My exposure to farm life through my wife’s family hasn’t taken the “city” out of the “boy.” I can’t drive a tractor or combine wheat. I hardly know a heifer from a steer. I rely on the Internet for the weather and I would starve to death if my diet depended on what I can grow. The “land” I till is the souls of the people of my parish.But the lessons Chester taught me through his farm have given me “plenty of bread” as well.
Keep humble before God.
Depend on God for the basics of life.
Trust in the patterns of Heaven rather than the ways of the world.
Let God bring the harvest.
May God bless you and your work now and in the year ahead.