Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Who needs a paycheck?

I’ve been praying for my neighbors because we are hovering on the edge of one of the most amazing harvests I can ever remember. The wheat has never looked so beautiful. The photo for today comes from a week or so ago, and since then most of the fields around my home have turned almost completely golden. There’s no sight like it on earth.

Now if we can just hold on for a few more weeks with no major storms, no major floods, Kansas could have a very good year. And about time too. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good harvest in these parts.

I think farming and writing are very similar in some ways, especially when it comes to harvests. Because in both professions you can pour your heart and soul into what you do and never see a positive financial return. You can farm and farm until you’ve planted acres and acres of every crop, and (at least in Kansas) one bad storm can wipe it out. It has nothing to do with your dedication; it’s just life.

Writing’s the same in some cases. I realized the other day that I’ve been writing for almost 20 years, and I have yet to see an actual return on any of it. Granted, I only started letting some of that writing out into the public eye in the last five years. But still. If you run the numbers, you can get discouraged pretty quickly. And then you stumble into a verse like today’s?

Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat almost ready – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 6:38.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

How does that work? I can honestly tell you that I’ve worked my fingers to the bone writing since I was a child. My dream since childhood was to be a published author. And I haven’t cut corners. At all. I’ve never expected a free ride, and I’ve dedicated every free moment to it. Even my vacations have been an opportunity to pursue writing.

So according to this rule, the rule of sowing and reaping, I should get back what I invest. And I should get back more of it. This is a law of nature that God created when He made the world. Newton figured it out too; for every action there is a reaction. Cause and effect.

So where does Jesus get off telling me this today?

Farmers plant fields and harvest crops, unless you live in Kansas. Then, generally, you plant crops and harvest dust. Much like writers write books and harvest disappointment when no one wants to buy their work. Am I wrong?

I’m only being partially facetious.

I would be right, yes, if Jesus were only talking about financial returns. I can’t really speak to farmers because I don’t farm (unless you count weeds), but when it comes to writing there is something more satisfying than being paid for your work. And that is when your work touches someone else.

No, I haven’t published a novel yet. But you’re reading this blog post, aren’t you?

No, I haven’t received a financial return on anything I’ve written, but I didn’t really start writing to get rich and famous. I started writing and telling stories because it was an outlet where I could share what God has done in my life. And so much more important to me is communicating that truth to other people, whether it’s in blog posts or articles or short stories or novels. And maybe I haven’t written anything that’s made money. And maybe I never will. But if you count up the people I’ve been able to share my story with through words, that vastly outweighs a paycheck of any kind.

I’ve invested 20 years of my life in writing, in learning how to tell stories, in sharing what God has taught me through words. And I can tell you, the returns I’ve seen, while not financial, are greater than what I originally invested. I’ve given my life to writing, and I’ve watched God take that and make it into something bigger than what I could have imagined, not only being a blessing to people but encouraging others to start sharing their story too. And that’s worth more to me than almost anything.

So whatever you’re doing in your life today, remember that the whole principle of sowing and reaping applies. It really does. It just may not pay off in the way you’re expecting. If what you’re doing in your life honors God, you will see a return. That’s a promise. So don’t give up.

Who needs a paycheck anyway, right? … Like I said. Partially facetious. =)

Mullberry leaves

Seeing God the only way we can (right now)

Do you ever wish you could see God? I mean, it’s one thing to believe in Him. It’s one thing to believe that He created everything. It’s one thing to pray to Him. But it’s something else entirely to see Him. Granted, in all the instances in Scripture, when someone has seen God, He’s had to protect them in some way to prevent them from dying. Puny people like us can’t withstand Him. His presence is so powerful, we’d just wilt and die.

But in spite of the fact, I would really like to see Him face to face. And then I read today’s verse.

Mulberry leaves

Mulberry leaves - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:8.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

Whoa. Really? So all I have to do is to be pure of heart, and I will see God? Sounds like a plan to me. So what is involved in being pure of heart? I got to wondering what that really means. Because you hear about being pure of heart in all those Medieval movies about King Arthur and his knights or about warriors or princesses or princes in fantasy stories who are pure of heart. But what does it really mean? I think it is usually used to mean that people are good people.

So if you’re a good person you’ll see God? I don’t think that’s what this is saying.

Matthew 5 is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which is found in Matthew 5 through 7 in the New Testament. This first part of it is commonly called the Beatitudes, and I can’t begin to tell you why. But what the Beatitudes are famous for are their paradoxical qualities. This is the passage that says if people are mourning, they are happy; if they are poor, they are happy; if they are humble, they’ll inherit the earth; etc, etc, etc. It’s in this passage where we find the statement that if you’re pure, you will see God.

So I thought maybe it would be a good idea to compare some translations. So I started with the Amplified Version, because it really focuses on specific word meaning. But the Amplified Version really only focuses on the word Blessed, although blessed meant more than I expected: “happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous–possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions.” But it didn’t say anything about pure.

So I moved on to the Message, which is a paraphrase but is often very useful in grasping the total meaning of a passage. And this is what it said:

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”

This is saying that being pure of heart is getting your mind and your heart focused on what is right. So what’s right? That one’s easy. God’s Word is right. The Bible is right. Living the life that God has told us is right. Living the way Jesus did is right. When you can focus your heart and mind on living the way God has told us and seeing things the way God has told us to see them, then you will be pure of heart.

It’s all about perspective.

So, if you get your heart and mind put right, as the Message says, does that mean you’ll be able to see God?

Well, not to be difficult, but what does it mean to see God? Can God even be seen?

We have the idea that to see something or someone face to face means that person or object is real. But that’s not the case. I think I can see my best friend, but I can’t. I can see her body. I can’t see the real her. The real her, her soul, is undetectable. It’s another paradox. The things that are real are the things we can’t perceive right now. It’s the things we see that will pass away.

And God is real. He’s more real than anything. So that means we can’t perceive Him in the way we perceive objects that will eventually stop existing.

But God has given us signs of His presence. When you see the sun rise, you’ve seen God’s handiwork. When you feel the wind blow (or when the wind knocks you over, if you live in Kansas), you can feel God’s power. When you see the trees all beginning to bud and leaves starting to grow again and remember that winter doesn’t last forever, you can see the promise that God has made to the world never to abandon His children.

I can’t see God face to face right now. I will someday, but not now. I’m limited because I’m bound by a world that will pass away. But the day is coming when I won’t be tied down to this crazy world anymore. And on that day I will be able to see God. But until then, I’m satisfied to see Him in creation. Until then, when I set my heart and mind on what is right, I am blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous–possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) to see God the way I can.