The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Seeds will grow without your help

For the last few weeks, I’ve been walking 4 or 5 times a week after I get home from work. Not much. Only about 45 minutes. If I were able to stay home and work on the farm all the time, I wouldn’t need to exercise, but I work a desk job. A whole 8 hours or more can go by in a day at my office, and I’ll realize I’ve only gotten up to go to the bathroom twice. And that’s the only time I’ve been out of my desk chair.

So I decided that I needed to do something about that. And walking seemed to be the only option available to me with my schedule. When it was hot, I’d walk 45 minutes on the treadmill, while I streamed episodes of television shows off Amazon. But since the weather has been so nice in recent weeks (and because my parents are at home with me now in case something unforeseen happens out on the road), I’ve been walking outside. The view is so much nicer (and besides, I’m running out of free episodes of Bleach).

I walk from one section line to the other and back, which works out to be 2 miles. Not much. But not bad, considering I’m just starting out. And I can do it about 45 minutes. As I walk, I usually get to see the sun set or tractors out in the fields or sheep grazing. But last night I saw something that surprised me.

Safe Haven Farm, my home, sits at the south end of a 640 acre plot of wheat and alfalfa, none of which is ours sadly. But it’s surrounded by farmland–mostly wheat. But this time of year, it’s all just dirt. Dirt fields as far as the eye can see. I walk right past a couple of them every night now. Except last night, the dirt field west of Safe Haven Farm had developed green fuzz.

Yes, I’m being silly. It’s winter wheat. But what struck me last night was that the farmer sowed that crop of what in the dark a few days back, and all it took was a weekend and a few days for it to cover the entire field. He didn’t have to babysit it. He didn’t have to watch it. He didn’t have to water it. He just planted it and let it go.

And I think that’s an important lesson I need to learn.

Today’s verse is James 5:7-8.

The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

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. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I’m not a micromanager, but I am a control freak. I like to know what’s happening and when and how I can help it be more efficient. But what I’ve learned in life is that the more I interfere, oftentimes the more I slow already-existing processes down.

This verse is directed at people who are getting impatient for Jesus to return for His people, and that’s definitely what it means. But it applies in other situations too. Just because you’re given the opportunity to plant a seed doesn’t mean you’ll get to see it sprout, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll get to harvest it.

Most times what happens is you plant a seed in someone’s life–a good deed, the love of Christ, whatever–and you never see that person again. You may never know how your actions affected that person. You might have to wait till you get to heaven to learn what difference you made in someone else’s life.

And that’s okay. Or at least, it should be okay.

But there’s something in us that wants to do it all. Or maybe that’s just me. If I’m the one who starts something, I want to be the one to finish it. I want to start with that open, empty field and plant the seeds and watch it grow and harvest it for Christ. Me alone.

But that’s selfishness talking. That’s me focusing on what I want and not necessarily what God wants–or what God says is best for me or for the person in question.

The point is this: We all plant seeds. Every day of our lives, we’re planting seeds. I hope it’s all good seed, because good seed produces a good crop. But regardless whether it’s good seed or bad seed, we all plant. But that seed doesn’t need your help to grow.

If a seed is planted, it will grow without you. That’s how God set up the law of planting and harvesting. That’s a natural law. True, some plants need our help to survive, but not all of them. Most plants will go on living and growing whether we’re there to water them or not.

So don’t despair if you plant a seed in someone’s life and then you aren’t able to oversee it. Don’t worry if you’ve planted a seed and you haven’t seen any growth. Seeds will grow on their own, and someone will always be around to harvest a crop that’s ready. You don’t have to do everything.

So embrace the role of seed planter, knowing that what you’re doing is starting a process that God Himself will oversee. And if you’re fortunate enough to get to watch a crop grow–if you’re fortunate enough to be the one who gets to harvest–be thankful.

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Why bumpy roads and seed planting are good

Some roads are deceptive. When you first start walking, the path is relatively straight and even, but the longer you walk that path, the more difficult it becomes.

When I was down in Guatemala the last time, we did a lot of driving, some highway but the rest was on these crazy back roads in the middle of nowhere. We’re talking rough roads with bumps and rocks and steep hills and sharp turns. When we left El Chal that morning, the road looked easy, but getting to where we were going took effort and patience and no small amount of discomfort.

Rough road to San Miguel - Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

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. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

What is it about people that makes us think life is supposed to be easy? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who has this weird idea that life should be easier than it is. And if that’s the case, I should probably just stop talking. But I don’t think I’m alone.

Something inside us tells us that we’re not supposed to have to struggle like this. Or if we struggle, we’re supposed to be guaranteed a reward. But life has no guarantees. Even if you work your butt off, even if you do your very best, you aren’t guaranteed a job. You aren’t guaranteed success. You aren’t guaranteed advancement.

So why do we put ourselves through it?

On that trip in Guatemala, we killed ourselves getting to these remote Kekchi villages, and the goal was introduce people to Jesus. Not to convert anyone. If a conversion happened, that was awesome, but we weren’t exactly expecting it. The Kekchi culture rarely makes spontaneous decisions.

So if you think about it from a normal “evangelistic” mindset, we were busting our buns for no return on our investment. We were walking, hiking, driving, forging through jungle and back roads to get to these villages–one of which had never seen a white person before–and we weren’t going to see anyone come to faith in Jesus.

We were planting seeds.

Planting seeds is just a fancy Christian phrase for introducing people to Jesus or shedding light on who Jesus really is.

That’s the part of following Jesus I think we skip over sometimes. You can do everything you’re supposed to do for God and never see anyone choose to follow Jesus, at least not in your lifetime. Sometimes it takes multiple lifetimes, multiple generations for someone to realize their need for Christ.

And that works the same way in other circumstances too. Just because you don’t get instant results doesn’t mean your work and your sacrifice has been in vain. It just means you’ve planted a seed, and someone else will get to harvest it.

To be honest, that kind of sucks. Because when I plant something, I want to be around to watch it grow and reach the point where it can be harvested. But that’s for my own pride. That has nothing to do with honoring God.

And how many times have I harvested something planted by someone else? That’s how this process works. We plant seeds in people’s lives, and then we step back and let them grow–often without our supervision–and someone else gets to harvest the results.

The village we were going to in this photograph had no church. We wore ourselves out getting there and giving our presentation. And the village packed the tiny little building we were in. There were people hanging from the rafters. We did our thing, and we left.

A few months later, that village started a church. Many people have come to know Christ, and they’re still growing.

What’s the point?

Roads have bumps. Some bumps are bigger than others. Some bumps can be so large you have to slow down to get over them. Sometimes you have to stop and go around them. And even when you get to the end of that road, when you reach your destination, you aren’t guaranteed success.

But that doesn’t mean you haven’t been successful. And that doesn’t mean God won’t still do something fantastic with what you accomplished. Granted, you might never see it. But you don’t have to. Once you do something for God, it never fades. The people you affect for Christ are eternal. The tasks you accomplish for Christ will withstand the greatest storm. And once you plant a seed, nobody can unplant it.

And don’t think it’s just about leading people to Christ. We’re supposed to do all things to God’s glory, and that means our relationships, our jobs, everything.

A lot of the Christian life is planting seeds and praying for the harvesters who come after you. So when you get the chance to finish something for Christ, take a moment to be thankful for the people who planted the seeds before you. Because you didn’t get where you are by yourself.

So if your road is turning out a little bumpier than you expected and you aren’t getting to see results from everything you’ve sacrificed, don’t be discouraged. You’re leaving behind a legacy that other people can use to achieve great things for God. And if you ask me, that’s awesome.

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

When you can’t see the road, stay in your lane

Wichita doesn’t have traffic. We think we do, but we don’t. You haven’t experienced traffic until you’ve driven in Houston or Washington D.C. or any of the larger cities around the U.S. No, Wichita just has busier times than others….. until there’s a wreck.

And there was a wreck somewhere in front of me yesterday evening as I was in a hurry to get across town. Traffic backed up for about a mile, and we came to a standstill for about 20 minutes. And as I sat there and marveled at the crazy drivers switching lanes at every opportunity (running the risk that they would cause another wreck), I couldn’t help but think about how often we are in similar situations in our lives.

Something happens out in front of us–too far away for us to see the details–but we see the results. The results being the disruption of our carefully laid plans. So what do we do? We compensate. We switch lanes. We scurry and scramble and strategize in order to get ahead. And what happens?

That’s right. You realize that you jumped into the wrong lane too late. Or you realize Plan B isn’t as feasible in actual practice as you thought. Either way, you realize that you should have just stayed put. In all your shifting and scrambling, you ended up spending time and effort to get ahead when you didn’t even know which direction you’d end up needing to go.

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

The view from my dashboard on Kellogg yesterday, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

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. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

The Bible has a lot to say about being patient, about waiting. And I’m not good at either one. I can do it, but I tend to grumble about it. But being patient and waiting for God to make the first move makes up a great deal of the Christian life. The Bible tells us to wait, wait, wait on God. Don’t rush ahead of Him. Wait for Him to move and then move with Him.

Now that doesn’t mean His actions should surprise us. More often than not, you can identify God working in your life. You just have to keep your eyes open. You have to be in a place in your relationship with Him where you recognize His fingerprints and respond to His voice. But even when you’re in that place, if you get ahead of Him, if you start thinking you know better than He does, you’re going to get yourself in trouble.

You’ll be like the people in the lanes around me in traffic yesterday. They couldn’t see what was ahead of them. They just wanted to do something. They weren’t happy staying where they were, waiting to see where they needed to go. They took it on themselves to forge their own path.

And, don’t get me wrong. Forging your own path is often a good idea. I’m all for it. But when you try to forge your own path and you go in a direction God hasn’t blessed, you run the risk of forging a path right off a cliff.

So what’s the point? Don’t get ahead of God. Don’t start thinking you have life all figured out and that you know which direction the compass is pointing.

It’s like runners lined up to start a race. They’re all waiting for that pistol to sound or for a horn to blow. That’s the signal that they can move, start running and run for all they’re worth. And that’s what we need to wait for from God before we jump into action.

Jump into action before He’s said go and you might crash and burn. But don’t hesitate once you’ve heard the starter pistol. Once the door is open and you have the chance to do what God has called you to do, don’t wait or you’ll fall behind.

God promised that He’d come back for us. And He’s promised a lot of things in between now and then, and He will keep every one according to His plans. But He doesn’t need us flailing around trying to make His plan work out ourselves. If anything, we’ll just make ourselves so busy trying to do God’s job that we’ll miss His signal to start running in the first place.

Be patient. Wait and watch for His signal. And when you see it, run like mad.

PS: The real moral of this story is just to stay off Kellogg…..

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Waiting on Cupcake

Everyone I know is having a baby. Not literally everyone I know, but some days it feels like it is. This time it’s my good friend and writing buddy who I met in Colorado. Her mom took to calling the baby “Cupcake” so lots of others have picked up on that too. Cupcake was due on January 8. Today is January 15. We finally got the text last night that they had gone to the hospital, but since there hasn’t been news this morning, I’m going to guess that we’re still waiting. I am exhausted for her just thinking about it.

What is it about waiting that tires you out so fast? Maybe that’s just me, but if I spend a whole day waiting on something to happen, I’m more nervous and twitchy and fidgety than if I went outside and chopped down trees. I hate waiting. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably picked up on that. I can’t stand it. I want to get up and go do stuff now. I don’t want to sit back and see what happens. I don’t want to sit around waiting for something exciting. I want to go do something exciting, or at least watch a movie about people who get to do exciting things.

But most of the time, waiting is necessary. It’s something everyone has to do, and if we don’t wait for what God’s doing, we’ll get ahead of Him. And getting ahead of God is never a place you want to be.

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

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. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I love the example of farmers waiting for their harvest to ripen. It’s so true. Farmers have to have so much patience, especially out where I live. When it comes to the wheat, they plant it just before winter really hits, so the wheat has time to sprout and take root before the snow comes down. Then, the little green bits hibernate (hopefully under the snow) for the winter until the freeze when they start growing again. And then, because it’s Kansas, it freezes again when it’s not supposed to, and everyone holds their breath to see if the wheat is going to survive until harvest.

Eventually the harvest comes. But it takes a long time from planting to reaping. You have to wait. Because if you don’t wait, you’ll harvest a crop that isn’t ripe, and all the time you’ve invested up until then will have been for nothing.

Like Cupcake. I’ve been waiting for months to meet Cupcake. So have her parents. So has everyone who’s known she was coming. But if she’d come earlier than this, that meeting would have been mixed with some concern. Waiting is an important part of being pregnant because the baby has to be ready to be born.

And if you’re being honest about it, life is the same way. There are no real get-rich-quick schemes. There are no free lunches, not really. If you want to be successful, you have to work at it. The Christian life is probably more like farming than real life. You plant seeds and you wait and you wait and you wait–and you probably wait out a freeze or two–and then as long as you’re faithful, the seed will sprout. And maybe eventually it will keep growing, and if you’re very fortunate, you’ll be the one who gets to harvest it. Usually it’s someone else who gets to harvest the seeds you’ve planted though.

But no matter who does the planting and who does the harvesting, following Christ is mostly made up of waiting. There are times when He wants you to take the initiative, yes, but mostly I’ve found that you just have to wait for His next instruction. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not. But He always tells us what He wants us to do, though He doesn’t always go into how. And He always makes sure that we have everything we need for what He’s called us to do, whether we realize it or not.

A big part of waiting, I think, is preparing for what God is calling us to do. I get frustrated by having to sit around waiting for God’s timetable to match up with mine, but if I look back over my life, the waiting periods I’ve experienced have been training periods. The in-between times have been the moments when God brings things along in my life to teach me what I need to know to ultimately move forward with His plan for my life.

So, if I look at the waiting periods like that, maybe I won’t despise them so much. Sometimes you have to wait, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around doing nothing. You can keep your brain turned on, and as long as you’re focused on God, you can learn something even in the silence.

Nothing in life happens without a reason, even waiting.