Friday, April 25, 2008

Watching the fields

I'm thinking about place this morning, about the places I love. I love the place where we live: our house--the front patio with its western view of the bay and colorful evening skies, the front room where I sit to write, read, pray, be, the backyard where our dogs (both living and dead) have run and chased balls and dug in the dirt (!); our city, which has the best of everything--salt water bay, fresh water lakes, mountains, trees, walking trails (biking for those more able), great coffee and tea shops, art galleries, restaurants...wow, I could be an advertisement, couldn't I?
But I love many other places too. I love my family's property on Whidbey Island--just turning onto the road where it sits fills me with a nostalgic joy, a sense that I am back--back home, back in childhood, back to where I am known. The smells--outdoors, campfires, great food; the sounds--birds, the chopping of wood, laughter (sometimes raised voices and tears as well); the tastes--bread dumplings, salmon off the grill, Joe Froggers, cinnamon yeast coffee cake, BBQ-ed chicken. I love this place.

And the picture in this blog (which my older daughter took)--it's the Palouse last summer during harvest. This is the place for me, the geography of my soul, so to speak. I return there over and over, both physically and spiritually. It's where I was raised, where I came to Christ, and in those fields I took many of my first walks with Him. The horizon is wider there, not hemmed by trees, or buildings, the night skies have brighter stars--they don't compete with man-made city-lights. But I doubt I'll ever live there again, don't even want to. I love where I live and wouldn't change the arc of my life that keeps me here. I miss the Palouse, nonetheless. Part of that is missing what I once could do but can't now--it's not just place, but inclination. I still go often to the Palouse--go 'home,' one might say. And I don't do those things. I no longer ride horses over those fields as I did when I was young, or even walk them--they're much too steep for this old, broken body. But I like to look at them, I love the way the colors change on them--from deep brown to white-with-snow to greenish-brown to green to gold to harvest (and I'm thankful to the farmers--especially the one I know and love--that this should be so!).

Jesus speaks of fields being ripe with harvest. And farmers, who plow, plant, and watch those wheat fields, know exactly--EXACTLY--when they are ripe. They've seen small green plants shoot up, they can tell when the green changes color from shiny to dull,because 'the whiskers are on the beards' as they like to say. The wheat begins to yellow up from the sun (a friend of mine would, at this point, say, 'from the Son,' but I shall resist). Then about the end of July, beginning of August, because they know their work and because they pay attention, the combines are in fields truly almost white with harvest. And it's a gloriously beautiful thing. The fields, the combines, the work...well no, the work is what farmers live for, but it's hard, long and exhausting. Makes the best-tempered of them grumpy. But they give their lives to it, and wouldn't have it any other way, year in and year out.

It isn't rocket-science, getting to where I'm going with this, is it? We talk a lot about sharing the gospel, but I don't know that we wait for the fields through all the seasons. And I don't know if we work like the farmer when the field is ripe--with care, thought and certainty, even when the work is hard. For us, all that means prayer, of course. Prayer for staying power, prayer for sensitivity, and His eyes to see the fields. We don't have combines. But souls can be cut down as easily as wheat stalks before their time, it seems to me. Cut at the knees, and it's a hard job piecing them back together after that. I think of some folks I know who have begun the ministry of weekly sitting with hurting people, listening to their stories. And of my Beve, who does that sitting, listening work every day. They're watching the fields, I think. Waiting for the harvest.

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