Farmers have been frenzied all week. The first week of July is our first week of warm with no rain forecast. So the equipment buzzes in the fields all around cutting hay. Swaths of grass lay on the ground, waiting, turning tan. They wait for sun to dry so farmers can bale. Hay wagons wait first crop and will empty their fill into barn lofts. We’re storing up for winter in Wisconsin. Growing and cutting and turning and baling and hauling and storing and feeding. And the farmer makes his living with food for living creatures.
Unbelievably, the day after our fields were cut, it rained more than a drizzle. Darkened sky opened wide and poured out its storehouse of wet.
Can we get a break, here in Wisconsin trying to farm food for animal and human alike?
Knee high by 4th of July—that’s the motto for Wisconsin corn. Not this year. Last year, an historic drought threatened the crop. This year, cold and wet have kept farm fields dormant. And yesterday? July 4th? I photographed neighboring fields of corn and thanked God for short rows of green. Will they make it all the way to tassle and ears before first frost?
How we have to depend on God when we work the land. How we recognize, despite calloused hands and driven spirit, rains don’t come on command and fields don’t dry by our will. We depend. Dependence is a blessing not a fear, because when one depends, one learns to trust. One learns to trust because one looks to the trustworthy One who supplies. But what if He doesn’t?
What if God doesn’t lift heavy sheets of rain off the fields? What if God allows drought to parch into dust ground that could sustain life? Is He trustworthy then?
God’s way is for us to collaborate with Him. Perhaps the withholding has purpose of joining? Shouldn’t the abundantly blessed bless those with less? Give to the hungry in crisis? Teach to plant and water and harvest? A trustworthy God calls all He loves to be trustworthy in sharing—not by government hand—but by heart demand. Because how can we sit down at table and give thanks for gorging ourselves when so many have no table, no chair, and no food? When we flip a faucet and get clean water when others die every day for lack? Do our basic needs matter more because we’re developed?
Not all are called to live in or visit Africa or India or Haiti or inner-city Milwaukee on mission where kids every day scrounge for a morsel of sustenance. But aren’t we all called to share from our storehouses?
And what about storehouses of time and talents? Can I give a tithe of time to bring emotional support to the starving of heart? Can I offer some hope? Can I give Christ?
Yes, we live in a land that is blessed. And we celebrate thankful this weekend. But are we to squirrel away our blessings and not pour out? It’s easy to forget even Milwaukee when one lives just 40 minutes away from murder and guns and drugs and rape and hunger and police called but not coming and parents who really do want better lives for their kids but they can’t get them out of the ghetto where mice crawl over their children at night and they’re scared.
And they’re coming to our farm next week. They’re coming to ride horses and learn about manure composted and see grapes growing and ride in a wagon on hay baled last year by ponds with frogs and cattails. They’re coming for hugs and songs and celebration of summer. They’re coming to hear about Jesus. And I don’t want them to—just—hear—about—Jesus. I want them to experience Jesus. In a hug. In a smile. In the field. On a horse’s back. In God’s word.
Should I feel guilty about our horses and fields? Should I feel guilty that families with less come to experience abundance? I vary. Some days I think, “Let’s just sell it all and give it away.” Other days, I think, “It’s not about having much. It’s about sharing much.” How much are we sharing? And it’s not just the poor in money who need us to share, though as Christians we are to give our money. But it’s also the poor in spirit who need. Sometimes, the hardest giving comes in the form of hearing others’ pain and just listening and praying and maybe offering wise counsel when appropriate. It’s about being peacemakers, within and around.
So what are we to give?
Everything. We are to give graciously everything we have been given by God and spread His goodness because there is enough to go around, after all. And we don’t need government taking to spend on themselves, giving left-overs that cripple. We can cripple very well on our own, can’t we?
What would happen if everyone gave a tenth, not by force but by heart? Just a tenth of time and talent and money? If everyone created by God would give as God directs—just a tenth? Just a dime on the dollar? Just a bit more than an hour of a day?
We would get a new perspective and a larger heart. We would see people happy with less. We would see people giving thanks for what we consider nothing. We would see appreciative smiles. We would be blessed more than we bless.
It happens every year we open our farm to the inner-city. We’re hugged hard. We’re smiled at big. We’re warmed with thanks and giggles and squeals when horse tongues lick little fingers. And we might not bring joy 365, but maybe we might. Maybe, just someone, just some little child of God, will find Him on a day in July, on a farm we bought and maintain with horses who lick fingers and fields that grow hay and kids from Russia who live here 365 and who remember what it feels like to be orphaned. Our oldest son is taking time without pay—by choice—to work camp. Why? Because camp for Milwaukee kids is the highlight of summer. Our kids love to give of their abundance—to see pure joy on young faces. They love to love on the little ones and give back, just a bit, of what they’ve been given.
Giving isn’t so hard. Really. Do what you can, right where you are. Giving grows the kingdom of God everywhere because God is everywhere working, loving, even in our own backyards.