A bit of nostalgia sets in around this time of year. It’s wheat harvest in northwestern Kansas, it has been for over a week, but they received a couple inches of rain and had to let the fields dry before taking the combines and tractors and graincarts back in the field. If you’ve ever seen a combine stuck in the mud, you know that’s not an easily resolvable challenge. Last week my nephew posted this video of my oldest great-nephew with a “rite of passage” that farm kids experience…
He’s going into the 7th grade and his dad was alongside him in the cab but still, it’s kind of a big deal in farm life. Now I could start into stories about how when I was that age the combines and trucks and tractors didn’t have air-conditioning, there were no computers to tell you how high to run the headers or when the bin was full, and without cell phones you had to watch the strange signals your dad would sometimes give you standing outside on the platform beside the bin attempting to communicate where he wanted the truck, if he wanted the truck, how he wanted the truck, if he didn’t want the truck, if he needed fuel… You get the picture. I always swore my dad gave field signals in a foreign-known-only-to-him language. Or it could have been that my attention span was that of a gnat. There is no better place to let your imagination create stories and paint pictures and take you on trips to exotic places than sitting in a wheat field in a truck in the middle of July with the temperature hovering around 100 and the wind blowing like a blast furnace, waiting for your dad to empty his bin a few times so you could drive to the grain elevator in town to bin the wheat. I always knew I was going to survive the day when the Royals pre-game show would start on the radio and Denny Matthews voice would begin to announce that night’s game. It meant the end of the day was in sight, it was going to cool down, and showering off the day’s wheat dust would happen soon. My mom has hay fever, so she often had to wear one of those white masks over her nose and mouth so she could breathe and could sleep later that night without her nose and eyes running out the door. Not sure if those times are all that nostalgic for her.
I sometimes wonder how that kid in a farm truck ended up spending the better part of her life in eastern Kansas serving churches. God really does have a sense of humor. And I also wonder how growing up in a very traditional, compassionately conservative social and political context, my perspective has always been pretty open to diversity and advocacy for those for whom life isn’t particularly fair or just. Maybe that brings some consternation to some of you as well? Somehow, while I’m not certain my parents would claim it, as I grew I innately saw value in all kinds of people that I met along the way. And where others might judge a “wrong” way of being or doing or living or loving or skin color or language or belief system, I figured people were simply as human as I am, and if I were judged by some kind of decided-for-God-standard, I wouldn’t measure up either. As long as there is integrity and faithfulness in relationship, as long as there is mutual respect and kindness, as long as there is a sense of an “other’s” dignity and humanity, I’m not certain a judgment of someone else’s value in existence is appropriate or at all necessary. When you have wheat dust all over you, hat hair from your Almena Grain Co. cap, a t-shirt you cut the sleeves out yourself, kelly-green Converse All-Star worn out basketball shoes, and you’re standing next to your truck that has blown out a tire – anyone who stops to help regardless of political or religious affiliation is a welcome sight on a hundred degree day – of course, it was a dry heat. *snort*
So my oldest great-nephew is learning to run the combine with his dad, my sister’s been in the fields some running the tractor and graincart, my brother-in-law and other nephew most likely running the semis to town when they’re full and taking caring of the cattle that are in pastures here, there, and yon. And they’ve got an old farmer sister/great-aunt jumping out of her shoes (if old white women could jump *snort*) at the first ever worship of Common Grace tonight, our extension campus that will reach so many folks with the love of an open and embracing Jesus; and the soon-to-be-happening kick-off of the capital campaign for the total renovation of the Center of Grace to include even more of God’s children in greatest need for a stronger start in life, in education, and in life-skills! All of that is somehow connected because all of that is about family and relationship and working and living and loving and learning and growing and planting and harvesting and feeding and walking together into a world where it takes all of us for God’s family to be complete. So a grateful heart for the harvest of wheat and people, (Luke 10:1-2) in the soul of the heartland!