Little Thoughts on the Prairie (10.7.14)

cabin on other side of field

Journal Entry – October 7, 2014 I spent a couple nights at dad’s cabin in Starbuck for some spiritual reflection and rest. What a gift — having a place to retreat to built with the sweat and love of your own dad!  This cabin is not so much a getting away from home as it is a pilgrimage back home to my family roots. My immigrant great grandparents were pioneers out here, settling onto this soil and making a home and life from this land. These acres were the slice of Eden where my ancestors worked out that ancient vocation, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the land and subdue it” (Gen. 1).  Looking out the cabin window at the rolling hills and fields, and feeling the cold, stubborn autumn winds shake the windows, I’m reminded this is the land where my great-grandparents also suffered the full weight of Eden’s curse:

“As long as you live you will have to struggle to grow enough food. Your food will be plants, but the ground will produce thorns and thistles. You will have to sweat to earn a living” (Gen. 3:17-19). 

photo 2I grew up in the suburbs, far from the realties of rural life and farming. But the blood of generations of simple, hardworking farmers runs thick through my veins nevertheless. I pay homage to my roots every time I step foot onto these 80 acres — remembering the sweat of my ancestors. I think my dad does, too. It’s a place to slow down. Regain one’s bearings. Recover some balance and perspective in this fast-paced world. The plants of the fields are immune to the unnatural life rhythms imposed on human beings these days. They still follow the Creator’s easy, constant patterns — plowing, planting, watering, growing, and harvesting. Each step in the process requiring ample time and patience. At the cabin, we’re reminded of the courage and determination of the immigrants who came across the prairies to start fresh, to cultivate the land and build a life and legacy. We are each born into a family that, like the land, has its own areas of rough terrain to plow, brush to clear, old roots to dig up, and thorns and thistles to contend with. Quiet moments alone at the cabin allow me to reflect a bit on the family soil I grew up in. All in all, I’m very blessed! My sermon text the day I departed was fittingly Psalm 127:

“If God doesn’t build a house, then those who build it work in vain….It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives sleep to his beloved. Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

The Land of My FathersMy dad has never been one to talk about his faith all that much. But his faith is deep and he’s been sharing more lately. And what he does share is usually quite profound and inspiring. He recently shared a story about his experience building this cabin. He did most of the work alone, spending many hours out here with only the gusty winds and oppressive sun as companions. I know dad would “rise up early and go late to bed” and the cabin could have easily become a miserable meal of “anxious toil” to choke down. But dad, I’m discovering, usually has at least one ear open to the whisper of God. One day, as dad recounts it, he was miserable. The weather was grumpy. The winds roared and swirled around him as he struggled to make progress. He wanted to quit. “Why does have to be so difficult? Why won’t these winds just settle down for a bit?” Then dad realized, seeing things with a sanctified imagination, that if God was helping him build the house and he had some special plans for it, then there was also an Enemy out there trying to discourage and thwart the effort!  From that point on, dad was determined to not let the “winds of adversity” and attempts of the Enemy win the day. I picture dad high on his ladder taunting the wind, shaking his fist at the rains and with his hammer in his hand yelling into the storm with a Clint Eastwood voice, “Go ahead, make my day!” I’m sure the winds continued to roar, but I think in that moment dad heard Jesus’ command, “Peace, be still!” And dad’s heart grew a bit calmer like the waters on the sea of Galilee. And he continued hammering with more resolve and inner peace. As I sit here now peacefully inside the warm cabin, sheltered from that rowdy prairie wind outside, it is clear that dad won the battle. Or, shall we say, “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:23). Dad didn’t build alone. The LORD built this house. Dad did indeed rise early and worked some long days, but he didn’t eat “the bread of anxious toil.” He paced himself, and recognized the need for God’s gift of restful sleep. Now, dad is enjoying the gift and reward of having a quiver full of children and grandchildren who are beginning to enjoy the work of his hands. Thanks, dad!

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