I relaxed in a chair on my daughter’s patio, enjoying the sighing wind in the locust and oak trees, the musical jingle of wind chimes, and the warmth of the sun on my face. Then I became aware that I was being watched.
A striped chipmunk sat at the edge of the patio’s cement pad, less than a yard from my feet. The chipmunk’s cheeks were bulging with small nuts, acorns, I surmised from the nearness of the oaks. He was a creature on a mission, on his way to store the nuts for winter, and I seemed to be in his way. Perhaps the chipmunk was wondering if I was a danger to him, if he dared risk it. Certainly I was an obstacle. He must have decided I was a harmless sort of giant, because he scampered under my chair and around the corner of the building. He and another chipmunk (he and she?) returned in a few minutes, with empty cheeks. The pair made several trips, coming from the east with cheeks full and returning from the west after caching their harvest. They continued to scurry unafraid and undeterred underneath or just behind my chair.
Not everyone is as courageous as the chipmunks. In Number 13 we read the story of the spies whom Moses charged with scouting out the Promised Land. It was the beginning of the season to harvest grapes, and the men brought proof that this was a land of plenty.
they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them Numbers 13:23 NIV
The scouts all agreed that Canaan was a land of “milk and honey,” but full of powerful, strong people–the descendants of giants. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith in God and believed that they could conquer the land. The leaders pleaded with the people:
Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land . . . Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them. Number 14:9 NIV
Do you remember how that story ended? Instead of entering a land where harvest was underway, the children of Israel spent 40 more years in the desert.
Fear is not the only obstacle in harvest. You must wait for the crops to be ready. The soybean fields on our farm are now a rusty-brown, and the golden stalks of corn have paled after being dried by a hard frost, but harvest may still be delayed. Farmers can check a sample from a field for moisture content to see if the corn or beans are dry enough to combine. If not, they may need to switch to another field that was planted with a different variety or to one that was planted earlier.
The harvest of souls is another matter. It’s impossible to look at a person’s heart and “moisture test” their soul to know if they’re ripe for “harvest” into the kingdom of God. Russell and Barbara Reed, American missionaries in the Philippines, must have thought that surely the time was right once they had overcome the obstacle of learning the language of the people. They wanted to reach a tribal group on the island of Mindoro. For months they searched for the people, eventually found a village, and started learning their language. Years passed and initial interest changed to rejection. After nine years in the Philippines the Reeds, none of the tribal members had made a commitment to Christ.
That changed in May 1962. Traveling to the east again, they found a group of people with hungry hearts. Before long, seventy-five people were baptized, almost the entire adult population of three villages. What had made the difference? Centuries earlier a shaman had prophesied, ‘Someday white people will come here to teach us. Big people. And they will know our language. When they come, we must follow their teaching.’ This prophecy was passed down for 16 generations. When the leader in the east heard the Reeds speaking his language, he knew they were the ones for whom his tribe had waited more than 350 years. from Telling the Gospel Through Story by Christine Dillon
Sometimes the obstacle to “harvest” for the kingdom of God isn’t time, it’s place. A friend of mine moved and now teaches in a different state. The leadership in her new community has brought in speakers with a positive message to talk in the schools. Recently, a daytime presentation was followed by an evening meeting, where the gospel was presented. This would not, could not have happened in her previous school, she explained.
The harvest in her small town was ripe. When the speaker concluded the evening presentation with an invitation to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, over a hundred came forward, and my friend was privileged to pray with some of them. She texted,
The fields are harvest-ripe here! Glory to God! We had many to pray with those that gave their lives to Christ, but not enough.
Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! John 4:35 NKJV
Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37,38
My “harvest” prayer for us all: that we may be courageous when facing “giants,” that we may be wise with our words (written and spoken), that we may recognize the right time and place to share the good news, and that we may remember that God is the Lord of the harvest. * * * * *photos of grape vines by Barb Briggs * * * * * Linking with
The narrow, magenta ribbon of sunset faded over an hour ago, and the moon won’t rise for another hour. The neighbor’s security lights and the red blinks on radio station antennae and cell phone towers are the only lights visible from my house.
I slide on chore boots, zip up a jacket, and press the switch on the palm-size flashlight as I step into the blackness of the back yard. I walk down three steps and follow the familiar path across the lawn, between the apple and the fir trees, across the shop drive, around the diesel fuel barrel, and onto the gravel that leads to the edge of the field.
I retreat to a dark spot away from the house because I hope to see the Aurora Borealis. Although it’s rarely visible at my latitude, the chances are good tonight because of a solar storm two days ago. I click the flashlight off and scan the sky. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I begin to pick out single stars, then constellations, and finally the Milky Way stretched overhead.
Despite the deep darkness of the night, regardless of the shadows moving toward me (our black cats had followed me), and even though I’m alone, I’m not afraid. I remember Psalm 8 and am comforted by God’s presence when I gaze at the “glory in the heavens.”
Although I wasn’t frightened of being alone in the dark, others in the same surroundings might be. Years ago a group of inner-city youth visited a neighboring farm. In the same inky night where I found comfort and closeness to God, those children were terrified. They were afraid of the open spaces, the black night devoid of street lights, and the startling appearance of previously unseen stars.
What petrifies you may not scare me. What unhinges me may not scare you, but even the bravest will have something that makes their heart beat fast or twists knots in their stomach. David wrote of faith and fear in the Psalms. Remember Indiana Jones’ terror in the pit of vipers? “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”
I know the kind of fear that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t want to let go. I recently watched my new-born grandson being prepped for an ambulance ride to a NICU. Seeing the wires and sensors, the supplemental oxygen, and the IV in his tiny, splinted arm increased my anxiety.
Guilt followed the fear and led to dark whispers of self-accusation and additional fears of inadequacy. How can you write about faith when you’re so afraid? How can you lead a prayer group when you can’t think of a word to pray?
I need to ignore those dark whispers and listen to the “still, small voice.” The verse I repeat to myself is
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV
Not “if” but “when.” I’m grateful that God knows all about our fears and has compassion on us. Many of the verses in the Bible that command us not to be afraid have this same formula. Fearful? Look to God. His presence will comfort you. He will help you.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
Isaiah 41:13 NIV
What frightens you? Is it a metaphorical snake pit or a real-life hospital room?
Are you afraid when the road ahead is risky?
Are you scared of being alone?
Are you frightened when death stalks your family or
when illness is eating the heart out of you?
Are you scared when you compare yourself to others and think that you don’t “measure up?”
If I’m honest, I’d have to raise my hand and say “yes, I’m afraid of all those things . . . and more.” My list of fears may not be as long as Mr. Monk’s (the fictional, phobic detective), but it’s there and includes public speaking and crowded elevators.
I’ll try to remember the next time fear threatens to overwhelm:
trust in Jesus,
listen to His voice,
hold His hand,
and try not to let fear push me around.
Bravery isn’t about being fearless. It’s about being less controlled by your fear.
What are you afraid of, and how do you deal with your fear?
- I write today about garden-variety fear. I do not intend to demean or diminish the crippling anxiety or phobias some may endure. Medical and psychological treatment may be necessary in the healing process.
- My grandson is home and doing well now