The sunlight is softer at this time of year, which of course brings a chill to the air most of the time. And this softer light is golden, transforming the ordinary into extraordinary, helping me see the richness of life around me.
We question that. Sometimes when life is good, we imagine that it is good solely from the sweat of our brow or our own efforts. I cut those trees and mowed the field for the view – not God after all – forgetting that all I have comes by the grace of God in the first place.
Sometimes we question it, out of our troubles, like Job. We wonder if it is true and try to understand the mind of God. We would do well to remember the questions of God to Job – “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone -- while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
“What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? … Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? … Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?”
This is something we forget, but the Psalmist reminds us that the earth does not. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;” the psalmist sings, “let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’ Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Of course, what makes the countryside beautiful and rich are the memories it evokes. And inevitably entwined in those memories are people. The people whose woods I walked in. The families whose haylofts I played in. The folks, past and present, who molded my life. I remember Grandpa and Grandma Bill, Uncle Johnny, Uncle Burt, Aunt Orie, cousin Ernie, and on and on. A parade of Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, and pastors also march past. As do people from the present. While not much of a farmer myself (I only raise trees and prairie grass), the seasons of my life have been blessed by a rich bounty of people, not crops. And I am richer for them all. They have been the jubilant fields and singing trees, singing “for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” They planted the seeds of faith in my life and watered them and watched them grow. Some of them have sung the song of harvest home. Some I get to see daily. Regardless, they continue to bless me.
God’s land and God’s people are intricately interwoven. Even those of us who rarely venture outside the city limits are tied to the earth by strong bonds and a bounty of people. And this season is about giving thanks for that bounty to the gracious God who loves us more than we can imagine.
For children who are our second planting, and, though they grow like weeds and wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks; For generous friends ... with hearts ... and smiles as bright as their blossoms; For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, as plain as potatoes and as good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbage, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;
And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;
For all these we give thanks.
Let us give thanks, this holiday time, for golden light, good friends, and God’s graciousness. May we open our eyes to jubilant fields and singing trees. Soaring clouds, be they white or gray with rain. Winds warm or chilled by the north. People who are made in God’s own image. Let us give thanks and “sing for joy before the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”