Sunday, November 29, 2015

Life With An Attitude Of Gratitude

It's 5am Thanksgiving morning. As I slowly wake up I'm thinking, no seed calls today, no trucking appointments, it sounds like it's raining so no field work. Maybe I'll just pull the covers up, roll over, and go back to sleep. Then I suddenly, fortunately, remembered. Jan had said the night before, don't forget to turn the smoker on when you get up early. 
There were a least 40 of us for Thanksgiving dinner and yes, we had plenty to eat, a couple of turkeys, a couple of hams, and all the rest. Along with Jan and I, our kids, and our grandkids, my parents, and my brothers and their families came.
Some of you know what it's like. As you get older and your own family grows up you see less and less of the family you grew up with. I was blessed to grow up with both parents, 3 brothers, 2 sisters, and a house full of foster kids. Remember what hand-me-downs were? We had little money however we kids didn't know or worry about that because I remember my parents always being grateful for something or to someone.
We have traditions today just like back when we were kids. No, it's not TV games. No, it's not touch football, however that sounds fun. Christmas is sledding if there is snow. New Years is racing motorcycles on the pond if there is ice. And Thanksgiving is playing Annie-Oklie or knockout with shotguns and clay-pigeons, even in the rain. 
The grand-daughters take down Noah's ark and animals off the fireplace mantle and put up Grandma's nativity pieces also including animals. No girls, I don't think there were giraffes or elephants at the manger. 
Becky and Brian's boys are decorating their Christmas tree by throwing ornaments in the tree and hoping they stick.
Jan and I attended a Sully tradition the evening before Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving the young peoples at Sully church challenge the church board to an athletic event, this year, volleyball. Fun was had by all including questionable officiating.
I'm not just thankful for family but also friendships this season. Appreciating and valuing others in our lives create an attitude that our kids and grandkids notice. Grateful people are way more fun to be around.
Because of a large family, the seed business, custom work, and our family cabin, we have the blessing of getting to meet, build relationships with, and sharing life with so many folks.
I'm thankful today for an occupation with steady work, a job that changes with the seasons, and the ability to work together on some things and independently on others.
I am thankful to be looking forward and planning for the next crop year already. God promises no matter what happens seedtime and harvest will never cease. 
I am thankful we can still worship today freely and not just hear truth, but still have the freedom to put that truth into action by caring and sharing with those we rub shoulders with every day, and not just Sundays.
So in all our circumstances let's have an attitude of gratitude. Let's open our hearts before we open our wallets. Let's remember charity doesn't count if we don't understand the motivation. And finally as we start to enter the pre-tax season, if we only give just to get out of taxes, it's not really giving. Everything we have has been given to us by our Creator and He doesn't look at how much we give. He looks at how tightly we hang on to what we have left.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Third Generation

I'm sure many of you have heard the adage over the years that there is a generation that makes it, followed by one that uses it, followed by the third that loses it.
As our country was moving into the early 1900s many of our ancestors immigrated to America to find work, religious freedom, and the hope of owning property.
Those folks worked hard, raised a family, lived through a depression, were blessed with opportunities, and finally either willingly or unwillingly passed the baton on to their kids. The kids now knew English as their native tongue and America had been home all their lives. They went to school for the most part, married, worked, took part in the American dream of ownership, and had kids. Today we (those kids) live in the greatest country in the world. 
The folks running for president have similar stories of their parents and grandparents coming to America for a better life and opportunities.
Many of you who are frequent visitors to this post know I don't use last names. That's not to be disrespectful. My intent is to stay under the radar. Frank came from a Jewish family and is a moderator on Fox. Friday evening during the snow storm he asked the candidates some personal questions.
 Marco talked about his Cuban parents. How his father did everything in his power to have a better life for his children. He shared his faith in Christ and talked about the second coming when all things will be made perfect.
Frank asked Ted when was the last time he had asked for forgiveness. Ted shared a story about while he was in college and law school. His parents were getting a divorce and he was angry. Many know his father Rafael as a Cuban prisoner in his younger years. Rafael is now a retired pastor.
Frank asked Ben about unsuccessful surgeries that resulted in the loss of a patient. Ben said he always tried his best. When he saved folks he gave the credit to God. When he lost folks he left the results to God.
Frank asked Rick if he had ever cursed God. Rick shared how he found God in the Senate. As a new Christian he fought against the partial birth abortion law. How his wife Karen was pregnant at that same time. How Karen went into labor and delivered a 21 week old baby that lived 2 hours and died in their arms. How he asked God what kind of sick joke was this when he was trying so hard to save babies from abortion. How God softened his heart.
Frank shared with Carly how he had lost his father and how it was a struggle. Carly shared how while being treated for cancer she lost a daughter to addiction. She shared her hope in Christ.
Joel closed the evening in prayer. Joel is a Jew that believes in Christ. He recently moved his family to Israel. He is an author and has written 15 books. His first book, The Last Jihad, talked about an attack on America. He had two chapters left to write on 9/11/2001. I had the privilege to spend Saturday with him and a few others praying for our country.
Today we live in a very comfortable culture. Will we help continue to make this country great, or will we just use the country we're given, or will we become that generation that loses a country due to apathy and not wanting to be involved?
In the Bible times Israel wanted a king like the other countries to take care of them. Today many people in our country want a government to take care of them forgetting about the fact that a government big enough to give them everything they want is also a government big enough to take away everything they need. Don't forget to take the time to pray for our country and become involved in it's outcome.
"I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive rebellion and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Exodus 34:7

Saturday, November 14, 2015


I watched the sun peak out after the storm and just before dark the other evening. The TV news was showing the different lines of heavy weather. Our neighborhood was spared damage. We were right between a tornado just to our south and one just to our north.
We are in-between fall and winter. Fall tillage, NH3, slurry hauling, dozing, and tiling are now happening in-between wet weather.
 I'm visiting with you from Georgia this evening. We are staying just south of Atlanta.
 Jan and I drove down with my parents for a long weekend to attend a memorial service for a relative of my mom who recently died.
As we drove around today to see what was in the rural areas I was struck by all the large beautiful homes setting back in the trees with a fenced in yard. Obviously very well to do folks.
On those same roads were homes barely good enough to keep a family dry and warm. Obviously poor folks with little resources.
Now I don't know how the "haves" got what they have and the "have nots" don't, and it would be foolish for me to guess. I can tell you however that I'm betting most of us feel we are somewhere in-between being rich and being poor.
And I'm also suggesting that as we look back, whether we want to admit it or not, most of our lives happened beyond our plans or control. Jan and I were both teenagers when we got married, just about unheard of today. For two years before we had children we farmed together side by side. 
We both wanted kids however we never dreamed they would keep coming and even two at a time. Our daughter Becky is missing in this picture. The just right pic is sometimes hard to access when you're not home.
We also didn't know what our children would want to do when they got out of the house. We did tell them they had to leave for a couple of years and if they chose college they had to pay half their tuition. Our oldest son Mike left for the Marine Corps when he was just 17. He was the youngest Marine in the US for a little while. He turned 18 in boot camp. We loaded up the whole family and flew to his boot camp graduation in San Diego 20 years ago this past week.
About a dozen years ago grandkids started showing up. I have told you before I was fine telling folks I had grandkids. It took a little longer to tell them and to admit to myself I was a grandpa.
Today our 6 children all have wonderful families of their own. The girls got together for an overnight get away last night.
We are so blessed. Sometime in-between being a teenager, raising teenagers, and soon to have teenage grandchildren, God has showed us He was in charge all along. Were there always good times? Of course not. However He promised to be by our side the whole way.
Our lives are on a time line. We start out with a dot on that timeline when we are just a little tyke.
We grow up, get an education, find an occupation, have a family, and sometimes we even get old. 
And then we put another dot on that timeline when we die. It doesn't matter whether we are rich or poor. It doesn't matter how educated we are. It doesn't even matter how big our family was. The dots mean nothing. What's in-between those dots mean everything. 
How will folks remember us when our bodies are in this fenced in yard? How would you like to be remembered? If you are reading this you still have time to make a difference in-between your dots.   

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Steppin Out And Up

Stepping outside one's comfort zone and being challenged with something you're not familiar with is important and often results in accomplishments. Below Ben is helping his daughter meet a group of geese after church on the parking lot.
 Mark often steps out and tackles his own projects including replacing his own pickup clutch.
Improving farms with tile and terraces is stepping out and looking long term in taking care of the land for the next generation. In years with lower farm income it's sometimes tempting to hold off on projects. The guys are busy fixing, tiling, and pushing dirt.
Kurt is in-line ripping ground with intentions of breaking up a hardpan in the soil caused by tillage layers.
Jackson knows when his daddy is not home he might be on the 2-way. He loves to help his dad farm.
Because of wetter weather and slower starts in the mornings part of the crew got together for breakfast.
Harrison is a pastor in Malawi, Africa. He stepped out in faith to come to America to preach and talk to American pastors at a church summit in Pennsylvania. He stayed with us a couple of days while he was visiting Iowa.
Some of you will remember Harrison. When we go to Africa to help farmers he is our driver, interpreter, and help in changing money. He is also on our Farmer to Farmer consulting board.
Jan is explaining to Harrison how we preserve food by canning it in a pressure cooker. This scene reminded me of a story. On my last visit to Africa we were delayed a day in leaving due to airport glitches. I was somewhat stressed out about it when I heard Harrison's wife Miriam say, "Steve, don't be so pressurized". Good advice. American culture happens at such a faster pace. Maybe too fast.
The trip to and from Africa takes 48 hours and involves a 9 hour time change. 
Sharon and Jill stepped out and planned a work day for our church at Joe and Diana's camp. It was a successful day. Many projects were accomplished. It brought awareness to Joe and Diana's work there. And our church family had a good time working together for a common cause.
So often we limit our church business to church and what happens there. Christianity is not just about God and us. It's about others and us with God's help and for His credit. Thanks to all of you who organized and helped.
As Christians we have another responsibility we're given that doesn't just happen in Sunday School. It's not only teaching our children but showing them by including them in what a Christian life looks like. Is it uncomfortable and a little scary to do something different? Of course it is. Anything worthwhile takes a step in faith.
When we step out of our comfort zone and try something that includes helping others out of gratitude for how God helps us, it's not just stepping out, it's stepping up. Have a good week.