Monday, January 19, 2015

Songs in the Night: The Promise of Winter Wheat

Songs in the Night: The Promise of Winter Wheat:      I love the green blush of winter wheat tinging a dull brown field in cold January. I start thinking of seeds and growing things, young...

The Promise of Winter Wheat

     I love the green blush of winter wheat tinging a dull brown field in cold January. I start thinking of seeds and growing things, young calves and earthy smells. Glancing across a highway-side field of tender sprouts, I smile as I recall my grandparents' farms of forty years ago in Baylor County, Texas--memories evoking thoughts of farmhouse Christmases with family bunched around an oilcloth-covered wooden table in a sun-splashed kitchen, and through the window the expanse of a field of winter wheat spanning the nearly mile-long stretch from sheet-metal roofed house and barns to river--a broad green carpet on a frosty day.

   I recall the two-mile drive out onto the gravel road, past the mailbox and over the hill to the highway and tiny community crossroads where,  in my mind's eye,  I turn the corner by the cotton gin and pull up to the pick-up crowded parking lot of a white-washed country church surrounded by those fields of green. Inside, the pews are filled with the faithful, familiar faces of Red Springs--many who have known me since my infancy and prayed for me and my family through the struggles of the years. I may not recall their names,  but their faces are dear; they hug me, shake my hand, and pat my cheeks.  Our family crowds into a pew towards the front on the left side  with a view out the window to the fields. I can't picture that pew without seeing my grandma there and my aunt at the piano playing the hymns up front. The worshipers are faithful, though the season is cold and unfruitful. The green fields bring forth a sigh of hope for a future spring.

     When I spent my first northern winter isolated from family in sub-zero Iowa in a drafty old house with a new baby, Grandma wrote to me about her crops and cows and plans for the spring, including news about her church and our family. A daughter of a preacher/farmer, a daily Bible reader, and a widow, she lived alone on her farm from her early sixties and battled diabetes with twice daily insulin injections, but it was she who encouraged me when I felt sorry for myself--she with her  description of twin calves frolicking in the field of winter wheat and her plowing her garden in preparation for spring planting. She reminded me of my blessings and told me to focus on my priorities and day to day responsibilities and let God handle the rest. Precious are those practical, time-worn letters and the memory of my Godly, wise grandma conveying her word-pictures of the winter wheat.

   The rolling green gives way to roadside drabness as I drive, but my thoughts continue pondering the promise of the winter wheat. Not only is it January outside, but I am experiencing a winter of sorts in my life circumstances and a dullness in my spirit. The fresh green of the field sets my heart to pondering, and so I write.

     Wikipedia informs me that winter wheat actually requires the cold months to be able to head out in the next season.(1)  Without thirty to sixty days of the dreary days of winter, the plants won't undergo "vernalization" and make grain! Those tender green sprouts are a promise of the golden wheat in the summer, of warmth  and harvest, of new life; but, the growth comes after those months of chill, and the golden grain after the waiting.

     Perhaps I am like the winter wheat and am undergoing "vernalization" in this season of waiting and enduring. Yet, I must not wish this time away, because doing so might sacrifice the fruit of the harvest later on. It is a time for me to be still, read God's Word, worship Him,  and let my roots grow deep. Like my grandma and the faithful saints in the country church, I need to get my thoughts off of myself and my circumstances and look out the window to see the bigger picture, and to trust that God sees the biggest picture and knows what He is doing.

    When my son died, someone gave me a framed scripture passage which I keep at my office on a wall where I see it frequently:

" For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace." 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, English Standard Version (ESV)

       This season, this time, is for a length and purpose of God's choosing. I need to trust Him with it and have faith that He will accomplish His purpose. Two verses later in this passage, the writer continues,
 "11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end."   I may not know in my lifetime what business God is about, but I know He is about His business, and He will make it beautiful.

     An agricultural website tells me that winter wheat is useful for grazing,  for enriching the soil, for weed and pest and control, and for a cash crop. (2) Once harvested it is a high-protein, nutritious grain. I see none of that value now while traveling down the highway watching the fields or as I regard my current state of mind.  But, for now, the sight of winter wheat rests my eyes, elicits fond memories, and reminds me both of the wisdom and faith of my grandmother and the sovereignty of my Lord.
 
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"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." Genesis 8:22 NIV

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_wheat
(2)  http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Managing-Cover-Crops-Profitably-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Nonlegume-Cover-Crops/Winter-Wheat