“Harvest –Gathering In and Giving Thanks”
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
It is the season of harvest here in our little New England village. It is also the season of hurricanes, fall speaking engagements, elections and family celebration. The Creator’s beautiful warm palette of orange, red and gold is now making way for chilly grey skies, dirty floodwater and debris. Still, it is a time of both gathering in and giving thanks.
Life is usually a mix of great times and hard times, isn’t it? We just celebrated the marriage of our youngest daughter and it was a great time. But we also just lived through Hurricane Sandy’s devastation which continues to be a hard time. This weekend (if the weather/cleanup allows) I will once again speak to a group of people on how to grow deeper in their faith and relationship with God — there have been several such opportunities all fall and I so enjoy these great times. But next week our extremely divided nation will also face an election whose process has including nasty political ads and confusing issues… how will we as a country ever recover from such hard times?
“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own nature will harvest decay… But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life… So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6.8-9 NLT)
Harvest is defined as “the season when ripened crops are gathered” and also “the result or consequence of any act, process, or event.” This is the time where all that we have invested comes to fruition. This is the season of looking back over the year and remembering our well-intended resolutions that fell by the wayside (seeds sown, but neglected) but also those numerous times when God showed up with His provision or power or presence at just the needed moment! As I prepare Christmas cards in November, I often think back over the year and remember the work and wonder of each day, each month, each season. And then I usually remark at how quickly the year passed… “how can it be the holidays already?” Trying to distill all I experienced and learned and struggled with brings insight into how I will spend these final weeks — gathering in and giving thanks.
What are you gathering in these days? What did you invest in this year — pouring all your heart and soul and probably resources too – so that a result would occur? As an author I love to harvest the arrival of a long-awaited published book that I spent usually more than a year researching and writing. But instead of writing books this year, as a mother I ‘harvested’ a new little family – and believe me that took a whole lifetime of investment (which I tearfully reviewed as we prepared the rehearsal dinner photovideo). But that’s just one of many examples of how I spent my year… mostly I’m harvesting the answers to many, many prayers – “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” Paul reminds us that “Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” (I Corinthians 3:5-7 NLT)
What are you giving thanks for these days? I know that because this is the month of Thanksgiving almost everyone has a word of gratitude on their lips, but actually we should be grateful every single day, no matter the season. Did you decide to record “one thousand gifts” or to do what Mike and I do – identify and record at least one thing each day for which we thank God? If so, reviewing them should be an exercise in joy and grace. If not, why not start today and finish the year with a full heart directed to the Giver of all true gifts? “Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God and treat Your servants with kindness… Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long. Make up for the bad times with some good times; we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime. Let Your servants see what You’re best at— the ways You rule and bless Your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!” (Psalm 90:12-17 MSG)
Just last week I bought a small bowl woven by Haitian women that I’m using as a ‘gratitude reminder’ with my daily prayers. It symbolizes being grateful for whatever comes into our ‘bowl’ each day in the way of works, gifts, people or challenges. This idea came from long ago monks who took a vow of poverty and survived by going out daily with their “begging bowl” — thanking God for whatever was provided, be it much or little. (thanks to my friend Anne Grizzle for sharing this in her book Reminders of God)
I realize that this year your harvest may be lean. Sadly, that’s the reality for so many in our fractured world. If so, I pray you’ll know God’s mercy and compassion in a very real way. But regardless of circumstances, today I am reminded that whether my little ‘begging bowl’ ends the day/year full of the great or empty from the hard, God is still the One who calls me by name to gather it all in and give Him thanks…
“Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
(hymn by Henry Alford, 1844)
under the mercy, Cindy
©2012 Lucinda Secrest McDowell