Confused Old Farmer in Confusing Times

April 14, 2023
by Duane Beck
Consultant to Pastors on Leadership and Local Ministry

Confused Old Farmer in Confusing Times

I have often pondered this mysterious thing my 94-year-old father-in-law did three months before he died.  In the last few years of his life, little made sense: Alzheimer’s.  Conversation with him was nigh unto impossible. He never even mentioned his beloved horses—stories that he had repeated often over the years. He did recognize his children, we think.     

The nursing home Chaplain asked, “Coming to Bible Study this afternoon, Rollin?” “Nope, I can’t. I’m planting corn.” The nurses said he had been rolling his wheelchair up and down the long hallway all day long. Dad was dressed for planting corn: stripped suspender overalls, plaid shirt, farmer’s cap. Planting corn, he was! He would not be distracted from this essential work.  

We smiled knowingly: Alzheimer’s.     

But! It was actually corn planting season! That annual spring ritual of the Iowa farmer.  How did this small friendly man who often confused days and nights, and could no longer name the day of the week or month of the year, know it was the season to plant corn?  A delightful coincidence?  No! I tell you it is a mystery!  Corn planting was so deeply ingrained in his inner being that at the right season, when all else was confusing, he knew what he needed to do.  What unlocked this life practice in its season when all else was confusing?  A mystery, indeed!  

And a metaphor for Christians living in confusing times.

I ponder this mysterious story of the beloved, old, confused farmer when I’m caught in all the confusion inside the church, in our local communities, and in the chaos in the world.  We are being shaken. What needs to be so deeply ingrained in our inner being, that we can stand firm in the unshakable kingdom? (Hebrews 12:26-29)? What is our essential work? 

What can be planted so deep in our souls that no matter how confusing the times, we will know the right thing to do in the right season? What core practices consistently anchor our lives when everything rocking?

I ponder what consistent, core faith practices we must plant.  What essential beliefs must we cultivate?   

We must practice keeping Jesus at our center. That’s all I can say.  Much could be written about the ways to keep Jesus at our center.  But today we must keep it simple. Cultivate your heart scriptures and heart songs, the ones that recenter your faith, hope, and love. Ponder the baptismal word, “You are my child whom I love. I am very pleased with you.” Live into Jesus’ new commandment “to love one another as I have loved you. We are “Poor in Spirit.” Ask for the refilling of the Holy Spirit. 

What more can we say than, “Into your hands, I commit my spirit.” And the rivers of living water that heal and transform you will flow out of your hearts.  

Please join others from our Conference of churches to worship on May 6, 10 am to 2 pm, at the Waynesboro Mennonite Church.

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