Fields Don’t Lie {Book Club}

Today we are discussing the final part in Scouting the Divine: Part 2. Yes, we read the parts out of order in an attempt to have the two books mildly line up.

First off, tomatoes!

When Margaret and Leif helped Joe and his mom can all of those tomatoes, I thought of all that we have learned about tomatoes in Humble Roots and the difference between knowledge and wisdom. (Is a tomato a vegetable or a fruit?) Also the difference between homegrown tomatoes and store bought as they relate to humility, the ways God works in us.

I smile that we, as the book club have inside short cuts like “tomatoes” or Rachel’s reference to binary thinking in the comments last week, that say so much more than the mere words.

As I review my notes for this section, what stands out is how much time and awareness is needed when it comes to farming (or growing things in our own lives) and that eventually, “fields don’t lie.”

People in this book club are spread out all over the world. So, some of you live quite removed from nature. Sure, you might have a flower market nearby and trees line your streets, but your reality is more of an urban jungle. Others of you are in small villages and your reality is more governed by natural rhythms. The rest of you live somewhere between these extremes. I would be curious to hear what your location is like, how are you aware of the changing of the seasons?

Early on in this section, Margaret slowed me down enough to reflect on all that is involved in harvesting.

A good farmer is aware of:

  • the weather
  • the soil
  • how much an area should produce
  • the quality of the seed

These lines stood out to me.

“I was taken by Joe’s observation that the sandy and rocky acres of the land were still productive on some level. All too often I look at those rugged areas of my own life and think nothing good can come from them.”

(Me too.)

Your fields reveal who you are as a farmer. Everyone has bad years, pests, and crazy stuff that happens, but if you watch over the long haul, year after year, then you can tell who’s a good farmer and who’s not.”

(My brother-in-law popped into my mind as an example of this. Several years ago he felt like a bad employee because he was in and out of work because his mom was not in a great place. She was in and out of psychiatric and physical hospitals. She seemed to have more doctors appointments than seemed humanly possible. Del was a good son, but maybe not the greatest worker. My sister said, “Everyone knows who you are! They know you are a good employee and this is for a season. You have showed up and faithfully worked for over twenty years, if you have a few months of not being as present, everyone will cut you some slack!” This season did end, before she died, his mom became a Christian, and Del returned to the quality employee he was and is. We all have “bad years”, but over time, our lives reveal who we are as a human.

What is mine revealing about me? my values? my relationship with my body, finances, and people?)

Margaret asked Joe and his uncle about Jesus’ stern reply in Luke when he says that no one who places his hand on the plow and looks back is fit for service in God’s kingdom. “If they’re using a plow, that means it’s planting season. If I look backward while I’m driving the plow, then I’m going to weave, which means I’ll get bends in my rows. . . . Bends in the rows lead to a lot of inefficiency. It’s not the best possible use of your limited space. The only way to fix it is to set your eyes straight ahead on a marker in the distance.”

(This makes sense! Of course I was familiar with that passage, but I had never thought why it was ‘that bad’ to look back. So much in this section had parallels to ministry life! ‘If there is a plow, it is planting season.’  You need to look forward to watch for stones and to keep your lines straight. We all have limitations within our ministries, how can we work well within them?)

“You can’t tell wheat from tares just by looking at it. You have to grab, squeeze, and crush it to find out whether it’s real or not. I think that’s true of the spiritual life. Some people can look really good on the outside—they can seem more mature or look like they really know their Bible—but when it comes to the pressures of life and getting crushed, that’s whey the fruit really shows.”

(Don’t you wish there was an easy way to tell wheat from tares?! I do! But life and ministry do not have many shortcuts, we have to ‘grab, squeeze, and crush’ to figure out what is just empty husks and what had seed.)

“Harvest does not happen apart from waiting.  When I think about harvest in these terms, my own impatience becomes more apparent. I plant a seed hoping it spouts as quickly and dramatically as in the story of Jack and the beanstalk. But that isn’t realistic.”

(Maybe that needs to become our new mantra: Harvest does not happen apart from waiting.)

In reference to harvesting and the Sabbath: “When it’s harvest time, it’s hard to take a day off to rest and relax; when you see good weather, your field is ready, and everything is good to go. You don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring—including frost or the first snow. That extra day of waiting could mean you lose your crops. This command echoes of trust and faith in God.”

(It does! As does the part about gleaning, but this is getting long, so I’ll end here and say, see you in the comments!)


Reading plan for Humble Roots and Scouting the Divine:

May 8—Chapters 8 and 9 in HR
May 15—Part 2 (The Harvest) in SD
May 22—Chapters 10 and 11 in HR
May 29—We made it! Two books read in tandem we will review and have a Get to Know 

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash


  1. Michele May 15, 2018

    I smiled through this whole chapter because I spent six of the most formative years of my life in Northeast Nebraska and love to return, especially to visit a good college friend who married a farmer named Jim. I could picture Jim saying and doing about everything Joe did, and it just made me happy. It was easy to picture the roads and the farm and made me excited for my next visit to Clearwater. (I”m going to try to post photos of the main street of the little town they live in and high school football game- football is a huge part of NE culture!-with one of those sunsets you only see in that part of the US).

    I highlighted a lot of the same things you did. In addition, I was struck by: “A bad harvest is, well, an angry disappointment…Once you do everything you can do, it’s hard when it doesn’t materialize or amount to anything. It feels like a punch in the gut.” It sure does. I like how he goes on to talk about how it does no good to blame God because then you’ll miss your own mistakes and how you can improve next year. Another line that stuck out: “There isn’t anything about farming that would be difficult for someone to learn. The problem is that too few workers want to learn.” That just made me think about how much I still have to learn and reflect on my level of willingness to take the effort to keep learning.

  2. Michele May 15, 2018

    Here’s the main street of Clearwater… It’s such a refreshing break from heavily populated and polluted Asian cities! 🙂

    1. Michele May 15, 2018

      Um, oops- sorry about that- Let me try again!

      1. Spring May 16, 2018

        I loved both pictures! Thanks for giving us a visual picture of your town!

        1. Michele May 17, 2018

          Not actually my town, but one I love to visit friends in! 🙂

  3. Rachel Kahindi May 15, 2018

    We live in a small town, but these people are farmers. They may rent a house or a room here in town, but they have a farm on the family land. Around March/April, every patch of dirt gets burned, tilled, and planted. I’m always amused to see the few rows of maize along the side of the highway all the way from here to the next town. At first, I wondered how people owned land right up to the tarmac, but then my husband explained that they don’t own it (roads dept does), but since it looks to them like no one is using it, they figure they may as well plant maize there.

    My husband is from this tribe, and I always call him Farm Boy. He is a farmer in his soul. He pays close attention to the weather and constantly talks about how it will affect the crops, even if he has nothing planted at the time. Right now he has an acre of watermelon (to sell) and an acre of maize (for his mother to eat). Last year, it was beans and maize. This picture is from last year, beans growing behind our cottage on the family land. The little trees are casuarinas, used in construction. They are still there, much taller this year.

    I related to the part about the harvest most of all. Don’t try to have a meeting with anyone when it’s harvest time. They will be in the fields from sunup to sunset. It’s common to hear things like “when should we have this gathering?” “Well, not this month. It’s harvest time. No one will come.” The sacrifice of taking the Sabbath day off from harvest is much more real to me with this perspective. You don’t take a day off during harvest. Yet, God commanded it.

    And how does that translate to my work when there is so much ministry going on that I postpone my regular Sabbath?

    1. Michele May 17, 2018

      I love this picture! And it’s true in any farming community in the world isn’t it? You don’t do anything but harvest during harvest time! Sabbath seems impossible during harvest and I don’t think I know one who takes it. I have been pretty regular with Sabbath for several years, but I think there are times people think I’m ridiculous (and I also feel ridiculous) when there are things that should be done.

  4. Kristin May 15, 2018

    The unreached people group we work with still practice a very dark African religion. When they were talking about the rocky soil, I could relate. Shoots of plants come up quickly from good soil even when we don’t water and tend it much. However, the soil in our villages is bad. When we sow seeds into this dark, hopeless religion, we don’t tend to see any quick signs of growth even when we encourage, visit, relate, pour into. Even so, we don’t give up. Life is possible in rocky soil but it takes so much more tending and watering. In a certain village we have worked in for six years, we had five believers early on. None for the last five years. The soil is rocky. It’s hard. But praise the Lord, and 85 year old grandmother is now a new believer. Let’s not forget the rocky soil even when it feels like life can not exist!

  5. Spring May 16, 2018

    we live in between an urban setting and what we refer here to the “bush” we have a lot of nature around us, although I can’t seem to cultivate it! There really aren’t seasons here. Rainy season and not rainy season is it. and not rainy season still has rain. Our weather tends to be pretty much the same year round. Hot and humid. Sometimes, it is slightly less hot.

    I am upset because I got my reading schedule mixed up! I have been working on chapters 10 and 11 of HR. Oh well I’ll be prepared for next week!! I did love the illustration of grabbing touching and squeezing to tell which one is a tare. I know sometimes I feel grabbed squeezed ant twisted. I haven’t always been pleased with what comes out, but the process of realization is so good.

    I added a picture of my front yard.

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