Today’s blog is written by guest-contributor, Kim Shippey: I have never been a farmer, though my sister once played a key role in establishing a dairy farm near Mooi River (beautiful river) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, and one of my sons-in-law ran a successful flower farm overlooking the Indian Ocean nearby.
I’ll never forget the sight of 45-thousand coral, cream, and crimson anthuriums waving their trumpets in the sub-tropical air before many of them found their way to the Prudential Center in Boston, Massachusetts, where they warmed the hearts of Christmas shoppers on the wintry streets of the city.
Each time my heart leapt at this spectacle, I thought of a verse from the gospel of Matthew in the Bible: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
I loved the call in that passage for us to strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness if we wish to be equally well cared for by our heavenly Father (see chap. 6: 28-33, New Revised Standard Version).
Another helpful thought that confirms the uplifting, healing role of God’s (Love’s) creation in our everyday lives, comes from the pen of the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. In a chapter on Genesis in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she writes:
“Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light. The grass beneath our feet silently exclaims,’The meek shall inherit the earth.’ The modest arbutus sends her sweet breath to heaven. The great rock gives shadow and shelter. The sunlight glints from the church-dome, glances into the prison-cell, glides into the sick-chamber, brightens the flower, beautifies the landscape, blesses the earth. Man, made in His likeness, possesses and reflects God’s dominion over all the earth” (p. 516).
Another writer who has shared her joy in God’s beautiful dominion and is always ready to dig deep in the soils of human interaction is author and public speaker Becca Stevens, who founded Thistle Farms, a community (including many women who have overcome severe adversity through prayer) in Nashville, Tennessee. The workers there are committed to “the truth that love is the most powerful force for change in the world.”
Stevens says: “The world truly is our farm and the harvest is plentiful. … We can cut deep furrows and create rich beds for growing when we are not blinded by the bright lights of ego, sidetracked by the illusion of power, and stuck in the mud of inaction, feeling defeated or overwhelmed.”
She describes the lessons she has learnt from her farming life in this way: “I need to pray daily, ‘God teach me to listen to the person walking beside me, to the lessons in nature, to the voice of the stranger, and to the one I have considered my enemy.’”
This is a deep and spiritual practice, Stevens says. “It offers us the gift of getting out of the way so the person we are serving can feel the spirit moving into their words and life” (Letters from the Farm, Morehouse Publishing, 2015).
How vividly I recall a time when I decided to serve others by writing a 12-episode radio drama telling a story in “National Velvet” style of a teenage girl who loved horses and longed to win the top equestrian prize at her state fair. This was a 3-mile race open to men, women, and children riding their own horses. It was an extraordinary test of stamina and teamwork.
I had written eleven episodes, and the radio station was already broadcasting the early ones when I realized that I had no idea how I was going to finish my story. I desperately wanted listeners to be inspired by this project and pick up lessons that would enrich their lives.
I chose to pray, recognizing that I needed divine guidance if I was to strengthen others’ understanding of the teamwork that never fails—our relation to God, who is the source of all power and selfless commitment to the well-being of those around us.
It came to me that although winning often seems a worthy primary goal, discovering the kingdom of heaven within us is far more important, and certainly more edifying.
From that moment on, ideas started to flow as swiftly as the river alongside my imaginary race course. I thought of the completeness of God’s creation, and of another observation from the pen of Mrs. Eddy, who pointed out that in matters of seeding, nurturing, and spiritual growth Jesus required “neither cycles of time nor thought in order to mature fitness for perfection and its possibilities.”
Eddy continued: “[Jesus] said that the the kingdom of heaven is here, …Look up, not down, for your fields are already white for the harvest; and gather the harvest by mental not material processes” (Unity of Good, p. 12).
That’s all the writing project needed from me. A change of mental process. An acceptance of our heavenly Father as the source of healing goodness.
Episode 12 was harvested in a morning, and within weeks I was contracted to write another six adventures with my girl and her horse.
I should add that it gave me special joy in the broadcast sequel to have my characters regularly gaze in wonder across a vast field of anthuriums with the Indian Ocean splashing in the sunlit distance!