Gathering for the Harvest

When I was a young girl growing up in a small town just outside of Greensboro, NC, I fondly remember going strawberry picking with my mom and some other friends. I remember very vividly my mom handing me a big wicker basket, and then pointing out that I should be careful as I gather the berries – look at each one and make sure they were bright red and had no bruises, and then she sent me off on my way to fill my basket in the strawberry field. I quickly learned that it was hard work finding and picking “the perfect” strawberries one-by-one and placing them in the basket – and then only to feel my basket getting heavier and heavier. Oh, the sense of accomplishment and pride I felt when I returned with big heavy basket filled with what were surely “the best” strawberries in the field! And the reward – I can still taste the strawberry jam we made that summer and enjoyed well into the several months that followed. The gift that kept on giving well beyond the harvest.

For those in Biblical times, the harvest was a most important event. The gathering of that which had been planted and a time of reaping in joy what had been sown and produced during the year. In addition to the literal use of the word referring to the harvesting of crops, the Bible uses the same term when referring to rescuing Israel and the resurrection of believers from the earth.

Does anyone feel like we missed the harvest this year?

For many of us, this year feels like there was never a harvest from which to reap. We have been so consumed with that which has been taken away; we find ourselves with a lack of harvest – nothing sown, reaped, or given away. Our baskets are simply empty. But friends, consider there is value in being empty. An empty basket represents significant opportunity to be filled.

A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:7-9

How might we fill our empty baskets with the “best”?

Gather Praise

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I know firsthand that can feel hard when circumstances get hard. But I also know firsthand that taking just a few minutes to write down or declare out loud the things for which I am thankful does something to my heart. It unleashes a peace that can only be explained by God’s love for us. During a time when it is easier to lament than be thankful lies an opportunity to continue to engage God, who promises more than anything this world can offer.

Thank God for He is good, for His kindness endures forever.– Psalm 118

Laying before us now is an opportunity to simply find time in each day to spend a few minutes and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. These seeds of thankfulness will indeed produce a harvest in time.

Gather your People

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Luke 10:2

I recently ran into an old friend who shared a true and simple yet profound statement. He pointed out that during this year of isolation, his friendships have gone to deeper places than ever before. In many instances, we have found ourselves “face to face” (via Zoom, Facetime, etc.) with more friends and family than we would otherwise if it were life “as usual.” It certainly does not replace being together, but it does force the time we have “together” to more vulnerable and meaningful places. God highly values and uses these relationships in our lives.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:7-8

Gather His Words

Every experience we have can produce Godly character in our lives, if we let it. In many ways it seems 2020 will produce some incredibly Godly people, am I right?!? In all seriousness, though, for all we are feeling, for all with which we are struggling, for all wisdom we need – we need to look no further than the Bible. Think of His words and truth as deposits, seeds planted, and with each seed planted, the greater the opportunity for greater harvest later.

Whether you have picked up the Bible zero times or thousands of times, it is the living (For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12), and breathing (All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17) word of God the Father, who has a lot to say to us.

Keep in mind that a bountiful basket was once empty. Even when filled, it eventually needs to empty in order to be refilled. Not only do I want to refill my basket with the “best”; I hope that in turn, my basket is emptied to a point that it can be reaped well after it is emptied. Like the strawberry jam we enjoyed well into seasons that followed. Choosing “the best” to fill my basket in that strawberry field was hard work, but so worth it in the end. We were only able to produce something good once that work was accomplished. As such, we operate at our best when we function from the fullness God has for us. It might take a bit of work to gather Thanksgiving, community, and His word, but imagine the harvest that is possible. In 1621, when their labors were rewarded with a bountiful harvest after a time of much sickness, loss, and scarcity, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty in what was considered the very first Thanksgiving.

I think about the first Thanksgiving and how deeply dependent the first settlers had to be on God when they were experiencing so much physical discomfort, loss, and trials. That entire experience culminated into a thanksgiving in community. While we physically can’t be with all of the loved ones with who we want to share this Thanksgiving, may we use this day as the first step in filling our baskets, for even in our hardships, we have so much for which to be thankful.

May your baskets be filled in the days and weeks to come – to the point of overflowing – because God has a harvest for you.

Lord, I thank you for the countless blessings in my life. I thank you that even in a year filled with hard times and loss, I can still see the countless blessings that surround me. I am sorry for when take my focus from those blessings and place it on the harder things. I know that is not what you want for us. I ask that for all of those who are suffering, you shine light on the blessings, as your light far outshines any darkness we experience. I ask all of this in the name of Jesus, Amen.