It Pays to Know


Finished and ready to move on to the next wheat field to harvest.

Finished harvesting one wheat field and ready to move on to the next one.

Wheat harvest was the highlight of the year for us when I was growing up on our family farm in Colorado forty years ago.  My dad, uncle, two brothers and I worked hard all year to get ready for this two work week marathon in July.  We generally hired and boarded extra harvest helpers as well.  And once the wheat became ripe enough to cut, we would start early in the morning and harvest late into the night.  When we finally got home we would wolf down a late dinner, take a quick shower and hop into bed.

Six or seven short hours later dad would wake us up to start all over again.  After a light bite for breakfast we would head out to the fields to get our combines ready for a long day of harvesting.  When we were harvesting at full strength we would be operating five combines and at least as many grain trucks.  Each one of them would have to be fueled, greased, inspected and adjusted before we could begin harvesting.  And by the time we had the equipment ready to go the dew would have evaporated and the wheat would be dry enough to start cutting once again.

Dad’s standard wheat harvest protocol expected mom to bring a hot lunch out to all of us harvesters wherever we were cutting wheat each day.  That was quite the feat for mom as there were often up to ten hungry mouths to feed!  Of course, those same ten men would expect a hot meal at the end of the day as well.  So my two sisters either helped mom with meal preparation, laundry, or even operating a combine when needed!

Harvest was finished relatively quickly if the wheat was ripe and dry enough for us to cut, our equipment had few breakdowns, and we had few thunderstorms and rain showers (which caused the wheat to be too wet to combine and store.)  Harvest could drag on for a month whenever cutting wheat had to come to a halt, for whatever reason(s).

Harvesting always had a sense of urgency due to the constant threat of severe thunderstorms.  An entire field of wheat could be destroyed by hail within minutes.  Or, a bolt of lightning could strike a field of ripened wheat and the resulting fire could easily wipe out the wheat crop and anything else in its way.  Therefore, getting the wheat out of the field and into the bins in a timely manner was paramount.

While lots of things have stayed the same over the years, some things have changed.  Now we operate two high capacity combines and we use just two semi-trucks.  One thing certainly remains the same however, wheat harvest is still the highlight of our family farm’s year!  After all, farmers work 52 weeks a year and only get paid for two of them!

Do you have some type of harvest?  What’s the highlight of your year?

The Winner Behind the Wager

blaise-pascal-happinessBorn into an upper-class French family on June 19, 1623, Blaise became one of the greatest intellectuals of his time.  He was an esteemed mathematician, physicist, writer, inventor and philosopher.   He taught himself geometry at the age of twelve and wrote a book on the geometry of cones when he was sixteen.

His concern over the long hours his tax collector father spent adding up revenues, motivated him to invent one of the first mechanical adding machines by the time he reached nineteen.   Initially called “calculators” they eventually came to be known as “Pascalines” and their technological principles were used for hundreds of years.

Possibly one of his most significant inventions was a horse carriage with multiple seats.  These carriages came to be widely used in moving people around Paris, perhaps establishing the very first form of mass transportation.

While he was renowned for his ground-breaking theories in mathematics and physics, he is also remembered for his significant contributions to philosophy and the defense of the Christian faith.  After his untimely death at the age of 39, numerous scraps of paper were found with his thoughts on the veracity of Christianity.  They were organized and published, and eventually titled, “Pensées” or “thoughts.”

This landmark book introduced “Pascal’s Wager,” a powerful philosophical argument concerning whether or not God exists.  He argued that by definition, an infinite God is beyond knowing by finite man.   Nevertheless, He either exists, or He does not exist.  Therefore, a wager must be made concerning His existence based on the potential consequences of His existence.

He argued if God does not exist, then how a person lives has no significance.  But if God does exist, then how a person lives will affect the consequences of this life, and especially the afterlife.  Accordingly, it is foolish to wager against the possibility of an eternal life of happiness, for the possibility of gaining little to nothing.

Therefore, Pascal’s Wager argues that the wisest decision a person can make is to believe in the existence of God!  This is the most reasonable wager, win or lose, because if you win, you gain all; if you lose, you lose little to nothing.   Conversely, if you wager against God’s existence, win or lose; you either win little to nothing, or you lose everything!

Pascal knew that many would struggle with a belief in God. He suggested they convince themselves of God’s existence, not by an increase in proofs of God, but by adopting a lifestyle befitting God.  He proposed this approach would often lead to a true faith in the existence of God!

Pascal’s Wager proposes that either by deliberate choice, or by neglect, every human being has already made a decision about the existence of God.  Ultimately, the way we live our lives determines how we have wagered.  So wager well.  You either have little to nothing to lose and everything to gain, or you have little to nothing to gain and everything to lose!

Fragile: Handle with Care

What I didn’t know could have killed me.  What I came to know thrilled me.  It took a scary situation to learn a tender truth.

Image           We put up lots of hay when I was growing up on a farm and ranch in Eastern Colorado.  One day my Dad and I were loading a truck with bales of hay to be taken to our feedlot.  He was operating the tractor with the front end hay loader and I was stacking the bales of hay on the back of a large farm truck.  When we finished, I was stuck on the top of the hay I had stacked on the truck.  Since it was close to 15 feet from the top of the truckload of hay to the ground, rather than climb down, Dad offered to give me a ride down with the tractor loader.

This was a common practice for us so I didn’t hesitate to grab on to the loader for the quick and easy way down from my perch high on top the truckload of hay.  Since Dad was an excellent loader operator and in a good mood, he decided to surprise me with a thrilling ride down to the ground this time.  Unfortunately Dad didn’t let me know his plans, and so he didn’t know my grip on the loader was only sufficient for a boring ride down to the ground.

I was hanging on to the loader with more than 10 feet of empty space below me when my grip gave way to Dad’s playfulness with the loader.  As I started my freefall, my short life flashed before my eyes.  I must have lost consciousness for awhile as I woke up with my Dad’s tear-stained face staring into mine.  He was gently shaking me and asking me if I was alright.  He needed to know if I thought I had any serious injuries.

Evidently I had fallen on my back and shoulders and it had knocked all the wind out of me.  I didn’t think anything was broken, but my chest muscles were really sore.  Eventually I was able to breathe normally and Dad was able to help me to my shaky feet.

Needless to say, Dad couldn’t stop apologizing.  He had so much confidence in me and my grip on that loader that he thought I would enjoy a little fun after doing so much back-breaking work.  But his good mood had been shattered by his ill-advised plan and my potentially life-threatening fall.

We both learned valuable lessons that day.  And the one thing I learned that surprised me the most, had nothing to do with putting up hay.  My Dad cared about me far more than I had realized!

We shouldn’t wait until a crisis comes along to let a loved one know how much they mean to us.  We need to do it the next chance we get!  Life is often more fragile than we realize.

Killing A Mosquito Can Be Tricky!

I have yet to find someone who likes mosquitoes!  In fact, the vast majority of us probably see mosquitoes as pests!  Accordingly, our normal instinct is to kill a mosquito as soon as possible.  Sadly, I’m convinced that few of us have been adequately trained in the art and science of mosquito elimination.  Consequently, let’s consider some options for laying a mosquito (or any other pest) to rest.

heal_your_mosquito_bite_quicker_by_using_ice_and_antihistamines_to_relieve_itch             I’ve been told hand grenades are very effective at eradicating most living things.  Of course they are not readily available to the public at large.  One cannot help but wonder if that may be a result of their lack of precision, and their potential for killing or maiming the person attempting to use them.  I’m pretty sure an online video would not be appropriate training for using hand grenades, even if the disclaimer, “Kids, don’t try this at home” was prominently displayed.

Guns can be effective in dispatching pesky life forms.  Since they are readily available and generally affordable, there are many options from which to choose: handguns, rifles or shotguns.  Depending on the choice you make, the cost of the ammo may limit your options.  All of them are more than capable to nail the offending mosquito with one accurate shot.

Bows and arrows have been well known to be a trusty duo for killing.  Unfortunately, modern technologies have minimized their popularity and few people have easy access to them.  And since mosquitoes are generally small targets, accuracy developed through hours of practice would be essential to their effectiveness.

Knives have been used since ancient times to eliminate offending parties.  But not knowing the most vulnerable parts of a mosquito’s anatomy could make killing it more difficult, especially since it is so small.

Clubs (things we swing) have been used for taking care of undesirables for eons.  While the sizes and shapes of clubs has changed over the millennia, their relative availability and frequent effectiveness have often made them the solution of choice.

Bare hands have been known to kill as well.  Needless to say, they are always available (since they are firmly attached to our bodies) and inexpensive (most of us were blessed to have them come as standard equipment).

With all these options in mind, you may have noticed that I have failed to point out that we all too frequently discover mosquitoes on a person’s body, most often our own.  This complicating detail (not that “minor”) should not be minimized when choosing which method we plan to employ to terminate said mosquito.  Touché!  Killing a mosquito is not that simple after all!

This ridiculous scenario should help us keep from using an inappropriate solution to a given problem.  Pests come in all sizes, from mosquitoes to grizzly bears.  Accordingly, use a solution that is readily available, most often effective, least expensive, and that yields the least amount of collateral damage.  This principle is also very helpful for taking care of countless other problems, not just pests.

Investors and Cheerleaders Needed!

            As it turned out, my room was right next to our dormitory’s Resident Assistant (RA) room at college.  Though Frank, my RA, was older, bigger, stronger, more athletic and handsome than I was (that didn’t take much), he seemed to enjoy spending time with an underclassman like me anyway!

 Image           Not long after settling into the Bible college routine, Frank came to me and asked me to be the “Prayer Chairman” for our floor of thirty one guys.  I didn’t know what a position like that entailed, but with his encouragement, I decided to give it a try. 

            Frank also worked in the “Dish Room” at the college cafeteria.  That’s where the dishes, cups and silver were washed and then put back into the serving lines.  He suggested I apply for a job there to help with my expenses.  So I gave it a try and was accepted (even though I had very little dishwashing experience from home!)

            As my first year of college began to draw to a close, Frank encouraged me to apply for an RA position my next year.  This was a big surprise to me.  RA positions were highly coveted in those days and very difficult to get.  He said he would put in a good word for me, and he did. 

            Though I made it through the interview process, I didn’t get the job.  Frank seemed more disappointed than I was!  Surprisingly, he didn’t stop encouraging me.  Before long he had convinced the leadership in the “Dish Room” to promote me to a shift supervisor. 

            Towards the end of my two years with Frank, I asked him who would take over my job as “Prayer Chairman” of our floor when I left.  He said he didn’t know, but it was his smile that encouraged me to dig deeper.  He finally admitted that he had “made up” the position to give me a chance to show if I had any leadership potential.  When he saw the way I handled that responsibility, he looked for other opportunities for me to pursue that would help me to grow as a leader.

            I was surprised, humbled and honored.  Frank had seen potential in me that I hadn’t seen.  And he always supported me and encouraged me along the way, especially when the going was tough. 

            Frank could have been just an RA to me.  That’s all he was compensated to do.  But, he went the extra mile and became my friend and my mentor.  And because it was a pivotal time in my personal and spiritual development, Frank, maybe more than anyone else in my young adult life, helped me to see that God could use me, maybe even as a leader.

            Almost forty years later, I want to be more like Frank!  I want to see the people God puts around me the way Frank saw me.  People who may have hidden potential that is just waiting to be brought out and nurtured.  People who may need to have some responsibility, even if it has to be invented!

            The path for me to become a leader was significantly enhanced by an RA who made me “Prayer Chairman” and then became one of my best cheerleaders.  I thank the Lord for Frank, and for all the others who have invested in me in like manner.

            As it turns out, God probably has put people around you who also need a chance, who need a cheerleader.  Who are they?  What are you waiting for?  Invest in people!  Maybe forty years later they will still remember you also!