Monthly Archives: October 2011

Thanks for Migrant Workers!

Many of the pickers in an apple orchard I recently visited were migrant workers from the Caribbean. A local strawberry grower routinely brings in help from Mexico. The same happens in market gardens, vineyards, and farms throughout Canada and the US. Our harvests depend on the help from beyond our borders.

Agricultural work tends to be hard, tedious, and even dangerous. Laborers work long hours for relatively modest pay. Fortunately for the rest of us, migrant workers pitch in to do work many of us are unwilling to attempt. As a result, our lifestyles are enriched. So I was gratified this year to see that, in recognition of their contribution to our local community, our church held a special dinner honoring migrant workers.

But I was surprised to read that Alabama has enacted very strict anti-migrant legislation. As a result, Alabama “farmers are staring at crops that no native-born American wants to pick. Most of their Hispanic workers have fled…’You can’t get legal workers,’ a blueberry farmer named Connie Horner told the Associated Press.”

In spite of high unemployment, there always seems to be a shortage of farm workers. The same can be said about workers in the Kingdom of God. Particularly now, and especially in North America, volunteers for full-time missionary service are few. Surely, every believer who peruses his or her Bible should feel the heart-beat of Jesus. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:36,37).

Fortunately, indigenous missionaries from the young churches of Africa, Asia and South America are responding the need. But they can’t do it all themselves. They need help. They need western brothers and sisters who will give themselves to love and be spent for the kingdom. Oh, it will be hard and sometimes dangerous work, but the rewards are unbelievable. So let’s redouble our prayers for full-time missionary volunteers. [For books by the writer see]



Autumn Splendor

Have you ever felt like you’re walking right into a Cezanne painting—full of brilliance and color, or is it a Van Gogh? Every fall when we wander through the woodlands, or drive along our country roads, we have to pinch ourselves to make sure we’re not dreaming. Hillsides are painted overnight with splashes of red and yellow and purple in a thousand subtle shades leaving us staring in open-mouthed astonishment.

Trembling aspen crown a far hill with a diadem of gold. The light breeze orchestrates their shimmer into a delicate minuet. Patches of green pine, bronze oak and scarlet maple clothe the hill below the aspen like the robe in a royal pageant. Fingers of hemlock and orderly rows of cedar stitch the robe where it meets the spring-fed valley. Each tree has its own signature—a combination of tint and texture so unique that we can pick out the composition of the forest from miles away.

In this Emerson was right, “Such is the constitution of all things . . . that the primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves; a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and grouping.”

And what is the source of that pleasure? We lean against an old fence and feel the pure pleasure linking us together in silent homage to the divine Artist whose skill no mere human can duplicate.

It’s a time of year when I don’t dare have much film for my camera. Each day seems special, each vista unique, each tree a Byzantine mosaic. Along with sunsets and moonlight, Mary Helen has urged me to curtail my love affair with autumn lest overflowing scrapbooks of prints deplete our bank account and stuff our cupboards. But like rainbows and sunsets, moonbeams and snow scenes words fail us when we try to describe the subtlety and drama of autumn. Words certainly failed those bards and scribes who attributed all this to “Jack Frost” or “Mother Nature”.

Not much better are those who confidently demythologize creation with their “scientific explanation” for autumn’s palette. They remind us that each leaf is a tiny food factory in which green chlorophyll acts as a catalyst helping to promote the chemical reactions necessary to transform carbon dioxide and water under sunlight into glucose while releasing oxygen as a byproduct. All plants contain pigments that are hidden by the intense green of spring and summer growth. As the days shorten and the nights grow cooler green chlorophyll gradually disappears.

With the chlorophyll gone, the leaf can no longer make food. Sunlight reacts on leftover glucose to produce red colors. The leaf color depends on the degree of sunlight, the amount of glucose left, and the variety of other pigments that are most plentiful in the leaf. Xanthophyll is yellow. Carotene shows itself as orange-red. Anthocyanin creates a red and purple effect.

Understanding some of the reasons why the hillsides wear their colors doesn’t lessen the wonder. After all, men have been polluting the earth with their manufacturing for millennia while God’s leaf factories have been quietly producing food and enriching the earth from the very beginning. And his factories don’t pollute, stink, ruin the water table, sting the eyes, de-stabilize the soil, or fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Leaves produce oxygen not carbon dioxide. Some researchers estimate that one tree purifies as much as 40 tons of pollutants in its lifetime!

What a Creator! Not only a Manufacturer without peer and the Perfect Engineering Environmentalist but an Artist whose skill leaves us searching in vain for words to describe the scenes he paints with such prodigal strokes of his brush.

“Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?”

Sometimes it is enough just to gaze around in awestruck worship. A northern Autumn is one of those times.

The Mysterious Ocean and Human Conceit

A few weeks ago while visiting the coast of Maine, we watched two scuba divers get ready for a dive. They carefully checked each piece of equipment and every seam in their rubber suits before easing themselves beneath the waves. What wonders would they encounter, unknown to landlubbers like ourselves? From where we stood the ocean extends mysterious and deep to the farthest horizon—an unknown universe beneath the waves.

From time immemorial human curiosity has inspired expeditions to plunge beneath the ocean surface, to search the impenetrable jungle, to climb the highest peak, to explore space. And yet with each discovery, the universe’s enigma’s multiply. What marvels await us in the deepest troughs of the ocean? What spectacles may be encountered on distant planets? Each new discovery serves but to unveil a myriad more imponderables.

Why then do we demand absolute knowledge of God, the creator of all that exists? Why do we expect to understand everything about how God operates? Such conceit! Job, through his mysterious sufferings and undeserved trials learned to become more humble. God spoke to Job. “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?…Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?…Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea?…Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? …Can you bring forth the constellations in their season?” (Job 38:2,4,16,31,32).

Job replied, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3,6).

Wise men and women throughout the ages have acknowledged humbly the inscrutable wisdom of God. Moses wrote, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). What we need to know and do is clearly laid out for us in the Word of God. There’s no mystery there.

But because of the very nature of God, our understanding will always be limited. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my way, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).

Let’s celebrate the mystery that is our God! “The Lord is the great God…In his hands are the depths of the earth…The sea is his, for he made it…Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:3-6).©