I was in awe of his power.
My cousin Nancy had organized a â€œtrip to the farm.â€ And so, on a Friday, on a day that tethered the awestruck memories of yesterday’s kid to my mostly responsible adult of today, my wife and I drove to the place my motherâ€™s parents once owned just outside Merced, California. Because of Nancyâ€™s planning, we met several other family members. It was less a reunion and more a time of nostalgia. It would likely be the last time weâ€™d visit the farm.
From 1953-1975 my grandparents owned 150+ acres of land where cows roamed, a walnut orchard flourished, rabbits raced hither and yon, and my grandmother grew a garden that hinted at Eden.
Growing up, I was one of the few kids in my suburban elementary school that had regular contact with a working farm. I was the kid that brought back real fresh-from-the-field cotton to display for classroom show-and-tell. I was the kid who could tell stories about my grandfatherâ€™s attempt to hoist me unto the back of a bull that suddenly, as I neared its fearsome horns, seemed larger than any imagined dinosaur. I screamed and cried and grandfather tucked me behind his body to protect me from my sudden â€œbullishâ€ fear.
What a grand place it was. I think my love of the mountains began on the plowed fields of that Merced farm. My one-last-time nostalgia trip reminded me how close the Sierra Nevada foothills were; how, on clear days, you could see the rising peaks. The suburbs hid those views. I think my understanding of a creative and accessible God was nurtured on that farm. From my grandmotherâ€™s generous garden to the seasonal harvest of the walnut trees, I witnessed abundance; indeed, a sense of the Holyâ€™s gift of a land that always gives back. Our Biblical stories make more sense on a farm, a ranch, or a stretch of mountain meadow. On soil fed by rain and sun, and parched by summer heat, there is a deeper understanding of exodus and exile, of unexpected grace and hard, faithful work.
Much has changed there. Today, it is another personâ€™s land. Where there had been open fields, acres of pistachio trees now grow. Where there had been a garden, there is now a swimming pool. But, for a few moments, with the owner’s permission, we sauntered across the land. And, even with all the changes, I glimpsed and relished past memories, tender mercies. Continue reading →