The Wheat and the Weeds

Winter Wheat

In an old comedy sketch, two people are in conversation:

“I just bought a farm.”

“That’s good.”

  “No, that’s bad. Money was so tight, I had to rent out most of my land.”

“That’s bad.”

“No, that’s good.  I was able to buy some cattle with the money.”

  “That’s good.”

“No, that’s bad. They all jumped the fence and ran away.”

 “Oh, that’s bad.”

“No, that’s good.  When the neighbours all came out to help, I met my future wife.”

“Oh, that’s good.”   . . .

You could continue on, of course, because the story doesn’t end until the life of the storyteller himself is done.  Further events change our perspective because we live in a world of shifting shadows.

For much of my working career, I sat at my desk beside a monitor that followed the Chicago Board of Trade commodity prices.   On occasion, we would put in a pricing for a farmer and be jubilant if the market ticked up to our desired price – only to find the commodities market opening ten cents a bushel higher the next day.  The same action that looked good one day didn’t look so good the next.

Pastor Andy Stanley talks about this in a different way.  When the Pharisees see a man carrying his mat on a Sabbath, they zero in on this perceived transgression – that’s bad!  Even when they learn that he’s been healed after 38 years of paralysis, they do not have the compassion to appreciate this great miracle.  They never got to “that’s good!”

We presume to judge on a picture that’s very small in scale, especially when we let legalism blind and limit us.   In Jesus’ parable, the owner tells his employees that the wheat and the weeds just can’t be separated until the harvest time without causing harm to the crop.  The human story continues with good and evil entwined, but some day that story will come to an end, and only God will know how to disentangle them.  In the meantime, Jesus tells us to be careful about the measure we use to judge others, as we will be judged by those same standards.

But our Judge is also our Saviour.  When we accept God’s grace, the story will end, someday, with God’s mercy.

“And that’s good!”


Originally published on The Junction blog site.

Missing the Bus

The farming life has its moments of absurdity, and among them was the time my father acquired an old school bus so he could transport pigs to market.

This was fine with the Ministry of Transportation, under the license designation of animal husbandry, as long as the bus colours were changed.  I imagine it could have thrown a few highway drivers into confusion otherwise!

In the photo above is my mother who is tackling the task of re-painting it.   Once a Slow Moving Vehicle sign was hung on the back, it was ready for its four-legged riders.  Pig passengers in place of pupils – most people laughed at the very idea.

At the time, it struck me as an excellent idea for a children’s story, but as I procrastinated, it never got any further.  Until it was too late  – Robert Munsch, in his book Pigs, featured a school bus taken over by pig riders, including a pig driver.

I’d missed the bus.

I’d often wondered why a farmer would want to raise pigs at all.  Pigs are categorized as unclean animals in the Old Testament.    I can still hear the sound of pigs squealing for their dinner, smell the pungent manure, see the pigpens that needed constant shoveling.   Since my father also had an off-farm job, that task often fell to my mother.  You would have to be a diligent farmer, or you would hear, smell, and see the evidence pretty quickly.

Although they are really smart animals, pigs have not fared well as literary symbols either.   The prodigal son languishes in a pig pen due to his dissipated life.  In Greek mythology, Circe (the daughter of the sun god), turns Odysseus’ crew into swine.  An apt metaphor for sun-induced sloth!

But in the pigpen, the wayward son comes to his senses.  After all,  he couldn’t really avoid them there!  Odysseus eventually gets his men transformed back into humans and  is  given valuable aid for his homeward way by Circe. Repentance and lessons and discipline, learned from a pigsty classroom.

Perhaps there’s even hope for procrastinators!

Holly, with baby pigs.



Bulletin Board Design by Linda Van Noord

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone”    Big Yellow Taxi, Counting Crows

Because of social distancing concerns, our church has had to cancel our Friendship Club for this fall, and we’re very much missing our meetings.  We sing, pray, learn Bible stories, enjoy snack, and make crafts together.  It’s a place where everyone’s talents are appreciated, whether it’s in leadership, art, music, or crafts. We have been meeting since 1991.

At Friendship, we listen to each other’s concerns, joys and sorrows, and care for each other as unique personalities.  For Helen, the year was always just a prelude for the really important day – her “birt’day,” as in “my birt’day’s tum’n up!”  She began this reminder immediately after each birthday to keep us on track for the next year.  Randy was our drummer and always got a starring role when we sang The Little Drummer Boy.  Roy’s favourite song was “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” and he once waved off my hovering assistance for his reading at a Christmas program as if swatting off a fly, which made everyone laugh.  Keith has a delightfully droll British sense of humour.  Frankie was always interested in politics and local events, so we dubbed him “Mr. Mayor.”  Peter faithfully reminded us twice-yearly to change our clocks.  David may be unable to speak, but he understands everything and can write down what he needs to communicate for prayer requests.  Marjory would ask about our loved ones, “how’s yo honey?”    Tracey loves to make art.

Though we are from a variety of different church backgrounds, we just all love Jesus.  We’ve seen God provide for our needs and answer our prayers, unconventional though they may be.   This includes petitions for a sick horse, new porch steps, various digestive and other ailments not normally mentioned in polite company. The horse recovered, instead of porch steps the petition was answered with a whole new place to live, and our intercessory prayers for healing were heard.  There’s an honesty and simplicity about the group that is very attractive.   At Friendship we can see that each person is important to God, that he values them just as they are. 

So we’re praying that we soon may meet together again, that all of us will stay well, that even in this time of isolation we see God always has a good plan for each of us, that our circle may soon come together again to join in enthusiastic singing.

(Originally published on The Junction and Friendship websites, with revisions.)

Bulletin Design, Linda Van Noord


Taking Inventory


He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”                                     Matthew 13:52

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the occasion to visit two people in their new assisted living accommodations.   And before that, to watch the arduous weeks of sorting through and evaluating treasured possessions:  what to keep, what to donate, what to bestow on a grateful recipient.   It is no easy task to distill the lifetime collections of a household to what will fit in a small room or apartment.  In light of this, I took a good look around my own home.

Times change, and what is highly valued by one generation is easily dismissed by the next.  In my possession, I have a 12 piece Royal Doulton chinaware collection that I’d inherited, an estimated 3-400 books, not including cookbooks.  The music books and sheet music in itself would be easily over 100 items.  I have over 100 CDs, and some 20 or so tapes, a piano, an organ, a keyboard, glockenspiel, guitar, an accordion . . .    I would have said that I’m not a collecting kind of person, but the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

And, in all this, I still so often think that I need to look outside in order to gain knowledge or skills, when the truth is that the only thing lacking is the faith, and investing with some sweat equity.   When I take a second look at what I already have, the fresh look results in new treasures that lie hidden among the old, still unrecognized and undeveloped.  It’s unlikely God is going to answer my requests for more if I already have what I need.

The Biblical prophet Elisha replied to the desperate widow whose sons were about to be taken away to pay her debt: “Tell me, what do you have in your house?”  From her small jar of olive oil she was to pour oil into all the jars she could borrow.  Through that act of faith, she was given, miraculously, ample provision.

Whether we’re in times of need, or at a loss at how to proceed, we may have far more than we think in terms of options and opportunities.   Sometimes it’s just a matter of opening our eyes, counting our blessings, using what we have, sharing what we don’t need.

“(God’s) love has no limits, His grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.”

From “He Giveth More Grace,” Annie J. Flint