The young preacher was visiting my parent's home for the first time. He had only been at their Church for a few months. This may have been his first Church as full time minister. My father had shown him around our 100 acre farm, explaining the hay and cattle operation, showing him the large pole barn full of hay. He had explained to the young preacher that if the weather cooperated we could get two cuttings per year from a hay field. The young minister showed great interest and asked many questions.
Then it was time for dinner. I don't remember the occasion, but we had a group of family and friends gathered around the dining room table. My mother had prepared a wonderful meal. I had long since married and moved away from home, but I always looked forward to these family gatherings.
The young preacher was invited to say the blessing. He started out with the usual sort of prayer before a meal, giving thanks for the food, for those who prepared it and for having a beautiful gathering of family and friends. He then personalized things a bit, and unwittingly moved into very dangerous territory. He asked for the Heavenly Father's help with the farm, that the gentle rains would fall and that the sun would shine to bring benefit to growing things and so on. Well, I knew what was coming - I had seen it before. I will give my father credit - he remained quiet until the Amen. Then he let the poor young preacher have it, with no holds barred.
"Don't you ever do that again - I will not allow it in my home. Do you understand?" he said.
The young Preacher looked bewildered. "What did I do, what did I say?"
"The farm, the farm! Do not ever, ever ask for God's help with the farm. I take care of the farm, do you understand? God should not spend even one second of His precious time on anything to do with my farm. God needs to deal with the big things - keeping the universe going, keeping the world turning, maybe dealing with some major famine or some major epidemic. Things like that, but not my farm! I've got the farm - do you understand?"
The contrite young preacher said: "It will never happen again - I promise"
We all quickly moved on and had a pleasant meal and pleasant conversation - but, of course, that was not the end of the story.
The Rest of the Story - and the Greatest Gift
The young preacher was as good as his word - he never again prayed for the farm. In fact, he made a point at the end of any prayer when my father was present to say "And Ray has the farm under control - he does not need any help". I think he even said it from the pulpit a time or two. And my father was very good natured about it - I think he really liked the preacher saying that.
Over time the preacher and my father became good friends. During a sermon one time the preacher read a quotation from Charles Copenhaver on what it is to be a Real Christian. My father asked for a copy of it. I have the type written letter with the quotation from the preacher to my father dated May, 1981. Here is the quotation:
The real Christian is one who has achieved a wholesome balance:
One who can give as well as take
One who can be both practical and idealistic
One who can dream large dreams and also be a realist
One who is self-disciplined and at the same time remains a free spirit
One who seeks intelligence and yet remains aware of wisdom beyond sheer intellect
One who has the capacity to burn with righteous indignation and who can turn at the right time to soothe with compassionate forgiveness
One who can hate evil wherever it may be found and embrace goodness where it can be perceived
One who can criticize without mortally wounding and also gently hurt when necessary for growth
One who can stand up and be counted without knocking down everyone else who does not stand for the same things
One who is willing to risk speaking his piece loud and clear but is equally willing to listen to what others would say
One who faces up to the fact of ugliness and cherishes the touch of beauty
One who has the capacity to love yet never slips into the errors of overindulgence or possessiveness
One who calls himself a Christian yet is aware that he is not always Christian
One who believes in God and turns to Him yet knows that he must meet God half way and assume responsibility for one's own life
This is a great list. The bold itilics at the end are mine. I think that God's greatest gift is Free Will - maybe it has something to do with the way I was raised (I've got the farm!). When I look at our society today I think maybe many people could use a good dose of "I've got the farm" in their daily lives. Yes, seek Divine Guidance - but take action yourself.
So, Where is Ecuador in All of This
Well, for me Ecuador is a wonderful part of my life; as is my US home in Hampton, GA, as is my family, the life that Dalynda and I have created - Our Farm. Can I say "We've got the Farm"? Yes. Do we seek Guidance - I sure like the list above. But, we all need to think about what we are doing, we need to build our lives every day, we need to make the best decisions, the best choices we can for ourselves and those we love - use our Free Will the best we can. I believe this is what God expects. I believe this is what makes us special. We do not operate on instinct. We have to think. We have to consider right and wrong. We have to deal with the challenges that arise. We have to use our values to push through shades of grey and do the right thing.
The main thing is build yourself a rich, full life. Live Well Ecuador and The Ecuador Chronicles provide a lot of information on Ecuador for you to consider - could Ecuador make your life more interesting, richer, fuller? Could it build upon what you already have? In the end that is for you to decide. As the saying goes - We Report, You Decide.
A Few Images of Ecuador