It was late evening. The light was gone from the sky, but the air seemed to breathe a hue of compassion, illuminating the scene. The cattle were gently grazing around me. The grass was rich and thick – a lush summer’s growth, one that keeps the cows busy for many days. The sound of a mouth of foliage being torn from the plant reminded me of what it was to have happy cattle. The jaw of the bovine casually crushed the plant as the noise of chewing began, adding to the cud already in tow. A shuffle of hooves, slow movement as another sweet spot of the edible plant was found. An aroma of livestock, something reassuring to the farmer, emanated from the ground around where I stood. Black Angus bodies, my herd of cows surrounded me, accepting me as part of their circle. We had been many miles over the years, from one pasture to another, from one season to the next. There were bitter memories, loss of life, and struggles that come with raising animals. But there were the many wonderful thoughts upon which to reflect, from watching the miracle of birth to seeing a momma instinctively nurse a newborn for the first time. Standing there, amongst my extended family, one couldn’t help to feel blessed beyond measure.
These all played in my mind as the dusk slowly faded into night, and I awoke from the dream – my heart was gladdened. A gentle peace rested upon my soul.
To stand in that place in the dream was the recalling of many times in my journey. Surrounded by those gentle creatures to whom my care upon which they depended allowed for a certain feeling of satisfaction. That comfort in knowing that all that you strived to do, all those many tasks and chores to manage the farm were working – that alone emanated a certain peacefulness. Knowing that the barn is full of hay for the coming winter, that the fields are rich with grasses, a result of preparation long before the warm weather arrived, to planning the birth and rearing of the next crop of calves – there were many facets to what goes into creating that pastoral scene of peaceful solitude. To dream of that moment, that snapshot in time was a reminder of the reassurance God provides to those that serve Him faithfully.
Much like farming, our spiritual lives don’t happen by accident. It takes effort and determination to keep one’s mind centered on Christ. It doesn’t take much imagination to find something that can pull us away from our focus. All we have to do is wake up in the morning and we are almost instantly hit with something that will surely try to pull us away from our prayers or devotions. That sense of urgency that something needs to get done needs to be put aside no matter how grave or essential it is. The need to give God our first priority is as vital as storing those crops for the coming winters or, as in Joseph’s time, the famines to come. Preparing our minds for the day is as essential as a good hearty breakfast.
Many days after work, I would come home and change into my farm clothes, then escape to the barn to find solitude in the herd. Regardless of the time of year, if they saw me approach with a feed bucket, they would come running. The older cows led, the younger, for the elders knew what the bucket meant. As time progressed, the younger calves would quickly learn and follow suit. Once fed, they would return to the grass or the hay, whichever was in season. Then, in their respite and time of rumination, we would all relax and allow time to pass. Around us, the world would continue to spin – the geese flying into the pond on their journey south, the deer would pace through the undergrowth of the nearby woods, or the songbirds would welcome the coming dawn. Yet, there in that bucolic setting, a certain clockwork of life flowed, and the handiwork of God was always present.
As the sun would set or rise, the sky above would paint many colors that the waters of the ponds would reflect. The mirror’s looking glass would ripple as the surface was broken by one of the animals wading in for a drink or the splash from the Kingfisher diving in for a meal. The Swallows would skim along the surface as the steam would rise when the night’s air would begin to cool. Everywhere, the sounds of peepers and bullfrogs told of the coming night.
Meanwhile, a golden glow emanated from the farmhouse’s windows across the pasture. Inside, my wife and children would prepare for bedtime, and my focus would shift to my family. After we all had our showers and were ready to snuggle in our favorite reading chairs, we would blissfully read them a bedtime story. As they drifted off to sleep, I would gently rock them, singing softly the old songs that came to mind. There were many a time that we would fall asleep together, the chair slowing to a standstill, the night’s preparation complete. Sweetly and softly tucking them into bed, we would then resign to finally find rest in our own abode.
As the last prayers were spoken and the lights were extinguished, sleep came quickly and peacefully.
In this mindset, I awoke from the dream, for there was no reason to interpret what had been said or found. It was clear. It was as if God was saying, “My Peace I give to you, and may my Peace be with you.” For it is in God alone that we can find the ultimate tranquility.
And in this, we can always say, “Thanks be to God
“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” – Psalm 104:14