The High Calling of a Farmer

October 10, 2011 | 19 comments

The girls and I trace crackling gravel roads to bring our favorite farmer a drink. We park by the barbed wire and climb the half-naked hill. Up on this bluff, I feel exposed, too.

A stripping away.

With less of myself, I see more of God.

The hillside fields out here by the river are my favorite. Yet they offer the lowest yield. The best of our crops are grown three miles away on flat, black Iowa ground cultivated by Lee men for more than a century. But these fields are the jubilant fields. High on a God-sculpted hill, I feel closer to the Creator.

We climb higher still, to the place where Scott combs rows in a cloud of soybean dust. I remember the words we used in his father’s obituary: “He felt closest to God on the seat of a John Deere…”

This is holy work, the work of the hands.

The Good Book says we’re all priests. And I believe it. We were baptized into sacred work. We are co-laborers with Christ. As God’s people, we all wear the white robe and the priestly collar under our farm coveralls, our nurses’ scrubs and our postal uniforms.

Once — before Christ — we weren’t even “a people.” But now we are a royal priesthood.

With Christ planted within us, we have been ordained. We join in a priestly, sacramental work: reconciling God and man. We all have a High Calling, even if it doesn’t look “religious.”

The farmer plants a seed, waits for rain. He scrutinizes skies and grain markets. He knows the mechanics of the combine, the innards of a bean pod. But the Chicago Board of Trade can’t chart the real influence of this work. A farmer co-labors with God to feed bodies — the temples that carry the Spirit.

I stand at the edge of an earthen altar, while shadows grow long on the bluff. Bean pods are ablaze, like candelabra. A priest-farmer lays bare this ground. This is his liturgy.

The Scofield commentary says that the chief privilege of a priest is access to God. I sing the doxology, because the natural response to a gift like that is gratitude.

I bend my knees to the ground and pick up one stray pod from the floor of the sanctuary. I press open the pod at the seam, revealing three creamy pearls.

One pod. Three tiny beans. Three in one.

When Jesus opens the eyes of the blind, even have doubted see evidence of His good and perfect work.

I partake of a sacramental moment, and drop thanks in the offering plate for this, the vantage point of a Creator who lets us do His work in the world.

” … whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
— 1 Corinthians 10:31

This is a reworked post from the archives. Reflecting again this year on the High Calling of our daily work.

Friend, how do you describe the High Calling of your daily work?

Linking up with Michelle today…

by | October 10, 2011 | 19 comments


  1. Joan

    What a wonderful picture you painted in my mind. Thank you. Though I have lived for many years in the agricultural center of California, and now in the wine country further north, the work of a farmer is new to me. But you are right, the farmer is a co-laborer with the Lord to feed the people. What an honor to have that calling. Though my “calling” is not so obvious, I, like all of us, are co-laborers with God. What ever He places before me to do it is a blessing to be a part of it.

    Happy Monday, Jennifer!

    • dukeslee

      I have been challenged in the last few years to think about all work and all play and ALL of life, as being a part of our calling.

      Case in point: I was on the phone with a travel agent this afternoon, because our family is planning a family cruise. While on the phone, I began to think about what the calling of the travel agent. And I thought about the way that she daily connects people with destinations — helping families reconnect and find joy in spending time together. There’s nothing overtly “spiritual” about it, (in the sense that we traditionally name things as spiritual.) But her work, I believe, is inherently spiritual because our play and our rest are important parts of the human experience.

      What do you think? I’d love to hear …

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Dea

    Just spent a good bit of the morning writing about this very subject—journal prompts for my Bible Study classes this week on the royal priesthood.

    Love your insight. I don’t live far from the rich farmland of the Arkansas delta. I have so much respect for farmer priests. I think the rice harvest is in. 🙂 They don’t plant as many soybeans anymore. Maybe they rotate them in some years.

    I will send my classes the link to your post so they can take in your beautiful insight regarding our royal priesthood.

    • dukeslee


      Have you posted any of your thoughts about the royal priesthood on your blog or elsewhere? I’d enjoy reading about it. Drop a link here, if you think of it. 🙂

      Blessings to you …

  3. Diana Trautwein

    Ummm….lovely. This is one of the dilemmas of retirement, however. A sense of loss of calling. I’m praying my way through that – learning about spiritual direction and writing, but it feels fuzzier now than ever before. Thanks for this reminder, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      I remember my father struggling with this for several years after his retirement. He felt a distinct loss of purpose. Coming back here to our farm each spring and fall has really helped, he says.

      Diana, I’ll be praying for you … that God would give you a clearer vision for what he has ahead for you. You’re a beautiful soul, radiating Christ with your words and with that gorgeous smile. xxoo

    • Sheila

      I couldn’t begin to count the times you’ve ministered to me through this thing we call the internet.

      You, my darling, definitely still have a calling.

      • dukeslee

        Ditto, what Sheila said. We love you Diana!

  4. Brandee

    This is lovely, Jennifer, and I’m glad you reposted since I missed it the first time. I think–if we were made truly aware of God’s plan–our little heads would pop off. I feel dizzy, sometimes, just seeing an edge or fringe of what God’s doing. I love the feeling that I’m part of the body: that I’m not in competition with anyone, that no one can do exactly what I do because God made me unique. I think we are most powerful when we are, simply, our authentic selves. I’ve been amazed at how God can use me even in my hot piggy messiness…even with little kids climbing my legs…even in my penguin pjs. And I know He’s using the willing over the whole world. Thanks, again, for your words.

  5. Nancy

    I like this a lot. I remember what you said, when we were sitting around the table, about your church praying for the farmers in their high calling. We really should be doing this for one another–praying and helping each other see the sacredness of our work.

  6. S. Etole

    “In all that you do …” as unto the Lord.

  7. Lyla Lindquist

    I remember how much I liked this the first time you posted it. Especially what this part evokes in me: “The hillside fields out here by the river are my favorite. Yet they offer the lowest yield.”

    Thanks for putting it back up there, at the most perfect time.

  8. Hazel I Moon

    I love your photos and your stories as well. By the sweat of our brow, but God does give the increase. A seed was planted in our hearts and as we allowed it to grow and understanding came, we made that decision to follow Jesus. Awesome post.

  9. Michelle DeRusha

    I remember the first time I read in the Bible that we, the common and flawed, are the priests. It flew in the face of my childhood religion and my understanding of my role in relating to God. I read those verses again and again, not quite sure I was reading them right. It was a holy moment for sure.

    So grateful you linked this up, Jennifer – peace, friend!

  10. Sheila

    We feel so insulated from deprivation…but if it were not for families like yours, we would be hungry.

    I wish I had something more profound, but that’s what my heart is saying right now.

    “Thank you” doesn’t seem like enough.

  11. Shaunie Friday

    I wish I could have shared this perspective and something more of my gratitude with my Iowa-farmer grandpa. I think it could truly have been said of him what was said of your father-in-law. I can remember how he beamed when he saw me as a little girl, enjoying 2nd and 3rd helpings of corn on my plate instead of dessert–he grew that corn and my love of its creamy, buttery goodness came through to him as pure appreciation. A high calling in every sense of the word and holy in its sustenance of Image-bearers. Thank you for sharing this again!

    As for my calling, sometimes, in moments of parenting that feel like eternity hangs in the balance, it feels like a high calling. Sometimes a blog post or a greeting card I’ve designed seems to find its mark and that makes it feel like a high calling too. I try to live a “called” life more and more every day. Thank you for this Jennifer!
    In His Grip,

  12. Carolyn

    I struggle with seeing my work as part of any calling. With my salary, we help keep our children afloat (that might be a permanent thing) and we provide a home for my father (and Mom til she passed). We would be in bad shape without my salary. But when I am sitting, isolated, in that little gray cube, I get very discouraged and hardly think I am doing anything “priestly”. Maybe it is because I used to be on the front lines of social work, interacting every day with people who needed me, and now I am alone much of the day. The transition has been hard. And I can’t afford the pay cut that I would take if I went back into the field. Right now I am just not feeling like I am filling any “calling” when I am at work. Praying God will unravel the muddle in my mind about this.

  13. Sherrey

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. The “GDWJ” made me curious so I came on over and was truly not just by your writing but by the imagery in your words and the beautiful photos. God has truly blessed you with gifts for sharing His love. Thank you!

  14. Emily

    Love this and all the photos!!!


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