In 1990 we lived in an old farmhouse nestled snug in a valley on Rutledge Road in eastern Knox County in Ohio. My study was at home in a garret room in the top of the house. Often I would start my day by taking a walk.
I had a walking stick, a favorite coat to walk in, a very old coat with many pockets. Sometimes I would take binoculars with me. I always had a testament in my pocket. I would walk and think and thank God and pray.
In the spring and summer the woods along the trail were alive with bird song. Deer were common. Wild turkey had recently been reintroduced to the county and one morning I had the rare privilege of seeing a flock of them in the grain field at the top of the hill.
Ginger, our golden retriever would always come along. She never had a lead on her collar in her whole life. We usually followed the same route, down the old abandoned road bed to the power-line right of way, up over the steep hill and along the corn field back to the woods, through the woods to the deer path that descended to the river. Along the river to the place where the path peels off and runs into the valley along the little run we always called Yoder Creek and then back up to the house.
The roadbed was out of use and grown over with grass beyond our house. Seventy years earlier the Walhonding River flooded and took out the bridge. Since then the road had not been used. I kept it mowed with a bush hog. Trees had grown up on both sides of the road and created a natural arch over the road that was beautiful year round. To the northeast the hill went strait up, to the southwest it fell away to a valley that was a part of a grain farm. There was one small spot where there was a break in the trees. I loved to stand there and look out over the field below and think and pray.
One morning on my walk I stopped at that spot and looked for along time out over the field. The valley below was rich with high, healthy, ripe corn. It is my habit to read the Psalm that corresponds with the day of the month and then four more skipping forward 30 psalms. So on the 5th of the month I would read Psalm 5, 35, 65, 95, and 125. I drew my testament from my pocket and began to read the psalms for the day. It must have been the fifth of some month, probably October or November because Psalm 65 was a part of my reading for the day.
I don’t ever remember noticing this psalm before. The words I read seem to have been written by a man who was standing at the very spot on God’s earth were I stood that day.
One December night, by the light of a winter moon, we found a Charlie Brown Christmas tree growing on a ridge here. In springtime the hills burst into bloom white with dogwood blossoms. We had sought the cooling shade of these trees on summer evenings and now the sun was following a southern path and the year was waning. From this spot it was clear that the Creator had crowned the year with his goodness.
Psalm 65:9-13 (NKJV)
9 You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
10 You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth.
11 You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance.
12 They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.
13 The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing.
In ancient Israel fathers and sons would make their way to Jerusalem together three times a year. One of these pilgrimages came at the end of the year. It was sometimes called the feast of in-gathering. This Psalm was most likely used during that feast. This is a harvest psalm, written by a man who knew what it was like to have an annual payday.
I was so blessed by this psalm in this pastoral setting that I went back to the house to find someone to share it with. I said to the older boys, “Come take a walk with me there is something I want to show you.” They put on their jackets and followed excitedly. I walked them back the lane to the spot where I had been standing when I discovered Psalm 65 and asked them to stand quietly for a minute and look out over the fields. Then after a minute or two of silence I took out my testament and began to read the Psalm aloud.
I wish I could take each one of you to that spot on God’s beautiful earth. I wish you could smell the fresh cold air and see the grain growing row on row in the fertile valley. I wish you could watch the sheep graze the hillsides and the hills rejoice and the valleys shouting for joy and singing. But I’m sure there is some display of the goodness and bounty of God somewhere near you.
How can we look on such scenes and not be humbled into silence before God or break into song or weep with gratitude or feel a divine tug on our hearts? How can we deny the great generous God of creation has lavished us with gifts we do not deserve? Gifts in this life and in the next. One of my favorite hymns says it this way; “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.”
And to think that on my worst day, because of Jesus death on Calvary, I am still a forgiven sinner.
We have lived another year on the earth and as we come to the end of it we can say once more that He has crowned the year with his goodness. Along the paths we take with him there is abundance. The valleys are covered with grain. They are shouting for joy, they are singing and we are shouting and singing, too.
When you sit down on Thanksgiving Day and enjoy your feast and your family, and your home is warm, and your table is laden with bounty, remember again where those good gifts came from. Remember that every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights and He never changes. (James 1:17) The One who made the sun and stars and moon is acting in your life moment by moment, sustaining your life, providing your food, overflowing your life with blessings.