Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hold On!

"Keep your hand on the plow. Hold on!"

Our adult church choir started practicing a song about a month ago called "Hold On!" It's a Negro spiritual, and, as you might guess if you know me (or if you've hung around here on The County Line much at all), the song has taken up residence in my head for days after the weekly Wednesday choir rehearsal.

We shared it for special music at church on Sunday, so it will go back in the choir room file cabinet until the next time. But I hope the message behind it will stay stuck in my mind.

Besides the memorable tune, it reminded me of a plaque that's in my parents' back hallway. Every day, my dad walks past it as he goes out the back door to farm:

The plaque came from my Grandpa Leonard's office, and, as my dad says, it definitely reflected Grandpa's philosophy on both life and farming. After Grandpa died, my dad asked for the plaque. It's been hanging in my parents' home ever since.

After the senseless tragedy of last week when a deranged man killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more, I saw lots of Facebook posts about praying for the victims and their families. I certainly did that, too. 

I do believe in prayer. But I also believe that God doesn't expect me to pray, then sit back and twiddle my thumbs.Yes, God will provide. But He expects me to "hold onto the plow" and "keep hoeing," too.

I'll admit something: I couldn't watch hours and hours of the coverage this time. It isn't good for my mental health. It feels a little selfish to admit that when people are still recovering in the hospital and other families have begun having funerals for people who were gunned down for no reason at a country music concert.

So, yes, I prayed for the victims, but I kept on "hoeing." I kept on fulfilling my obligations to my community, my church, my work and my family. And instead of watching network news and feeling defeated, I went outside as the Monarch butterflies came through on their annual migration.
There was a strong southerly wind, so the butterflies found refuge on the north side of a shelterbelt, giving them a little respite in a daunting journey.

Dozens of them took refuge and gave their wings a rest. It sounds like a lot of work to me to travel for two months, across thousands of miles, bucking wind and rain and predators. And it's all to get to a destination they've never visited before.

They begin the journey in their summer home in Canada and the northern regions of the U.S. They are headed for a mountain range 70 miles west of Mexico City in central Mexico, where they find the perfect habitat to survive November through March in the Oyamel forests. As many as 300 million spend the winter there. It's not like ducks and geese which migrate year after year. They will only make this journey one time.

They are a beautiful signal of fall. And, this year, in the face of depressing nightly news, they were also a symbol of fortitude and perseverance for me.
One line of the spiritual says: "Can't plow straight and keep a lookin' back." The butterflies aren't looking back. They are looking toward the journey. And they keep traveling on - despite the obstacles.

It's true for butterflies. It's true for us.

It would be easy to despair. It would be easy to hide in our houses. But we combat hate when we put our hand on the plow ... when we keep hoeing ... when we keep going and doing in God's world.

Last week, country singers Maren Morris and Vince Gill released a song called "Dear Hate." Proceeds from record sales go to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. Give it a listen, if you'd like. It certainly resonated with me.

I am linked to Tell His Story, Jennifer Dukes Lee's blog. Click on the link to read other stories of faith.


  1. I hadn't heard that song before. Thanks for sharing. Last week, in the midst of the Las Vegas tragedy, a seminary friend died unexpectedly. It's so much. But you are so right. We must keep on hoeing.

    1. Thanks for taking time to comment. I am sorry for the loss of your friend.

  2. What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Wonderful images of these amazing and determined butterflies. Their journey is beyond comprehension.
    Your words as always bring hope.

    1. I appreciate your faithful reading, Helen!

    2. I love spending time down on the farm with you.
      "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl"