I met my wife, Peggie, 30+ years ago in a farming community in rural Arkansas. I had been there for nearly a week and was about to return to California when my friend arrived and introduced me to her. That’s a story worthy of a blog post on its own, but this one is focused on the day I arrived in Arkansas.
From Hell to Heaven
I turned off the paved highway (having passed through Waren, AK) onto a gravel road. After driving a few miles, I came across an unusual sight. On either side of the road were acres and acres of barren land littered with dead tree branches heaped up around decayed trees. The spindly branches reached up like groping charcoal fingers to a helpless sky. The trees littered the ashy soil. I drove for several miles through this curious land until I crossed a one-buggy wooden bridge bordered by cow guards. Suddenly, I found myself flanked by a lush forest of pine and oak trees racing past my car window. I had little concept of hell and heaven at that time, but I felt as though I had passed from one to the other.
It seemed that the breeze of heaven had kissed these latter fields while the winds of Hiroshima had scorched the former. I later asked my friend who had grown up in the region what had happened to cause such devastation in one area and not the other.
The Story Goes Like This
A large lumber mill moved into a nearby town and set up shop near this farming community. Up until that time, the farmers had eked out a meager living on land they had purchased and cleared. They grew cotton, tomatoes, and other crops they would sale (keeping a portion to satisfy their own necessities). The forest had remained relatively untouched by humans. It was primarily a refuge for deer, wild boar, foul and other critters which served as a source food source for the farmers. Although their labor was hard, but the balance of nature served the farmers well. That would soon change.
Deal With the Mill
Representatives of a paper mill approached the farmers and made them a ‘generous’ (or what seemed to be at the time) offer to lease the forest in exchange for logging rights. The cash-strapped farmers accepted the deal; that is, most of them. My future father-in-law didn’t.
With leases in hand, the mill went to work. One of their first orders of business was to poison all the oak trees. You may be thinking, as I did when the story was first told to me, “That doesn’t make sense. Why would someone destroy such a beautiful hard wood?” It became apparent that the mill wasn’t thinking ‘sense’, they were more concerned with ‘dollars and cents’.
The oak trees quickly began to die, causing the leaves to fell off. This allowed more sunshine reach the pine trees, thus allowing them to grow faster and taller; in turn, the lumberjacks could harvest the pine sooner. Therefore, the owners of the lumber mill would reap profits quicker as they would sell more product to the paper mill.
Of course, the poison soaked the ground, which yielded fewer pine trees in future growing seasons. Unfortunately, the farmers weren’t told this when they signed their ‘X’s’ on the leases. By the time the leases expired, the land was rendered virtually useless for decades to come. By the way, did I mention that this seemed to have happened only in the Black farming communities?
Initially, the farmers who leased their land were thankful for the little extra income derived from the deal with the mill. However, as the forests disappeared, deer and other wildlife were forced to seek food and refuge elsewhere. They found easy picking in the farmer’s crops. Eventually, the also farmers noticed that the drinking water began to taste different. “Could it be,” they wondered, “that the water table had been tainted by the poisoning of the oaks?” Might that also explain the sickly crops now growing in their fields? The farmers faced their greatest loss. Their children, who watched a tough situation get worse, migrated out of the south and into cities hoping to make a brighter future.
Father Knows Best
Those lush and alive acres I drove into those many years ago belonged to my future father-in-law. He refused to lease his land to the mill. Today, my brother-in-law remains on the family farm where mature oaks grow next to the pines.
The Bible states, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that we are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
We can clearly see this awesome creation in the majesty of a mountain peak or the spectacular breadth of planets, stars and galaxies that populate the universe. When I returned to Arkansas with my wife years later (when this painting was made en plein air), I saw God’s mighty creative powers in the lush forests, for He had now opened my eyes to His creation.
God’s Season for Reaping
Ecclesiastes 3:1,2 states; “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which was planted;”
Did the lumber mill wait for the proper season to harvest the pine trees? Did they give ample time for them to mature, and was it the correct time to pluck up that which was planted? It’s obvious that not only was their timing off, but their method was perverted. Imagine how different the first landscape on that Arkansas country road would have appeared if just one tree could have been sacrificed on behalf of all those which were killed or cut down.
Jesus became our sacrifice when he hung on a tree and saved us from eternal death. I Peter 2:24 states, “Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins should live unto righteousness:”
A wise farmer will know the seasons of sewing and reaping. Yet, too many people seem not to know the time of sewing and reaping in their personal life. Galatians 6:7,8 states: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”
God sent Jesus from Heaven to earth to reap His harvest. However, when the sickle comes their way, some people say, “One day I will get saved.” Imagine an apple resisting the harvester by saying, “One day I will let you pluck me from this tree, but for now, I want to swing some more.” The reaper might reply, “Resist me and you will one day rot, fall to the ground and decay.” Still he tugs gently. God’s word to man in II Corinthians 6:2 is, “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” I John 5:12 states, “He who has the Son (Jesus) has life: he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Today is the day of God’s reaping of souls into His Kingdom. Don’t resist.