Lessons from the Farm: Know Your Season

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Our year is divided into four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Sometimes, living in Texas, we feel like we experience all four in one day, but each season brings its own unique challenges and benefits.

Growing up on the farm, we lived by different seasons. Depending on the main source of income (feeder cattle, pairs, wheat, cotton, etc.), our seasons would vary.

When we were growing wheat, we knew August and September were the target to get the seed in the ground. And in July we knew part of getting the seed in the ground would long days ahead. But there was always comfort and solace in knowing planting was only for a season.

We didn’t have to plant wheat 12 months out of the year. Instead, we would work like crazy to get it in the ground, then slow down a little while it grew.

Ebbs and flows. Ups and downs.

Knowing the season you’re in and the season on the horizon are crucial if you want to survive. None of us wants to work ourselves to death, or to make our lives miserable working. But sometimes, you have to work like crazy in order to reap the benefits.

And it’s easier to work like crazy when you know rest is coming.

Let me encourage you to pause for just a moment today and evaluate the season you’re in and the season that’s coming.

For me, I’m finishing up the school year with the end of a 4 week crazy season, and then summer comes. I can look at my calendar for June and July and realize I’ll be living at a different pace, so the next two weeks are critical for me to find moments of rest.

What about you? What season are you in? What season is coming? What steps can you take in the next few days to help navigate the two? Are you willing to do it?

Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.
– Proverbs 20:4 NIV

Lessons from the Farm: Take a Break

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I don’t know how many farmers you have met in your life, but can I let you in on a secret? There are not many farmers who survive the long haul by being lazy.

Farmers don’t punch a clock (this Lesson from the Farm is worth clicking to just to see the picture!). They may track time, but they don’t punch a clock. Cattle don’t look up and ask where you’ve been when you finally show up. Tractors don’t get jealous when they haven’t seen you in a while. Wheat is going to grow regardless of your presence or absence.

The danger, though, is if a farmer isn’t careful then the work at hand can become all consuming-requiring more time than one person can put in during a week.

That’s why it’s important to learn to take a break. As a Christian, I believe this is why God gave us Sabbath. We need rest. We need a break. We need a moment away.

Successful farmers know how to walk this line. They know the weight of the work, but they also know the importance of rest.

If you’re anything like me, there are going to be moments where you feel as though the work staring at you this week is overwhelming, and there’s no way you could take time off. But you need it. Your brain needs it. Your family needs it.

If you want to last in whatever it is that you’re doing, learn to work hard in all you do, and then learn to take a break. Your body, mind, and family will thank you.

Lessons from the Farm: Fix the Tire

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Alright. It’s time. I grew up working on my dad’s farm, and even spent about 3 years in adulthood working on it too. Along the way I picked up some leadership principles, and each year I blog about some of those ideas in a series titled Lessons from the Farm. So let’s kick off our 4th Annual Lessons from the Farm!

When I was growing up my dad had a work pickup we affectionately called “the red pickup”. I know, you’re thinking there must be a story, but there’s not. It was red, so we named it accordingly.

But in the red pickup, we had an air compressor. This was a self sustaining compressor, which meant it did not require electricity, but instead ran on gas. The reason for this is when you have a flat tire in the field, it’s easier to crank the air compressor and air up the tire.

In fact, every day spent on the tractor started this way. We would crank the tractor and while it warmed up, we would check the tires on the plow. Sometimes you could tell as soon as you pulled up, but other times it was kind of tricky. Then, once we found the low tires (if there were any), we would air them up.

During my second stint at Henson Farms, my dad told me about a local farmer who didn’t use an air compressor. His reasoning? Because if you have a tire that’s going flat, you need to address the problem and get the flat fixed.

Seems kind of obvious, right?

Why would we continue to do the same thing, knowing that our actions would cause us to have to do the same thing again the next time? A tire doesn’t magically lose air over night. If a tire is flat, or low, that means there’s a leak. And guess what? More air won’t fix the leak. It will only delay the damage. Why not try to fix it?

Because it’s easier in the moment. The ease of the air compressor is you can be finished in minutes, whereas removing the tire and taking it to town to get fixed required time. But which action cost more time in the long run?

The same is true in our leadership. We perpetually have low or flat tires that we simply address as quickly and painlessly as possible, only working to ensure we will have to meet the need again and again.

That’s why we have to learn to address the real issue, not the one staring us in the face.

What tire are you simply airing up this week? What steps can you take to address the real issue and see if you can’t make progress along the way.

Adapt and Grow

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One of the things I admire the most about my dad is his ability to adapt. He has farmed all of his life, but he hasn’t done the same thing all the way through. Just in my memory he has raised cotton, hay grazer, wheat, milo, stocker calves, cattle pairs, feeders, and so much more, but never all at the same time.

I’ve heard him talk about trying to survive financially in the 80’s, and that he was doing everything he could to try to make money. The struggle made him better in the long run, but I’m grateful I was pretty clueless about it.

When we settle for a “this is who I am and what I do” mentality, then we miss a key element for growth–adaptation.

I think all of us would agree that new situations stretch us, and in turn, cause us to grow. But new situations are the easy example. How do you continue to grow when you’ve been somewhere for a while?

Continue to adapt.

I love leadership. I love helping students (and adults) grow in their leadership influence. I even have a pretty nifty framework to help introduce the concept of servant leadership. But even with all of that, if I stop adapting what I’m doing, then I will stop growing. And I never want to stop growing.

So, take a minute right now and think about your situation. What needs to be adapted? What changes need to be made? What adjustments do you need to address?

If you’re in ministry, what skill set do you need to strengthen? Organization? Time management? People skills? Teamwork? Beard trimming (looking at you, Youth Pastors)?

If you want to maintain a lifestyle of growth, then consistently be on the lookout for ways to grow. And grow.

Lying Street Signs

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Last week I talked about shared language. You can read what I wrote here (Unlock the Power of Shared Language) and here (Beware the Dangers of Shared Language).

Today, I thought I would share a story.

At my previous church, we had to find our own housing. Our salary was pretty minimal, so the cost of housing was a burden, and add to that living in a small town with few housing options, we were always looking for an opportunity to alleviate some financial burden.

One day at church a deacon approached me with an opportunity. This deacon was a wonderful man, had grown up in the community and moved back in retirement. He and his wife opened their home to us the first weekend we stayed in town, and undoubtedly supported us. He had found a potential house for us to live in for an incredible price.

The next step was for us to drive by and look at it. He gave me directions, with one problem. He told me the house was on Church Street. So, later that Sunday, after naps, we piled the family into the car and started driving around, looking for Church Street. It wasn’t where I thought it should have been, so we started driving to find it.

Let me insert something at this point. I love small towns. I grew up in a small town. I have lived in small towns most of my life. But, one of the downsides to small town life is street signs are not a necessity.

So, as we were driving around town, we had to hunt to find street signs just to see if we could find Church Street.

Can you see where this is going? I never found Church Street. Do you want to know why?

I didn’t share the language. Church Street, strangely enough, was the street with three churches on it. But it’s name was Washington Street.

Shared Language is a powerful thing. But makes sure the people to whom you’re talking share the language too. If not, bring them in and watch an ally be born.

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