What I Learned While Gleaning

As a young boy, I wondered why Mamaw (grandmother for my northern friends) saved tin foil, kept a can for pan drippings on the back of the stove, and was the “Queen of Tupperware.” With the rising costs of everything these days, I understand. Most years, hay season ends when I’ve stacked the last bale in the hay barn and declare the Cross-Dubya ready for winter. This year, I decided to glean the hay meadow. What I discovered in the process left me both surprised and saddened.

As is always the case, there’s a remnant of hay left behind after baling, with many causes. Wind sometimes blows the hay from windrows while it’s drying. Other times, the baler goes wide or turns short, and hay is left behind. Baling 99 percent of the hay we cut has been good enough for me in the past. With hay prices increasing some 150 percent this year due to rising costs for fuel, seed, fertilizer, and everything else, I decided not to leave any behind.

Every Christian should know the Bible story of Ruth and how she asked permission to glean Boaz’s fields; and well, the rest is history. My point is that gleaning is not a new idea, but one that is long forgotten by many in the world today. For those who might be unfamiliar with the concept, gleaning is the process of gathering what is left behind after the harvest. In Ruth’s case, she gleaned wheat so she and her mother-in-love (Naomi) could have grain to prepare and eat. Gleaning the hay meadow meant gathering all the cut and dried hay that was left behind after baling.

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On the day Mr. John and I gleaned the hay meadow, the heat index was hovering around 108F. In that heat, we took multiple breaks and drank lots of water. I also asked myself many times who’s stupid idea was this. Something else I thought about was Ruth and her gleaning efforts. I was sure there was a lesson in there for me, but a mix of perspiration and exhaustion seemed to keep it at bay.

After a few hours, we had my 14-foot trailer piled high with the left-behind hay. Some of my herd gathered along the fence line, hoping I’d share some of the sweet-smelling new hay with them. With tossing the first arm full over the fence, the others (calves included) came running. With close to 30 days with no rain and temperatures over 100 degrees for most of those days, the slow-growing grasses are showing the signs of the drought’s impact. The fresh hay was a welcome addition to my cattle’s daily forage intake.

When I pulled the trailer into their pasture and began unloading it onto the ground, the feast was on. It seemed we couldn’t pitch the hay off the trailer fast enough as several came and tried to reach onto the trailer to get a mouthful. In the end, our gleaning efforts resulted in feeding my entire herd for two full days. That’s equivalent to 1.5 large round bales (1,800 lbs.) of hay that I normally would leave behind.

Thinking about it later, I realized how some seed would fall and produce more grass next year, but I also lamented how much I had wasted in the past. It was then God revealed the lesson I was to learn and share. Gleaning is not reserved for crops and hay. Something else I should be gleaning in my life is God’s word.

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Each Sunday, our church provides an outline of the day’s sermon. This “fill-in-the-blank” sheet enables us to take notes while highlighting some of the key points in our Pastor’s sermon. We use this as a springboard for our small Life Group discussions on Sunday evenings, but not everyone attends those sessions. This led me to think about how many times in the past, I came home from church and set my Bible on the shelf until next week. I wondered; how many other Christians do that same thing today?

As a facilitator for an amazing group who meets at our church for Life Group, I spend part of my afternoon reviewing my notes. I develop discussion questions and research information I can share with my friends to help stimulate conversation and discovery. After Life Group though, I shove the outline sheet into my Bible and then promptly forget about it.

Thankfully, that’s not the last time I open my Bible until the next Sunday, but this hay gleaning showed me how I’m leaving important lessons from God behind. Collecting the outlines from throughout my Bible, I’ve started reviewing each one. I dig a little deeper into scripture through Commentaries, etc. and I’m finding new understanding that I had not seen before with each one.

I pray you’ll consider how taking time to glean something more from the Sunday morning message can increase your understanding of God and His precepts in your life. It always amazes me how God can use our past to improve our present and change our future, if we allow Him to have His way.

God’s blessings,

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54 thoughts on “What I Learned While Gleaning

  1. What a timely post, J.D. Thank you! And one that smacked me to attention! Our church follows the same note taking process and I have followed the stuffing process for those notes. Not anymore…

    However, our Sunday School teacher taught some 50+ lessons on the book of Daniel and printed our notes in a little pamphlet. I’ve saved and reread them and found knowledge + knowledge = greater understanding! God’s amazing Word never fails to teach us when we’re willing to stop, be still, and listen.

    Thank goodness God doesn’t toss aside like used notes. He is patient and kind with our rude, pushing aside ways. I too believe in the next years, we are going to find ourselves resorting to our grandparents’ ways of gleaning. Have you noticed that lard is back on the grocery shelves? Even caught my self saving some bacon grease the other day!

    1. Amen Ms. DiAne. So very true ma’am. We serve a most patient Father don’t we ma’am? That booklet is a wonderful idea. I’m thinking that might be an amazing gift to give to our Life Group family at the end of each semester/session. Thank you for the idea. I’ll be praying about that.

  2. I can just imagine you wondering about your “stupid” idea in that Texas 108 degree heat. Glad you were rewarded for going the extra mile – both in “extra treats” for your herd and in God’s message to you.

    We usually are.

  3. The Book of Ruth has always been one of my favorites, J. D., and the concept of gleaning in its verses reflect both the obligation for us to provide for folks who are in need, and to not let anything go to waste unnecessarily. Conserving our resources is such a meaningful lesson, especially in these financially challenging times.
    And I have to admire your tenacity in sticking with this task through such brutal heat. Do be careful!
    Blessings!

    1. Thank you Ms. Martha. And yes, I think a great many folks are going to be in for a huge challenge when the time comes that they have to conserve and eliminate so many wasteful habits we have fallen into as a result of our prosperity. God’s blessings ma’am.

  4. Great lesson, J.D., and as you suggested there are more “fields” to be gleaned than most of us ever stop to think about. I resonate with you, too, regarding the Life Group you lead. Diane and I also facilitate a Community Group that our church promotes, and notes are distributed by email to all the group leaders by mid afternoon on Sunday. It’s a stimulating way to review what we heard that morning and to get our hearts in gear for more discussion later. If we just listen and walk away, we’re really robbing our souls of additional nourishment that we could have “digested” if we did some spiritual gleaning. One more thing–if we apply that principle to our contacts and conversations with others, we can “glean” a lot more than their words alone might convey. I grieve over how many opportunities I might have missed because someone’s body language or a look on their face might have said, “There’s more I want to talk to you about than I know how to get into.” Thanks again for the up to date application of an ancient, but never outdated, principle–and please take care of yourself in this awful hear!

    1. How very true Mr. Ron. I’m learning that sometimes God places me in a field that I had no idea I’d ever be in. When I find myself in those situations, I quickly ask God’s guidance and guarding, then I plow ahead. I’m glad to hear you also lead a small group. We call it “doing life together”; and I think my favorite time during each session is the prayer requests at the end. I make it a point to try and collect these and pray over them each week. God’s blessings sir.

  5. Yes, gleaning is important and vital to life. I can read Scripture one day and find wisdom. The next time I read the same Scripture, I may glean new information. I’m thankful God gives us the Bible so we can learn and glean every day. Have a blessed week! 🙂

    1. Isn’t it amazing how God’s word is always “new”? I sometimes refer to the Bible as the original “never-ending story”, because no matter how many times I can read a passage or verse, the Holy Spirit helps me to see/find something new. Thank you so much for your comments Ms. Melissa; you have a blessed week to my smiley friend.

  6. I have realized I need to spend more time thinking and digesting each Sunday service to glean the message. Thanks for the reminder JD.

  7. Thanks for this reminder, JD. This last year I taught 4-6th grade Sunday School – Genesis through Joshua. It was sometimes in big chunks, sometimes narrowed down. But I realized I’d found some gems while teaching (and underlined them in my Bible). This summer, I’m leafing through the first 6 books of the Bible and writing down those gems I saw, polishing them off, and applying them anew. Gleaning. I like that! Thanks.

    1. I’m so glad you could apply it in your life also Ms. Jackie. It’s perhaps a different concept for some, but I too pray it is a practice we employ more often in our walk with the Lord.

  8. Thank you for the illustration. We used to have sermon notes to fill in but that vanished a while ago. Actually that worked in my favor as I record notes in my journal so it’s permanent – no stray papers. But the gleaning part-I’m often amazed at how a phrase or word pops up to meditate on. Not scraps at all.

    1. Me too Ms. Marilyn. Having that little half-sheet handout is both convenient and handy for me. Having the outline with fill in the blanks honestly helps to keep me engaged. Sort of like an interactive lesson. 🙂 Thanks; and God’s blessings my friend.

  9. As in a field always having more to glean, the Word of God never fails to inspire, encourage, convict, and teach. Thank you, J.D.

  10. An awesome lesson we can all benefit from. God doesn’t waste anything, just like Jesus had the disciples gather the leftover fish and bread He had multiplied. His Word always contains nourishment for us even what we left behind the last time we read it. Thanks for sharing this blessing with us, J.D.!

    1. Amen Ms. Barb. I think the principles of stewardship apply here, as God gave me the harvest to help feed my cow. Leaving some behind to rot or become straw is not being a good steward of His blessing of provision ma’am. Thank you so much for always commenting and spurring great discussion and personal growth.

  11. J.D., my siblings and I called our grandmothers, “Mamaw” growing up. And they both had similar practices. I pray to glean from the Sunday service all week and longer if the Lord continues to show me more things to consider and reflect on.

    1. I couldn’t help but think of you as I was writing this post Ms. Karen. Feverishly making notes as Pastor Mike shares his God-given insights into that day’s topic. 🙂 Have a great rest of the week ma’am.

  12. I am always amazed at how God’s Word will bring depth of meaning and insights when I sit with a portion for a while rather than just gloss over it. J.D., I truly appreciate that you share these insights gleaned from your ranch 🙂 Blessings!

    1. Thank you Ms. Joanne. I too take great joy in going back over something I’ve read or heard again; asking God to reveal what I missed before. He never fails to show me something new. God’s blessings ma’am.

  13. Beautiful application here, my friend.
    I have a pretty good imagination and reading your posts are always like watching a vivid value-lesson film in my mind. Having been blessed to visit your wonderful ranch, I feel that I’m right there every time. I love it.
    I pray you have ample rain very soon.

    1. Thank you Ms. Connie. Still no rain ma’am, but I know God will give us what we need. What I’m learning when there’s no grass, little water left, and hay is costing more than double is yet to be seen. Praying I learn it soon.

  14. Hay harvesting is hard work at any time but in those hot temperatures, I am overwhelmed by your faithfulness to glean your fields. Gleaning anything is tough, but gleaning hay has to be at the top of the list for challenges. I love the way you bring this back to our personal faith practice. Your message is inspiring, but it’s also a challenge to strengthen our walk with our Lord. Thank you, sir, and be careful in that heat.

    1. I sure will Ms. Katherine. I installed a misting system in the barn yesterday for our cattle. I’m praying it will help lower their body temperature as nights are remaining in the 80s overnight. Don’t need a Kansas-cattle situation happening here (heat stress). Am grateful I have red cows and not black ones. It all comes back to our faith doesn’t it ma’am? It’s what gets me up each morning. 🙂 God’s blessings my friend.

  15. It’s difficult to ponder how much waste we leave behind-physically and spiritually. Time too! Glad for your example. I’m one who hates waste (ask my young adult children … “We do not toss a perfectly good, still-in-the-fastfood-box-biscuit into the trash.”). But I have to ask the Lord for eyes to see what’s been wasted and be willing to redeem it for good and his glory.

    1. I’m right there with you Ms. Mary. “But that’s a perfectly good biscuit! And look, it fits perfectly beside my 12 big cans of used, assorted nuts and bolts.” 🙂 I hate to waste, and get just a little crazy when I find over ripe bananas, expired milk, etc. (“Why did we buy it if we weren’t going to use it?”). See what you started here. LOL It is important though to go back and see what you may have left behind in everything we do. Great point ma’am.

  16. We’ve had heat advisory warnings this week in TN, with temperatures feeling like 108. Be careful out there! Wish we could send you some of our rain–we’ve had thunderstorms almost every day this week.

    This is such good advice. We have an abundance of ways to take in God’s truth these days. But we glean so much more when we stop and ponder what we’ve been taught.

    1. How very true Ms. Barbara. It’s when we ruminate on God’s word over and over that we find deeper meaning, application, and understanding ma’am. Finding wisdom isn’t easy, but it is so worth the effort isn’t it ma’am?

  17. I’m the proud grandma of the man who’s to preach our Sunday morning sermon tomorrow. He gives us much to ponder. Thanks for the great object lesson, JD.

    God bless!

    1. What a blessing that must be Ms. Nancy. To remember back to the lessons and stories you shared with him as a young child; to see how the seeds of faith you planted have grown to maturity. I’m not sure I could contain myself.

  18. I just learned a lot about harvesting and gleaning, J.D. But beyond the interesting things I just garnered, you’ve given me much to think about. I will remember your lesson about wasting God’s word.

    1. Awww shucks … Thank you Ms. Annie. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post ma’am. So grateful our longsuffering God waits for us to come back and glean more of the manna He provides so freely to His children.

  19. I’m in the same heat, J.D., and I can’t imagine you and Mr. John working so hard in it! But I love your lesson about gleaning. We must be on the same wavelength because the Lord is pushing me to review and study the notes I’ve already taken in the Bible degree program I’m pursuing. The golden nuggets are everywhere! I’m going to slow down and chew on those gleanings. Blessings, brother, and stay cool!

    1. I know you are Ms. Karen. I was thinking of and praying about your dear mama and how she’s doing in all this heat. I saw on the news (I seldom watch any more) that this has been the hottest May 1 to July 11 on record in north Texas – even hotter than 2011.

      I too am amazed at how much I’m discovering when I go back and spend more time looking at, researching, and praying through those sermon notes. God’s blessings ma’am; and prayers they can keep those rolling blackouts to a minimum in your area.

    1. How true Ms. Kathy. For too many years, I would close my Bible at the end of Sunday morning service and never once look at that lesson or the reference verse(s) again until the next time it was referenced. How much time I’ve wasted. Thank you so much for all your encouragement ma’am.

  20. Wonderful post, Mr. J.D. It’s amazing you gleaned 1,800 additional pounds of hay! This paints such an insightful picture. It makes me wonder how much I’ve missed. I’ll be circling back around after this week’s sermon to search for the valuable remnants. 🙂

    1. Amen Ms. Sally. It surprised me also that this much hay was left by the machinery used to harvest my hay. While it wasn’t a lot, it was much more than I expected. I had thought perhaps a couple of loads on the back of our UTV. Instead, it was piled high on my trailer attached to my pickup. Sort of like Christ feeding the 5,000 (where did it all come from). 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post ma’am.

  21. We meet with our small group on Monday evenings and review Sunday’s message. Throughout the week, we’re encouraged to read chapters that contain many of the verses shared in the message, write them down, and think upon them and how they apply to our lives. I’ve enjoyed learning this way and find it a good way to glean more from the pastor’s message!

    1. Yes ma’am. Much like what we do here with Life Groups on Sunday evenings. I so enjoy “doing life” with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Together, in our small group setting, learning is more personal and intimate. I think perhaps this is how Christ meant it to be.

  22. As I slowly – ever so slowly – read through a book in my Study Bible, I am reading the extensive footnotes that go along with the scripture. There is usually something in the footnotes or in the scripture that asks a question or makes a statement that gives me pause. I stop to think on it or meditate upon its meaning. I used to be concerned about how long it takes me to read chapters but the “gleaning” from the Word is worth the extra time.
    How astounding that you were able to retrieve so much extra hay. I recently came across some shocking statistics the other day while cleaning out my files. If you think 99.9% is good enough, then consider that 12 newborns would be given to the wrong parents each day! Or that 18,322 pieces of mail would be mishandled every hour!

    1. Absolutely Ms. Karen. Sometimes it seems I spend more time reaching for Commentaries, Dictionaries, and other reference materials than I do God’s word itself as I keep seeking more understanding. I forget that all understanding comes from the Holy Spirit, so I’m trying to learn to wait on His leading in these things.

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