Course Correction Required

Straight Rows Produce More

Every now and then, it is good to check to see if we need a course correction in our walk with God. If we aren’t careful, we can start to veer away from the straight and narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14). We might take a short excursion into the world to fulfill a longing, or to “have a little excitement in our lives.” Unfortunately, we enter into enemy territory whenever we compromise our convictions or become spiritual lazy. Our apathy and moral lapses can lead us farther and farther away from a walk of faith that pleases God. When that happens, we need to adjust our focus and correct our course.

A Lesson in Steering a Straight Course
This photo illustrates how straight the crop rows in a field need to be.  The image demonstrates how important it is to stay on course.
Straight crop rows in a location that looks like Idaho, USA

I learned the value of keeping on course from my dad when I was still in elementary school. One day, I rode on the tractor with him in the field where he was planting potatoes. As proceed through the field, Daddy told me to look at how straight his rows were. Then he asked if I could guess how he kept going in such a straight line. Of course, I couldn’t guess, so he told me. Daddy pointed to a cluster of trees about half a mile away. He explained that he made the first row straight by keeping his eyes on those trees. After that, he just lined up the wheels of the tractor next to the previous row to make each furrow parallel with the last one.

His straight rows insured that irrigation water would get to all the potato plants. My dad expected to reap a good harvest because he kept his eyes on the trees in the distance while he planted the first row. (See more on the lessons I learned in potato fields in my blog “My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter”)

It’s Easy to Stray off Course

Life is a lot like planting potatoes. Every day, we make decisions that result in either staying on course or planting crooked rows. Will we compromise our standards in order to fit in with friends? Are we tempted to stretch the truth to impress someone? Or, does living a “good Christian life” seem too demanding? It is hard to do all the right things all the time—in fact, it’s impossible.

The writers of the psalms understood the difficulty of staying on course. They often cried out for help because they were in trouble. In some cases, the psalmist’s family was giving him fits. Or, he may have veered off the path by sinning. An enemy attack may have distracted him. King David describes a dangerous distraction in Psalm 124. He writes, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, they would have swallowed us up alive” (verses 2-3). In the next two verses, he describes his troubles as raging flood waters that threaten to overwhelm him. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there right next to David.

How to Make a Course Correction

We can wander off course because of our own actions or when we’re under attack by enemies. From experience we know how easy we can start wandering away from the straight and narrow. We fail in our self-improvement plans and break our resolutions almost as quickly as we make them. At that point, we have to change our focus. We have to steer toward God, the only reliable point of reference. 

David Shows us How 

In Scripture, King David provides a good example of course correction. Whenever he found himself veering away from his faith, he would cry out to God. Then, he began to focus on God. That brought him back into alignment and made it possible for him return to his walk of obedience to God. We see one of his course corrections in Psalm 124.  In this passage, David vividly described his fear during an attack by angry enemies. He felt they would drown him and swallow him. 

But David didn’t give up. We can see his course correction beginning in verse 6. He takes his focus off the enemies and puts them on God.  He begins to praise God for enabling him to escape from the trap his enemies had laid for him. And in verse eight, he declares, “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. “

We can Sow Straight Rows

When we feel like our life is off course, we need to focus on God like David did. If we keep our eyes focused on the him, we will walk right down the middle of the straight and narrow way. God promises to guide us when we cry out to him. He guards us against temptations that could draw us away from our faith. And, he empowers us to obey him when we are tempted to stray. He even rescues us when we fail and then gives us the opportunity to repent and get back on course again.  

Because of our sin nature, it’s easy to get off course. Any moment can bring about a dangerous distraction. But we can always make a course correction. By putting our focus back on God. As we continue to practice getting back on track, we will begin to sow straight rows that will result in a bountiful harvest of spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).


7 Things That Cause Us to Drift Spiritually:

Course corrections are vital in space travel:

My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter

This image illustrates the feelings, joy, and my life as a farmer’s daughter. This is a photo of a young girl running across a field towards some nearby barns. Her long hair is blowing in the wind.
Young Farm Girl

I spent most of my childhood on an 80-acre farm in southern Idaho in the 1950s. My life as a farmer’s daughter featured both good and bad times. While my parents allowed my sisters and me to explore, we also had to weed the garden. I rejoiced in new life as I held baby chicks in my hand. But I also experienced sorrow when my dad was unable to resuscitate a stillborn calf. This mixture of adversity and joy provided me with a strong foundation for life. I now realize that my childhood on the farm allowed to explore and enjoy my world. But it also provided opportunities to experience the satisfaction of hard work. And because my childhood included both joy and adversity, it gave me a solid foundation for life.

The Freedom and Fun of My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter

On summer days, my sisters and I (My brother wasn’t born yet.) roamed freely over more than an acre of land which included a huge lawn by our house, an orchard, and the barnyard. We climbed trees, swam in irrigation ditches, and played hide and seek. The orchard featured a thicket of Potawatomi plum trees, which grow more like vines than trees. Their intertwined branches formed rooms and caves. It took only a little imagination to turn them into mansions, robber hideouts, and hospitals for sick and wounded dolls. Any cavity could change identity at a whim and let us exercise our imaginations to the max.  

As the oldest child, I was given a fair amount of responsibility early on. My next younger sister and I entertained and kept my other three sisters safe—usually. Once we got into pretty big trouble because we were using broken glass jars as bowls to mix mud pies in. They were good pies, too, since we had stolen the eggs from a few robins’ nests. What a surprise that my mom took exception to our younger sisters playing with broken glass!

Learning the Value of Hard Work

On a farm, everyone has to contribute, especially in a large family. Each of us started doing chores almost as soon as we could walk. Mom taught me to wash dishes using a bucket sitting on a tree stump in the yard. Even with a stool, I couldn’t have reached into the sink. As we grew, we took on all manner of jobs to contribute to keep things running smoothly. The most odious of all was cleaning the chicken coop in the winter. It was smelly, dusty, gross work. We loved the eggs but despised those chickens for pooping so much. Actually, that chore was more a curse than a blessing I experienced in my life as a farmer’s daughter.

Picking Potatoes

Southern Idaho is potato country. Every October school would let out, and most of the students would spend two weeks helping in the potato harvest. The farmer would drive a tractor with a digger attached along the rows of potatoes. The front of the digger plowed underneath the potatoes and directed them onto a conveyor belt made of interlocked iron rods. This shook off the dirt and carried the potatoes out the back end where they dropped on top of the row. Working as a team, my sister and I would pick up the potatoes and put them into two baskets about the size of a five-gallon bucket. Then, we would dump the fifteen to twenty pounds of potatoes from the baskets into a burlap bag. We placed the filled bag alongside the row where it would be gathered onto a truck and taken to a cellar. (Here’s a video  of how potatoes were harvested in the 1950s and another video showing how potatoes are harvested today.)

When we first started this job, I was about ten and my sister would have been eight years old. Together we earned seven cents per bag. If we didn’t play too much, we could pick about one hundred bags in a day, earning $3.50 each. It seemed like a fortune to us! As teenagers, we were able to pick two hundred bags in a day. Twelve days at $7.00 a day netted me eighty-four dollars for two weeks’ work. I had to buy some clothes with my earnings. But I also bought a yearbook from seventh grade on and my senior class ring. 

The Blessings of My Life as a Farmer’s Daughter

Potato picking was hard, dirty work, and very cold if it happened to snow. In order to make our two hundred bag goal, my sister and I had to keep our heads down and our hands busy all day long. I loved stopping to stretch my aching back at the end of each long row. I would count the bags and consider what kind of fabric to buy for a new dress.  And, it was so gratifying to line up with all the other harvest workers at the end of the week. As my dad or an uncle counted out my earnings, I knew for sure that I had accomplished something significant. I had gotten dirty and lifted baskets nearly half my weight, but the wages made it totally worthwhile.

I’ve had numerous jobs since my potato picking days, all of them involving hard work and a paycheck. When I taught junior high, I hoped I was helping some of my students appreciate the value of hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done. But as I look back, even that was not as gratifying as my annual school vacations spent in the potato field. I could easily see the results of my work in rows of well-filled bags of potatoes. It was much harder to recognize any influences I might have had on an unmotivated student in seventh grade English class.

The Farm Helped Prepare me for Life

I’m glad I grew up on a farm. The freedom to roam, the outlets for my imagination, and the opportunity to learn the value of hard work prepared me for life. I contributed to our family and learned to work for what I need and want. My parents cared for me and often sacrificed to give me more than they could really afford. In those ways, they modeled the kindness and grace of God. They taught me that he made the potatoes grow and multiply into bags of blessing that helped feed our family through the winter. God provided my sisters and me with many hours of joy in the playground formed in the thicket of Potawatomi plum trees. Both the joys and the hardships of farm life proved to be blessings. I praise God for all the valuable lessons I learned in my life as a farmer’s daughter. 

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