Put Your Hand to the Plow


We all know what that means, right? Work hard. Accept the task. Keep going and don’t shirk your duties. Get that hand on there and don’t quit until the job’s done. Certainly, it sounds right and in line with all the other voices we hear.

But then we have what Jesus said: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”(Luke 9:62).

Wow. That’s rough. I can’t look back? I can’t see from where I’ve come? If I focus on the past, or the things behind me, I won’t be fit for the kingdom?

I am no theologian, so this might teeter on heresy, and I’m sure many Bible scholars have a better explanation than I do, but I love life lessons and this is what I’ve been thinking about.  

Every cowboy knows that when you’re on a horse, you don’t set your eyes on where the horse is taking you. He isn’t the leader, you are. He doesn’t direct the course, you do. So, rather than put your eyes on where the horse is going, you set them on where you want to go. If you want to go left, before you even touch the reins or the spurs, you look left. You fix your eyes on where you desire to be and somehow, miraculously, you communicate that simple direction through your hands, through your legs, through your seat—and the horse knows. He understands where he is supposed to go. You’ve become his eyes. And the path has purpose.

Now, I imagine it’s the same with the oxen, though I’m not a farmer. This idea of putting your hand to the plow and not looking back, I don’t think means never quit. Although that’s good too. But rather, don’t turn to concentrate on what’s behind. What you might have missed. What you might have forgotten, or even buried. You see, it isn’t necessarily bad to look back now and again. To remember. But when we look behind for any length of time, when we focus over our shoulder and away from the end goal, the oxen choose where to go. And, trust me, they’d end up back at the barn before you knew what happened.

Perhaps the farmer looks up to see the thunderclouds and worries about the storm. Or to the side to see his neighbor has outdone him once more. Or to the ground, to the soil and the minerals he lacks to grow the finest wheat. Maybe this is the idea. Maybe when his focus is askew and the row is set off course, a zig-zag missing its purpose, the field becomes unfit to plant. Not suitable for producing much fruit.

The direction has changed. He pulls off course and heads where he never intended to go.

And suddenly he’s lost his way.

The zig-zag can have many faces. Fame. Success. Regret. Doubt. Fear. All temptations to throw us off course. To tap us on the shoulder and turn our head so our potential for the kingdom heads to the barn.

Maybe putting our hands to the plow doesn’t mean we don’t quit, but that we lock our eyes front and center, with the purpose for which we were made:  “…that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

And maybe when our eyes are on Him, we leave a trail fit for the kingdom.


Everything You Need Is Here!!!

Rancho el Camino, La Paz, Mexico (www.ranchoelcamino.org) - founded in 2007, Peter and Cher Gatto

Rancho el Camino, La Paz, Mexico (www.ranchoelcamino.org) - founded in 2007, Peter and Cher Gatto

Before there was a ranch, there was nothing. Well, if you count cactus and hornet’s nests, there was something. But the potential for something beautiful, something vibrant was lacking and the resources were scarce. It was rough. Really rough. Coyote and cowhide tough. The stuff desert fathers are made of.

Our friends and family who visited the ranch in its early days forbade us from attempting life out there. From raising our kids in the middle of the desert without electricity or running water, and starting a ministry from an abandoned lot tucked out of reach. Four miles of dirt between us and the nearest convenience store.   

One day, sitting on a cracked cement step, taking in the vast emptiness that we believed God had called us to, my husband Peter prayed: Lord, I need to know this is You. I need to know You are in this, because if You’re not, I will surely die.

It sounds tongue and cheek when we say it today, but it was real. The task was daunting. We had unending limitations. And it would have killed us had we gone alone.

 The Lord answered—as clearly as if He had been sitting on the step and gazing out at that same desert and that same emptiness in that very moment. He said: Yes, Peter. It is Me. And everything you need is right here.


The palms we would cut. The wells we would tap. The friends we would make. The ministry He would build. Everything.

That was true then. And it is true right now. Somehow it is harder to remember here. I have forgotten what Everything means. When the comforts are easier, perhaps the answers become cloudy.

But the reality is, I don’t need to be on a vacant ranch to feel empty.

I can come to the end of myself all on my own. I can be surrounded by affluence, career momentum, hordes of people and still feel a vacancy. A heavy burden I can’t bear. As though surely, I will die if I have to go it alone. The amount of effort and pace and endurance just to keep my head above water has the potential to derail me.

The void is real. The emptiness, the lack of resources, the shortcoming of strength and perseverance, the power we give others to determine our worth, the barrenness of our day or purposelessness of our steps.

But wherever we might be, desert or crowd, the truth stands just as real.

God says, I have everything you need, and I am right here. Everything. All the resources I lack to be whole and complete. To stand tall and finish strong. To break the bonds and be a victor despite my brokenness. Despite my circumstances. To throw off my need for approval, acknowledgment, accolades and find rest, deep rest in Him.

“Adam was created on the sixth day. Clearly, then, he had no part in those first six days of work, for he came into being only at their end. God’s seventh day was, in fact, Adam’s first. Whereas God worked six days and then enjoyed his sabbath rest, Adam began his life with the sabbath; for God works before he rests, while man must first enter into God’s rest, and then alone can he work.” (Watchman Nee)

Man must first enter into God’s rest, and then alone can he work.

We have it backwards. Sunday begins the week, it doesn’t end it. Whatever your day is, Sunday or another, enter into the Sabbath first. This, my friend, is the key to the emptiness. To mine. And to yours. That we rest in Him FIRST. I know we’ve heard it and even believed it. Why then do we fail to receive it?

And here is the coolest part. “It was because God’s work of creation was truly complete that Adam’s life could begin with rest.” (Nee)

He did it all. It’s finished already. Whatever you are striving for, it’s been done. Whatever you might think is missing, it is not. This is His gift to us.

Breathe Him in. Breathe yourself out. And find today that you lack nothing.




The Hunt

Photo by Antonio Castelo from Pexels

Photo by Antonio Castelo from Pexels

Now, on to the hunt … because if there are lures in life—those dangling distractions that offer a superficial allure, an attractive promise of all we need (read here)—we better remember that at the end of each lure is the kill. And if our enemy is a crouching lion waiting to devour us, we better know something about the hunt.

Predator versus prey. Have you seen it? On National Geographic, at least? How does the gazelle escape the lion? And what are the sure-fire tactics of the predator to ensure his meal?

Once again, in their most simplistic form, here are a few:


1. The predator knows the prey.

He knows where to go to find them. Where they eat and hang out. Where they relax and feel safe. Where and when they let their guard down. He’s studied their behavior and can predict their movements. What becomes a habit for the prey, an ordinary pathway given little heed, a rut in the mind or in the attitude, is a calculated and observable pattern by the enemy. What’s your tendency? Where does your mind easily regress? Do you avoid? Shut down? Do you become critical of others? Angry? Do you busy yourself to escape? Be wary. Know your hazards. Because the enemy knows them too.


2. Go for the vulnerable.

Attack the one who hasn’t yet developed his combat skills. He’s exposed, without defense. Trusting his own instincts. His own resources. He doesn’t know the signs of danger or the mark of approaching peril. He can be the newest member or the oldest. Because even the one who’s been in it so long can forget why he’s in the game. He can become comfortable in his complacency. His lethargy. His skills have dulled. His senses have blurred. He is no longer keen and sharp to the hazards before and behind him. Although he’s been around and thinks he has it all together, he’s as susceptible as the newly born.


3. Get him alone.

The lion knows there is safety in numbers. He knows the strength of community. The power in the multitude. When the group is watching, when it knows the weaker points in its members, each one is guarded with dedication and passion. The others surround the struggling one until the danger clears. Until he’s up on his feet and ready to move with grace and speed. But circumvent that community. Isolate the one. Keep him from the power of the herd, and he’s easy prey.


4. Remain in hiding until the right moment.

The predator avoids giving away his position too soon. He crouches, drawing nearer, evading the obvious until the last second. It’s a slip. A slide in. A blending in the activity. He never races in with screaming colors to send the targets fleeing. He creeps ever closer in the tall grass.

Have you ever watched a white-tailed deer grazing in an open field? You might think she swats at annoying insects with her tail, but the flicks are actually a warning signal. A white flag. She does it randomly because she’s not sure, but the message to the predator is clear: “I already see you, even though you’re at a distance. Your sneaky tactics have been found out. And I will outrun you if you go for the chase.” And the law in nature is “Don’t expend unnecessary energy.” In other words, if the chase is a wash, if it will fail in its goal, why bother? Go back to crouching and waiting until the prey is once more oblivious of the danger.

Why bother? There is no use to attack now. That's what we want to hear. That the enemy has given up the pursuit because the one he had been stalking has figured him out. He has been on guard and is surrounded by too great a fellowship.

Do we know our own vulnerabilities? Our tendencies that draw us into complacency? Oblivion? When the predator moves in, do we know it? Are we isolated? Tired? Have we lost our focus or direction? Have we decided to go it alone?

Or, are we as calculated in watching the predator as he is in watching us? Can we sense the prowl, the slide in, the blending, before the moment of launch?

Know these things. Know who you are and where you belong. Understand the tools and power you’ve been given. And know the strength and purpose of those in your life.

Because without it, the odds are for the predator.


The Al-lure


I spent several afternoons on vacation watching the fishermen on a pier in Naples, Florida. I’m not into fishing, or boxing, yet both seem to take up space in my novels. Besides the wisdom from a questionable man who boasted of wrestling a 30-foot shark up the side of the 40-foot pier, here’s what I have learned about lures.

*Novice warning: This is NOT a fishing lesson, as I know absolutely nothing about fishing. However, after being on this journey for half a century, I know a little bit about lures

Here is my simplified version:

1. Lures are shiny. They are attractive and get our attention. The lighting enhances their features, and their dance beckons the onlooker. Some flit and flop and become loud in our heads. Others wait patiently, quietly, remaining an unobtrusive, ever-present appeal, anticipating the very moment our defenses are down.  

2. Lures are chosen with great care to catch just the right fish. One lure might draw you in. A different one me. You might need a minnow. I may need a worm. The avid fisherman knows exactly which one. And the careful choice will incorporate just the right shape and size and color to be the most effective in the right moment.

3. Re-casting again and again allows the lure to be placed both in front and behind the eye of the beholder. Forward and back, glamorizing what’s ahead and also what’s behind. How we relish in and dream of the “what could be’s,” the possibilities and prospects of the unknown, while we repaint and redecorate the “what has been” until it gleams brighter than ever and calls us back to the ghosts of our past. Ah, those were the days. If only …

4. Lures masquerade as something we truly need. In fact, we question whether we can live without them. Believe me, that fish does NOT need a mouthful of plastic gunk with a hidden death hook. Yet, he goes for it, time and time again. Why? Because it LOOKS like just what he needs. It mimics the true thing. The real nourishment that will satisfy all of his hunger.

5. And lastly, lures in life are crafted and used by the wrong hands. So, never would you see the Fish Hatchery Executive Manager—the one sworn to fish birth and growth and all good things fishy—never would you see him at the end of the pier trying to snatch his little ones. No, you see the fisherman, whose desire is to catch, kill, and eat. That’s his job. That’s his determination. How many fish do you know that have been caught at the end of a line to find the reality of all their dreams come true? And yet, so often we trust it. We believe the lie. Biting “hook, line, and sinker” (pun intended) into the lure that will lead to death.

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

Now, possibly not in fishing, but certainly in life, the Master Fisherman—the True Fisher of Men—needs no lures or hooks. His gentle voice and scarred hands are enough. No lies or empty promises. In fact, if you see them, you can be sure He is not holding the pole.

He is the real thing. Not the fabrication. Only He can truly meet the craving in our hearts and the longing in our soul.

I pray today you find Jesus, the Master Fisherman, to be everything you need.


Tell me what you think. I'd love to hear your comments:

What If ...


My neighbor died last week. He was an older gentleman who lived across the street. I didn’t know him, so his death, in and of itself, left little impact. I’m sorry for your loss. That’s sad. Must have been his time—kind of impact.

But I’ll never forget it.

The day he died, he had been mowing his front lawn with a push mower. I suppose the strain was too much for his heart and it had quit. The mower’s track—the diagonal stripes, perfectly spaced and perfectly even, stopped half way through the yard. One side neat and trimmed. The other unfinished.


The gentleman had started the yard that morning assuming he would finish it. Get the house ready for his grandson’s graduation party. Do some mowing then run to the store for the lemonade and bag of ice. Maybe get some time later to read the New York Times chucked at the end of the drive.

But time ran out. His name in the Book of Life had been on that page.

In the Bible, James says: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:13-14).

Oh, the best laid plans in the face of time.

It’s natural to plan. We all do it. It is not a bad thing to order our days. Think ahead. Set goals and move toward them. But here is where the danger lies. Where it deceives and distorts. Where it robs us of the very minutes and seconds we have been given …

When we are apt to live our lives in the “plan” and miss today.

This is my admonishment for myself. I am a dreamer. I live, not in the moment, but in the potential. The what could be. I see myself there, somewhere in a hazy future that may never come to pass. The when’s take over … When I get there, when I have this, when I …

Harry Potter’s Dumbledore said it this way: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Because the when’s and what if's of the future propose only air. Nothing I can truly grab onto.

But today??? Today offers the sustenance of life.

What does your day look like? Is it filled with work due tomorrow? Worry for next week? Next month? Next year?

Those thoughts and plans and ideas may be important, but don’t live there. Don’t sacrifice what is right in front of you-- A sweet time with your Creator. An hour with your child, just the two of you. A walk with a loved one. A hand to someone in need. A kind word to a hurting soul--for the vapor of a what if.

You see, tomorrow will wait. It has to. But today will not. Grab onto those cherished moments that will carry on after the mist fades.

For two days, the grass tracks from my neighbor's mower remained, until someone finished the job.

Someone else.

But the tracks left an indelible imprint on my mind—a forever reminder that I have only today to make a difference.

My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass (Psalm 110: 11).