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Video: Reaping long, sowing strong

advance priorities the ladder video May 30, 2017

Farmers know all about reaping and sowing. They know that you always eventually reap WHAT you sow (i.e., if you plant corn, you'll reap corn), they know you reap WHERE you sow (in the same field), and they know you reap AFTER you sow... 

Oh, and you always reap MORE than you sow. A few seeds can turn into massive plants which bear hundreds of seeds, each one of those holding the possibility in itself for an ongoing, endless supply of more seeds and more plants…

Life is the same way. 

If we plant generosity and kindness... that's what we'll reap... 

If we plant diligence, we reap the rewards...

The Bible tells us that whatever we put our hand to actually grows (Deuteronomy 15:10, 28:8). Anything. Everything. Whatever you do multiplies


And it all happens where you sow it!

It’s important to note, too, that we always reap WHERE we sow. In the same way that won’t reap an apple orchard in this field if I plant squash seeds here but plant the apple seeds down the street, so also do we reap in life what we see in the same location that we sow it. 

* That’s why we can excel in work (for a while) but crash out at home. Quite simply, we’re sowing time + effort + our best energy at work (and reaping the rewards) yet sowing impatience + half-heartedness + left overs at home. So, we reap the results of that sowing, too.

* It’s why you can have great relationships with your friends- and a terrible one with your spouse. You get the results WHERE you put the effort. 

* The “dumb jock” is another classic example. Time + effort in the gym = amazing results. No time & no effort in the books… and, well.. that merits another type of reaping. (Of course, let’s be clear, we all know plenty of superb athletes who are uber-smart, right?). 

I know what you might be thinking. I’ve thought this, too. I’ve sown great seed in some fields and then reaped a bunch of weeds.  The truth is that, yes, every field has its share of weeds, right?


Lessons from our yard

I’ve been teaching my boys how to manage our yard...

(A few years ago I actually started hiring someone to do the work for me, so that I can could spend my time doing other things I’d read somewhere that if you get paid MORE per hour than what it costs to do certain tasks, you should just hire them out… you’re time is worth more than that task. So, even though I enjoyed the yard work… I subbed it out. Problem is, well… you can’t hire out teaching your boys things like diligence and craftsmanship and work ethic and prioritizing household chores and managing their life. You have to be in the trenches. So, this year, I had a chat with my wife and told her I was jumping back in… now, every week, the boys and I do the yard, I pay them what I would have paid someone else, and I teach them about managing that money, too. It may not be a perfect system, but it’s what works for us in this season, and we’re all enjoying it.)

Rant over- back to the boys… 

One of them noticed that every single week we pull weeds from the same flower bed. And we cut out random vines that snake through the same shrubs. And we snip tiny branches from the same trees- in effect, pruning them a little bit more just about every time we work our way through the yard. 

Get it- we’ve been sowing and sowing and sowing AND, even still, we’re dealing with weeds. 

Well, you know as well as I do that even the best fields have a few weeds in them. And even the worst fields can have a bit of fruit. Jesus even told a parable about this (Matthew 13:30). Everyone knows not to grade the entire field based on a few random weeds. 

There are ALWAYS a few stragglers that find their way in. That’s where that phrase, “The grass is always greener on the other side” came from. We see the few problems in our own area, then we see how great something else is from a distance. We don’t see the “weeds” there, because we don’t get a close enough look. 

The thrust of life is that if we continue sowing WE WILL get results. We will reap. Paul even tells us NOT to grow weary in doing good, because we WILL see a harvest (Galatians 6:9). Yes, a few weeds, but lots of great fruit, too.


Reaping, sowing, and "to do" lists

Leads me to the point of this post: “To do” lists can be a problem- especially if you’re really trying to sow into something. (Really, we only sow into important things, right? Or, at least, things we think are important.)

Don’t get be wrong- I like lists. Well, to be completely transparent, I like to check things off my lists. Maybe that’s why I still use a pen and paper for certain things. Deleting something on a digital list doesn’t merit the same emotional gratification as scratching a line through a task or placing a big check in a box you created… 

But, again, lists can be a problem. Actually, they can create many problems. The dangers of the list are multifaceted for me. 

If we're not careful, the "to do" list can move us to the left side of the graphic above, when we really want to be on the right side. Here are three reasons why this happens, as well as why it matters that you pay attention to it: 

First, the list can create obligations out of opportunities. Somehow, if I see something on my to do list, I assume that it HAS to be done. There’s no way around. Whereas the action was just an opportunity before (something that I COULD do), once it’s written down it shifts to an obligation (something I SHOULD do). It almost feels like a moral imperative to get it done and scratch it off the list. 

Second, the list doesn’t necessarily rank or value the items on the list. It, most often, simply reflects the order in which we remembered the items to place on the list.  

We most often make lists because so many things are popping in our head that we can’t remember them all. Think about the most classic “to do” list of all, the grocery store run. 

As we prep to leave the house, we think, “I need milk. And eggs. And cereal. And bananas. And…”

Things come at us so quickly that we MUST write them down lest we get to the store, forget what we really needed to begin with, and find ourself mentally tapped out. 

The order in which that grocery list was written works like classically like this: we simply jot things down in the order we thought of them.

As such, the "to do" list contains: 

* No priority

* No rank

* No relevance as to whether this item pushes our greater agenda down the field in any way whatsoever 

Many times, I wake up and move through my exercise routine (the first think I generally do each morning). Because I reviewed my calendar the evening before, I know what meetings or other tasks I have scheduled. It’s easy, though, when it’s quiet, to start thinking about everything else I could possibly do that day.

* Phone calls to make

* Emails to send

* Errands to run

* Chores around the home

I don't like sitting still. I can easily fall into the trap of being "busy" rather than being productive. 

Those items that shift their way into my list are generally URGENT, and beg for my attention. They may not be important, though (i.e., How important, really, is it that I take the clothes we cleaned out from the closet to the thrift store? Does it make a difference if I do that today? Or can it wait until the weekend?). 

(By the way, I talked about the difference between urgent things and important things in this post here:

Third, finally, the fact that something requires time to do it- and that it can be written down on a list- doesn’t actually make important

The most important things don’t beg for my attention. So they rarely make it to the “to do” list. Think about it…

* Have you ever put “date night” with your wife on the to do list?

* What about tucking the kids in for bed?

* Prayer / meditation / self-improvement? That ever made a "to do" list

* Exercise? Going to bed on time so that you can get the proper rest + your body can rejuvenate?

No, these things don’t make the list. In fact, we kinda grimace when we think about putting our wives on piece of paper, right? Something doesn’t quite seem right about it. Date night is certainly more sacred than taking that package to the post office or making that run to Office Max. 

But why not put the most important things on a list? A better list? A list of things where we’re doing the deep work of life?

I have to intentionally schedule those things first- before looking at a “to do” list. And I have to valuate my to do list to make sure the items on that list actually need to be done (i.e., are they REALLY an obligation, or is this just an opportunity I thought up because my brain cells were firing so quickly?). And, if an item on the list is an obligation, I also have to valuate WHEN those items need to be done… 

Remember, you’re going to reap the results of WHAT and WHERE you sow. As such, we want to make sure we’re sowing into our  priorities (read: obligations that we’ve chosen, the most important things- not into the urgency of the moment, opportunities). 




Sowing always happens first 

Finally, remember this. You always reap AFTER you sow. There’s an element of time involved. And persistence. And patience. And cultivating the great stuff of life even when you don’t see evidence that there’s any fruit

In a real way, doing the deepest work of life is a lot like dropping a seed in the ground. You think it will grow. You have empirical and anecdotal evidence that suggests it will blossom. You know people who’ve gotten results…

But, at the same time, you really have to trust the process. 

Both time and effort are important. It’s not simply a matter of the time you spend working on your dream, but what you actually DO during that time. The two, your time and your efforts, go hand in hand.

In the same way that a farmer would never simply drop a seed in the dirt and then simply expect a harvest 60-90 days later (with no watering, no weeding, not watching, no wondering!), we can’t expect to simply “do something once” and expect a rich bounty. 

Yes, the book of Amos speak of a time when the reaper will overtake the sower- the harvest will come that quick (Amos 9:13). Sometimes, that supernatural acceleration happens. Things move faster than we expect. Most often, though, we live in ordinary time. 

A few years ago I watched a late night infomercial for Ronco. The guy was selling some sort of instant oven contraption- long before the Instapot got popular. His mantra, the moniker he repeated over and over throughout the show was this: “Set it and forget it.”

There’s no setting and forgetting with life. Not with the great stuff, anyway.

There’s no instant harvest. You can’t microwave or Instapot a dream. Nor can you simply “set it and forget it.” It takes time. And it takes diligence during the time. 

A lot of time… with no cultivation… results in, well, no results. 

A little time… with the right cultivation… results in, well, no results, either. There’s a certain timing to any harvest. There’s a certain rhythm to creation in which some things just take the time they take.



Back to the beginning 

A long ramble there, I know. Let’s circle back and tie it together. Put a bow on it.

The subtle, subtle danger of “to do” lists is this: they reflect urgency instant of importance. Don’t let the tyranny of the “now” push out the most important things. Stick with them, even when they’re in the time of cultivation… knowing that, at some point, the harvest is coming :-)

Again, there’s no instant harvest. You can’t microwave or Instapot a dream. Nor can you simply “set it and forget it.” It takes time. And it takes diligence during the time. But, you've been promised that you will reap (Galatians 6:9).



Related info

You might also like the following the "No for now, not for later" concept


And, you might like The Ladder, the full workshop where we teach all of this info.  Go to 


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