Thistles and the Value of Work

Semester Josef LovinThe thistle cotton flew high above the ground; it was a hot and sweaty Colorado afternoon. Below, you could find twenty odd workers pulling every thistle plant in sight, remembering Nathan’s (the Property Manager at Snow Wolf Lodge) words on the fall of man, work, and how valuable each and every job is in the Kingdom of Heaven. Before each work crew commences, Nathan gives a ~20 minute mini-sermon on the nature of work. Every time it’s edifying and useful, especially because we implement it within the hour.

“Does anybody find it strange that you’re paying to come to this semester, and they’re having you work?” Nathan asked us all.

Silent room.



I’m not saying that the question isn’t a good one to think about, but I have been incredibly impressed by my fellow classmates and their work ethic. It might be true that every now and then we get too caught up in conversation rather than work, it might be true that we get side tracked by catching field mice, and it might be true that we accidentally scare them to death! Sure, we may have had a little mousey-funeral, but all-in-all I think the lack of answer is consistent with the character that the group has; to understand that work is good for the soul!

My, my, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Let’s talk about work crews. What are they? I’m glad you asked, because I was going to explain that anyway. We engage in work crews every Tuesday and Friday; it is a time where every student is assigned to a job, in which they can serve staff, each other, and the Lord. There is a wide variety to the work, too! Tasks can range from babysitting to thistle-pulling, digging ditches to cleaning the Snow Wolf Lodge property, chopping wood to cooking dinner. I, so far, have had the opportunity to experience pulling thistles, cleaning, and digging ditches. I hope to get to them all before my time here is over.

Each one has its trials; thistles are painful! They deter and defy your pulling, as if they have some dying desire to live. It’s a reminder of the fall, and how thistles come forth as a result of our sin. Thistles are painful, but cleaning is tedious. You’d think that for someone who pays close attention to detail, I would find that part easy; I don’t. Digging ditches is tough; taxing, and, as you can imagine, laborious burrowing is involved. It usually leaves you with sore arms the following day, if not immediately.

While all of these challenges are present, it’s been good—even necessary—to have Nathan there directing us and giving us relevant wisdom to carry out our task. The negative connotation that work has accumulated for itself is a mindset. So what if it hurts? So what if it makes your precious body sore? So what if it takes energy to make sure everything is clean? James 1 states that we can have a lasting joy no matter our circumstances, so we do! Better yet, we begin to see glimpses of what work was meant to be before the fall: a conduit for fellowship and a proponent of productivity.

Even though I’m used to manual and menial labor, these past few weeks have developed my work ethic. It’s valuable, and applicable to every kind of job, it’s something we can always grow in.

Nathan discusses openly about his initial attitude in becoming a maintenance man, “It was difficult for me, I was saying to myself ‘Why am I doing this? I have school behind me that prepares me for pastoral positions, why am I getting a job as a campground maintenance man?” The interesting dynamic that has ensued because of this is that we, the students, the Church, learn about the necessity of every job and the function of work from the horse’s mouth. Perhaps the pastoral position Nathan seeks has been found, and has been given to a man who was willing to lose his life to gain it. We can learn indeed.

Josef Lovin just finished serving for the past month and a half in Manitou Springs at the Colorado Summit Student Conference. In his time there, Josef enjoyed leading small groups and connecting with students while playing musical instruments. As a passionate musician, he loves playing his guitar and harmonica with anyone who will join him. A native of Iowa, Josef is currently dual enrolled at Iowa State University and Des Moines Area Community College, where he is studying Music and Philosophy. Because of the ways that God has grown him through speakers at Summit, Josef hopes to be equipped to become a speaker on philosophy and other subjects, challenging people to grow in their ability to think well.