Tractors and Horses

Grandpa Vander Lugt emanated grace and compassion. He loved God, his wife, his children, working the land, fishing, and playing with his grandkids. One of my fondest memories of Grandpa Vander Lugt was riding on the fender of his Minneapolis Moline tractor. My brother would ride on the left fender and I would ride on the right. Grandpa Vander Lugt would drive us out into the pasture to check on the fence line or pick up rocks. I would hang on to the handle of the fender and let the enormous tread of the tractor tires knock my feet into the air. In hindsight…this was EXTREMELY dangerous. Who needs car seats when you can put your four-year-old grandkids on the fender of a tractor and let its gigantic wheels systematically knock against the soles of their tennis shoes?

Grandpa Vander Lugt also loved Case International Harvester Tractors. He loved them so much, that he wanted to share his passion with his grandson. Every Christmas, Grandpa Vander Lugt would buy me a die cast collectable, Case International Harvester tractor or farm equipment. I had tractors, hay elevators, manure spreaders, and gravity wagons. To this day, every time I look upon my die cast collectable, Case International Harvester tractor, I think about Grandpa Vander Lugt and remember the wonderful times we shared, the grace and love he exuded, and the fun we had together on his farm and on that super dangerous tractor.

Grandpa Van Hill served and loved everyone around him with strength, humility, and more skills than anyone I’ve ever known. I’m not talking about Napoleon Dynamite skills like numchuku skills, bow hunting skills, or computer hacking skills. Grandpa Van Hill could take a rake and a bicycle tire, and with a little crafty welding and muscle grease, turn them into a surface-to-air missile. Grandpa Van Hill had the most amazing sense of humor; he was always cracking jokes and telling hilarious stories. One of my fondest memories of Grandpa Van Hill is sitting in his living room while the ninth episode of Hee Haw played on the console television set. We would entertain ourselves (because Hee Haw wasn’t accomplishing its task) with pick-up sticks and giving Grandpa a foot massage for a quarter. Which doesn’t seem like much, but for an eight-year old in the early 80s, a quarter is a fortune.

Grandpa Van Hill loved to collect models and statues of horses and raise donkeys. There was something about jackasses that Grandpa Van Hill treasured. Perhaps they reminded him of raising his three boys—Grandpa raised his boys right and they grew to be strong, stubborn, persistent, and faithful—very similar to a jackass. He loved horses so much, that he wanted to share his passion with his grandson. Every Christmas, Grandpa Van Hill would buy me a model horse. I had Palominos, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Appaloosas. To this day, every time I look upon my Breyer Arabian Horse, I think about Grandpa Van Hill and remember the wonderful times we shared, his humor, his inventions, and the fun we had together playing games, massaging his feet, and riding in a cart behind his donkey Jake.


After crossing the Jordan River, God told Joshua to choose twelve men, one from each tribe of Israel. Each man was to choose a stone from the middle of the Jordan and stack them up along the riverbank. This stack of stones was to serve as a sign, so future generations could remember that God cut off the Jordan so the people could cross from the desert into the Promised Land. The stones were a memorial to an amazing God who delivers them, protects them, and provides for them (Joshua 4).

Some people of faith forbid the use of any icon or symbol. Some Christians get bent out of shape over this issue. They believe that wearing a cross, building a church with stained glass windows, hanging a banner in your church’s sanctuary, and so on to remember Jesus or meditate on God’s deliverance, love, and grace is a violation of the second commandment—making an idol. I disagree. Here, upon first arriving on the banks of the Jordan and in the Promised Land, God commands Joshua to create a monument that will serve as a permanent reminder to God’s salvific actions and God’s providence. In the same way my die cast collectable, Case International Harvester tractor reminds me of Grandpa Vander Lugt and my Breyer Arabian Horse reminds me of Grandpa Van Hill, a cross can remind us of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for us or a loaf of bread and cup of wine can remind us of God’s covenant sealed in Jesus’ blood on the cross. It would be spiritually enriching if our homes were riddled with symbols, icons, statues, bread, wine, rocks, tractors, and horses to remind us of God’s love, God’s providence, God’s protection, God’s sacrifice, God’s deliverance, God’s salvation, and God’s promises. God wants us to remember—and having a rock, some wine, a tractor, or a horse to help us do that isn’t a big deal at all. In fact, it should be encouraged.

The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: “This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.” What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.

—1 Corinthians 11:24–26, The Message


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