Friday, November 26, 2010

Antithesis in Leadership

Mankind has not changed since Adam and Ever were cast from the Garden. The things which surround mankind - technology, commerce, culture - have changed, but the heart of man remains as it has always been, prone to sin and wickedness and in need of a Savior.

That being the case, we see in Isaiah 32 that the antithesis residing in man's heart can be seen in the office of leadership. As Isaiah lays out warning and promise to an errant Israel, he also lays out for us what leadership is and what it is not.

In Chapter 32, verses 1 - 3, Isaiah gives us an example of virtuous leadership and how it behaves.

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
and princes will rule in justice.
"Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."

First and foremost virtuous leadership governs with righteousness and justice, but - especially in our own age of relativity - we must take care to define what that means, and we can derive that definition from Chapter 32 by seeing what righteousness and justice do.

"Each will be like a hiding place from the wind ... a shelter from the storm ..." A virtuous leader protects and defends those he leads. In our day, in our nation, we can see how that is outlined by the U.S. Constitution; our leaders are to defend our nation from enemies within and from enemies without, as well as from oppressive tyrannical government. In our churches, virtuous leadership is to protect the flock from false teachings and idolatry. Righteous and just leadership is ever watchful, ever alert, and ever active in the duties of defense and protection.

A virtuous leader also sees that the weak, the helpless, the truly needy are provided for and cared for. He is "like a stream of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land." Later in Chapter 32 Isaiah describes it as being "a stronghold to the poor...to the needy in his distress." (25:4) This kind of leadership is compassionate, a servant to those he leads. He feeds his flock rather than feeding off of them. By protection and provision, a virtuous leader will guide those he governs to walk in truth and wisdom which leads to righteousness and peace. (v.4,7)

Conversely, we can also see in this passage of Isaiah what leadership should not be or do. He should not substitute deception for truth (v.5) calling "evil good and good evil...darkness for light, light for darkness...bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Is. 5:20) In fact, unrighteous leadership will actively pursue injustice by seeking new ways to pervert truth and intentionally teach falsehood (Is. 32:6). And because this kind of leadership denies truth, it cannot possibly protect and defend as it should. Instead, it deprives the hungry and thirsty (v.6), devises ways to ruin the poor and needy through deception, denies justice to those he governs (v.7), using his position of power to oppress (Micah 2: 1-2) He does not serve, but instead demands to be served. This is not true leadership at all - it is tyranny.

Today, as in Isaiah's day, there is a continual tension and struggle as to what type of leadership will prevail. As Christians we often feel that the unjust and unrighteous usually win the day, but God's Word encourages us to standfast on what is good, true, and beautiful and to continue doing good works. "...he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands." (Is. 32:8) And while standing nobly may often seem like a lost cause, it is good to remember what God Himself has to say about unrighteous leadership:

"The LORD will enter into judgement with the elders and princes of his people:
"It is you who have devoured the vineyard,
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor?"
declares the Lord GOD of hosts." (Is. 3:14-15)

It's not difficult to see, therefore, that there is a clear antithesis of leadership before us today as there was in Isaiah's day. The question for us is to which kind of leadership shall we consent, and what kind of leadership shall we be?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving of a Different Sort

It has been 32 years since there were no children at our Thanksgiving table. This startling thought occurred to us a few short weeks ago (funny how things sneak up on you that way) and we began to ponder how to celebrate a Thanksgiving that was bound to be different no matter what we did. We don't live near any family, so that wasn't an option; but we do have numerous friends that we could gather with if we wanted to, but it began to dawn on us that it just might be pleasant to celebrate on our own - just the two of us. And a couple of dozen animals. Now this idea didn't derive from "Woe are we - our children are flown", but a recognition that we are truly grateful for what God has done in our own lives in these past two years. We have seen that true abundance is found in Christ, just as His Word promises.
So, we are doing farm chores, preparing a feast, preparing a Christmas box for our children in Germany, eating delights, relaxing, doing more chores, eating again, and relaxing again. We are thankful, for those things and for much, much more ....
Horses munching evening hay.
The soft clucking of chickens.
The comic lives of the Guinea Fowl.
Beautiful autumn colors.
Flower beds prepared for winter.
The strong south wind promising coming cold.A cup of fresh ground coffee and pecan pie (made by John!)
The fresh free-range turkey in the oven.
The first of the Christmas baking already in the kitchen.
The dogs out in the yard gnawing on their own treats.
For dear family.
For friends old and new.
For our grand-blessings who never fail to delight us.
For the newest grand-blessing who is soon to arrive.
For our grand-blessing who awaits us in heaven, along with our own grandparents.

For the Word of God who daily feeds us.
For the loving-kindness of our Father Who redeems all things.
For the work on the cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
For the Holy Spirit, who daily guides and leads us.

Lord, for all these things and more may we ever be thankful to Thee.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Littlest Lambs

Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him and hinder them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. I found this delightful little print of Jesus and the children, his lambs. The artist depicts the children not only as human children, but as lambs who are watched over by the Great Shepherd himself. Note that both children and lambs are looking to Jesus and resting at his feet. It's a beautiful picture.
It was natural that at the anniversary of Beau's birth and then death, the baby in this print - the littlest lamb - was being brought to Jesus who tenderly receives him. Because Jesus received the children unto himself and blessed them while He was here on earth, we can know for certain that He still receives his children in Heaven, for He never changes. What a sweet assurance to know that our Lord tenderly received his little lamb on the day of Beau's entrance into eternity, and this print offers a sweet idea of what that must have looked like. All praise to Jesus, our hope of glory!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Beau!

It's not as raw this year. The searing, ragged grief has subsided. We still sorrow for our loss, but there's the key - "our loss." Beau is growing up in the presence of the Lord Himself - knowing and being perfectly known. He knows none of earth's ills; no sickness, so sorrow, no pain, no tears. He knows perfect joy. He knows Jesus face-to-face.

I'm sure it wasn't a coincidence that my daily Bible reading was in Isaiah 25 and 26. Verses 6- 8 of Chapter 25 tell us:

"On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine will-refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken."

And in Chapter 26 verse 19:

"Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead."

Though we only had Beau with us for a very brief time, he continues to point us to Jesus. His life's purpose was quickly fulfilled and the effects of his life are eternal and many. Not only did Beau's life open up new vistas of life and of knowing the Lord for us, but his work will continue in the halls of knowledge and of searching out the Lord in all of creation, for a scholarship was named after him at New College Franklin. Who knew a tiny infant would do so much.

So today we will celebrate Beaus' life by supplying Ronald McDonald House with toiletries and by visiting Beau's grave to decorate it with fresh flowers and a little red fire truck. We will shed some tears, but we will also thank God for giving Beau to us. For though we had him with us for only a short time here on earth, we will ultimately have him for all eternity. Because of Christ's work on the cross we have redemption of our sins and the promise of life eternal. What hope! What joy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Dignity, Please?!

(Disclaimer: Having been on vacation, I only heard the recent uproar in the news about body-scanners after this was written. This came strictly from personal experience.)

As I write this, I am sitting out a 2-hour layover in Houston while making my way home from a really wonderful trip. My vacation was relaxing, refreshing and restorative in every way. When I prepared to begin my journey home, sporting a happy and thankful heart, I entered airport security only to be confronted with one of the new full-body scanners that are being installed in airports across the country. Because of the articles I'd read about the scanners exposing people to unnecessary radiation and of the digital body images being broadcast (against regulations) into cyberspace, I had already decided that if I were ever confronted with one of these imaging monstrosities, I would opt out for the pat-down instead. So today when I came face-to-face with the latest freedom-stripper, double entendre intended, I declined entry into the scanner and opted for the pat-down. I'd had one before when I was randomly selected by the all-knowing TSA gods of airport security. No big deal, right? Right .......

After choosing the pat-down instead of the scan, I was given the choice of having it given in public or in a nearby cubicle with a female officer and a 2nd female officer as witness. Thank goodness I chose the cubicle because the pat-down I got should never be done in public. It was intrusive and offensive, certainly not the brief, light-touch experience I'd been given in the past. As I stood there suffering humiliations galore, I grew more and more incensed that, in the name of national security, I was being treated like a criminal. I allowed myself only one carefully-controlled comment to my offenders to express my outrage and when it was finished, I gathered the shreds of my dignity along with my assorted laid-aside possessions and huffed out of there. The sweet glow of a great trip was rudely stripped away. "The Land of the Free..." indeed.

Our national worship of the gods of tolerance has led us to extreme points of absurdity and abuse. The National Guard has been sent to protect our border with Mexico because of the real and serious threat there, and yet they aren't even allowed to apprehend a suspected illegal alien. Our government and society allow the invasive, tenacious tenants of Islam to sink it's deadly tentacles into our American legal system and way of life, and we bend way over backwards as we seek to not offend our Muslim neighbors. If we refuse to identify the enemy, we will never be able to defend our lives, liberties, or property; and for that matter, we will be exceedingly stupid. Well ... are exceedingly stupid.

Now please don't go reading that I'm singling out Muslims. I believe that all people are to be afforded dignity and respect for we are all made in the image of God. I also believe that we should not blindly follow the dictates of socio-political prophets and pretend that things are not what common sense tells us obviously IS. The Emperor has no clothes, dear. Admit it.

Our national enemy is real and definable, and he is the radical Islamist Fascist who will not hesitate to kill anyone and everyone who does not bow the neck to Allah. The enemy is not John and Jane Doe, American Citizen. In the name of all that is good and decent STOP treating the citizen as criminal and the criminal as citizen. Let true justice and true freedom ring across our land lest we sink into the oblivion of servile desperation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Shepherd

The God of love my shepherd is,
And he that doth me feed:
While he is mine, and I am his,
What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass,
Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently pass:
In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, he doth convert
And bring my mind in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
But for his holy name.

Yea, in death's shady black abode
Well may I walk, not fear:
For thou art with me; and thy rod
To guide, thy staff to bear.

Nay, thou dost make me sit and dine,
Ev'n in my enemies' sight:
My head with oil, my cup with wine
Runs over day and night.

Surely thy sweet and wondrous love
Shall measure all my days;
And as it never shall remove,
So neither shall my praise.

The 23rd Psalm by George Herbert

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ahh-ctober!

The month of October certainly had it's challenges for us this year, and I suppose we could say it was another opportunity for character-building; but it also had lots of blessings both large and small. As a child you may have been reminded to count your blessings instead of complaining, so that's exactly what I'm doing here, and this is only a fraction of the myriad of blessings that the Father sent our way. More accurately, these are the only ones I took photos of!

In early October the World Equestrian Games were taking place at the International Horse Park in Lexington, KY, and some of the vaulting teams were here in Franklin spending time acclimating and practicing for their competitions. At the conclusion of their practice time, and just before leaving for KY, the teams held a couple of rehearsals that were open to the public, so I and a few friends went to watch. Among teams representing other countries, the U.S. Team was also performing and we thought they, of course, were the best. As it turns out they won the Vaulting competition in KY, so they really were the best! It was incredible watching what these people (kids) do on horseback! Here's one photo of the U.S. Team at work - they were the only team we saw that involved 3 vaulters. For more amazing photos, go to the album on my Facebook page.
October was also a challenge for daughters, Kristin and Kelly, and for their sons because the men-of-the-house were out doing field-exercises for the entire month. The girls managed well and kept the rest of us supplied with photos of the little men-of-the-house. Here are Gilbert and Patrick in the doorway of their new German home.
Gilbert has found a berry bush in his new backyard and ended up with very purple hands!
What better way to use packing boxes?! Here we have Mr. Patrick-in-a-box.
Meanwhile, back in the States, Omari has learned a new trick - pulling up! (Look out, World!) Can't you just see the look of accomplishment on his face?
I love this photo! Little O, the Talking Lion, is putting every ounce of strength into making the climb!
October also brought frost and it was time to get the last of the herbs in. It's a time-consuming job to harvest, wash, separate, and dry, but I just love it. The aroma of fresh herbs in the house is wonderful. My little bread rack serves as a great place to hang herbs, and even with the space the rack offers, herbs end up hanging pretty much anywhere I can find to hang them that's not in the way.
A close up of Thyme, Sage and Marjoram.
October also brought some severe weather, and after one of the storms I found this tiny nest that had blown down. A Chickadee nest perhaps? It was made with grass, pine needles, haystring, and horsehair. Next to it is a little bunch of Winter Savory.
The beautiful sunflowers with the neon green centers had dried and left the most wonderful seed-heads. I wanted to bring them into the house (and did) but when we started coughing, I discovered that they had mold on them. Oh well. They are serving duty in the bird feeder now as really cool-looking bird food. Next to them are the Osage Oranges, or Horse Apples, that fall from the Osage trees in autumn. They make great indoor decor and give off a pleasant citrus-y smell.
And, finally, one of the best things about Autumn is the crisp nights and warm days. Here we have Max and Ladybug enjoying it to the fullest. Who says a dog's life is so hard?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Doing Justice

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8

It’s that first admonition that I want to take up today – to do justice. So, how do we do justice? We have to understand what justice is before we can do it, so let’s first take a look at what justice is not. Some definitions of injustice are: inequity, partiality, wrong, injury, disservice, unbalanced, and biased. If a child saw these things being committed he would cry, “Not fair!” These behaviors go against the moral compass that God installed in our being despite our sinful nature.

Next, let’s look at Webster’s definition for justice: the quality of righteousness; impartiality; the use of authority and power to uphold what is right, just or lawful. It’s what that same child would declare as “Fair!”

Now, let’s see what Scripture has to say about justice:

“…The awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow…” (Deut. 10:17-18)

“You shall not pervert justice … Justice, and only justice, you shall follow…” Deut. 16:19-20).

“…cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)

[The fathers and prophets] who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…” (Heb. 11:32-33)

“For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints.” (Psalm 37:28)

For the Christian, justice is not an option, it is a mandate from the Lord God Himself. We are to live our lives righteously, showing no partiality, committing no wrong or injury towards others, working to correct oppression. But, not only that, we are to bring justice and reformation to all of creation, to all spheres of the duties and works of man – the arts, sciences, business, industry, agriculture, education, everything – for it is ALL under the Lordship of Christ.

Therefore, we do not disdain or dismiss the realm of public policy. In fact, we work the fallow soil of the public sphere just as we would of any other sphere. Great injustices to the widow and fatherless exist today because of unrighteous public policy; injustice in the civil courts exist today because ungodly men and women in elected positions appoint judges who corrupt the law of our land – the Constitution; injustices to marriage, the family, business, education, our freedom of worship all exist today due to the absence of sound, Biblical influence in the public realm. We the Church have only to look at ourselves to blame for the mess we find our nation in today. We cannot ignore God’s mandate for justice in the public realm without facing the consequences of an unjust and corrupt society.

O, Christian, “How can I stand up before God and show proper respect to the high God? Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves? Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin? But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple:”*

Do Justice. Love Kindness. Walk Humbly with God.

*Micah 6: 6-7, The Message

Monday, October 25, 2010

God's Transcendent Economy

These are interesting days that we are living in. From an economic perspective, the situation is anywhere from transitional to dire to apocalyptic depending on who you listen to. Whether a politician or pundit is actively fear-mongering or not, there are plenty of things going on that would incite some amount of fear in just about anyone.

I'm reading through the book of Isaiah right now. In the first half of the book God is confronting His people about their sin and then telling them the consequences of that sin. It's not pretty! It's also striking how much their collective, national sin looks like our own:

Leaders decreed iniquitous decrees, and
wrote oppression. (10.1)
They forsook the Lord, and
dealt corruptly. (1:4)
They claimed godliness, but denied its power. (1:11-14)
Righteousness gave way to murder. (1:21)
Their leaders were rebels, friends of thieves,
givers of bribes. (1:23)
They pursued other gods and were idolatrous. (2:6-8)
Culture broke down. (3:4-5)
No one took responsibility. (3:6-7)
The widow and orphan were denied justice. (1:23)

And the list goes on as God declares His covenant lawsuit against Israel. But, amazingly, in the midst of all that awful declaration of sin and judgement, the grace of God shines through, for we also see passages with some of our dearest promises:

"... though your sins are scarlet, they shall be white as snow..." (9:18)
"... they shall beat their swords into plowshares..." (2:4)
"... the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (7:14)
"... the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light ... For to us a child is born..." (9:2-7)

Well, that may be an interesting little study, but what in the world does it have to do with the economics of our time? A lot, actually. We live in a day not unlike Israel - things aren't looking so good and it's a scary time to live in. But, right in the middle of all that God shows up and gives hope and sustenance to His people.

In Isaiah 7: 20-25, right smack dab in the middle of a declaration of how bad it's going to be, we have a seemingly out-of-place passage:

"In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep, and because of the abundance of milk that they give, he will eat curds, for everyone who is left in the land will eat curds and honey."

Whatever the outcome of next week's election, whatever the path our government and economy takes, God has given hope and promise to His people. It doesn't mean Easy Street, but it does mean that we are His beloved children and He will make a way for us, He will provide for all our needs - right in the middle of it all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Well Ran Dry (And Our Cup Ran Over)

No, I'm not trying my hand at becoming a country music song-writer although the title of this posting might imply it. And goodness knows, we have song-writers everywhere you turn out here in our part of the country! There's no need for me to add to the bunch. One thing about country music, though, it talks pretty much about real life, and our own personal real-life could've been in a country song last week.

Next month will be the 2-year anniversary of Beau's birth and death, 18 months since John lost his job, all followed by just a whole string of profound events - lots of them disappointing. It's been a long haul lately. Then last week our well went dry.

No water, no income to speak of .... we felt like we'd been sucker-punched again. "God, don't you remember us down here? We're having a tough time - we need a break." So, we had ourselves a pity-party and figuratively cried in our beer. This is a country-music song, remember. Well, all this happened on a Friday night and the well-drilling guys who'd diagnosed the problem couldn't get back to us until Tuesday, so .... what to do? Horses drink a lot of water, we had our own dogs plus boarders, and of course, ourselves to consider. It just seemed overwhelming. Not to mention that we were told that most likely we were looking at a few thousand dollars of work. It might as well have been millions.

I put out an SOS for the horses's water and heard back from various folks, and as word leaked out amongst our friends, offers for places to stay started coming in. Art and Andrea said we could come get water from their farm, but before we could load up on Saturday morning to go get water, here they came with a flatbed trailer loaded with a 100-gal. trough and every plastic trunk they had filled with water! Our two empty 100-gallon troughs were both filled up! As we breathed a sigh of thankful relief, more offers of aid continued to come in - friends to stay with, farms to take the horses to if we needed - we were overwhelmed again, but this time with thankfulness.

So, during the course of spending the nights with friends, reassurances of care and concern came from every corner, joining us in prayer for the situation. We were seeing that God DID care, He DID see, HE DID know, and He cared for us, loved us, and provided for us through our friends. And not only did He provide for our needs, He put the cherry on top! A dear friend made it possible for me to have several pieces of clothing that I had admired. Someone anonymously had left a gift certificate for me to use at the hair-dresser. These were things that I surely didn't need, they weren't critical for our livelihood - and yet God in His unexplainable kindness said, "Here, I'd like you to have this today."

Oh, we have learned such a lesson through that dry well! Psalm 107:35 says, "He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water." In our need He showed us plenty. In our scarcity He showed us abundance. In our poverty He showed us wealth, and we were overwhelmed with His goodness. But, that wasn't all!

On Tuesday morning, the drilling guys showed up and went to work. Within an hour they were pulling up stakes and ready to go. "It wasn't dry after all," they told me. "Since it's been so dry, the water table's dropped and there wasn't enough water to force out some mud that had gotten in and sealed off the well. We just cleared it out and you're good."
No new well needed after all! Not even deeper drilling of our current well! What was going to be thousands of dollars had just dropped to a few hundred! God had answered our prayers abundantly. Our cup had runneth over all because of a dry well.

This is the drilling rig going to work.
Here's a rear view of it. Can you see that there's water underneath?!
It's hard to tell in the photo, but there's the slurry of mud that had sealed off the well. It looked like wet cement. See the running water at the top of the photo? Once that mud was gone, the water just flowed!
Here's the water coming up out of the well on it's own accord.
Again, it's hard to see, but that's a nice stream of water flowing down the right-hand side of the lane. Thanks be to God!

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Hath Jerusalem to do with Babylon?

In other words: why mix church and politics? That's a huge No-No in our day, in our culture, in our personal and public relationships. Absolutely taboo; just don't go there. Well, that whole line of thinking is a lie, and the Church has fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

Way back when, Plato philosophied that all things were divided into 2 entirely separate realms: the spiritual and the earthly, or material. This, obviously, is Greek thought and not Judeo-Christian thought, but the Church picked up on Platonic thinking and integrated it so well that we have it with us to this day. In fact, we Christians often think more like Greeks than like Hebrews. (Biblical Hebrew-thought being that which is grounded in and emanating from the 10 Commandments.)

This conflict of philosophies in the Church led to many heresies, schisms, and all sorts of unpleasantness. It also leads to just plain old everyday Christian-living that's not quite on the mark. As C.H. Spurgeon said, "Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right." A subtle, but significant difference.

One ordinary out-working of Christo-Platonic thought can be seen in Medieval times in the burgeoning growth of monasteries, orders, and sects. It was assumed that a person, even a Christian person, would take either the route of the spiritual/heavenly realm, or the earthly/material realm. Thus, when a person felt the call of God upon their heart, it was immediately assumed that they must abandon ordinary life and become a priest, a nun, or a hermit of some kind. It was not thought that you could remain in an earthly occupation and be spiritually-minded. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking pervades our lives today.

Today we have compartmentalized our Christian lives so well that we have our "work life", our "family life", our "recreational life", our "church life", etc. - and never the twain shall meet. But this is fractured living, and as Christians our life is to be integrated, doing all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) ALL, not just "church life." Have integrity at work, love sacrificially in the family, be honest in play. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof ..." (Psalm 24:1-2) As Abraham Kuyper said, "There is not one square inch in the whole domain of creation over which God does not cry, 'Mine!'" And that includes the realm of public policy, or its more common name of politics.

"Christian political activity is to be nothing more and nothing less than the declaration, "Jesus is Lord," the most basic of all Christian declarations. For a Christian to ignore the realm of politics is to ignore the regency of Jesus Christ in that area." - George Grant, "The Changing of the Guard"

We the church have fallen to the lie of Platonic thought, and have abandoned the realm of public policy and government, thinking it to be worldly, earthly, beneath us. And what happens when the church moves out? The world moves in. It is impossible for a vacuum to exist by itself. Therefore, Church, we have the culture in which we live because we have consented to it.

God's Old Testament people, the nation of Israel, did the same thing and suffered the consequences. Pretty fatal ones, nationalistically-speaking. In Isaiah 1, the Lord tells them,
"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause." Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ... If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (vs. 16-20)

Doing good, seeking justice, correcting oppression, bringing justice to widows and orphans ... is this not spiritual work? Is this work that the Church should avoid, thinking it earthly? Not at all, but we the Church have allowed our government to do just the opposite in the very name of these things. The eye of justice is no longer blind; churches are restricted in doing good; the poor, the widow, and the orphan are oppressed as they are held down by the Government through dependence upon the State. It takes gargantuan effort for a person to break free from Uncle Sam's Plantation known as the Welfare State. We must repent of our Platonic thinking and return to Biblical principles. We must involve ourselves in the realm of public policy, or deny the Lordship of Christ.

"... God ordains civil government, it is a sacred institution and an honorable and holy vocational field, and thus those who serve in that arena are ministers under the hand of providence." (George Grant, "Changing of the Guard")

Church and Politics DO mix - may we as God's people serve obediently and righteously as unto Him.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Fowl Lesson, or What I Learned From Chickens

We board dogs. And cats. And this year, college students. Oh yes, and horses. The little endeavor has been successful, but this year handed us a challenge we hadn't met before - fleas. You'd think with all the animals around here that would have been a problem long ago, but it wasn't until this summer that we got hit by fleas - and that's not good for business.

Since I'm an organic, all-things-natural freak, I just refused to go the usual pesticide route and decided it was time to get some flea-and-tick-eating-machines - Guinea Fowl.
The Guineas are really good at their job, but not only that - they're very entertaining. Since I raised them from chicks, I am - apparently - Mama, and when I step outside they come running and flapping and squawking. It's hysterical. I told John I now have an official fan club.

One day, the Mockingbirds decided that they'd had enough of the new neighbors, and undertook a day-long battle against the Guineas. They played the part of attack aircraft and dive-bombers while the Guineas played the part of the tanks. The Guineas ended up with a lot of feathers out of place, but their steadfastness won the day and the Mockingbirds conceded defeat.

Here's a photo of "The Yard Patrol."Of course, now that we had one kind of fowl roaming around, there's no reason not to have chickens, right? I've always wanted chickens, so why not? So I went to the shopping source of anything-you-want (a.k.a. Craigslist) and found someone who builds Chicken Arks. Chicken Whats? Arks - you know, something that's carried around with pole-like handles. Not like Noah's. This particular ark is an English design and is really pretty clever. Google it and you'll probably find some plans. This design allows for free-ranging the birds on grass without the danger of predators. Every 2 - 4 days you move it to another spot - the chickens have eaten bugs, aerated the grass and fertilized it as well. AND you get eggs!I found my chickens on good ol' Craigslist, too. They were on a farm not far away, and the farmer and I had some good exercise chasing chickens for awhile. Older farmers around here are just wonderful. They're weather-beaten and gnarled and kind as anything. They love to tell stories about the land and their animals, and I love to listen. So, Mr. Mayhew told me all I needed to know about chickens, and I went home with 3 Red Stars and 3 Black Sex-links (which are a cross between a leghorn ("leggern") and something else he didn't remember.Here are a couple of Red Stars eyeing the iPhone.
These are young chickens - pullets - that have just begun to lay, and I was told it may take them a week to settle down after their truck ride home before they began laying again. But, apparently they liked their new digs and we had our first egg in just 2 days! It was as much fun as Easter egg hunting to find that egg!The Guineas ("The Guys") and the hens ("The Girls") make good neighbors for each other and it really is pleasant for us to watch the birds - kind of like watching cows, I guess - it's good for your blood pressure.

It's also good as a reminder of my relationship with the Lord. And how - you may ask - how could silly, simple birds teach me something about myself and my Creator? Easy. This morning I accidently missed the latch on one of the Chicken Ark doors and several minutes later out flew all the chickens! Chickens and Guineas were everywhere and I thought, dear Lord, what am I going to do? Well, I didn't have to think for long because as soon as they spotted me about 100 feet away, they all came running and squawking straight for me! Despite the fact that the chickens were suddenly in the great unknown, they spotted what they did know and came running. I'm quite sure that it had to do with the fact that I feed them, but nevertheless they came running. It ended up being no problem getting them back in the Ark - just throw some food in and voila! chickens are safely home. And it immediately make me think ...

When I am suddenly thrust outside my safe circumstances and everything becomes strange and frightening, do I look for the Father and run lickety-split straight to Him? Often not. Many times I fall prey to the predator of self-sufficiency, thinking that I can take care of everything all by myself. I'm strong and able, right? No, I'm more like a chicken just running around aimlessly and not seeing the big picture. I just THINK I can manage it all.

Jesus tells us to come to Him. His yoke is easy, his burden light. (Matthew 11: 28-29) He is peace and strength and rest and provision. It's not up to me anyway - it never was. I don't have to exhaust myself by trying to figure it all out - I have only to run to Him who loves me and cares for me.

"... who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began..." 2 Timothy 1: 9

So it is that God reveals Himself to us and speaks comfort to us through His Word and through His creation - even chickens.






Saturday, September 25, 2010

September Surprises

September has been packed with surprises, and it's not over yet. We ended the month of August and began this month celebrating Alan's graduation from Chaplain Training (blog and photos to follow) and had a great time with the McClellands and E&K Scherrers. Knowing that the McClellands would be posted to Germany 2 days after we left made our farewell rather difficult to say the least! But knowing that Justin had arrived home for leave while we were gone, made our home-going something to anticipate!

The first of our surprises was that John and I got dead-dog sick with Bronchitis (why do they always say "dead-dog sick"?) and poor Justin had sick parents to start out his leave with! Fortunately, that was the only bad surprise in the line-up, because a week later, who should just show up at the door? KATIE! John, Justin, and I just couldn't believe our eyes! When she had heard that Justin could possibly deploy before Christmas, she made reservations to come and see him while he was home. It turned out to be a pretty fun week - as you might imagine - and it was such a blessing for John and me that we got to see our older kiddos (and the babies) on one weekend, and then got to see our younger kiddos the next weekend! It did us good!
This is Andy and Ryan. They were Kate's accomplices in the surprise and had picked her up at the airport. And Ryan said he just wanted to return some books!!The next set of surprises came from the garden. The green bean vines that had done absolutely nothing all summer long, and that I had given up for loss, were suddenly dripping with beans! How had that happened? The first picking yielded about half a bushel, so we got dinner and several future dinners out of it; and though the second picking (below) yielded less, there will still be plenty for dinner and some to put up. The second garden surprise came when I went over to the long neglected compost pile and found acorn squash growing! And I didn't even plant them! Apparently some seed from last winter took root, along with the seed of some tomatoes. What fun! One of them is pictured below with the green beans.Just a few nights ago, Jupiter made his appearance in close proximity to the full moon. It was a beautiful sight to behold and I was surprised that my camera was able to capture at least a semblance of it. It was such a night, so clear, and even with binoculars we could see every detail of the moon's surface. Then just this morning I had the nicest surprise when I walked out in the backyard and found my old friend, Gail, on her way up to the barn for granddaughter Felicity's riding lesson. How fun is that to step out your backdoor and find an old friend? Gail's daughter, Megan, loved horses and riding as much as Eric, Katie, and I did, and spent many, many hours (years?) out here and with us at horse shows. Between horses, homeschool, and FCS, we spent lots of good times together. So, it sure was fun catching up - and what did we talk about? Grandchildren, of course. What else?

And finally, before September is out - and there are a few days left - we are hoping, hoping for another surprise - that being one of employment. But, yes or no, the Lord has blessed us and kept us fully to this day and He will in the days to come as well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do You Consent?

If you've read any of the original writings of the Founding Fathers, you saw that history clearly records that the Founders established our nation upon Biblical principles. As they wrote the Declaration of Independence, and then the Constitution, they drew upon Scripture to instruct them in the ways of wisdom and liberty.

The Declaration states that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed -." In the years prior to the American Revolution, 1 Samuel 8 was a favorite text preached in churches throughout the colonies. The same passage was Thomas Paine's primary theme in his pamphlet "Common Sense." It's time well-spent reading this passage, but for sake of space here, I'll just give you the story outline:

The Israelites decide they no longer want to be a Theocracy, they want a king like all the other nations, so they go to Samuel to ask him to appoint a king for them. Samuel goes to God about their request and He tells him to grant the people their request, for they have forsaken God as their king and want to go after other gods. But - and here's the kicker - God gives them advance warning about how a king will reign over them. A king will:

Make slaves of them and their children.
He will take a tenth of their produce and give it to his servants. (Try about 50% these days.)
He will take their employees and make them his own servants.
He will take a tenth of their possessions.

Then God warns them that they will cry out to Him for help, but he will not hear them because they have chosen to go after false gods and have rejected him. So, Samuel tells this to the people, and they reply, "No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." Then Samuel agrees to do what they have consented to, and he appoints them a king.

The nation of Israel consented. They consented to sell themselves and their children into servitude. Why on earth would they have traded their independence for that?! For a couple of reasons that we can see in this story: ( 1 ) They wanted to be like other nations. They wanted to be cool. ( 2 ) They were lazy and abdicated their responsibilities. They wanted the king to "go out before us and fight our battles."

American Christians have consented to the government we now have. We've run after the latest and greatest ideas, trading time-proven wisdom and principle for fads. We have been lazy. We've abdicated our responsibilities and now want the government to fight our battles for us. There are hungry people in the street? Oh, the government will take care of them. Can't afford to pay your medical bills? Oh, the government will take care of it. You're company has mismanaged its way into oblivion? Oh, the government will take care of it, after all, it's too big to fail. Our President promises a government that will take care of you from cradle to grave if only you will surrender your consent and abdicate all personal responsibility. Why, President Obama will give you money and refrigerators and new kitchens.

The government is not "them," it is "us." "We the People" have given our consent. Will you continue to consent, or will you withdraw it?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Choice Before Us

In my last post I queried as to what might be the next step that we as Christians should take in regard to the demise of our nation. Two or three things have come to my attention since then and I'd like to begin with this portion of John Winthrop's stirring sermon "A Model of Charity." Winthrop wrote and preached this sermon to his congregation in 1630 as they sailed across the Atlantic from England to the shores of Massachusetts. It's as relevant to us today as it was to those brave souls almost 400 years ago. We would do well to heed the admonition and the warning that Winthrop gives to us in these words:

"The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord the comfort and increase of the body of Christ whereof we are members that our selves and posterity may be the better preserved from the common corruptions of this evil world to serve the Lord and work out our salvation under the power and purity of His holy ordinances.

Now the only way to accomplish this end and to provide for our posterity is to follow the counsel of Micah, "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humble with our God." For this end we must be knit together in this work as one man, we must entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, we must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality, we must delight in each another, make others conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, as His own people and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of his wisdom power goodness and truth than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us - when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: The Lord make it like that of New England. For we must consider that we shall be as a "City upon a Hill."

The eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work, we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-work through the world; we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God's sake; we shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.

"Beloved there is now set before us life, and good, death and evil in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His ordinance, and His laws, and the articles of our covenant with Him that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other gods, our pleasures, and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it."

Therefore let us choose life that we, and our seed may live; by obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him, for He is our life, and our prosperity."






Friday, August 13, 2010

What to do?

These are perplexing times. Sometimes I just have to turn off the TV and radio and not listen to any more news! It's all bad, bad, and worse; and just when I think I've heard it all, I hear more! At the suggestion of friend and author, David Zanotti of The American Policy Roundtable, John and I went on a one week TV and radio fast - just to be quiet our minds and think more about what God has to say about all these things. Basically, it boils down to "He is Lord of lords and King of kings." Thank God!

Keeping that in mind, I was seeking the Lord today on behalf of our nation, primarily with the concern I had about the Federal Government casting its lot against certain states. Everyone - unless they live in a cave - knows that Arizona, after exhausting all efforts to have the federal government protect the border, passed a law saying that, basically, "the law is legal." We have since seen the legal and semantic storm of fury that the government has wrought upon that state. Then there's Louisiana and another example of the government not protecting national borders, this time from the devastation of oil. The state could have protected itself, foreign aid was ready to assist, but the federal government blocked them and then didn't do anything until long after it needed doing. Then there's Texas. Because Texas said "no" to government subsidies that it didn't need, the government has singled that state out to make an example of it by withdrawing further aid. (Maybe other states should follow that example.)

Then there's a long, long list of legislative actions that have taken place against the will of the people - nationalized healthcare, who-knows-how-many bailouts, the recent overturning of Proposition 8 in California, ad nauseum. There is a ground swell of uproar and protest at the violence done to the Constitution, but the Administration and Congress continue to stop their ears; and when they do respond it's to tell us how stupid we are.

Then today I see that 12 states have decided to ignore the law that requires them to send absentee ballots to overseas military personnel in time for them to be returned and counted towards an election, and that the Department of Justice has decided to ignore their defiance of the law. Not only does this disenfranchise those who are laying their lives on the line in the service of this nation, it's also interesting to note that those 12 states had supported Pres. Obama in the 2008 election. (Do we see selective law here?) The Department of Justice also turned a blind eye when white voters were intimidated by New Black Panther Party members, and yet the Administration is working tooth and nail to obtain voting privileges for illegal immigrants.

It's enough to make your head spin and spin and spin.

As I ponder these things, embattled states and embattled citizens, I can't help but wonder where does this lead? As a Christian my first preference for effecting cultural change is through the long, but sure process of reformation rather than the abrupt, knee-jerk process of revolution. Reformation has a live-able, workable plan for change. Revolution just has change, and I think we've had our fill of that. I still believe that this country yet has time for the processes of reformation to take hold of right principles, and to take our country back to its Constitutional foundation. But that time is very, very short. Like maybe the 2 1/2 months left until the November elections.

I detest the thought of revolution. "But, God," I prayed, "You always work reformationally!" Then it occurred to me, not always. The history of our nation reminds us that after the colonists tried and tried to continue to function under the established covenants between themselves and the Crown, they finally came to the unwanted decision to cut themselves off from a ruler who had forsaken those laws, and hence a covenantal lawsuit was drawn up by the colonists against King George and England. We know that lawsuit as the Declaration of Independence.

I pray that we don't come to that this time around. I pray that the Church would repent of her sin and return to God that He might heal our land. I pray that God would raise up righteous leadership that desires to serve rather than be served. I pray that He shows us mercy! In the meantime what do we do, what can we do, as all these things play out? This is what we do, regardless of what happens, we will "...do justice, ... love kindness...and walk humbly with [our] God."


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer-izing

Oh, my, this is a long entry! But, never fear, it's just a photo-summary of the summer, at least up to this point. The summer's not over yet, and we have some momentous events yet to take place! So other than tending horses, boarding dogs, trying to keep gardens going, doing house-refurbishing and attempting to keep cool in record heat, this is what we've been up to! And it's been a grand summer!

Memorial Day weekend was an appropriate time for Eric to come home after six months of deployment in Afghanistan. It was a joy and a relief, and Eric got to meet his new son for the first time!
Backtracking a month to May, we had the great blessing to go to a couple of weddings; the first one was in Fort Worth and was the marriage of the daughter of our dear friends, David and Kathy. Here are all four girls, minus son, Michael. L t0 R are Margaret, Mary, Alice, and Ann. These kids were just babies yesterday!
While in Ft. Worth, we stayed with some other dear friends, Randy and Cheryl, and had a great time together. We had lunch at Joe T. Garcia's, and it had been a loooooong time since John and I had eaten there!
Not only is it fun to see old friends, it's also fun to great fun to see their grand-children! Aren't they precious?!
The next May wedding was up in the mountains of Southern California outside the little town of Julian, best known for its quaint western roots and its amazing apples, and therefore its equally amazing and delicious apple pies. Our niece, Laura, was married there - it was a beautiful wedding and a wonderful time of being with family.
Cousins Sarah, Lisa, Kristin, and Katie. It's crazy seeing them all grown up. Weren't they running around playing Barbies and putting on plays just yesterday?
Grandma Molly, Katie, and Grandpa Orv. The girls always love being with their grandparents!
Jim and Dee Anna, whom we always love spending time with.
Alan, having joined the Army to become a Chaplain, left for Ft. Jackson to spend his summer at school and in training. Before he left, he and Kristin took a little time away and the boys came to Nana and Papa's house for some summer fun. 2 boys+2 cans of shaving cream+water=a lot of fun!
Wedding #3, along with vacation, took us to sunny South Texas where, among many other things, we enjoyed the Corpus Christi Hooks playing at our favorite minor league stadium, Whataburger Field! How can you lose with that combination? Baseball, sea breezes, and Whataburger!
Niece Courtney and new husband, Justin, leave their wedding reception for their honeymoon. Justin is a pilot, hence the paper airplanes amongst the birdseed! The wedding was beautiful and the reception was a ton of fun with lots of cousin-dancing.
We had lots of relaxing time, too, while down south. We spent as much pool and beach time as was possible. Here Omari and Mama Pops enjoy shady breezes by the pool.
An apres-wedding brunch with Paula, Uncle Victor, Eric, Patty, Alan, and many others you can't see. Note the large coffee carafe. We went through a few of those!
At another eating opportunity we got to catch up with my baby cousin, Liz,and her husband, Julio, and daughter, Genevieve. Liz had lived in Thailand for several years and it was wonderful to reconnect with her.
July 4th is approaching and Papa and the boys sidle up to Uncle Sam.
One of the highlights of the summer for me was going to the beach with my cousin, Teresa, and our little grandsons, Jacob and Omari. Teresa and I are only 3 months apart and have been going to this same beach since our babyhood. It was very special for the two of us to go once again, only this time with our grandsons!
Daughter, Kristin, with her sons, on the same beach she played on as a baby; as did her mother and grandmother!
Eric, Kelly, and Omari - evening at the beach. It's the perfect time to be there!
On another evening "Unca Ewic" takes the boys crabbing. Patrick looks on intently as Eric slowly pulls in the crab line.
Cousins Gilbert and Andrew decide that the net is the best way to go after the crabs.
Gilbert tries the line again while Patrick looks on. Warm sun, warm water, fresh breezes ... it's a great way to be a kid!
I love this photo of all the little men marching through the water after the big man.
A 2nd trip to South Texas takes me first to San Antonio where one must eat at Casa Rio on the Riverwalk, and then on to the Frio in Leaky for a Choir Reunion.
It had been 30 years since old choir buddies met, and there was so much to catch up on, so much laughing and story-telling to do! Even our choir director, Miss Garrett, was able to join us. It was a very special time.
Still laughing, and Miss G is calm as ever!
In May, Justin had departed Tennessee for southern Georgia, Ft. Benning and Boot Camp to be exact. Here he is on the evening before his graduation, at the close of Family Day. It was good to see how well he had survived!
Proud Dad and proud Son following graduation ceremonies!
Proud Mama,too! After graduation, Justin was assigned to Ft. Sill for artillery training. At lease he's behind the weapons, I tell myself.
Thus sums up May, June, and July. It's now August and life rolls swiftly on. In 3 days a young man will join us as a boarder for his freshman year at New College Franklin, Alan graduates from Chaplain training on Sept. 2nd and moves with Kristin and the boys to Germany! Justin also will go to his new post in Texas in September and John begins his new career as a Business Coach and Sales Trainer. It's exciting, it's scary, and it's all in God's hands!