Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring on the Ranch 2014 (Tuesday-Wednesday)

If you missed the introduction and Sunday & Monday, you can find them here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Years ago we established the expectation that we all begin our day by reading out of God's Word.  I'm usually up before everyone else and am reading before The Cowboy follows within about 15 minutes or so.  All is well until one of us inevitably says, "can I read you something?"  That is generally followed by a wonderful hour long discussion about the Lord which concludes with, "look at the time!  I gotta do my chores!"

This morning, while The Cowboy was out doing his chores, the neighbor gal told him that the irrigation water was coming on a week early.

And thus began our day - and a change in school plans!

Our sons and 5 year old Bug met the neighbor at the corner where our pastures meet to do a little burning.  The ditch that runs along the east end of our property carries water to that neighbor - and she had made arrangements with our oldest son still at home to help her burn it at least a week prior, but the wind had not been cooperating.  Fortunately, this was a rather still day and the team went to work while Boo and I did our chores and milked.

Eventually I noticed that Bug and the oldest son had left and gone back to their regular duties, but 7 year old Littlest Cowboy was still with the neighbor.  She has a bad back and he had decided that he should help her get rocks out of the ditch.  It was much appreciated by the neighbor, and a proud mama moment for me!

The Cowboy has been spreading manure and harrowing in Chloe's regular pasture, and she is very much enjoying getting to eat all of the tender spring grasses in areas we don't normally keep critters.  Today we put her in the area that houses The Cowboy's obstacle course.  You can see, from the collage above, that Boo outdid herself in her "cow watering get up" - her black and white dress with sparkly red high heels and her red wool cap - that she wears "because it has braids, like Laura Ingalls."

After wrapping up burning (and hanging around for a while to ensure that the pine needles were truly out), chores, and breakfast we ran to town for some much needed errands.  On the way home we met the neighbor driving out of our driveway.  She had dropped off a thank you gift for the Littlest Cowboy and berries for all of us.  The LC is still tickled with the new shovel she brought him that was more his size.

On our drive in we saw that we were none too soon with the ditch burning as the water in our back pasture was already running strong.  The kids were ecstatic to get to play in the ditch while I hung clothes to dry in the beautiful weather.

After some school time, we started our chores early.  The Cowboy would be getting home somewhat late and we were invited to dinner at his parents' house to have a birthday dinner for his dad.  We did as many chores as we could and then helped him with his (as you can see by the picture of Boo helping him walk "my" horse...that seems to no longer be "my" horse!).

While we waited for The Cowboy to finish his chores, Boo and The Littlest Cowboy and I worked on cleaning pine needles out of the ditch that runs by our house.  The ditch is lined with beautiful pines - but we hadn't gotten their fallen needles out of the ditch before the water came on.  We eventually arrived at my in-laws house "only" a half an hour late.  That's pretty good for us spring through fall!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Ahh...a slower day!  Today, after breakfast and chores we had some time to catch up on school and housework.  I'm also behind on getting some seeds started.  I started gorgeous heirloom tomato plants about 3 weeks ago, but I have so many more to start.

For years I had tried to start tomato plants from seed, but they'd grow tall and leggy before they finally tipped over.  This year, I've invested in a couple of grow lamps and I cannot believe the difference that makes!  I purchased some seeds for gorgeous tomatoes from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - lots of different purple bearing plants and I am so hopeful they'll do well.

After lunch we go outside so the kids can play in the ditch and I can sort seeds.  I had purchased some seeds from a second heirloom seed company and none of their packets have growing instructions, so I sit near the ditch with my computer, searching growing instructions on a dozen different types of seeds.

After our milk customer comes by to get her milk, we go inside and the kids help me start another batch of seeds in peat pots to put under our second grow lamp.  While we didn't crack a book, I definitely count this as school.  There are few things on this earth more important than understanding where your food comes from.  That our children get to be a part of their own food growth is pretty awesome!

After the seeds are planted, the kids watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie while I go over my bee and chicken checklist to make sure I've ordered everything we need.  We have honey bees coming the first week in May and broiler chicks come next week.  As best as I can tell, I have everything ordered for the bees.  Preparation for the chicks will have to wait, in large part, until next week.  They will be housed, temporarily, in a two-horse trailer that will be used next Tuesday to transport our pigs to the butcher.  The chicks will arrive the following day - after the trailer is prepped for them.

Tonight we actually finished dinner and chores early enough to read a little bit.  In the winter we often read from the Little Britches series and we're currently reading Mary Emma and Company from that series.  None of us are ready to give it up just yet - but we're having a hard time getting in on time to have opportunity to read before bed.  As usual, Boo falls asleep on my lap while I read and by the time I finish the chapter, all of us are pretty droopy eyed.

Just another day in paradise!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring on the Ranch 2014 (Sunday-Monday)

There seems to be a lot of interest out there about life on a farm or ranch.  Because I happen to think it's an awesome way to live, I do love to talk about it.  I also, though, like to dispel the myth that it's an entirely romantic life.

It's a beautiful life.  

It's a blessed life. 

It's also a whole lot of work.

Spring is the time of year when everything really starts to pick up.  And while I intend to cover all four seasons on the blog this year, the fact is that by the end of summer and the beginning of fall, we have a hard time just keeping up - much less blogging about it.

So, without further ado, here is what things are like at the ranch these days.

Sunday. April 6th

I might have mentioned, dozens of times before, how much I enjoy worshiping in a home fellowship, and today was quite unique.  Due to a number of circumstances, no one else from our little congregation could..well...congregate, so it was just our family at home.  The Cowboy has an awesome lesson that he's been saving for when we have more of the older children together, so we decided to watch a sermon online and discuss it.  After prayer and singing, The Cowboy surprised us with a video talk from Phil Robertson!  It was an outstanding talk and our family had a lively discussion afterward.  Mostly we were convicted that we all need to meet people where they're at and tell them about Jesus.  No excuses, no formulas - just sharing God's love.

At our home, Sundays are laid back days of Jesus, Christian fellowship and food.  This day was no different.  Of course, we do our chores, but other than that, we try to focus solely on the Lord and His people.

Most first Sundays of the month we entertain the idea of gathering with a conventional congregation for their monthly singing time but haven't made it since we began worshiping in a home fellowship.  We love the people of that congregation and always look forward to seeing them, and it's a good opportunity to work on some songs.  This Sunday, we actually made it!  We gathered with them around 6pm to sing and then had some precious family time as this Sunday is also my father-in-law's birthday and we wanted to take him out for some ice cream.  However, he's on an anti-kidney-stone diet these days, so my mother-in-law suggested the bacon cheese fries he loves.  I'm not sure if that was better for his health, but it was delicious!

Monday, April 7th

In our home, we all have chores.  The Cowboy does the large animal chores - feeding the cattle and horses.  4yo Boo usually accompanies me on my chores and today is no exception.  First we catch up our milk cow and tie her to eat her alfalfa pellets (she's quite picky and wastes far too much alfalfa if you give it to her in the traditional format) and minerals.  While she does that - and hopefully takes care of any bathroom business she might have, we go feed the cat and laying chickens.  We have older chickens in a chicken tractor in a back pasture near our irrigation ditch.  We feed and water them and check for eggs.  The eggs are coming on strong now and we're having a time keeping up!  Then, we take more feed and water out to the younger chickens who are in a chicken tractor in a bigger pasture.  It's a little bit of a hike but it's a great way to start the day.  By now, Chloe, our milk cow, had finished her supplements and any other business she needed to take care of - so Boo helps me milk her. All told, my morning and evening chores each take me an hour to and hour and a half to do - and I run out during the midday to feed pigs and let out chickens.  I usually get breakfast started before I head out to do chores and then turn it over to responsible children to finish up and set the table.

On Mondays a sweet neighbor girl between my youngest daughters' ages comes to do school with us.  This has proven to be such a blessing to us as it is extra motivation to get school going on time - not just for the day, but for the week!  Today we did our usual schoolwork and then went outside to walk pigs.  It's a beautiful day (a nice break from the wind and rain we've been having) and the pigs go to the butcher next week, so we want to make sure we keep up on their outside time.  Walking pigs is good for their health, their yummy meat, and their peace of mind!

The day went quickly and was actually a whirlwind of friends and family.  My son-in-law came by first thing to pick up our oldest son for the day.  A bit later, my parents came by to drop off some things for my oldest son and in the afternoon my brother-in-law and nieces dropped by for eggs.  We also had a visit from a family who is buying one of the hogs we're raising.  The husband/father has a crazy work schedule and today was the first chance (and likely last) he'd had to see their hog on the hoof.   In between the variety of visits, I worked on taxes I'm doing for a family friend.  I happen to enjoy doing taxes and since our software comes with 5 free e-files, I try to make the most of it by helping friends with their taxes.

In January we butchered old laying hens.  I have never seen such lovely broth as those old gals produced - it was more orange than yellow!  It was truly delicious in some yummy Chicken Noodle Soup we made for ourselves and some friends

After our friends left, I needed to get a meal over to a dear friend who had a medical procedure earlier in the day.  The timing worked out to take our oldest son up to his job at the local pizza joint before heading over in the delicious sunshine to take a meal and some love to our friends.

We had actually eaten, the day before, the same thing I was taking to our friends and I had mistakenly thought we had enough for leftovers.  Fortunately, our son gets a 50% discount where he works and we decided to have pizza for dinner after our evening chores were done.

As I crawl into bed after dinner, bedtime routines, catching up on visiting with my husband, and praying for our family, I can't help but think of what a good life this is.  As usual, I'm physically exhausted, a little sore, and very content.

While we are blessed to have company with regularity, this was a particularly busy day and we counted 19 friends who had come to see us.   Beautiful weather, and wonderful friends and family - it was a good day!  Hopefully the weather holds, as there's a whole lot on the schedule this week!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Discouragement and the Christian


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

The day wasn't looking too good.

It started out with an insult in response to a blessing God wanted me to pass on to someone.

Then a misunderstanding with a loved one whose offer of help sounded like a criticism to tender ears.

Then, the cow.

Monday I decided to tackle the post-winter cleaning of the milk cow's pen.  While we clean up the manure every day and toss out soiled straw regularly still, with days and days of snow, wind, and rain eventually the pen needs a good cleaning.  And it got one on Monday.   All of the built up straw and hay was removed followed by a good dose of stall freshener for the inside and outside of the pen.  Only the straw inside the shelter was replaced for Chloe to have a nice bed to sleep on at night.
Fortunately, I have an outstanding work crew!

And then it snowed.

And rained.

Cats & dogs.

Well, a lot of rain anyway.

So, on this discouraging day when I went out to milk, I could see that Chloe had given her udder a good crusting in mud and poo.  Had I left her old straw and hay in the pen, that likely wouldn't have happened.

And a phrase came to mind.

No good deed goes unpunished.

I knew I had no business feeling sorry for myself but still, I had to wonder: what was I supposed to do with these feelings of frustration...that good deeds and good intentions were turning out unexpectedly?

In the situations I was stewing about, I didn't expect anything from those I had tried to honor.

I didn't expect the cow to thank me, much less keep her udder clean.

I didn't expect the recipient of God's blessing to thank me - in fact, that project was handled anonymously.

I didn't expect the loved one to fall over themselves with gratitude for what I do every day.

So why was I discouraged?

If you don't have a milk cow, let me just tell you that milking is the cure for what ails you.  Usually, that is my time alone to talk to God...for Him to talk to me...for life to get straightened out in my brain.  (My psychologist sister tells me that this is literally true!)

But, on this day.  Nothing.

I mean, I couldn't make sense of my discouragement (well, to be honest, I chalked it up to hormones) so I decided to just let it go. Sometimes you're just misunderstood.  Sometimes you misunderstand others. Sometimes the cow lays in poo. 

As I led Chloe to her pasture I told God, "well, I still don't understand, Lord - but I'm letting it go."  And then He replied.  Not in, of course, an audible voice, but more and more I've begun to recognize the sweet prodding in my soul that comes from the Lord.

Have I told you about my Son?

I knew what He meant and we - that voice in my heart and - recalled the story.

He came to love people who didn't love Him.  To offer salvation to people - even those who didn't want it.  He healed the sick.  He raised the dead.  He offered eternal life.

And the people He came to save murdered Him.

They didn't just kill Him.  They mocked Him.  They ridiculed Him.  They taunted Him.  They struck Him.  They tortured Him.  They laughed at Him.  

They heaped offense upon offense.

If He was discouraged, He did not show it.  He forgave.  He tended to the needs at hand - the physical needs of His mother and the physical needs of a man with whom He died.  And then, He did what He came to do - without complaint, and without ever appearing to feel sorry for Himself. 

He offered up His Spirit to God and died.

He didn't have to say it - because I thought it.  "Why is it that you're discouraged?"

Discouragement comes to us all.  It's just the way of human life on this planet.  But it's a tool of Satan.  It distracts us from God's work and it causes us to focus on self rather than God. 

Imagine if Jesus would have chosen to sink into discouragement.

Imagine if He would have allowed the misunderstanding others had of His words and actions to discourage Him from God's work and plan.

Imagine if He would have let the taunts dissuade Him from His mission.

Imagine if He would have just said, "never mind, Father - this isn't worth it anymore"?

Any time my eyes are anywhere but on God, my footsteps falter.  Any time my eyes are on me, I fall off the path.  Satan wanted me to be discouraged.  He wanted me to feel sorry for myself.  He wanted me to be angry at my loved one, and to let the words of someone else distract me from the work God had for me to do that day.  He wanted my cow to be the the proverbial straw.

But Satan underestimates my God and how much He loves me.

I am so very grateful for a God willing to pick me up and dust me off when I falter.  One who holds my hand and corrects my heart.  I wish He had to do it less than He does - but I'm sure glad He still does.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Let Your "Light Shine" or "Don't Let Your Left Hand Know What the Right Hand is Doing"?

Recently someone took my blog post on listening to God to be a trumpeting of my own righteousness.

For sure, I am not immune to the sin of patting myself on the back, but that wasn't the case in this instance.  If anything that was the most humbling and difficult post for me to write.  

I don't think any of us enjoys confessing sin.

In this instance, I was trying to point others to God.  I was trying to confess my sin because I had been humbled by the awareness of my lack of obedience - and encouraged by the obedience of another.  The post wasn't about my success, but my struggle.  I wasn't the example of how to do it right; someone else was.

In the end, I did update the post to reflect the fact that I eventually obeyed the Lord.  Before I did that, two different friends lovingly encouraged and admonished me to follow through on the Lord's prompting.  I recognized that it was important to acknowledge that so the post didn't leave the impression that it's appropriate to ignore what God puts on your heart.

Because I do, indeed, know my heart and goal in writing that post, I don't feel the need to defend it further.

The situation did, however, result in a beautiful study of God's Word.

Sometimes, it seems God's Word is contradictory.  It isn't, of course.  But sometimes it seems it is.

For instance, Jesus says:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.  “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6)

Yet, in the chapter prior, Matthew records Jesus saying this:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

So which is it?  Is there a contradiction?

I think Jesus makes it clear, in chapter 6, that He is referring to those who do good works not out of obedience or out of a good heart - but in order to be noticed by men.  For these people, that recognition is all of the reward they will receive.

Compared to the passage in Matthew 5, we can see Jesus' emphasis clearly.  The good works that please God are those that are done "in such a way" that men see them and glorify God for them.

Isn't it intriguing that both passages talk about man's "religious" work done in such a way as to be noticed by men?  One way is praised and the other way is condemned.

It would seem the crux of the matter is to whom we seek to direct those people to when they see our good works: me or God?

I have an older friend who just overflows with good works.  I don't get to see her often, so I don't even see many of the things she does for others.  I hear about them, in large part, from other people.  But, I have heard about them from her as well.  While she has never said, "look at what I'm doing," in telling about her life  or in encouraging others the stories just come out.  It's never a "look at me" attitude, but always a "look at God...and how blessed I am to be a part of it" attitude.  I am so grateful that she does not hide her lamp under a bushel - for, I have learned a great deal from her about service, about love, about caring for others...about walking in good works.  I have learned from her many important things about walking after the Lord that I wouldn't have learned if it weren't for her willingness to share.

If we are living for Christ, we are walking in good works.  That is, our good works should be unmistakable - they should be quite evident in our lives.

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:10)

We should not feel the need to hide what God has created us to do - though we should never seek man's praise for what we do out of our love for the Lord.  In fact, one of the greatest ways we can spur one another on to love and good works is through our example.  I know I am very grateful for the willing examples who have let me watch and learn!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

He Who Has Ears Let Him Hear


Word of God speak

Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty.
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness.
Word of God speak.


Back in early January, I had a crazy idea.  Well, I thought it was from the Lord - but I wasn't quite sure.  It just seemed a little too weird.

Because it was so weird I knew I could be sure it was from the Lord.

Or, that it was my weirdness coming through.

See, I had this crazy idea that I should send a meal (like, order it to be delivered) to a "Facebook friend" I didn't actually know who lived half way across the country from me.  She seemed to be having a stressful time, and her status updates appeared to communicate much stress and not much support in her life.  I knew, from Facebook, the city in which she lived, and I looked at some places that could take her and her family breakfast.

But it seemed so weird.  I mean, why would God put that on my heart?  I figured it probably was just me being...weird.

At any rate, I didn't know her address and it just seemed...well, weird, to message someone I don't know and tell them God put it on my heart to send them a meal.  I mean, stalker alert, anyone?

So, I negotiated with God:  "Lord, I don't know where this woman if you really want me to send her a meal, you'll need to get me her address." know our God.  He did.

Within a day or so she posted a link to her annual letter - which had her address listed at the bottom.  Obviously, God wanted me to send her a meal.

Of course, I mentioned this to The Cowboy, knowing he would think I was a freak.  I mean, who thinks God tells them to send a meal to a stranger?

He thought I should do it.  Of course.

I'm not proud of what I'm about to tell you.

First, I was going to do it, but we didn't have the funds readily available, so I figured I'd do it when I could.  Then, any time I thought about it, I thought of how awkward and...well, would be to call up the bagel place and order a meal to be delivered to someone I don't know.  Don't ask me why that intimidated me, but it did.

Eventually, it seemed like too much time had was too awkward...probably all in my head anyway.

Then, we had a falling out this Facebook friend and I.  In passionately discussing theological differences, my Facebook friend was offended.  And unfriended me.

It all became so fact, I had an inkling while our discussion was going on...  "This is why you asked me to do that, wasn't it, Lord?  How can I have credibility with this woman when the extent of our relationship is Facebook - when the extent of my care for her has only been trying to persuade her that her theology is faulty?"

{I did try to reach out to her immediately afterward, but it was clear that the damage was done and her feelings were irreparably offended.}

I told myself that was a lesson learned - and repented of my disobedience.

{updated: the bagel place is delivering breakfast to her family this week.}

The Way to Do it

Fast forward to today.

My sister had a very challenging day ahead.  Due to crazy politics at work, she had a considerably stressful meeting ahead of her.  I mean serious mind-blowing stuff that our whole family has been praying about for weeks.

As my sister was headed to work for the delicate meeting, she talked herself out of buying a coffee at the local health food store.  As she traveled on, the Lord put it on her heart to go back and get that coffee.

Really?  Does God care if she had a coffee today?

Unlike her thick-headed sister, this servant of God listened.

She turned around and went in to get her coffee...where she encountered her preacher and three elders who were meeting and, knowing absolutely nothing about what she had been going through at work or the meeting that awaited her, prayed over her - and for her family.

So, this is for those of you who tend to be more like me and less like my sister.  From here on, I choose to listen.

The first time.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Keeping Bees and Following Jesus {aka: Why You Need a Godly Woman in Your Life}


Though I have an important meeting this morning and really would like to be sleeping right now, I'm not.

I'm thinking of bees.  And Jesus.

Actually, it all started a couple of hours ago when I woke up wondering if I'd made a colossal mistake in moving forward on a decade's old desire to keep bees.  God and I have been talking about this for days - mostly with me asking Him to make it clear to me if this is a bad idea.

See, keeping bees isn't as simple as I had once thought.  In fact, the more I learn about them, the more overwhelmed I begin to feel.  Once upon a time, we had lots of wild honey bees in the United States. Today, that population is almost decimated by disease, widespread use of pesticides, and mites.  Because of these same issues, beekeeping has also become more complex.

Every decent beekeeping source will tell new beekeepers to read, read, read I have.  And I've learned that you don't just get a hive and bees, slap them on your property, and return later in the year to take the honey.

Bees swarm (leave the hive) under certain conditions.

Bees die unless monitored and cared for well.   

Even then, bees can die.  

They can die in the spring.  They can die in the summer.  Many die in the fall.  Even more die in the winter.

And, of course, bees sting.  More so under certain situations.

If you know me at all, you know that this has caused me to wonder whether or not this is a good idea.

And then wonder some more.

So as God and I were discussing this, I remembered something that gave me great peace: I have resources.

For instance, there is a very decent beekeeping association where I live.  Best of all, they have willing mentors!

See, it's one thing to read about cracking a hive.  It is great to see pictures of capped brood, queen bees, and wax moth damage in the hive.  However, how much better to have a real, live person whose done this numerous times before right there with me.  Someone to show me a better way, tell me stories about having done it wrong, and explain to me what I'm looking for in the hive.

The same is so very true for the Christian.

God Provides for Mentors

I became a Christian in perhaps the most outstanding congregation I've ever known.  (Our current one is pretty awesome, so it's a tough call!)   As far as mentoring, they are the best I've ever seen.  And because of that, they've always stood out in my mind as an anomaly among congregations.  What is most frustrating and discouraging about that is that "mentoring" is part and parcel of life in Christ.

One thing that was, at first, very overwhelming to me as I started educating myself on beekeeping was the lingo.

Brood, capped brood, queen bee, worker bee, drone, drawing comb, foundation, nucs, colonies, packages...

Beekeepers have a lingo all their own and often those speaking it seem oblivious to the fact that the hearers might not have the slightest clue as to what they're talking about.

Often older Christians are the same way with babes in Christ fresh out of the world.

Loving your enemies, picking up your cross and following Jesus, having all things in common, praying without ceasing, walking in newness of life, giving as you have been prospered, walking in the light, worshiping in spirit and in truth...

Christians have a lingo.  If you were raised "in the church" you may or may not know what these things mean, but to those who grew up living in the world, these words - and what they mean - might be as foreign as beekeeping terms.

We can read about them in the Bible and have a very good idea of what it should look like in our life, but (praise God) He planned, from the outset, and provides for us even more resources: mentors!

I imagine many of us recognize that Godly older women are to mentor the younger women:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5)

And that parents are to mentor their children:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

All of the older generation is to mentor the younger generations in the Lord:

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)

In fact, we are all to mentor one another:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Notice that these are not just words of wisdom, but they are commands: we are to lead one another not just to Christ, but in Godliness.

God actually provides for this in how He set up His Kingdom on Earth:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 ot forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10). 

While the latter verse in this passage is often used to teach the importance of attending church, in context we can see that it is so very much more than that.  

God's design for Christians is that we come together, certainly for regular worship, but even more often than that, for the purpose of encouraging one another and stimulating each other to love and good deeds - in order to hold on to our faith without wavering.  This is God's prescription for remaining strong in the Lord.

Let me reiterate, hopefully without being obnoxious.  This is not a prescription to attend worship, engage in pleasant conversation about how great the kids are and who won the Super Bowl, and go to lunch.  

This is about being in each other's lives.  Seriously being in each other's lives.

This is where mentoring happens.  This is where we learn what it means to be a Christian.  This is where we see the Christian walk in action - and begin to model it much like a child models his own parents.

The 1st letter to Timothy (that we have record of, anyway), begins:

"Paul, an apostle of Timothy, my true child in the I urged you..."

We see a pattern here by one of the most renown Bible mentors: a spiritual father urging his Spiritual child to do the work of God.

We should all be living this example.  We should each be a spiritual mother.  We should each be a spiritual daughter.  We should all be encouraging one another to do the work of God - and being in each other's life to the extent that we know whether or not that's happening.

Finding (and Being) a Godly Mentor

While none of us is perfect, it is true that, for us to mentor someone, we need to be further along in our walk (at least on the issue on which we are willing to mentor another) than they.  I don't want a beekeeper as novice as myself to mentor me, I want someone whose been there.  I want someone who can tell me how to avoid getting stung!  And, if that doesn't work, what to do about it!

Jesus warned that the blind leading the blind results in both of them falling in a pit.  (Luke 6:39)  So we want to be sure that we are seeing guides...and that we choose seeing guides.

The only way to really tell that is to become very familiar with your Bible, and then become a "fruit inspector."

I have become well enough acquainted with the lingo and basic beekeeping knowledge, that I'd be able to tell if someone was as novice as myself.  I might not be able to tell if they were a master beekeeper, but I could tell they knew more than myself.  The next thing I'd check out is how their bees are doing.  Did they lose all of them over the winter?  Are their bees dying from mites?  If so, I think I'll keep shopping for my mentor.

And 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealously, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things  like these of which I forwarn you, just as I have forwarned, you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galations 5) 

If my prospective mentor is frequently at odds with others, still living a worldly life, unkind to others, or lacking in personal self-discipline, I should keep looking.  I should be looking for one who bears many of the fruits of the spirit that Paul mentions to the Galatians.  Finding women who exhibit these qualities and are working on growing them is  a true blessing and serves us well as we learn how to walk in the Lord.
{A necessary aside: Unfortunately, you cannot assume that just because a woman is a life-long Christian, or even a church leader's wife, that they are Godly women.  We must discern from their behavior, in light of God's Word, whether or not they are a suitable mentor. Jesus warned that there would be many who called Him Lord, performed miracles, prophesied, and cast out demons in His name...and, yet, He did not know them.  We have to know God's Word and Godly character to know who we should choose to help us on our way.}

Unfortunately, too often we choose ungodly mentors -without realizing we're even choosing mentors at all.  What we watch on television, what we listen to on the radio, and the advice we receive from worldly friends is not only no substitute for the example of a Godly older woman, but it is a surefire way to find yourself off of God's path.  When our churches are virtually devoid of the type of mentorship that God has designed for the Church, it is tempting to take advice and relationship where you can get it, but it always ends badly.  Many times, there are willing mentors and mentees in your congregation, but you may need to initiate the relationship.  If there are not willing mentors or mentees in your congregation, you should consider finding a new congregation - because that means that your congregation is not fulfilling one of the most basic commands of God or His design for His church.

Have you had great Godly mentors in your Christian walk?  I'd love to hear about them.   I know that it is from up-close, personal relationships with wonderful women of God that I have learned so much.  By watching their examples I have learned: great approaches to parenting, to rank Scripture above every other source of advice or wisdom, how to love through hard times, and how to persevere in Christ through challenges.  Through their encouragement I have learned: to press on and uphold my God-given responsibilities no mater what others do; to search the Word with passion, and to not lose faith in God.  Through their admonishment I've learned: that gossip hurts people and disappoints God, that just because women I look up to (even in the church) do something that doesn't mean it's right; faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).  What have you learned from the Godly women God has blessed you with?


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Just Call Me Nadab

Photo Credit: Southbridge Community Church

Sometimes, I want my sacrifice to be sufficient.

Sometimes, I don't want to look into God's Word for guidance and approval, I just want God to be pleased with my sacrifice because it's heartfelt on my part.

Of course, my struggle is as old as Cain.  

And, no, it does not escape my notice that that didn't work out so well for Him.  

And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4)

What seems obvious from this passage is that Cain knew what God expected (verse 7), yet he insisted on a sacrifice that pleased him, rather than God.  And when God wasn't pleased, Cain chose to be angry.  It was entirely within his ability to offer a sacrifice that pleased God, but he chose to please himself - and then he chose to be mad at God for not finding his sacrifice acceptable.

We've known the story since childhood, and I suspect most of us see the error of Cain's ways.  It was, indeed, ridiculous to expect God to accept whatever sacrifice Cain deemed appropriate.  It was reprehensible for him to kill Abel in an outpouring of his resentment and anger.

Yet, we still do this today.

"God hasn't led me to obey that yet."

Recently one of my Facebook friends asked whether or not a woman should cover her head daily.  There were many replies for and against, but I found this comment the most disturbing:
God would have to do a mighty work in me for me to submit to covering my head. That is probably more due to being American than anything. 
March 1  · Like · 3

This woman was quite willing to admit that she would not submit to God unless He bent her knees for her.  She doesn't argue against the Scripture on head covering - her only excuse for her declared rebellion is that she is American - which I admit is probably sadly accurate for her on this topic - and many of the rest of us on this topic and others.

This is not an uncommon response to the very controversial (at least in modern America) topic of head covering - but it seems to be true of we humans in general.

There have been a number of times when I have been in a Biblical discussion about things that the Lord has communicated quite clearly - like the necessity of giving to the poor, or male leadership in God's church, or following Christ daily - when a Christian actually claims, "well, God hasn't put that on my heart."

If we're not feeling something in our heart that God put in His Word, then we can know that our heart is not synchronized with God's heart.  

Now, many things are left up to God's individual leading - like how much to give to the poor and which poor to give it to - but if it is commanded in God's Word, then God Himself has put it on each Christian's heart in the form of His inspired Word.

When Our Sacrifice is Displeasing

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before theLord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying,‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,And before all the people I will be honored.’” (Leviticus 10)

Sometimes we cannot know if a sacrifice is pleasing to God because it is not specifically mentioned in Scripture.  Often, however, we are quick to offer a sacrifice that we have determined will be pleasing to God, without offering those He has already commanded of us.

In fact, this very thing was King Saul's ultimate undoing.
22 But Samuel replied:“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices    as much as in obeying the Lord?To obey is better than sacrifice,    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,    he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15)

It would appear that God views our well-intentioned-but-disobedient sacrifices much differently than we do. 

What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”Says the Lord.“I have had enough of burnt offerings of ramsAnd the fat of fed cattle;And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.12 “When you come to appear before Me,Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer,Incense is an abomination to Me.New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,They have become a burden to Me;I am weary of bearing them.15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer,I will hide My eyes from you;Yes, even though you multiply prayers,I will not listen.Your hands are covered with blood.16 Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.Cease to do evil,17 Learn to do good;Seek justice,Reprove the ruthless,Defend the orphan,Plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1)

It is not a multitude of sacrifices God desires - or observances of rituals - they weary and burden Him.  He desires that we serve Him with integrity in the way He asks - not the way our human minds think is sufficient. 

And the only way to know what those sacrifices are is to dig into God's Word...and obey.

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