Wednesday, January 4, 2012

From Mercy to Duck Sludge

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

My husband approaches me one evening, and I can tell he's somewhat perturbed. "Why is it," he begins, confirming my inkling of his annoyance," that every time I go check on the ducks, their water is nothing but a lump of sludge? Don't the kids ever give them fresh water?"
"Every day," I tell him. "Every day the kids bring them fresh water to their bowl and clean it. Every day they fill it up to the top, and every day the ducks waste it and drag mud into it and splash all the clean water out. By the end of the day, all that's left is a lump of sludge. It's sort of like what we do to the Lord's mercy."
"Ah....", he says, as his eyes light up with understanding.

Fresh is His presence of love and mercy. Fresh is our resolve to abide in it. However, the day's "mud" gets stuck to our feet and our bottoms and we drag our filth into His sweet pool of water and inevitably muck it up. You know what, though? That's sort of what it's there for. My children don't put a bowl of water out for the ducks just to sit there all pretty and shiny. The water, like God's mercies, is there to be used. Don't get me wrong-- I'm not telling you to go and purposefully drag your body through the muck of the world just to squander His grace. No, but it is an inevitability that this world is geared toward chaos and we are indeed living in it. Let grace be there to cover and clean and refresh you when you are done with being corrupted by the world and in need of His loving kindness.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
(Psalm 51)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sexual Sucker Fruit

Song of Solomon 8:4 "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires."

Years ago, I bought some fruit trees. Every spring, I prune the branches. I meticulously keep the trees watered and fertilized all in the hope of one day harvesting fruit from them. I have two apple trees and two pear trees. This year was the first year of seeing any hope of my efforts paying off. One of my apple trees blossomed and budded with wee little green apples. I rejoiced and thanked God that someday I would be eating some apples that I had raised!

Now, those wee green apples have matured and are brazenly donning a glowing red blush. They are ripe and round and look so delicious. However, there's a problem-- they are sucker fruit. I don't know the reasoning behind it, but I've had many farmers warn me not to pick the first crop from my fruit trees, but to let them mature and die and wait for the next year to harvest the fruit. It's so hard to resist the urge to to pluck just one from the branch just to taste the fruit of my labors, but I want my trees to bear the full potential of fruit for the next many years, so I wait...and wait....and just resist that urge.

In my heart, I began to reflect on how God has a perfect design for things. Sometimes, it seems as if He is withholding good things from us just as a cruel joke, but I know He's not that malicious. It seems to me that one of many things in our life that we must resist plucking from the tree prematurely is sex. Premarital sex is a lot like sucker fruit. If we sample it before we should, we could be limiting the fruitfulness of that tree in future years. I don't claim to understand how God works, but I know He's always trying to tell us something.

I've heard the testimonies of many people who are married Christian couples this day, but they slept together before they we were married and regret it fully even now. Some might say, "What's the point of regretting? You're married now, so what does it matter?" The answer they give is: "It just does." When you know you've not done things God's way, you know you've gypped yourself, and that's just that. I'm not saying that God doesn't restore and forgive and make things right, but I am saying that there will always be a consequence for our actions. Oftentimes, God is merciful enough to keep us from seeing the full consequence because if we really understood, we might have a harder time getting over the disappointment and may even succumb entirely to a self-destructive grief.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:11-13)

Sucker fruit must be left alone. God's plan for things in their maturity and fullness is perfect. Patience and trust are some of the most valuable things we could ever nurture in our hearts. To harvest a dozen apples today might be robbing myself of hundreds in years to come.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (Philippians 3:14-15)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

At the Bosom of Booger

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” - Luke 9:60

Years ago, we had a barn cat named Booger. Yes, I know, it's not a very flattering name, but her name was still Booger. She was a small, grey-striped cat that was very useful for killing vermin (I won't mention how she also killed things that were not vermin as well, though, like my poultry-- oops, I meantioned it).

One day, Booger had herself a litter of kittens. There were four of them and they all looked alike--- the mirror image of Booger. The kittens grew, opened their eyes, and learned to walk. As they learned to walk, their curiosity led them to some very dangerous places. One of them wanted to perch on the edge of a water bucket, but teetered in and drowned. Another one tried to play with the dogs and got chewed to death. Another one jumped off of my husband's workbench in the garage and decaptiated itself on a saw blade. The last one must have gained some introspective wisdom and high-tailed it out of this apparent death trap, because I never saw it again.

Each and every one of these kittens that died was buried next to the garage. The decapitated one was buried with his body and head placed neatly next to each other. However, one beautiful summer day, I found Booger happily nursing what looked like a kitten in the corner of the barn. She was purring and making that happy/squinty face that cats make when they're really content. I thought that maybe the missing one had returned, so I approached Booger to pet the kitten. To my absolute horror, I realized that she was nursing not a kitten, but the HEAD to her decapitated kitten! She had exhumed it and carried it into the barn to nurse and snuggle. I screamed for my husband and he snatched the head to re-bury it (this time, under a pile of rocks, so she couldn't dig it out again).

My friends, what I saw that day is indeed still very vivid in my memory. It was burned there by it's literal grotesqueness and I've often wished it would just disappear. However, I find myself reflecting on the fact that it's an appropriate image for realizing what it's like when we 'nurse dead things in our lives'. What in the world do I mean by this? Well, I must admit that sometimes, when something bad happens to me, I'm tempted to re-hash the scenario in my mind and nurse those dark feelings long after the offensive occurance has passed. I harbor a demented contentment when I reflect on these things. I don't pretend to understand the human mind, but I know that I'm not the only person who digs up hurtful memories again and again and again. Why, why, why is there the temptation to do it?! What is that sick pleasure? Indeed, it is little more than exhuming and nursing a dead kitten.

Are you bitter over something someone did to hurt you? Are you mad at God over losing a loved one? There are many 'dead kittens at the breast' that we could have in our lives if we don't handle painful memories and offenses in a healthy way. Do not exhume the dead!

"(Love) keeps no record of wrongs." - 1 Corinthians 13:5

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spiritual Mastitis

I'm not the most educated idiot regarding mastitis, but that's a good thing. I've never had it and (as a farmer) my goats don't get it. However, many good dairy people out there battle this odious attack of the mammaries on a daily basis. I've heard their cries and I've seen the struggle this produces in a herd of animals.

Mastitis is caused by the staph bacteria getting up into the teats of an animal. There, it breeds in it's warm, moist environment and causes an infection in the mammary. There are acute cases in which the animal may be running a temperature, have a hot and inflamed udder, and pass nothing but blood clots; or there may be a chronic issue in which the animal will produce off-flavored milk with small, white 'clots' in it. In an acute case, the animal may very well right itself and it's milk will be fine afterward. In a chronic case, the animal will continuously have recurrent or consistent flare-ups as it develops a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the staph bacteria that made a home in it's body.

In our lives, we know we are all fully capable of sin. Though we may have developed a relationship with Christ in which he's given us a new heart, we still are not perfect. The goal is holiness in our lives, but we still live in a world rampant with the dark armies that seek to steal, kill, and destroy. Our flesh likes this world and we are daily engaged in spiritual warfare to maintain our freedom in Christ. A goat is born with the ability to never have mastitis, but if it is in this 'contaminated' world, it will always run the risk. Certain goats are more resistant than others, and this is a blessing. Some goats are walking targets and we're never surprised when they are taken down.

Now, because we are still all able to sin, I consider a person who is free in Christ someone who can have 'acute' attacks of sin in their lives. For example, a person who yells at their children when they've had a particularly long day, or someone who was rude to another person in the parking lot when they were in a particular rush. These are acute 'flare-ups' of sin; they are like nasty, bloody chunks that stand out in our our life and draw great attention from people who know us well. They are normally quickly remedied and our 'milk' will taste fine after it clears up. However, there are those of us who literally function with chronic sins in our lives. We have a balance we've established in our homes and workplaces in which people can count on us being a certain way. Are we characterized as a pessimist? as being temperamental? as being rude? These are sins we've created a symbiotic relationship with and we appear normal on the surface because these are part of our daily walk. However, beneath the surface, there's a smoldering colony of darkness that is creating a literal 'off-flavor' to our lives. Daily, our Lord is drinking of our 'milk' we produce; some people are sweet after their acute case, and some are sour everyday.

What sins may we have allowed to colonize in our hearts? Do we have a relationship with sin in our lives that characterize us in a way that is very unholy?

There are ways to prevent mastitis in a herd: Cleansing, and removing carriers of the chronic cases. We must be careful to consistently wash ourselves in the Word of God and ask God to give us hearts that are sensitive to sin. Also, we need to be very careful of who we allow ourselves to be close to. Some people are breeding grounds of harmful material, and we must be careful to only offer ministry to them and not dwell in close quarters to them.

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin. (Psalm 19:12-13)

Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all. (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

In the case of chronic mastitis, many will say to cull the animal (culling means to remove from the herd-- usually butcher). However, we're not just goats with bad milk, we are precious creatures of God that He seeks to restore. No case of sin is so bad that God can't cure it! Many dairy people that want to restore their goats with mastitis will say to massage peppermint and oregano oils into their udder. Peppermint cleanses, and oregano is a powerful agent in killing even the most sinister of diseases such as MRSA.

Search our hearts, O God, and make them new. Decolonize sin in our lives so we may not be breeding grounds for the Adversary's plan. May we be like You!

O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart
that you may be saved.
How long will you harbor
your evil thoughts?
(Jeremiah 4:14)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lord, Save the Turkeys

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." Luke 13:34

Summertime ushers in the season in which we raise our poultry for meat. In one day, I received my shipment of 50 chicks and 15 turkey poults. I immediately put the turkeys into the outdoor pen complete with heat lamp, hut for shelter, waterer, and food dish full of grain. They were delighted and strutted about pecking at blades of grass and making joyous, squeaky peeps. Shortly thereafter a storm blew very suddenly into our area. Within minutes after the torrents of rain and wind drove us inside, my daughter ran to me with tears in her eyes: "Mom!" she cried, "The turkeys are DYING!"

"What?!" I yelled, leaping from my seat. I gathered my skirts and ran outside to the turkey pen. Each and every one of the 15 turkeys was laying motionless and and soaked to the skin in the grass. Not one of the turkeys took the initiative to seek shelter from the storm and all were in various stages of dying. One turkey was most assuredly dead as it was laying face down in the waterer. The other ones I gathered into my shirt and carried into the house. My son brought in the heat lamp and my daughter brought the hair dryer, and we all set to the task of trying to save the turkeys.

After an hour or maybe two, all of the turkeys were to the point in which their eyes were open and began to peep again. We laid them under the heat lamp and left them to recover. For those of you who don't know poultry, the fact that we were able to save ANY turkeys is a miracle. Turkeys, especially, are very sensitive and die easily. Each and every one of the turkeys that we brought into the house recovered.

Now, I've learned that turkeys have no sense and need constant shelter. What the Lord pointed out to me is that many people are like turkeys and don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain enough to save themselves. What I mean is this: our Lord has offered Himself as a refuge and a hiding place for those who will indeed seek the shelter of His wings. His presence is not a safe place for those who are rebellious, but only for those who truly love Him and trust Him and honor Him in what they do. People, come under the shelter of the Most High and He will protect you from the storms of life. Storms will indeed happen, but they needn't get the best of us. Psalm 91:1-3 says ' Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.'

May I not be too stupid to see the outstretched wings of our Lord offering a refuge from life's storm. This world is a dangerous place--may we not be so naive as to think that we can save ourselves.

Therefore strong peoples will honor you;
cities of ruthless nations will revere you.
You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm
and a shade from the heat.
For the breath of the ruthless
is like a storm driving against a wall
and like the heat of the desert.
You silence the uproar of foreigners;
as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is stilled. (Isaiah 25:3-5)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pitching Your Tent

We have a splendid herding dog named Asher. He naturally always seemed to know how to work the sheep to bring them into the barn when we needed him to do it. Over the winter, however, the sheep were continuously kept in the barn, so Asher's services weren't needed.

During the winter, he satisfied his urge to chase things by chasing cars (inside the confines of our fenced in pasture, of course). He would run back and forth, joyously barking as he spent some of his energy. After the snows melted and the pasture came in, Asher's services were once again needed to bring the sheep into the barn. I loosed him in the back paddock, same as always, but he just stopped and stared at the sheep, dumbfounded. He glanced back and forth between the sheep and me, and eventually trotted back to my side. "Go get them, Asher!" I cried, but he just trotted a few steps in their direction and stopped. It seemed that he trained himself over the course of the winter to only chase things that were moving of their own volition, and not things that required agitation to move. He literally forgot how to herd sheep!

Now, we've begun the grueling task of retraining him to herd the sheep and we're desperately trying to break his habit of chasing cars. When we take him with us during chore time, we correct him every time he tries to slink around toward the front of the garage to indulge his dirty desire. This morning, in particular, I noticed how his butt was by my side, but his mind and will were by the roadside. His gaze was off in that direction and every thirty seconds, his little furry behind would scoot a few more inches toward the corner of the building in the direction of his heart's desire. "Asher!" I exclaimed, "Quit pitching your tent toward Sodom!"

I was stunned by the words that came out of my mouth until I realized what God was trying to say to me. How often do we begrudgingly submit to the Lord, but defy His orders in our hearts in order to look for the first loophole or opportunity to disobey and gratify our own desires?

Genesis 13:12 says,"Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom." This looks like a trivial, geographical issue until we understand what Sodom is and what happens to Lot's heart. Sodom was a depraved city, steeped in iniquity, and nearly ripe for a disastrous judgment from the Lord. Lot set his tent to overlook a city he knew was evil. Years pass, and Lot's not living in a tent anymore-- he's living in a house
in the city of Sodom! Sodom was at this time all the way ripe for it's judgment and Lot had to evacuate in a hurry and bring as much of his family as he could with him! In the meantime that he was there, he managed to stay the most righteous man in the place, but that's hardly saying much. His whole family had become marinated in the culture of Sodom and it affected their hearts.

So here is my issue: the Lord has created us for a specific, useful purpose-- much the same way that the border collie was created to help a shepherd by herding sheep. We can either focus our efforts on a God-given task that is natural to our true anointing, or we can "chase cars" and squander our gifts on our useless, selfish desires. Whichever way we pitch our tent will affect the desires of our hearts. Who is your Lord? Is it your Creator? Or is it your self?

Jesus says in Matthew 16:24 says,"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me."

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Devourer

I've been having a problem in the barnyard lately. I noticed that some of my baby goats were not growing properly. I've checked their mother and she's producing plenty of milk. Still, they are stunted. I've puzzled and puzzled as to why they are growing improperly. However, today I went outside and noticed a horrifying sight: the beef steer was suckling the milk from the mother goat! No wonder these babies are stunted-- it's because their milk is being devoured by a cow!

Now, granted my cow is not Satan, but this brought to mind one of the names of Satan to me: the Devourer. The Devourer is intent upon his own satisfaction and leaves those weaker than himself to become even more weak. The Devourer oppresses rather than serves. The Devourer is permitted by God to reduce the wealth of people who disobey God and will not honor Him with their possessions. However, when we come into obedience, the Devourer is yanked back from our territory so that our wealth may once again be restored.

"Can a person rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How have we robbed you?' In tenths and voluntary contributions. A curse is on you, on your whole nation, because you rob me. Bring the whole tenth into the storehouse, so that there will be food in my house, and put me to the test,' says the Lord of Hosts (Lord of the armies of heaven), 'See if I won't open for you the floodgates of heaven and pour out for you a blessing far beyond your needs. For your sakes I will forbid the devourer to destroy the yield from your soil; and your vine will not lose its fruit before harvest-time." Malachi 3:8-11

Though the disobedient are allowed to be chastened by God by way of the Devourer, God is the defender of the weak and will only tolerate the wicked yoke of oppression for so long.

"May Adonai cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks so proudly, those who say, 'By our tongues, we will prevail; our lips are with us. Who can master us?' 'Because the poor are oppressed, because the needy are groaning, I will now rise up,' says Adonai, 'and grant security to those whom they scorn'...You, Adonai, protect us; guard us forever from this generation-- the wicked strut about everywhere when vileness is held in general esteem."

Now-- to go chasten an arrogant, oppressive bovine and restore the rightful inheritance to weakened baby goats! Hallelujah! I shall manage my barnyard as Adonai manages the whole of the earth! Glory to Him and His perfect ways!!!