Monday, May 23, 2016

Solving the world's problem's on the treadmill

I always think out these theological arguments when I jog.  It usually starts with seeing buff men and women out there on the gym floor pumping iron while I run like an uncoordinated giraffe on the treadmill.

When I look out on a crowd of people, especially people working hard to achieve some level of physical fitness or strength, I think about the fact that we are made in the image of God.   I think about what C.S. Lewis said, "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare."   And what the Psalmist wrote, "I said, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.'" (Psalm 82:6-7).

It's part of what I believe that shapes how I view and interact with people.  I tremble sometimes when I look around and think about the souls all around me.  And when I walk a bent over 90 plus year old woman to the bathroom at work I think about the fact that she was once 16 and 21 and 42 and has a whole story.  She's a creature of God!  She's an immortal soul created in the image of God for the purpose of resonating his wonder through her life.  Even as she hobbles to the bathroom.  

 I look at all those bodies trying really hard to get bigger and be stronger and look sexier and I think,  "We're all gods!".  We've been given so much power and dominion and bear the image of God.  We are not God, yet we act like gods all the time.  Deciding what's right and wrong.  Making rules and enforcing them.  Declaring what's just and unjust.  Creating amazing works of art, science, structure and food. We champion causes and teach our children what we believe they should and shouldn't do.  And yet we deny that there is a God and declare that we are merely random results of time and matter.  We are gods declaring there is no God.  We are broken, confused, evil gods that, at times (by the common grace of God), do good.

We don't want there to be a God because the want to be the gods we deny that we are.

I heard a story on the radio of a woman who was angrily calling into a debate where she declared that the whole agenda of the debate was to deny her the right, as a woman, to do with what she willed the life of the baby growing inside her.  She carried on in her rant against the debaters questioning what kind of a God would take away the innocent lives of people in an earthquake or natural disaster.  And one debater asked the lady if she would answer him this one thing:  How can you declare any notion of a God who would take a life in a natural disaster an evil God while at the same time declaring your right to take the life of the child growing inside you as right and just?

We are insane gods.  We declare what's wrong is right and what's right is wrong.  We claim for ourselves the right to the power we declare would be wrong for a perfect, loving, holy, pure God to have.

I don't understand a lot of things about God.  I don't see why.  But I know this: I am not able to see or understand and therefore I have no right to claim I know better.  I would much rather come under the judgement and mercy of a perfect God than to align myself with the twisted reasoning and declarations of an imperfect human being.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

another day in the books

We had farm visitors today!  A soap customer and a nurse I used to work with came with their sweet kiddos to check out the baby goats and pick some soap.  Of course, the baby kitties were a hit too.  Even the chickens drew their attention.

I enjoy sharing the pleasure of having a little farm with others.  I never would have thought I'd get to do that!

Today was day 1 of 4 off work.  I worked three days in a row and that's enough to tucker a girl out!

Today was a rest and visit day.  Tomorrow is a Goats Make Soap Co. business day and another disbudding day.  We have a set of twin bucklings that need to be disbudded.  I'm not looking forward to it at all, but it has to be done.

Goats Make Soap Co. may soon have soap on the shelf of a store in Madrid, Spain!  We received a request from a merchant in Madrid who would like to stock our soaps in their little store.  So exciting!

Ryland had band practice this evening and Connor baseball.  Saturday and Sunday will be a tournament weekend for Connor in Gilbert.  And then another 12 hour shift at the hospital for me.  Mother's Day is coming, then Nurse's week, then another doe is due to kid, and then school is out for summer!

The days fill up and go by so fast.  When I get a chance to stop and survey, a week or two has passed and before I know it it's a new season and I have two sons fast becoming men entering their 7th and 8th grade years.


So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!  - Psalm 90:12-17


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sundays just aren't the same

It's really beautiful out tonight.

I broke the normal Sunday night routine of dishes, laundry and dispatching children to the shower to get ready for work and school on Monday to come sit out on the patio and think, which means write, for a bit.

I'm really bummed about how Sunday's have turned out for me and my family.

This summer it will have been 2 years (I think) since my church peacefully parted ways. Our small number of families set out to find a new church family and our pastor followed the call on his life to teach... all over the world. Between baseball tournaments for Connor and my work schedule, I have been at church maybe 2 Sunday's a month at most. When I do go, it's not always at the same place. We just haven't settled anywhere.

 I want to find a church with a Saturday or midweek worship so that if baseball or my work schedule don't allow us to go on Sunday we still have a chance to meet. This weekend was one of those weekends when neither Saturday nor Sunday would have worked for church since Connor had a tournament that extended into the evening Saturday and took up the morning on Sunday. And it's nearly unheard of to have a Sunday evening service anymore. I miss that. Growing up we were at church Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. Not that that makes you special or a better person, but it's just so refreshing to pause from the business of daily life to have dedicated times (multiple times, not 1 hour on Sunday morning) when you can go hear the preaching of God's word and join with others in worship. I miss it. A lot.

We have fun baby goats running and jumping around out there in the goat yard. Six in total. Five are bucklings (male goats). And a lone baby girl (doeling). We'll keep the doeling. All the bucklings will be wethered (castrated) and sold. I wanted to try raising some of the boys for meat, but I'm having a really hard time thinking about actually carrying that plan out. And my macho-man husband isn't helping. When I told him my idea about raising them until 8 months of age and then having them butchered, he protested. He can't handle the idea of eating something he watched grow in our backyard. That's the whole point actually... to know where your food comes from and that it was raised in an ethical and healthy way. But it is hard. I think I could go through with it, as long as I don't have to do the killing (and I won't), but I'm still undecided. I'll probably put them up for sale, knowing they'll be somebody's barbecue, and if the don't sell, I'll destine them for the freezer in 8 months.  I'll probably have to schedule that freezer day on a day when my husband's at work... he'll have no idea when dinner's served.

Goats Make Soap Co. had our last booth at the Momma's Organic Farmer's Market at Parkwest in Peoria yesterday.  We were invited to be regular's next year.  I don't know what we're going to do over the summer.  We've developed a regular customer base, and for now we are able (just barely) to keep up with the demand for our soaps and lotions.  Time is the issue.  Working full-time, raising sons, married life, goat farming... our days are full. We're discussing making a formal business plan.  We're also planning to approach Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Tractor Supply and Ace Hardware about become a vendor so that our soaps will be stocked in their stores... at least in Arizona.  That's a HUGE deal.  Only because I have no idea how it works and I'm confident it'll require equipment to make much larger batches of soap and packaging that's suitable for store shelves.  We'll make the plans.  The Lord will direct the steps.

Connor has taken his first paying job as a farm-hand for a neighbor to do evening farm chores once a week.  She has twice as many goats as we do and a much more extensive (and beautiful) homestead going on.  I'm really proud of him.  The foundation is starting to get a frame.  The ditch I started digging when he was a baby is starting to take form.  I've been raising a man, not a boy these 13 years.  I pray with even more desperation and fervency for the next 13.  Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How I Became A Tree

So my sister asked me in a text the other day if I could tell her the day that I believed in Christ.  It's such a wonderful thing to be asked I didn't want to just keep it between me and her, so I decided to share it here.

First of all I don't know exactly.  I know that's not much of an answer, but there are a few different times in my life that I consider to be major "baptisms" in my life... times when I was utterly changed.  There is really only one "baptism" that converted me and it was at that moment that such a miraculous thing occurred in my heart that I have never been the same since. The reason I have such a hard time putting an exact day or circumstance on that miracle is because I think as I look back and see these turning points in my life,  I can't tell if it was then that the miracle of being re-created happened in me or if it happened before and that event was just a fruit of that miracle taking place.

And really my life is like that.  I am a tree, planted by streams of living water.  It started as a seed received in my dirty soil and by the miracle that only God can perform, I sprouted and despite storm and trial, I continue to grow deep roots and tall, gnarly, wind-tested branches, that I pray never stop producing the fruit of the love of Christ in me.

So to answer the question, here's what I think is the story of how I became a tree.

When I was 15, I was at a youth retreat with our church's youth group.  At that time I was into the "mod" scene (now called goth or emo or something...), styling myself after the likes of The Cure and Depeche Mode.  I was very insecure, wanting to "be different" and be liked.  I wanted to make my own statement of non-conformity by conforming to non-conformists.  I thought I was a real live fish swimming against the stream of passively floating jellyfish.

So here I was, at this youth retreat with other kids my age, all of whom I liked but felt very different than.  And although I seemed to be saying with my look that I wanted to be different, I really wanted to just be liked and accepted.  But there I was with all these athletic, preppy, popular teens, so I put on my white jeans, and styled my bob so it covered my left eye and painted my pale-faced lips with blood red lipstick and joined the other "normal" kids in an auditorium full of (I'm gonna guess a number here) 5,000 other kids singing Amazing Grace.

I remember standing there, not singing, looking around at those other kids and their families singing and instead of talking to myself I listened to a voice in my head saying, "Choose Sheila.  Choose this day whom you will serve?  You either follow me, or follow them."  I knew the "them" the voice spoke of- my peers who I so foolishly wanted to affirm and define me.  And although I hadn't been raised to believe that God "spoke" with a person, I knew that it was God "speaking" to my heart.

I ignored the voice and developed an acidy knot in my gut and the most horrible headache I had ever experienced.  In fact, the headache was so bad, that on the 8 hour trip home with my youth group they  stopped at an emergency room in Medford, Oregon to have me examined.  There I was treated with narcotics for a migraine and sent home.

Once I got home I laid on my couch with this terrible headache, knowing that the cure for it would not come until I decided whom I would serve.  And I knew what I needed to do to demonstrate that I had chosen.  I had to call my best friend Delcina.

Delcina was my closest friend from 7th through 10th grades.  Her family welcomed me, allowed me to raise a pig for 4-H on their farm and showed me stability and what I thought "normal families" looked like, since I didn't think my family was normal.   I valued Delcina's thoughts about me more than any person.  And I feared, as I laid there, that if I told her I had decided to follow Jesus I would loose her friendship.  I tried to hide in my headache but I couldn't anymore.  So I called her.  I remember the phone call so well.  No cell.  No wireless handset.  I walked to the kitchen and dialed her number on the circular dial landline phone on the wall.  I thought I'd puke waiting for her to answer and when she did answer I was swept away in her friendly voice telling me about the activities she'd been doing over the summer.  Then she asked, "What did you do?"  And out of my mouth came words I didn't know before they came out, "I decided to follow Jesus Delcina."

There was a little pause and an immediate relief of the boulder that had been crushing me for days.

"I knew you were going to say that," Delcina responded in a soft, disappointed but understanding voice.  "Well, what does that mean?..."

I remember her asking me what that meant for our friendship and I remember answering that I still wanted to be friends but I wasn't probably going to be doing all the same things I had been doing before.  She agreed, but said she still wanted to eat lunch with me at school and do things together.  And so we did.  But it was undeniably apparent from that moment on that the one thing I desired more than anything else had totally taken over my life, and that was Jesus.  I wanted HIM!  I wanted to know what He liked.  I wanted to know what He thought of me.  I wanted Him to define who I was and affirm me not my friends or parents or peers.  And THAT was the evidence that I had been baptized into Christ.  My desires were totally different.  The old me had died.  The desires of my heart were totally different.  And I craved the Bible, like food!

I began a frenzy of energy in my new-found love of Christ.  I started writing skits and poems and journal entries.  I performed in my youth group's drama club and church and asked hard questions of my elders- questions that challenged errors in doctrine that they had taught me that I didn't see in the Bible.  I went on a mission trip with my youth to Mexico to build a house for a poor family there and came back wanting to be a missionary forever.  I dove into learning Spanish.  I got a Spanish/English Bible for my 16th birthday and sang hymns in Spanish around my house.  My life was night and day when comparing it to life a year previous.  I was confident and full of hope!

I remember our youth pastor telling me one day, "Sheila, I just want to say your face has physically changed in the last weeks.  You shine!"  I knew it wasn't makeup or style or DNA he was talking about.  I didn't know how to say it but it was Christ.  He had come in and made me really alive!!

It wasn't long after these events that my faith began being tested.  I won't go into those events now, but when I look back on them, there are a few more of these "baptisms" or crossroads in my life when I knew I had to take a step of faith in obeying what I knew God was saying, and was utterly changed in the process.  Sometimes I failed to take a step of faith and instead did not obey and took detours into very hard, lonely times.  But even those times God has used to prune and grow my life.

I am a tree planted by streams of living water.  He planted me.  He gave me life.  He tends to me.  He tests me.  He prunes me.  I will never be the same.

"Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." - James 1:21 

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither." -Psalm 1:3
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” -Jeremiah 17:8 
"What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” - Luke 13:19