Friday, September 28, 2012

Division and conflict come again



9/28/12 Friday
          The end of another week is coming. Some end the week at Friday and some on Sunday. Doesn’t matter to me as they all fly by so quickly. We have rain, lots of rain. That means we will have weeds, lots of weeds. But it’s good. One of these years we will have a catch basin dug that will catch tens of thousands of gallons of this precious resource. Till then I have barrels and containers around to catch run off from the roofs.

          We had a disturbing thing happen yesterday. It caught me totally by surprise. One of the things we have noticed in our life is how adept the enemy is at causing division and disrupting relationships. We have seen otherwise good people suddenly view us as enemies or develop an animosity that belies reason. I am sure that at times my faults contributed to this but the more it happens the more I understand there is more to it than that.

          So I am at the property of one of the seniors we spend time helping out. I have been cutting firewood for her and chopped down some of the many dead trees that litter the property. A natural result of this is lots of small branches that need to be disposed of. Without a trailer and now with all three of my trucks out of commission, moving the growing piles of branches is something beyond my ability. Plus having lost three weeks due to hurting my back and then spending four days at the prison slowed things down. Because of that I have not been on the property for over a month. Was able to make it out there Wednesday and then again yesterday. Her cats hadn’t been fed for some time as the trays were long since cleaned out so I fed them. I watered all the potted plants she had out and turned the pile of compost, then went to work with the chain saw.

          We had cut up one of the Israeli cantaloupe into nice small pieces for her but she didn’t answer when I knocked on the door. At noon the people who had introduced us to her came to give her a ride to the hair dresser. “Great” I thought. “I’ll be able to see her” and I hurried to the car. When she expressed a great deal of anger towards me it was like I had been slapped in the  face. She seemed to feel that I had been told about picking up a pile of branches but I don’t recall that at all. With the memory loss issues I must wrestle with that does not surprise me but there was more going on here than that.
 This is our old burn barrel that has rusted away. 

          It appears that someone has been whispering in her ear, planting all kinds of negative thoughts. They apparently desire to drive a wedge between us and I suspect I know the reason why. I watched my family take advantage of my grandmother years ago as she neared the end of her life. We lived fifteen hundred miles away so I was helpless to stop it. But it broke our hearts to see the greed and selfishness of those who were supposed to love their relatives. The rifts caused by that still exist. It’s a story that has been told a thousand times with a thousand different versions, but the roots are all the same. They are greed and opportunity provided when others are weak, dependent, and easily manipulated. How God hates this kind of thing.

          There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16)

I sent the individual involved a text message, saying we loved her and were praying for her. I asked if she had a relationship with God. This was after receiving an angry phone call with her yelling so hard I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Mind you this was not the widow we were helping out yelling at me but a niece in law who has developed an increased interest in “caring” for the widow. At this point I guess there is not much we can do other than pray.

And this is the new burn barrel that fell off a truck as it went past the farm. God is good and supplies our needs.
 
There have been so many people we have met and then watched as they went from being friendly to not. There were many motivating factors in these things, from greed to jealousy. At the core I suspect it has been the work of the devil, who wants to steal kill and destroy all that is good. There seems to be an upswing in divisions and bickering all over these days, almost like the devil has been unleashed to cause as much havoc as possible.

Jesus left us with one main command. It is found in John chapter 13, right after he washed His disciples feet. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

This seems to be simple enough, a pretty basic and easily understood command. But as simple and plainly clear as it is this is evidently one of the hardest commands to carry out. I say that because the reality is I see very little evidence of that kind of Love practiced by those who wear the name of “Christian”. Don’t get me wrong, I do see lots of true love expressed but it is far out shadowed by all the bickering and conflict we see in the church these days. How hard it is to love some but Jesus did not say it would be easy or that we should only love those who are lovable. He said “As I have loved you, so you MUST love one another”. That means we love those who abuse us and mistreat us. That is hard. Love means to choose for the highest good of the other and the highest good is that they be found pleasing on that day the stand before the judgment seat.
Barrels full of valuable rain water
 
          Unfortunately we had been counting on getting the firewood we need for the winter from this widows property but that is now in doubt. Considering our primary source of heat is wood it might be a real cold winter. We will now pray and hope that God will provide a source of firewood. If any of you readers have some trees to cut down let me know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

There was a prison riot. pray



9/26/12 Wednesday
          It’s 4:37 in the afternoon. I have been out digging up irrigation line that the gophers have riddled with holes. First I dug where there was water bubbling up from the ground and exposed a big leak. However once that was exposed it became clear that there were other leaks, evidenced by water running from where the hose disappeared into the soil. So I dug, and I dug. Finding water leaking from the hose in many places and seeing that the entire length exposed had been gnawed on it became clear that I had a lot of digging to do. I repaired a six foot length but when I turned the water on found even more leaks. This half inch plastic pipe is buried three feet deep in the ground so that is a lot of dirt. I am grateful that the back pain has greatly improved but this sure is aggravating it. Plus I am using muscles that have not been used much lately so they are definitely complaining.

          This morning I went over to Mary’s. She is one of the senior citizens we help out, the one who fell and broke her wrist. Took a bowl of Israeli cantaloupe all cut up into bite size pieces hoping she was up so I could give it to her. The doors were closed and there was no answer to my knock so that was not to be. I suspect that she is fighting some serious depression right now and wanted to provide some encouragement. The wild outside cats had not been fed for some time so I put some food out for them. Then I got the chain saw out and started cutting down dead trees and cutting them up for firewood.

          Close to noon I had to pack up and get Cherie from work because I was driving the only vehicle we have that still runs. Got her and we went home for lunch. I had planned on going back to cut more wood but decided that there are things that need to be done here on the farm so that didn’t happen. Between cutting wood and digging up irrigation I am pretty sore. I plan on heading over to Mary’s in the morning.

          I just learned today that they had a riot at the prison we spent four days at. Evidently it broke out shortly after we left the prison. The report said that there were 40 inmates involved and several had to be rushed to the hospital. Naturally I am concerned for our brothers in the Lord there. We are not sure if this will affect our being able to go back to the prison Saturday. Part of the problem there is the prison is running on about 50% of what they should have for staff. Many programs have been canceled simply because there are no guards to watch over it. Pray for the prison if you could. Would greatly appreciate it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prison



9/24/12 Monday
          I am back from prison. There was a time that the thought I would ever look forward to going to prison would have been perceived as craziness. As this Kairos came to a close and it was time for us to leave I found myself wanting to stay in prison. I would have gladly accepted a prison uniform and a cell to live in. Why? Why would I want to be locked up in that prison? Because of love. The Love of God that reaches out to all those lost and in need. During these last 4 days we have watched hearts break and lives change as the seeds of God’s word were planted, watered, nourished, and sprang up in new life. When a plant is new, just breaking the surface seeking light as it sends out roots for sustenance, it is at its most delicate and vulnerable stage. Without water at this critical time it can quickly die and I have learned on my farm that these young shoots are also a favorite delicacy to the wildlife and insects that would enjoy consuming them.

          I understand deeply the danger for plants at this stage and I understand also, from experience, that the same danger exists for those men whom we have had the privilege to touch. Jesus described this well in His parable of the Sower. Here is the explanation of the parable that he gave his disciples as found in Mark chapter 4.

 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop--thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

During the 4 days we got to know the men at our table and often those who sat at some of the other tables as God guided those who were best able to relate to or help specific situations. I watched as hard hearts softened and walls built through a lifetime of pain came tumbling down. There were “hardened criminals” who broke down crying in front of others, something that normally they would never allow because of the tough guy front that is presented to everyone.

Now that we are gone I know that the enemy will work hard to destroy all the good that was planted, and that is why I wanted to stay. We will be back in a week and I am anxious to see how these men are doing. For some, the ones who grew up in church and had fallen away, it won’t be as hard because they already have a foundation of understanding things of God. But for others, the new baby Christians, it will be much harder. Jesus described the event of becoming a Christian as being “born again”. This is a true way to label what happens when we bow before Almighty God and submit our life to Him. At that moment all the old things pass away because God forgives and chooses to forget every sin committed, and all things become new. At that moment we are like a little child that needs to learn the basics of life.

A baby needs to be cared for and protected, for it is in many ways helpless. So it is for a man who has lived the hard wild rebellious life that resulted in prison, but then decides to change his direction. However it can be much more difficult for while God has forgotten his sin, he doesn’t. A new born baby has no memory of things past and the whole world is genuinely new to it but for those who have already lived a life this is not so. For them they must relearn, or reprogram how to think and react. It is not an easy process and requires much help, guidance, support, and understanding.


There is a good community of Christians in the prison, who can help with this learning how to live for God process. But, just as it is in the free world, there will be problems and conflicts within that community. This is a sad reality that Jesus often spoke about during his time here on earth. We have seen and experienced it ourselves in many ways since I returned to God. People who call themselves Christian but despise, judge, or look down on their brothers and sisters in Christ. When you look down on another it shows that in your mind you think you are better than they are.

One time the disciples came to Jesus and asked “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”. I suspect that part of the reason they asked that had to do with their individual desire to be seen as better than others, to be exalted with high position. Jesus’ response was to call a “little” child and have it stand among them. This is found in Mathew 18.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!

The reason I put the word little in italics is because in the original Greek the word is “Ta”. Translators often have a difficult time with just how to interpret a word and this is one of those instances. A “Ta” child, during this time period, was the word used to describe children who were mentally deficient or challenged. It was how a child gvc born with Down’s syndrome was described. These children, in the eyes of their society and through the teaching of the Pharisees and religious leaders, were less than human. They were considered a blight on society and not deserving the respect even given to a dog.

The Pharisees taught that these children were cursed of God and did not deserve any protection or consideration at all. They even said that it was impossible to insult them because they would not remember the insult 45 minutes later, so it was ok to treat them as awful as you wanted without any worries regarding how God would react. But Jesus, the son of God, the creator of life, and the one who will judge us all on that final day, had a different idea. If you have ever had the privilege of being around a child with Down’s syndrome you will have discovered a child without prejudice, a child that is often happy for no reason at all, totally unaware of how deficient they are.

These children were often used as slaves in the household. The job they were often relegated to was the one considered to be one of the least desirable and most demeaning of all, that of washing the feet as people entered a house. In Roman and pagan homes these children were often sex slaves, subjected to horrors we don’t want to even imagine. So in all the cultures of the time, these children were the least thought of. What was it Jesus said?

“unless you change and become like little (Ta) children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Think deeply about this my friends. These are the words of the Son of God, who will be your judge on that last day. He said that unless you become like that child you will NEVER enter the Kingdom of heaven. Understand that these children bore the insults, curses, and smacks upside the head of all around, yet remained, enduring much pain and suffering. Yet we find in church so many who are proud and defiant, confident of their spirituality and position with God as they despise in their heart those who are not as “spiritual” as they are.

I fear and pray for them every day. So many are blinded by their pride and a confidence that is false that they not only are unaware of their sin but when confronted with even a hint they are wrong react with indignation and anger. Just as the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus these people, often leaders in the church, plot to kill those who dare to challenge their sin. Oh, they don’t plot to physically kill them but to kill their reputation, their ministry, or anything else that can be done to reduce their influence to reveal the truth.

 But it is not only those who challenge and threaten to expose the hypocrisy that receive the brunt of this disdain shown by those who are impressed with themselves but it is also all who don’t “measure up” to their standards or march along in step with them. Those in church who have weaknesses and visible faults are also targets of the spiritual elite. It is an unfortunate truth that those who find it important to be seen as spiritual leaders often find it beneficial to build themselves up by tearing down others. In the process of doing so they are unaware that instead of pleasing God they have actually become enemies of God and are doing the work of the devil as they proudly thump their chests and say “Look at me”.

So let us carefully consider the rest of what our Lord and judge said. "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!

Jesus said that if we welcome a “Ta” child in His name, we welcome Jesus. In Mathew 25, starting at verse 31, Jesus describes part of what will happen on Judgment Day. He said “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was naked and you gave me clothes, I was in prison and you visited me”. Those He was telling this to said “When did we see you hungry and feed you?” and repeated all the points Jesus made with the question of “when?”. Jesus said that whenever they did it to the LEAST of His children they did it to Him. The same held true for those who were found to be unworthy of entering the Kingdom, only their judgment was that they did not feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, provide clothes, or do anything for the LEAST of God’s children.

Jesus said “But if ANYONE causes one of these “TA” children to sin, or in other translations to “stumble” it would be better if they had a millstone hung around their necks and drowned. Think about this. What does it mean to cause them to sin? To be angry with your brother can be sin, to hate is sin, to not forgive is sin, and we know that there is a long list that qualifies as sin. If we, through our actions, cause someone else to sin then we bear the blame for that. What often seems to be forgotten in church is that our job as Christians is to lift up and help our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our duty before God is to build, not to tear down. If someone is in sin we are supposed to go to them in private and try to gently lead them in the right direction. Jesus is pretty clear about that in many places. Always He promotes communication, going to them and talking, showing the truth in love. Always our goal should be that when they stand before the Living God on judgment day they would be found pleasing to the Lord.
In this picture you can see the wheat I planted and weeds that are growing in the midst of it. Thus it is in the church

But there is the cold hard reality that this often doesn’t happen. It is nothing new. Mankind has always had this sin nature that raises its ugly head at every opportunity. There has always been the competition of brother against brother and the first murder in the Bible was a religious murder. Cain was jealous and angry with his brother, Abel, because God accepted Abel’s offering but wasn’t happy with Cain’s. Jealousy is an evil that runs deep, and it’s root is pride, the source of all sin. And thus it is in the churches of today. There is this undercurrent of competition, this pride in ones level of spirituality and of course a big part of that has to do with making sure everyone else can see how good and religious you are. Those who are caught up in this trap are blind to just how evil this is in the eyes of God. Remember again, Jesus said "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I have work to do so must finish this. Had started out just to write about what has been going on and as often happens it turned into a Bible lesson. Ezekiel was a mighty prophet of God and as such was able to record many of God’s words. Those words are powerful and apply to not only the day they were given but even now, thousands of years later. In Ezekiel chapter 34 there is a prophecy specifically regarding the shepherds, those who are responsible to care for God’s people, whom we call pastors these days, but also it addresses those within the church, the sheep in the congregation so to speak.

" 'As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? 20 " 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.

Why do I write these things? I am a watchman on the wall and write to give warning. I was raised from the dead and granted life again for this purpose, among others. God made it clear to me that if I do not blow the trumpet in warning then the blood of others will be on my head. It is never my desire to point fingers of blame but it is my desire for all to come to repentance and be washed clean of all their sin. There is no easy way to do this as no one likes having their faults exposed. In the parable of the wheat and tares Jesus made it clear that the wheat and tares are going to be growing up together in the church and the weeds (tares) would not be removed till the last day. There are reasons for this and one of them is to show who is true and who is not. I encourage all of you to be like a child, innocent of sin. I encourage you to work to build up those around you, to love them as much as you love yourself, or even more. And I remind all of you that there are no secrets with God. You may hide what you do and think from others but God knows your deepest thought. Purify your hearts, seek forgiveness and go to those who have hurt you, as well as those you have hurt and mend what has been broken. I love you and God loves you so much He sent His Son to die so that we can have life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pain is...



The sun just peaking over a layer of fog two days ago.

9/17/12 Monday
          The pain is…well back to normal. I was going to say gone but that wouldn’t be true. I can now do what I could do before whatever it was happened in my back. Pain is still a daily part of life but now it is manageable pain that I can push through and get things done. It slows me down and that remains a source of frustration as I look at all the things that need to be done. There are watermelons to harvest and I just spent 4 hours on the tractor mowing tumbleweeds along with the rye and wheat grain that I was never able to harvest. I didn’t mow all the wheat down as I am still hoping that Cherie’s sister will find time to mail me the scythe her son said I can have. But I am fast running out of time for that and the weeds growing in the midst of the wheat will make any effort to harvest a painstaking one.

          We were blessed with a decent amount of rain and that will be both a blessing and a curse as it will motivate the weeds to further their steady march at taking over. But I will be able to do some plowing as we prepare for spring planting already. Without moisture the soil is rock hard and a plow blade will just scrape along the top after it gets past the depth I was able to break up with a disc. I had to make three passes, lowering the plow blade a few inches each time to create a decent furrow and if I lowered it too far the wheels of the tractor would just spin, unable to pull the plow blade through the dirt.

          There is much mowing I need to do with the regular lawn mower but because I have been unable to get to it for the 3 or 4 weeks my back had me laid up the grass and weeds are over knee high. That will be a challenge to say the least. We still don’t have a truck that runs. Now that I can move again we will be able to work on that. I need to remove the radiator from the one truck and take it to Auto Zone. They will send it out and see if the radiator is bad  and the reason the transmission filled with water. If so then they will be responsible to fix it, though that might require some pushing. We will see.

          I had hoped to move the diesel truck to in front of the garage, where it would be closer to tools and electricity I need for the welder. Had set up railroad ties to drive the truck on, hoping I could get one more start out of that chewed up flywheel, but it was not to be. So I must jack the truck up where it is and carefully place railroad ties underneath each side and then run an extension cord to where it is. Then begins the long process of welding on each tooth of the flywheel and grinding it to shape by hand. I suspect the hardest part will be the fact that I must weld above me so all the sparks will fall on me as I go.

The third truck we have is the one the transmission finally gave out after I nursed it along on first and third gear for almost 2 years. There was a guy we know in Toledo who had promised to send me a transmission for it, because he rebuilds them for a living. But we have learned that promises are often empty words uttered to impress others. Oh well. Of course I am disappointed, especially after this individual talked about his conversion to Christianity, but such is the way of things. I will always hope for the best and give others a chance to shine for it is better to give them that hope.

It’s Tuesday now. I never finished yesterday’s post but that is not unusual for me. There are always distractions and things that must get done. It’s almost 4:00 PM now and I just came in from trying to pick watermelons. My back is better but certainly not up to speed. It is much harder not having a pickup to drive along and throw the melons in. Instead I must pull a wagon, that has a tire which goes flat in minutes, through the freshly disced sand. I picked maybe 8 melons before the pain got too high to handle. Then pulling the wagon back with 40 pounds of melons through the soft sand required some fortitude. Now I am lying in bed writing in this journal. I had planned on going to the jail but must put that off till tomorrow.

Speaking of jail, I put the word out that I needed some bibles and it now looks like I will have a few hundred. That is a good problem as we can go through twenty a week as people come and go. This way I am covered for quite a while.

I will be heading out to a 4 day Kairos event at the prison in Lamesa soon. After that there is another Kairos in Fort Stockton that I have the privilege of being a part of. I would certainly appreciate your prayers for these events. They are certainly spiritual battlegrounds where we fight for the souls of many who have participated in the dark side of life.

I am pretty tired right now. While I am asking for prayers please pray for the senior we care for who fell and broke her wrist. She seems to be pretty depressed and discouraged though I have only been able to talk to her once. Her arm is not just in a cast but they have all kinds of screws going into her bones to keep everything from moving as her bones knit back together. It is hard for an independent woman to face the possibility of losing some of that independence. I am concerned about some who might try to take advantage of her and her situation so pray about that too.

The other senior we help is doing much better now. She had been really sick with some kind of lung infection but we were able to visit the other day and I got to mow her lawn. It was really bad because I had been laid up for so long and unable to get to it. It’s sad to know that some unscrupulous salesman had taken advantage of her and sold her an annuity that was really bad. She put in $80,000 and now there is only $30,000 in value left and the promised guaranteed monthly payment isn’t what she was told it would be. From what I’ve heard this is not unusual and there is a lot of companies focusing their attention on senior citizens with these bad investments.

I’ll get this posted now for if I don’t I will be distracted and you may not hear from me again for another week or two. 

Here's our empty chair. Loved Clint's speech at the Republican convention and an empty chair is a good picture regarding the president we have.