Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Keep Your Focus Luke 24:21

We harvested our first wheat crop last weekend.  It was 1:00 in the afternoon and about 100 degrees.  The air was dry and the wheat was ready.  The metal on our little Massey 35 combine was getting too hot to touch.  We had purchased the Massey in Montana last summer and had it shipped to California.  It had not been used in 20 years. It is an antique.  Few parts are available.  None of us had ever operated a combine before.  We were full of questions and concerns wondering if the field of wheat would end up in the combine's storage bin or not.  Finally after all our efforts the job was done and we engaged the auger that shot the grain out of the combine and into a waiting bin.  A stream of golden kernels flowed like water from the discharge chute.  There was a shout of joy as we finally saw the realization of our hopes flowing from the machine.  The worry and struggle to harvest did not compare with the enthusiasm we felt when we saw the grain flowing.

My spiritual life is like my combining life.  If I don't focus on the grain flowing I focus on the the worry and sweat that I had to endure up to that point. 

(On the right I am sitting in the drivers seat watching the grain get sucked into the header.  The ride is noisy, dusty and hot!  Below the "liquid" grain!)

Three days after Jesus was declared dead we know that two of the disciples decided to return to the town of Emmaus about 7 miles from Jerusalem.  On the way Jesus joined them on the walk but some how they did not recognize him.  The events of the past few days had overwhelmed them.  They are described as being sad.  They had also lost hope and their focus because they were talking and debating about the things that had just occurred.  They had hoped Jesus would be someone that he turned out not to be.  It was getting late so they asked the disguised Jesus to stay for dinner.  During dinner they recognized him!  But he left in an instant.  But they were ecstatic, Jesus was alive! After they regained their focus on Jesus during dinner four things happened.  One, they were energized.  After an emotionally exhausting weekend and long walk they were ready to walk back to Jerusalem.  Two, They were no longer sad. Three, They became bold enough to walk back to Jerusalem, in the dark, that very evening. and Fourth, they told others about their experience of renewed focus. 

When their focus was once again on Jesus the sad, hopeless, confused walk to Emmaus became a walk of joy, excitement, and hope back to Jerusalem.  I must remember to focus on Jesus in my spiritual walk day to day and focus on the joy of harvest when farming when the preparation is long, worrisome, and difficult. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Luke 24:31 Ahah!

Because farming does not bring in lots of money I have felt fortunate to know how to do a lot of mechanical things. I was replacing the engine on our 2000 Saturn Sedan about two weeks ago.  The replacement engine was ready to return to the engine compartment and it would not fit.  I was getting frustrated because I just had removed the same size and model of engine just days before and it had fit just fine.  Every attempt to lower the engine failed.  I discovered that the engine was actually 5/8 of an inch too long to get past the frame on the passenger side of the car.  I struggled for a couple of hours pulling it out and trying another angle of decent to put it back in.  Nothing was working.  Then I noticed it.  There were two alignment pins on the engine that matched two holes in the transmission.  I was trying to put these two pins in the holes as I lowered the engine.  If the pins were in the holes the engine would be about 5/8" shorter, just what I needed.  I had to rotate the engine to a point that the pins were clear of the transmission housing, then lower the engine.  After the engine was in position I had to rotate the engine back to upright and slide the pins into the transmission.  Voila!

On the third day after Jesus had been killed some disciples were walking down the road toward home.  Jesus who had risen from the dead that morning joined them in their walk but for some reason they did not recognize him.  No I don't know why they did not know it was him.  They walked and talked for quite a long way and Jesus was invited to stay for dinner when they reached their home.  Something amazing happened as they sat down to eat. Here is what Luke wrote about it: "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight."  One of those spiritual "Aha" moments.  I am sure that there are some times when our wonderful brains can digest a massive amount of information and then all at once spit out a brilliant solution.  But I also think that some times the "bright idea" that we think we had is merely a nudge from the spiritual realm.  The disciples probably had help from an outside source to  recognize Jesus.  They got a spiritual nudge.  A moment of awakening that came from outside themselves. 

That aha moment has happened to all of us I think.  It has happened in my farming and it has happened during my spiritual journey.  I have not written articles for this blog for quite some time for a reason.  During my morning shower a few months ago I suddenly had a burst of insight about some things I had been struggling with for a very long time.  I jumped out of the shower, dried off and ran to the computer to start writing them down before I forgot them.  The result has become a book project about my spiritual journey and what I think are the bare essentials necessary to take the spiritual path of following Jesus of Nazareth.    I hope to get everything finished in a few weeks and anyone that is interested is welcomed to read it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Luke 23:27 - 31

This past year we lost several of our peach trees to a root fungus commonly known as "Oak Root Fungus".  The tree pictured on the right may just look dormant but it is already dead.  The normally pinkish living twigs are dark brown and shriveled.  Where there should be small fuzzy dormant buds there are only dry dead pieces of once living tissue.  I still need to dig up the dead trees and throw them in either the compost or burn pile.  None are big enough to be of any use as firewood.

While walking to the place where he would be executed, Jesus was followed by some women loudly wailing about his coming demise.  He turned around and told them to cry for themselves instead.   He said, "if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"   If I were to restate what he said in my own words it would go something like this, "What will life be like when God’s presence goes unrecognized not because men are blind but because he is not there to be seen."  Tealeese  

When Jesus lived  God was very present with us but he was not recognized for who he was.  The tree was green.  What would life be like when God cannot be found because he does not want to be found.  The tree is dry.  Jesus mentioned that at that time people would want to hide in a cave and ask to be buried alive rather than experience it.  I guess I really don't get it.  I believe that time has not yet come.  God seems very present to me now.   I cannot imagine living without that presence.  I think maybe I should savor each moment when God's presence is most real to me.  Maybe I should slow down my life a bit more and see if there is anything else I am missing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Personal Integrity Luke 23:18-25

You can see in the picture that we have brush growing in the fence line.  As long as the root remains the stuff grows back, and you can’t dig it out without removing the fence!  What is a farmer to do?  How about just a little bit of brush killer?  Lots of farmers use the stuff to make their lives easier. 

I have even read about conventional sunflower farmers using Paraquat to kill weeds and defoliate their fields and therefore enable an earlier harvest.  Then I read that Paraquat was actually called “Agent Orange” during the Vietnam War where 20 million gallons were sprayed on the jungle and farmer’s fields in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  The leaves fell and the crops died.  Soldiers and farmers on both sides suffered from exposure to the chemicals.

For an organic farmer the acceptable ways to kill unwanted vegetation are limited to mostly mechanical means rather than chemical.  On more than one occasion I have dreamed of using a little “round up” on a stubborn poison oak sprout or a scrub oak growing right on the fence line where I couldn’t dig it out.  What keeps me from using chemicals like these on my farm?  Am I afraid that an inspector will find out?   No, because I have not chosen to cooperate with the organic certification process.  So what then?   Why don’t I sneak a little bit of weed killer here and there when weeds and brush grow faster than I can control them?

The enemies of Jesus brought him to Pontius Pilate the Roman governor of Judea.  They asked for Jesus to be put to death because he was “stirring up the people” and was claiming to be a King.  After examining the evidence Pilate admitted to the crowd that he could not find Jesus guilty and offered to release him.  Instead they all cried out for Pilate to release someone who had really stirred up the people.  Barabbas was his name.  Barabbas had been arrested for causing an insurrection in the city and killing someone.  The crowd shouted that they wanted Barabbas released instead of Jesus.  Now Pilate had a dilemma.  He knew Barabbas was guilty and that Jesus was innocent but the crowd was pressuring him to release the wrong man.  What would he do?  Luke wrote, “and their voices began to prevail”.  (Luke 23:23)  John the Apostle’s writings included another insight. He said that the crowd was accusing Pilate of being an insurrectionist himself if he let him go.  They said if Pilate let Jesus go he was no friend of Caesar!   (Kind of funny that Pilate actually DID let an insurrectionist go anyway, Barabbas.) 

So Pilate caved and Jesus was sent off to be executed.  So why do I choose not to use chemical weed killers on my farm?   I don’t want to be like Pilate who caved to the pressure of the moment.  I would rather let the weeds and brush go free because I believe having weeds is better than freeing chemical herbicides for use on my farm. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Luke 22:66-71 I Am

This passage has always seemed awkward to me.  Jesus’ response to the question about if he was the Son of God or not.   I almost wanted him to just say yes or no.   Some translations make it sound as if he merely repeated what they had said without admitting anything.  Other translations more plainly show him answering in the affirmative.  

One thing for sure is that the trial was over.  They did not need any witnesses because he had admitted something from his own mouth.  It was enough to get the death penalty.  The prosecution rested its case.  There was no need of defense unless it would be for a possible plea of insanity. 

So Jesus was eventually executed because he claimed equality with God.  So then, the “religious right” of Jesus’ day killed the god they were fervent to protect.  (What kind of gods need protecting/defending anyway?) 

I wonder about fundamentalism that demands we all conform to a single rigorous standard.  A standard where a mere verbalization of dissent is met with unprecedented retribution.   Like a death sentence for blasphemy. 

Does the mere outward form of a religion constitute purity of that religion?  The very thing Jesus sought to change was that the heart of religion had died.  All that was left was the form. 

Form can be maintained by coercion and fear but the heart cannot.  I wonder if this is the purest expression  of idolatry.  Replacing the heart of religion with the outward shell and then legislating the form into law in the illbegotton(illegitimate)  hope that it will somehow replace the heart .   The form then becomes the focus of worship.   

I guess a compulsory allegiance to God is as good as any other?   Is it equal to a voluntary submission to God out of love and loyalty?  I say no it is not.  These are not equal.  One is the expression of a cowering soul to its master and the other is an expression of allegiance and devotion.   The Bible says that in the end of all things God will have both, but the event of Jesus demonstrates God would rather have the latter.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Luke 22:63-65 "Undefended Innocence"

My beloved team of Belgian draft horses has moved on to a new home.  After 16 years and hundreds of hours working in a delightful partnership I had to say good-bye.  I am grieving like someone has died.  Even so, My life is very much the richer having made their acquaintance.  I have learned more about myself and life in general over these years that I ever thought I would.  I have learned about trust and what it means to have “heart”.   

Dusty and Prince depended on me to take care of them.  They were always willing to help me with a task.  We drilled oats into a 12 acre field in the fall of 2009.  I worked with the boys about 2 hours a day to get the job done.  I think Dusty would have worked until he dropped from exhaustion.  I knew that, so I never asked him to go that far.  I took my responsibility for their care seriously.  . 

One day waiting for customers in downtown Healdsburg at my carriage stop a young man approached me with a sullen look.  He said to me, “Don’t you think that is unnatural?”   He was referring to me using an animal to pull a carriage around town and give tours.  He was clearly becoming disgusted.   I wondered to myself, unnatural compared to what?  Did he envision huge herds of draft horses running free on the prairie?  These wonderful animals have come to live in partnership with humans.  They do not have any other “natural state” than that.  We work together and I take care of them.  They would have no existence without that partnership.  

I could abuse my responsibility and cause them to suffer.  I feel deep sorrow when I see an emaciated or crippled horse that has been abused by its owner.   I also feel sad when I see a horse owner demand the servant hood of his partner with threats of violence.  I never beat or whipped my horses to get them to work for me.  I just had to ask and they responded. 

All this horse talk brings me to think about “Undefended Innocence”.    There are times when I look around me and see the innocent being cruelly taken advantage of or injured by the strong.  It makes me mad.  Children abused by their parents, teachers, and religious leaders.  Dogs, cats, horses, being very badly treated by their custodians. The poor dying of starvation in countries where war and famine run rampant.  The ignorant being indoctrinated by radical ideologies. (And you can add some more I am sure.)   I have asked myself, “Does God get it?”  Does he understand this terrible burden that the innocent have placed upon them by others in places of power? 

I have been wondering about the three verses in Luke 22:63-65.  Why did Luke write them down?   Why was this story remembered and passed along?  Jesus is being beaten and mocked.  They blindfold him and hit him asking if can “prophecy” and tell them who did it.  He hasn’t had a trial.  He has no one to defend him.  There was no one with a cell phone to record the beating and call for an investigation of police brutality!   What I see is that Jesus experienced being innocent and undefended.  He experienced what it was like to be at the mercy of the merciless. 

So if God gets it, why does he allow it?   Either I make a determination that God is weak, ineffective, and doesn’t much care about what goes on in the world or like the weeds and evil forces of darkness I have looked at previously, the experience of “Undefended Innocence” is a part of life.  If so I still hate it!   Jesus went through it.  He experienced it without deciding that God was weak, ineffective and uncaring.  This is one of those things I think that I have no satisfactory answer for.  I have to assume that I can still trust God’s goodness even when I see examples of “Undefended Innocence.”  But I still hate it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Luke 22:54-62 The Rooster Crows

One of my favorite farm sounds is the sound of a rooster crowing early in the morning.  I am an early riser anyway so I don’t mind the noise.  The posted picture above, is our favorite Americana rooster who used to sing for us every morning.  That is, until his demise in the jaws of a marauding bobcat.    Now the mornings are silent. 

Occasionally when I hear a rooster I think of the story Peter told about his night with Jesus at the High Priest’s Home in Jerusalem.  He said that Jesus told him earlier that before a rooster crowed the next morning he would deny that he even knew him.  And there in the courtyard of the High Priest’s home, warming himself by a fire, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.  Peter said that as he made his third denial he heard a rooster crow.  He looked in the direction where Jesus was being held and their eyes met.  They both heard the rooster crow and "knew". Jesus had earlier predicted what Peter had just done, and Peter immediately realized what had happened.  The Bible records that Peter left the scene and “wept bitterly”.   

Sometimes events, smells, sights, etc trigger memories from our past.  I saw a television program about old-fashioned Scandinavian cookie making with a cooked press. As I watched I remembered my grandma making the same cookies when I was a kid.  I could almost smell and taste them.  When I hear a rooster I feel connected with the farm and farm life.  When Peter heard a rooster I am sure he would occasionally remember that night in the courtyard.  The look on Jesus’ face.  The feelings of sorrow and regret.   

I have experiences in my own past that I wish I could undo.  Things I never thought would happen, but they did.  Every now and then something triggers a buried memory and I weep a little inside where no one can see. I think I know how Peter may have felt when he heard a rooster crow.