The Misadventures of a Ranch Wife

Today was a day off from the town job, which meant, to my husband and son, it was a good day to work some cows before we put up sweet corn. I agreed to their plans as long as we could get an early start.

At 4:40 I was awake. It was dark out so I went back to bed. At 5 am my alarm went off. It was still dark out. About 5:30 we were finally getting everything lined up to do chores and get the first group of cows up. Please note here that we have been in an extreme heat warning for much of this past week. That’s why we were adamant about starting early. Also note that this is the latest Mike and I have slept this week due to town job schedules. 

Gates opened that needed opened and closed that needed closed for pasture #1. We name our pastures based on their locations. Pasture 1 today was “The West Pasture”.  We headed out and quickly and easily got that entire group up with no trouble. I brought the 4-wheeler out of the pasture while the guys got the gates closed and met me at the end of the barn. This was looking to be a promising day. Let me stop right here.  NEVER let such a thought cross your mind in working cattle. It’s almost as if God and the cattle laugh together at that statement. 

So we headed out to pasture #2 (The North Pasture). Mike nearly dumped Chris off the side of the 4-wheeler when trying to get out of a winter rut that’s never been bladed yet. We managed to avoid that accident. Whew. But, when we got out to the creek that runs through this pasture (and much of our farm) we found a dead cow. She had laid down in a bit of a ditch and gotten where her feet were higher than her body and couldn’t get back upright. It’s frustrating to lose a cow to something like that.  You have no control, no chance to prevent it or treat it.  While this put a bit of a damper on the optimistic attitude, we kept on moving trying desperately to beat the heat of the day. 

Chris crossed the creek and Mike and I took the 4-wheeler to the far northeast corner of our farm to gather the rest of the cows walking in the creek and staying cool in the trees. We were cruising right along and it seemed like we were going to get this pasture with no problems as well. UNTIL. UGH, I really don’t like that word here. A former show heifer who has always had a bit of a diva complex today became our until. Until Tasha decided she wanted to stay in the creek.  Until Tasha decided she could climb out of the steepest part of the embankment. Until she fell back in the creek and decided she was done.  Until we convinced her she was not. Until Tasha decided she would not go the same path every cow before her had gone. At this point I’m beginning to think I need the tee shirt that says, “God doesn’t judge a woman who cusses at cattle.”  I know I should’ve been praying for forgiveness right about now, but it was quickly heating up and what little patience I had was disappearing. And then.  Tasha decided to go a whole new route to where I wanted needed her to go and in the process she and I seem to have disturbed a nest of hornets. Apparently,they were NOT amused. Once caught me in my backside and suddenly had my full attention. Another started swarming around my head and I believe I told the diva Tasha I was personally going to hang her on a meat hook if I got stung once more. Then two hornets teamed up on my hand and finger. NOW I was “as mad as a ……..hornet”. I now know what that means. They are some angry little critters. And hornet #4 was back and tangled in my hair. I’m pretty sure Mike was wondering if I’d finally lost my mind as I was beating my head profusely trying to kill the hornet before he could sting my head. I was pretty sure I had killed him and still had him tangled in my hair. I was now trying to carefully pick him out just in case he wasn’t fully dead. Once I got him out I threw him to the ground and stomped him just for good measure. Now I wasn’t just standing there while all this was going on. I had gotten off the 4-wheeler and was still trying to convince Tasha she should go to the house. She was lame (likely foot rot) and had busted open the back of her foot while trying the vertical bank climb earlier. 


This was one of the many times I’ve been thankful our pastors don’t live nearby. They likely would have had to politely asked me to step down from any and all positions at the church and enter therapy. 

I was “having a discussion” with Tasha explaining exactly what she needed to do.  Did you know divas don’t take instructions well?  She looked at me, looked at the gateway where she was supposed to go and then looked at the electric fence that was low enough for her to get over. I believe I warned her against such actions. I believe she laughed. Can cows laugh?  I think she did as she was crossing over to the “Rotational Pasture”. I stopped everything except my mouth. She was happily munching the freshly mown hay and we still had several more cows to get up. Mike encouraged me to get moving. The rest of the herd came up without incident. 

We treated the calves that had pneumonia, lameness and foot rot and kicked them back out. We drove out and got Tasha and another pair in the rotational pasture and they came right in. It was 8 am by now. We were supposed to be at Jesse & Brittany’s to put up sweet corn by then. We quickly switched gears and got moving. And spent the next 8 hours husking, cooking, cooling, cutting, bagging and freezing corn.   My hand is nearly twice it’s normal size. My butt hurts. And my mother-in-law looked at me and said, “Good thing you’re not allergic.”  And it is. How in the world would we have gotten everything done if I had been allergic to hornet stings?

A New Trick for This Old Dog

“You can’t teach an old dog a new trick.”  We’ve all heard this saying and quite often we use it as an excuse to not implement change in our lives.  I’ll admit that I have in the past.

This April as my 46th birthday came and went and we were looking forward to Avery’s first birthday, I found myself unhappy with some areas of my life, some habits that I was allowing controls over my time and money and, yes, even my attitude at times.  When I stepped on my scale at the end of April, the number shocked me.  It was 5 pounds heavier than I anticipated.  Then I took a good hard look at myself.  Did I want to be healthy enough to enjoy Avery and her little brother who’s on the way?  I thought of Mike and I getting to take them to cattle shows and helping them.  And I knew if I wanted to actively participate in their lives, I HAD to make a change.

About this same time, a young woman who grew up with our boys, posted her weight loss story on Facebook.  After God and I had a talk about the future, I sent her an email.  She sent me some information on the supplements she was using from the Xyangular company.  I read some more and thought this might just be the path that could work for me.  Oh, but here’s the deal – I had to cut back on carbs.  NO soda, NO bread, NO pizza and NO chips.  I ordered some of the supplements and thought may it would help me to drop 10 or 15 pounds.  I really didn’t think this would be much different than any other diet I’d tried before but figured I’d try it just to say I did.

And that brings us to today, 30 some days later and……drumroll please, 23 pounds lighter and have lost 8 inches from my hips, stomach and chest.  No, it’s not water weight.  I’ve gone from drinking 4 Mt. Dews a day to drinking a gallon or more of water a day.  My carb intake was well over 300 a day – now I max out at 25.  The best thing about the Xyangular products that I’ve used is that they boost my energy and keep me from craving the carbs and the caffeine.  I haven’t had a soda since April 30th.  I’ve had “crustless pizza”.  I’ve had a lot of meats and found that foods taste better to me.  I had a couple of strawberries the other night and marveled at how sweet they tasted.  Before I would’ve added sugar to all strawberries, but these were just sliced and savored.    

I still have a ways to go, but at least this month or so got me started down a path to healthier eating and living.  I bought a bike and am planning on riding it more and more as we go through the summer.  I’m finding I have more energy (who wouldn’t with 23 fewer pounds packing around with them daily?) and have been off my daily dose of Priolesec since giving up Mt. Dew.  My next goal is to lose another 25 pounds before little Grandson Bastian gets here in August.  I need accountability and Mike and Chris have been great supporters of me.  I don’t need to not see people eating carbs, I actually need to see you enjoying them and know that I don’t need them.  There will be a day that I can enjoy a few more carbs once in a while, but that day is not now.  This day, this old dog needs to keep working on her new trick.

By the way, if you’re interested in the products I’ve used, just message me or email me.  I’d be happy to share what I know and have some people who are much more knowledgeable share some facts with you.  If you’re not interested, please just encourage me.  Remind me how many carbs is in that bag of chips.  I’m a bit of a slow learner at times, but I’m learning.

Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholders Summit Session 1 – Discussion Panel – Animal Welfare on the Restaurant Menu

How often do you eat out each month?  What affects your choice of where to eat?  Who do you eat with?  Why eat out as opposed to eating at home?  Who do you eat with when you eat out?   These were the first questions posed to eight Kansas City area food consumers ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s or early 60s.  A variety of occupations were represented (community college worker, financial planner, home remodeler, NICU nurse, college students, realtor, activist).  And yes, there were a variety of responses to the questions posed.  

Q1 – How many times per week or month do you eat out?

A1 – EVERYONE responded that they eat out AT LEAST 3 to 4 times a week.  One participant stated that he likely eats out 75 times or more a month.  I could not imagine that.  I have read many reports about the lack of family time around the dining room table.  I was having a bit of trouble connecting with the participants here.  Eating out is not a common occurance for us.  We take our lunches to the town jobs and I fix supper when I get home.  Everyone’s on their own for breakfast because we all get up at different times.  Last weekend it felt like we splurged by going out for supper on Friday and lunch on Sunday.  The beef producer in me had several thoughts running rampantly through my head.  If most Americans are eating out this often, what are the cuts of beef they’re eating?  How can we make those less expensive cuts more palatable on a restaurant menu so we’re not just marketing the high dollar steaks and hamburger.  How often do people go out and order a slice or two of roast?  What about an arm steak? I know cooking at home I can utilize most of the cuts of beef, but does a restaurant owner even consider using some of these cuts? 

Q2 – How many of you eat breakfast out and how often?

A2 – Two said they eat breakfast out regularly. One said 12 times a month and one was about 10 times a month.  The more the one who said 10 times a month talked, it seemed like he really low balled that number.  He meets clients for breakfast several mornings a week.  The other one who eats out regularly for breakfast works overnights and so it’s a convenience matter for her.  Speed of service and not wanting to clean up because “breakfast is messy”.  When asked what gets their breakfast business, speed, consistency of quality food, good bacon and locally sourced food were the answers.  The only time any beef was mentioned in the breakfast conversation was when the panelists discussed a “premium breakfast”.  Special occasions lend themselves to a brunch that might include Prime Rib, seafood and made to order omelets.  We, as beef producers, are missing the breakfast target.  No mention was made of steak and eggs, omelets with beef, etc.  So 1/3 of the meals are not being capitalized by the beef industry.  A breakfast recipe campaign might just be in order.   

Q3 – How many eat out for lunch and how often?

A3 – Five-eighths of the panelists eat out for lunch 8 to 31 days a month.  This one wasn’t as surprising to me.  The reasons for eating lunch out were:  no plans made ahead of time to take leftovers, meet family for lunch, meet friends for social time, meet clients for lunch and “I get to eat what I want”.  The panelists decide where to go based on Groupon coupons, Facebook coupons, close to work, on campus.  Most of those who eat out eat a varied menu based on whatever strikes their fancy that day.  Lunch is usually budget friendly unless they’re using it as a write off.  Lots of burgers, deli sandwiches, and tacos.  Meat still seems to be the driving choice as far as food.

Q4 – How many eat out for dinner and how often?

A4 – ALL eat out for dinner.  It varies from 17 times a month down to 12.  The reasons why they eat:  to avoid work, socialize with friends, didn’t meal plan, home late from work, time with spouse and kids, social time, meetings with work.  Answers to where they choose to eat were greatly varied:  kid friendly, fast service, relaxed atmosphere, in and out in less than an hour, menu that includes items that are difficult to make at home, burgers, bulk food (feeding teen boys), and one Googled menu choices on his way home based on when his kids text him saying they’re hungry.  Many mentioned food based “Happy Hours”.  I noticed that this dinner time food happy hour is in direct contrast to the “unhappy hour” many experience when they’re getting home from work, the kids are home from school and tackling homework all while trying to fix supper and unwind from a stressful day that comes when making a meal at home.  Here comes the beef producer – how can we do a better job of packaging our meat to be easier to prepare?  Can we promote a “Happy Hour” line of products?  One of the panelists went so far as to say it was important for her to have family time around the table as an expression of her love.  Another panelist said you know exactly what you’re eating when you’re home and can have more interaction with your family – just need a maid to clean up the mess.

Everyone said they loved meat, which made me a happy cattlewoman.  Amongst their favorite meats were:  steak, ribs, rib eyes, tender beef, chicken pork, Delmonico steak, a well prepared KC Strip, lamb, chicken and any BBQ’d meat.   While only 3 people said they order eggs when out, they all made eggs at home because they were easy and versatile.  When asked about consuming dairy while out one replied that her son drinks milk out and three said they eat ice cream out.  When asked what kind of dairy they consume, one panelist gave a name brand, one said chocolate, one said yogurt and then everyone realized cheese and ice cream could fit in that category.  Cheese was easily a favorite with cheddar and mozzarella being named.

Q5 – Do you feel like food is safe?

A5 – One panelist has a son with ADHD.  She stated that coloring added to foods is an issue for her.  The panelists felt that organic, locally grown foods are safer and not tainted and possibly  better nutritionally.  One panelist grew up on a farm and felt that grocery store food is inferior.  All liked that they could support local farmers/businesses.

Q6 – What are your concerns about animal welfare?

A6 – “It’s not right how animals are treated but I push it to the back of my mind.”  “Locally grown is treated better.”  How do you feel about farmers and ranchers?  Five to six of the panelists said they feel very positive toward farmers.  The younger panelists stated they had learned about GMO’s in middle school and how they are injected with different bacteria by watching a documentary.  Only three panelists knew a farmer personally.  Their concerns about animal treatment came from a video they had seen on Facebook with live poultry crammed into cages for transport.  “It’s like they were on a conveyor belt.”  “We should just let them live until they die.” “They were plucking them alive.”  “The only way to provide enough food is to mass produce it here for consumption.”  I’m concerned with hormones.”

Q7 – What are your opinions of farmers and ranchers?  They’re providers, grateful for them, it’s a hard job, not for everyone, a lot of work, much more than 40 hour work week.  In the process of farm to table which segment is most favorable to you?  Farmers.  After they leave the farm, I feel less favorable for them.   And the bigger the animal the worse I feel for them.  The only one unaffected by any of the process was the one raised on a farm.  The perceptions were based upon the documentary “Food, Inc.” which was shown in their middle school class.

Q8 – How do you feel about hormones and antibiotics?

A8 –  “The science is positive with regulation but I don’t think they’re regulated enough.”  “Antibiotics have helped increase human life span and I’m grateful.”  “Science saves us.” “Poultry says hormone free, and I seek out antibiotic free labels.”  “If it says free, I don’t want it – I want the whole deal.”  Do you trust labels? “Yes, I think people will do right things.”  Is it better for you?   “Could be so I’ll go that way.”   “Advertisement leads to higher price for it.”

I have to say this panel was eye opening to me from the first minute through the end.    I have always lived in a rural area with people very much like me – parents who farmed, grandparents who farmed, working hard to just make a living.  It never crossed our minds that a farmer would be trying to harm us.  I grew up with a trust of those who produced my food.  Like I said above only two of the panelists even knew a farmer.  Most are 2 or more generations removed from production agriculture and therefore really don’t understand modern production methods.  Just as I, as a cattlewoman, don’t understand all there is to being a NICU nurse or a financial investor.  If I want to know more about either of those, I have to make the choice to learn about them.  I hope that we, as producers can find a way to provide educational resources to the rest of the population.

May – A Month of Blessings and Tears

May has certainly become a month of challenges and tears for our family over the last 10 years.  10 years ago, we received the call that Mike’s sister, Liz, had died from an aneurysm.  I remember the details of the morning we got the call that she had been unresponsive that morning.  We had been planning on working cattle at Mike’s parents house.  We were loading up and getting ready to head over when the house phone rang.  Mike’s dad said he didn’t know what was going on yet, but maybe she’d had a stroke.  We decided we’d go ahead and go over to work the calves while Mike’s parents headed to the hospital in the St. Louis area.  By the time we arrived at their house, they had received another call saying the doctors felt it was likely an aneurysm.  I remember Mike’s mom saying “Not again, we can’t be losing another child.”  You see, Mike had lost a brother soon after moving to Missouri in an accident on his way back to Iowa.  We came home and activated EVERY prayer chain we could.  We hoped that with enough prayers, God would allow us more time with Liz and allow her more time with her children.   But, for reasons we likely won’t know until we get to Heaven, God felt it was time to take her home.  And that He did, on May 1, 2007.

Later that month we nearly lost Chris during what should have been a routine appendectomy.  When the surgeon placed the trocar, he hit a main artery and had to quickly open him up before he bled out.  He spent 2 days in the ICU and then another 3 days in the pediatric ward.  Healing took forever and was complicated by the fact he healed faster on the outside, meaning they had to reopen his incision so it could heal properly.  I’m sure it terrified his cousins who had just lost their mom to come see him in the hospital.  I spent a lot of time sitting in his room reading the book of Job.

Last year, in late January and early February, Brittany landed in the very same room where Chris was.  At that point, she was fighting with all she had to save her pregnancy with Avery and Skylar.  It was in that room that she got the news that there were some significant issues for Skylar.  And we prayed against all odds, that God would cover and protect both the girls and Brittany and allow a successful pregnancy.  And here’s where it gets to the blessings and tears.  You all know He allowed Avery to remain healthy.  And while Avery and Skylar were identical, their genetic stories seemed to be very different.  There’s not a medical explanation.  Dr. V at Cardinal Glennon reminded us at every meeting that both girls were medical miracles.  He allowed them to progress until Brittany went into labor on May 8th, 2016 on Mother’s Day.  And in doing so, He allowed Jesse and Brittany a few brief moments on earth with Skylar.  He also showed all of us what grace looks like. Grace looks like a little 3 pound baby girl who fought with all she had to make it long enough that her sister might survive – even thrive.  Grace looks like God giving everyone safety on their way to the hospital so that we could surround Jesse, Brittany and the girls with love and prayers.

We’re closing in on Avery and Skylar’s first birthday.  Today marked the 10th anniversary of Liz’s death.  It is a rough 8 days.  BUT, I continue to have faith that God has a plan for all of this – a plan to refine us, maybe even define us.  We have seen Liz’s kids grow up so very much in 10 years.  We’ve witnessed 4 of the kids get married, 2 of them have 5 children, 4 (5th will be this year) graduate high school and the little boy who was a preschooler at the time will begin high school this fall.  We have watch Avery this past year, looking for the symptoms of Trisomy 9 and seeing absolutely none.  She jabbers like most 1 year olds do.  She’s trying to walk.  She loves to play and laugh and is socially interactive.  God has provided blessings through the tears.  So this month, if you notice our eyes tend to leak  a little more often, please know we’re ok.  There’s just a lot of blessings that sometimes spill out.  If you feel lead to pray, that be awesome.  Pray for Liz’s husband, Rick and his wife, Susan.  Pray for her kids, Rachael, Daniel, Lara, Nick, Gretchen, Sven, Natalie and Pete and their spouses and kiddos.  Pray for Mike’s mom and dad.  Pray for Jesse, Brittany and Avery.  And pray for us.  We’re all always up for more prayers – prayers that our lives may be a living testimony to God’s love, grace and mercy.

 

Lent Day 17 Holy Gets Angry

I’m going to venture a guess that if you’ve studied the Bible very much, you likely already know what we’re discussing today based on the title.  Jesus shocked those in the Temple marketplace.  He came in, brandishing a whip, turning over tables and benches and letting those present know just how upset he was with the situation.  You see, people from all walks of life would make the yearly trek to Jerusalem for Passover.  And if they hadn’t brought a sacrifice, well, there were brokers willing to exchange their currency and sell them a sacrifice.  Sell them a sacrifice —- how bitter that must have sounded to Jesus.  Here he was just days away from being the ultimate Passover sacrifice watching and wondering how much the money changers would consider His sacrifice to be worth.  How much do we deem it to be worth?

Jesus reacted with a holy anger.  And there are times when He asks us to be angry.  He may ask us to speak out and come out from behind our hashtag campaigns.  Perhaps the next time you feel anger about corruption and injustice, you should ask God what He wants you to do with that anger.  Not everything is protest worthy, but neither is nothing worthy of protest.

Today, we are called to fast from apathy.  Apathy describes an emotional disconnect from life in general and suffering in particular.  The antonyms of apathy are not activism, absorption or even emotionalism, but rather sympathy, sensitivity, and concern.  Taking action because there is a need is very different from taking action because there is a God.  The first is emotion driven while the second is led by loving listening and dependence-inspired discipline.  Choose carefully what you are willing to die for because you can only die once.

John 16:17-33

17-18 That stirred up a hornet’s nest of questions among the disciples: “What’s he talking about: ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? And, ‘Because I’m on my way to the Father’? What is this ‘day or so’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”

19-20 Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, “Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You’re going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You’ll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness.

21-23 “When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.

23-24 “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

25-28 “I’ve used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I’ll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language. Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I’ve revealed to you. I won’t continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won’t need to. Because you’ve gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father.”

29-30 His disciples said, “Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God.”

31-33 Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

Fires, Service, Ranching, Media

Well, that may be the most random title I’ve ever come up with for this blog.  I often start out typing then go back and add a title, but today’s a different day.  As a family, our hearts and prayers have been with the cattlemen and women in KS, OK and TX over the last week or so.  No, we didn’t see it covered on the national news but to be honest, I don’t catch a lot of information on the national news.  I have the local news on in the morning as I’m getting stuff done around the house, but am usually walking out the door to my job marketing real estate when the national news starts.  By the time I get home and get supper fixed, the national news is over.  I don’t think I miss much though.  My Facebook newsfeed was BLOWN UP with news of the fires.  I’m fortunate to have friends in many states and they’ve shared pictures and stories and prayers.  And lately, they’ve shared notes written to the national media and government officials.

The main question posed has been, “Why no coverage?  Why aren’t you trying to raise some sort of help or donations with your power and coverage?”  I’ve thought long and hard about that question.  At first, I too was frustrated by the lack of media coverage.  But while doing my life group study I came to a conclusion.  You see, when a major emergency happens in America, we usually hear out cries from the masses begging for help.  When the wildfires swept through the Plains last week, the men and women just grabbed what they had left and went to work.  There wasn’t time to waste waiting on help from the government or the media or celebrities.  There were animals to check, fences to be built and homes and barns to be rebuilt.  Unfortunately, the checking of animals often meant putting many down due to the severity of their burns.  And so, without large populations asking for help and relying on the government, the media and government didn’t think it was necessary to address it.  And, truth be told, they probably didn’t.  The rest of the American farmers and ranchers and rural citizens are taking care of their neighbors.  Neighbors aren’t just those who live next door, but who share the world with you.  And the response from the neighbors has been tremendous!

I got a call last week while I was at work from Mike and Chris.  They were wanting to donate a semi-load of hay.  Could I find a trucker willing to haul it?  I did a quick search and found them a couple of people to call.  This Tuesday, Marc Fenton showed up to get loaded with round bales.  He said they were heading out Friday morning and apparently, God was having a conversation with Chris.  Chris began feeling lead to haul a trailer with his truck out with hay and/or supplies.  He had the same look of determination and excitement in his eyes as he did when he and Jesse would go on mission trips to Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota.  He had commitments here, but today managed to rearrange his schedule so he can go.  And that’s the heart of ranching.  Always working to make your herd its best, but also being willing to lend a hand to those who are having a harder time than you are.  Trust me, it wasn’t a good day at our place yesterday.  We lost a cool little steer prospect and our gomer bull broke his leg somehow.  BUT, we still most of our herd, our family and our health.  There are those who have lost all of that, and yet, they’re moving on, working at rebuilding what they are left with.

I’ve asked Chris to take the camera along and have someone document it for us.  I’m sure he’ll have stories to tell and will be forever changed by what he sees and hears.  Back to that life group study….we’re discussing how to use our gifts and talents…..Chris, you have the gift of serving, son.  Go do what God has called you to.

Lent – Day 15 & 16 – Self Protection and Halos

When we last left off, we were imagining being part of the crowd cheering Jesus into Jerusalem.  Jesus was ever present in this celebration EVEN THOUGH He knew what the coming week held.  He was able to receive from people in the moment what He knew would not endure.  In the Triumphal Entry, Jesus permitted the crowd’s support, knowing it would soon sour.  Jesus, lovingly and fully, endorsed Peter’s future as the head of the church, even knowing Peter would deny even knowing Him.  In short, Jesus did not self-protect.  His love did not shrink back even when His love would ultimately be rejected.

Lent encourages us to follow Christ’s example.  Individuals who have been hurt by lost hopes tend to protect themselves against future disappointment by lowering their aspirations.  The same holds true in our relationship with God.  Uncertain that God will protect us, we proactively protect ourselves.  We lower our expectations, edit our dreams and shrink back from God.  And yet, with all of our inconsistencies God does not shrink back from us.  In suffering, our self-protection and isolation are broken.

Self protection is not always unhealthy.  We are built with a “fight or flight” mechanism that helps us run from unsafe situations.  We also need to self protect by self-differentiating from a toxic relative.  Self-protection in these instances are responses to danger:  we self-protect when we do not feel safe.  Therefore, when we spiritually self-protect, is it because we do not feel safe with God?  Or, is it because our disappointments fuel this unhealthy form of self-protections?  Spiritual leaders have abused power, prayer requests have gone unanswered, dreams have died, stepping out in faith backfired…..and so we maintain a proper distance from deeper levels of intimacy with God.  Favor is not what frees us from self-protection…..suffering is.  Well, not actually suffering but the choice within suffering to trust, to hope and to love.  Today, ask the Holy Spirit to alert you when you are shrinking back from God.

John 15:18-16:4

This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.

18-19 “If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.

20 “When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them.

21-25 “They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’

26-27 “When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.”

16 1-4 “I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them. “I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day

Jesus’ emotions and actions following the Triumphal Entry were less than placid or tidy.  He wept over Jerusalem, forcefully cleared the temple, cursed a fig tree, confounded religious leaders, told pointed parables and experienced emotional distress.  That’s quite a week!  And it’s certainly not the neat and tidy Jesus that is pictured in family Bibles or children’s Bibles.  Jesus wept (think UGLY cry) over Jerusalem.  We don’t often think of Jesus grieving that way.  We think of halos, perfect hair and “no crying he makes” from Away in a Manger.  Jesus was not born with a halo.  Of course He cried.  Crying is not a sin.  Of course He did not have perfect backlit hair.  Messy is not a sin.

Many times when confronted with grief we tend to offer utterly unhelpful things to others such as, “You should weep.  God is in control.  He works all things for the good of those who love Him….there’s no need to fell _______.’  No one understood God’s goodness and control more than Jesus, and He still wept.  Which means we can too.

Today, fast from the false defintions of holy.

John 16:5-16

4-7 “I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on my way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. So let me say it again, this truth: It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But if I go, I’ll send him to you.

8-11 “When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.

12-15 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’

16 “In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me.”