How is Christ living in you?

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” – John 12:24 

As a fairly new gardener, I am excited to learn new things about God’s creation along with my boys. Instead of focusing on the failures of our gardening attempts, as a homeschooling family, I am learning to choose to enjoy the process of learning when our plants don’t turn out the way the experts say they are supposed to be. Call it a science experiment and have fun! 

A few growing principles related to what I am going to share are:

  1. Plants start with a small seed, incredibly small at times;
  2. Seeds have to be planted in good soil; 
  3. A plant looks totally different and is ENORMOUSLY larger than the original seed; 
  4. A plant generally needs water, sun and again good soil to grow well; 
  5. You reap what you sow or other volunteers have sowed without your knowing :-); 
  6. If a plant is not being harvested at the prime time, it starts to flower and bear seeds;
  7. Plants all naturally want to grow and finish their growth cycle;
  8. One plant produces multiple seeds, I mean MULTIPLE… 
  9. It’s always rewarding to reap more than I sow, even if it is just a little bit more.
  10. Different plants produce different fruits/seeds. 

I am sure there are a lot more valuable lessons I can add to the list. But for now, this is a good amount of food for thought. I can definitely apply those principles in discipling our children. This could be another post for another day. My focus is on #3 along with the verse from John 12:24 listed above. This is a further reflection on my husband’s response to the question “How are you dying?”

I do ask this question a lot to myself. A danger for a type A personality is a drift to self-denial or self efforts as a way to eternal life. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit does not allow his children to go astray for too long. He uses His Word, His people and unique life circumstances to bring us back on track. We are saved by faith in Jesus alone. AND we are sanctified by Jesus our Master Gardener alone. He made us and He knows the best way and timing to trim us, water us, nourish us. We are here to bring Him glory and one day we WILL be in Heaven to bring Him even more glory in completion and perfection of His work. 

So how am I dying? This is not just a check-in question and see how I am doing. A simple “fine” will not do it. It takes some thinking, meditation and repenting. Naturally, we don’t tend to think much about death. In China, it is a taboo to mention the word “死“, meaning “death”, which has a similar sound to “四”, meaning “four”. If you have been to China, you might have noticed the avoidance of the Number 4 in a superstitious way. If life is all there is, all we should focus on is now, life now and present, forgetting about tomorrow, and let’s eat, drink and be merry, right? 

How am I dying? This is not a question on how I am doing BUT what Christ is doing. It is like when I observe my garden and marvel at the work He has done, and am excited to be a part of His wonderful design.  Out of love for my Master, I desire to die to my old self, though I am unable to do so on my own, so I can live my life more fully. Dying is not a natural healthy desire. Look around at the little birds, rabbits, squirrels. They want to live and are full of life. God made them that way! A healthy person wants to live, and to live a good life! There is nothing wrong in pursuing a good life! God made us human beings this way! 

However, a good life on earth does not satisfy us deeply. We are made to love and glorify our Maker! Without His revelation a life full of activity is just like a new phone without Internet connection, useless for communication purposes. On the other hand, life is certainly not wasted if we are called to sacrifice our lives. Many saints in the past and believers today around the world, have been persecuted for the sake of  righteousness. The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such precious souls! 

Not everyone is called to be a martyr, but all Christians are called to die to ourselves. So how am I dying? The Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 4:8 that, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”. This is not to promote physical torture, but physical training with a godly purpose. For me, it might mean setting up a certain amount of time for physical exercises for myself and my family even when my lazy bones don’t want to move. We want to avoid the two pendulum extremes, to either just focus on the physical training or to simply ignore the valuable physical discipline. We can’t truly worship our Lord with integrity by fragmentalizing our whole being. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength (Mark 12:30). Our heart, soul, mind and strength all work together for His glory! This is a glorious dying process!! 

This process is supernatural. It takes intervention from God and His Holy Spirit. We can’t die for glorious purposes on our own. Physical training can be for self-glorification. Suicide is deverstating and tragic. We need to call out to our Lord to have mercy on us to make us die so we can truly live! We can live more fully not only in this present life but also to live eternally with Him in the future! Let this glorious fact sink in a little bit and ask the Lord for a desire to die to ourselves. He hears us and does give us the strength we don’t possess on our own to say “yes” to His voice and say “no” to other easier paths. 

Jesus, as One seed, died once for all who believe in Him. We, as His offspring by faith, are like Him. Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. 

So, my friend, how are you dying today? It’s not supposed to be comfortable, but it is all worth it. Back to #3, He is growing you to be more like Him. The transformation and multiplication are happening in His way by His timing. Trust and surrender yourself in His perfect care. 

The follow-up question to “How are you dying?” could be “How is Christ living in you?” 

P.S.: If your heartland is softened to receive more fertilizer, you might want to  check out the articles below: 

Rhyming Notes from Family Camp 2022

A few weeks ago we joined a Christian homeschool conference camp. What a blessing! 

Our family was talking with the camp manager, who didn’t know the details about the group renting the space, and he asked if it was a family reunion. Even though we had just met everyone a few days before, my initial response was to say “Yes!”, but I knew that wasn’t the right answer so explained instead. Though honestly, we are family in Christ! It is such a blessing to be around like-minded brothers and sisters!

During talks throughout the week, I took my notes as rhymes and shared one of the notes, “God and Government” during the talent show. Our family uses these notes as a fun way to review. If you were at the camp, perhaps they can be used as a fun review for your family as well. :o)

As one of the camp organizers said, the talent show wasn’t to point to ourselves, but to point to our glorious Creator, who made us each unique with gifts to be used for His glory and to bless others. I agree, and hope that these are used in that way as well.

Blessings,
Rob


2022/08/15
Mark Hamby (Lamplighter Publishers)
The Epic Battle between Wisdom and Folly

Solomon knew who he was, the Son of David the king,
we need to know whose we are, and learn to obey everything.

The digital world will stop your brain, especially a child.
They’ll teach you how to think and act, and make you very mild.

We need to grow through correction, in knowledge, wisdom and more.
Finally to discernment, truth over lies to roar.

Endurance grows our strength, to stand and do what’s right.
Correction develops our character, to fill our life with might.

Fathers stand firm in correction, to let the children grow.
Mothers in instruction, the fear of the Lord to know.

The wise choose their friends with wisdom, and stand up for the weak.
Those who seek after ill gotten gain, trouble do they seek.

In vain is the net spread abroad, in the sight of any bird.
The greedy don’t see the trap, the danger not seen or heard.

How long will you be faithless? How long will I be patient with you?
How long has this been happening? How long till you turn and follow what is true?

Lord, help our unbelief. Lord, help us to obey.
Lord, help us to then see your power. Lord, help us to do what you say.


Tuesday, 2022/08/16
Mark Hamby (Lamplighter Publishers)
Proverbs in Ecclesiastes

Vanity, vanity all is vanity, what then is the theme?
Vanity No. but to keep the words of the preacher, yes. In this is real life seen.

Ecclesiastes is a collection, of the most important words
in the whole universe, it’s important they are heard.

In all the books I’ve read, and many they may be,
Compare as nothing to the value the Word of God has given unto me.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, for those outside the Word.
but words of the wise like goads, to direct those who have heard.

Being filled with words of death, not wisdom, truth, delight
will wear us out, break us down, and cause our soul to fight.

When we’re sucked into the story, the characters draw us in.
We lose our means to discern, and then turn away to sin.

The Word of God is alive, it gives wisdom, it gives life.
When we delight in the Word of God, it helps to know what’s right.

When the Bible has words of horror, violence and sin,
it never focuses there, it quickly turns back to God again.

Have knowledge of God’s world, to succeed in all of life.
Knowing God and what he’s done, trust him in ease and strife.

Do you delight in the Word of God? Are you hungry for his truth?
Seek and you will find, don’t live your life aloof.

What is the fear of the Lord? What does this fear mean?
To love what God loves, to hate what he hates. In this fear of the Lord is seen.

Who killed the Son of God, to hell deserve to go?
It wasn’t the Romans, Jews, or others. It was me I finally know.

When we first experience his grace, in light of our depth of sin.
We experience the World he made, we see it new again.

When we seek wisdom in the Word of God, more than silver or gold,
then wisdom will protect you, from youth until your old.

Wisdom is more to seek, than anything you desire,
She gives seven blessings: days, riches, life and honor.

Let these truths not depart, from your life and you will find
favor, safety, guard your steps in front and from behind.

My son get, get, get, get, get, at a high price to search and find.
Wisdom, understanding, ask of God, build your character and mind.

God can use others, in ways we don’t expect.
It may be people we like or not, but the truth we must respect.

If you pursue pleasure first, then you’ll pay the price.
If you first pay the price, the pleasure’s double nice.

Talk about the Lord, what he’s teaching you this week.
Don’t  keep it hidden or ignore, those truths with others seek.

God does correction bring, to save us from great loss.
If you ignore, don’t guard your eyes, you’ll fall to death and dross.

Pornography’s a lie, a deceptive intimacy.
Pursue the truth, seek the real, and life and truth you’ll see.


Wednesday, 2022/08/17
Jared Dodd (Dodd Family Ministry)
God and Government

Missionary for families, Jared Dodd and his wife,
Traveling around the country with ten children, what a life.

“The Story of Liberty” in Genesis 1:26,
God gave people dominion over creation, trusting Him to fix.

In the days of Noah, every thought, every one.
dwelt on evil all the time, without government we were done.

Without all our government and without police,
societies have fallen into chaos, not into peace.

God said to Noah, if a man a man should kill
by men his blood be shed, this a responsibility, not a thrill.

Let’s play a game “Whose job is it?” Family, Church, or State?
Protect babies, marriage, gender, feed and educate.

With government out of its bounds, it cannot do it well.
And it keeps the church and family from doing it as well.

The law is to be objective, and not whatever we feel.
Man’s law may sometimes change, but God’s law it is real.

If something is unlawful, unlawful it will be.
It doesn’t matter if it’s legal, His Word we must first see.

Now looking at the Gospel, it’s not just for you and me.
It’s also for the nations, states, market and family.

In the church today,  we separate the church and state.
But all should and will bow before him, we will all fall down prostrate.

The great lie is secularism, that the state has no belief.
Everyone is religious, but if we say so they give us grief.

Secularism doesn’t exist, it’s a disarming lie.
It tries to null the word of faith, if we follow, men will die.

Even a staunch atheist will say, “Hey, that’s not fair!”
They borrow from the law of God, though about him they don’t care.

The Doctrine of Man, men are bad, not good.
The world has this confused, correct this the church should.

Why do bad things happen, to the good today?
This only happened once, and he volunteered. Hurray!

Church ignoring hell, LGBTQ,
criminals are the victims, tyrants rule over me and you.

In the Magna Carta, acknowledgement was made,
Common and the powerful, all under law and in its shade.

If the leader ever, be it pastor, government or dad
say to disobey their God, we must still obey, their idea it is bad.

The reformers of the day, they were not perfect men
but they sought their God above, and led Europe to freedem.

“Taking Dominion”, three steps this does take.
Step one Jesus is Lord of all, of this make no mistake.

Every aspect of life: music, science, gender
Everything is his, of this we cannot be a bender.

Satan seeks to corrupt, to make himself the Lord.
Christians need not abandon these, but bring them back to his word.

We need to take dominion, to God bring all things back.
Jesus looks over all creation, and says “Mine!”. We need not slack.

Let’s learn from the Pilgrims, to be stepping stones of faith.
Live boldly for the Lord, a devout minority by God’s grace.


Thursday, 2022/08/18
Jared Dodd (Dodd Family Ministry)
Why Gender is Paramount

Gender is paramount, an important battle today.
It’s foundational in our lives, the only distinction God did say.

All darkness in the world, where we now all live,
is linked to gender. What example can you give?

Why does gender matter? In Genesis one created.
Two genders God did make, this cannot be overstated.

On the “Life Purpose Triangle”, “Covenant with God” the foundation be.
The top is “Unique Calling”, God’s plans are different for you and me.

The middle often skipped, but important for us to teach.
The middle is the “Gender Roles”, things to teach and reach.

The majority of a child’s purpose, known the day they’re born.
But we focus on lesser things, with worldly praise adorn.

Men provide, protect, lead the family.
Women mother, comfort, firm gentleness for all to see.

Marriage equals slavery. Marriage must be destroyed.
Matt Walsh’s “What’s a woman?” to be watched and enjoyed.

Christian girls are growing up, thinking marriage, children not so cool.
Birth a child, feed it, beautiful, Don’t be a fool!

Their body changes for motherhood, she hates it and is lost.
They hate being a girl, and they change at a high cost.

What is the goal? Womanly women, Manly men.
Ways to respond? Reject, Accept by still despise it then.

Accept is as true and embrace it as God’s Word.
Don’t change the Word of God, take it as you’ve heard.

If you are a son, learn how to be a man.
This is your first great goal and command.

If you are a daughter, number one great goal should be,
to learn to be a woman, think, act, skills, and how to be.

Four killers of masculinity, a love for being entertained
used to be asking elders questions, or meals together, it’s not the same.

Peer-based relationships as the basis for their life
instead of with older men, learning the important things of life.

Age-based classes, straight from Darwin’s plan.
We need to learn from other men, this is our demand.

Lust is crushing men, the question we need to ask.
Laziness, being slothful, these are quite a task.

What does it mean to be a man? To be strong and stand fast?
To honor, protect women, this character should last.

Titanic, a great story, the men protect the weak.
The richest man in the world, for a servant girl gave his seat.

The boiler boys did shovel, the orchestra did play,
“Nearer my God to Thee” the men died for women that day.

Government weakens men, says “We will provide.”
Church says “Just get them here. We’ll shepherd you can hide.”

Hard work in the past. Video games today.
Men gave up their seats, demand their own, their pay.

Men now just want a dog, not children, not a wife.
Men sacrifice for women. Stand up. Get a life!

HMS Birkenhead 1845,
Women lived, men died, by sharks were eaten alive.

A message to girls, what is feminine in scripture?
Be glad you’re a girl, be beautiful, it’s a picture.

Be skilled in home, find joy, in fulfilling your man.
The world has this mixed up, but do it, we must and can.

Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
Making men and women equal, destroys men and women it does kill.

Why is America great? Women are women. Men are men.
The superiority of women. Let’s do it again!


Thursday, 2022/08/18

Milking cows for 50 years since he was quite young.
Share the story of raw milk. Why pasteurization?

Dairies larger, shut small down, couldn’t transport far.
Refrigeration invented then, could move by train, truck, car.

Smaller dairies still had power: taste, nutrition, feel.
Instead of big raising quality, forced pasteurization, made it less “real”.

Weston Price was looking out, saw problems coming soon.
Wrote books about this looming threat, to avoid the coming doom.

He started direct marketing, by Joel Salatin inspired.
They built as they were doing, being watched by the State were tired.

When the State would try to shut raw down, one man stood up and fought.
But the legislators didn’t listen, it was money that they sought.

He then dropped his permit, not knowing what would come.
The local director out, the new one came in beating a different drum.

One farm was sold for houses, a farm it is again.
God is in control, trust him in all. Amen.

When the FDA came by, questions he did ask.
He started to record and they were nervous in their task.

This case was going to court. At the library he found friends.
They went through this together, went together to the end.

He saw the courts would rule as Solomon once said,
with iniquity against the weak, though the weak by God are led.

He felt like giving up, his wife encouraged him to fight.
Together they stood up strong, to fight and do what’s right.

The government sent agents, that acted like normal men.
They’d make up stories, and tell lies, and do again and again.

He then tried a new process, that ended up going wrong.
But he saw all is possible with God, in trials sing His song.

Friends then joined the battle, saying he was wrong.
This helped them cling to Christ, and praise him all along.

Their power was all in praise, when all was falling down.
God has all the answers, but for now he let them frown.

Painted as the criminals, by friends, and neighbors, church.
But supporters also came, to help them in the lurch.

The battle was against raw milk, many lies were being told.
Many farms shut down, destroyed; the government was bold.

The church influenced by media, rumors, news and lies.
The leaders said they’d kick them out, excommunication try.

A friend, a lawyer, came, to help them on the way.
He found they were illegal trespassers, the lower court said, “Ney”.

To the Supreme Court it did go, the court with him agreed.
They thought that it was over, but the authorities had greed.

They came back with another raid,
For by this they are paid.

There is no good in us at all, by him continue in our faith.
The battle finally won, as the Word of God does saith.

Note: For those interested in more about this topic, we recommend the video “Farmageddon”, which we had watched not long before heading to this conference. It helped us to better understand this battle over raw milk (and other natural farming practices), as it has many health benefits, but brings competition to the big, powerful farms.


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Freedom, Communication & Walkie Talkies

Main topics in this post:

  • Walkie-talkies as a way to enhance family walks, give freedom to explore, keep connection and have fun!
  • Balancing Freedom & Safety
  • the Value of Communication

Getting out into nature is a natural way for children (and adults) to exercise, learn and have fun. It is also a great chance for relationship building, times to walk and talk with each other and times to be quiet and away from distractions to have time with God.

While we love hikes in the woods, we had a small issue, one of our children loves to run. Our solution was that he could run until he couldn’t see us anymore (and thus we couldn’t see him) and then he needed to wait. This sort of took the fun out of scouting and exploring.

This past week we took several hikes into new areas, but with a very important change. We brought walkie talkies! This allowed our “runner” to scout way ahead, and yet be in constant communication. He could ask what to do if he came to a fork in the path. He could give us updates on rough ground ahead or when he saw a snake, etc. When we did take different routes, we were able to quickly identify and fix the situation. Everyone had a blast.

Yes, there is still a danger and if something bad happened it would take us a while to get there, but when balancing safety and freedom, we saw this as a good balance on giving more freedom and personal responsibility. We were in an area where I really doubt anyone would be waiting to hurt a child and our son has shown himself to be quite responsible, especially when he is keeping us updated on what he is doing and seeing.

We also had plenty of time to walk together as a whole family, or to be in smaller groups or two or three, etc., but having this freedom to let them run and explore really added to the family time.

This got me thinking about the balance of freedom and safety and the value of communication 

Freedom and Safety

For the past 2+ years the message of “safety” has been blasted into our lives. We don’t even have a TV and we have heard it repeatedly. (I really feel for those who have been driven into a state of isolated fear by this constant messaging of fear and control.) Benjamin Franklin is credited as saying, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Like my wife and I needed to evaluate freedom vs safety when letting our children run through the woods, our society could benefit from evaluating how much of our freedoms we are giving away for “Safety” and how we may end up with neither freedom or safety.

It also helped me to greater appreciate that our only true safety is in Christ.

Our child may be right by our side and get injured or have other dangers. In the same way, this world may fall apart. Tyrants may rule. We may face isolation, persecution and death. But God is still completely and entirely in control. He is sovereign over all things. It is only in him that we have either true freedom or true safety.

While we may like the feeling of control, only God can truly protect us and our children.

The Bible speaks often about resting in God as our fortress, rock, protector, provider and savior, however I will take an extreme example. (See also our post about Psalm 37.)

In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Even in the worst case scenario of death (of us or our children), we are told not to be afraid. Death is still only limited to this life (which is so short). Our fear (speaking of a holy respect) is to be of God who has the power of eternal life and death.

This same God, who can “destroy both soul and body in hell” is also the one who gives, “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-26).

Our true safety will never be in our wisdom or strength, it is only in God giving us his own righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ!

Therefore, we are called to live in freedom, not in seeking our own safety. When considering that freedom, we are also reminded in Galatians 5:13-14, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Communication

As we gave this freedom, we greater appreciated the power of communication. We knew that our children were “safe”. While we couldn’t know what would happen with their next step, we could know that for the moment they were doing fine. They weren’t laying at the bottom of a drop off. No one had grabbed them. They were fine and having a great time. And we could relax and enjoy the hike.

On the flip side, this communication gave much more freedom and excitement for our children as well. When they encountered a fork in the road, they could ask us which way to go, and could know that we would be following them and eventually catch up. If they did get a little lost or go the wrong direction, they knew that we could call them back and be reunited. If they were to have a problem, get hurt, etc., they knew that they could call us. This communication brought constant connection, which in turn gave them more freedom, peace and joy!

God does not need a walkie-talkie. He always sees us. He not only sees us, he knows and is in complete control over what is around the next corner of our lives.

However, we need a “walkie-talkie”. We need communication with God. With all of the changes that are happening in our world and in our lives, my prayer has been following Solomon’s lead, “Lord, give me wisdom to know and wisdom to follow your ways for my life.” I am increasingly seeing my inadequacy. What should I do? When do I need to make sudden changes, when I don’t and can’t know all of the information and how it will turn out? Lord! Give me your wisdom and help me to follow!  I am like a little child. I need connection with my Father!

As I have communication and connection with God, through His Word and His Spirit, things make much more sense and I am comforted and encouraged by his character, presence and promise in my life.

(I have found a systematic reading of the Psalms to be a powerful way for God to speak his character, presence and promise into my life.)

My children have greater freedom, peace and joy when they are connected with me. My greatest freedom, peace and joy is when I am connected with my Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

A walk in the woods gives great opportunities to build relationships, with others and with God. It also gives time to face unknowns and to see that our only safety and true freedom is in Christ and to reflect on our need for him.

A few closing notes:

  • Again, the trails seemed to be fairly safe trails. We weren’t sending a young child to a crowded area of strangers by himself.
  • Technically, we weren’t only using walkie talkies. We had one GMRS radio (licensed) which fostered clearer communication over longer distances (though we were never that far away).

How do you celebrate the 4th of July?

What do you think of when you think of July 4? What do you tend to do on this day? What conversations tend to take place?

For those in the U.S.A. and Americans living around the world, July 4 (1776) is when we celebrate the founding of our nation. However the war which confirmed that we were free of British rule actually started in 1775 and lasted 8 years until it officially ended with the Treaty of Paris on September 4, 1783 and this treaty was ratified by the U.S. Congress on January 14, 1784.

During these eight years of war, approximately 25,000 men, women and children lost their lives, with many more losing their homes, belongings and loved ones, many standing firm for what they saw as right, even when they knew that it would cost them everything.

What traditions do you have to celebrate July 4? (Or, for those who are from other nations, how do you remember the sacrifices that were likely made to form your country?)

As our family is looking to develop our traditions, here are some activities we are trying with those with whom we celebrate. We would love to hear your traditions as well.

Our goals are to:

  • Remember the sacrifices that were made
    • Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Reflect on the importance of standing for what is right, even when it takes great sacrifice and perseverance
    • Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.””
    • Acts 5:41-42, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”
  • Foster pride in our citizenship and identity (to point to our heavenly citizenship)
    • Whatever country one is from, if you don’t have a concept of being proud of your country, heritage and citizenship, which you can see and know, how are we to have an excitement for our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven (which as of yet, is unseen)?
      • Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”
  • Point to the power of God working to establish countries and install governments and peoples. 
    • These countries, governments and peoples may have fallen far from living for Christ and his intent, but they are still within God’s sovereign domain. 
      • Romans 13:1, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Discussion questions

Rather than focusing on food, games and fun family events, it can be good to focus on the meaning and costs of living in a free country.

Questions can be put out on slips to draw, or any other way to direct the conversation to meaningful things. One or two good questions may be all that are needed to get the conversation going.

Here are some example questions:

  • What is something that you are proud of about America?
  • What is a reason that America is worth fighting for?
  • Sing national songs. After each song, ask: What do we see in this song about our country, the sacrifice of standing up in difficulty and the character and works of God?

Sing National Songs

Many of America’s National songs point to the willingness to fight for what is right, not for our own good, but to be willing to lose everything for the good of others. Many as well point to the goodness, power and sovereignty of God in the ways of men.

When singing the national songs, depending on the ages of the children, it is very powerful to either sing or read and reflect on the later verses, not only the first, and often more well known, verse.

“The Star-Spangled Banner (The National Anthem)”

1 O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

2 O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that has made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust.”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Battle Hymn of the Republic

1 Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Refrain:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

2 I have seen him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps.
I can read the righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on. [Refrain]

3 He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of all before his judgment seat.
O be swift, my soul, to answer him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on. [Refrain]

4 In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.
As he died to make us holy, let us live to make all free!
While God is marching on. [Refrain]

5 He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave;
He is wisdom to the mighty, he is honor to the brave.
So the world shall be his footstool, and the soul of wrong his slave.
Our God is marching on. [Refrain]

My Country ‘Tis of thee

1 My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From ev’ry mountainside Let freedom ring.

2 My native country, thee, Land of the noble free, Thy name I love; 
I love thy rocks and rills, Thy woods and templed hills; My heart with rapture thrills Like that above.

3 Let music swell the breeze, And ring from all the trees Sweet freedom’s song:
Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake; Let rocks their silence break, The sound prolong.

4 Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of liberty, To thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright With freedom’s holy light; Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King.

America the Beautiful

1 O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.

2 O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law.

3 O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, And ev’ry gain divine.

4 O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.

Fireworks, Sparklers, etc.

For the things that sparkle, make loud noises, etc., we don’t focus as much on adding meaning. They are more of a fun way to end the day as a family. We may point out how different it would feel if those were bombs going off, but even that is quick, with the focus being on just enjoying. For fireworks, we’ve found a spot between the cities where we can see several sets of fireworks going off surrounding us, while avoiding the crowds.

Conclusion

Our hope is to enjoy the time with family in this free country that many have lived and died for, while at the same time remembering the sacrifices that were made, while worshiping God who is sovereign over all things, and acknowledging the responsibility we have to boldly follow him, by his direction and strength, at all costs.

What ideas do you have for how to have the 4th be a meaningful day of remembrance and worship?

Polyface Farm (Part 3)

This is continued from “Polyface Farm (Part 2)“.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

If this way of farming produces abundant, healthy food, with lower expenses, risks and dependence on outside systems why don’t all farms work this way?

There are three main reasons why more farms aren’t run this way (concepts pointed out by Joel during the tour, but we flushed them out in our own words below).

1. Change is hard – Change is always hard, it may be exciting, but the unknown is uncertain. It is extra hard if all you know is one way to do things. It is extra, extra hard if you have invested in the facilities and equipment for industrial agriculture, with contracts with these industries. Change is hard!

2. Lies are powerful – Industrial agriculture is built to benefit Big Pharma and Big Ag. The costs for fertilizer, shots, vets, feed, pesticides, etc. mean huge profits for the Pharmaceutical and Agricultural industries. Then add on that most pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides and all the transportation is based on petroleum, there are huge profits for Big Oil. These are three powerful players with huge bankrolls to influence government policy (and subsidies), education (of what farmers should do) and outlets (to control advertising and sales). These entities thrive on lies about how the food system should work and strive to keep it working that way, even if it is unsustainable, as we see happening with food shortages around the world. (We talk about how sad it is that people are starving “in the world, over there” because power hungry groups block food distribution. We have the same problems here. They are just so close that we don’t see them.)

3. More manual labor – Most farms today are run by a few technicians and a lot of machines. Moving chicken tractors around the field, calling cows to the next paddock, planting seeds in mulch, etc. all take manual labor. Sustainable farming takes the expenses that were going to the Pharmaceutical, Agricultural and Petroleum industries and invests it into people. These farms aren’t full of machines and a few technicians, they are full of a community of people with a few machines interacting with plants and animals on a healthy farm. This change of mindset and farm setup can be a hard jump to make (though more and more are making it).

As we thought about it, we realized that these same influences impact the decisions families make. Why don’t more people raise their own food, train their own children and have the peace of birth at home (the ways that things were done since the creation of the world until modern history). 

Change is hard, when all you know is what your parents and the society around us has done. That doesn’t make it right or best, it just makes it what we know and change is hard. We are trapped in the worldly system in numerous ways we don’t even realize, or even if we do we are often too tired or too busy to make a change.  

Lies are powerful. We have been told that the professionals can train our children best and that women need experts and machines for a healthy delivery. While there is a (rare) need for intervention at times, the peace of a homebirth, possibly with a skilled midwife, not only doesn’t have these problems, but often knows how to peacefully take care of problems that are considered medical emergencies in the hospital. However, there is big money and big advertising, promoting our need to follow the world’s systems. And for education… no one knows, loves and can care and mentor your child better than you as you seek to love the Lord above everything else.

Finally, more manual labor. Sending children off to industrial schools seems easy. Eating and living any way we like seems convenient as we buy our foods and don’t have to plant, water, weed, cook and prepare them. Then we can let the hospitals fix our health issues. Letting the system take care of our health, responsibilities and problems is tempting. 

As we break free from the world’s systems, we have more freedom, but as we teach our children, great freedom comes with great cost and responsibility. We need God’s mercy and grace daily to live out our faith.  In the meantime, our life has more substance with richer personal relationships. His blessings are manyfolds just like the crop a farmer plants. Hard work? Yes! Rewards? Yes, we always reap more than we sow. All for His glory! 

Perhaps you have had a prompting that something isn’t right with the world’s systems, but you haven’t had the evidence, energy or desire to give it much thought. You follow the flow against your will and hope for the best since everyone else is doing it anyway. Our prayer is that we would have ears to hear and eyes to see and then to obey as God leads. We pray the same for you.

The trip to Polyface Farm was a wealth of knowledge about how the world works and our place in it. They will answer any questions about farming or anything else, as they want to help others duplicate this sustainable way of life.

The more we understand God’s amazing no-waste system, the less we feel we know. We have so much to discover, to learn, to apply and to embrace. We don’t have our own farm yet (though anywhere can be a “homestead”), but we still had so many insights and are excited to see where God takes us next in his plan for our lives! Writing this post is our first step of response as we reflect and apply what we do understand. 

And therein lies the most important point. It’s not that everyone should have a farm, raise their own food, home educate their children, no longer need a doctor, etc. The point is that everyone should earnestly pray, seek God and follow the ways he lays out in his Word and leads by his Spirit. The “default” should be to invest into our relationship with Christ, seeking him and his ways, rather than defaulting to the ways this world presents as solutions and distractions.

We fail over and over and over again. We struggle and fall and need to get up again, repent and move on. Life is hard and gives plenty of opportunities for growth as Christ makes us more into his image.

While Joel has many books about how to do sustainable farming, his book “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation” gives a bigger view of the “Why” and “How” God created the world to work. We recommend it as a book that every Christ-follower at this time of history would benefit from reading (or listening to Joel read on the audio book). It is not the nuts and bolts of farming, it is more of an eye opening look at the world we live in and the way God created it to be (even after the fall). Just be prepared in your heart and mind to be transformed as the Truth leads you to more freedom! 

It is important to note that Polyface wasn’t an instant success, Joel wasn’t a “celebrity farmer” and there are other farms doing what they are doing (though not nearly enough). His family moved to the farm when it was in shambles. They left all they knew. They didn’t know what was right as they figured out what was next, they just knew that the industrial ways were not right and that God’s ways are best. They took risks. They struggled. They questioned. They failed. They remained faithful. And God is always faithful. It wasn’t until Michael Pollen’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” that the world really heard about Polyface Farm and Joel Salatin. They had been faithful with God’s leading, and God chose to raise them up as an example.

We don’t need to know how our faithfulness will turn out. We just need to seek God, know that he is good, know what is right and trust and obey, no matter the cost.
In addition to his book ““The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”, some additional recommendations are the films “Fresh: Sustainable Food Production in America” and “Polyfaces: Food Without Chemicals: From Family Farm to Table”.

Polyface Farm (Part 2)

This is continued from “Polyface Farm (Part 1)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

Our Personal Applications (not specifically mentioned at the farm, but from what we learned)

  • Apply everything we learned to our family and children – While they love children (which was obvious while we were there), they didn’t specifically give parenting advice. However, so much of what we learned about caring for the land and animals is true for children as well.
  • The world wants us to plug into the systems of the world.
    • It wants us to plug into the food systems of processed foods and industrial farming, producing sicker children (and adults) with higher costs.
    • It then wants us to plug into the medical systems, with all the costs that come with that!
    • It wants us to plug our children into the state-run education system, to be taught that the other systems are normal and good and the first place to turn for hope (while leaving God out of everything).
    • It wants us to plug into the financial systems of needing to buy everything, while forgetting the skills for how to survive without the (failing) systems. When we can grow our own food, and thus eat healthier and become healthier, we begin to break these systems and the financial binds they place on us. We can then barter for needs that we can’t provide ourselves and grow a healthy community!
  • By God’s mercy, we are slowly and progressively weaning out of these systems. Our family has been blessed to have no need for sick visits as we have focused on treating our bodies (the temple of the Holy Spirit) the way he created with God-made food. As we have seen his work and the growing need, we have grown more confident and passionate to share His work in us through His food as we understand more and hear others’ similar stories. We think of it as “becoming more human” as we grow our bodies the way God intended and was the way things were done until the recent development of modern medicine, modern agriculture and the industrial systems.
  • By being set free from the medical system we had very peaceful home births (our first birth was in a hospital, which was a very different experience, though still a drug free, natural birth).
  • By being set free from the education system we have been able to educate our children at home. This has allowed us all (not just the children) to have a better understanding of how God created all of his creation (and all we learn about it) to work together to point to Him! It has also allowed our children to discover and develop interests that they may not have otherwise discovered.
    • “Home-discipling” (as we prefer over “homeschooling”) has also allowed the blessing of real social interaction. Instead of just having a few hours in highly controlled situations with everyone the same age, or only being home for a short time in the evening, our family is learning  to work through difficulties and conflicts and to grow together. Home-discipling isn’t about our always being a perfect match and getting along… It’s about learning to honor God as we live, love, forgive and grow together (even when it hurts)! Not every family is called to homeschool, but all Christian parents are called to make disciples at home and carefully and prayerfully consider what God would have them include in their child’s education.

If this way of farming (discussed more in Polyface Farm Part 1) produces abundant, healthy food, with lower expenses, risks and dependence on outside systems why don’t all farms work this way? This will be discussed in “Polyface Farm Part 3”.

Polyface Farm (Part 1)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

Polyface Farm, in Swoope, Virginia is probably the most famous farm for sustainable agriculture in America… and we had never heard of it until a few months ago… so it’s never too late to learn. If you haven’t either… It is worth your time getting acquainted if you are looking for ways for sustainable farming and living. :o)

Once Joel Salatin and Polyface farm showed up on our radar, they seemed to be everywhere. For us it started in 2021 with a trip to the “Homesteaders of America” conference where Joel Salatin was the featured speaker. Then, in 2022, some friends of ours (who homestead in Ohio), let us know that they were organizing for Joel Salatin to speak in the area. We couldn’t attend that event, but when we were talking with one of the youth at our church (who built his own goat barn at age 10, and now raises goats, cows and enough chickens to be selling broilers for profit), we asked him how he learned so much and he mentioned Joel Salatin’s books. We were excited to be able to let him know about the event, which allowed him to go and meet this man who has had such a great impact on his life. Then we watched ”Fresh”, and Joel was quite prominent in the video. 

Finally, in May of 2022, we took a trip to Virginia to go camping, and see Rob’s sister and scheduled a tour of Polyface Farm, led by… Joel Salatin. We put together a video of the farm tour, which is far from catching the breadth and depth of the tour, but gives a quick overview.

Our biggest take-away from the visit to PolyFace farm is that what God made works amazingly well if you treat it the way that God created it to be treated (and is amazingly resilient even if you don’t). Here are some examples, simply looking at the cows.

  • Their cows (and other animals) receive no shots and are much healthier (with much healthier and better tasting meat) since they are given the diet and life God created them for. 
    • Most industrially raised animals are given many shots and meds (which go into our food), while cows raised the way God made them don’t need any. (A quick digression: Are we humans required to have many shots these days as well? Could part of that be our weakened immune systems?… and a fair bit of financial incentive for “those in charge”?) 
  • In nature, the larger herbivores come through the fields and keep the grass at the best height for healthy growth while also depositing wonderful fertilizer (manure), which can be used around the farm. When they move on, the birds then follow and peck through the manure for bugs and break it down. This then results in healthier grass (and other plants) and the cycle continues, without the need for any industrial fertilizers.
  • If cows were simply raised the way God intended them (as grazing herbivores), the world would have plenty of food without the need for pharmaceuticals, fertilizer or pesticides (and the bills, health costs and dependence on outside supplies).
    • Think about the supply issues and food shortages that are constantly in the news this year due to fertilizer issues. This problem should never have existed if we had followed God’s natural ecosystems rather than man-made industrialized system.
    • People would then eat healthier foods and be healthier and reduce healthcare costs.

Our personal applications from the trip will be discussed in “Polyface Farm Part 2”.

The Father Fortress

“How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Matthew 23:37b

When my three year old comes running over to drag me to make a “Baba Fort”, it is music to my ears. He still loves to be close and to feel the safety of the Baba Fort.

“What is a “Baba Fort”?” … I’m glad you asked. :o)

In its simplest form a Baba Fort is when my son lays on the couch and I am over him on my hands and knees. (Sort of like a mix between a “Child’s Pose” and the “cat” of “Cat/Cow” in Yoga, with my son underneath.) My head usually rests on the arm of the couch.

Some variations are that my hand can be a window that he can ask to open or close to look out or we may put a blanket over my back. While my seven year old will sometimes join him for a double wide fort (which probably looks quite awkward, but the goal isn’t truly that they are in the fort, but that they “feel” like they are in the fort). The variation that best involves all three boys (including the 11 year old), is the “Attack Baba Fort”. The “Attack Baba Fort” would be better named the “Defensive Baba Fort”, but “Attack” sounds cooler. For this variation one of the boys (usually the youngest is in the Baba Fort. The other two boys are attacking in various ways and the one in the fort is kept safe. They may be trying to tag him or shoot him with toy tarts, but the Baba Fort (aka: me) blocks and pushes them away with my outside hand or foot. Another may be that they are climbing on top of the Baba Fort while the little one is kept safe inside. One variation that is a little different is “Escape from the Baba Fort” (more like a prison). For this, they are in the Baba Fort and I close it up fairly well (depending on their age), and they try to wiggle their way out (and then come in and try again). We have all sorts of variations that develop. The point is that the youngest (or youngest two) feel the closeness and safety of being with their “Baba” (me), and the others get the fun of wrestling, attacking, etc. 

It is also nice that I can have conversations with the child in the Baba Fort and they feel that they are all alone in a safe world with me (although we are in the middle of the living room in the middle of the house).

The “Baba Fort” was discovered by accident one day. I was exhausted to the point of hardly being able to keep my eyes open and my youngest two children wanted to play. I don’t remember exactly how, but out of that the “Baba Fort” was born. I could close my eyes and just be there while all of the boys were busy either being in the fort, or climbing on the fort.

While I don’t have girls, perhaps it could be a “Baba Cloud Castle”. Really, it could be anything as long as the story is set into their imaginations (Baba Tank, Baba Cave, Baba House, etc.).

Now, I do want to caution that the “Baba Fort” should be coupled with other, more intentionally involved activities and not just as a way to justify lazy parenting, but it is great for some quiet time to be close with young children… or when you can hardly keep your eyes open.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In Matthew 23:37, while Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem, he reflects, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” The heart of Christ is to be close to his children. Like a mother hen protects her defenseless chicks.

I know my desire to provide for and protect my children, to have them trust me and to provide for them while providing opportunities for them to grow. (As imperfect as my provision and protection are)

To Christ, I am the helpless child. Do I run to him, hunger for time with him in His word? Do I cast my cares on him (for he cares for me) (1 Peter 5:7)? Or do I try to make life work on my own plans and efforts? Christ longs to gather me into his gentle care.

One day the Baba Fort helped me to see Christ’s desire for us, to be close, to protect and provide, to be our source of strength and life.

I need to learn to live in the “Baba Fort” of my Heavenly Father, and to point to the true Fortress, who rules over the heavens and the earth.

A note to fathers: Whether your children are young enough for the “Baba Fort” or are older, we can be there to cover them with unconditional love and the sacrificial gift of time and connection. How are we doing at lovingly discipling our children as we point them to Christ?

September & October Yearly Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

It has been a year since we began our look at the Free Family Events in the Cleveland area.

We are now going to begin writing about new areas of God’s creation and provision, while continuing to post events that repeat yearly. We will also fill in some details about specific featured events.

Feel free to add specific events in the comments area below.

Also visit our original posts for September and October events, for more ideas of events.

Featured Event

  • The Cleveland Air Show
    • The Cleveland Air Show is on Labor Day weekend. We have been going for a few years and this year we found the perfect locations to park and watch the show.
      • We parked across from the “Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities” and “WKYC-TV” ($3)
      • We then walked directly across the street to a little gate between these two buildings. This location is directly behind the airport and you can easily see the show in a nice, shaded, area. If you desire you can go behind the WKYC building for a better view. (We didn’t do this since we have young children and didn’t want them to roll down the hill. :o)
      • Before the military formation fliers come (This year it was the Air Force Thunderbirds), you can walk down to Voinovich Bicentennial Park, where the planes will fly right over your head (loud!) and you can even see the pilots as they whip by.

New Discoveries of the month

  • Rockefeller Park & Greenhouse
    • For a warm forest walk in the winter (in Cleveland), to see how banana’s grow, to enjoy a garden for the blind and much more, the Rockefeller Park & Greenhouse is a wonderful free destination.
    • It is also on the path of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens near University Circle.
  • Baldwin Wallace University Cafeteria
    • The Cafeteria is located in the Student Union.
    • For non-students paying to eat, it is $6 for breakfast, $8 for lunch and $10 for dinner (no tip or tax). It is all buffet style and the food choices change daily. There are a variety of areas featuring different types of food. (For dinner, you can also fill a good size box for $8 instead of the buffet. I’m not sure about the other meals.)
    • The hours are:
      • Breakfast: Monday-Friday 7-10:30 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday 8-10:30 a.m.
      • Lunch: Monday-Sunday 11 a.m. -3:30 p.m.
        • For lunch some things may close down at around 2pm, but there is still lots to choose from.
      • Dinner: Monday-Sunday 4-8 p.m.
    • For a fun, college atmosphere, good food made fresh, decent prices, this is a nice place to visit.
    • For those with children: We had a hard time being there with our 17 month old as he wanted to get into everything and there are no high chairs. Until he is older, we will use this more as a place for date times and perhaps individual times with our older boys.

September & October Yearly Events (The same or a similar event often happens at this time each year)

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

August Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

Tomorrow is the last day of the summer session at Tri-C. It has been a wonderful group of students, and while I am excited for the break, I will miss seeing them. They invested their summer and worked hard with a positive attitude. This is a reminder to me and to all of us. Don’t take a break from learning and growing.

This learning and growing can take the form of learning something new, developing a new habit, taking a class, etc. Or it can look more like taking a step out of the busyness of life to reflect, to see where life is heading and what needs to change, to seek God, his face and his ways. What is important and being missed in the speed of life?

For active learning, one resource we recently discovered is through the Cuyahoga library. They offer free resources, classes and online classes. One that we have been using is Creativebug. (Click here for resources that are free with your library card.)

Other hobbies and skills that have been brewing in our family recently are balloon twisting and playing the recorder.

How about you? What are you learning? How are you growing? Do you need to take some time to step back and look at your life and direction?

Here are some events for this month that may inspire you to continue to learn and grow.

August Events

Other events that are not specific to this month

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

 

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)