Whatever is lovely.

There is an area on our property that was previously semi-maintained that I’m letting turn into a meadow to see how it does.  Perhaps invasive plants will take over and I’ll have to mow it eventually, but for now, an astonishing array of wildflowers have exploded into a lovely volunteer garden.  There has been so much ugliness in the news recently that I feel the need to fix my mind on the beauty in the world that our God created for our enjoyment.

IMGP0047

God did not have to make the world beautiful, yet He chose to make the land He gave us to have dominion over pleasing to behold:IMGP0032

The heavens are the Lord‘s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. (Psalm 115:16)

IMGP0033

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

IMGP0050

image

It is amazing to think that this beautiful earth we dwell upon is actually just a shadow of the beauty of the world to come:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

image

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

image

image

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29)imageimage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

imageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

The days may be ugly and evil, but let us choose to think about the beauty that we can find in this shadow land and understand that it points to the incomparably greater beauty we will one day behold when we dwell on the new earth under Christ’s eternal reign.  He is  the true alpha and omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.  Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!

Godly sorrow versus shame.

I have noticed a trend among modern Christians to frequently express their concern that someone somewhere is being “shamed” or to complain that they themselves are being shamed.  So, is there truly an epidemic of shaming going on?

As I have written before elsewhere, there are two kinds of shame: intrinsic and extrinsic.  Intrinsic shame is shame for who you are and extrinsic shame is shame for something you have done.  It goes without saying that intrinsic shame should be laid down at the foot of the cross.

But what about extrinsic shame?  If I do something shameful, should I not feel ashamed of what I have done?

Oftentimes in my observation, people will say they are being “shamed” when in fact someone has simply pointed out sinful behavior, sometimes just in a general sort of way and not even directed at any particular person.  For example, if a Christian points out that it is wrong for a woman to engage in premarital sex, that Christian can count on being attacked by other Christians for “slut-shaming” which is wrong because Christ has set us free from our shame.

It is true that Christ has set us free from our shame.  It is also true that premarital sex is a sin.  It is also true that if someone is engaging in premarital sex and hears another person say, “Premarital sex is wrong,” that person will feel ashamed of his or her behavior.  Should we then stop teaching what sin is because hearing sin called sin will cause bad feelings in sinners?  Consider what Paul says in Romans 7:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin,seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

There is no reason for Christians to attack a specific person and heap shame on him or her.  But neither should we condemn one another for teaching the Law that God gave us; the Law allows us to experience godly sorrow for our sins so that we can repent of them and then lay our shame down at the foot of the cross.  We don’t have to bear the shame of our sin because Christ will do that for us, but that doesn’t mean that the sins aren’t shameful, it simply means that when we repent of those sins, we can be free of the shame by submitting to Christ.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Before we are quick to claim that we are being shamed or that someone else is being shamed upon hearing the Law, let us pause and ask ourselves if perhaps we are simply experiencing godly sorrow that leads to repentance and freedom in Christ.

“Biblical Submission is Not Passivity”

Worthwhile reading for wives.

See, there's this thing called biology...

I promised another post on submission within marriage, but the Peaceful Wife has many lovely articles that address these issues even more thoroughly. Here is a link to one I enjoyed in which she dispels some misconceptions “Biblical Submission is Not Passivity.” Here is a key phrase I really liked, “from this position of great strength in Christ, we submit to our husbands.”

My own words often reflect that  idea too, submission is actually strength in Christ, it is not weakness before men. It is actually an empowering tool for women that allows you to have a more peaceful marriage, enables communication, and helps to facilitate more love and empathy between husbands and wives.

There are many misconceptions about wives being doormats or Stepford wives and marriages being dictatorships, prone to abuse. It’s kind of sad, biblical concepts of submission are so maligned and misunderstood, some people reject them…

View original post 446 more words

Do pastors tear down men on Father’s Day?

This past Friday, I read the following quote from the blogger Dalrock:

Father’s Day predictably brings out diverse sentiments in our post marriage world.  For Christian leaders it brings out contempt for husbands and fathers, including the now traditional (if not obligatory) sermon tearing down men in front of their families.

 

I’ve heard men’s issues bloggers express this before, that Father’s Day is a time when churches express contempt for fathers, and I thought that was so odd because I’ve never heard a Father’s Day sermon preached in the 12 years I’ve attended and been a member of our church.  So when I read this quote from Dalrock, I sort of rolled my eyes a little and thought that maybe there was a bit of exaggeration there or something.

On Saturday, Insanity Bytes disagreed with Dalrock, writing:

Complete poppycock, Dalrock. Even here in the 9th circuit of hell, in liberal utopia, our Christian leaders don’t tear down men in front of their families nor do they mock fathers. That is no more a true representation of what is really going in the world  than the Westboro Baptist church is actually a church.

And I thought, “Yeah, what she said!  Poppycock, Dalrock.  I’ve certainly never heard a sermon about Father’s Day at all, let alone one bashing men!”  I felt happy about this because I don’t want there to be such a thing as sermons that bash men on Father’s Day.  I also don’t want there to be such a thing as ticks, yet I just removed one of those bloodsuckers from my ankle after walking our puppies in our meadow, so apparently what I want doesn’t dictate reality.

Anyway, who is right?  Dalrock or Insanity Bytes? I wanted IB to be right, and even felt like she must be right and not Dalrock who was probably just being a sour-grapes whiner, but from whom could I find out for sure?

I know, how about a pastor!  How about even my own pastor?

My husband and I went to church shortly after I read IB’s post, where I was shocked to hear my first ever Father’s Day sermon.  You can watch the video of the sermon here:

http://northridgechurch.com/talks/unlikely-heroes/abraham/

Start watching at the 6:00 minute mark, where my pastor says:

“Like us, Abraham was far from perfect and yet he became a hero of the faith.  Here’s actually the truth that I want to share with you on this Father’s Day weekend.  This is the truth from Abraham’s story: a life of a faith, a life where you experience a relationship with God that’s so intimate, that’s so close that God Himself would call you His friend, that kind of life does not demand perfection.  A life that God ultimately honors and celebrates and holds up like he did Abraham’s doesn’t demand perfection.  And if that’s true – and it is – then there’s a lot of encouragement and motivation for us in that truth for those of us who are dads, for all of us.

I have to tell you, it’s our goal on this Father’s Day weekend to lift you up and encourage you.  And I have to tell you from history I’ve learned that often Father’s Day is one of the worst days that dads can ever choose to go to church.  Because often it’s the only time churches feel like they’re going to have the ears of dads and so what they do is they plan to beat them up royally for all they’re not doing right.  Ever been to one of those Father’s Day services?  Oh man, I have.  In fact, here in the early days of my ministry here, you know what we’d do?  Oh man, we planned.  We planned for you guys.  And then what we did is we’d sing “Cats in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon”.  And we’d talk about how you have so royally blown it, the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, and then we’d try and help you recover.  And we wondered why dads didn’t like Fathers Day at our church.

We don’t do that anymore.  What we want this to be is an encouragement to you, we want this to lift you up, and I can’t think of a better story than Abraham’s because he’s like us – far from perfect.  And yet he was used significantly from God.”

My Pastor straight up confesses that our church used to do exactly what Dalrock says and that he had heard it at other churches as well.  Therefore, I am chastened and sad to report that IB and I are wrong and Dalrock is right, according to my pastor.

Edited to add: The quote from the video begins at the 6:00 minute mark, not the 26 minute mark as I originally wrote.

The newest members of the clan.

The newest members of the Thiry household, aged 10 weeks, arrived today:

Digby, a Golden Doodle:

image

image

Mmm, yummy flip flops…

image

Hey, why’d you take my flip flop away!? I was chewing on that!!

and Ruby, a Shiba Inu:

image

What, me chew your flip flop? Never! I was just guarding it for you, that’s all.

 

Ruby1

A lap for the princess.

 

image

She fell over sound asleep right in the middle of a game of tug of war.

Some information about Golden Doodles as a breed:

…a cross-breed/hybrid dog obtained by breeding a golden retriever with a poodle…Because poodles and golden retrievers are both highly intelligent, golden doodles are also very trainable. Goldendoodles are usually very affectionate with people and other pets. They are human-oriented dogs, and tend to develop a strong bond with their owners and companions. Most goldendoodles are calm and easy going, but they are active dogs that do require exercise. Some goldendoodles like to swim, but not all. They tend to be great family pets and are known to be especially good with children.

And Shiba Inus:

A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting…It is one of the few ancient dog breeds still in existence in the world today…Recent DNA analysis confirms that this Asian spitz-type dog is one of the oldest dog breeds, dating back to the 3rd century BC...Originally, the Shiba Inu was bred to hunt and flush small game, such as birds and rabbits.

Ruby, the Shiba Inu, housebroke herself as soon as we brought her home.  Shibas are very clean dogs and it’s not unusual for them to take to house training immediately.  Digby, the doodle, should be easy to train, but he hasn’t quite got the hang of it yet.

I like having dogs around; they make me feel safer.  Even though we live in a rural area, I like knowing that no one could enter the house while we are sleeping without the dogs alerting us to that fact.

Plus they’re just ridiculously cute! 🙂

image      Ruby2

 

My first food forest guild.

One of the reasons I find permaculture so useful is because it provides a systematic framework for what I have already instinctively been doing in a hit-or-miss fashion for years.  For example, my husband used to think it was kind of weird that I mulched in all my flower and vegetable beds with grass clippings all summer; neither of us had heard of other people doing that, but it just seemed instinctively right to me.  Lo and behold, I find lots of permies do this too!

However, there are many novel growing techniques that I’m learning from permaculture, and the one that fascinates me the most is the idea of planting a food forest in guilds.

Here is a good explanation of what polyculture food forest guilds are:

Permaculture is based on natural systems like those that we see in forests.  In a forest system, there are mulitple layers of vegetation growing together in a very diverse setting.  We see many types of trees, shrubs, plants, insects, animals, and various other things all living together in a system that continually strengthens itself.  All of these components of a natural ecosystem serve a function (or several functions) that support each other like the strands of a web.  One strand on its own may be weak, but the combination of all the strands together add to the overall strength and usefulness of the web.

In order to mimic these natural systems and to provide for human needs (i.e. food, building supplies, fuel, fibers, etc.) we must learn to identify and work with the various functions of our natural resources.  This is where the concept of the “Permaculture Guild” comes from.  A guild is usually defined as an association of people working toward a common goal.  In Permaculture, a guild is a grouping a plants, animals, insects, and other natural components that also work together to help ensure their survival.  Instead of planting gardens, Permaculture teaches us how to “build guilds”.  Instead of teaching about specific plants, we teach about the plant’s functions.  This is why Permaculture can work throughout the whole world.  It is a guide for design rather than a “how-to” type of agriculture.

The basic design of a guild generally follows some variation on this theme:

I’ve put together the beginnings of my first guild and I thought I’d share it.  Behind our house is a mature full-size pear tree, which is currently loaded with baby pears:

image

 

I did not add a dwarf fruit tree because the area is rather shady and prone to deer visits.  Instead I put in red currant and gooseberry shrubs because they like partial shade:

image

image

I was thrilled to find the currant shrubs; when I lived in Russia one summer, I learned to love red and black currants as Russians are crazy about them.  They go into the forests and gather large pails of them, and you can buy them in all the open-air markets.  I always wondered why we don’t have currant bushes in Michigan as our climate is not dissimilar to some parts of Russia, so I did a little investigating, and it turns out that for many years, it was actually illegal to grow currants in the U.S. due to a fungal infection they can carry which completes part of its life cycle on White Pines.  The fungus does not seriously harm the currants, but it causes a “rust” on the pines that eventually kills them (you can read more about this here).

However, several varieties of red currants and gooseberries have been bred that are resistant to White Pine Blister Rust, and it is once again legal in some states to grow them.  In Michigan, black currants can only be grown with a special license, but red currants and gooseberries can be grown without a permit in certain counties provided they are the resistant cultivars:

Under the currants, I planted rhubarb:

image

Rabbits, deer, and other critters do not much care for rhubarb, and the leaves are toxic (we only eat the stalks), so there was no need to fence around these.  Rhubarb is one of the few perennial vegetables (yes, it is actually a veggie and not a fruit), so I think it’s a natural fit in a permaculture (“permanent agriculture”) guild.

I then mulched everything heavily with grass clippings to keep down weeds, keep the soil moist, and to nourish the rhubarb, which is a heavy feeder.

So here’s my guild thus far:

image

 

I still want to add a “ground cover” layer which may end up being strawberries if I can’t figure out something better to plant, though strawberries may not love the partial shade here.

The only harvest I’ll get from the guild this year is pears, but next year I hope I’ll be making and canning lots of pectin-free strawberry rhubarb jam!