Thankful for the blood.

I’m in a flurry of cleaning, baking, and cooking, but I did want to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  And this will sound…oh I don’t know, trite?  cliche?…but bear with me please.  What I want to tell you is to stop and just let your heart be filled with gratitude for the family you have, your blood relatives and your in-laws, however imperfect they may be. Yes, everyone says that, but the thing is to truly do it.  And then tell them how much you love them.

On Halloween, a young man at my daughter’s high school, a senior, died in a catastrophic car crash not far from school.  This is a small town and everybody pretty much knows everyone else, so not only the family but the whole community was pretty much devastated.

His obituary read, “[He] lived in Chelsea his entire life.”

My daughter told me that at the candlelight vigil, his sobbing older sister addressed everyone, saying:

“If you guys would do one thing for me: take stock of your life and tell everyone you love them. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Apparently she and her brother had had the typical sort of sibling relationship and didn’t exactly spend much time expressing their love for each other.  She had gone off to college in August and not seen her brother for some time.

And I know how she now feels.

On the evening of December 4, 2006 my mother called me.  I was irritated with her about something and when we hung up, I didn’t say, “I love you, mom.”

Ask me what the one thing is from life that I would change if I could.

No matter how irritated I am with my children, I try to tell them every day before they leave that I love them.

You may find yourself irritated, annoyed or offended by some family member or another tomorrow at Thanksgiving dinner.  Let go of the offense.  Tell them you love them before you leave.  The lie of modernity is that blood is no thicker than water, but that is utter horseshit.

Consumerism, politics, “careers”…it is all meaningless.  What I am truly thankful for is the family that I have by blood and by marriage and for the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for the remission of my – and your – sins.

Kith and kin and Christ – the blood you share with your people and the Blood of the Lamb – are the only things that mean anything.  Do you have these things?

If not, instead of heading out to that door-buster sale for another piece of crap, I entreat you to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.  And then call your mom or your dad  or your kid from whom you’ve been estranged, or whatever relative you have, and tell them you love them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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If you’re lost and wrecked again.

Rembrandt’s famous painting of the Prodigal Son illustrates the joy of returning to God and finding that He truly is faithful to forgive our sins – yet again.

The Prodigal Son c. 1669 Rembrandt van Rijn

The story of the prodigal son seems to be directed not at the first-time repenter who is turning to Christ for initial forgiveness, but rather toward we who, though already in the Father’s house, are still “prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love,” as the old hymn goes.  It speaks to those who already know the Father but have walked away from Him – again – for a time.  And this is all of us who are Christians; we all rebel and sin, but the story of the Prodigal Son gives us to know that no matter how far we have wandered, the Father will still be merciful when we return to Him.

It’s easy to look at the story of the Prodigal Son from the vantage point of the happy ending, but what we may forget is that there was also this part of the story, the part when the son was still lost and wandering in rebellion, wrecked by sin and knowing that he should return to the Father but not yet having made the hard decision to leave the pigs:

The Prodigal Son 1872 by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

After turning away from God to pursue some particular sin, there is always a moment when the sinner realizes his pursuit of what had seemed so tantalizing has landed him in a pigsty.  That is the worst moment, in my experience, because you feel utterly lost, permanently separated, and hopelessly mired down.  How can you ever go back when you’ve thrown away the riches you had?  Better just to sit here in the mud, which is all I deserve!  But:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

It is so hard in that moment to see that we are free to stand up and leave the pigsty; we really believe the illusion that we are chained there, but as the painting depicts, nothing is truly holding us back, other than a deep sense of shame at having walked away from the Father and having disappointed our family.  It is with hesitation and fear of rejection, as I know full well and perhaps you do too, that the prodigal approaches the Father again, head bowed with shame and regret, but how indescribable is the joyful relief when we find that He is actually celebrating our return!

Those who are still in the Father’s house when the prodigals – who we all will be at some point or another – return need to accept them with joy, not with bitterness and unforgiveness.  Hallelujah, what was lost is now found again!  This may be particularly hard if the prodigal son’s actions affected you personally, as they did the older brother in the story, but the Father tells us to forgive and come celebrate anyway.  The World, of course, cannot understand this kind of forgiveness and will mock us, but that is because Satan, the god of this Worldalways condemns, whereas Christ always forgives.  When you are yet in the Father’s house, you will need to decide whether you will be the bride of Christ or of Satan and then follow your spiritual husband’s lead.

To those who are in the pigsty – come home!

To those who are home – run out to greet them with joy and celebration!

Lift your head weary sinner, the river’s just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness, salvation’s waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10,000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

If you’re lost and wrecked again
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory be open wide

The plus side of “the decline” and hopeful signs in local agrarianism.

I am noticing more small family and cooperative farms in this area which rely on organic production methods, permaculture, and pastured livestock. Interestingly, a number of these farms in this area are explicitly Christian, which is remarkable given the liberal and secular bent of this part of the state (things tend to get more conservative and religious in Michigan as you head north and west).

I don’t know financially how they make it work; maybe they can live really frugally and earn a living from these little farms or (more likely) one or both spouses work outside the home.  In our case, even if we started turning our little homestead into a business, we’d still need outside income.  My husband would still have to keep his job although we could probably replace my job with the fruits of my home labor; my husband is strongly encouraging me to move in that direction, but I am a worrier who lacks confidence in this area, so I’l probably keep my paid job for now.

Here are three little farms not far from where I live that have caught my attention; two of the three are run by Christian families.

C & C Micro-Farm in Gregory doesn’t have a website yet, but you can find them on Facebook.

Growing By Faith Farm in Stockbridge offers classes in the sorts of skills that farm folks might have had 100 years or so ago.  Examples include things like butter-making, how to start a fire with a bow drill, raising and processesing (i.e. killing and prepping) pastured poultry, how to weave a basket out of cattails and the like.

Robin Hills Farm here in Chelsea offers classes, farm tours, and CSA shares of organic produce.

The reason I find these little farms to be a hopeful sign is because even in places like Greece that have been experiencing a fairly length financial collapse, we don’t see total mayhem. People still have basic sustenance and it is not total anarchy.  I think, barring unforseen catastrophe (EMPs, for example, or having Iran someday drop nuclear bombs on us courtesy of the Obama administration’s foolishness), what we’re really in for here is a long, protracted, economic decline in which our collective standard of living is significantly reduced over a period of time.  As that happens, people will naturally return to older methods of food production, with each family finding ways to keep small livestock (chickens, rabbits) and eke out a small garden.  It sounds scary to moderns but it was only three generations ago that this was the normal state of affairs, and it is nice to know that there are already a number of people, a small but growing minority, who are rediscovering old skills and melding them with new ideas from permaculture.

This kind of small-scale agrarianism is a hopeful sign for the immediate future.  When I look at this, I don’t mind the idea of “the decline”; in fact, I rather welcome it.  Why?  Because it is as Herrick Kimball wrote in Light in Our Dwellings ten years ago:

The plain truth, like it or not, is that, in order to succeed in this modern world, on its terms, you must sacrifice your family on the altar of Industrialism.

Yes, I know that is a harsh thing to say. Many people will disagree with me because the industrial model of family life is seen by the masses as normal and, therefore, good. But it is neither normal nor good. It is the spawn of 19th century Industrialism and a historical aberration. It weakens and destroys families. That is the truth and the truth can hurt. Believe me, I know.

The saddest aspect of this situation is that so many professing Christian families willingly buy into the materialistic hubris of our industrial culture.

…I’m convinced that if God’s people are going to be an effective witness to those in the dying industrial culture around us, we must do more than believe in a personal savior, and we must do more than proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. It is imperative that we also live our lives set apart to God. That does not mean that we can simply Christianize the ungodly industrial model and, in so doing, somehow become immune to its pernicious evils. It means we must separate ourselves and our families from the ungodly culture of industrialism.

The only way I know for Christians to effectively separate from the culture of industrialism is to embrace Christian-Agrarian life and culture. Christian-Agrarianism (sometimes called Biblical-Agrarianism) is Christianity lived within an agrarian paradigm. It is trusting God, His word, and His promises more than the false promises of materialistic industrialism in all its manifestations.

Let the decline of materialistic industrialism come, then.

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.

The importance of placing kith and kin above buying and brands.

We just returned from seeing the movie “Into the Woods” and I had intended to write a post about some of the good lessons in this film right away, but alas a migraine headache hit on the way home so instead I am crawling into bed with a heating pad. The post will have to wait.

However, I saw this tweet and thought I’d share it:

Yes, this is true but it is not the whole truth. Rather, we are manipulated and misled by people who want to make money off us. They can do this by convincing us to place family and kin secondary to selfish pursuits. Careerism, materialism, mindless consumption, the abandoning of traditions…these things all make us prime targets for advertisers as we replace our identities that we used to find in our faith, families and wider kin networks with our identities as consumers.

But being an Apple products fanatic or a Nike devotee or a coffee snob or whatever product with which you choose to self-identify will never satisfy the longing in you that can only be filled by faith and family.