Waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

It’s hard to hide an ark

God asks us to do crazy things sometimes, or at least they seem like crazy things to us. To Him, they make perfect sense, but He operates on a level higher than us. But when was the last time God asked you to do something that didn’t make any sense? He’s asked me to take strange international trips. He’s asked me to give financially when I didn’t really have the finances to give. He’s asked me to give time and effort when I was running low on both. And He’s asked me to talk to people about things I don’t want to talk about. Crazy stuff.

But after reading today’s verses, I think maybe I need to redefine crazy.

Waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Genesis 6:14-16 and 22.

“Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior.Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Leave an 18-inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper.” … So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

Crazy, right? It’s so crazy, it makes all of the “crazy” things God has asked me to do sound pretty tame. And I don’t care who you are, as far as I know, Noah is the only one in history who ever received this command. I don’t know of anyone else who God asked to build a giant boat and fill it full of animals. It makes me wonder what my reaction would have been if God had asked me to do something like that. I’d like to think that I would have said, “Yes, Lord! Of course!” But my reaction probably would have been more like Bill Cosby’s famous Noah routine: “Right.”

But whether God asks us to build giant boats or not, following Christ does require us to do some strange things that make us stand out. Believe it or not, that’s kind of the point. Many times believers are referred to as symbols of light or examples or ambassadors to the world, and it should be impossible to conceal any of those. I think it’s in Matthew where believers are called a “city on a hill” because they can’t be hidden. Remember the song “This Little Light of Mine”? Yeah, same concept.

And as a result of following Christ and doing all these things like loving our enemies and giving to God’s work financially and reading the Bible and believing what’s in the Bible, many times we invite criticism and mockery. I can’t tell you that I have been put in front of a room of people and publicly humiliated; that hasn’t happened (yet). But I have heard my beliefs and the foundations of my faith mocked by people in authority over me. I’ve seen the basis of all I believe torn apart and held up as an example of ancient, irrelevant ritual. I’ve been in a class with a teacher who has pretty much said that anyone who believes in the Bible is a fool.

And if being called a fool or a backward person or a crazy bothers you, maybe those sorts of things will affect you. But honestly, if you’re going to choose to follow Christ, you need to realize that you’re going to be made fun of. And we don’t even have to build a giant boat. American Christians are renowned for hiding their faith. Noah didn’t have that option. You can’t exactly hide an ark. Everyone around him knew exactly what he was doing.

And what’s more, for poor Noah, not only did he build the ark, he told people about it. Over and over and over. He told them what it was for, why he was building it, and why they needed to come with them when God destroyed the Earth. But nobody believed him. Can you imagine the ridicule he faced? Can you imagine what he had to endure from his neighbors and his friends and maybe even his family?

But he didn’t let it phase him. Oh, I’m sure he had bad days. Remember, this didn’t happen overnight. It was like 120 years or something. I can’t remember, but Noah built the ark and then had to wait and wait and wait while God gave people the chance to change their minds and come with him and his family. But nobody did. They all kept their distance and made fun of him.

And that’s a lesson I need to learn. It’s not that people’s opinions matter so much to me, but I like people to like me. I’m a people pleaser. I don’t like rocking the boat. I don’t like being in the spotlight, especially as the person who causes conflict or difficulty. But part of what I want to accomplish with my life is to become a writer that challenges the way people think, and I’m not going to be able to do that if I’m always worried about whether or not people like me. I’m going to have to get to the point where it’s okay that people don’t.

The one person we need to worry about pleasing is God, and if we can get that right, everything else will fall into place. So whether God is telling you to write a book or quit your job or to be a missionary or to build a giant boat and fill it full of giraffes or whatever, do it. Make sure it’s from Him, but once you determine that it is from God, do it. But realize that you’re going to turn heads. You’re going to draw attention. And many people won’t understand, even if you explain it.

But don’t worry about that. You just do what God has told you to do. He’ll work out the details. He did it for Noah, and the same God who took care of Noah and his family is the same God I talked to this morning just before I sat down to write this.

And just because I can … and because it’s really funny, enjoy:

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

The habit of justice

It’s easy to roll with the crowd. Making decisions because the majority approves is easy. Going with the flow and talking like everyone else and never rocking the boat is easy. But when you start making choices that contradict the popular majority’s ideas, that’s when you stand out.

When you step back and refuse to do what everyone else does on a matter of principle, that’s when people start looking at you differently. That’s when you get blacklisted and made fun of and even verbally abused now, in our “tolerant” 21st Century culture.

Doing what’s right isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come naturally to us. We naturally want to be accepted by the crowd, but the crowd rarely does what is right.

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 106:1-3.

Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?
Who can ever praise him enough?
There is joy for those who deal justly with others
and always do what is right.

Whether you’re talking about your physical health or your mental health, everyone needs good habits. Habits don’t just appear in your life overnight, though. Habits are something you have to build, and building them can be time consuming and challenging.

Eating balanced meals (eating at all) is a healthy habit. Exercising is a healthy habit. Drinking enough water is a healthy habit. And none of those habits are instinctual, at least not for me. I have to do these things over and over until they become a habit in my life.

And the same is true for choosing whether or not to do the right thing. Doing the right thing rarely comes naturally to us. We are fallen, broken people, and our instinctive reaction is to look out for number one. And that’s when the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and reminds us that we belong to Christ now, and we should act like it.

But listening to the Holy Spirit is a habit. Just like reading the Bible. Just like choosing to do the right thing even when the rest of your crowd refuses.

You have to do the right thing over and over and over again. You have to choose to do the right thing constantly, and eventually you’ll get to the place where choosing to do the right thing is natural for you. It will become a habit.

But why is it important? Why can’t we just do whatever we want? God will love us anyway, won’t He?

Here are today’s verses in The Message:

Hallelujah! Thank God! And why? Because he’s good, because his love lasts. But who on earth can do it—declaim God’s mighty acts, broadcast all his praises? You’re one happy man when you do what’s right, one happy woman when you form the habit of justice.

Why is building the habit of doing the right thing important? Aside from the fact that it’s what God has called us to do because we are His representatives on earth, doing the right thing will bring you joy.

Ever wonder why people are so sour? There are a lot of reasons I’m sure, but how many people are weighed down by unhealthy habits, like going along with the crowd? How many people make bad decisions just because it’s the popular thing to do?

If you’re a Christian and you make a bad choice because it’s the “in thing” to do, the guilt is indescribable. Not because God is angry but because He is sad. And because you knew better.

Anyone brave enough to admit they know what I’m talking about? I’ve been there before. I’ve gone along with crowd because it was popular, and I’ve even made decisions that the Bible says are wrong because I didn’t want to push back. But the guilt that followed that decision was worse than any shunning those “friends” could have levied.

Make a habit of doing the right thing. Make a habit of making wise choices. Make a habit of rightness. And you’ll have joy.

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Harvesting when your crop looks ready

Toward the middle of May, I posted about praying for my neighbors and their wheat harvest. When I got home from my first jaunt to Glen Eyrie over Memorial Day, as I pulled into my driveway, my closest neighbor was out harvesting. He was almost finished, so I snapped a few hurried pictures because I’d promised a German coworker that I would, since she’d never really seen a combine in action before.

So thanks to everyone who prayed. My neighbors all got their wheat in, and it seems like they did fairly well. What I hear a lot, though, is that the crops weren’t as good as some were expecting. We just didn’t have the moisture over the winter that was really needed to develop the heads. Don’t get me wrong; everyone still made off really well, and out where I live, the fact that my neighbors actually got to harvest something is a big deal. But it wasn’t as big as we were hoping.

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I will be the first one to admit that I get tired of doing the right thing all the time. There are days when I’m so tired of waiting that I just want to do something stupid–something unplanned and spontaneous and irresponsible–and see what happens. Because, obviously, always doing the right thing hasn’t really gotten me where I want to be. Right?

But on those days, this is the verse that always comes to mind. Because no matter what our profession or our status in life, we are all farmers. From executives to housewives, from college students to elementary students, each of us is constantly planting seeds that will eventually grow into something that will be harvested. And our choices dictate what kind of a harvest that’s going to be.

If you make good choices, if you do the right thing, you’ll eventually harvest something that will be good. If you make bad choices, if you do wrong and you know you’re doing wrong, you’ll eventually harvest something that will make you unhappy. That’s not God’s doing. That’s not God punishing you. That’s you reaping the consequences of the choices you’ve made.

Where I get bogged down is when I constantly make good choices and still feel like my harvest is bad. And that’s when I have to remember that I really haven’t harvested anything yet. I’m still at the growing phase.

In the last weeks of May, everyone out here was on edge waiting to see when the wheat was going to come in. Because it looked ready. It was golden and beautiful and when the wind blew it made that beautiful whispering sound. I know some folks brought their wheat in prematurely because they were afraid of the weather. But that wheat wasn’t ready. And even though the wheat my neighbors brought in was good, would it have been better to let it wait a little longer? I’m not a wheat expert, so I don’t know. But it’s an interesting thought.

I have a lot of fields planted in my life, and I’m sure you do too. And we’re all waiting for the day when we can start harvesting and seeing a return on all the time and effort we’ve invested. But if we jump the gun, the harvest we bring in isn’t going to be the best it could be.

Check out this same verse in the Amplified Version:

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.

In due time and at the appointed season. You can’t just start harvesting when you feel like it or when you think it looks ready. You have to make sure that it is ready, and that takes waiting. And waiting takes courage, especially when you feel like you can run ahead on your own and do it yourself.

So for all of us who are waiting to harvest our own fields, don’t give up. The day is coming when we’ll get to harvest. And if you’re at the point where you feel like all you’re getting out of life is negative, just remember that if you’ve planted good seeds you will get a good harvest; you just have to wait for it.

My kitchen after I bake

Knowing what’s right but refusing to do it

I love to cook and bake for other people, and I love having people come stay at my house. What I don’t love is the clean up. There’s something about hosting a party in this crazy old farmhouse that is just tons of fun, and I try to do it as often as my schedule allows. But when I can’t have people out, I still like to bake things to bring to work or to other events. But when it comes to cleaning up my kitchen after I bake, I tend to drag my feet.

I don’t have a dishwasher. That could be a contributing factor. But generally speaking, I just don’t like doing dishes. So I let them pile up.

My kitchen after I bake

My kitchen after I bake - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The verses for today are Genesis 4:6-7.

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

All humans are psycho. Let’s just get that out in the open. If you’re a human being, you’re insane. It’s part of our flawed character. Everyone has this issue where we do the things we know are wrong and then we wonder why we get in trouble. Doesn’t matter how minor the wrong thing was, we are still surprised (or defensive) when someone catches us in the act. And the only explanation I can think of for that is that we’re all screwed up.

This is what happened to Cain. Cain and his younger brother Abel knew how to present a sacrifice to God. Their father had done it, and they had grown up knowing what God expected. Abel did it right; Cain thought his way was better. So Cain did it his own way, and God didn’t accept it. But notice that God didn’t reject Cain; just his offering. God gently explained what went wrong.

If Cain had been wiser, he would have listened. But those who know the story know he wasn’t much of a listener.

For me, doing the dishes is right. It’s my house. I made the mess. So it’s my responsibility to clean up. I could just leave them (and from this photo, obviously, that’s what I did), but then I wouldn’t have any dishes to eat my lunch on. And I wouldn’t have any pots and pans to bake with. Would it make sense for me to get angry because I don’t have dishes to eat on? If I did, it would be my own fault.

Just like when we get a speeding ticket. We’re speeding. We’re breaking the law. Why are we surprised when we get pulled over? Why are we angry at law enforcement when we are the ones who were doing what was wrong?

God has created all of us with a conscience. We know what’s right. We know what’s wrong. And we have a choice between which one to do. So what does it mean when know what’s right and we refuse to do it?

In Cain’s story, he let his own desires and his own rage dictate his actions instead of doing what he knew was right, and he killed his younger brother. With my dishes, obviously, I’m not going to kill anyone. If nothing else, it will mainly be a reflection on my own poor skills as a housekeeper. But for us to know what is right and refuse to do it indicates deeper issues. With Cain it was pride. With my dishes, it’s laziness. I know doing my dishes is the right thing to do, but it takes a lot of effort. And it’s easier to just let them sit. But it’s not right.

And if I let my dishes sit, even though I know it’s wrong, how much longer will it be before I let other things in my life sit too?

If you know what’s right and refuse to do it, watch out! That’s what this verse says. If you’re rationalizing why you don’t have to do what’s right, be so careful. Because that is the first step to allowing sin to control you. And that’s not how we were designed to live. And if you are a follower of Christ, you don’t have to be controlled by your sin.

If I just do my dishes right away, I always get done faster than I expect. But when I leave them sit, I have to scrub on them because everything dries up.

Doing what’s right will take effort. That’s true. And doing what’s wrong seems easy at first, but the consequences take more effort to deal with than doing the right thing straight off.