Tuesday, September 30, 2014

About that garden

I haven't posted much about the garden this summer, except for those two mutant crook necked squash : ) But that doesn't mean I haven't been gardening! In July, I added two new 16' x 3' beds north of the log cabin (Cedar) and filled them with our own compost. I transplanted Romaine lettuce into half of one of the beds, put green beans in the other half. They grew like crazy! The Romaine was wonderful and the beans renewed my hopes of a decent bean harvest this year. But it was too late for that; it turned cold 2 weeks ago, just as they were almost ripe enough to pick and the slugs moved in...we got enough for a few meals. Next year!

In the other bed I put short season carrots (Mokum), shell peas, and spinach. I haven't been able to get spinach to grow here at all. It won't germinate, and if it does, it stays small and stunted. Not this time! The seed was 3 years old, so I only got about 50% germination, but that was an improvement over my other plantings. But it grew like crazy; we've been cutting off it for about a month now—I actually need to cut again today. It's slowing down, but that compost made the difference.

You've seen my mutant squash, so you know I've been eating that. Last year I planted three plants each of patty pan, yellow crookneck, and kabocha (winter) squash. I got 2 patty pan squash and one very small kabocha. Not a very promising start! So, this year I tried again. Same number of plants, different location. And a helpful scooping of rabbit manure. I've been eating patty pan and crookneck every day since the beginning of August. I've given away at least 2 dozen and if it doesn't freeze, I've got enough maturing to last me until the end of October! Next year I'm only planting 2 each of the summer squash...

The kabocha are doing OK, but the slugs seem to like them when they are small, so I've only got about 5-6 total. But they are huge. People think I'm growing pumpkins when they see them. The plants are starting to die back because of squash wilt (or whatever it's called), so I won't get anymore than that. No problem, it's a start.

Last winter we were at a gathering where someone served a winter squash dish that Debbie just loved. She asked them what kind of squash it was; they said it was delicata. According to them, it was the only winter squash that did really well here. So I planted some. And it's doing great. Again, the slugs like them when they are small, so the harvest will be smaller than it might have been, but it's a start. Next year...

The really big success story though is the runner beans. We grew them last year on the west wall outside the garden, along the lane. All the guests loved the beautiful blossoms and we got enough beans to dry some for food and seed. (By the way, they are terrible as dried beans; they taste like mud!) So, I planted them again this year with my own seed. They did really well, taking over the wall even more than last year (of course, I added rabbit poop, so that helps). And the hummingbirds discovered them about halfway through the summer.

What a difference that made. Last year, they were loaded with blossoms—6-8 per spur—but we would only get one bean per spur. It started out that way this year, too. But once the hummingbirds discovered them, I've been getting 6-8 beans per spur! I pick them as immature green beans; they have a bit of a wild flavor to them, but we like it. So I've been freezing them like crazy. It turned cold yesterday, so they will slow down, but I still will probably pick again on Wednesday and freeze a gallon bag full. That's from about a dozen plants, so you get an idea of how well they are doing. I've let a few bean pods get large for seed saving, so I should be able to plant even more next year.

Can't beat that, can you? Beautiful red flowers on the gray fence, brightening it up, feeding the hummingbirds all summer. And all winter, feeding us with green beans. Of course, I've been snitching them all summer long, too. I love eating them raw, right off the plant. One bean is almost a meal by itself when they are mature.

Well, that's enough for today. I'll try to post some more later this week, but I've got cabins to clean...

Want it to last?

“The fruit of peace is grounded in the fact of peace. Without that reality of union with Christ, peace is presumptuous. It is no more real or enduring than the relief given through pharmaceutical painkillers that treat the symptoms but not the cause.”— Vine Ripened Life

More on moralism

In a followup to yesterday's post, Roger Olson clarifies what he was meaning. Read it! He's spot on. Here's a snippet to lead you there:
Gradually, over the years, I have noticed a trend in American Christianity, including among evangelicals, to ignore the gospel impulse and emphasize the moralistic one. Sociologists of religion have studied this trend and labeled the “religion” of most American youth who go to church as “Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism.” I can understand why. Now the duality I hear in churches is that God expects us to be different than we are and it is up to us to change, but God forgives us when we fail.

What’s missing? What’s missing is emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s power to transform and our total dependence on that power to be spiritual, holy, God-pleasing persons.

<idle musing>
Definitely! Amen! Keep on preaching it! We're setting ourselves up for failure if we neglect to add the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It's like trying to make bread without adding any leavening. It's flat, tasteless, and ugly. Who wants it?

And that's what we're billing as the abundant life? No wonder the world turns away in disgust! We're offering a way to make them as miserable as we are! Sin and confess, sin and confess. No thanks!
</idle musing>

Monday, September 29, 2014

It happened again!

This is really strange. I've been growing squash for a good while and I've never had a double one. And this year, I get two! What kind of portent is this? Livy would have a blast. Maybe Hannibal is invading Rome again! Or some other disaster of equal weight...call the diviners! Call the priests!

But seriously now, should I save the seeds from this plant? Do you think it's a mutation that would be passed on? Or is it just a chance happening that isn't in the seed genetically?

Thought for the day

If a Christian dare to aspire to a touch of union with the divine he must be well persuaded of the all of God and his own nothingness. He must go forth feeling nothing but contempt and hatred for his self-nature and reserve all his esteem and all of his love for God. By this means he may attain to that union.&mash;Jeanne Guyon

It's not that easy

“That makes it easy to write this book on the fruit of the Spirit. All the writings on the subject appeal to the same foundational text—the Word of God. Two parts study, one part experience, structured with a dash of writing acumen produces a helpful volume. However, it’s one thing to write a book on a subject. It’s quite another to live it.

As a pastor, I have taught from the Bible on the subject of worry. I even wrote an article on it for a theological journal. It was entitled “Worry Unmasked,” and it exposed worry for what it is according to our Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. God has a lot to say on the subject. He knows our frames and frailties and fears. He ministers to us in our need, as He understands that need better than we do ourselves. He does not leave us unprepared.

In addition to teaching on the subject, I have counseled many people struggling with anxiety. I have helped them understand and apply God’s counsel to their specific situation. Together we have put the flesh of their problems on the skeleton of God’s truth to give them stability and ability to stand and press on.

You would think I would have been prepared.”— Vine Ripened Life

<idle musing>
You would have been—if we were brains on a stick! Unfortunately for that approach, we aren't. But I would rather not be a brain on a stick, wouldn't you? Sure, that leaves a lot of loose ends and disappointments. But it also opens the door to real relationships—especially with God.

When we realize we aren't able to work it out ourselves, we are thrown back on the Holy Spirit. And he never fails. He is always there, inside us, working, and—most importantly!—loving us.

Why settle for less?
</idle musing>

Work just a little bit harder

Roger Olson hits the nail on the head today. Here's a snippet:
I visit churches and listen for the gospel. I’ve begun to agree with Wolfhart Pannenberg who said that when he listens for the gospel in most churches he concludes it is what the preacher should have said but didn’t. The true, biblical, evangelical gospel is difficult to find in American churches or hear from their pulpits. What I hear most of the time, from most pulpits, is moralism: “Here’s what God expects of you, now go and do it” and “Become a better person than you are.” Very rarely do I hear that “You can’t do it without the Holy Spirit changing you.”
and here:
From beginning to end, everything about being a Christian, in more than a merely nominal sense, is gift. All we have to do, all we can do, is receive the gifts—forgiveness, regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification. At no point in the process does anyone have the right to claim some good accomplished or achieved as his or her own.

The American gospel, however, is that you must use your will power to change and grow. It’s totally up to you—so just “do it.” The vast majority of sermons focus on that message of moralism. “God would be more pleased with you, you would be more pleasing to God, if you exercised your will to change and grow and become a better person than you are.” That’s not the gospel. The gospel is that you can’t do it. As songwriter Jeremy Camp said in a song popularized by Amy Grant: “Being good is just a fable; I just can’t ‘cause I’m not able. Gonna leave it to the Lord”—the “Lord” being the Holy Spirit.

and further on:
There is no cheap grace in letting go of self and sin and letting God change you. And for most people it’s a lifelong process. But it’s not “deciding to grow.” It’s not moralism or even morality. It’s not “becoming a good or better person.” It’s not even “spiritual formation” as good as that can be. It’s transformation by God’s Spirit.

This is the gospel, folks. But, by and large, we have lost it. For it we have substituted false gospels of morality, prosperity, “success in life,” niceness, effort, churchmanship, citizenship, the “American way.”

Amen! Good preaching!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Orville

We have a guest that checked in around the end of July. He hasn't paid and probably won't. His name is Orville and he is currently living in the woodpile. You see, Orville is a woodchuck : )

He's a cute little thing, quite shy and retiring. But he is one mighty powerful digger! He's made a few exits for himself under both Aspen and Spruce. In fact, if he keeps that up, we'll be forced to trap him and relocate him.

He also has a voracious appetite! Good thing he prefers clover to garden veggies...I did catch him eating a kohlrabi leaf one day. I stepped out onto the deck to scare him. He just looked up at me and continued munching. I started down the steps and he decided to back away—but he didn't drop the leaf that was in his mouth!

Since then, I've seen him periodically munching on a leaf here and there, but not too much. He really does prefer the clover that is all over in the yard. One day I saw him sitting in between the garden beds, ignoring all the lettuce and munching on the clover instead. No problem, eat as much as you want : )

About 2-3 weeks ago, we had some painters staying in Spruce for the annual Plein Air event. It was great fun watching them paint the scenes around the town and cabins. One of them, Tom, tried to capture Orville on canvas. He told me at one point, "I'm not sure what it is, but it isn't Orville!" about what he had done. He said he would continue to work on it at home and send us a picture of it when it was done.

The picture arrived yesterday. Here it is. I think it captures Orville nicely.

Just so you know, Orville has settled down and isn't making any new excavations...maybe you can see him if you come and visit us : )

It's not about circumstances

First, in circumstances of distress that inhibit joy, we can issue declarations of faith. We remind ourselves of what we know to be true—by faith. Faith rests in the reality of God and the certainty of His working. Faith trusts, submits, and expects. It is infused with strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, much as Peter instructed us. When circumstances suggest God is not there or that He does not care, we insist, “I will not base my faith on sight but on His revelation."

Second, circumstances are not the source of our joy. The picture Habakkuk paints is compelling. Though our lives be stripped bare, though our best efforts frustrated, though no relief is in sight, the fountain of my joy cannot be capped. God is my joy. He is my constant. I will rejoice in the Lord—always.

Third, my comfort and strength are not in circumstances, but in the Lord my God. He is my strength and stability. My foot is steady in all terrain of life because He is with me and He is for me. As Nehemiah puts it, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength[…]— Vine Ripened Life

Is this true?

Is it possible that Satan has so got the advantage of God, that God's kingdom cannot be re-established in this world, and that the Almighty has no way but to back out, and to take His saints to heaven, before He can make them holy? Is God's kingdom to be only partially established, and is it to be always so, that the best saints shall one-half of their time be serving the devil? Must the people of God always go drooping and driveling along in religion, and live in sin, until they get to heaven? What is that stone cut out of a mountain without hands, that is to fill the earth, if it does not show that there is yet to be a universal triumph of the love of God in the world?—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
Well, is it true? Is that what you believe? That you have to live a defeated, half-hearted christianity until you die? Is that what the kingdom of God is all about? Is that why Jesus came, to sorta, kinda, maybe deliver us?

In the immortal words of Paul: No way! (my translation of μὴ γένοιτο)

Life in Christ is more than that! (Note the in Christ part of that!)
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another book

I ran across a free e-book yesterday from David C. Cook. It looked interesting, so I downloaded it (you can always delete them, right?). I have to say that they are rapidly becoming my favorite nonacademic publisher. They've gone from being that Sunday School curriculum publisher to publishing books that make you think about your Christian walk—and not guilting and shoulding you into a legalistic mold.

Anyway, I digress (as usual!). The title was AHA Student Edition. I'm not sure how it differs from any other version, but I read the first chapter and it's a keeper. Watch for excerpts later this fall. Meanwhile, here's a snippet to whet your appetite:

“And because we’re all too aware that our self needs help, we jump on this misery merry-go-round and buy book after book, hoping for better results. We know something is wrong. We even know what we want to change. Our diagnosis is spot-on, but no medication seems to do the trick.

So if you picked up this book because you are trying to help yourself make some significant changes, I want to tell you up front that this isn’t the book for you. If self could help, then we would all have been fixed a long time ago.

Let me be clear: AHA is not a self-help process. This is the antithesis of a self-help book. What Bizarro is to Superman,4 this book is to the self-help genre. This journey begins by rejecting self’s offer to help.”

Isn't that great? I wish I had more time to read it now, but there's a cabin that needs cleaning and strawberry plants that need transplanting and beans that need picking and I need to get it all done soon so we can make that return trip to Oberg Mountain before sunset this time! (Notice the lack of punctuation to make you feel breathless about it all...)

More new books!

We walked into the post office yesterday to check the mail. I wasn't expecting anything, so was very surprised (and delighted!) to find a box from InterVarsity Press containing these two gems:

Why Church History Matters

and

Johannine Theology

I'll be reading them later this fall—once the cabins close for the season! Right now...well there's too much to do outside and there's hiking in the woods and the garden and...

By the way, thanks IVPress for the books!

Pardon me, but your biases are showing

“Remind yourself of who Jesus is and what He did for you. Encounter Jesus anew, breathing life into the cardboard cutout we can make of Him in our religiosity.”— Vine Ripened Life

<idle musing>
We desperately need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to break through our "cardboard cutout" of who we think Jesus is. Without that, we are doomed to our cultural blindness, after all, does a fish know it is wet? In the same way, we don't even know we have preconceptions, that we are reading scripture more through our cultural blinders than the actual words on the page.

Along those lines, Ken Schenck has a series on how we read scripture (the link is to today's with links to the preceding 6 posts). Well worth reading. He isn't afraid to say that the Holy Spirit can give a fresh meaning to the Bible, but we need to be aware that it isn't necessarily what the Bible is really saying, it is just a fresh interpretation or extension given to the text. Good stuff to think about...
</idle musing>

To be specific...

Sinners may strongly wish to become Christians, and Christians may strongly wish or desire to be rid of all their sins, and may pray for it, even with agony. They may think they are willing to be perfect, but they deceive themselves. They may feel, in regard to their sins taken all together, or in the abstract, as if they are willing to renounce them all. But take them up in the detail, one by one, and there are many sins they are unwilling to give up. They wrestle against sin in general, but cling to it in the detail.—Charles Finney

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

All that stuff

“Joy is nurtured through the exercise of faith in communing with our Lord Jesus. Think of the best joy in your life. Is it things? Certain experiences? Or does the joy of relationship with those you love dwarf the delight of things? Those who find the greatest joy in things lead a cold, sterile existence.”— Vine Ripened Life

<idle musing>
Bold words to a materialistic culture. And he's right. How many people with lots of stuff do you know who are truly happy?

Me neither. I've been with people who have lots of stuff when a severe storm was approaching. They immediately were worried about all their stuff. "What happens if a tornado really does happen and takes my stuff?! I won't have anything! Help! I'm worried! But don't talk to me about God!"

That's a joyful life? Hardly! I could (and did) just sit back and enjoy the storm. It really was a wonderful storm, too! Lots of rain and wind and lightning. Great fun. And they missed that part of it because of "stuff"! How sad.
</idle musing>

Romans 7

Those who find their own experience written in the 7th chapter of Romans, are not converted persons. If that is their habitual character, they are not regenerated; they are under conviction, but not Christians.—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
Strong words! Few today would agree with him, but I wonder if he isn't right? Have we lost sight of how much God wants to transform us? Have we created a culture that accepts sin in believers as the norm? If so, then we haven't got a gospel to preach...we're still lost in our sins, a slave to our lusts. And Finney is right, we aren't regenerated, we're just under conviction.
</idle musing>

First day of fall

Yesterday was the first official day of fall. Actually, fall arrived here about 2 weeks ago with a week of cold rainy weather, but it has cleared up again and is beautiful. The leaves are starting to turn. In fact, I could have sworn that on my bike ride last Saturday, they got yellower in the course of the 30 mile ride!

The cabins have slowed down a bit right now during the week (they'll pick up again next week with the leaves turning), so we only had two to clean yesterday. The weather was perfect for a hike in the woods, so off we went.

Our first stop was Temperance River with its magnificent torrents of tortuous waterfalls. Last Saturday we had hiked up the east side of the river on the Superior Hiking Trail to the point where it leaves the river, so we wanted to go up the west side now. We hadn't been up that side for a few years, but from the map (PDF), it looked like it might be a fun walk, too.

It was. It offered easier access to the upper falls and a magnificent panoramic view of the ridge, which was more colorful yesterday than it had been on Saturday. We soaked it in for a couple of hours, walking and then stopping.

The original plan had been to just walk in Temperance, but with the leaves so colorful, we thought we should add one of our favorite fall hikes, Oberg Mountain. But time was fleeting, so we covered the return trip along the Temperance in half the time that it took us to get there : )

We arrived at Oberg with less an hour of daylight to do the 3 mile loop. I don't recommend trying this if it's your first time there! As we were going up the trail to the loop, we met some people coming down. They asked us if we had a flashlight. We assured them we had a few—flashlights are standard equipment in our day hike backpack, we've been caught in the woods too often by the dark! The leaves were a beautiful yellow, reflecting their color back from the canopy, giving the whole thing a otherworldly glow. Beautiful!

The Lake Superior overlooks on Oberg are spectacular, but we were interested mainly in the overlooks on the back side where we could see the leaves on the ridges and in the valleys, so we sped past the 3 lake overlooks far too quickly. We'll come back another day and loiter there—maybe tomorrow?

The back side didn't disappoint. The sun was getting lower and gave a different glow to them. The small lake was like a mirror, reflecting back the trees. We paused and took it in, but not too long! We've been caught on Oberg before in the dark, and all those roots and rocks seem to reach out and grab your feet in the dark. It's almost as if they come alive...

We arrived back at the car just as it was getting too dark to see. I glanced at my clock. We had covered the 2.25 mile loop in about 45 minutes! That's flying for a walk in the woods. We'll be back for a more leisurely walk soon...but what a way to celebrate the first day of fall!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Joy

“For us, joy is tied to circumstances, which can be fickle. Therefore, our joy is as ephemeral as is the adrenaline high of good news. In addition, if positive circumstances are the source of joy, how can anyone know such gladness in the face of anxiety, depression, and adversity? If good times are the soil that produces joy, that means a significant portion of our lives is inevitably barren.”— Vine Ripened Life

<idle musing>
Indeed! The joy that God gives is deeper than circumstances. How else could Paul and Silas rejoice in the midst of a Philippian prison? Singing Psalms and hymns with their backs encrusted with blood and their feet in the stocks! They were either crazy or they knew something deeper than circumstances. The jailer changed his mind after the earthquake, didn't he?

What kind of earthquake will it take to change our minds, I wonder...
</idle musing>

Context? What context?

Much of the language of common life may be tortured into anything, if you lose sight of the subject, and take the liberty to interpret it without reference to what they are speaking of. How much injury has been done, by interpreting separate passages and single expressions in the scriptures, in violation of this principle. It is chiefly by overlooking this simple rule, that the scriptures have been tortured into the support of errors and contradictions innumerable and absurd beyond all calculation. This rule is applicable to all statements. Courts of justice never would allow such perversions as have been committed upon the Bible.—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
You mean they were doing that back then too?! What a surprise! Not!
</idle musing>

Just arrived

I received a new book over the weekend, 2000 Years of Christ's Power, Volume One. It looks interesting. This is the first of a projected four volume work. The fourth one is scheduled to come out early next year some time.

The series is designed to fill that missing niche between the general overview for the popular audience and the detailed, heavily footnoted studies for the specialist. We will see how well it does that—once the cabins close for the season! I did look over the first two chapters, and it sounds promising. Here's a portion of the publisher's blurb:

This book was born out of the author's deep conviction that today's Christians can benefit enormously from learning what God has done in the past. The mighty acts of Christ did not come to a halt soon after the events recorded in the book of Acts. In every century since the first, the Almighty has been at work and believers can trace his footsteps by studying the way that Christians of a previous generation faced the challenges that confronted them.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hallmark gets it wrong–what a surprise

“Don’t tell Hallmark, but the love that God has in mind for us as His children doesn’t mesh well with their greeting-card line. The love that God wants of us and wants us to cultivate as His children is not some sort of sentimental feeling. He wants us to love in deed—as He has modeled for us in the giving of His Son. God did not love us merely in word and thought, but in action and intention. God is telling us this love is part of our redemptive makeup. It is to be exercised in our lives, in the strength of the Spirit and the model of Christ.”— Vine Ripened Life

Where's the dividing line?

[I]t [the book of Proverbs] heightens the significance of the secular everyday life, not by emancipating it from the sacred but by blurring the boundary between sacred and secular, not by pushing the boundaries of the secular as far as possible but by seeing the secular in the light of the regular.—Toward an Interpretation of the Book of Proverbs, page 210

<idle musing>
We live our lives in the exact opposite way, don't we? We try to put the sacred in a little box that we can trot out when we need help or are feeling guilty, or...you get the idea. But that's not the scriptural view, is it? Even in a supposedly "secular" book like Proverbs, with its emphasis on discovering wisdom in the things around. Even there, the undercurrent is the presence of YHWH, giving meaning and purpose to everything.

By the way, that's the final post from this book. I had lost a portion of the quotation and finally found the rest of it over the weekend. Hope you enjoyed the excerpts and will consider reading the whole thing.
</idle musing>