Sheep and Goats

Hmmm, I see that I have already posted twice as many times this year as the last.

So, the Holschers went away for the weekend. To be nice to me, they decided to send the dog to the kennel. He is a bit high-maintenence when the family is gone. He feels lonely and neglected. The least I could do was deliver the dog myself. I took him in my two-door, and being a hot day I rolled down the windows. And put the passenger seat forward so he could stick his head out. All was bliss and restraint until Delhi was reached. We slowed to 30 mph and he decided that more than his nose needed to be outside the car- first it was his whole head, then his front paws. Then I came to a stop sign and he was gone- all of him. I really wasn't expecting that. In a panic I pulled around the corner and leapt out of my car in my bare feet. Thankfully 30 seconds was all he needed. He came right back to me.

We proceeded a little farther- with the seat back up and the windows rolled up. Things became quiet in the back seat. Too quiet, but I didn't notice. I reached back to grab the paper with directions, which had slipped to the floor behind my seat. My fingers encountered something sticky. What in the world? Maple SYRUP??? Suddenly I remembered- there had been a lonely pint jug of syrup under my seat. And Reagan had found it. And chewed off the cover. And all that lovely pint was on the floor of my car.

It was with a rather vindicative pleasure that I delivered him to his Doom at the kennel (he really hates that place). We are not best pleased with him.

Saturday night I did the chores. Somehow, since I only do this once every couple of months, I always seem to meet with disaster, or at least Great Trials. I managed to let out 10 chickens while feeding them, and spent a frenzied few minutes darting after them and trying to herd them back into their pen.

Worse yet, I couldn't keep 26 goats under control at all. If there are only two goats that actually need to be milked, be assured that 4 others will crowd at the door desperately trying to shoulder their way out as well. They have beady eyes, and all the inborn stubborness of a greedy and self-absorbed soul. They weigh about as much as I do, and have twice the physical stability. I cannot win in a shoving match. Trying it just makes me so furious that my heart-rate jumps and suddenly I am turned into the wicked witch of the west. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING can push me as far over the edge into sheer carnality as a goat. I found myself hauling them around by their collars and shrieking at them. God chose well when he used goats as examples of how not to behave. And at that moment I wasn't acting any better.

Then there is that nerotic goat who can't stand the milking stantion. She thinks its an instrument of the devil. You have to coax her with grain to get her front hooves up, then lift her back end up. She eats grain peacefully enough while you milk her. When she runs out she startles backwards as if she were suddenly confronted with the devil himself. She is only okay if you give her more grain. Somehow I feel manipulated.

And after it all I ended up sitting on a wet deck chair in the dark, staring at the fireflys over the lawn and asking God for forgiveness. My heart is still pounding, and my nerves are rattled. Is it a sin to scream at goats?


Tell Me the Old, Old, Story

I love to learn, but find myself easily overwhelmed when trying to read deep theological works. For exapmle- I have tried and failed several times to get past the second chapter of C.S. Lewis' Miracles. At some point I find myself reading the same sentence over and over again. Each time I'll get to the end and say, "Nope, still don't understand what he's getting at". A little while of that and I put it down for another couple of years.

Which brings me to an interesting point about language learning (really, the two ARE related). Apparently Americans who try to learn a language tend to go at it like math: give them the foreign word + the English translation and it will = understanding. They get bogged down in the details of the language and never see the big picture. I know this, because I've done it myself. A better approach is to dive right into the language- fully expecting to miss half or more or what you are hearing- aim for the main point and forget all the words you can't translate.

After months of stuggling away at Hebrew, I found that I was slowly loosening my strangling grip on the need for translation and was aiming more for understanding. I remember this great conversation in class one day; the teacher was babbling away in Hebrew and I realized I was leaping through the stream of it- from rock to rock as it were,and blissfully unconcerned about all the words I was missing. Granted, if once I lost my footing I would have been lost for good, but meanwhile I was getting places- in Hebrew!

Okay, so, back to this review of a book I haven't even metioned yet. There is this ancient philosopher dude named Pascal. He wrote in French for one thing. For another, he had all these brilliant thoughts which he wrote down cryptically on scraps of paper. He intended at some time or other to bring them into order and write a book from them but he went to heaven instead (lucky man). So ever since, other people have gathered those scraps up and tried to explain them. Or they published them as they were, which was even worse for people like me. I mean, if I can't get through C.S. Lewis, a master at simplifying deep things, how was I going to 'get' Pacal?

Enter Peter Kreeft and the title of the book (finally). Christianity for Modern Pagans, Pascal's Pensees, Edited, Outlined & Explained by Peter Kreeft. Kinda long and wordy, nu? But the operative words are 'edited', 'outlined', and 'explained'. I like those words. Here be stones by which I can actually get through Pascal.

I really don't remember exactly why I bought the book in the first place, way back in 2007, but buy it I did, and started to read it. I found that despite all the helps along the way, it wasn't a book to be taken lightly or consumed like an Agatha Christie. It took me two full years to finish. But oh the richness!

Kreeft is a college professor who teaches Pacal, so he explainations are clear, conscise, and even I can get them! He arranges the Pensees under headings. Under these headings each Pensee is in bold type with Kreeft's notes on it following.

I think I started the book with a desire to learn more about a topic of which I was ignorant, and ended up feeling like somebody had walked right inside my heart and head and started rearranging the furniture. I don't know how to explain how deeply excited I felt about the book. I think it had a lot to do with the way it was arranged. It was like a retelling of an ancient and well-known story. Well-loved and precious, but suddenly made bright again by viewing it from a fresh angle.

Pascal and Kreeft together begin by talking forEVER about the Human conditon- the problem they are trying to solve. They discuss at nauseating length Wretchedness and Death, Sin, and Selfishness, and the Vanity of Human Justice, Dogamatism, and Philospohers.

It took me several months to get through this section, but I did so with a mounting sense of anticipation. I had understood the problem pretty clearly before I read the book, and felt like the two of them had hammered it home pretty thoroughly. Besides, I had read the Table of Contents and I knew that they were going to present a Solution at the end. :-) Like a mystery novel, I refused to read the ending before I got through the middle.

After that they talk about possible solutions to the Problem- Diversion and Indifference. Nice. Or not so nice. That section was shorter, but pithy and very humbling.

Next came the Way to a Real Solution and they talked all about Faith and Reason and Passionate Truth-seeking.

Then came the Solution. I can actually remember where I was when I read the end of this book- out on a rock in the middle of the woods behind Fairwood. Nice spot, except for the mosquitos.

What to know what the solution was? Too bad. Have to read the book yourself. Or you could just read the Gospel, if you are bored by my review. :-)

But who ever tires of hearing the Gospel story, and how lovely it is to meet it again, in other words, in a new setting, ever the same, and yet ever fresh and new?

I'll post a few short sections in another note for anybody who is still interested.

And no, you may not borrow my copy. Buy your own.



When I was a child and all through my growing-up years we kept a Sabbath on Saturday. We observed this day of rest from Friday night at sundown to Saturday night at sundown. But really ovbservence started Friday morning, or even before...

We planned the week so that nothing ended up on Saturday that involved work, or much travel or committment. Friday after school was done we devoted our time to cleaning up the house completely. We had Friday-cleaning lists and the house would buzz with activity all the way until sundown. Often the lawn would be mowed that day as well. If I shut my eyes the memories come back in the form of sensory information- the smell of cleaner from the bathroom, the sound of the washing machine thumping from the laundry room, the sound of somebody snapping the wrinkles out of towels before they fold and put them away, crisp clean sheets on the beds, one of the boys vaccuuming the upstairs hall, Megan outside on the riding lawn mower- her hair in a bandana, singing loudly, the smell of cut grass, the smell of cinnamon rolls in the oven.
Our bodies tired from honest labor we would all rush about as the sun got lower, clean up, put on something nice if we felt inclined, or our night clothes if we felt tired.
We would gather in the living room for a little meeting- the only one where we were allowed to fall asleep if we wanted to. Sometimes we would bring a blanket and pillow and curl up on the floor. Somebody lit candles and left them burning on the coffee table- the overhead lights were off and everything was quiet except the hum of the dishwasher in the kitchen.

There were cinnamon rolls waiting on the kitchen counter, and a bowl of popcorn as well. Keeping 8 children still for long was a miracle, but somehow the atmosphere of peace would settle over the room. We prayed, and sang, and went around the room saying what we were thankful for from the past week. We laughed and talked in a relaxed way, and when we'd had enough Mum brought in Sabbath treat and we ate it. Someitmes we would leave to do our own things, but sometimes we would sit around the living room drawing or playing with toys while Daddy or I read out loud.

Sound idyllic? It was... sometimes. Of course sometimes we didn't want to be there, were bored, restless, cranky, or the meeting went too long. But that's just life.

I have continued to keep the Sabbath all my life. It is wrapped up in my soul I guess, and I can't get it out. :-)

Its an easy thing to see as just an out-of-date command, but I was just thinking on this Sabbath of all the lessons I have learned about the character of God from keeping this day.....

"For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust." Ps. 103:14
I don't know about you, but I love this verse. I feel dusty sometimes, or dust-like. I can't keep up with the demands of life. Endless needs, endless work, endless cycle. We need something to break the cycle- to make it livable. A good friend of mind was talking about this. She has eight children, a hard-working husband who runs two businesses out of her home, and a small farm to boot. The work is endless. But Friday night she closes the phone message book, pulls the paperwork together, shuts off the office phone, closes the door on all her cleaning impliments and all her obligations, gathers her children about her and stops. It helps her feel that the task is not endless. Each week has an end, and her body can catch up.

" Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that
your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and
the alien as well, may be refreshed.

God desires our fellowship. I think of the Sabbath as a day apart, a holy day, but not in a solemn way as much as a joyful celebratory way. God desires our company. In this space of time we can set aside the mundane worries of the week and take time to be still and know that He is God. I'm not very good at doing that on my own. I would naturally rush on through life and arrive at the Gate of heaven breathless and exhausted. But God wants our attention frequently and to make sure of it, commands us to keep a day of rest. Its right up there with not killing people or committing adultery. :-)

I think he thought of me when he commanded rest and stillness. I wouldn't do it otherwise.

The Sabbath also makes me have hope for the future. Just the way it ends each week with celebration and peace, so I expect God to bring an end to this world- and bring with that end celebration and peace. The hope of the coming of the Lord. Each Sabbath bring a taste of that- an anticipation of better things to come.

I could keep on going... when have I ever lacked for things to talk about? But anyway, I am thankful for the Sabbath, for the fellowship of God, for peace, for joy, celebration, and anticipation.


Joel and Ferdinand

Anybody remember that children's book all about a bull in Spain who would rather sit and smell the flowers than become a fighting bull? Well the other day Joel and I were out on the town and noticed it in a bookshop. He had never heard of it so I told him I would bring my copy back with me next time I was in New Hampshire.

A week or so later I was back with the much-anticipated book in hand. I was in the middle of cooking syrup for a batch of cream, so we sat on the floor with our backs to the fridge. Joel was curled up against me and hanging over my shoulder.

The text is simple and the pictures delicious. I love this particular book and was expecting Joel to as well. But I was forgetting my Joel. He is a man of action. A man without fear. A doer in the field of life. Strong and straight and very manly... even at the tender age of five.

At first he was entranced, then when Ferdinand first expressed a desire to smell flowers he made a small sound of disgust. Suddenly I realized how little he would appreciate a sensitive soul like Ferdinand's. After that it was just funny. Nothing Ferdinand did was right. Joel was revolted by his wimpiness and indifferent to his plight. The book was not a success.

I suggested they name their new baby bull Ferdinand. He rejected the idea out of hand.


Frozen Chicken

I haven't been here in forever. Sorry. I guess. Anyway, I'll give it another shot. Maybe I should stop apologizing every time I disappear for a year and then pop back up again.

So lets start with something random to get my brain in a writing mode again.

Reagan the large and happy puppy who lives outside has found a new and interesting hobby. He chases chickens. On a small farm with many chickens who actually earn their keep by producing eggs, chicken-chasing is a deadly sin. Reagan knows this, but some deep and carnal urge within him keeps him at it.

During the winter its not so bad becasue the chickens are confined to the barn and Reagan is never allowed in. But as spring approaches the hens find their way out by hook or by crook and wander about looking for...whatever it is that hens are seeking in life.

Reagan found one the other evening and chased it under a car by the garage. He got yelled at and chained back up. We assumed the chicken found its way back to the barn.

The next morning I was out working in the woods. Mid-morning I came back down and noticed a chicken sitting on the ground in front of the garage. The chicken didn't move as I approached, which was a bit odd. I was practically on top of it before I realized the problem and the signifigance of its location- somebody had moved the car since the night before. This was the chicken Reagan had chased under that car. It had settled down in a puddle of water, too terrified to move. Overnight the water froze- with the chicken in it.

I was horrified at the thought of the wretched night it must have spent- and dubious that it was going to survive. I ran to the house and came back with rags and warm water and started to pry her up. She had been smart enough to pull her legs up into its breast feathers. So all that was actually frozen to the ground were her feathers all the way round.

It took several buckets of warm water and some gentle pulling to remove her. She never made a sound or flopped about. We wrapped her up in rags and brought her into the house to thaw in front of the stove.

Less than an hour later she struggled out of her wrappings and started to protest. Completely normal and healthy.

Crazy bird.


Beyond the East the sunrise, beyond the West the sea,
And East and West the wanderlust that will not let me be;
It works in me like madness, dear, to bid me say good-by!
For the seas call and the stars call, and oh, the call of the sky!

I know not where the white road runs, nor what the blue hills are,
But man can have the sun for friend, and for his guide a star;
And there's no end of voyaging when once the voice is heard,
For the river calls and the road calls, and oh, the call of a bird!

Yonder the long horizon lies, and there by night and day
The old ships draw to home again, the young ships sail away;
And come I may, but go I must, and if men ask you why,
You may put the blame on the stars and the sun and the white road
and the sky!
-Gerald Gould