Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Covenantal Farming-How Community is Destroyed!

It’s been awhile since I have written. My plate has been full of family, work, and new adventures and hasn’t permitted me to write as much as I would like. This is what brings me to write today. Complacency, apathy and all out busyness in our lives wreck community. This too happens in covenantal farming.
Let me define the terms for you. Complacency is the concern for or the act of seeking that which is pleasurable to us. Apathy is a term used to show a contempt for earthly concerns beyond that which pleases us. Busyness, is a self-conscious, intentional need to be busy while yet having no order or purpose to the action.

Complacency is deadly when it comes to farming. If we all do what is pleasurable to us, then there is a lot left to do or a lot left undone. In my last writing, I wrote about people who are not willing to do the work to dig in and learn about farming for themselves, but rather like the idea and in doing so they don’t fulfill the dominion mandate. I called them hobbyist farmers and I correlated it to hobbyist Christianity. Both are dangerous. Complacency fits well in this category of hobbyist farming. The problem with complacency is that is that I have never met anyone who enjoyed scooping poop but it needs to be done. Keeping the grass and vines off the fence is extremely hard work, but it needs to be done. Weeding the garden is difficult and the bigger it is, the harder it is to maintain, but it needs to be done. When someone becomes complacent on the farm, they find themselves admiring the animals and their beauty, their “personalities” and their quirkiness. They only envision the idea of these animals and how they please them, but if you do this, some things go unnoticed and this can be detrimental to the farm. You will never have the farm of your dreams as long you stand there day-dreaming about it.

Apathy, like complacency, is also destructive to the farm because it is the act of ignoring all the signs that are clearly before us and around us for the sake of what pleases us. Apathy on the farm is worse than complacency because it is the byproduct of complacency. Complacency gives birth to apathy. Apathy ignores the clear signs right in front of you. If you don’t take care of fence lines, they will become overgrown, break down and animals will escape. Since I use electric fence, if I don’t maintain the fences they ground out and the animals get out because it can no longer deter them. If you don’t keep a close eye on your animals, their health can quickly decline and put you into panic mode or lose the animal, which is a definite loss on your investment. If you don’t have quality control on your feed, your animals might not receive the nourishment they need. If you don’t weed your garden, the weeds will not only take over, but they will suck the nutrients out of your soil, depriving your plants of what they need to produce a harvest. Apathy is destructive to the farm.

Like apathy, busyness is a byproduct. It’s more of a clear sign that complacency and apathy have existed on your farm form some time. Yet busyness is one of the most destructive things we can do to a farm. Remember, busyness is a self-conscious, intentional need to be busy while yet not having any order or purpose to the action. If you find yourself busy for the sake of being busy, you are in trouble. If you have no order, no purpose and no vision for the farm, it will be evident. Your farm will be in total disarray. If you are too busy to know the animals you have, you will be too busy notice when one goes lame or goes missing. Busyness does not equate productivity. There must be order for there to productivity. There will be no order without a distinct purpose. Busyness waits time and resources and gets us nowhere on the farm. Everything suffers when there is complacency, apathy and busyness. We will find the there is no true spirit of community or common unity of purpose in our farm and often our farms are a reflection of our lives. This is really what this writing is about. It’s all about community and what hinders us from having an abundant and full life in community with our family, our churches and more.

Many people will have good intentions, but it doesn’t take long and complacency sets in. The selfish desire for personal pleasure at all costs. It doesn’t take much for us to replace hard work and effort on relationships and replacing it with admiring an ideal or begin living a dream of what this community is like while in reality all that we do is to please ourselves. We evaluate things as to whether it brings us pleasure when we decide to show up. We love the convenience of showing up when we want. We love the personality of the pastor or the quirkiness of the people or energized by the worship band when we go to church, yet in reality it is all about us and our pleasure.

This leads us to the byproduct of complacency in our families and our churches, which is apathy. We are so focused on self-pleasure that we don’t even see the signs of people and things falling apart. We don’t notice the hurting, the sick, the lame and the worn out both physically and spiritually among us. We don’t recognize the people or the things that are in dire need of attention because we are caught up in what pleases us. We don’t see the destruction in others that is occurring, but what we don’t realize is the destruction that is occurring in us.

When we do wake up enough to see the need, we find ourselves rushing around trying to put band-aid cures on everything, but in some circumstances we are too late. Even though we wake up, we do not realize the depth of the damage already done and we find ourselves running about in busyness. Busyness is but a distraction from taking responsibility. Busyness doesn’t fix the core issues, but it’s more like covering up the piles of manure that didn’t get scooped or the carcasses of those overlooked with tarps. The root of the problem still exists, but we refuse to address it. We act as if we cover it up or move the piles from one place to another people will think we are serious about our community. How wrong we are and how foolish we look.

Community on the farm or in our homes or in our churches isn’t about what pleases us or what we like to look at or even the dreams we have for our future. Community doesn’t allow for the hurting, the lame, the sick and the malnourished physically and spiritually to go unnoticed. Community doesn’t allow band-aid approaches and not taking responsibility for our lack of action and lack of intentional involvement. It is never another person’s fault when community reaches failure, but a collective of “I’s” which form the “we” of community. Each of us needs to take a close look at our communities in which we are involved in. Are they a reflection of Biblical community or they in total disarray? Let’s look at the core of our problems and in repentance repair them and restore them with God’s help and with God’s purpose and vision in mind.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord  watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2, English Standard Version)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Covenantal Farming: Farming for Dominion

Covenantal Farming
Farming for Dominion

Why in the world do you farm?

That is a good question. In today’s time, with all its modern conveniences of grocery stores, gourmet and not-so-gourmet fast food restaurants on every corner, why would anyone want to start farming? Maybe, it is an interest of eating healthier or a feeling of accomplishment or just to have a hobby of sorts. I was one of those hobbyists or people that wanted to feel like they accomplished something in a mundane life. I was raised in the city and although some gardening was done around me during my childhood, there was really little instruction or even inclusion or teaching in regards to raising animals or crops. If you haven’t guessed it, I am new when it comes to the whole idea of farming and agriculture in general. When you have this kind of combination of a hobbyist who is emotionally divested in something without experience, what you get is goats. I can picture you scratching your head, so let me explain.

For all you goat farmers out there, there is nothing wrong with goats in general, but if people are going to raise goats because they are an easy entry point to farming or they are just plain “cute” or it would just be “neat” to have some, they have a problem. I always hear the argument for having goats as that “we could milk them” and “we could sell fresh milk and make and sell soap” and “we could have babies and sell them” and on and on goes the reasoning for having goats. The first thing I ask people when they say they want goats is how do you plan to contain them? Or how much land do you have and what kind of land do you have? Or have you ever milked a goat before? Goats without a purpose are like vampires for your pocketbook. They entice you and draw you in with all of those fantastic qualities but in reality they are sucking you dry. When I say fantastic, I am using the true quality of the word which is fantasy. I am an expert in this, because this is where I began two years ago with an unrealistic fantasy of the city boy becoming a farmer. This is what I call hobbyist farming. Hobbyist farming and gardening is a dangerous thing and I believe it is outright sinful for the Christian.

That’s right. I said it. Being a hobbyist when it comes to farming, gardening, or anything in life is outright, plain and simple, sin. I didn’t say it was a sin to enjoy any of these things, because like hunting and fishing or any other thing, they are definitely enjoyable and should be enjoyable for us to want to continue to do them. However, without a purpose, they make us horrible stewards of the resources, time and lives God has given us. Let us be reminded that, “The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). Everything belongs to the Lord and that includes our purpose for farming, gardening and the like. I remember the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It is a good one, but the problem is that when we lead and plan with our emotions from our hearts and we fail to realize our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and they will lead us astray. But thank God that although “the heart of man plans his way…the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I am thankful that this is what God did for me and did not allow me to continue down such a path of destruction.

God’s purpose for the life of those who follow Him is established in the first book of the Bible in what is called by many, the dominion mandate. Genesis 1:26-30 reads:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

After the Flood later on in Genesis 9:1-3, the Lord reiterates and then adds to this same dominion mandate:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

Dominion is related to all aspects of life including family, work, food and our relationship with God. As aforementioned, God has provided all the resources of life because they are all His, but they are to be used for His glory with His purpose and intent. All of these resources are meant to glorify Him and when we use God’s resources to please ourselves, and not the Lord, we have committed sin. All aspects of farming and gardening are tools that we are to use for taking dominion in a lost and aimless world. It is our purpose to take dominion. Our purpose is never self-seeking but it also seeks to honor and glorify God. Farming and gardening can and does glorify God if done with this purpose in mind.

Hobbyist Farming and Hobbyist Christianity

The problem we have is that for many we approach not only farming, but all aspects of life without purpose; God’s purpose. God’s purpose is big and Kingdom-focused. We, rather, are very much small thinking and self-seeking. Hobbyist farming is just like hobbyist Christianity. Just as we live in a world of conveniences with grocery stores and restaurants, there is a new flavor of church and “Christianity” on every corner. There are the established mom-and-pop operations (the orthodox churches) which are a dying breed in every small town. There are the big-box stores where anything and everything under the sun is offered (nothing is left out, but leaves the individual disconnected as a whole). There are the fast-food churches which are cheap and you can get your weekly Jesus, get out quick and go on with your life. Some churches don’t even have any form of spiritual food, but they are more like ice cream or candy stores full of sweetness and overarching ideas without any lasting substance.

The point of this writing is not to talk about different “churches,” but to make the comparison most of us make with our Christian walk without even blinking. In order to be an ardent, obedient follower of Christ, it takes work; hard work. It takes reading and studying God’s Word for ourselves first. It takes discussing and breaking things down with others to find clarity within Christian community. It takes prayer and petition before God seeking to honor Him every step of the way. It takes planning so that we truly consider the cost it will require. It amazes me that as Christians we subscribe to magazines and read online articles and engage in Facebook discussion groups in order to further our walk with Christ and to do the work of ministry, but when it comes to all of the other areas of life, including farming, we fall short. We would hate to be called a hobbyist Christian, but why are just fine being called a hobbyist farmer or gardener, etc.

A hobbyist farmer, just like a hobbyist Christian, is lazy, self-seeking, immature and disobedient to the Lord’s command to take dominion over the land and animals. You cannot take dominion without knowing anything about what you are taking dominion of. Just as you cannot know the fullness of the character and nature of God without studying His Word, we cannot know the full nature of farming and gardening without first studying. Just as Christianity is not just about learning from personal experience, it is the same in the arena of farming and gardening. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you need to study up first before you even attempt to ask questions. Just as any good pastor would tell you not to just take his word for it, but rather we need to check it against Scripture, we also don’t need to take the advice of the “experts” of gardening and farming just on face value. We must do the hard, strenuous work of research for ourselves and we then must ask if this practice of farming or gardening honors God at His Word. His Law-Word does have some things to say about gardening and farming in case you didn’t know.

We must be willing to do the hard work and study daily both in preparation and continued education. Who cares about what animals others are raising or what people are planting in their gardens? That is no concern for you. Unless you are starting a Farmer’s Market, why would you plant things that you and your family will not eat? Why plant a garden so big that you cannot properly manage and maintain it? If you don’t have the time or man-power, you have no business planting a one-acre garden much less a small container garden. Why have animals that don’t provide anything back on your investment, but are parasitic to your pocketbook? Why get animals in which you don’t have proper containment, shelter and food for? Why have animals at all, if you are not going to properly and knowledgably care for God’s creation. They are God’s creatures and as stewards and managers of His property, we cannot take care of them carelessly. When you don’t take care of God’s creation and provision, you look foolish and are perceived as one who is presumptive, entitled and doesn’t appreciate the Lord’s blessings. Presumption alone by itself is sinful (1 Samuel 15:23).

I want to challenge you that before you turn the soil, plant even one seed or buy even one cute little chick or goat, to stop and ask what God’s purpose for you is in this? Prayerfully consider whether this is an area He is calling you to claim dominion purposely for Him and His Kingdom. Is this real or a fantasy? Is this something that you are willing to devote your time, abilities and resources to? Is this something that will require just you as an individual to commit or will it require the involvement of the entire family? Is this something your family is able and willing to do? Then, once the purpose of God in this is established, begin researching everything you can about this particular purpose. You will not learn it all up front, but you need to lay a sure foundation. Not everyone should have a garden and not everyone should have chickens or goats or pigs or whatever your imagination can drum up. We need to honor God by taking dominion where He sets our feet and purposes for us to grow and expand His kingdom. As Christians, we must set the example for the pagans by being God-centered and Kingdom-focused rather than self-seeking hobbyists. Remember, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). Don’t waste time, resources or anything on something that you will be ashamed of in the end. Honor God and fulfill His purpose!