Monday, March 24, 2014

A Christian-Agrarian

  What is a Christian-agrarian?  Herrick Kimbal introduced me to this term.  The Christian part is easy enough to understand, but agrarian sounded a little different.  Basically it is someone that promotes living off the land.  Traditionally this would be a farmer, but the difference that is purposed in using the word agrarian is to differentiate the modern factory type farming from the traditional family farm lifestyle. An agrarian might not be a farmer, but has the desire to see the earth made fruitful in a sustainable way.   By adding Christian to agrarian it is the acknowledgement that life with Christ gives lasting purpose. It is the Creator who was the first gardener.  He created the world to produce sustenance by skillfully working the ground.  It could be understood that a family can be fulfilled in a richer way by a Christian-agrarian lifestyle.  Herrick has written a book to share this lifestyle and has sought to live it out as an example.  The name of the book is: Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian.

     The agrarian lifestyle is not anything new though it is counter-culture right now.  It is the lifestyle that was most common in this country until the Industrial Revolution.  Many people believe we lost something when families stopped producing their own food.  Herrick makes the case in his book that it is not just making a living that counts, but how you live.  He shows how work itself has tremendous value.  He challenges the idea that money is the most valuable thing by focusing on the value of relationships, hard work, and living life as it was intended. Herrick talks about a subject that I hold close to my heart: freedom.  Here's a quote from the fourth chapter of his book:

 "We see value in the satisfaction that comes with being able to take care of your own food needs and not being dependent on the industrial providers, even if it is just in part.  This is freedom.  This is part of what makes The Good Life good." 

A Christian-agrarian sees creation as a place to practice stewardship.  This stewardship is passed on to children with a multi-generational vision.  Herrick contrasts this lifestyle to systems that separate people from the ground where things come from and that vie for the time that is needed for relationships to be close.

Herrick wrote this book a number of years ago, but just had it published as a Kindle book making it very affordable. You can get the book downloaded to your Kindle device.  I just read the book in one day and it leaves you with a desire to leave this world a better place. Part of the book is a vision for a good life and another part is Herrick's testimony of how he is working that vision out. At the end of the book is an epilogue that has a special effect because it is an acknowledgement of seeing the fruit of his labors, and seeing much of his vision being fulfilled.

I strongly recommend this work as its message is much needed today.

Here is a link to where you can get this great book at Amazon:
If you don't have a Kindle, you can get a free program to read the book on your computer or a smart phone. Herrick has a link to this in his blog.
If you want to be introduced to Herrick's writings you can check out his blog at:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Today's Pilgrims, The Romeike Family

     The Romeike family has experienced their share of emotional roller coasters. The Romeike family came to America in 2010 to escape persecution in Germany. They were granted asylum because of Germany's harsh laws that make the fundamental right of homeschooling illegal.    They fled to this country for freedom much like the pilgrims did.  In Germany, they would be subject to heavy fines, possible jail time and lose of custody of their children.  Asylum was granted because of the family's religious views that caused them to homeschool, and the improper motivations of German authorities to suppress home-schooling as a social group.   This ruling was challenged by the Obama administration.    I think of the irony of this circumstance when I consider the words of Emma Lazarus that are inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. These words have been an expression of the hopes realized by so many people that came here for freedom: 
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore,
Send these, the homeless,  tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

     Is that golden door closed to homeschooling families?  What is very striking about this case is that asylum was granted by a judge, but the Justice Department, headed by Eric Holder, appealed the decision of the judge.  This is the same department that is well known for not enforcing a number of laws. Instead of going after those that had violated law, this department went after this hard-working and well-respected family.  This is the same department that allows millions of illegal immigrates through our borders with impunity.  The sixth circuit went along with the federal government.  The case was appealed to the Supreme court where the appeal was denied.  Public outrage was expressed and a Supervisor with Homeland Security contacted the attorneys of the home-school family and let them know the family had "indefinite deferred status."  This means the family should not be deported to Germany where they would lose custody of their children.  We rejoice that this family is allowed to stay here, but we also remember that the Romeike family is only one of many families in Germany that have been refused the basic right to raise their children as they see fit.

     Uwe Romeike, who is the father of the family, is a piano teacher.  He didn't  come to this land to just get a hand-out.  He has work and plans to keep working for a living. He's made it clear that he would stay in Germany if authorities would just leave their family alone and let them raise their children.  On the website of Home School Legal Defense, he is quoted as saying,

     “We are happy to have indefinite status even though we won’t be able to get American citizenship any time soon. As long as we can live at peace here, we are happy. We have always been ready to go wherever the Lord would lead us—and I know my citizenship isn’t really on earth.”

     When Uwe says that his citizenship is not really on earth, he is referring to heaven.  Uwe believes, as a Christian, he is just passing through this life to experience a life that is much greater after this life.  The Bible tells us that our citizenship "is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20.
Uwe thanked all those that helped his family and said,

"I thank God for his hand of blessing and protection over our family. We thank the American government for allowing us to stay here and to peacefully homeschool our children—it’s all we ever wanted.”

     In this post I have compared this family to the pilgrims.  I believe that this is an accurate comparison.  One of the primary reasons the pilgrims came here was a concern for the influences on their children.  William Bradford, who was a historian and a leader of the original Plymouth colony, spoke of this concern in his book where he said that one reason they had to leave Holland was that their children were being "drawn away by evil examples into extravagant and dangerous courses."  Uwe and his wife, Hannelore were deeply concerned about the witchcraft and other immoral teaching their children would receive in the German government schools.  In another post on this blog, it was reported that another German family, the Wunderlich family, had their children taken from their home at gunpoint.  The Wunderlich children are now forced to attend a government school.  Seeing the evil that is taking place in Germany, the lawyer for the Romeike family, Michael Farris, made a promise to Uwe.  He said this:

“When we lost at the Sixth Circuit, I told Uwe that he would go back to Germany over my dead body. I’m glad that wasn’t necessary! This is a courageous family and one that deserves to stay here. They are modern day Pilgrims.”

     We are so glad that these modern day pilgrims are here to stay, but we must not forget the others that are being persecuted for homeschooling their children in Germany.  Our government made the right choice in letting the Romeike family stay here.  It is my hope that we see this good judgment with other families fleeing persecution and that others won't have to go through what the Romeikes did in order to stay here.
    To every believer in Christ there is a promise of a better country.  The Bible tells us of those that "died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."  

     If you are a Christian, you are a pilgrim!
 (The following videos are dated, but give an understanding of the subject matter of this post)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Oklahoma, Land of the Free

     Part of my family lives in Oklahoma which makes it a special place for me.  It's a long drive from here in New York to Oklahoma.  When I've driven there it feels real good to see the sign welcoming you into Oklahoma.  When I've driven back it also feels real good to see the sign that you're in New York.  There's a big difference between the two states, and it's not just the geography.  There is a difference in  the ideology of the people.  This can change, but right now I believe Oklahoma is one of the freest states, if not the freest, in these United States.

     I believe it is the freest state because of one issue: the issue of education.  Oklahoma has a government school system just like all the other states, but one noticeable difference is that homeschooling takes place in the state without fetters.  Oklahoma is currently the only state to have homeschooling a protected right within the state constitution with no stipulations.  Parental rights are upheld.  Parents are acknowledged to be fully responsible for their children.  Parents have always been responsible for their children, but here is a state that acknowledges it without reservation.  I believe that the nature of the education of children is the reason that we have seen the nature of our nation change so quickly in the last few decades.  If more states allowed greater freedom by giving parents their rightful place, we may see some marvelous things for the good.

     There is a beauty in states that are different from others.  In Pennsylvania the car inspections are strict when it comes to rust.  Here in NY, rust is not an issue and you can find cars that are rusting to pieces.  In Oklahoma, if you were to ask about their standards of car inspections they might say, "What's that?"  because there are none there.  I like that.  Here in NY, you have to get an inspection every year if you want to drive without the threat of fines.  You have to take it to someone else, even if you've inspected it yourself all year long; and it typically costs around 20 bucks.  In Oklahoma, you might see some funny things driving down the road on occasion, though you're unlikely to see much rust because cars don't rust much there. By the way, while driving in OK, I never felt threatened by the non-inspected cars. 

     Here in NY, building inspections seem pretty important.  Some counties are probably better or worst than others.  And when I say worst, I mean more strict.  When I say better, I mean more free.  If you were to ask someone in OK about building inspections, he might say, "What's that?" Well, not exactly, but pretty close.  It's not the big thing there that it is here.  Some of the building code requirements in NY just go beyond the pail, and especially when they start making rules about the inside of your house.  I know a man that got fines for buildings that were about an inch longer than permitted by a code.  It's outrageous!

     Here in NY there was a gun control bill recently passed.   Many, many people are against it.  It's another encroachment of freedom.  I hope, like many others that it gets repealed.  Laws like this don't even see the light of day in OK.

     Another recent headline came from the state of Oklahoma saying that lawmakers from the state are looking at banning marriage.  It was a twist on words, but what the lawmakers there are saying is that government should not be in the marriage business.  People in Oklahoma do not want marriage to lose its meaning.  There are legal challenges being brought against the state to acknowledge other definitions to marriage other than the established meaning that it is a covenant of the union of a man and woman.  Oklahoma lawmakers are saying if you change the meaning of marriage in our state we will not sanction it with our approval.  Instead, we will give our people more freedom by getting government out of this realm altogether.  These courageous lawmakers are to be commended.  Rah, rah for the Sooner state!

      One of the largest encroachments to freedom in our lifetime is the recently enacted so-called "Affordable Care Act."  It looks like more people are realising the mistake this law is.  In Oklahoma there is legislation being introduced to nullify this law from being enforced in that state.  Here's an example to the other states!

     Many in Oklahoma recognise that their freedom comes from God.  At the state capital, a monument was recently set up that prominently displays the Ten Commandments of God. There have been challenges to this. It seems these challenges come from people outside of OK.... people from NY. This group claims that they worship Satan and believe that their bizarre statue of Satan has as much right to be at the state capital as a monument that recognises where just law and freedom come from. Once again, the media has emphasized a false premise that all religions are equal. This is obviously not what the founders of America had in mind. You don't see in the Declaration of Independence any need to acknowledge Satan after it acknowledges God as the giver of unalienable rights.  This is because absolute truth was still recognised.

     Oklahoma has become a lightning rod for a lot of these issues because of not following in the same rate the decadent flow that is taking place.  It is not an accident, and I think I know the reason for this.  Our family receives a publication from an electric company in OK.  In one issue it gave information about the lawmakers in OK.  It was an eye opener for me.  Often the schools these lawmakers came from were Bible schools.  Many of them have positions in their churches.  It is as if it is recognised by the people that their representatives are more fit for public office if they serve their church.  There are people there that are a God fearing people.  When people fear God there is a natural respect for private property.  This spells: FREEDOM.

     What I've written here could look like a comparison of NY vs. OK.  It's more than that.  It's a picture of what we could be in NY for the better.  I live in NY.  I've tasted OK.  I'd like everyone from every state to get a taste of what freedom is.  I think if freedom could be tasted and seen more clearly that more people will seek to better the plot of ground they are on....or maybe pull up their stakes and head to a place like Oklahoma.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The World of Chance

The following is a favorite story to my family. It is from Sander's Fifth Union Reader which was published in the mid-late 1800's.  This story was published around the time that Darwin's Origin of Species was popularized. It considers the fact that a world of order is a gift from a kind and omniscient Creator.  

      I'm posting this after learning of a recent poll that stated that 1/3 of Americans reject evolution outright.  The poll did not give options for the varied beliefs people have for evolution, but shows that, despite a strong propaganda campaign by government controlled schools to show only the position of naturalism, many people have not yet bought into the religion of naturalism.  Indeed, the world is filled with the testimony of God because "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20

The World of Chance

by John Todd.

      At the foot of a noble mountain in Asia stood a beautiful cottage. Around it were walks, and shades, and fruits, such as were nowhere else to be found. The sun shone upon no spot more beautiful or luxuriant. It was the home of Hafed, the aged and prosperous. He reared the cottage; he adorned the spot; and here, for more than fourscore years, he had lived and studied.

      During all this time, the sun had never forgotten to visit him daily; the harvest had never failed, the pestilence had never destroyed, and the mountain stream had never dried up. The wife of his youth still lived to cheer him; and his son and daughter were such as were not to be found in all that province.

      But who can insure earthly happiness? In one short week, Hafed was stripped of all his joys. His wife took cold, and a quick fever followed; and Hafed saw that she must die. His son and daughter both returned from the burial of their mother, fatigued and sick. The nurse gave them, as she thought, a simple medicine. In a few hours, it was found to be poison. Hafed saw that they must die; for the laws of nature are fixed, and poison kills.

      He buried them in one wide, deep grave; and it seemed as if in that grave he buried his reason and religion. He tore his gray hair; he cursed the light of day, and wished the moon turned into blood. He arraigned the wisdom of God in His government over this world, declaring that the laws which He had established were all wrong, governed by Chance, or, at least, that, at his death, he might go to a world where there was no God to fix unalterable laws.

      In the center of Hafed’s garden stood a beautiful palm-tree. Under this Hafed was sitting, the second evening after he has closed the grave over his children. Before him lay the beautiful country, and above him the glorious heavens, and the bright moon just pushing up her modest face. But Hafed looked upon all this, and grief swelled in his throat; his tongue murmured; his heart was full of blasphemous thoughts of God.

      As the night deepened, Hafed, as he thought, fell asleep with a heavy heart. When he supposed he awoke, it was in a new spot. All around him was new. As he stood wondering where he was, he saw a creature approach him, which appeared like a baboon; but, on its coming nearer, he saw that it was a creature somewhat resembling a man, but every way ill-shaped and monstrous.

      He came up, and walked around Hafed, as if he were a superior being, exclaiming, -- “Beautiful, beautiful creature!” “Shame, shame on thee!” said Hafed; “dost thou treat a stranger thus with insults? Leave off thy jests, and tell me where I am, and how I came here!” “I do not know how you came here; but here you are, in our world, which we call Chance World, because every thing happen here by chance.”

      “Ah! Is it so? This must be delightful! This is just the world for me. Oh, had I always lived here, my beautiful children would not have died under a foolish and inexorable law! Come, show me this world; for I long to see it. But have ye really no God, nor any one to make laws and govern you as he sees fit?”

      “I do not know what you mean be the word God. We have nothing of the kind here, -- nothing but chance. But go with me, and you will understand all about it. “ As they proceeded, Hafed noticed that every thing looked queer and odd. Some of the grass was green, some red, some white, some new, and some dying; some grew with the top downward; all kinds were mingled together; and; on the whole, the sight was very painful.

      He stopped to examine an orchard: here Chance had been at work. On a fine-looking apple-tree he saw no fruit but large, coarse cucumbers. A small peach-tree was breaking down under its load of gourds. Some of the trees were growing with their tops downward, and the roots branching out into the air. Here and there were great holes dug, by which somebody had tried to get down twenty or thirty feet, in order to get the fruit.

      The guide told Hafed that there was no certainty about these trees, and that you could never tell what fruit a tree would happen to bear. The tree which this year bears cucumbers, may bear potatoes next year, and perhaps you would have to dig twenty feet for every potato you obtained.

       They soon met another of the “chance men.” His legs were very unequal in length: one had no knee, and the other no ankle. His ears were set upon his shoulders, and around his head was a thick, black bandage. He came groping his way, and Hafed asked him how long since he had lost his sight.

      “I have not lost it,” said he; “but when I was born, my eyeballs happened to turn in instead of out; and the back parts, being outward, are very painful in the light, and so I put on a covering. Yet I am as well off as others. My brother has one good eye on the top of his head; but it look directly upward, and the sun almost puts it out.”

      They stopped to look at some “chance cattle” in a yard. Some had but three legs; some were covered with wool, under which they were sweltering in a climate always tropical. Some were half horse and half ox. Cows had young camels following them instead of calves. Young elephants were there with flocks of sheep, horses with claws like a lion, and geese clamping round the yard with hoofs like horses. It was all a work of Chance.

      “This,” said the guide, “is as choice collection of cattle. You never saw the like before.” “That is true-- truth itself,” cried Hafed. “Ah! But the owner has been at great pains and expense to collect them. I do not believe there is another such collection anywhere in all this ‘Chance World.’” “I hope not,” said Hafed.
     Just as they were leaving the premises, the owner came out to admire, and show, and talk over his treasures. He wanted to gaze at Hafed; but his head happened to be near the ground, between his feet, so that he had to mount upon a wall before he could get a fair view of the stranger. “Do not think I am a happy man,” said he, “in having so many and such perfect animals. Atlas! Even in the perfect and happy world there are drawbacks. That fine-looking cow yonder happens to give nothing but warm water, instead of milk; and her calf, poor thing! Died before it was a week old. 

    “Some of them are stone blind, some can not live in the light, and few of them can hear. No two of them eat the same food, and it is a great labor to take care of them. I sometimes feel as if I would almost as lief be a poor man.” “I think I should rather,” said Hafed.

      While they were talking, in an instant they were in midnight darkness. The sun was gone, and Hafed could not, for some time, see his guide. “What has happened? said he. “Oh, nothing uncommon,” said the guide! “The sun happened to go down now. There is no regular time for him to shine; but he goes and comes just as it happens, and leaves as suddenly, as you see.”

      “As I don’t see,” said Hafed: “but I hope he will come back at the appointed time, at any rate.” “That, sir, will be just as it happens. Sometimes he is gone for months, and sometimes for weeks, and sometimes only for a few minutes, just as it happens. We may not see him again for months, but perhaps he will come soon.”

      As the guide was proceeding, to the inexpressible joy of all, the sun at once broke out. The light was so sudden, that Hafed at first thought he must be struck with lightning, and actually put his hands to his eyes to see if they were safe. He then clapped his hands to his eyes till he could gradually bear the light. There was a splendor about the sun, which he had never before seen; and it was intolerably hot. The air seemed like a furnace.

      “Ah,” said the owner of the cattle, “we must now scorch for it! My poor wool ox must die at once! Bad luck, bad luck to us! The sun has come back nearer than he was before. But we hope he will happen to go away again soon, and then happen to come back farther off the next time.”

      The sun was now pouring down his heat so intensely, that they were glad to go into the house for shelter, -- a miserable-looking place indeed. Hafed could not but compare it with his own beautiful cottage. Some timbers were rotten; for the tree was not, as it happened, the same in all its parts. Some of the boards happened to be like paper, and the nails torn out; and these were loose and coming off.

      They invited Hafed to eat. On sitting down at the table, he noticed that each one had a different kind of food, and that no two could eat out of the same dish. He was told that it so happened, that the food which one could eat, was poison to another; and what was agreeable to one, was nauseating to another.

      “I suppose that to be coffee,” said Hafed, “and I will thank you for a cup.” It was handed him. He had been troubled with the toothache for some hours; and how did he quail, when, on filling his mouth, he found it was ice, in little pieces about as large as pigion-shot!

      “Do you call ice-water coffee here?” said Hafed, pressing his hand upon his cheek, while his tooth was dancing with pain. “That is just as it happens. We put water over the fire, and sometimes it heats it, and sometimes it freezes it. It is all chance at work.”

      Hafed rose from the table in anguish of spirit. He remembered the world where he had lived, and all that was past. He had desired to live in a world where there was no God, where all was governed by chance. Here he was, and here he must live.

      He threw himself on a bed, and recalled the past, -- the beautiful world where he had once lived; his ingratitude; his murmurings against the wisdom and goodness of God. He wept like infancy. He would have prayed, and even began a prayer; but then he recollected that there was no God here; nothing to direct events; nothing but chance. He shed many and bitter tears of repentance. At last he wept himself to sleep.

      When Hafed again awoke, he was sitting under his palm-tree in his own beautiful garden. It was morning. At the appointed moment, the glorious sun rose up in the east; the fields were all green and fresh; the trees were all right end upward, and covered with blossoms; and the songsters were uttering their morning songs.

      Hafed arose, recalled that ugly dream, and then wept for joy. Was he again in a world where Chance does not reign? He looked up, and then turned to the God of heaven, the God of laws and of order, and gave Him the glory, and confessed that His ways, to us unsearchable, are full of wisdom. He was a new man ever afterward; nothing gave him greater cause of gratitude, as he daily knelt in prayer, than the fact that he lived in a world where God ruled, and ruled by laws fixed, wise, and merciful.

The End.
Source: Sander's Fifth Union Reader
Drawings are by my sister, Esther.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Message That Surpised Sodom

 Sodom's Response to A Strong Message
The following account comes from the autobiography of Charles G. Finney.  His autobiography gives many accounts of men submitting themselves to the living God.  Of particular interest to me is that the widespread revivals that he was an instrument of were in areas not far from where I live in the state of New York.  In this account he was holding revival services in Antwerp when he got an invite from an older gentleman to come to his community.  Little did Finney know what he was getting into. Here are his words describing the event:

Charles G. Finney (1792-1895)
On the third Sabbath that I preached there, an aged man came to me as I was entering the pulpit, and asked me if I would not go and preach in a schoolhouse in his neighborhood, about three miles distant; saying that they had never had any services there. He wished me to come as soon as I could. I appointed the next day, Monday, at five o'clock in the afternoon. It was a warm day. I left my horse at the village, and thought I would walk down, so that I should have no trouble in calling along on the people, in the neighborhood of the schoolhouse. However, before I reached the place, having labored so hard on the Sabbath, I found myself very much exhausted, and sat down by the way and felt as if I could scarcely proceed. I blamed myself for not having taken my horse.
But at the appointed hour I found the schoolhouse full, and I could only get a standing-place near the open door. I read a hymn; and I cannot call it singing, for they seemed never to have had any church music in that place. However the people pretended to sing. But it amounted to about this: each one bawled in his own way. My ears had been cultivated by teaching church music; and their horrible discord distressed me so much that, at first, I thought I must go out. I finally put both hands over my ears, and held them with my full strength. But this did not shut out the discords. I stood it, however, until they were through; and then I cast myself down on my knees, almost in a state of desperation, and began to pray. The Lord opened the windows of heaven, and the spirit of prayer was poured out, and I let my whole heart out in prayer. I had taken no thought with regard to a text upon which to preach; but waited to see the congregation. As soon as I had done praying, I arose from my knees and said: "Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city." I told them I did not recollect where that text was; but I told them very nearly where they would find it, and then went on to explain it. I told them that there was such a man as Abraham, and who he was; and that there was such a man as Lot, and who he was; their relations to each other; their separating from each other on account of differences between their herdmen; and that Abraham took the hill country, and Lot settled in the vale of Sodom. I then told them how exceedingly wicked Sodom became, and what abominable practices they fell into. I told them that the Lord decided to destroy Sodom, and visited Abraham, and informed him what He was about to do; that Abraham prayed to the Lord to spare Sodom, if He found so many righteous there; and the Lord promised to do so for their sakes; that then Abraham besought Him to save it for a certain less number, and the Lord said He would spare it for their sakes; that he kept on reducing the number, until he reduced the number of righteous persons to ten; and God promised him that, if He found ten righteous persons in the city, He would spare it. Abraham made no farther request, and Jehovah left him. But it was found that there was but one righteous person there, and that was Lot, Abraham's nephew. And the men said to Lot, "hast thou here any besides? Son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place; for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it." While I was relating these facts I observed the people looking as if they were angry. Many of the men were in their shirt sleeves; and they looked at each other and at me, as if they were ready to fall upon me and chastise me on the spot. I saw their strange and unaccountable looks, and could not understand what I was saying, that had offended them. However it seemed to me that their anger rose higher and higher, as I continued the narrative. As soon as I had finished the narrative, I turned upon them and said, that I understood that they had never had a religious meeting in that place; and that therefore I had a right to take it for granted, and was compelled to take it for granted, that they were an ungodly people. I pressed that home upon them with more and more energy, with my heart full almost to bursting. I had not spoken to them in this strain of direct application, I should think, more than a quarter of an hour, when all at once an awful solemnity seemed to settle down upon them; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell. Indeed nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from this first shock that fell upon them. Every one prayed for himself, who was able to speak at all. Of course I was obliged to stop preaching; for they no longer paid any attention. I saw the old man who had invited me there to preach, sitting about in the middle of the house, and looking around with utter amazement. I raised my voice almost to a scream, to make him hear, and pointing to him said, "Can't you pray?" He instantly fell upon his knees, and with a stentorian voice poured himself out to God; but he did not at all get the attention of the people. I then spoke as loud as I could, and tried to make them attend to me. I said to them, "You are not in hell yet; and now let me direct you to Christ." For a few moments I tried to hold forth the Gospel to them; but scarcely any of them paid any attention. My heart was so overflowing with joy at such a scene that I could hardly contain myself. It was with much difficulty that I refrained from shouting, and giving glory to God. As soon as I could sufficiently control my feelings I turned to a young man who was close to me, and was engaged in praying for himself, laid my hand on his shoulder, thus getting his attention, and preached in his ear Jesus. As soon as I got his attention to the cross of Christ, he believed, was calm and quiet for a minute or two, and then broke out in praying for the others. I then turned to another, and took the same course with him, with the same result; and then another, and another. In this way I kept on, until I found the time had arrived when I must leave them, and go and fulfill an appointment in the village. I told them this, and asked the old man who had invited me there, to remain and take charge of the meeting, while I went to my appointment. He did so. But there was too much interest, and there were too many wounded souls, to dismiss the meeting; and so it was held all night. In the morning there were still those there that could not get away; and they were carried to a private house in the neighborhood, to make room for the school. In the afternoon they sent for me to come down there, as they could not yet break up the meeting. When I went down the second time, I got an explanation of the anger manifested by the congregation during the introduction of my sermon the day before. I learned that the place was called Sodom, but I knew it not; and that there was but one pious man in the place, and him they called Lot. This was the old man that invited me there. The people supposed that I had chosen my subject, and preached to them in that manner, because they were so wicked as to be called Sodom. This was a striking coincidence; but so far as I was concerned, it was altogether accidental. I have not been in that place for many years. A few years since, I was laboring in Syracuse, in the state of New York. Two gentlemen called upon me one day; one an elderly man; the other not quite fifty years of age. The younger man introduced the older one to me as Deacon W, elder in his church; saying that he had called on me to give a hundred dollars to Oberlin College. The older man in his turn introduced the younger, saying, "This is my minister, the Rev. Mr. Cross. He was converted under your ministry." Whereupon Mr. Cross said to me: "Do you remember preaching at such a time in Antwerp, and in such a part of the town, in the schoolhouse, in the afternoon, and that such a scene, [describing it], occurred there?" I said, "I remember it very well, and can never forget it while I remember anything." "Well," said he, "I was then but a young man, and was converted in that meeting." He has been many years a successful minister. Several of his children have obtained their education in our college in Oberlin. As nearly as I can learn, although that revival came upon them so suddenly, and was of such a powerful type, the converts were sound, and the work permanent and genuine. I never heard of any disastrous reaction as having taken place.

The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp

The following parable has been shared many times by email and on sites on the Internet, and for good reason.  It tells of the relation between freedom and independence.  The details of its origin are not clear, but it was told by George Gordon, and this transcript is credited to Steve Washam. 

The Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp

Some years ago, about 1900, an old trapper from North Dakota hitched up some horses to his Studebaker wagon, packed a few possessions--especially his traps--and drove south. Several weeks later he stopped in a small town just north of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. It was a Saturday morning--a lazy day--when he walked into the general store. Sitting around the pot-bellied stove were seven or eight of the town's local citizens. The traveler spoke, "Gentlemen, could you direct me to the Okefenokee Swamp?" Some of the oldtimers looked at him like he was crazy.

"You must be a stranger in these parts," they said.

"I am. I'm from North Dakota," said the stranger.

"In the Okefenokee Swamp are thousands of wild hogs," one old man explained, "A man who goes into the swamp by himself asks to die!"

He lifted up his leg. "I lost half my leg here, to the pigs of the swamp."

Another old fellow said, "Look at the cuts on me; look at my arm bit off!" "Those pigs have been free since the Revolution, eating snakes and rooting out roots and fending for themselves for over a hundred years. They're wild and they're dangerous. You can't trap them. No man dare go into the swamp by himself."

Every man nodded his head in agreement.

The old trapper said, "Thank you so much for the warning. Now could you direct me to the swamp?"

They said, "Well, yeah, it's due south--straight down the road." But they begged the stranger not to go, because they knew he'd meet a terrible fate.

He said, "Sell me ten sacks of corn, and help me load them into the wagon."

And they did.

Then the old trapper bid them farewell and drove on down the road. The townsfolk thought they'd never see him again.

Two weeks later the man came back. He pulled up to the general store, got down off the wagon, walked in and bought ten more sacks of corn. After loading it up he went back down the road toward the swamp.

Two weeks later he returned and, again, bought ten sacks of corn.

This went on for a month; Then two months, and then three. Every week or two the old trapper would come into town on a Saturday morning, load up ten sacks of corn and drive off south into the swamp. The stranger soon became a legend in the little village and the subject of much speculation. People wondered what kind of devil had possessed this man, that he could go into the Okefenokee by himself and not be consumed by the wild and free hogs.

One morning the man came into town as usual. Everyone thought he wanted more corn.

He got off the wagon and went into the store where the usual group of men were gathered around the stove. He took off his gloves. "Gentlemen," he said, "I need to hire about ten or fifteen wagons. I need twenty or thirty men. I have six thousand hogs out in the swamp, penned up, and they're all hungry. I've got to get them to market right away." "You've WHAT in the swamp?" asked the storekeeper, incredulously. "I have six thousand hogs penned up. They haven't eaten for two or three days, and they'll starve if I don't get back there to feed and take care of them."

One of the old timers said, "You mean you've captured the wild hogs of the Okefenokee?"

"That's right."

"How did you do that? What did you do?" the men urged, breathlessly. One of them exclaimed, "But I lost my arm!"

"I lost my brother!" cried another.

"I lost my leg to those wild boars!" chimed a third. The trapper said, "Well, the first week I went in there they were wild all right. They hid in the undergrowth and wouldn't come out. I dared not get off the wagon. So I spread corn along behind the wagon. Every day I'd spread a sack of corn.

"The old pigs would have nothing to do with it. But the younger pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn than it was to root out roots and catch snakes. So the very young began to eat the corn first. "I did this every day. Pretty soon, even the old pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn, after all, they were all free; they were not penned up. They could run off in any direction they wanted at any time. "The next thing was to get them used to eating in the same place all the time. So, I selected a clearing, and I started putting the corn in the clearing.

"At first they wouldn't come to the clearing. It was too far. It was too open. It was a nuisance to them.

"But the very young decided that it was easier to take the corn in the clearing than it was to root out roots and catch their own snakes. And not long thereafter, the older pigs also decided that it was easier to come to the clearing every day.

"And so the pigs learned to come to the clearing every day to get their free corn. They could still subsidize their diet with roots and snakes and whatever else they wanted. After all, they were all free. They could run in any direction at any time. There were no bounds upon them. "The next step was to get them used to fence posts. So I put fence posts all the way around the clearing. I put them in the underbrush so that they wouldn't get suspicious or upset, after all, they were just sticks sticking up out of the ground, like the trees and the brush. The corn was there every day. It was easy to walk in between the posts, get the corn, and walk back out.

"This went on for a week or two. Shortly they became very used to walking into the clearing, getting the free corn, and walking back out through the fence posts.

"The next step was to put one rail down at the bottom. I also left a few openings, so that the older, fatter pigs could walk through the openings and the younger pigs could easily jump over just one rail, after all, it was no real threat to their freedom or independence--they could always jump over the rail and flee in any direction at any time.

"Now I decided that I wouldn't feed them every day. I began to feed them every other day. On the days I didn't feed them, the pigs still gathered in the clearing. They squealed, and they grunted, and they begged and pleaded with me to feed them-- but I only fed them every other day. Then I put a second rail around the posts.

"Now the pigs became more and more desperate for food. Because now they were no longer used to going out and digging their own roots and finding their own food, they now needed me. They needed my corn every other day." "So I trained them that I would feed them every day if they came in through a gate and I put up a third rail around the fence.

"But it was still no great threat to their freedom, because there were several gates and they could run in and out at will. "Finally I put up the fourth rail. Then I closed all the gates but one, and I fed them very, very well."

"Yesterday I closed the last gate and today I need you to help me take these pigs to market."


     The lesson in this parable is that the "free" tax money is a bait that leads to a trap with an intention to enslave those that were independent.  Men that were independent become used to having "benefits" that come from subsidies like vouchers for private schools, welfare, farm programs, Medicaid and Medicare. In the recording, (see below) Gordon says that Social Security is part of this trap. 

     Below you can hear this tale as George Gordon re-told it.  Recorded in 1986 at a barn-full of farmers gathering in Kearney, Nebraska.

Sources with commentary:

Audio Source:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Free Man that Works From Home

My sister, Hannah, took this picture of me inspecting a bee
hive in a sunflower field this summer.
    It's been a little over one year since I left the only factory job I've worked and became a "free man" (I'll explain more about this term later).  Since I was a teenager my family had drilled it into me that you want to work from home.  My dad would express his desire to do this and passed that desire to me.  After more than five years of working in a factory I knew without a doubt that the dreams my family had for me were my dreams also.  I recognised the limit of time in the day and by coming home I could pursue my dreams with less fetters.
     I was talking with another beekeeper recently and he told me some interesting things about our factory culture.  He reassured me that the factory mindset in the people all around us is not a mistake or just something that happened out of convenience, but was planned.  I knew about some of these things because as a teenager I had helped put together information for people in our local school district about Outcome Based Education (OBE).  I helped a group of concerned parents to alert the community about how their children would be trained to the specifications of big companies. Instead of teaching children basic skills so they could pursue their own dreams they were to be trained according to what large companies wanted them to learn in a cookie-cutter fashion. My beekeeper acquaintance told me how factories are purposely built without windows so people don't think about the outside world. This also stops the employees from thinking as much about time. He said that these things started with Henry Ford's company. Schools have been working at this for a long time. They would start the day with a bell.  (Oh yes, I remember in parochial school the old bell that went off to start the day.)  After a few years the young people would graduate (where did they come up with that term?) and go to work for Mr. Ford. In the factory the day started off with a bell. Indeed, they were being programmed. You see, the factories had tried to hire the old farmers, but it didn't work. The old farmers would not be forced to stand in one spot all day doing the same mindless thing in the sunless buildings. No, man was not created to behave like this. They would have to be trained.

     He then went on to tell me how he had hired young people to do work out in a vineyard.  He said he watched them literally melt.  They didn't know what to do without their music.   They couldn't face themselves.   Most factories have music because of their unnatural environment.  It's another way to get people's minds off from time, and even facing themselves.   He reminded me that there is something very special about just going to a bee yard and only hearing the buzzing of bees and having your own thoughts. 

Here I am promoting my small business (Standing Stone
Honey) at a local farmers market.  It has been a good
learning experience.
      One exciting thing about working for yourself is that you can have the freedom to make things and do things in better ways. This can happen in a factory, but I remember how this freedom was squashed at times, and things proceeded inefficiently. Helpful information might be shared, but someone else would seek to take the credit. Many times I wanted to learn something new, but was not permitted to. In a home business you are not as limited in these things, but the risks that come along with with responsibility are all on you. In a factory setting it is not uncommon that a person finds himself surrounded by people that want to advance themselves and are happy to crush others to make themselves look better in the process. There was a report that was in the news a while back that was based on a college study that told how gruff, unthoughtful people are more likely to find job advancements over friendly, agreeable people. This is probably true to some degree and the problem gets worst as people with more power seemingly have the ability show their bad side with impunity. There could be a debate about whether power corrupts or if power reveals. Another piece to that puzzle is that corrupt people are most powerfully attracted to power.
       Getting back to the term "free man." In the Bible it is used to refer to a man that is not a slave.  There are parallels with slavery and being an employee.  The wage hours do not belong to the employee.  He has sold himself during those hours.  I still remember a doctor that worked for a clinic.  He and my Dad talked about the desire to work for themselves.  The doctor recognized the benefits he would have if he owned his own office.  It helped me to see the position many doctors find themselves in and why people often end up being just numbers when they come to a big hospital.  The wage earning doctor has to make a quota like a factory man, and the people coming to him end up being a number to fill that quota.

    I mentioned before that in a factory setting credits often go to the wrong places.  Such is life.  My Dad told me again and again growing up that "life is not fair."  As a believer in Christ I want Christ to get the credit for the right things I do.  This credit needs to go to Christ whether at a factory job or a home business.  In fact, the Bible says that the man that is "free" is "Christ's servant."  If you're working at home the opportunities to glorify Christ could be greater.  If you have greater freedom, it is that much more opportunity to use that freedom to serve Christ.  This is why Scripture says, "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." Now we can serve Christ with less freedom, but if you can be free be free like Saint Paul said,  "Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.  I understand that these passages are to be understood in the context of slavery and freedom, but I believe we can apply them to our lives in the same way as the New Testament believers by recognizing that God wants us more free to serve Him.  I believe the parallels between the free man and the entrepreneur are striking.  The decision to run a home business needs to be done with prayer and understanding as it is likely that rash decisions in starting a business could lead to greater bondage rather than freedom and would bring a quick realization of the saying, "better the devil you know."  Be it known that taking some risks is a part of living in a free society.

     For fathers I recommend that you instill it into your children that "if thou mayest be made free, use it rather."  Help them to be able to think for themselves by giving them responsibilities over certain areas.  In whatever lot of life we are in we can live free.  We could be in prison, and yet in our heart be more free than a king in his palace.   I think this is why Paul says, "he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman."  Those that belong to Christ are His servants whether they control their own hours or not because He bought them.  It needs to be our goal to seek to make our lives more free to serve Him.  When we are doing our jobs, building a business or punching in the time clock it is important to not lose sight of why we do it.  Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."  For the believer in Christ this works out in building God's kingdom; that is the end purpose of our occupation.  May God grant us the wisdom to fulfill our purpose.

    The writer of the following poem is unknown, but I believe it fits well with what has been said.

Measure thy life by loss instead of gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but the wine poured forth;
For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice,
And whoso suffers most hath most to give.
For labor, the common lot of man,
Is part of the kind Creator's plan;
And he is a king whose brow is wet
With the pearl-gemmed crown of honest sweat.
Some glorious day, this understood,
All toilers will be a brotherhood,
With brain or hand the purpose is one,
And the Master-workman, God's only Son.