“We Have a Cow Trying to Abort Her Calf.”

Several years ago, when we first moved back to the dairy farm, I told my wife that one of the cows was “trying to abort her calf.” I had heard this terminology used several times over my early years growing up on the farm to describe a cow enduring the pangs of prematurely giving birth to her calf due to pregnancy complications; the calf had mysteriously died inside her and needed to be expelled.

My daughter, who was 12 years old at the time and new to our farm terminology, mistook my meaning. She thought I was saying that the cow was intentionally trying to kill her baby by purposely putting forth an effort to induce a premature delivery. As she tried to wrestle with this concept, the question that most perplexed her was “Why? Why would any animal purposely do such a thing?” The concept of any mother of any species purposely trying to kill her offspring at any stage made no sense.

Often, out of the mouth of innocence comes forth much wisdom. The concept of any parent intentionally trying to kill her/his offspring makes no sense, regardless of its stage of life. Especially when both the parent and baby are created in the image of God.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:6)

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

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A Woods Without Trees Would Cease To be A Woods. Would A Life Without People Cease To Be A Life?

We have always called the three acre plot covered by trees located at the east side of the family farm, “the woods”. It’s not big enough to be called a forest; a forest is a large wooded area so densely populated that one could become lost. To some, I’m sure our 3 acres would be considered nothing more than a thicket. But to us, it will always be “the woods.”

The trees that populate the woods vary in species, size, shape, and age. Hardwoods make up most of the vegetation; red oaks, post oaks, white oaks, pin oaks, hickories, and more. Several red cedars give the underbrush a year-round green hue. In recent years, a specie of tree which we always called an “island tree” because it reminded us of the coconut trees on “Gilligan’s Island” has forged its way more deeply into the woods. And there is one stray peach tree which has sprung up from a randomly discarded seed.

From Spring to late Fall, the foliage of this hodgepodge of trees provides a beautiful canopy for the wildlife which seeks refuge beneath its shade. In the Spring, redbuds and dogwoods blossom and fill the air with a sweet aroma. Turkeys roost high in the branches of the hardwoods at night. During the Summer the varying shades of greenery ripple in the wind allowing the occasional warming sunray to reach the ground below. And in the Fall, acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts provide much needed sustenance for the deer and squirrels which scurry beneath the trees.

Several of the trees which are growing in the woods possess potential monetary value. Throughout the years, professional loggers have asked me to consider selling the boundary of logs. A few times, I have considered the offers from the loggers.

But each time, when I have weighed the cost of losing its beauty, the cost of losing the wildlife habitat, the cost of cleaning up the residual laps and stumps, and the cost of reseeding the acreage in grass to protect it from erosion, I have decided to leave it as it is.

I’ve also considered trying to “weed out” some of the “undesirable” trees; the “island trees”, the cedars, and some of the deformed hardwoods. But this too seems to be counter-productive. If they were transmitting diseases to the other species, I would clear them out. But since they are in no way detrimental to the other trees, removing these “undesirables” would diminish the beauty of the woods and it would make it less wildlife friendly.

In the end everything which has naturally sprang up within the woods has made it what it is today.

As we apply this to our lives, the many people who surround us form our own little “woods”. Some resemble us in race, creed, color, and belief, and some do not. Some are hardwoods in that they stand firm in their system of beliefs and lifestyle which they have developed over many years.  Some are bloomers in that they occasionally seem to bring beauty and sweetness into our lives. Some are evergreens in that they always seem to be energetically alive and growing no matter what season of life they are in. Some are fruit bearing. And some are so unique that we don’t really even know how to describe them.

But they all make up our woods.

There are times when we are tempted to sell off or clear out the woods of our life. To sell off the relationships which we believe are holding us back economically or professionally. To clear out the people who are different than we are. To clear out the people who may be considered undesirable by our peers or by society. To clear out the people who are unique or odd.

It’s not that these people have an evil or negative influence on our lives. It’s just that we don’t want them around or we believe that we can economically benefit from their removal.

Before we do such, we need to take time to truly evaluate every person’s worth to our lives. We need to make sure that we consider our value to their lives. We need to make sure that we take the time to count the cost of losing the blessing of knowing these people.

Many times, when we take the time to carefully consider the situation, we will realize that each person in the vast hodgepodge of people which surrounds us plays an important role in making us who we are.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. . .this is good, and is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself up as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:1-6)


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Is That A Flower Or A Weed? Who Knows? I Guess I Might As Well Go Ahead And Cut It Down Just In Case.

Few people can trim and landscape another person’s lawn without destroying at least some plants which the owner purposely set out and fondly values. This is especially true when the owner loves flowers, but the trimmer finds no delight in horticulture.

When a person appreciates the beauty of blossoming flowers and the satisfaction of caring for living plants, she will carefully choose, locate, and plant both perennials and annuals, so that her garden plots remain in bloom from early Spring till late Fall. She will energetically water these beds to prevent the beloved plants from wilting due to dehydration. She will carefully weed the beds to keep her flowers from competing with unwanted weeds for nutrition. She will continue this practice for many years, establishing several permanent beds.

Then one day, the time comes when someone else must mow the lawn and tend to the beds.  That someone else may appreciate the beauty of the flowers while they are in bloom, but he may not be able to differentiate between the emerging blades of a cherished perennial, and that of a distained grass.  He may not be able to differentiate between the broad leaves of a Holly Hock and that of an emerging gypsum weed.

That’s when difficulties arise for both.  The one envisioning the beds to be as beautiful as she once kept them, and the other not knowing for sure how to accomplish that goal.

Spiritually, the Bible clearly teaches us that we are to be our brother’s keeper.  We christians are to help one another become untangled from the world. We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1,2). If anyone goes back into the world, we are to do our best to restore that person, thus saving his soul. (James 5:19-20)

In essence, we are to try to help one another remove the spiritual weeds from our lives, and to cultivate the spiritual flowers which make our lives beautiful.

But this is often difficult. Because many times there are disagreements about which actions and attitudes constitute flowers and which ones constitute weeds. One person may have purposely planted and lovingly nurtured an action or attitude for years within his life, believing it to be a beautiful, fragrant flower, while his brother may deem the action or attitude to be an obnoxious weed.

God has given us a difficult task.

So, what do we do in such a case?

Carefully read God’s word together.  Lovingly speak God’s word to one another.  Then allow God to aid each person to identify the flowers and the weeds within his life. Allow God to empower each person to remove the unwanted spiritual weeds from his life.

When we go beyond this, and forcefully try to “weed” another person’s life for them, we may destroy their flowers as well.

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) ESV

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7) ESV

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What Do You see In a Person? Do You See What Christ Sees? We Will See What We Have Trained Ourselves To Search For.

A hunter can spot a turkey, deer, or groundhog in the middle of a field a half mile away, many times while the hunter is driving down the highway at 55 MPH. Other people only see dark spots, if even that. Why?  The hunter is looking for game.

A fisherman can see fish, sunken logs, algae, and fish beds underneath several feet of water, while others only see the reflection of trees and the sky on the surface of the water. Why? The fisherman is looking for fish.

A real estate agent or investor can spot a potential business investment in a line of rundown shacks and buildings, while others only see eyesores that need to be destroyed. Why? The agent or investor is looking for future potential rather than historical failure.

A salesman sees everyone he meets as a potential new or repeat customer, while others only see them as friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Why? Because he is looking for people who have a need which his product can fulfill.

A disciple of Christ who has truly taken on the likeness of his teacher views everyone he meets as a valuable human being who needs Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Why? Because that’s how Jesus viewed every person in the world. He saw them as wayward sheep who needed a shepherd, lost children trying to find their way home, and sinful souls which needed saving.  For Jesus, every soul demonstrated a need which only his blood could fulfill.

May we ever be disciples of Christ, viewing ourselves and our fellow man through the eyes of Jesus.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) ESV

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) ESV

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

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Church Parking Lot Etiquette. Does It Affect The View Of The Church In The Eyes Of Those Who Are Not Members?

Several cars dotted the parking lot at the church building when I pulled into it. Most were parked near the fellowship building where the ladies’ Bible class was being held.  But there was one car which was sitting off to itself, parallel to the street, and very near the door of the main building which I planned to enter.  It was clear that the occupant of this car did not plan to participate in the class, and that she had conveniently pulled into the parking lot to get out of the line of traffic.

Usually, when I notice a stranger parked in the lot, I will ask them if they need help, or if they are wanting to talk with someone from the church.  The occupant of this car was speaking on her phone, so I continued past her and entered the building. Just before shutting the door, I turned to give her a southern-style wave of acknowledgement. She had ended her call and was wiping tears.

Not knowing exactly how to handle the situation, I started back out the door to see if I could help, but she put the car in gear, and headed down the street.

As she left, I couldn’t help but wonder if my arrival and actions had prompted her abruptness in ending the phone call and driving away.  Did she think she was interrupting or obstructing some church event? Did she think that I considered her a trespasser? Did she think I wanted her to leave, and that I was returning to ask her to do so?

I hope not.

And I think probably not. Probably, she had come to a stopping place in the conversation, and she needed to deal with the emotional news (whatever it was) on her own. I’m also confident that she would have been reluctant to share it with a male stranger.

But the experience did make me wonder about how outsiders view the church when they encounter its members.

Do we give them the impression that they are an obstacle parked in the way of our carrying out our daily mission, or do we give them the impression that being available to offer them support is our mission?

Do we give them the impression that we feel that they are trespassing on private, “holy” ground, or do we give them the impression that we fervently desire to help them come into the presence of the only one who can make anything holy?

Do we give them the impression that we had rather they leave us alone, or do they feel welcomed, accepted, supported, and loved in our presence?

May we, as Jesus’ representatives to the world, always exhibit the same loving concern for others as he exhibited.  May the world be drawn to Jesus because they have met us, and not in spite of the fact that they have encountered us.

“The people held them in high esteem, and more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” (Acts 5:13b, 14) ESV

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How Much Will These Words Cost Me Or Make Me?

“Words are free.  It’s how you use them, that may cost you.” (KUSHANDWISDOM via pinterest.com)

This quotation expresses a great truth which we all should heed.  Words are both free and plentiful.  Although they are free and easily passed on to others, every word possesses some type of value.  We can use our words to tear down others, or we can openly express our words with the hope of building up others.

We can spend our words or we can invest them.

To tear down another with our words is to spend our words.  Gossiping, lying, backbiting, cursing, and telling coarse jokes are all ways of spending our words. When we spend our words in these fashions, the cost will often be far more than we ever imagined.  We may lose family, friends, spiritual brethren, credibility, the respect of others, and possibly even our own souls.

Jesus said, “I tell you on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) ESV

Paul exhorted, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) ESV

Words are free, yet every word possesses some type of value. We can either spend our words, or we can invest them.

To try to build up others is to invest our words.  When we invest our words, we will often receive far more in return than we expect. We may gain family, friends, spiritual brethren, credibility, the respect of others, and possibly even the preservation of our own souls.

Four ways that we can build up others are:

  1. To speak words of appreciation for who they are; letting them know that we appreciate their kindness, goodness, love, intelligence, etc.
  2. To speak words of thanksgiving for the things they have done; letting them know that we have noticed their actions of love and kindness.
  3. To speak words of encouragement for who they can become; exhorting them to live up to the potentials they possess.
  4. To speak words of exhortation for who they should become; encouraging them in their faith and their need to be loyal to God.

Each of us, whether we are a child, a teen, a young adult, or a mature adult, needs to hear these types of valuable words.  For each of us, the following passages prove true.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” (Proverbs 12:25) ESV

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24) ESV

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) ESV

“Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you.”  This expresses a great truth.

But another great truth may be expressed: “Words are free.  It’s how you invest them that may determine the bountifulness of their return.”

May we wisely invest every word we utter.

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My Wife Does The Most Disgusting Thing! I Almost Gag Just Thinking About It.

My wife does something that is really disgusting.

It’s so gross that I almost gag just sitting here thinking about it.

I know you’re not supposed to gossip or talk about others, but I just can’t help it.

The thing my wife does is . . .

. . . put a strainer in the kitchen sink drain so that it catches all the food scraps that might clog the drain.  I hate having to empty this slimy contraption when I wash the dishes.

(Now, for those of you who eased up in your seats to get a better view of a tidbit of juicy gossip, you may settle back into your comfortable position.)

A scrap strainer placed over the sink drain is designed to keep particles from flowing through the pipes and eventually building up into a clog. The captured food appears disgusting. But I can tell you from experience, the prevention is far less gross than a repair.

When it comes to our communication with others and about others, how many times would a strainer prove abundantly useful for our mouths, our ears, our eyes, and our fingertips.

If only we could purchase an inexpensive screen to filter our communication before we pass it on to another person.  If only we could buy a wire mesh which would prevent scrap-like communication from entering our minds. If such a device existed, it would majorly decrease our troubles. And it would amaze us just how disgusting the messages we often send and receive truly are.

But we can’t purchase such a device.

All we can do is work toward being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. (James1:19).  When we realize that the things we say directly reflect the condition our hearts, then we may become more careful about what we send and receive. (Matthew 12:34-37). Being unable to restrain our communication renders our religion null and void. (James1:26).

May we ever strive to make our communication gracious, perfectly seasoned with the salt of Christlikeness. (Colossians 4:6).

(P.S. I received my wife’s permission to publish this as long as I included a disclaimer that I would not have to deal with a gross strainer if I would install a garbage disposal. But that’s another story completely.)


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What Difference Would It Have Made If Daddy And Mama Had Reared Us Just 1 Mile Away From Our Old Homestead?

I was born and reared in Metcalfe County, Kentucky near a small community called Center.  The settlement was at one time called Lafayette, but the name was changed to Center because it is centrally located between four county seats; Edmonton (Metcalfe County), Glasgow (Barren County), Munfordville (Hart County), and Greensburg, (Green County).  From my childhood home, one could find himself standing in any of the other three counties by walking 1- 2 miles as the crow flies in the correct direction.

Today, as I traveled home from Glasgow, I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would have been like had my parents or their ancestors decided to live just 2 miles from the family farmstead. Had I been raised in Barren, Hart, or Green Counties, what would have been different about my current life?

We would have known and developed close relationships with a totally different set of neighbors, so my childhood friends would have been totally different.  I would have gone to a different school system, so I would have probably never met my wife. Receiving a different degree of secondary education at the hands of different teachers may have prompted me to choose a different direction in my collegiate education and vocation.  My family and I may have easily gone to a different congregation of the Lord’s church so that my faith and christian attitudes may have developed differently.

The list could go on, but the point is, just a small change in my childhood life could have made all the difference in the choices I have made throughout my life which have determined much of who I am.

We need to remember this principle when it comes to trying to help others handle and overcome problems within their lives.  These people may have been reared relatively close to us.  Their racial, social, ethnic, economic, religious, and familial environment may have appeared to have been like ours in most every way.  But, throughout the years, just a small, seemingly insignificant difference between our situation and theirs may have made a vast difference between our respective viewpoints of life.

Trying to understand these small differences could easily be the key to succeeding in our desire to help one another.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14) ESV

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Convicted By My Own Kitchen Cabinet!

I pass by huge houses and often think, “Those who live in that house will one day give an account for how they have used or misused the material blessings God has given them. That house is far more extravagant than is necessary to provide for the essentials of life. Think of all the needy people that could be helped with the excess and waste.”

And then I unload the dishwasher in our own house.  I spend several minutes trying to rearrange a single kitchen cabinet devoted just to coffee making; a cabinet filled with coffee cups, large mugs, stainless steel, insulated containers, many types of sweeteners, and several different flavors of coffee and tea.  When I get ready to brew my coffee, I choose between three different brewing appliances.

And I think to myself, “Craig, one day you will give an account for how you have used or misused the material blessings God has given you. And based on this cabinet, you will fail.”

Beware of judging another person’s house based on its outward appearance, because you may very well find the inside of your own house filled with the same type of guilt.

“2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:2-5) NIV

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Thanksgiving: Is This The Holiday Which Best Expresses One’s Feelings For Having The Opportunity To Meet You?

As far back as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been an anticipated time for family get togethers.  The earliest gatherings I can recall involved my Mom’s extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and siblings.  We would either gather at our house, which was the old homestead, or at the home of one of the aunts.  Lively conversation, early Christmas gifts from our great aunts, huge meals, tossing a football around, visiting the sheep pens, and rabbit hunting all made the day special.

As time progressed, the extension and geographical spreading of the different family branches led to an evolution of the Thanksgiving family traditions.  We began to gather with only my Mom’s immediate family; her parents, her siblings, and our first cousins.  I can still recall the different recipes for which each lady was best known and some of the containers in which they were annually served. The extracurricular activities became more centered around watching football on TV and shooting pool if we were in an urban setting, or stripping tobacco and other chores if we met on one of the farms.

When I met and married my wife, this led to a further evolution of our Thanksgiving traditions.  The food was different.  Her family liked casseroles, and “odd” vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts.  Everyone drank tea made from a syrup. They played games such as charades, and everyone was expected to participate. The make-up of the group consisted of extended family from two or three different branches of the clan. There was also generally a couple of senior citizens who had been especially invited because they had no close family of their own with which to gather.

It took me a while to adapt to these “strange” new customs, but I learned to appreciate their value, especially that of inviting those who needed the fellowship even more than we did.

Throughout the years, as our immediate families have grown, our Thanksgiving traditions have changed and evolved.  For 4 years, Sarah and I have been privileged to share this holiday meal with our oldest daughter’s “in-law” family in Wisconsin.  This is something I would have never dreamed of 13 years ago.  Experiencing this family’s traditions has taught me much as well, especially about being truly thankful to God for all the blessings with which he has bestowed us.

If we live very many years on this earth, our lives will be filled with changes in traditions, people, and personal outlooks.  This year, as we enjoyed our meal with a beautiful christian family far from the geographical location of our own home, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the hundreds of people who have influenced my life.  Some have been family members. Some have been teachers.  Some have been fellow students and coworkers. Some have been mere acquaintances. Some have been spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. Some are still influencing my life.  Others have gone on, either in death, or in a different direction of life.

But all have made some type of mark on my life.

I am thankful for these people and our encounters.

But if it is true that they marked me in some way, then it means that I have left some type of mark on each of their lives as well. It may have been a brief scratch or scribble, but it was a mark that can be specifically attributed to our encounter.

Knowing this makes me want to do everything I can to be sure that whatever impression I leave on the life of another person, it will be one worth fondly remembering and one for which he can always be thankful.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) ESV

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:13) ESV

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6) ESV



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