Saturday, December 31, 2022

Heading into winter

I started composing this post in early November and didn't finish it. So I'm picking it up in early December. Here we go:

This morning I am playing hooky in order to get a water hydrant installed down by my barn. It will save me so much work this winter now that I have horses who will need gallons and gallons of water each day. It's a project that's needed to be done all summer, but true to form (in spite of calculations, phone calls, pleadings and being THAT guy) is happening on what may well be the last summery day of the year. Front is supposed to come through tonight with colder temps and rain. We need the rain. 

It warms my heart to look at this place and think how far we've come. What was a mess of weeds and piles of garbage when I first saw it has become a place that people tell me is "peaceful." I agree.

Continued December 8:

I just came up from the barn. Got the horses in and fed them, dealt with a couple invasive mice. Used the above-mentioned hydrant and a short length of hose to fill the horses' water tank which, complete with heater, is making my life so much easier thus far this winter. The horses are weathering this early winter just fine, thank you. I love the evening routine of cleaning out stalls, feeding and tending. It's a good time to check in with them and see how they're doing. And it's a good discipline for me. 

The coyotes were howling down in the Crow River bottom east of my place as I was finishing up. Sounded like a sizable pack, but it doesn't take many coyotes to make a lot of noise. Wish they'd eat some of my mice. or that the cat who wanders through my fresh snow would take care of them. But thus far the mice are a minor annoyance, nothing more. 

My granddaughter turns a year old in a few days. Where did that time go? A lot has happened this past year. It's been good. Very good. 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Stewardship and holiday weekends

 Someone asked me yesterday what I'm doing for the holiday weekend. The question startled me a little bit. I thought, most people go to the lake or go to a parade or go see fireworks on the 4th of July weekend, especially when the holiday itself lands on a Monday. 

What am I doing this weekend? My to-do list is as long as my arm. I want to get my new (to me) sprayer out and spray a few areas in my field. I've got one strip that's going to be shelter belts, but the trees weren't available this spring so it needs to be sprayed, planted with a cover crop, and left until next spring. I also want to knock down the weeds on my food plots. In a couple weeks it will be time to get those planted so the deer can enjoy them this fall. 

Some of the heavy rains we had this spring washed out quite a bit of soil just west of my house. I used the tractor to put most of that back the other day, but it needs some shovel work and packing. I would like to get that done this weekend. 

I'm continuing to work with my horses. I'm helping them learn what's expected of them and they're helping me learn to manage them well. I'm planning to get them saddled up and do some fun riding this weekend, while still working on that growing understanding we're developing. 

I've realized that in spite of all my farm projects, I need some real cardio occasionally, so I'm hoping to get my bike out and go for a longer ride today or tomorrow. 

I spent a half hour weeding in the garden last night (Friday) and it's looking good. Sometime this weekend I should spend another half hour just to keep up. I'm loving the way the garden looks this year. Friends helped me double its size back in May, and we planted a good variety of stuff. The radishes are amazing, and I'm excited for some of the other things that are showing promise. 

I took some time this morning during the gentle rain (thank you Jesus!) to go through receipts and do some filing. Halfway through the year is a good moment to do some financial / tax assessment. 

I'll have time with a couple friends tomorrow morning for worship and joyful fellowship and time in scripture. That will probably be the social highlight of my weekend. 

Then there are all the normal weekend things. I need to run a couple loads of laundry, clean the kitchen, assess what needs to be on my grocery list and get to the store, and all the other odds and ends that go into self-management. 

Why am I sharing all this with you? Good question. I guess I'm a little surprised by the fact that I love this farm life so much that I'm not feeling any kind of loss for not getting to go to the lake, go to a fireworks display, cheer for a parade, or even throw a line in the water. I'm doing exactly what my heart has longed to do for many, many years. Caring for the land and for a couple beautiful animals feels right to me. To get all biblical about it, I'm enjoying the process of living out Romans 8, where Paul writes that all creation is waiting in eager longing for the sons (and daughters) of God to be revealed. I figure this stewardship is one way of putting that into action. 

Whatever you're doing this holiday weekend, whatever stewardship has been entrusted to you, I hope you sense a deep  gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy!

Monday, April 25, 2022


 I turned 56 yesterday. It was an amazing birthday, full of joyful community, worship, excellent conversation, and carrot cake. I couldn't ask for better. 

Still, birthdays always make me reflective. Today, even though it's been a back-to-the-routine workday, has been a much more reflective day with lots of memories. 

Seems like it's a good opportunity to trot out things like grief and heartbreak and longing and make sure I'm dealing straight up with them. Those three especially can twist your mind around in terrible ways if you're not living honestly with them. I firmly believe it's a good idea to take stock of one's heart in those departments at last a few times a year. 

Grief is cumulative, I think. We never really get over it. Every grief taps into every other, and our only hope is to learn to grieve well, to grieve in a healthy way. The losses, small and large, pile on top of one another and they need to be acknowledged. They certainly can't be controlled. Looking grief in the face, however, allows one to step into the present rather than being trapped in the past. 

Heartbreak and grief are related, but they're not the same. Heartbreak is about what could have been but was not. It's related to grief, and grief is certainly a part of it. I've always been enough of a dreamer to think things should be different, and that can trap me in a terrible corner. Dealing with heartbreak is about looking reality in the face and saying as much as things should have been different, they weren't. Take a deep breath and turn toward the way things are and the way things might be in the future. Let the past be broken, and release it. As a very wise friend once told me, "You have to let the past take its rightful place in the past."

Longing is potentially the most damaging of the three. Longing can steal the power of the present and the hope of the future. Longing is the lie that prevents anything good in the here and now. It's a fine line, because knowing your own heart can help you figure out where God is calling you. Psalm 37 says that those desires of your heart are, at least potentially, God-given. I know it's possible to long for things that are far from God, and I've fallen into that trap. But often at the core of even those longings, there is a God-given yearning for something good. 

Transitioning into my late 50's, I'm learning to sit with grief, to let it be a companion, if not a welcome one. This week a man I've known since childhood, a tender, brilliant, articulate man, was laid to rest in my hometown. I grieve for him and all those who feel his loss most deeply. And that grief taps into the grief I carry for so many others, for grandparents and parents and a sister-in-law and friends and mentors and many, many more. 

I hope I'm also learning to let heartbreak temper me rather than shatter me. It's easy to create a fantasy land in which all those old wounds go away and none of my heartbreaks ever happened. But that's not reality. I have received, and given, many deep wounds. It's important to hold them honestly before God and in my own mind. 

When I can do that, when I can live in repentance before God and receive his grace and mercy in the midst of those things, I find that my longings begin to be transformed. I find deep down in the core of my longings a thread of things I've always wanted but couldn't name. And I look around and discover that God has begun to meet those longings and satisfy them in the most amazing ways. The process of God meeting those longings, it turns out, is far more important than the desires themselves. 

So in practical terms, it's three weeks today since the doctors opened me up and installed a new right hip. I'm incredibly grateful for the family and friends that have nursed and nurtured me so well. I'm healing faster than I have any right to expect. Prayer has a lot to do with that. 

The day before I came home from the Cities after surgery, a horse came to live at my 40-acre farm. He and I have been adjusting to each other, and my heart just sings to have him living here. I'm so excited. All the preparation that's gone into revamping my barn and fixing my fences is now bearing good fruit. And just the last couple days, the grass has started greening up in the pasture and he's excited about that, as I am. 

As I write this, six deer are grazing over my septic drainfield and enjoying the new growth on the hill below my house. Their presence is such a gift, and I always take it as a reminder (a la Psalm 42, among others) of God's presence. I can breathe in this place, and God has so richly blessed me by bringing me here. It is a gift indeed, and maybe that's why it's called "the present." It's a good place to live. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Checking in

 You can feel spring trying to break through. Last night I went walking down in the pasture, squishing in several inches of melting snow. I started up my tractor and scooped a few tons of slush out of my driveway. It was melting all day yesterday in the powerful sunshine. The temperature never dropped below freezing last night, and today it's supposed to be in the upper 40's. Any day now the trees are going to start visibly budding and sap will start running. 

With a lot of help, I'm continuing to make progress on the barn and the pasture. Saturday, I think, is going to be a fencing party. It's amazing what my friends will get excited about. 

I'm continuing to get my ducks in a row (not literally, though I have been thinking about getting ducks sometime soon) for my hip surgery. I don't look forward to the process, but I'm so very excited about having a new hip. I had my other one replaced in 2014, and I remember the amazing feeling as it healed up and I was able to do things I hadn't done in a long time. Like standing up straight. 

In some metaphorical ways, it feels like spring as well. I just heard that the Philippines has opened its borders. That opens the way for a Bible translation project to move forward. I've been rooting for this project for a long time, and the restrictions on travel to & within the Philippines have made it impossible. Until now. As much as I would love to be going myself, that's not a possibility. So this time I'm cheering from the stands. 

And all along the way, God is faithful. He continues to provide community, and time in scripture, worship, and prayer with dear friends. He continues to provide for my needs and speak to me through his word. The warm sunshine, trickles of melting water, sloppy roads, and herds of deer milling around in my field in the evening are all signs of hope these days. I hope you are seeing similar signs of God's faithfulness in your own life. 

Monday, February 14, 2022


 A few nights ago I had a dream. I try to pay attention to dreams, partly because they're a way for me to know what's going on deep down inside me that my psyche is trying to process. Also I believe that God uses dreams (sometimes) to communicate with us. So I try to pay attention.

In this dream, I hatched out a tyrannosaurus egg. It was about the size of a grapefruit, and the little monster that hatched out was awkwardly cute and voraciously hungry and determined to chew. He chewed on drywall and old shoes and bits of granite. He took everyday objects and chewed them up into unrecognizable bits of shrapnel. And he grew really, really fast. 

I realized in the dream that I never thought he would hatch alive. And in the dream I had taken on this crazy project knowing that it probably wouldn't work, but it seemed cool at the time. So now that I had a growing dinosaur to manage, I didn't know quite how to deal with it. For anyone who has seen Jurassic Park, you know that there are huge ethical issues (not to mention safety issues) with hatching dinosaurs. In the dream I figured I had to find a realistic way of euthanizing my tyrannosaurus. 

But not yet. 

Meanwhile, people who came to my place as house guests were fascinated and horrified. People who brought their pet dogs over found the dogs laser focused and depending on the dog, terrorized. My friends, visiting in my home, would show me chewed bits of drywall they'd found in my place. One asked, "You ever worry about losing fingers with that thing around?" The little tyrannosaur kept getting bigger. By the end of the dream he was almost the size of a black lab, and he pretty much had the run of my house. My life had shifted to make room for a predatory dinosaur. And I still didn't quite know what to do with him. 

Like all dreams, this one ended. I woke up. The dream didn't feel fearful or icky the way they sometimes do. I found myself wondering about it. I remembered (as you can tell) a ton of detail. Usually remembering the details of dreams with any kind of clarity is a sign to pay attention. 

So I've thought about that dream a lot. 

Things are not quite this simple, but here's the bottom line of my reflections. My whole life these days feels a little like hatching a tyrannosaurus. Most of this I've chosen, like I chose to hatch the little mongrel out in the dream. Some of my current circumstances started out from unpleasant things I didn't choose, like being asked to resign from my most recent church job and not being given a good reason why. That one stumped me for a long time, but I was confident God was working in the details. Turns out that was true. (It always is, because God is good like that.) 

In the aftermath of that unpleasant transition, I did make some choices. I chose to take a job in an industry that was entirely new to me, where the learning curve would be incredibly steep. I chose to live on the 40 acres I'd bought a few months previously. I chose to move out here almost a year ago at the end of March, moving into a camper rather than doing something sensible like renting a place with flushable toilets (or any toilets) and running water. Then I chose to buy a very well used trailer house. Serious fixer-upper. I chose to do most of the fixer-upper work myself (with the help of some incredible friends) rather than hiring someone else to do it. Leveling. Wiring. Plumbing. Wall repair. Floor repair. Toilet replacement. Fixer. Upper. 

In all of that, I have felt most days like I'm bottle-feeding a tyrannosaurus. So to speak. (Yes, I know that in all probability dinosaurs didn't nurse. It's a metaphor. Roll with it. And for the literal-minded and inordinately curious out there, the dream didn't in fact include bottle feeding.)

At the same time, these crazy circumstances have become a deep, deep joy to me. It's February, and I love my evenings in my cozy living room. I love waking up in this place to the sound of my coffee pot going off on the timer. 

I'm getting tremendously excited about spring. There are going to be some challenges coming down the pike, of course. I'm planning to have a hip replaced, and there's a ton of work I want to get done this spring. This combination will require wisdom and balance and restraint. But every inch of progress in this place and this new life has required all of that. There are hugely exciting prospects of animals coming to live here, a barn that has been transformed from dark, unpleasant bondage to beautiful, usable space. That barn is another whole dinosaur. There are plans for gatherings of friends and late night campfires and worship times and work parties and so much more. It's exciting. 

When it's twenty-five below and my pipes freeze up, though, I tend to ask myself why I hatched this crazy monster in the first place. But that's just a fleeting question. In spite of chewed bits of drywall and a growing OCD obsession with counting my fingers, I've grown to love the little mongrel.