Saturday, September 30, 2006

[Thoughts] Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

At five o'clock on the due date, R. C. asked me to write an article for Every Thought Captive. The topic? Obeying foolish rulers. Fitting.

It sounded like a request. He seemed to be asking me if I wanted to write an article. But as I walked over to his desk to learn more about what he expected before accepting, I saw that he had already typed by name next to the title. This wasn't a request. It was a requirement of my new job as Assistant Director of the Highlands Study Center.

So I write. Not because I am new in the job and want to make a good early impression, although that's certainly true. Not because I am an expert on obeying foolish rulers, although I do… I mean, have… worked for a few. I write because my boss told me to write. And though I think him foolish for asking me to write at this late date, I do want to please R. C.

But I want to please Jesus more.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul tells us employees to "be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men." (Eph. 6:5-7)

Which is why, in my former life—last month—I worked 200 hours in two weeks with practically no help to meet a ridiculous deadline which was foolishly and arbitrarily set, having been based on false assumptions, incomplete information and unrealistic expectations. I was obeying foolish rulers. Rulers, I submit, who do not kiss the Son.

My house near Austin was already on the market. I had already interviewed for a couple of jobs, including this one. We had already told friends and family that we were leaving Texas within the month. We were moving to Saint Peter as soon as I had a job or the house sold, whichever came first. The job came first—right during the home stretch of meeting that deadline.

Nevertheless, I worked twelve days in two weeks averaging over 16 hours per day. I met the deadline. The project was a huge success. Everyone was elated with the outcome.

I gave my notice the next day.

My project coordinator couldn't figure out why I'd put in so many hours to assure the success of this project. She couldn't figure out why I wasn't slacking off on the job with "short-timers' disease." But what she didn't know was that I wasn't serving her but Christ my Husband, who is never a foolish ruler.

Which is also the reason I didn't work fourteen 16-hour days in two weeks.

"And God spake all these words… Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." (Ex. 20:1a, 8-11)

My manager had already handed down a poor evaluation for me two months prior for being "unwilling to work on weekends." The one "weekend" I supposedly was unwilling to work, I had worked sixteen hours on Friday and another ten on Saturday. It was Sunday that I told them I was unavailable because it's the Lord's Day and my family would be attending worship together and resting.

Knowing that I was leaving the company and the state to move my family to Saint Peter, I was tempted to assume a laissez faire attitude toward the work. What're they going to do? Fire me? But that would have been disobedient to and dishonoring of my Head. After my poor performance evaluation, I was certainly tempted to work on Sundays to complete the project on time and please my boss. But, that wouldn't have been pleasing to my Boss.

Again, my project coordinator was totally confused on why she couldn't reach me all day on Sunday. But, again, what she didn't know was that I wasn't serving her but Christ my Husband, who is never a foolish ruler.

Jesus bid me labor six days and do all my work. And He bid me rest on the seventh day.

My children saw—and helped—my dear wife, Amy who is great with child, as she worked extra strenuously those two weeks because of my work schedule. And they saw me rest on Sunday. By obeying Christ; by working to please Him and not man, I was also teaching my children to obey their Husband by obeying me, even when I am the foolish ruler.

Amy had it more difficult than I did. As she served me, she was serving those who were over me. But she didn't work for them. They didn't pay her for her time. She had no recourse against them. No "open door" through which she could walk to air her grievances. She had a schedule imposed on her from someone to whom she was never called to submit. But, because she loves her Husband, she served her husband as he served his Husband by serving his boss.

So, in the midst of unpacking and learning the myriad ways to drive to Mendota from just about any exit off I-81, I write my first article for Every Thought Captive, in obedience to my new boss. But it's Christ who put me here, and Christ that I'm serving, even as I serve R. C.

Thank you, Sir. May I have another?

[Originally published in Every Thought Captive, Vol. 9, Issue 2; March/April 2005]

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Thoughts at 9/30/2006 12:16:00 PM

Friday, August 18, 2006

[Leading The Way] Returning to Patriarchy

My friend Danny wants to know: "Is it possible to "turn" a passive father into an active leader?"

I say, Yes, in the same way a wife "turns" her husband into an active leader… Leaders need followers—submissive followers—those who line up on the same team by choice.

But, where the difference comes in is… whereas a wife has a duty and obligation to submit to her own husband, a grown man does not have that same duty and obligation to his father.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. —Gen. 2:24
We are nonetheless to honor our father and mother our entire lives that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. (Eph. 6:2-3; cf. Ex. 20:12) So you "turn" your father into a leader by honoring him, seeking his advice as one who is wise. He's lived longer than you have… he's made some mistakes from which he has learned valuable lessons; ask him about them—not in such a way that he'll feel ridiculed, but as a request from a son who wants to learn from the wisdom of his father.

Psalm 78 is a call for men to speak to their children and grandchildren (and through them, their great- and great-great-grandchildren—that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children [v.6]) about the things of God, what He has taught them, what He has done. If your father doesn't acknowledge God's hand in his life, perhaps you can help your children see it… and through them, help your father see it. But, even if your father doesn't acknowledge God, you are building a "story" of God's faithfulness to tell to your children and grandchildren, that you may be the faithful patriarch you are called to be.

To honor means to "place a high value on" something. If you place a high value on your father's wisdom and experience, you are doing what God commands. Follow the example of 1 Peter 3:1-2:

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
It's not a long walk to apply the same principle to honoring parents:

Sons and daughters, likewise, be honoring to your own mothers and fathers, that even if some do not obey the word, they without a word, may be won by the conduct of their children, when they observe your humility accompanied by fear.
As I often tell my children, it is "not your concern" how someone responds to your actions… if your actions are obedient and righteous. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). The same applies to your efforts to love your wife, train up your children, love the brethren… and honor your parents. As much as depends on you means reading only the exhortations to you:
• "Honor your father and your mother…,"
• "Husbands, love your wives…,"
• "Fathers, do not provoke your children…,"
• "Love the Lord your God…,"
• "Impress them on your children…,"
• "I will open my mouth… I will utter dark sayings of old… [and] will not hide them from their children…"
…and not those that pertain to how others should treat you. Focus on your responsibilities and leave the rest to God.

Remember that God gave you your father. And He commands you to honor him. It's YOU He's after!

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Leading The Way at 8/18/2006 06:38:00 AM

Friday, August 11, 2006

[Leading The Way] The Family Meal Table is "Pure Nostalgia?"

The kids won't behave. We work late. We sold our dining room table. Who wants to cook these days?

And the kids don't want to eat with mom and dad anyway.

Those are just a few of the reasons parents are showing a declining interest in dining with their children.

--John A. Blankenship, Point Blank, The Register-Herald
Blankenship goes on to lament that the afternoon family meal went out "with black-and-white television." One poor misguided mom admits, "It's too much bother to cook a meal nowadays. It's much easier to hit the drive-thru on the way home than it is to plan an entire meal and cook it. There just isn't enough time."

Praise God that He is restoring the family, turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, so that Mr. Blankenship's assessment that "the happy family meal is pure nostalgia" happily misses the mark.

There are many flaws to the arguments for "why" Blankenship believes it to be nostalgia... and even larger gaps in his interviewee selection skills. (Sorry, John, but a couple of colleagues and teenagers hanging out at the mall do not a random sample make.)

For example, he's got it all figured out why families don't eat dinner together anymore. "Reason: Too many parents work. It takes two incomes just to keep up with the mortgage payments." Question: Which came first: the mortgage, or a family economy with both parents working?

And he's a bit quick to sign the family meal table's death certificate. "The American family meal—by which most people mean the evening meal—has been dead for so long that chances for reviving it seem remote at best." Ken and Devon Carpenter, Colin and Nancy Campbell and Doug and Beall Phillips would beg to differ. In fact, their family meal tables are not only continuing to thrive, but are breathing life into dining rooms across the country with their godly example and heritage.

I pray Mr. Blankenship's colleague (at the Register-Herald?) will pick up a copy of "The Family Meal Table" and that she and her husband will reclaim their family; redeeming the evening meal, shaking off past defeat, and raise up a godly generation that will be "the family of [her] dreams."

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Leading The Way at 8/11/2006 02:51:00 PM

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

[Leading The Way] Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Today, I was reading Oswald Chambers' daily devotional from "My Utmost for His Highest," and it gives a picture not only of how to actually apply his collection's title, but also how I am to be toward my children.

Chambers instructs us not to see Jesus primarily as Teacher because what He teaches is unattainable. If we look at Him as only "fixing" our ignorance by downloading the way we should act, and then go try to do it in our own strength, we will fail. We must realize that the teaching is intended to lead us to despair of our own ability to perform it. Our sin-rent bodies are incapable of pleasing God, even if we know how to. When we try to do it on our own, we will inevitably break on some obstacle. Then, we may come to Him as paupers, empty-handed, and receive strength and ability to perform what He teaches. As Chambers says:

But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives are based on that disposition.

This is what Jesus rebukes about in Matthew 23:4. He comes to us and reverses the hypocritical attitude of "do as I say, not as I do" and tells us, when it comes to to obeying the scribe and Pharisees (those who "sit in Moses' seat") we should only do as they say and not as as they do. What they "do" is nothing to help.

My pastor has hermeneutical principle (rule for interpreting Scripture) that he names after himself and encourages people to use when reading the Bible. It goes like this: "When you see someone doing something really stupid in the Bible, do not think, 'How could they be so stupid?' Rather, ask yourself the question, 'How am I this stupid?'"

Here is where we should use that principle as fathers.

Jesus told the multitude and his disciples not to act like the scribes and Pharisees. "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." When training our children, we must not pile burden after burden on them, instructing them to godliness, but doing nothing to help them achieve it. We paint a very ugly picture of our Father in heaven, when we simply download Scripture, precept-upon-precept, "heavy burdens, hard to bear," into our children's heads, admonishing them without nurturing (training) them (Eph. 6:4).

We must not act that way toward them. When we give them instructions, we must also help them do it. This is what training is; showing how to do it. And not in the classic medical way: "watch one, do one, teach one." We need to continue to help until they have so accomplished the task that they begin helping us. That's when we know they don't need our help to accomplish it anymore.

Oh, and by the way, we can't even do that. Again, Jesus is the only Source that can work in us to accomplish this task. And not only do we need to draw from that Source when training our children, but must also point to that Source so they'll know from whence comes our strength.

Only when we trust in Christ alone to help our children trust in Christ alone have we actually trained them to come to Him poor in spirit and give their utmost for His highest!

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Leading The Way at 7/21/2006 06:54:00 AM

Thursday, July 20, 2006

[Thoughts] Laboring the Extra Mile

Having only been in Southwest Virginia a short while, I haven't yet learned whom it is they tell jokes about. But, where I come from, it's Aggies (folks who attend, attended, or ever knew anyone they liked who attends or attended Texas A&M University).

An Aggie had just completed his studies and was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. The Texas Highway Department knew a qualified candidate when they saw one, so they hired him immediately. He was tasked with painting the yellow stripe down the middle of the highway.

After three days, his boss called him in and advised him that he was no longer needed. When the Aggie asked why he was being dismissed, the boss answered, "On your first day here, you painted three miles of stripe, which is good. On your second day, you painted two miles—not as good, but still acceptable. Today, you only painted one mile. This is too far below our standards."

The Aggie accepted the explanation and left. On his way out the door, he said, "Well, alright, but I want you to know, it wasn't my fault. The paint can kept getting farther and farther away."
We hear jokes like this and think, "Work Smarter Not Harder." But, is that was God says? Because we're worldly, when God says to Adam in Genesis 3:17, "Cursed is the ground for your sake," we hear, "work is a curse." We forget that man was created to till the earth (Gen. 2:5) and woman was created to help him (Gen. 2:18, 21-22). It wasn't until after the Fall that that work became difficult (Gen. 3:17-19). The tilling is not the curse, it's weeding. We now have an extra task.

But, we're not off the hook there, either. God tells Adam that he is still to bring forth his food from the ground. It is by taking dominion that we are even allowed to eat! Paul said, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." (2 Thess. 3:10). This is not a new commandment, but a reiteration of the dominion mandate God gave to Adam. If we don't weed the garden, it quickly turns into jungle, producing very little, if any, that will provide nourishment. Jesus said, "in the world you will have tribulation." (John 16:33) Escaping the tribulation that comes with work, means avoiding the work. And going hungry.

God created man in His image; on that we can agree. But even here, we tend to think in ontological terms: because God is a choosing being, we can choose what socks to wear; because God is an emotive being, we can laugh. What we miss is that the exercise of dominion is a reflection of His image. Work reflects the image of God. The first view we have of God is of Him working. "In the beginning, God created…" He's working. To truly reflect his image, we must go out, take the dirt and turn it into something.

And that's how we are to love our jobs, to see the short line between our work and God. Indeed, this is the proper way to enjoy anything, when we can recognize the short walk it is to God. The shorter the walk, the more enjoyment. And work is a very short walk.

Satan has sold us a lie that work is a curse—that everybody's working for the weekend. Everybody's working so they can take a couple of days to do something they really enjoy. Nobody enjoys work; it's just a means to an end. And that end is to stop working… to retire. Which is why you see so many "mature" Americans "running out the clock," traveling across the country in their RVs.

Ironically, though we hate our jobs, we're concerned about them being "outsourced" and sent overseas. Which is even more ironic when you consider that most of our brethren in the evangelical church have already outsourced themselves from their parenting job when they send their children off to day care, pre-school or the local government school. I received an email from my friend, Greg de Mocskonyi, in which he coined what he believes is a new term:

Educational/Parental Outsourcing. It's gotta ring to it, huh? I came up with it listening to some bloke complaining about his job going overseas—being outsourced—and how hard it is to pay for daycare on one paycheck—his wife's. I asked if his wife minded her job being outsourced. He was puzzled. He said her clerical job (Why do wives always seem to have clerical jobs?) was fine and was safe from outsourcing. I said, "Not her employment, her parenting job. You've outsourced her role as a mother. It's parental outsourcing." The conversation pretty much ended there. I don't think he was nearly as amused at my coinage of a new term as I was.
As we discussed on a recent Basement Tape titled All in the Family, we're afraid to actually parent our children because it's hard. That's why we send them off to the "experts" (the government, the Sunday School teacher, the youth group leader), so that we can avoid the work. But, when we do that, we miss out on the blessing of building the Kingdom. God has ordained that we teach our children who God is, what He has done and what He requires of them. And he has given us the means in Deuteronomy 6:

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.(vv 6-7)
Pretty straightforward, huh?
Likewise, he gives clear instructions on how to work in Colossians 3:

Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (vv 22-24)
So, as Jonathan Daugherty says, "quit complaining about the thorns and thistles." Roll up your sleeves, get your fingernails dirty, go the extra mile, work the extra hour; go out and take some dirt and turn it into stuff. That's worship. That's reflecting the image of God. Then you can truly enter into your Master's rest with peace.

[Originally published in Every Thought Captive, Vol. 9, Issue 5; Sept/Oct. 2005]

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Thoughts at 7/20/2006 07:13:00 PM

Thursday, June 29, 2006

[Poetry] Rich

by Edgar Guest

Who has a troop of romping youth
  About his parlor floor,
Who nightly hears a round of cheers,
  When he is at the door,
Who is attacked on every side
  By eager little hands
That reach to tug his grizzled mug,
  The wealth of earth commands.

Who knows the joys of girls and boys,
  His lads and lassies, too,
Who's pounced upon and bounced upon
  When his day's work is through,
Whose trousers know the gentle tug
  Of some glad little tot,
The baby of his crew of love,
  Is wealthier than a lot.

Oh, be he poor and sore distressed
  And weary with the fight,
If with a whoop his healthy troop
  Run, welcoming at night,
And kisses greet him at the end
  Of all his toiling grim,
With what is best in life he's blest
  And rich men envy him.

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Poetry at 6/29/2006 06:41:00 AM

Friday, June 16, 2006

[Thoughts] Family Meal Table

When RCJR and I had the privilege of visiting in the Phillips family home last September, I witnessed a mealtime like I'd never experienced before. Doug sat at the head of a table of 21 people: the Phillips family, the Vision Forum interns, other VF staff, a couple of young ladies who helped with the meal, and us. From this seat of honor (with children on his left and his right), Doug lead a two-hour discussion wherein he led us through a history lesson, a recap of the day's activities, a status report of upcoming events, a Bible quiz (with prizes), poetry-reading, and prayer. I know I learned a great deal during the two evening meals I enjoyed there. His children get this every day!

Which led me on a study of the family meal table... My studies aren't complete, but I have found some resources that have helped a great deal. And I've written about them on my other blog, Leading the Way, which focuses on a father's role to lead his family in every way.

[Read more...]

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Thoughts at 6/16/2006 04:45:00 AM

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Entertaining Angels

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. —Hebrews 13:2

But, you know, sometimes those who entertain strangers are the angels.

We had the unique (to us; though I'm sure it's common for them) pleasure of being guests in the home of the Ken Carpenter Family outside Nashville over the weekend. We're not strangers, but we were last month before the Generations conference. (I did have the pleasure of briefly meeting Ken and his lovely family at the 2005 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival where my boss was a judge, and Ken won the Jubilee Award for best documentary for "A Journey Home.")

What made the visit unique for us, as I told the Carpenters, is that this was the BEST vacation we've ever had! We were greeted with the utmost in hospitality: delicious food, comfortable beds and rooms, great conversation, delightful children (including ours, there were a dozen) and warm Christian charity, love and camaraderie. This family knows how to have fun together and it shows!

Mrs. C, preparing the family meal Mr. C, preparing the family meal table
Carpenter and Howard clans together again

We also got to enjoy the fellowship of our friend, Peter Serven, handsome and talented webmaster for The Serven Clan; and our new friends, Graham and Joel Fisher, who won the 2004 "Best of Festival" Jubilee Award at the SAICFF for their delightful 14-minute short, "The Art of Play."

Peter, REALLY up close and personal!

Heartthrobs of the two-year-old set,
Joel and Graham (or is it Graham and Joel?) Fisher

How encouraging to have my sons see how godly young men conduct themselves, preparing themselves to be husbands and fathers! Peter, Joel and Graham, you're each an inspiration to me!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

[Scrapbook] Like Arrows in the Hands of a Warrior...

Psalm 127:3-4
A Song of Ascents.

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
         The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Boys protect girls!

A righteous man regards his animals

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
         So are the children of one's youth.

Sweet Little Mama

Joyful maiden

5 Happy is the man...

I shall call her... Femi-Me

...who has his quiver full of them.

Psalm 128:1-3
A Song of Ascents.

1 Blessed is every one who fears the LORD,
         Who walks in His ways.
2 When you eat the labor of your hands,
         You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
         In the very heart of your house,

Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.

         Your children like olive plants
         All around your table.

"Gimme that camera!"

"Da- Da- DA!"

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Scrapbook at 6/06/2006 04:34:00 AM

Saturday, June 03, 2006

...And Then There Were None (Killing Time, Part 2)

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." — Genesis 9:1-4
The world around us calls animals people, insisting that they have "rights." It then calls people animals, without purpose, accidental parasites on the planet. But God says, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:26) The United States Constitution affirms "that all men are ... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men." In fact, it was right after God gave Noah permission to have a cook-out (see Gen. 9:1-4 above) that He established the authority of "the State."

From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man.

Whoever sheds man's blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man."
It is precisely because He created man in His image that we have the "unalienable Right" to life! But the beasts of the field, not so...

Warning: Following the wisdom of Herrick Kimball, I'll tell you that the following story is not for the squeamish and/or sissified (though it's written by someone who mostly fits that description). If you want the basic story without graphic descriptions, just read the captions.
As planned, I show up with the boys to help "process" chickens at the house of my friend, the Chicken Farmer.

process /prä'-ses/ v.t. to turn live chickens into dinners.
SYN. butcher or slaughter poultry (ex. chickens)

To be...

The boys and I arrive around 11:15 and find Farmer at the killing shed (a VERY old log building), with all the macabre apparatus assembled to do the deed: killing cones, a cleaver, a gutting knife, pots of scalding water, a trash bag for feathers, heads and feet, and one for the carcasses. Oh! and a hose, poised ready to clean dirt and dropping off the chickens, and blood off of everything else.

Farmer hasn't always had chickens... in fact this is his first flock of meat birds. And the only processing he's done before today was a reaction to an aggressive rooster. Rooster, it seems, was chasing the children and otherwise hastening his arrival at the dinner table. So Farmer called a fellow-agrarian adept in the processing arts and in true med school fashion, Farmer got to "watch one, do one, teach one." And the first one he did on his own was Chicken #1 today.

Apparently these particular chickens are eight-weekers and should be processed when they're eight weeks old. Though God's plans are never thwarted, things don't always go according to our plans: Other priorities prevented Farmer from processing these birds at the 8-week mark. During week ten, the temperatures heated up and he lost more birds than we currently have in the line up. The survivors (who soon won't be) are now ten weeks old, and a couple of them aren't looking like they've got much fight left.

"You ready?" asked Farmer.

"Sure," I said, hoping I sounded convincing.

Head-first into the cone goes Chicken #1.

[Note: Here comes the descriptive part... to squeamish, sissified suburban folks, click here] to skip it.

Still with me? Good... to read the graphic parts, you'll have to highlight all of the following...

Click here -->As he's putting Chicken #1 into the cone, Farmer asks me to hold the feet.

"Now, she doesn't want to be in here, especially once I slit her throat, so you'll have to be ready to hold her in."

"OK." I say, more resolutely than I feel.

Then, as Herrick describes, sure enough, Farmer pulls the Chicken's head down and cuts through the artery. The object is to keep the brain connected to the nervous system so it will continue to tell the heart to keep pumping blood to that artery which will now spill it on the ground. Meanwhile, Chicken is squawking only a little bit... apparently from the initial pain of the cut, but then only as she tries to fight her way out of the cone.

When it looks like she's finally done bleeding out and appears to be dead, my job is to pull her out of the cone and chop her head off with a cleaver. (No, Herrick, I didn't do it the manly way and pull the heads off with my bare hands.) Sometimes, Chicken isn't quite done dying and begins flapping furiously, making me hold on more securely. If I put her down, she'd be running around "like a chicken with her head cut off"literally.

Still holding Chicken's feet, I dip her in scalding water—about 160-170°F—for about 30-40 seconds, which loosens the feathers. I then tie her feet to a rope and begin plucking all the feathers on her legs and breast—we've decided to process them down to only breasts and leg quarters.

Once the feathers are removed, I take the cleaver again and chop the legs off at the end of the drumstick, and then give the bird to Farmer who cuts through the skin and removes the breast "filets" and cuts off the leq quarters. A thorough rinse and that bird goes into a plastic zipper bag and into the fridge. The rest of the carcass is discarded into a separate trash bag. We put the bags in the fridge for three days and then the meat is eaten or frozen.

The first two take about an hour, but then we start to get into a groove.<-- and drag to here.

Ten hours later we finally bag the last one.

...or not to be...

There is no question - homegrown chicken is the best!

Friday, June 02, 2006

[Beards] Procrastinated Pogonotrophic Progress Post

I suppose it was inevitable. Thinking back on it, I can see with 20/20 hindsight that it was a bad idea. I mean how much can one actually say about beards? Enough for an entire topic devoted to it? Not so much. My last entry in this category was in late 2004. Sheesh!

This will probably be my last post in this category, so I thought you might like to see (maybe you couldn't care less, but then... would you still be reading, if that were the case?) some pictures in the progression.

Speaking of procrastination, we have been slackers in the Getting Film Developed Department. We have a bag of rolls that need to be developed and every once in awhile, we'll grab a couple to throw in with a new roll we're developing. Today was one of those days.

Our little church community recently celebrated the baptism of a covenant child by enjoying a feast hosted by the baby's parents. There was food and drink and dancing and food and music and food and touch football and tire-swinging and food and laughter and conversation and food and dancing and joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. WHERE?! Down in m-- uh... sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, the feast! And we got some great pictures of parents and children and babies and grandparents dancing. (Watch Every Thought Captive for the highlights.) Today we ran those two rolls to get developed and grabbed a couple from the bag to go with them.

One of the rolls was from Christmas 2002! We only had two children then, and ds#2 (now age 6) was wearing the pajamas that dd#1 (age 2) is wearing tonight. Ds#2 had curly hair back then (it didn't come back as curly after his first "real" haircut, around his third birthday). The other roll was from about the time of my last "Beard" blog entry.

So, here are a couple of pictures of the early stages of my beard:

Homeschool Dad's Breakfast - October, 2004

(BTW, the gentleman to my left in this pic, is my friend Wade Myers, one of the speakers at Vision Forum's Entrepreneurial Bootcamp. Wade is worth the price of admission!)

Feasting with our good friends after visiting Saint Peter

Celebrating the news that dd#1 was going to be a big sister

All of the above are during the VERY early stages of my beardedness. For a current view, this was recently posted by our friends, the Serven Clan, on their blog:

Enrapt in coversation with the Serven "children" — the four oldest are adults!

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Beards at 6/02/2006 10:49:00 PM

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Killing Time

When we moved to Abingdon, it was a step toward "the country." Abingdon itself is pretty rural compared to our upbringing in the suburbs of Dallas and then subsequent life in the suburbs of Austin. (Heck, Bristol was rural compared to those places!) We're on a whopping three-quarter acres of hillside, but we're hoping to make the best of it. We've planted a garden with several lettuce types, carrots (not doing so well in this rocky soil), peas, corn, potatoes and pumpkin. We're running late, but still hope to get some green beans and squash in around the corn in the "three sisters" method. We also have blueberry and cherry bushes, and two cherry trees. We won't get blueberries until year three, but we're hoping for cherries this year.

I never had "farm" animals growing up; only a plethora of furry house-pets: cats, a dog or two, and a rabbit once. But since we moved here, I've wanted to get some animals, starting with something small like chickens, then moving "up" to goats, pigs, and cows, etc. Even though my boss is famous in our circles for being the World's Worst Chicken Farmer, several other folks in our community have made a pretty good go of it. One friend, in fact, has begun selling us his farm-fresh free-ish-range eggs. They're delicious!

I mentioned in my last post that we have been reading Herrick Kimball's excellent book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. We've really been enjoying Mr. Kimball's delightful delivery of his exploits into a simple, separate and deliberate life of agrarianism. Though reading, you're first response might be, "It can't always be all that he cracks it up to be," you still come away with a sense that, "Yeah, in most ways, I think he's on to something." Until...

Chapter 17 has the ominous title, "Pulling Chicken Heads Off." Mr. Kimball, assuming you didn't read the chapter title very well, graciously includes a warning here:

WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions that may appall and offend some non-agrarian readers.
After reading "graphic descriptions" of Killing, Scalding, Plucking, Head Removing and Gutting, I realized even more clearly how non-agrarian (read: "squeamish, sissified suburban boy") I am. But, still, this is the direction I believe God would have us move, so I'm willing to take on graphic descriptions and take them captive to the obedience of Christ.

Now, though, we're really going to get the opportunity to get our hands dirty... literally!

I spoke with our egg supplier yesterday and he was lamenting the fact that heat had claimed 10 of his birds, and that we wasn't able to take off work to "process" them. "Need some help?" I offered. "Oh, man... we were just talking last night about how we were going to need some help processing them and were wondering who we could ask. That would be great!"

So, this Saturday, the Howards are going to his house to help process their chickens. It'll be a great day of taking dominion over the earth—and getting disgustingly messy. What more could a boy ask for? :)

Stay tuned... I expect to have my own "Pulling Chicken Heads Off" chapter very soon!

Friday, May 26, 2006

[Reading] Book: Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian

Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian by Herrick Kimball
Whizbang Books, 2006

I know you've heard of this book from others, but then maybe you haven't. This is a great book!

I recently brought this delightful treasure home and then it quickly disappeared as Amy began savoring it, little by little. I managed to get some time to read more today. I'm only on the fourth chapter (Amy's way further along and regularly whets my appetite with, "Wait 'til you get the part where he talks about...!") and I just had to share one of these little nuggets of truth that many of us miss unless we're paying attention. And even then, we might still miss it because we're Moderns:

Moderns can't help but do the math: two hours of work to prepare five packages of frozen strawberries... "Wow! Those are some expensive berries you got there! Don't you agrarians realize it's cheaper and easier to just go buy frozen fruit at the supermarket?"

That is the natural conclusion of people who live their lives believing that money is the only—or, at least, the most important—standard of value.

Agrarians, on the other hand, see this sort of thing very differently. We see value in the doing of planting, tending, harvesting, processing, and putting up our own food. We see value in knowing where our food comes from. We see value in the assurance that this food is pure and safe. We see value in the incredibly superior flavor of homegrown and fresh-picked food. We see value in the satisfaction that comes with being able to take care of our 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.
Preach it, Brother! Pick up this book and read Mr. Kimball's blog. He has some great things to say. We need to hear it!

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Reading at 5/26/2006 08:04:00 PM

Thursday, May 11, 2006

[Thoughts] Pre-, Inter-, and Post-Conference Hobnobbing

Well, another Highlands Study Center conference is behind us. I received lots of positive feedback. The title of the conference was Generations: Giving Honor to Whom Honor is Due. The speakers were top-notch and delivered powerful lectures to our crowd of over 700 people (in less than 200 families, mind you).

One of the wonderful aspects of my job is that I get to interact with godly men and families who are impacting the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of lives. Of course, working for R. C. Sproul Jr. is a joy and a privilege. He is a wonderful father, a devoted husband, a caring friend and shining example of Christ's grace to men. His father, R. C. Sproul—whom I've listened to and read for years, I've had the privilege of meeting only once before, after a long trip to RCJR's house. We didn't converse much on that occasion, but this one was different. He is a gracious, godly man, who loves his son and his grandchildren with abandon. (He also loves the Steelers, but I'm willing to overlook that—indeed, it's a Sproul family trait!) Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum, is a man among men. How wonderful it was to have Beall and all the children with him this time! And Doug's father, Howard Phillips, is a powerhouse who understands the major challenges of our day!

Rowan and I arrived at the airport Thursday in time to see the younger Phillips family, along with Peter Bradrick, Doug's personal assistant, and Nathaniel Darnell, Vision Forum's new "video guy," exit the plane—they had half the seats on the plane. We loaded up the 15-passenger van—with Nathaniel and all of their luggage; everyone else rode in two other rental cars! ;)

After depositing them all at the hotel and making sure they found a place to have dinner, Rowan and I headed home for a quick dinner ourselves. Later that evening, I had the pleasure of a "being a fly on the wall" during a conversation between all four of our speakers on the topic of "Reformation and Revolution." It will be our next Basement Tape that will soon go out to all of our monthly supporters, who, like me, will also get to be a "fly on the wall."

In the conversation after the conversation, Doug asked RCJR to share some of his memories of great and godly men who had shared the family meal table with them when he was growing up. The ensuing conversation revealed a common thread between these two families in the way they had families meals. Both of the "second generation" families continue the tradition of a father teaching his children at the family meal table, with differences of style and content, of course. Stay tuned for a post in the near future regarding the family meal table...

Talking with RC Sr. and Howard was a treat. Both are gracious, humble men, and I count it a privilege to know them. I had a chance to talk with Howard during lunch on Saturday about the work my friend, Robert, and I had done founding the Constitution Party of Williamson County while we were still in Texas. When I asked what we could do locally to get a party going, he recruited me to run for office... almost. ;) Lunch took longer than expected, and Howard offered to skip his lunch and head back to the conference in order to keep us on track. As we continued to wait, I took him up on his offer, wrapping his meal up to go when it came. He ate it (cold) between the next two breaks with no complaint. I'm deeply grateful for his sacrifice for the sake of our conferees. (He also gave me some catering advice that I'll use next year!)

Another meal, after the conference, at the Sprouls' Jr. home was another delight. A delicious dinner cooked by Matt Clement (a local favorite chef!) and extraordinary hospitality by the Williams family of Kennesaw, GA, set the stage for engaging conversation and warm fellowship with the Phillips and Sproul families. While Rowan was playing outside with the Sproul and Phillips children, Amy and I had the pleasure of relaxed conversation at our table with Doug & Beall, Howard, Laurence & Angela, and Dakota & Samantha. The family meal table came up again here and the ensuing discussion helped Amy and me solidify some plans of our own to change the way we do things.

Later, we all roared at the banter and antics of RC Sr. and Howard as they "one-upped" one another naming Boston Braves players (the Braves left Boston after the 1952 season!). These two made quick friends and we all laughed at their stories from days gone by.

One of the highlights of the conference was the beautiful singing of Genevan Foundation, made up of the three oldest Serven children and our own Jonathon Landell (who also played piano and was our roving photographer). This talented quartet led us all in a Psalm Sing Saturday morning, with a beautiful rendition of Psalm 98.

We were touched by a request after worship on Sunday. Mrs. Serven approached me and said her children had discussed it and they wanted to get to know us better, but only had two small hotel rooms to offer as a place to fellowship. So, the sixteen of us spread out at one long table at Cracker Barrel and had a wonderful time! After that, we welcomed them into our somewhat messy (from a week of conference preparation) home. What a joy they were! Our only regret is that Marcus (the patriarch of the clan) was unable to be with them. However, a great treat, especially for Rowan, was when Rebecca, Nathan and Elizabeth let him join in as tenor on singing "Genevan Song," which was featured on the SAICFF 2005 Jubilee Award-winning documentary, "A Journey Home," directed/produced by Ken Carpenter at Franklin Springs Family Media. Rowan just beamed! Thanks, guys!

Speaking of the Carpenters... Amy had the pleasure of getting to know Ken and his lovely wife, Devon, at the Franklin Springs booth during the conference. During their conversation, they worked out to spend some time with us on Monday before they headed home. We met them at Java J's for coffees and danishes and pleasant conversation, while the children enjoyed the board games provided. Then it was back to our house for lunch. Again, a delightful visit was had by all!

This is a conference our family will never forget! And we can't wait to see all of our new friends again.

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Thoughts at 5/10/2006 01:41:00 PM

Thursday, April 20, 2006

[Advice] Build a Log Home and Be Free!

To fail to plan is to plan to fail. — Some Wise Fellow Somewhere
I have a plan... well, a vision, actually... OK, for now, it's still a bit of a dream. But, I'm in the process of planning out my vision to make my dream a reality.

Though I was born in one of the wealthiest, most free countries ever founded in the history of the world, by the time I came along, most of that freedom had been lost, stolen, given away and otherwise squandered. We have given up our freedom for security; we've given it up for convenience; we've let it slip away piecemeal through various tax, building and zoning codes; we've squandered our freedom on the altar of personal peace and affluence. I've heard that in California, you can actually take out a 90-year mortgage! In order to have the house we want now, we're actually willing to make ourselves slaves for the rest of our lives, paying a multiplier just a little less than our interest rate times the sales price just for the privilege of living in it now (On a 100-year mortgage at 7.5% would cost 7.5 times the loan amount). But is it "living," when we're owned by the house we own. We actually enslave our children with our endless debt, just so we can have what we want when we want it.

Enter Skip Ellsworth, fourth-generation log home builder. Forty years ago, having grown up building log homes with his father, Skip started teaching others how to build log homes the right way. The "right way" to build a log home and Skip's philosophy of life have inspired tens of thousands of people to build their own homes at a fraction of the cost of other stick-and-mortar site-built homes. Skip has now passed the baton on to his son who, every month or so, invites about forty would-be log home builders to Skip's 7000-sq. ft house (Maurice Minifield's home in Northern Exposure) outside Seattle to teach them Skip's way of building log homes.

Now, Ellsworth and his co-teacher, Steve, know alot about building log homes; not just Skip's way, but how others have done it, how the kit home folks typically do theirs and why you want to avoid them like the plague, what makes a "log" home and when it becomes something else. They have a bias toward actual logs (as opposed to perfectly round 'dowels' made from trees, or so-called 'D-logs') because trees have an outer protective ring which naturally helps fight insect infestation; making a dowel or a 'D' out of them removes that protection, as does rough-hewing them into square beams. Additionally, logs have a God-given beauty to them that is destroyed when you make them all look the same: they taper from one end to the other, they bow, they have knots and branches, they 'check' over time and have a strong, rugged beauty to them that you lose when they're no longer logs. Once you start on the path toward log-home building (that is, building with actual logs), you find that there are several building techniques that have been used over the years, and a couple more that are used by kit home makers.

All of us who had Lincoln Logs™ growing up know about the 'chinked' method of building with logs: cut a notch on the top and bottom of the log, near the end, so that each layer's notches fit into the next layer. In this method, all of the 'load' is on the corners, which have been weakened by the notching. Any variation of the 'chink' to make the logs fit together will weaken the logs, right at the point that they're supposed to be holding up the weight of the house.

Kit builders use various 'cuts' into the logs to make them sit on top of each other, each of which contributes to splitting the logs over time (sometimes it's a very short time). Even though the weight is more evenly distributed down the length of the log, the weight from above pressing on the 'cut' below causes the logs to split. What you want is a full intact log on each layer, that is in full contact with the log below it to allow for equal weight distribution throughout. The only way to get logs to sit perfectly on logs is to 'cope' the top log so that it perfectly fits the log below it. This is called the Scandinavian Chinkless method. It's a very meticulous process if done right. Which is why kit home makers and even custom log home builders aren't likely to use this method.

So, the strongest wood-on-wood home is a Scandy. And to have it done right, you're going to have to do it yourself. But there's still a problem: rot. When wood gets wet and stays wet, it rots and disintegrates. Wood is of course very porous and 'wicks' water like the wick of an oil lamp pulls the oil up to be burned by the flame. When two pieces of wood are in constant contact with each other, water will be wicked to points of contact and stay there. Go to an outdoor lumber yard in the summertime when there hasn't been rain in a couple of weeks. As you lift dry boards, you'll see water between them. This water, over time, will rot both pieces of wood, so even though you have a stronger, more evenly-distributed home with a Scandinavian Chinkless home, you still have to figure out a way to keep the moisture out (or let it escape) so that your walls don't fall down from rot on the inside.

Ellsworth and Steve are all about energy conservation. "It's just that it's our energy we want to conserve." So their goal is to teach you the best, easiest, cheapest, fastest, lowest-maintenance, longest-lasting log home building methods and techniques. The object is to get a CO (certificate of occupancy) as quickly as possible so that you can move in to your debt-free home.

Now, they're also about quality construction, which is why they teach the butt-and-pass method. Using this method, you can build with "green" logs and your house won't shrink and it won't fall down. It doesn't settle. You don't have to use telescoping plumbing fixtures and leave big gaps behind the headers of your doors and windows, because the logs aren't moving, even though they'll shrink toward their own center over the first year and continue to expand and contract with climate changes. This is also one of the quicker ways to build.

Wallace Falls Lodge was built by Log Home Builders Association members. All of the wall logs were put up in two weeks by Tim and his daughter (who was nine years old, at the time!) during Spring Break. Then Tim put the entire roof on by himself in another ten days. You can see from the pictures that the place is beautiful, and well-constructed!

One of the great things about the LHBA is you only pay for the initial class. After that, the meetings are free for members to share plans, critique scale models; network for land deals, free mobile homes to live in while you build, sign up to help someone who's ready to build in order to learn hands-on; swap tools, etc. All the meetings are currently hosted at Skip's house in Washington, so there is the airfare, rental car and lodging aspect if you're not local. But Steve mentioned that they were hoping someone would build something big enough on the east coast (because there are LOTS of members on this side of the country, too) so that we could have some of those members meetings in our neck of the woods. I'm game!! ;)

But even if you can't make it to the members meetings, they have a "member's only" forum where Steve and Ellsworth and other "Certified Log Home Builders" share ideas, deals, etc... the only thing you can't get in the forum is face-to-face with a scale model. It's a great place to ask a question, to share your successes and get encouragement.

Do you want to be free? Build your own low-maintenance log home, debt-free. They recommend you take the class at least two years before you start building... the longer the lead time, the cheaper it's going to be; and the less frustrated you're going to be.

If you go to the class, drop me a line (especially if you're in the Mid-Atlantic, more specifically, Southern Appalachia). I'd be glad to compare notes, critique your scale model and swing a sledge to help you make your dream a reality.

Two tips when you go to class: (a) take some slippers to class (Steve says: "There are two kinds of people who take this class. Those who wear slippers, and those who wish they had."); and (b) don't forget your lunch—they have a large fridge and all the standard kitchen appliances, which you're welcome to use.

FREEDOM!!! —William Wallace

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Advice at 4/19/2006 08:41:00 PM

Friday, April 14, 2006

[Poetry] How Did You Die?

by Edmund Cooke

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it.
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there-that's a disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
It's how did you fight and why?

And though you be done to death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only, how did you die?

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Poetry at 4/13/2006 04:35:00 PM

[Poetry] The Telephone

by Robert Frost

"When I was just as far as I could walk
From here today,
There was an hour
All still
When leaning with my head against a flower
I heard you talk.
Don't say I didn't, for I heard you say—
You spoke from that flower on the windowsill—
Do you remember what it was you said?"

"First tell me what it was you thought you heard."

"Having found the flower and driven a bee away,
I leaned my head,
And holding by the stalk,
I listened and I thought I caught the word—
What was it? Did you call me by my name?
Or did you say—
Someone said 'Come'—I heard it as I bowed."

"I may have thought as much, but not aloud."

"Well, so I came."

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Poetry at 4/12/2006 02:00:00 PM

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

[Poetry] It Couldn't Be Done

by Edgar Guest

Somebody said it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing and he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one has ever done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing and he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Poetry at 4/06/2006 04:45:00 PM

Thursday, April 06, 2006

[Poetry] If

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think-and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son!

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Poetry at 4/05/2006 07:20:00 AM

Monday, April 03, 2006

[Poetry] Blueberries

by Robert Frost

"YOU ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!"

"I don't know what part of the pasture you mean."

"You know where they cut off the woods-let me see-
It was two years ago-or no!-can it be
No longer than that?-and the following fall
The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall."

"Why, there hasn't been time for the bushes to grow.
That's always the way with the blueberries, though:
There may not have been the ghost of a sign
Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine,
But get the pine out of the way, you may burn
The pasture all over until not a fern
Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick,
And presto, they're up all around you as thick
And hard to explain as a conjuror's trick."

"It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit.
I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot.
And after all really they're ebony skinned:
The blue's but a mist from the breath of the wind,
A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand,
And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned."

"Does Mortenson know what he has, do you think?"

"He may and not care and so leave the chewink
To gather them for him-you know what he is.
He won't make the fact that they're rightfully his
An excuse for keeping us other folk out."

"I wonder you didn't see Loren about."

"The best of it was that I did. Do you know,
I was just getting through what the field had to show
And over the wall and into the road,
When who should come by, with a democrat-load
Of all the young chattering Lorens alive,
But Loren, the fatherly, out for a drive."

"He saw you, then? What did he do? Did he frown?"
"He just kept nodding his head up and down.
You know how politely he always goes by.
But he thought a big thought-I could tell by his eye-
Which being expressed, might be this in effect:
'I have left those there berries, I shrewdly suspect,
To ripen too long. I am greatly to blame.'"

"He's a thriftier person than some I could name."

"He seems to be thrifty; and hasn't he need,
With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed?
He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say,
Like birds. They store a great many away.
They eat them the year round, and those they don't eat
They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet."

"Who cares what they say? It's a nice way to live,
Just taking what Nature is willing to give,
Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow."

"I wish you had seen his perpetual bow-
And the air of the youngsters! Not one of them turned,
And they looked so solemn-absurdly concerned."

"I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
I met them one day and each had a flower
Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower;
Some strange kind-they told me it hadn't a name."

"I've told you how once not long after we came,
I almost provoked poor Loren to mirth
By going to him of all people on earth
To ask if he knew any fruit to be had
For the picking. The rascal, he said he'd be glad
To tell if he knew. But the year had been bad.
There had been some berries-but those were all gone.
He didn't say where they had been. He went on:
'I'm sure-I'm sure'-as polite as could be.
He spoke to his wife in the door, 'Let me see,
Mame, we don't know any good berrying place?'
It was all he could do to keep a straight face.

"If he thinks all the fruit that grows wild is for him,
He'll find he's mistaken. See here, for a whim,
We'll pick in the Mortensons' pasture this year.
We'll go in the morning, that is, if it's clear,
And the sun shines out warm: the vines must be wet.
It's so long since I picked I almost forget
How we used to pick berries: we took one look round,
Then sank out of sight like trolls underground,
And saw nothing more of each other, or heard,
Unless when you said I was keeping a bird
Away from its nest, and I said it was you.
'Well, one of us is.' For complaining it flew
Around and around us. And then for a while
We picked, till I feared you had wandered a mile,
And I thought I had lost you. I lifted a shout
Too loud for the distance you were, it turned out,
For when you made answer, your voice was as low
As talking-you stood up beside me, you know."

"We sha'n't have the place to ourselves to enjoy-
Not likely, when all the young Lorens deploy.
They'll be there to-morrow, or even to-night.
They won't be too friendly-they may be polite-
To people they look on as having no right
To pick where they're picking. But we won't complain.
You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain,
The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves,
Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves."

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Poetry at 4/03/2006 04:26:00 PM

Saturday, April 01, 2006

National Poetry Month

Well, some bureaucrat somewhere decided that April is National Poetry Month. Not sure what that means we're all supposed to do: read poetry? write poetry? speak only in quatrains? iambic pentameter? do haikus count?

So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to post some of my favorite poems (I already had a Poetry category, so it seemed only logical).

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

[Scrapbook] Boyz in the Wood

In January, we moved to what we affectionately call, the "Treehouse," just outside of Abingdon. It's a small homestead, barely an acre on the side of a hill—but we LOVE it! The views are wonderful.

Views from the Treehouse

We've already planted carrots (see my bride's blog for details), two cherry trees, two cherry bushes and two blueberry bushes. By the light of the moon, we'll be planting lettuce and peas in our kitchen garden. When the snow stops, we'll really get going with the rest of the gardens: vegetable and herb.

Until it stops snowing...

In the meantime, when the weather is nice, the boys and I have started taking hikes in the woods up to the top of "our" hill.

Boyz in hoods in the woods

God has blessed us tremendously with this house and we look forward to many years here, Lord willing.

Posted by Jim Bob Howard to Scrapbook at 3/25/2006 06:11:00 PM

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Blog: Amy Joe Jim Bob

My precious bride has begun blogging, as a journal of what God is teaching her, in the hope that God might use it to encourage others in the spirit of Titus 2.

I invite you to read her blog and let her know your thoughts:
Amy Joe Jim Bob

Jim Bob