Manure Happens

Manure is a most101

int’resting thing

Put it in the garden

And the plants turn green

Rub it on your lips

They’ll never be chapped

It ain’t that it heals

But youll stop lickin’, true fact.

It polishes boots

Gives’em a shine,

Even masks the smell

Comin’ from the inside.

It comes in all hues

Of brown, black and green

From the dark em’rald free range

To high-grain-grey and b’tween.

To numerous to mention

Are the names it goes by

All manners of slang like,

chip, muffin, patty, and pie.

It lays in fields undisturbed

a testament to feed

four chambers of leftovers

a vet gets to read.

The little swirled disk,

Like a book it contains

Everything that that went in

And what still remains.

The stuff that ain’t turned to beef

Hits the ground with a thud

Showing off all the great things

That manure’s made of.

Manure is fascinating,

And so much info wont fit

Some much more to say

But it’s time to end the bull…you get the picture.

Manure is something I am quite familiar with. It seems to be everywhere I travel, most places I stay, and few places that most would want to spend an expended period of time. Gardner’s, ranchers, and farmers love the stuff. Put some in the bottom of a hole and place a plant on top and the poo produces produce; the manure makes magic; the feces fosters flora. Shoot it in the air over your brome, alfalfa, or any other crops and refuse becomes reused.

This has probably been the most you have ever read about dung and it is certainly the most I have ever written about it; but I read a read a fascinating statement the other day that brought to my mind manure.

Paul says in Philippians 2.12: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you will and to act according to his good purpose.”

A study of this word, as used in Papyri, is helpful to mention at this point. The word occurs various places without any real background information or illusory usage. However, in one script, dated to 119 b.c., the word for “work out” [gk. Katergazomai] was used of a man named Menches. Menches was given the job of Scribe of the Village, under the presupposition that he would take a previously unproductive field in the village and turn it profitable, at his own expense of course. His task was to “cultivate” [katergazomai] this field and make it profitable. How does one “cultivate” a field? Turn it from unproductive to productive? It takes labor, stress, and change. (Papyrus Tebtynis 1.10)

The Greek word for “work out” is used 22 times in scripture and many times it is used in connection to pressure and opposition of some kind. Paul says in Romans 5, in the face of suffering:

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces [katergazomai] perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (v.3)

“…do not lose heart…for our light and momentary troubles are achieving [katergazomai] for us and eternal glory that far outweighs them all…” (2 Cor. 4.16-17)

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God…for while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us [katergazomai] for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit…” (2 Cor. 5.1-5)

“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that went the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done [katergazomai] everything, to stand.” (Eph 6.13)

James would add to Paul’s argument of cultivation despite opposition with this:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…” (James 1.3)

The book of Philippians was written to a church in Macedonia where great persecution was happening.  Paul mentions his own chains, the ones he is dealing with in Rome at present, in the first chapter of his letter.  Those in Macedonia are facing pressure and suffering; trials and persecution.  It is a struggle, Paul writes in Phil. 1.30.  After he mentions both his and their struggle, Paul moves into Christ’s afflictions and his attitude:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2.8)

Then comes the verse that was looked at earlier.  Paul says: “work out your salvation.” (Phil 2.12)  Remember this is Paul who knows that it is not by his own accord or works that brings righteousness (Phil 3.9), but faith.  He isn’t advocating works as a means to salvation, but a process that ends in salvation.  Paul is saying: “Your salvation will come about, but sometimes you have to trod through the manure of this life.”  Cultivation [katergazomai] is a hard, messy, manure filled journey to harvest…just like our salvation.  Jesus promised us life….he never said it would be easy.

In the face of opposition, while standing in the manure, what comes out? Cultivate the crops. Cultivate the field. When manure happens, cultivation happens. When the manure is spread, it can smother us or grow us. Paul testifies to it and so does James. For those of us living in the manure, what will the outcome be? Will it cultivate us to become more God-like, or will we let it derail us? In the midst of disease, divorce, and doubt; while cancer strikes and confusion hits; when manure makes its appearance…what happens? Cultivation is happening, how do we respond?

A little bird was flying south for the winter when a cold arctic blast hit him. He fell to the ground, his wings frozen, and prepared to die. Just then a cow wandered pie and pooped on him. While laying in a pile of poo, the little birdie began to warm up. He found himself so excited that he began to chirp. A cat wandered by and heard the chirping. He dug the little birdie out and ate him. A couple points come out from this story:

  • Not everyone who poops on you is your enemy.
  • Not everyone who digs you out is your friend.
  • When you find yourself covered in poop, its best you keep your mouth shut.

David Erickson posed the question so eloquently in his Preaching and Teaching Sermon in 2007 when he asked: “What do you do when you find yourself in the midst of the uncomfortable?”

When we find ourselves knee deep in manure, the only thing to do is cultivate! Keep working the land; keep turning over dirt; and develop the perseverance that Paul talked about. In the midst of cancer, death, divorce, and denial, use it as fertilizer for the life that will come. Cultivation uses manure and poo to bring new life and new growth.

In the moment poo stinks, is unsanitary, and worthless. But when applied to a field, a plant, or a garden, manure is transferred and changed into something that gives life, gives sustenance and nutrition. Our sufferings and doubts can lead to the same place.

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Growing Pains

The rain came down this morning.

I knew it was comin’ in.

The creaking in my achy bones,

Told me ‘fore the weathermen.

 

Doc says its cause I’m growin’ up.

I’m getting older by the day.

My body’s fighting ‘gainst the time.

Some say its growing pains.

 

The change in bar-o-metric pressure

Ties my knees up in a bind.

As the isobars huddle up,

My hips, they creak and grind.

 

Rodeo’s been kind a hard,

On all my parts the move.

They do alright on most my days

But weather puts ‘em in a mood.

 

Before the crack of thunder

My fingers start to pop

My back refuses a simple flex

And neck pain just wont stop

 

My hands wont grip a single thing

Every joint remains in state

My phalanges swell and stiff

And my feet wont supinate

 

See just before the change in temp

My ankles remain affixed

My shoulders feel their glued in place

Cold air blows and it all sticks

 

So like the Tin Man in the Oz

I hate how the rain treats me

My cows and crops they love it

it’s a conundrum, cant you see?

So what’s a stove up cowboy do,

When the rain and cold transpire?

Simply put, the rem’dy is…

Find a warm beach and retire.

When reading the first few chapters of Exodus, my mind is drawn to the growing pains that faced the people of God.  A nation, a people in its infancy, seventy in all (Ex. 1.5; Deut 10.22), settled in the northernmost region of the Nile (Gen. 47.27).  The land of Goshen was a paradise, constantly and consistently fed by the waters of the Nile.  It was a perfect place of refuge from famine (which is what brought them there in the first place) and to graze their herds of sheep.  Long after the time of Joseph, the Hebrews found themselves in a land that was not their own with leader who didn’t know Joseph or his legacy (Ex. 1.8) and a cold wind started to blow in Egypt.

The new Pharaoh saw the numbers grew to the point of threatening his leadership and rule.  If they ever decided not to stay in line, they could over run the country.  From that point on Pharaoh enslaved the Israelite, forcing them to build cities, make bricks, and work the fields.  They became forced labor.  Growing pain number 1.

After the enslavement, Pharaoh had a talk with the Hebrew midwives.  At Pharaoh’s request, they were to kill any male baby born to the Hebrews (Ex.1.15-16).  They were on a hit list. Growing pain number 2.

Finally, if Pharaoh can’t force their numbers down or abort them out…he was going to drown them out. (Ex. 1.22)  Their babies being thrown into the Nile, was Pharaoh’s way of exerting his power, exercising his authority, and thinning out the Hebrews.  The Nile, which gave life to their land of Goshen, was now the instrument Pharaoh was using to kill their babies.  Genocide.  Growing pain number 3.

Despite Pharaoh’s best attempts, the Hebrews multiplied.  After Joseph’s death they “were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, and the land was filled with them.” (Ex. 1.7)  Then Pharaoh enslaved them and “the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.” (Ex 1.12)  Then Pharaoh tried to abort them, but the midwives feared God (1.17) and the people “increased and became even more numerous.” (1.20) Finally, Pharaoh ordered all male babies thrown into the Nile.  It was from these waters, that Pharaoh’s daughter would “draw out” Moses, the one who would deliver their people. (2.5-6)

Despite the pain of this time, in hindsight, God used it to grow the nation to upwards, of some estimates, 2 million people at the time of the Crossing of the Reed Sea. It was during this time of subjugation and persecution that lessons, growing pains, were learned by the people like:

  • A testament that evil will not prevail over God’s people. The Hebrews withstood persecution from the most powerful man on the face of the earth at the time. He was a God in his own country, who held the fate of men in his hands. Yet the people of God flourished.
  • A lesson about salvation. Over the next 900 or so years of Israel’s history, God’s action at the Reed Sea, would be a constant testament to God’s ability to save His people. It was a lesson in his power as He plagued the Egyptians and protected Goshen. It was a lesson in control as God made the Hebrews plunder the Egyptians without force. (Ex 12.36) They learned salvation as He parted the Sea before them. They understood his judgment as He brought the waves down on the Egyptian army.
  • A lesson in loving others. During His instruction of the people, in His commands to love and care for the down and out, the poor, and the alien, He reminds them that they were once aliens in Egypt (Exodus 22.21; 23.9; Lev. 19.34; Deut. 10.19; 15.15). There is no better teacher than experience. They felt subjugation; will they learn from it and show mercy to the aliens amongst them?

For 430 years, Israel lived in Egypt (Ex. 12.40) under the protection of mighty Egypt. Without fear from invasion, the infant nation grew into a powerful people. But as they grew the experienced pains that would forever give them learning about God and His interaction with man. It is my prayer that these lessons stick as I grow as well for I occasionally experience fear in the face of evil, though Jesus tells me to fear not. I need reminded that once I was an alien, far away from God, but in His love and grace, He gave His son as a sacrifice so that I became no longer an alien but a son.  While we were still slaves to sin, in bondage to our flesh, He liberated us by sending His Son.  The lessons learned by the Israelites are the lessons we so desperately need today.

Growing up can be painful, but God is showing me that in some of the most painful times are when His lessons can be learned the clearest.

The Bondage in Egypt

of dog and man

1
Reba and Penny

You were just a tiny pup,

When you came home at first.

I thought that I would teach you things,

But then my bubble burst!

 

Crossing over the threshold

you peed upon my floor.

Then just a few seconds later,

You pooped right by the door.

 

But we grew up together,

you were the first dog of mine.

We taught each other things

Expanded each others minds.

 

I taught you to fetch,

to stay, sit, and down.

I taught you how to “heel”

That’ll do and spin around.

 

But you taught me more than I taught you

like responsibility,

to love and to live ev’ry moment,

and to not take life to seriously.

 

You taught me devotion,

what joy looks like each day.

To prize devotion ‘bove all else,

I learned loyalty that way.

 

You were my traveling partner,

my friend, and confidant.

Through the tuffest of life’s struggles

You withstood the brunt.

 

Do dogs really go to heaven?

The Bible ain’t real clear,

but if heavens like the first creation,

we certainly know they’re there.

 

So Just because you beat me there,

I plan to see you again.

Just meet me at the gate,

With your tail waggin’ and a big ol’ grin.

Most of you know Penny, my two year old blue heeler.  She has been a teacher, a confidant, and friend  to me since I brought her home.  She teaches me more about myself than any other thing on the face of the earth.  My insecurities are brought out when Im with her.  My faults are on display when we are training or working together.

What you probably didn’t know is the reason we got her was because of another dog.  My buddy Lucas had a dog named Reba, a red-heeler, that he had raised since she was a pup.  She worked cows, did tricks, and followed him across the country to rodeos.  She was a cow dog, and like k9 officers and their dogs, that working relationship only made them closer.  She was lost once for a few days…it was a tough few days.  Lucas’ wife would tell you that Reba had his heart first, and its true.  Ivy would also say that Reba graciously let her into the family.  Reba was a great dog.

The other they came to the CYRA Finals to preach at cowboy church and Reba was there, laying in the arena, never losing sight of Lucas.  She had been having trouble breathing for some time, and that night she was suffering so much that she had to be put down.  I hurt so much for Lucas and Ivy when he told me.  A good dog wraps itself around your heart like a branch grafted into a tree.  So seamless that it is tough to tell where one begins and the other ends.  Reba was a great friend to one of my best friends and that is why I hurt for them.

Reba, Pumpkin, Buck, Bo, Jesse, Gina, and Hawkey, were the reason we got Penny.  They, like so many four-legged-companions in your life, teach us so much we would never learn on our own…and for that we will always be in their debt.

Baxter Black said it best: