Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lessons from Big Momma (by Judy)

Last week was filled with joy and sorrow in the barn by our school. It started out with the daily excitement of another baby lamb being born. Each visit brought delight at watching the transition from still-damp little bodies wobbling on legs for the first time, to cavorting with step-siblings through the straw, stopping only to seek a handy mother’s milk. Those mothers were amazing – welcoming their own, while gently but firmly pushing aside a greedy lamb without the right smell. With the addition of five babies, the runt pig now has 60 legs to scurry between, a mischievous Puck among her fellow sprites and their doting parents.

Through it all, dear Big Momma watched, the heaviest of the pregnant sheep, stolid but benign, as always was her nature, the friendliest, and clearly the respected head of the harem. Bets were even placed on when she would give birth, and how many babies would be delivered, with the promise of a dozen freshly laid eggs as the reward. Alas, with the use of the word “was” above, you may have discerned such a future was not to be.

Big Momma never delivered those little twin boys. Instead she joined them in the place where God’s beloved critters go after no longer being able to sustain life here on earth. The Bible is unclear about the place of animals in God’s eternal kingdom. After all, it was written for us, for our edification, pleasure, and reward. It would not do any good to speak to the animals, for they can’t read! But those of us who have loved an animal beyond all logic rest in the confidence that God loves all that He creates.

The promises in Isaiah 55 make it one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” If the mountains, hills and trees will rejoice when a thirsty seeker accepts God’s free invitation, surely Big Momma and her twin boys will be there too. In the meantime, spring is almost here, the wildflowers are pushing through the chilly soil, and more sweet babies will soon be born. I love you, Big Momma.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In Christ Alone by Carolyn

I belong to a little prayer group consisting of my two sisters in Christ. We pray once a week at each other's homes. We follow a prayer pattern called A.C.T.S. or Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. We've been meeting for seven years and over those seven years we've seen many changes in our lives, in our nation and in our world.

Health issues have come and gone, grandchildren have been born, retirements commenced, responsibilities at work have increased, businesses have started and failed and yet God is faithful. Our nation has suffered through a deep recession, two wars, debt that threatens to undo us, and bitter partisanship, but God is faithful. Today found us praying for the Japanese who have endured one of the most devastating, catasrophic events ever to have occurred when both natural and man-made calamities crashed together against them, and still, God is faithful. He calls to them over the tumult.

What inspires the human spirit? Is it "fukutsu no seishin" which in Japanese means, "never give up, or in, or out? Is it resilliance and resolve? Is it fierce independence, innovation, character, or a strong sense of shared purpose and pain? For my prayer group it is Christ and Christ alone. There is no other Solid Rock as sure as this One. If we fall into the deepest pit, Christ is already there. No matter what befalls us, He goes before us, comes behind us, lifts us up, and covers us with His wings. Paul says in Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Our deepest prayer is that all people everywhere would come to know Jesus Christ so that they are filled to overflowing with the love, holiness, comfort, peace, forgiveness and sense of oneness that only the Good Shepherd can provide. Then, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, good,bad,or ugly, we can share the joy and divide the pain with Jesus.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Piggy Tale (by Judy)

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have one of the most wonderful jobs in the world - farm coordinator for the school where I work. A portion of my work is connected with the soil, with herbs, vegetables and and flowers, with bees, and with critters - specifically sheep and pigs. Though they are cared for by a local farmer, he graciously allows me to be a part of their lives, and to introduce them to children. I have grown to love everything about our farm located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and my soul is very close to all the living things on its land.

Therefore my heart tightened with fear when I heard news that at first sounds amusing. A mom called the front desk to report a piggie wandering around the parking lot, a little guy who took off up the hill after being sighted by legions of dismissed schoolchildren. The receptionist called an administrator who quickly found me. We immediately called our farmer friend and headed outside, where we roamed the property, searching for the little porky runt, the only one small enough to wiggle under the fence and out into the world.

As dusk descended, it was all I could do to keep from tears. Not only is it still a harsh midwest winter, but the Park is filled with coyotes, hawks and the occasional wild dog. My sure knowledge of God's plan, where animals serve a noble purpose by providing food for other animals did nothing to lighten my concern. This is MY piggy, and he should be safe under his straw in the barn. To my immense relief, Farmer Jeff with his trusty sheepdog Riley appeared, ready to head out and search the hills.

The next day I heard the welcome news. After a long search, our little runt had been found. I ran to the barn the next day and saw him cheerfully wandering among the 40 legs of 9 pregnant ewes and their proud male consort, not even aware of his brush with death. I sank to my knees in the straw and remembered the parable of the lost lamb in Matthew and Luke. In this beautiful story of loss, searching and rejoicing, Jesus tells of the faithful shepherd who, aware of impending danger, leaves his flock of 99 safely in the fold, while he roams the hills in search of the one who is lost. When he finds the wee beast, he hoists him on his shoulders and takes him safely home to a time of rejoicing. What comfort for us. There is hope for all who stray, and thanks be to our Good Shepherd, there is great joy in heaven when the lost one is restored!