What uncommon things do we want to become common?

Things like:
our children having mutual love and respect for each other.
our teenage children having love, honor, respect and obedience for their parents.
us continually becoming better friends and lovers.
our family totally trusting God in all things and putting our faith in Him to fulfill his promises.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Games

By Creg

For Christmas this year, instead of the usual gift openings of toys & stuff, my mom came up with the idea that we should each make games that family & friends could play. So we set out designing new games that we thought would be interesting & fun. Some were based on an old game, like candyland or go fish. Some were very unique. They've all been fun to play while spending good family time together.

Samantha's game is called "Belle's Barnyard", named after her new filly. You draw a card & move to that color. Some cards have a place on it like "Lenny's World" for Sterling's lizard, "Skye Scape" for Sierra's golden retriever, "Lego Land" for Steele, "Bible Building" for my study, and "Gorgeous Garden" for Chelsa. If you draw one of those cards you go straight to that place for a shortcut or a backward move if you've already passed it.

"Go Fish" is the name of Sterling's game. He took pictures of all of his reptiles, amphibians & fish and made playing cards that you try to match while playing "Go Fish."

Mom's game is the most unique. The name is "Gifts of Gratitude" and it's based on the book "1,000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. (If you haven't read this book buy it now!) First you draw a card from the stack & read the quote that is either from Ann's book  or from the Bible. After elaborating on the quote, if you desire, you then roll the dice & move your game piece (a miniature gift-wrapped box made by Charlotte Felix)  to a square. The picture on the square will direct you to tell of something you're thankful to God for. The categories are people, towns, emotions, education, technology, cultures, economics, difficult circumstances, Jesus, Holy Spirit, God, bible, church, creation, family, country living, food, travel, music, & the human body. Playing this game gives everyone a chance to experience the joy of being able to give thanks to God in every & all situations. You will find that you can express gratitude in the smallest of moments & in the biggest of difficulties. And that pleases God. I think she should write to Ann & get this game published.

My game was based on the TV show "Amazing Race" where teams solve clues & complete tasks in a race of mind & body. We had two teams of three and they had to complete 10 stages of questions, hunting, riddles, bike riding, puzzles, & grouping vacation pictures. Chelsa & I were the officials.

Sierra & Steele are working on a game based on the "Hobbit." They said we need to watch the movie before we play to help us get the questions right.

There is nothing like playing a few fun games while drinking hot chocolate & eating popcorn on a cold winter night.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Remaking Jesus

By Creg
(This has been adapted from writings by Patrick Mead)
Many different santas with their fake beards & welcoming laps are in our malls & department stores now. Lines of kids form impatiently waiting to speak to their one hope of getting that new ipod or 3D video game. I read recently where a small town used a woman to play Santa for the town hall party. Just unheard of-men should always be Santa because they are far more used to sitting in one place for long periods of time than women are and they’re better at making big promises they have no intention of keeping.
In different cultures across the world people will remake Santa in their image. You’ll see big Santas & little Santas. Tall Santas & short Santas. White Santas & brown Santas. And that’s great. We want Santa to look familiar, the better for him to get to know us so he’ll know what size shirt to get us.
The problem is when we try to remake Jesus in our image, reversing the order of Genesis 1:27. Several years ago, the British Broadcasting Company ran a mini-series on the life of Jesus. There were howls of protest, not because they had gotten the story wrong, but because the actor chosen to play Jesus was short and overweight. They said "Jesus wasn’t short! He wasn’t overweight!" Really? Who says? What if he were? What if Jesus had acne scars, or bad breath, or crooked teeth, or walked with a limp.
One criticism of Jesus was that he was a country hick. The accent Jesus and his apostles had marked them as coming from a part of Judea that was considered a joke by the rest of the nation. They were assumed to be uneducated. Remember how, as soon as they began speaking, they were labeled as "ignorant and unlearned men"? What if you get to heaven and Jesus sounds like Jeff Foxworthy… or Larry the Cable Guy? What if you get to heaven and hear a Yankee accent or a Texas drawl. Maybe he sounds British, “Welcome to heaven you bloody saints.”
You’re not offended are you? Some of us have made an idol of a white American Jesus. Remember this: Jesus looked like an Arab looks today. He would have had the coloring and features that would have singled him out for extra screening at the airport. He might have made you nervous when he sat beside you on the bus. His accent would sound strange to you.
Politicians try to make Jesus be a member of their party, instead of doing the hard thing and trying to be a member of his. Remember the "What would Jesus drive?" advertising campaign of a few years ago? The assumption was that Jesus (always gentle, meek, mild) would want to treat the planet lovingly, with sweetness and care. He would, the commercials left no doubt, drive a Prius or ride a bicycle. Where did we get the idea that Jesus wants to save the planet? Didn’t he tell us, in no uncertain terms, that he was going to destroy it by fire?
I saw a "Who would Jesus bomb?" bumper sticker not long ago. It’s a sarcastic question that implies God is a pacifist. It makes me wonder if those people have ever read the Old Testament. By looking at just a few parables and teachings in the gospels, they have a skewed picture of Jesus. Look at God moving in the Old Testament and in Revelation and you see great swaths of destruction, destroyed cities and cultures, and dead bodies alongside the road. It seems that God IS willing to kill some folk… unless you decide to remake Him in your image.
Most leaders of the emerging church believe that Jesus is a Democrat and a pacifist because they are. Most Republicans think Jesus likes them best. Jesus is not a mascot for our desires, wishes, and dreams. 
It is too easy to create new stereotypes of what Jesus looks like. We can see Jesus in the life of Mother Teresa… but can we also see him in the bloodshot eyes of a recovering addict, or the fancy suit of a company CEO, or in the tired face of a third generation welfare mom?
God gave us 66 books to show us His many faceted character. When we make God in our image, or when we localize God to a few gospel stories, we lose the big picture and end up with a white skinned, blue eyed, brown haired Jesus. That was the mistake Jesus’ people made in the first century. They had so many preconceptions concerning how the Messiah would act, sound, and look, that Jesus didn’t measure up and they passed over him, waiting for a better Messiah to come along.
Jesus, in fact, transcends every classification because he is God and Man — both fully. We should quit trying to make him in our image and bow our knees to him so that he can remake us in his.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Be a Follower of Jesus, not just a Fan

By Creg

I just finished reading “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. It was convicting & challenging, stepping on my toes quite often.

He starts in John 6 where Jesus offers himself, but the question is, would that be enough?

Vs 35 Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me
will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Suddenly Jesus is the only thing on the menu.

Vs 66 From this time on many of his disciples turned back and no
longer followed him.

Jesus doesn’t soften his message to make it more appealing. He doesn't seem surprised by the fact that his popularity has plummeted.

Kyle then relates how he has cheapened the gospel in some of his past preaching. He writes:

Think of it this way. Imagine that my oldest daughter turns 25. She isn’t married but she really wants to be. I decide I’m going to help make that happen. So, imagine I take out an ad in the newspaper, put up a billboard sign, & make up T-shirts begging someone to choose her. I even offer some attractive gifts as incentives. Doesn’t that cheapen who she is? Wouldn’t that make it seem that whoever came to her would be doing her a favor? I would never do that.

Should we do that with Jesus?

Kyle defines a fan as someone who wants to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them. He also says that fans try to follow Jesus on their own power & will eventually be frustrated by failures & overwhelmed by life’s circumstances. And because of that they will have a hard time coming up with stories about how the Spirit has worked in their life.

Kyle is describing the first 20 years of my Christian walk.

What about you?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Getting Things Right, Step #1

By Creg

Chris right after his baptism.
Chris had only been out of prison for a few days, but he knew he had to get things right. Step #1 in that process is being born again.

Born in Aman, Jordan Chris was adopted when he was 1year old. His father was in the oil business so they moved around a lot. Chris has lived in Norway, London, Egypt, Vermont, and finally ended up in Houston where he graduated from high school.

When he was 9 his parents split up & he moved in with his dad. He was baptized at 14 in a Norwegian Lutheran church in Houston because that's what you did at that age in the Lutheran church. In 2009 his wife was tragically killed in car wreck, leaving Chris with 3 small kids. He says depression took over & he started drinking & using drugs. He eventually gave the care of keeping his 3 kids to his in-laws. Last year he ended up in Abilene going to Faithworks & that's where we met him. He's been going to church & bible study & decided he is ready to turn things over to God, so he was baptized Tuesday afternoon. That night he took the bus to Houston so he can file for his immigration papers which were lost recently. He's hoping to get things right so he can get his kids back soon. May the Spirit be with you, Chris.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sterling's Last Game

By Creg

What a difference 2 years makes. Last year was Sterling's first season of playing tackle football. He joined a home-school team for Jr High kids & I volunteered to help coach. If you know Sterling very well you probably thought the same thing I did when he asked to join the team. This soft-spoken, mild mannered, polite, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly personality wants to play tackle football? The kind where you try to knock people down & get hit by other guys! He remembers his first play in last years first game saying, "I was so nervous I was shaking." By his last game this year, a 24-12 victory against Dallas Lakehill Prep Academy, he was a dominant player on offense & defense. He was the only player on our team who could tackle #42, their fullback, by himself.
Sterling, #50 with black elbow pads, lining up on offense, across from Mr. Big.
 Sterling was the team leader in total tackles, tackles for loss, & QB sacks. He was the most improved player on the team.
Sterling beats his blocker & sacks their quarterback

Sterling drive-blocks his man downfield.

On the sidelines with Steele, Sierra, Sterling, & Creg.

When I quit teaching 4 years ago I thought my coaching days were done. These past 2 years coaching Sterling's team made me realize how beneficial my 19 years of experience were. I coached under some excellent coaches in Abilene &what I learned allowed me to help this team prepare & be competitive in games against bigger & stronger teams. I'm not the same coach I was in my first few years of being on the sideline. My philosophies & strategies have changed as I've learned the ins & outs of different offenses & what makes plays work.

Thinking about Sterling's growth & maturity as a player and mine as a coach got me to relate this idea to spirituality. If we've been a Christian for decades & still have the same beliefs about everything, have we grown any? Obviously I'm not talking about the absolutes of Jesus, God & the Bible. I'm thinking of the "disputable matters" that Paul talks about in Romans 14. If our ideas about these matters haven't changed in 20 years, have we really been studying & challenging ourselves? Doesn't maturity involve change?

Part of Sterling's growth as a player involved a lot of difficult practices where he pushed himself to get better. Part of my growth as a coach was to listen to different offensive philosophies so I could compare them to what I knew & then make a decision based on those differences.

Maybe part of us growing spiritually is listening to those who have differing opinions on the "disputable matters" where we push ourselves to understand & maybe accept other views. And it might be difficult.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Economics and Temptations

By Creg

Let’s say you decide to sell hotdogs at the big football game. How much do you charge? You would obviously have to take into account how much it costs you to buy, prepare & set up the food. Let’s say your costs are $1 per hotdog. If you sold them for just $2 you would probably sell a lot, but what if you knew that some people would gladly pay $4 if they were really hungry? Selling them for $4 would make you more money per hotdog, but  sell less of them. 
What should you do? 
If you could tell that the first person walking by wasn’t very hungry you could charge him just $2 and probably make a sale. If you knew that the second person who walked by was really hungry and loved hotdogs, you could charge him $4 and still probably make a sale. 
Why don’t you just put up a sign that says: 
                Hotdog for the really hungry $4. 
                Hotdog for the not-so-hungry $2. 

Do you think that would catch on? You might have to be more subtle. How about adding 25 cents worth of condiments for this price list: 

               Hotdog-plain $2. 
               Hotdog-cheese, relish, onions, mustard $4. 

Then you can find out, in a sly way, if the customers are willing to pay more.

IBM did something similar with printers. They made the “LaserWriter E” and to give those customers who are willing to pay more a chance to show themselves, IBM put an additional chip in some printers to slow them down so they could charge more for the “fast” printers! So, IBM mass-produced a single printer, put a “slow-down” chip in half of them and sold them at two prices.
Intel, the chip manufacturer, played a similar game by selling two processing chips at different prices. In this case the inferior chip was actually more expensive to produce because it was made by taking the superior chip and disabling one of its features. (The preceding information about IBM & Intel was taken from the book "The Undercover Economist" by Tim Harford)

I think that is how Satan works.
He has to be subtle in finding out who will pay more. He disables a feature on something that God has blessed you with and tries to get you to “upgrade” to his model.
For example, look at this picture. What do you see?

Did you see black spots or a lot of white?
Pretend that is your spouse. Satan tries to get you to focus on the few black spots (ex. they are late sometimes, they don’t put things back where they go, they don’t talk enough, they talk too much…) instead of focusing on all of the pure white space that God has blessed you with in your marriage: like a dependable partner, a lifelong friend, good conversations, a common love for the Lord… 
Satan tries to get you to pay more for "something better" by getting you to focus on the black spots and by showing you an alternative that he tries to present as "superior" by adding a few wrinkles (or more likely by taking away a few wrinkles). Like someone who could be a prettier, younger, more personable spouse who appreciates you more.
Let’s say the picture is your church and the black spots might be: a boring sermon, a member you disagree with, a different opinion about worship…Yet you should be focusing on the good relationships, the servant hearts, and how you can work together to bring Jesus to the lost.
So, my prayer is that we see these temptations for what they are and not let Satan disable things that God has blessed us with to enrich our lives.
P.S. I really love my wife!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Victory for the Wind

Sterling #50 with black elbow pads
By Creg

Friday we traveled to Kennedale just south of Ft. Worth to play the Kennedale Faith Fellowship Mustangs. They are a passing team so we decided to move Sterling & another guy to an outside position on defense & let them rush the passer the whole game. Sterling played a great game doing what he loves to do best in football, chase the quarterback. He had several sacks & if he gets his big strong paws on anyone they're going down. Now he thanks me for all of the chin-ups & push-ups I make our kids do every morning for exercises.

Creg & Sierra signaling plays
We won 42-8, but the best thing was after the game  when players from both teams say nice things about a particular opposing player. One kid from the Mustangs said we were the nicest team they have ever played. He said our players would help them up, congratulated them & tell each other to stay humble. That's neat.

River Adventures

By Creg

Thursday we were down at the river with some friends investigating a bee hive that Sterling had discovered. It is in a tree that broke in two leaving the bees confused about their hive being in two pieces. We thought about piecing together a bee suit & trying to salvage their hive so we could start getting our own honey. After thinking through the possibilities of what could happen with a swarm of ticked off bees, we decided to wait & see if we could find someone who knew what they were doing.

While some of us were trying to get as close as we could to the bees without making any sudden movements, Sterling was down the river a bit catching a 13 inch gar with his net. It was very pretty, especially the big golden tail with black spots. Sterling brought it to his room/aquarium/terrarium and put him in the big 40 gallon tank with the red-eared slider turtle. He watched them for few minutes to see if they could play nicely with each other. Confident that they were getting along well, he went to eat supper. When he came back after supper the turtle had bitten off several chunks of the gar's tail fin & part of his front fin. Seems like someone wasn't happy about having to share his tank. So, the turtle ended up in the bathtub & the gar has the tank all to himself, along with a few river minnows & shrimp for dinner. Do gar's tail fins grow back?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Run with the Wind

By Creg

Sterling's second football season just started. He's playing linebacker & tackle on the Abilene Wind, a Jr High team made up mostly of home school kids. It's a family affair with Steele being the water boy, Sierra being the assistant coach and me being the Jr High coach. Our first game was against Cross Plains and while leading most of the game we lost 22-8.

                                                                     Sterling # 50

                                               Steele in bright yellow, Sierra in blue.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Horse Friends

By Creg

Can anything bring two 12 year old girls together like a love for horses? Well, a love for God and family and church can as well. But that horse love goes a long way.

Samantha's friend Bailey made some portable jumps out of pvc pipe and cones and brought her horse, Bubba, over to ride with Samantha and her horse, Roman.
                                                         Bailey riding on Bubba

                                                     Samantha riding on Roman

Samantha decided to paint an old barrel to practice her racing. RBC stands for the Roman and Bubba Club.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Violin Lesson Update

By Chelsa

(See post on June 20th before reading this one) We are moving right along on our lessons. I'm starting to feel comfortable holding and playing with the bow in my right hand. (I'm left-handed and learning to play right-handed) Thankfully, Samantha's decided to join us and she's been coming for about 4 weeks. Our teacher is awesome. We can all play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in 6 different variations, Lightly Row, and part of Boil Them Cabbage Down. It is so much fun playing with my girls!

Something that has really inspired us came from my parents. They went to Branson, Missouri on vacation this summer and brought back a video of The Duttons. They were voted the best show in Branson. They are a family band who plays about every kind of instrument, but focuses on the fiddle/violin.  Their daughter Amy was voted the best fiddler/violinist in Branson for the past 5 years. We have played that DVD over and over and over again. That video inspires us so much that now Steele wants to join in the fun.  Maybe we'll end up being a family band, too! 

Homemade Butter

by: Chelsa
Living on our farm has a lot of nice perks; like organically grown fruits and veggies and herbs, pasture-raised meat and eggs, and plenty of fresh goat milk from our two milk goats, Milkshake and Cinnamon. I am very happy with the quality and quantity of our milk.  With two goats, I can make all the fresh raw yogurt, smoothies, ice cream, cream cheese, and now Mozzarella Cheese I want. I was told that the only drawback to using goat milk is that you can't make butter unless you buy a $400 machine to remove the cream from the milk.

You'd think we would have gotten a milk cow instead, since we love butter so much, but early on we decided against it. One of the main reasons we chose goats over a cow was the size factor. Samantha was 6 yrs old at the time and she was the one who wanted to milk. Goats seemed much safer than a huge cow, plus it was a lot cheaper to feed a couple of goats. Not to mention the fact that we didn't have a clue on how to raise animals. We figured smaller was safer. So I was resigned to the fact that we would just have to buy butter at the grocery store.

However, after our experience with making cheese the other day, I started thinking about the butter idea again. And I've noticed that the cream does separate some from the milk after 3-4 days in the fridge. It rises to the top and sticks to the side of the glass jars we store it in.  So yesterday I decided to scrape the cream out of all the jars we had that were at least 3 days old or older.  I put all that cream in a clean quart size glass jar, screwed the lid on tight and started shaking. We took turns shaking the cream until it began to form a big blob. Then we spooned it out into a bowl, sprinkled some sea salt in it and stirred well. Samantha thought we should find a pretty mold to put our soft butter in, so we scrounged around and found foil cupcake papers. We spread it into 3 of those put them on a plate and placed it in the fridge. It turned out better than I thought. The butter is almost white, since we don't have any green grass for the goats to eat, but it was absolutely delicious! We've been milking goats for 3 years now and you would think I would have figured this out before now. I guess it's butter late than never!
We couldn't get the camera out fast enough! It's SO GOOD!

Making Fresh Raw Mozerella Cheese

By: Chelsa

The wait is finally over.  For the last two years I've been saying "the next thing I'm going to learn how to do is make cheese." I've had the supplies and equipment, but thought I needed a real live tutor to help me with this.  Making cheese seems so daunting, and complicated and time consuming. This past winter I even talked to a lady in Eula who knows how to make 12 different kinds of goat cheese. I asked her if she would come to my house and show me how to do it. She said she would help me with it in the spring, but I never got around to calling her again. It never seemed to be the right time. Other things kept crowding it out, but it has been in the back of my mind all along.

About three days ago Sierra told me about a blog post on The Pioneer Woman, a cooking blog she really likes. In it they were showing how to make fresh Mozzarella cheese. They had pictures and simple directions.  When I looked at it I knew instantly that the time had come for me to take a stab at cheese making. They made it look so easy.

The next day I got out my specially ordered ingredients (from last year) and the equipment and looked at the blog post Sierra showed me and got to work.  Samantha read the blog out loud to me and I followed the directions exactly. The outcome was perfect! The cheese was absolutely wonderful. I don't know why it took me so long to try this. It was very, very easy and quick. It only took about 20 minutes to make and that included milking the goats first! I've tried it again several times since then and I've changed a couple of things, just to make sure the cheese is raw. Maybe I'll try my hand at other cheese varieties sometime soon....

I just came in from milking the goats. I'm straining the warm milk now.

Here are the two special ingredients you'll need to make Mozzarella.

To begin the cheese making process, you add 1 1/4tsp of citric acid to 1/4 cup water and stir until dissolved.  Pour it into the big pot.
Next you pour 1 gallon of raw goat's milk into the pot and stir.
While stirring, heat the milk to 90*F, then take the pot off of the burner.
In another bowl mix 1 cup water with 1 1/4 tsp liquid rennet and add to the pot. Stir for 30 seconds.
Let the milk sit completely still for 5 minutes. Time it! When time is up, the milk will be transformed into a custard like consistency.  Cut the now jelly-like substance into squares. Put the pot back on the burner. Stir carefully and heat until the whey reaches 105*F
Next, (I don't have pictures of this) carefully pour the liquid from your pot (it's called whey) into a colander. Make sure and catch the whey in a bowl and save it for other uses. It is very nutritious! (You can substitute it in smoothies or in cooking recipes that call for milk or use it to fertilize plants or feed it to your pets) When most of the whey has been drained away, pick up the blob of cheese and squeeze out more of the whey. When the cheese cooled too much I just flattened it out in the bottom of my warm pot, flipped it over for a few seconds and squeezed some more. Keep doing this until it begins to get stretchy. (If you like really soft cheese, don't squeeze out too much. It's okay to leave some of the whey). I warmed it 3 different times before I shaped it into a ball.

I'm kneading and stretching the cheese while it's still warm. Form it into the shape you want before it cools.

I started with one gallon of milk and here's all that's left...one pound of cheese, but it's worth it!
If you want to make some fresh Mozzarella Cheese and need more detailed instructions, just go to The Pioneer Woman blog and follow her directions http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2012/07/making-fresh-mozzarella/

Saturday, August 4, 2012

VBS at the Farm

By Creg
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday we had friends, parents, grandparents & 12 kids, not counting our own, come to our place for 3 days of kid time. The theme was "God doesn't do normal" stories from 2nd Kings.
We acted out a bible story each morning on a different part of our property. Then we had a creation segment where we showed one of our animals & talked about how God created each one special & unique with it's amazing attributes that only God could have done. Did you know that a strand of sheep's wool is stronger than a piece of steel of the same size? Did you know a chicken egg has 10,000 holes in it so the chick can breathe? And when the chick is 19 days old it pecks the air sack with a special tooth on it's beak so it can breath for 9 more hours. That lets it know that it's time to get out. How can a horse's skinny legs hold up 1,250 lbs? It's hooves are made of tiny hair-like tubules arranged in a feather-like pattern so it relieves the pressure of the hoof from 100lbs/sq. inch to 4 oz/sq. inch. Amazing!
Next Chelsa showed them how God made animals, plants & herbs for our nutrition & healing. She demonstrated goat milking & then made strawberry smoothies out of the goat's milk. She showed how to make medicine from her herb garden and how to grind whole wheat & make pizza dough that we all enjoyed for lunch. The older kids had an "Amazing Race" Friday where they explored our property looking for clues & completing tasks as a team.
When everyone had left Friday, Steele asked, "We don't have to wait until next year to have another one, do we?"
Making smoothies out of goat's milk.
Playing in the treehouse.
What color would you like your homemade slime?
Going on a hay ride without hay.
Naaman feeling the itch of his leprosy before he dips in the river.
Craft time for the younger kids.
Playing in the treehouse.
Making dough ornaments.
Ready for battle.
Horses and swords coming down the hill!
We've got them surrounded..
Elisha leading the blind Arameans.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Violin Concert

By Creg

Hendrick Hospital
Samantha & Chelsa went with their violin teacher and her other students last Saturday to play a violin concert. They played at the children's wing of Hendrick Hospital and at the Chisholm House nursing home. Needless to say, they were well received by all who were there. 
Chisholm House