Monday, December 12, 2011
There’s nothing quite like having the right tool for the job. Hours, days and even weeks can be shaved off the estimated time of completion. Headaches, injuries, and a thousand little frustrations can be eliminated by making a quick trip to the hardware store and investing a few bucks.
One such tool is pictured above. This is what I call a fence tightener-thingy. It has an official name, but it would hardly be more descriptive than mine. To sum up, one begins by securing the loose end of the barbed wire to a stationary point, like a tree or a t-post driven into the ground. One then inserts a portion of the wire in the left grip and clamps down. The same is done to a second portion, about 2 feet to the right. Next, one ratchets the device inwards, pulling tight the entire wire to the left and right of tool, and creating slack in the middle. Once the wire it tight, the desired end is nailed down, and the tool can then be safely removed.
Whetstone Boys Ranch hopes to show boys the importance of acquiring the right tool, and the importance of rightly using it. And we’re not just talking about power tools. We’re talking about anger management, and meditation, and Bible-study, and regular exercise and eating right, and getting a good night’s sleep. Tools that help us to be better at being ourselves – the unique type of person God designed us to be.
Ephesians 4:11-13 says that “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Whetstone Boys Ranch and Boarding School is in the equipping business. We are in the business of assisting the transformation of boys from being tools of the sinful forces that seek to twist, misshape and destroy, to using tools for the betterment of their selves, their families and their future as God’s servants.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
“Will” is an important word at Whetstone. Brandon and Laura’s 2 year old son is named Will. We have a beautiful chestnut brown horse named Will. (Interestingly, he was given that name years before he was generously donated to us.) Will is a helping verb that aids in forming, among other things, the future perfect tense – a concept that we will be working hard to understand on Monday morning at Whetstone Academy.
More to my point, human will is central to any change that occurs on our ranch or in our boarding school. We are not behaviorists. We do not believe that our control of a boy’s environment makes him change. We’re just not that smart.
But wait, I can hear you say, isn’t that the whole idea behind Whetstone Boys Ranch? Create an atmosphere filled with unconditional love, positive role models, academic guidance, meaningful labor …and poof! a rebellious boy turns into a responsible man!
Sure, we believe that environment matters. We think horses and chickens and cows help boys learn gentleness and patience. We think exposure to God’s word can encourage life change. We are confident that our attention to detail on the outside can make difference on the inside.
But when push comes to shove, a boy’s will to change matters more. And whatever you call us – boys ranch, boarding school, group home, residential treatment center – we will never be able to make any of our boys give their hearts to God. Ours is a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.
And so this morning, when we received the fantastically generous donation of a round pen for training our horses – or I could say for training our Will – I was reminded of both the similarities and differences between training horses and training boys.
Both need limits. Both need love. But only one is capable of being forced into submission.
The other, in the future perfect tense, will have been transformed only when he accepts God’s grace, and understands that God’s limits to our behavior demonstrate his love.
Only then, will God’s will be our boys’ will too.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
November 23rd is a big day for me personally. This year, it falls on Thanksgiving, my wife’s birthday, and my 15th wedding anniversary! Not a day I should forget. There could be bad times in Brooklyn if I do.
Fifteen years ago, I married Christine Marie Creasy. It was a bright and crisp autumn day in Jackson, Tennessee. She was better than I deserved as a 22-year old student teacher with no income except from loans. Whatever possessed her to do such a thing?
She has said on several occasions that it was my dad. It wasn’t my dad’s wheels, which consisted at the time of a big yellow Ryder truck which he leased for his hauling business. It wasn’t his winning smile, filled with rotten and rotting teeth – or his hair, often discolored from the dust of whatever job he’d recently returned from. It wasn’t his house bought at rock bottom price in the late 70’s, the value of which might have actually gone done since.
My wife was convinced that she wanted to marry me during a crazy and freezing cold winter visit to Pontiac, Michigan – during which she saw a picture of the man I could be someday. A man dedicated to his wife, to his kids, to his work and most of all, to a personal God who sustained him through the trials of running a small business and a large family.
We all stand on the shoulders of giants.
I haven’t written about her very much (and I’m sure she’s fine with that), but I can’t overestimate the role that my wife has played and continues to play at Whetstone Boys Ranch. She is my helper, my friend, my confidante, my inspiration. I am convinced that I will never fully appreciate the degree to which my wife has sacrificed her comfort to provide me with this opportunity. But I thank her, and I thank Laura, and I thank Cari from the bottom of my heart, for supporting their men-folk.
And you can be sure that if a beautiful, intelligent and righteous young woman falls in love, marries, and lives happily ever after with a boy from Whetstone, it will be more due to the Whetstone Wives than their hubbies.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
We like to go on long walks at Whetstone Boys Ranch. Long walks are good for the soul. In addition to pondering the meaning of life and the mysteries of nature, we enjoy looking for signs of deer. More specifically, we like looking for signs of “the big buck.”
He’s out there…teasing us.
We sometimes see this buck in the morning, during our devotional time, through the large glass windows that enclose the living room area. Through the binoculars, it almost looks like he’s sticking out his tongue at us. On the few mornings that Brandon has waited for him in the tree stand, this buck has artfully avoided the trap.
So on the last walk, our first young man was intent on finding another place to set up “Mr. Maxwell’s” stand. I was amazed at his ability to effortlessly identify the small signs that had slipped my attention: bark rubbed off a tree, hoof scrapes in the dirt, tiny little droppings no bigger than a rabbit’s, and to my astonishment, a wispy tuft of hair caught on the barbed wire fence.
I’m still a bit of a city boy, so the hunter’s sixth sense for such things is still beyond my powers of observation. But I’m working on it, and I’m sure that in time, I’ll be able to track a deer in the dark…by mere scent.
What I’m getting at here is that second nature is exactly that. Second. It doesn’t come natural. It’s learned. Many things that a healthy person takes for granted are actually behaviors learned from parents, mentors and siblings who have guided us along the right path. Not all boys have these role models. And even if given the opportunity, not all boys pay attention long enough to learn from them.
I’m picking up a lot about hunting and tracking at Whetstone Boys Ranch. Our boys will pick up more important things. Trophy deer are nice, but treasures in heaven are better.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Good fences makes good men.
Because good men don’t let their horses run into the road.
Because good men take time to build something that lasts.
Because it takes manly strength (and a good sense of humor) to clear and tighten a barbed wire fence without the fancy tools…and when your chainsaw breaks down.
Because there are few greater pleasures in life than spending a sunny fall morning in the woods; and men who understand this have a better chance of being good.
Good fences make good men, because good men learn from other good men how to do stuff the right way…and when things don’t go right, they learn how good men handle getting angry.
Whetstone Boys Ranch has 280 acres of opportunity to build good fences…and good men.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Twelve giant walnut trees stand guard at Whetstone Boys Ranch, their huge arms framing almost any view from the house. In addition to providing shade and shelter, they are beginning to take on the added responsibility of therapy for our boys…or for the time being, boy.
One activity we’ve begun since moving operations from downtown West Plains, which has a noticeable lack of trees and an abundance of glass store fronts, is throwing walnuts. (Boys will be boys, after all.) In a few shorts weeks, we have devised a number of engaging games with the thousands of walnuts which make routine walking a health hazard. There is horse-shoe walnuts, where we try to hit a 50 gallon red feed bucket: 1 pt if you hit it, 2 pts if it bounces out, and 3 points if it lands and stays in the bucket. There is around-the-world walnuts, where you try to hit three perimeter tree trunks in succession. If you miss any one of them on your second “chance,” you go all the way back to the beginning.
And there more walnut games in the works: a version of Frisbee golf played with walnuts, stick-ball played with walnuts, lawn-bowling/shuffle board version to be played by rolling walnuts on the smooth concrete of the wrap-around porch.
Maybe this is a bad idea. I can see at some point having to discipline a boy who throws a walnut at me, or through a window. Maybe gathering walnuts into buckets and transporting them to a shelling station will be better, since it allows opportunity for both work and revenue. But the fact remains that we can’t eliminate every loose impediment from our 280 acres. On the whole, walnut competitions seem like a good example of clean, healthy fun. Better to teach boys how to act responsibly within their surrounding, than to ban them from interaction.
Seen from this perspective, the physical universe God has created is a perpetual playground for mankind. All He expects is that we use a little imagination and follow a few basic rules.
In other words, when life gives you walnut… aim them at something non-breakable and devise a point system.
Monday, October 17, 2011
On the Whetstone Boys Ranch kitchen counter, there sits a notebook which we have dubbed the “The Book of Firsts.” Since this last week was our first week, we made a lot of entries.
Below, I have copied one of the first journal entries from our first boy. As his teacher, I am proud of his descriptive writing. As his mentor, I am proud of his introspection.
Yesterday morning, Mr. Maxwell popped on the lights around 6:00 o’clock and said, “We’re going.” Excitedly, I jumped out of bed and into my camo, then threw on my boots. Within moments, Mr. Maxwell and I were out the door and off to the stand to scout some deer. The ground was saturated with dew, and it made me look as though I had been wading in a pond. Trampling through the thick pastures, we spooked 3 deer which gave us both a bad feeling that the deer were moving early.
As we walked through the woods down an old road, memories of hunting with my dad ran through my mind, and I couldn’t stop thinking about all the mornings before sunrise I had followed my dad through the woods on the way to the stand. Whetstone’s so-called “buddy stand” turned out to be an ancient single stand that had grown into the tree. So, we thought it through and decided I would sit on the ground, a couple trees away from the tree stand.
As the sun rose through the trees, birds started singing, turkeys chattered off in the distance, and squirrels fought over acorns. All of this combined gave me a warm feeling. It made me feel nothing but happiness; all my worries were swept away.
I think we’re off to a good start.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
It’s official! Today, Whetstone began “sharpening” its first boy. In our first ceremony, during which he symbolically branded his own pair of leather work gloves, we began the process of refining through holy fire.
For privacy reasons, I won’t share much about him right now. Just imagine him as your teenage son, or brother, or nephew or neighbor. He’s a boy who needs help at a crucial juncture in his life. He’s a boy with God-given talents, who is searching like all boys, for his role as a man.
If nothing else, Whetstone Boys Ranch will present him with an authentic vision of what this looks like, according to God’s Word, God’s Son, and God’s Holy Spirit. Please pray that in the coming year, he and the others who will hopefully join him soon, will be 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 [them] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Some little things are big things. Like toilet paper. Toilet paper is a little thing, but without it, you’re in big trouble.
One week ago, we were about to be in some big trouble. We had been so preoccupied with issues like insurance and intake, that we had run dangerously low on White Cloud. Each of us had commented on the fact that something had to be done – and each of us probably thought someone else needed to do it.
Not my job description.
About this time, a total stranger burst into our office with a bag of goodies. She had heard of Whetstone Boys Ranch, and she had immediately begun acquiring items that she thought would be useful: a spare garden hose, old textbooks, clothing, washcloths, sheets, and…you guessed it, toilet paper! At just the right moment, and in the fullness of time. I mean, we were literally down to the last sheet.
So she bursts in, drops off two black garbage bags of household items that she had carted over in her rolling basket, and without making any eye contact or small talk, declares to no one in particular, “I thought you guys could use this stuff.” She then elbows her way out as fast as she had come.
Now I’m not saying that God is working behind the scenes to guarantee we have toilet paper. I’m not saying He isn’t. What I am saying is that we serve a God who created the biggest of the big and the smallest of the small. Size is no issue to Him. From the furthest star to the tiniest particle – neither of which we can fathom or measure – He designed it all. He cares for it all. He sustains it all.
And if He should choose to withdraw his breath, it will all disappear in the blink of an eye.
It’s all a part of His job description.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Recently, during one of our weekend work extravaganzas, we had to move a pool table. Ever been involved in moving one of these beasts? If not, count your lucky stars. It’s nothing I want to do again, any time soon.
The first thing you need is about 6 guys. No more, no less. If you have more, you run the risk of having too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. The entire experience can quickly devolve into a nasty power struggle about the best way to get the job done. Alliances are formed, back room deals are struck, and before you know it’s turned into a bad episode of Survivor. Quite unpleasant…although the TV ratings might justify another season…or eighteen.
If you have less, the obvious drawback is the increased risk of casualties and other collateral damage. You don’t just bounce back from a half ton of marble slate landing on your foot, or from getting pinched between it and a door frame.
Fortunately, we had 6 dependable guys (and one dog) who weren’t interested in drama and who were happy to carry their load. We did have a few scary seconds when it looked like the driver of the pick-up truck we used as a make-shift dolly, might lurch forward too quickly and leave us hanging, but everything turned out alright in the end. The pool table that was in the middle of Brandon and Laura’s dining/living room, is now safely stored in the garage.
The metaphysical reality is that we all have “pool tables” cluttering up our living space, don’t we? Most often these live-in elephants are invisible, like guilt or repressed anger. Sometimes, like with the at-risk and troubled boys in need of residential treatment at Whetstone, they are unavoidable – like a felony offense or a drug addiction.
Regardless, these things can’t be removed by ourselves. We need help…and lots of it. Beginning in October, Whetstone will be a place where such assistance will be available 24/7. Our treatment program will involve not just the three staff already in place, but the resources of this community in Howell County, and of churches and communities around the country. There are literally thousands of people praying for these boys right now.
What’s a little pool table when you have that kind of support?
Friday, September 16, 2011
There is a chimpanzee off the main square in downtown West Plains. You heard right. A chimpanzee. Actually, there are two. There are two chimpanzees that reside in a giant outdoor cage attached to a Victorian painted lady. It’s quite a spectacle.
You should hear them during a storm. It’s like something out of Julius Caesar, with strange and unnatural sounds portending some great and future danger. The first time I heard them during a tornado warning, the dream-like hooting mixed with the siren sound echoing off the brick buildings downtown ran chills down my spine.
I am not going to comment on the general practice of owning a chimpanzee for a pet. This may be a case of to each his own…as long as the chimpanzees stay behind bars and relatively quiet when atmospheric conditions allow. And to the owner’s credit, from my vantage point in an office right across the street, this has been the case.
From what I have gleaned by reading news accounts, there was a point several years ago when a third monkey had to be removed. Apparently, he had an issue with another male chimp. (It was a guy thing.) News accounts also made mention of the extreme difficulty of placing chimps in sanctuaries, which are overloaded and expensive. One sanctuary in Florida agreed to take this third chimp if the owner donated 200,000 bucks. That’s about half of Whetstone’s annual operating budget!
$200,000 would pay the tuition of 5 boys. $200,000 would pay for an entire year of eating, sleeping, schooling, hiking, fishing, farming, counseling, mentoring and more – ultimately contributing to the reformation and restoration of 5 young men to their right minds.
God has given mankind stewardship over all creation – chimpanzees and troubled boys included.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Quite possibly, we have reached the end of the beginning. Our list of lists has stabilized, and we are now crossing out more things than we are adding. (Don’t you love that feeling of running a black marker across an item on your agenda!) We have now consolidated our boys ranch building to only three things:
Program, Fund-Raising and Facilities
I encourage you all to pray for these three areas, specifically. It’s actually quite efficient. Instead of doing a line-by-line, you can hurl these up to heaven and say, “Please, God!” As the needs are fulfilled (and posted on our website) you throw up a “Thank You!” I think he understands our need for brevity. However, if you would like a more detailed prayer for the troubled and at-risk boys we will serve, you might try something as follows:
Please God, guide us as we put the finishing touches on our Program. It’s not really our program. It’s yours. We trust that you will provide insight regarding residential therapy, intake procedures, staff-training, relief staff, licensed Christian counseling, liability insurance, school curriculum, accreditation, disciplinary procedures, and motivational techniques. There are more things that we need to consider, but we submit those to you also, God. You alone, are omniscient!
Please God, lead us in our Fund-Raising. You are rich beyond measure. You own the “cattle on a thousand hills” – a measure that really means something for those of us who live in West Plains! Make the movie “Courageous” a success, and help us to sell-out the Glass-Sword Cinema! Move our website up on Google, increase our presence on Facebook, and put our flyers, emails, blog posts and newsletters in the right mailboxes and inboxes. You alone are omnipotent!
Please God, manage our Facilities. Help us to be good stewards of what you give us. Send us skilled laborers for remodeling projects, energetic volunteers, building supplies, dependable vehicles, fast internet, sturdy furniture, comfortable mattresses, and lots and lots of good food. You alone are omnipresent!
Please, Please, Please, Please!
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I believe it was the summer of 1984. With the Soviet Union boycotting the Olympics, the United States was mopping up on the rest of the world in the Los Angeles, and Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton were on the front of Wheaties. Led by Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Willie Hernandez (to name a few), the Detroit Tigers were on their way to a World Series victory over the San Diego Padres. And on the shore of Lake Huron, my family was vacationing, staying up late to roast marshmallows and listen to Ernie Harwell call the play-by-play on the transistor.
“Strike three! He stood there like a house by the side of the road!”
That’s the scene. What boy wouldn’t remember a summer like that?
What’s more, I remember a particular walk with my dad along the beach. If you’ve ever met Fred Liimatta, you know that he’s a walking object lesson. Parenting 6 kids in the middle of running a small business necessitates delivering fatherly wisdom on the fly. He’s all about the visual aids.
In high school, he ran cross-country. This always seemed strange to me, since the only time I ever saw him run was while being chased away from a job by an overprotective schnauzer. Since he was a Vietnam vet, I sometimes imagined him running through the jungle (like in that CCR song), but never for recreation or exercise.
In any case, on this particular morning, as the sun gently rose on the great lake, he spoke to me about running. Keep your eyes on a fixed point in the distance. Don’t look at your feet. Pace yourself. Finish Strong. Always leave something for the end of the race. Lots of guys can run three miles, but the guy who wins is the one who can find that extra something at the finish.
Each of these points about running evolved into memorable life lessons during that walk and in the years afterward, as I reviewed them during the trials of high school, college, marriage, teaching and parenting.
“Finish Strong!” I still hear from behind, my dad’s encouraging advice propelling me forward when I feel like quitting.
Our prayer is that Whetstone can be this fatherly voice of wisdom for boys who never had a Summer of ‘84. It may be that their father stepped out for a pack of cigarettes and never returned, couldn’t get away from the office, or cared more about Monday Night Football than Friday Night with the Family. There are far too many “invisible fathers,” as Robert Lewis puts it in Raising a Modern Day Knight.
Sadly, we can’t restart the race and give them a real father; but with your help, Whetstone can make sure our boys have a chance to finish strong!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
From what I’ve observed, God works in two ways: all-at-once and not-all-at-once. Because this may seem either obvious or contradictory, I’ll explain. (This is a blog afterall.)
Let’s start with the creation of the universe. First off, how long was God planning it? For an eternity before time? Or did he improvise like a painter, or a jazz musician? Was it all at once, or not all at once? Did it occur over a literal six days, or over billions of years? I’d make the case that the Genesis account is literal, but even creationists like me admit that it certainly appears to have taken long time. I believe he made it all at once (or at least within a week’s time), but I can see how it looks to some like he chose to do it not all at once.
For a less controversial example, let’s look at Moses. God called to him all at once, out of a burning bush. There was no advance prep. God simply appeared. Bam! But deliverance of Israel was a long way off. It took 12 plagues and 40 years of wandering in a giant desert before God had prepared the heart of his nation to cross over Jordan. Certainly, this qualifies as not all at once.
Same thing with the apostle Paul. Epiphany on the road to Damascus, then shipwrecks, snake bites, stoning and death in a Roman prison, before his letters to a chain of shaky churches are collected to help articulate a theology that will in 300 years, overthrow an empire. All at once, then not all at once.
Whetstone is in the much the same boat. It’s been over 10 years in the making. There has been trial and doubt and mind-numbing still-water in this journey. But recently, all at once, and (this is the important part) at just the right time, God has opened up the floodgates.
The progress that our boys make over their 10-12 months in our program will be similar. It will sometimes be made all at once. God will reveal certain truths to them in moments of prayer, or during a fall hike through a forest of color. But some lessons will be hard learned, perhaps only embraced years down the road.
Describing the glory of God, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
He means that God works in two ways: instantaneous like lightning, or slow like the ooze of oil. But whether he works all-at-once, or not-all-at-once…
He always works.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Around here, we have something called the “List of Lists.” LOL for short…except there is very little laughable or loveable about it.
Right now, we are in the process of figuring out what we don’t know. Specifically, we don’t know what we don’t know. Yes, that sounds like the title of a bad country song – but like a bad country song, it makes up for in accuracy what it lacks in subtlety.
The reality is that no matter how hard we work, or how flawlessly we plan, we still have more things on our list than we have time to do them. In 45 days, we hope to welcome our first boy, and at last count, we had no less than 21 separate lists. Each day, we add another list to this list, as well as new items to each list on the list.
“List, list, oh list!” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene v)
I don’t want you to get the idea that this LOL is insurmountable, or that we feel like we’re in the first act of a Shakespearean tragedy. Quite the opposite, we are inspired everyday by the new and miraculous ways God is at work to meet all of our needs. He has provided the perfect home, in the perfect setting. He has provided $120,000 in 3 months. He has provided appliances and furniture and computers and fishing poles and feed buckets.
And he will provide the boys when the time is right.
If we have learned only one thing from this experience, it is that God provides for all of our needs…even the ones we didn’t know we had.
The Lord of Lords is in charge of our List of Lists.
Friday, August 12, 2011
The last weekend of July, we had a good old fashioned barn-raising event at the Ranch. Eight men and six boys from Forum Christian in Columbia, Missouri, swept, scraped, trimmed, weed-whacked, and power washed a goodly portion of the 11,000 square foot residence and accompanying acreage. It needed a bit of TLC, and how better can a bunch of men show tender, love and affection than with a large collection of power tools!
I was put in charge of a crew of 4 boys and tasked with storing or disposing of the many items left on the premises. Ping pong table? Keep. Bucket of rusty nails? Pitch. Sledge hammer? Keep. Old pair of tennis shoes? Pitch. After several sweaty hours of pulling junk out of the basement (aka future school room), we started to develop an identity and a sense of camaraderie; we even came up with a name for ourselves: “The Junk Bunch.” Ours was the grimiest job, but after we had our first layer of dust and dirt caked on, we started to like it. What boy doesn’t like to get dirty from head to toe?
The other work crews focused on pruning trees, trimming bushes, weed whacking, and power spraying the vinyl porch and siding. They all probably felt like we did, with their own special reasons for pride in the valuable and hard work they were accomplishing. And at the end of the long Saturday, we all deserved to feel proud of what we had done. Thanks to the guys from Forum Christian, Whetstone Boys Ranch already looks and feels like a new place.
Ronald Reagan liked to say that the “outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” I don’t think he invented this phrase, but it’s a good one. In our case, I’d say the outside of Whetstone’s “house” will be good for the inside of our boys. We want our boys to feel proud of being at Whetstone. I echo the comment of a lady at a recent presentation when she said that our biggest problem might be getting our boys to leave. This could be a real concern, and in all seriousness, we will have to think long and hard about the best way to transition our boys from the haven of Whetstone to the harsh reality of the worlds they come from.
We think that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And from the look of the ranch after this weekend, the guys from Faith Forum obviously agree.
Pray that God will send us more workers like them.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
I’ve already said this once, but it bears repeating. We are in over our heads…and I’m not just talking about those of us who happen to be in the boys ranch business. If you are alive and breathing, you are in over your head also.
I was recently reminded of this during a conversation with the director of another residential care facility here in Missouri. As Jeremy and I talked with this gentleman on our second day as full time Whetstone employees, we were in equal parts inspired and overwhelmed. It was difficult to process the amount of work and wisdom required to make something like this work. The devil is indeed a roaming lion, seeking whom he may devour. And he doesn’t devour things that are already dead. He lets the vulture do that. The lion devours the tender young that have a bright future in front of them. Boys are irresistible. Facilities like ours make an even juicier target, since he can potentially wipe out hundreds of boys into the future, with one fell swipe.
None of us can defeat him on our own. To think we can is to invite disaster. I don’t wish to sound pessimistic, because I’m really not, but we are just too weak, ignorant, stupid and selfish to offer any significant resistance on our own. As parents, teachers, students, business owners, church leaders (and, let’s have some grace…members of congress) our scope is so extremely limited, that try as we may, no amount of planning can guarantee success or prevent failure. We live in a fallen world, and none of us can escape it.
Does God work in, through and in spite of our fallen-ness? Certainly. Can we see him at work? Sometimes. Do we have to like how he works? Nope. If God wants Whetstone Boys Ranch to succeed, it will succeed. If he has other plans…well then…he has other plans.
But for the time being, it is hard to decipher his prompting as anything other than directions that, as my dad would say, we cannot misunderstand. We have doors, and windows, and garages, and houses thrown wide open. And so we step forward in faith.
We won’t anticipate everything that we need to be successful, but with God’s help through your prayers, we will hopefully avoid the pits into which the devil would lead us. Please pray that being in over our heads will make us even more dependent on the one who reigns above, beyond and way, way over all of our heads.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
The heroes of the Bible did not know they would become heroes of the Bible. They had no clue that their personal stories would inspire billions, that nations down through the ages would be patterned on their words and deeds, that they would have their own Veggie Tales video. They walked wilderness paths that led to unknown destinations, and they endured great trials with no guarantees except that God would be with them – even to the ends of the earth.
To be sure, these men and women often struggled to keep their faith in God’s presence on their epic journeys. Sometimes, they foolishly relied on their own strength. Abraham offered Pharaoh his wife to save his neck. Moses literally took matters into his own hands and struck a rock to bring forth water of his own accord. Peter grabbed a sword and slashed off a soldier’s ear before realizing Jesus would not condone his violence. Sometimes they suffered great loss and tragedy. Isaac and Rebecca had a son kidnapped and for a time, thought him murdered. David’s son attempted patricide. Paul underwent shipwreck, snakebite, lashing, stoning and imprisonment, to name just a few.
And in each case, none of these heroes of the faith had any idea what the final outcome would be. Their stories were in all likelihood destined for the trash bin of history. There were no slain Hydras or Minotaurs to bear testimony to their deeds. A strong case can be made that their faith in God’s providence was the only remarkable thing about any of them.
On Friday, July 22nd, Whetstone officially closed on the 280 acre property that will, Lord willing, serve as the future restorative home for hundreds of boys in the years to come. By faith, we are – all of us – one step further on this journey to follow the vision God has set before us. We don’t know what challenges lie in store, what obstacles may arise, what roadblocks Satan will, or already has, constructed down the road.
But we are sure, beyond a doubt, that God is stronger than anything that may beset us. He will not give us more than we can collectively bear. And this is because God’s presence is both the only thing we need and only thing that can never, ever, be taken away.
For if He is for us, who can be against us?