Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If God Is For Us

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?

Pink Buckets

How many of you out there have brought home a wild animal for a pet?  You thought the kids would learn to appreciate nature a little more if it were up close and personal.  You thought you’d rescue a baby rabbit about to be eaten by your cat which had it cornered and seemed to be enjoying a long, slow torture.  You thought you’d save a few bucks and not have to visit the pet store. 

All of the above for me.  My most recent take home trophy was a turtle – one of those crazy turtles that tries to cross a busy road and usually ends up cracked and splattered.  I have to admit that I’ve done this several times, and the end result is always the same.  

It starts out as a fun little project.  We do a little research about what the turtle likes to eat.  Bugs, worms, strawberries.  We try to recreate its natural habitat.  Grass, water, mud, leaves, sticks, and stones.  We try to find a container which will keep the turtle from escaping or from being eaten.  A medium sized pink plastic bucket with a piece of cardboard on top.  Yeah, we need to work on that one.  

We then place the turtle in its new home, optimistic that he will become a close family friend. 
For the first few hours, the kids seem to enjoy the turtle.  Maybe they give him a name, like George Washington or Walkfast.  But soon, their enthusiasm starts to drain.  I don’t blame them.  Turtles just aren’t that exciting to watch.  They just sit there…especially when they’re confined to a bucket.  We haven’t exactly created turtle paradise, but even if we did, turtle paradise would not entice a turtle to do much more.  

Within a couple days, the bucket starts to stink.  I haven’t seen the kids so much as wave at the turtle, and so I unceremoniously dump him in the pasture beside our house.  He sits stunned for a few minutes, then scuttles away like nothing happened.  

Regardless of my failure as a turtle whisperer, I think my desire to care for this turtle reveals something about human nature.  We all want to fix things.  We know that for all our world’s glory, something is not right; something has gone terribly wrong, and if we don’t do something about it, things will get steadily worse – be they rabbits, or turtles or boys. 

Whetstone will never be able to replace the natural home that God designed for our boys, but rest assured, we’ll give them a lot more than worms and pink buckets.    

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Only Natural

One must be careful when drawing moral lessons from nature.  The barbaric and the hostile are just as easily derived from observing the animal kingdom at close quarters.   Both modern and ancient peoples have been guilty of sacrificing human welfare (and sometimes humans!) in idolatrous pantheism.  

However, I believe that for those who submit to the guiding influence of God’s Holy Spirit, nature serves as a wellspring of wisdom.  Whetstone’s attempt to turn troubled boys towards nature is based on this belief. 
One such trait that can be readily observed in nature, is Order.  It is apparent from even the most fleeting glance, that the natural world has been designed and is being sustained by a force that at the very least, prefers order.  Science would not exist without this belief.  Art would not be possible without it either.  In fact, no human discipline which has contributed to the betterment of mankind would exist without this bedrock faith in order.  

Even arguments that attempt to convince us that the universe is totally chaotic are done so in a logical/orderly manner.  How else would proponents of anarchy acquire their rank and file?   Believers in moral relativism are just as indignant about the abuse of their rights as anyone else.  If moral order did not exist, they cannot logically object.  In fact, many have argued that their system of faith requires a much greater leap.
In any case, this blog does not pretend to serve as a source of apologetics.  Rather, I make the case that boys lost in a wilderness of confusion, need to be reminded that there is a path leading out.  

Proverbs 14:12 says that “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to destruction.” One of Whetstone’s first orders of business will be to convince these young men that their ways are not God’s ways.  If we submit to God’s law, God’s path, God’s way, God’s order – we will find peace and joy.  

It’s only natural. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Tale of Two Goats

This is a story of two goats.

The first, pictured above, is a semi-feral remnant from the goat herd that used to populate the farm where we rent. He spooked us the first time we stumbled across him on a hike – bursting out from an abandoned farmhouse he has apparently claimed since the rest of his family was rounded up two years ago.

Exploring the house after he had left, we found scatological evidence of his habitation covering a corner of the top floor, one inch thick. Goats have no notion of indoor plumbing.

Now, we walk softly as we approach the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of him in the upstairs window where he keeps silent vigil, perhaps scanning the forest for his now auctioned brethren…or more likely, trying to see the coyotes before they see him.

The second goat mysteriously appeared among Jeremy’s four cows about a month ago. From the get-go, he was welcomed as a member of the bovine species – and from observing him, one would assume he doesn’t know the difference between himself and the cows. He spends every waking and sleeping hour with them; and the cows in turn, are devoted to him. Turns out he belongs to a cow herder down the road, who has no desire to see him returned. It seems he ran one of his cows to death – just kept pestering the poor animal until its heart gave out. But for some reason, his behavior with Jerm’s cows is totally altered. He’s a changed goat.

To be brief, if goats can change, so can people. It takes time, attention, and often a different environment, but it can be done. And it is exactly what Whetstone will do.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Iron Sharpens Iron

Kids don’t see adults the way we see ourselves.  This is a fundamental truth, and one that ‘grown-ups’ tend to ignore as inconvenient.

Case in point:  this picture that my daughter drew of me.  I like to think I’m better looking than this.  Maybe it’s vain, but I imagine myself as ruggedly handsome, not elfish in a non-Lord of the Rings kind of way.  If I am honest, I will also admit that I imagine myself as more generous, attentive, patient and loving than I really am.  I also think I’m amazingly humble compared to most people.

The fact of the matter is that other people see our faults (and our strengths) better than we do.  This is why we need teachers, coaches, husbands, wives, music critics…and yes, even mother-in-laws.  It’s also why we need boys’ ranches.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  This is Whetstone’s inspiration not just because it describes our approach to character-building with the boys on our ranch, but because we believe it applies to us as well.  We should never be above criticism.  As an organization, we need others to hold us accountable, to tell us when we go too far right or too far left.  We need your prayers to stay centered on keeping the main thing, the main thing.

That other people sometimes make us feel insecure and self-aware is no reason to avoid them.  On the contrary, we should sit for as many self-portraits as we can stand.

Truth…then beauty.  That’s the natural order of things.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011


The sun rises every morning.  This might seem too obvious to mention, but have you ever stopped to ponder this miracle?  Each and every morning from the beginning of time until today, it has done the same thing.  No mistakes.  No absent-minded forgetfulness.  We don’t have to send a reminder, or a follow-up email.  It’s a sheer and unwarranted grace that makes the sunrise possible each morning.

Most of us have played that little game with children where you ask them what sound a particular animal makes, for the purpose of making them respond with their cute imitation.   Cows go moo.  Cats go meow.  Dogs go bow-wow, or woof or arf.

Once, while playing this game with Libby Anne, I got a memorable response.  All of her answers were predictable until we reached the rooster.

How does the rooster go?” I asked.

After a short pause, she said:

Let there be light!

I have passed this story on to several people over the last couple years, so if you’re hearing it again, I apologize.  Anyways, this time it has a point other than isn’t my daughter just so adorable!

The point is this.  Sometimes, we think we make the sunrise. Not literally of course.  Very few of us are that stupid.  But in more subtle ways, we think we can control God, that we can manipulate him, that the good things which happen to us are anything more than divine magnanimity.  And we get to thinking maybe we aren’t so bad after all, if we can command things like the sun to rise with a cocksure cock-a-doodle-do.

The truth is that sunrises exist to show us something about grace; and because of God’s grace through the amazing generosity of our donors, Whetstone Boys Ranch will begin sharing this message on October 1st:

There is something called a second chance.  It doesn’t exist because you did anything to deserve it.  It exists because God exists.  Grace exists because God sent his son into the world for our sake…and that’s all there is to it.

No cock-a-doodle-do necessary.