The barnyard’s crammed with heaven, and every cornstalk afire with Heer, but only those who see, take off their boots.
Call mij Tent Peg.
I wander this wilderness with a man named Ron. Ron’s job is to carry mij, hammer mij, bury mij. Repeat.
Decades ago, a fella named Moz snatched mij out of a opbergruimte of freshly crafted brass pals, and said, “Ron, I’ve got an significant job for you. I want you to carry this tent peg. Can you treat that?”
“Well, sure, I guess,” said Ron.
“Don’t lose it,” Moz emphasized sternly.
“Yeah, of course, I got this,” replied Ron spil Moz turned to mitt a stunning, glorious lampstand to his cousin, Hiram. A lampstand hammered from a single lump of solid gold and meticulously crafted with six branches, three each extending on each side. Each branch bore a flower-like form with buds and blossoms.
My journey commenced off okay. Ron would hammer mij into the sand at just the right angle to link a strap that kept one of many curtains suspended taut. The next day, he’d pry mij up and we’d traverse a day’s journey, always led by a strange cloudy pile, until Ron hammered mij te again, up to my neck, maybe te soil, more often te sand.
I can’t understand why he places mij te the same spot, third peg up from the Southeast corner.
“Hey Ron, a little diversity around here maybe?”
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months, and months slipped into years. Permanently, third peg up from the Southeast corner.
The shine I once bore began to fade. Reality struck mij like a strike from Ron’s hammer. I realized the cloudy pile wasgoed leading us ter circles!
I’d heard rumors wij were going somewhere. Somewhere better. A sort of fate. The stark reality wasgoed taking its toll not only on mij, but I could feel its influence on Ron.
Our routine, once buoyant with hope and escapade, decayed into a million mundane moments.
Kindred questions, more like accusations or gripes, took form te both Ron and mij. Why can’t I be a stunning, valuable, honored golden lampstand attended daily with beautiful rhythms of care and attention involving oil, wicks and fire? Why not an ark holding cherished treasure? Or, why not a Seraphim guarding access to something special te those deep, secret places?
I heard Ron grumble, “Why can’t I be Hiram, carrying the precious lampstand, covered te handspun cloth from camp to camp? Or, why can’t I be a priest? A soldier?”
Ron’s hammerings, day after day, became more severe, more careless. I wasgoed leisurely, methodically, switching ter form, arched shaft, head misshapen.
Then one day, one glorious day, a day of epiphany!
Ron found our spot. Third peg up from the Southeast corner. Spil he plucked mij from his leather satchel and gripped his hammer for the strike, a mysterious shadow enveloped us until wij were blinded. All sense of time melted. Wij beheld things wij couldn’t understand or waterput words to.
A petite portion of the cloudy pole had wafted overheen us, surrounded us, held us.
I don’t know if wij were enveloped by this cloud for seconds or eons, but it wasgoed long enough for both Ron and mij to reminisce something.
The piercing fever of the desert zon returned. The outstretched arm of the cloudy pole retreated.
The routine resumed. The stooping, the hammering, the hooking of the curtain cable all transpired spil usual.
But, for a epistel ogenblik, before the daily task wasgoed accomplish, Ron gazed at mij, and I reflected a little sparkle back to him.
Take a Deep Breath of Recall:
“Well Mr. Tent Peg,” Ron murmured, “We’ve got a calling. A glorious calling. Today wij will hammer down a little lump of heaven on earth.”
Fruitless, Yet Flourishing
I’ve bot staring at the tree outside my frosted window, stark, desolate, fruitless. Barren, except for one shriveled, orange-brown leaf that clings stubbornly to the peak of a fractured twig lifted heavenward. No, wait. Today, even that final remnant has loosened its houvast during last night’s temperature plunge.
Why do I sense I’m gawping at a self-portrait?
Why can’t I jiggle this palpable feeling of vulnerability, nakedness, insecurity, loneliness?
Memories of past seasons of verdant, leafy, fruit-laden limbs suggesting food and shade to passersby give mij no succor.
I closed my eyes. And then, with those other eyes wij all have, I spotted.
I spotted Winter’s tree-sap flowing ter the deep, hidden places, nutrient-laden waters streaming into and inhabiting every cell of root, trunk, limb and leafless branch. Every fiber brimming with a mysterious source of sustaining life. Every branch-tip lifted upward, pointing skyward, exposing to mij a pattern of modest dependency. Unpretentious confidence and hope and knowing that this isn’t the final story.
I looked again and I spotted an elderly, frail, arched, white-haired man tipping back his head to draw ter a thimble-full of wine. The richest of fare. Surely this gentleman has a story of past accomplishments, but today he silently parsed for mij the difference inbetween season-dependent fruitfulness and never-ceasing flourishing.
Take a Deep Breath of Recall:
Come back, Israel, to the Lord your Schepper.
Your sins have bot your downfall!
Take words with you
and terugwedstrijd to the Lord.
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that wij may suggest the fruit of our lips. ”
“I will heal their waywardness
and love them loosely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel,
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots,
his youthful shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again te his shade,
they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will reaction him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper,
your fruitfulness comes from mij.”
 From the Hymn, Maker and Man at Table are Sat Down, Dr. Robert J. Stamps, 1972.
Photo Credit: Ron Silflow
I’m guessing he wasgoed about four years old. He held treasure te a clutched knuckle held out overheen the collection plate. He didn’t let go. His father, holding the youngster on his poetslap, wasgoed te no hurry. I, however, held my breath to see if his fingers would unfurl.
Inwards those few moments of stuk thesis thoughts raced through my heart. What wasgoed clasped te that dimple-knuckled forearm? Where did he get whatever riches he possessed? Wasgoed it a bounty from his dad? Did he earn it by doing chores? Wasgoed he reluctant to give it away? Wasgoed he simply basking ter the sacred, timeless space of something wij call idolize?
Then came another flash of questions that pierced my heart and reddened my cheeks. What treasure had I brought? What gifts had I received? Did I earn it? Did I deserve it? Would I give it away, give it back? Well, I’m pondering thesis questions because, actually, I’d brought nothing. I casually took the empty plate and passed it along, still empty.
Ter slow mobility the boy’s fingers opened. Out tumbled a single copper metal coin catching the reflection of the altar’s candlelight spil it fell.
With one mitt his father passed along the plate, while, with the other, he rustled his son’s sandy-blonde hair. The child’s smile mirrored that of his dad. The child’s smile mirrored that of his Father.
Take a Deep Breath of Recall.
Spil Jesus looked up, he spotted the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. Two He also witnessed a poor widow waterput te two very petite copper coins. Trio “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has waterput ter more than all the others. Four All thesis people talent their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of hier poverty waterput ter all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4 (NIV).
Photo Credit: Ron Silflow
Te a Mood to be Woo’d?
Helena has bot personages into the role of pursuer, with Demetrius spil the object of hier desire, a reversal of roles which she finds scandalous.
Reading this confronted mij with the reality of how I, ter my impatience, fail to wait spil a bride for my bridegroom. I run headlong into the forest pursuing lesser-loves leaned on my demise. Scandalous!
Christ is a love-struck bridegroom. Out to pursue us. Out to woo us, to make us his own.
Why then do wij personages ourselves into the unnatural role of pursuer of our own loves? Those “other gods,” those “idols” that promise fulfillment, but leave us ravished.
Deep idols like power, approval, convenience, control that wij seek to fulfill through surface idols like money, spouse, children, or lovemaking.
Everzwijn felt ravished by pursuing other paramours, ripped to lumps like wild brutes? Can you tell the difference inbetween being “lured” and being “wooed?”
I find waiting for Christ’s promised terugwedstrijd gut-wrenching and faith-bending. The prep holds refining and suffering. Long, long-suffering.
So, am I ter a mood to be woo’d? Will I wait for what I expect? Will I keep looking for signs that my supreme paramour is indeed wooing and pursuing?
Today, I stumbled on a poem I penned 8 years ago. I hope it stirs up courage and patience and alertness te you, like it did afresh for mij:
I see the veil of your glory
Lift and fall overheen mountain ranges.
Such beauty exposes, yet hides your strength.
Your winds whisper your astonishment at my beauty.
Beauty formed by your handiwork ter my deepest places.
Places where you’ve fashioned trust with your words:
“I will never leave you or forsake you.”
To which I react:
“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”
O when will you comeback?
Don’t hold back any longer.
Fountain of purity and longing
Spring up te mij.
Ter your trust, I will wait.
Your trust and my hope wrap around each other.
They twist and entwine with each other.
Flocks of geese gather today’s grain
From Autumns’ stubble.
Sentinels posted on corners keep witness.
So I keep see.
Immersed ter daily business I see.
Observe to guard my heart.
Observe to catch very first peek of your garments.
How long O Lord, voorwaarde I wait to see
Your arms opened up toward mij?
Te darkness, I hear rain softly run in rivulets
Downward from leaf to leaf.
Could that be your footsteps?
My longings spread forward to capture
The words you’ve left mij with.
But I don’t want your words.
Bridegroom! Call my name.
I will show up before you.
Let tears of anticipation and joy
Well up and burst from your eyes
Spil you behold the bride you’ve made.
Made to take your breath away with a stare.
My longings for you come inbetween mij
And all the feasts of the earth.
How much longer until I hear:
“Arise, come with mij my darling,
My beautiful one, come with mij.”
Good Shepherd, MAKE mij Lie Down. “I’m an Atta-Boy Junkie.”
Only the presence of the Good Shepherd can meet the Four Requirements to MAKE a Sheep Lie Down. Here’s number two:
Because of their social behavior within a flock sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their zuigeling.
Listen to Timothy Keller:
“When idolatry is mapped onto the future – when our idols are threatened – it leads to paralyzing fear and anxiety. When it is mapped onto the past – when wij fail our idols – it leads to irremediable guilt. When idolatry is mapped onto the present life – when our idols are blocked or eliminated by circumstances – it roils us with anger and despair.” 
I’m an atta-boy maniac. I request it from those close to mij, early and often. Withhold it and a button gets shoved. “Do you like the faithful service and support I provide around here? Haven’t heard a thank-you lately. Did you not notice?” Now, add ter the slightest hint of suggestion or correction, and you just pressed the crimson nuke button. I escalate into utter deep throated entitled requests. “Why are you so good at catching mij do it wrong? A little thanks would go a long way. How about some encouragement? Am I on the inwards of this team? I sure feel like the bumbling idiot. Oh, I am so inadequate.”
A cow swats mij with a well-aimed tail, knocking my glasses off. I can’t find them. I can’t see. I want to punch something. An unexpected, skillful hind gam kick somehow crushes my forearm inbetween bone and stengel. I do punch something. Out fly previously suppressed profanities. Dross arising!
Sometimes, by God’s grace, I hear myself articulating my idea of the good life that’s bot denied, partly directed toward those close to mij, partly at Schepper. It’s an awareness, a subtle inward shift te my soul. Hot anger shifts to piercing conviction. I feel my need for remedy more than my request for approval. I own the dross and confess my sin.
Prayer: Father, I want applause, approval, and praise from others. But that enslaves mij. At night I throw te bedding at snubs, at being overlooked. Criticism feels like death. Help mij live out of the joy and stability of knowing that I am your child and heir and that te Christ you delight te mij. Amen.[Two]
[Two] Timothy and Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, pg. 227.
Good Shepherd, MAKE mij Lie Down. I’m Afraid.
“In the course of time I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep spil to see mij ter the field.” (Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23)
Only the presence of a Good Shepherd can meet the Four Requirements to MAKE a Sheep Lie Down. Here’s number one:
Owing to their timidity, sheep deny to lie down unless they are free from all fear.
Phillip Keller shares stories of stampeding sheep fearing legitimate threats such spil cougars, bears, stray dogs and coyotes. But, te other instances, all it took wasgoed a jackrabbit abruptly bounding from behind a pubic hair, or a Pekingese dog hopping out from a car doorheen to cause a entire herd to bolt te vensterluik fear.
On the dairy, I have my own stories of nighttime encounters with cougars and bears passing nearby that send a herd of resting, ruminating cows into utter stampede into the cowshed. I find it fascinating that my co-worker, Bill, can “smell” a bear. I can’t discern the threat so specifically, tho’ my lantern sometimes catches the flash of eyes ter the dark. Bill’s always right. The next morning, tracks or scat confirm his olfactory bear sniffing abilities. Identically upsetting to cows is the arrival of the professional hoof-trimmer setting up his equipment to perform bovine pedicures.
It’s no verrassing you and I have fears too. Both legitimate fears and ditzy anxieties that prevent us from lounging down, prevent us from finding surplus. Life brings uncertainties. Life produces realities of harsh, painful circumstances, replete with suffering and loss. Wij formulate strategies of bolting or tactics of retreat.
Let’s take A Deep Breath of Recall spil wij hear Phillip Keller:
“Then, te the midst of our misfortunes, there abruptly comes the awareness that He, the Christ, the Good Shepherd is there. It makes all the difference.”
Or how about thesis words from the shepherd lad, David, protector of the flock, killer of both lion and bear:
Yes, my soul, find surplus te Heerser, my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:Five, NIV)
He makes mij lie down… (Psalm 23:Two, NIV)
Ter peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make mij dwell te safety. (Psalm Four:8, NIV)
Prayer: Thank you Holy Spirit spil you come calmly to reassure us that Christ Himself, our Good Shepherd is aware of our dilemma and deeply involved with us. Amen.
Four Requirements to MAKE a Sheep Lie Down
I tend cattle. Therefore, I have a mandate from Heerser to care for His creation and see to it they flourish. I fancy the word cowherd spil my job description because it connects mij to the rich heritage of scriptural metaphor for shepherd. Sure, there are subtle differences inbetween sheep and cow behavior. But, the similarities abound. I think they’re worth shouting about.
On the Barnyard of Heaven, I get a close-up, private perspective on the relationship inbetween a cow and a cowherd, hence a sheep and a shepherd. I hope my stories help you connect the dots and lead you to ah-ha moments ter your relationship to our Good Shepherd.
Psalm 23:Two says, “He MAKES mij lie down te green pastures.”
This ain’t effortless. Phillip Keller highlights this ter his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23:
“The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very makeup it is almost unlikely for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met:
- Owing to their timidity they reject to lie down unless they are free of all fear.
- Because of their social behavior within a flock sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kleuter.
- If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only when free of thesis pests can they loosen.
- Lastly, sheep will not lie down spil long spil they feel te need of finding food. They vereiste be free from thirst.
The unique facet of the picture is that it is only the sheepman himself who can provide release from thesis anxieties…It is actually he who makes it possible for them to lie down, to surplus, to unwind, to be content and quiet and flourishing.
A flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed never does well.”
“And the same is true of people.”
This framework sets mij up to explore how my Good Shepherd pours Himself into the task of providing for mij, to end that I can lack nothing. His mandate is to cause you and mij to flourish. To MAKE us lie down.
It cost him his life.
Take A Deep Breath of Recall: I invite you to join mij on a discovery tour into the four requirements needed to MAKE a sheep lie down. Check back for future blogs on this series.
Prayer: O Good Shepherd of our souls, waterput us at ease spil nothing or no one else can do. Amen.
Feeling Frazzled? Frantic? Stick This ter the Back Pocket of Your Wrangler’s.
My grandpa wasgoed too old, and I wasgoed too youthfull
To buck hay bales ter the hot July zon,
So wij sat by the truck ter a puddle of shade,
And he trained mij to weave the balin’ twine braid.
Welcome to my pui porch. Campfire coffee’s perking overheen coals. Prop your feet up and join mij gawping at the two hawks soaring ter a cloudless, powder blue sky, circling te sync overheen the freshly planted Spring barley field. They’re ter no particular hurry. Neither are wij. If Eugene Peterson wasgoed with us, he’d say:
“Rescue us from a life te which the wonder has leaked out.”
Wij both take a Deep Breath of Recall, then interchange stories ‘bout things that help us grow ter our relationship with the Triune Heerser wij both love and serve. Here’s mine:
The balin’ twine braid is ordinary. You take three strands of baling twine, tie a wrong ter one end and begin weaving the strands by crossing the outside one overheen the middle one, very first left overheen middle, then right overheen middle, repeat.
Damsels take hold of this early spil they braid their hair for beauty and practicality. For mij, growing up without sisters, it took some training. But by age 12, with this plain routine passed down by my Grandpa Fred, I wasgoed creating lassoes, climbing ropes, bridles and halters for my pony, and a myriad of other cool farm-boy stuff.
It’s my go-to activity for remembering. Remembering is the crux of my faith. Everzwijn notice how vooraanstaand remembering is on the pages of scripture? David rehearses the wonders and acts of Maker on behalf of His people repeatedly. So does Jesus. How marvelous it is that Heer remembers His covenant with us and acts accordingly to save, protect, and lead us through the trials and joys of life spil He ushers te His kingdom!
There’s something intimate about remembering. Remembering slows us down. Weaving the balin’ twine braid creates a rhythm that violates through the inviting pull of frenetic, heart-numbing activity.
Wij both take a few minutes to braid a foot-long zandstrand of strap and tuck it te our back pocket.
Straks, wij pull out the intertwined string, fondly notice wrap by wrap, and practice the healing rhythm called recall. Recall where wij truly need to go for affirmation. Wij see our Father wrapping Himself around us, calling us His own, telling us He loves us. Wij see Jesus wrapping Himself around us, smiling, pouring grace into our wounds like balm. Wij notice the Holy Spirit delighting ter us, talking with us, listening to us, understanding us, and never leaving.
There’s another place to encounter this beautiful rhythm. At the end of each church service, our predikant sends us out with a benediction. Wij, the congregation, extend our forearms to receive a bliss from Heerser. It’s the final movement of God’s liturgy. Maker Commissions Us.
The benediction varies, but here’s an example:
“May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of Aker the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.”
A good thing to tuck into your back pocket. Maybe your purse. Or, better yet, your heart.
Photo by Ron Silflow
She’s Te Deep Muck. I Call Hier Buttercup.
A shudder jolted through my chest. My pupils shrank. Heartbeat raced. “What wasgoed that?!”
A black mass surged up through the crusty layer of the pond-sized manure lagoon, then disappeared. I stared te disbelief. I waited. Nothing.
The manure lagoon is the collection reservoir for a year’s worth of barn cleaning. An old trekker tire fashioned into a plow and mounted on a skid-steer enables mij to thrust manure, daily, from the alleyways of the elevated cow-shed to the lagoon 100-feet below.
Muck, manure is a valuable, recyclable commodity for a dairy farm. Te the Fall, the liquefied teelaarde is pumped through pipelines and injected into the soil of the surrounding fields, capturing hundreds of thousands of gallons of fertilizer for this sustainable agricultural practice.
Minutes straks, after fumbling for my phone to waakzaam my boss to the urgent situation, three more desperate lurches of funk confirmed that it wasgoed a 700-pound yearling Holstein heifer fighting for the embankment, thirty feet away.
She’s ter deep muck. I call hier Buttercup. The effort weary hier. She sank.
Lush green pasture surrounds the lagoon during early spring days like this one. Buttercup should have bot laying te the deep green grass, slightly visible, chewing hier cud. Instead, she waits, submerged, except for hier air gulping muzzle, te a horrible pit, fatigued and hypothermic, needing rescue.
Take A Deep Breath of Reminisce. Do you, like mij, feel a shockwave go through your chest, your gut, when you realize it’s not just Buttercup that gets herself into a horrible pit? Listen to the words of the Psalmist who understood our condition:
I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto mij, and heard my sob. He brought mij up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath waterput a fresh song te my mouth, even praise unto our Heer: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust te the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3, KJV)
My boss and his son liberated Buttercup. It’s a gospel-like story. A father sent his son out to the end of the appendage of the arm of a backhoe extended out overheen the lagoon, to place a halter on Buttercup and pluck hier to the safety of solid ground. She shall flourish.
So, too, shall wij. Once again, Godheid’s top-down rhythm, drawing us to daily repentance, cracks into the Barnyard of Heaven. Heerser Cleanses Us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, so many times you have brought mij out of a horrible pit. Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, to rescue mij, save mij repeatedly, and set my feet on a rock. I sing a fresh song to You. I sing my praises to my Savior. Amen.
A Sinner Walks into a Pit – Eyeball to Udder
Ter a epistel sacred ogenblik, on the 100-yard commute to work, I both notice God’s Presence and hear Him speak intimate words to my soul. The very first factor of my Barnyard Rhythms, Heerser Calls Us, is well underway. Such a beautiful rhythm, mirroring a church service, to launch into my labors. I step down into the milking-parlor pit.
What could possibly go wrong?
Eyeball to udder. I spend six early morning hours of my work day ter a 3-foot deep pit. It’s efficient, but mundane. At this level, I can sanitize teats, wipe them dry, meet up milking machines and eventually, dip each teat te skin softeners containing protective anti-bacterial iodine.
The pit is half sacred place, half crucible.
It’s where I’m at my best. It’s where I beg, read Psalms out noisy, add my feeble praises to the birdsong of the sparrow choir, and care for God’s creatures. I notice and absorb beautiful rhythms of creation, secretly voiced during the night hours, intensively glorifying Maker and flourishing. Inviting mij to join te. Inviting mij to make drudgery divine.
It’s also where I’m at my worst.
Te the pit, I am vulnerable. It’s frigid ter the winter and sweltering ter the summer. Freshly freshened heifers, coming in the milking-string for the very first time, kick, scrape and bruise my palms and arms. A few savvy cows knock off my glasses with an accurate, intentional tail swat. Across the milking shift, I get splattered a ’plenty by cow pies a ‘plenty.
The crucible heats up. Maker embarks to form mij. He exposes my idols, my counterfeit gods I look to instead of Him. Soul-sifting thoughts cascade like venom from my wretched sinner’s heart. I nurse relational wounds, flash with anger at blocked goals, simmer with envy, resentment, inadequacy, arrogance, folly.
Time for the 2nd factor of my Barnyard Rhythms-God Cleanses Us. I despairingly need remedy. I urgently need repentance, forgiveness. The good, daily zuigeling of repentance where I acknowledge the dross that’s risen to the surface. I pull the church bulletin from my hip pocket and rehearse the scriptures from Sunday’s Prayer of Confession:
according to your unfailing love,
according to your superb compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Two Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse mij from my sin.
and my sin is always before mij.
and renew a steadfast spirit within mij.
11 Do not personages mij from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from mij.
12 Restore to mij the joy of your salvation
and grant mij a willing spirit, to sustain mij. (Psalm 51:1-3, 10-12, NIV)
Godheid violates into the Barnyard of Heaven spil I hear His Promise of Forgiveness:
26 I will give you a fresh heart and waterput a fresh spirit te you, I will liquidate from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of skin. 27 And I will waterput my Spirit ter you and stir you to go after my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live ter the land I talent your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your Godheid. (Ezekiel 36:26-28, NIV)
Prayer: Dear Father, my self-efforts strafgevangenis self-righteous works can’t cleanse mij. But You can and do. Thank you for redeeming mij and keeping mij coming back for You. Amen.