Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"Welcoming them..." (Luke 9:11)

I have an agenda.

A schedule... I have a schedule.

I have goals: short term and long term.  And, required to fulfill those goals and whatnot, is my concentrated time, attention and exertion.  My tendency, as you may have gathered, is to be somewhat laser-focused when I am pursuing these things.  And I have a varsity-level ability to brush other things (or people) aside in that pursuit...  or at least to complain loudly enough as to drive the distractions away.

However, when I act in this way, I am at my worst, not my best.

I arrive at this conclusion because the Person I most wish to emulate — to follow — is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.  And when He had purposed to withdraw with His disciples, away from the crowds, to recover from the demands and needs of others... the crowds followed Him anyway.  In other words:  His ministry did not leave Him alone.  It would seem that the needs of the masses interrupted His plans that day.

Now, I have found myself in similar circumstances, haven't you?  My agenda is clarified, my schedule is set, my materials acquired, my motivation mustered. Everything comes together in a glorious framework destined for maximum productivity. Or maybe all of those things have been deliberately cast aside for a day of much needed R & R.  In either case, I've made my plans for the day.

Then, inevitably, an interruption steps onto my train tracks:
  • A child of mine gets violently nauseous.
  • My Bride's car gets stuck in the snow.
  • A friend's water pipes burst.
  • Someone needs to talk about a passing comment I made that has been bothering them.
  • ___________________________ (Insert your interruption of choice, here.)

When I read in Luke 9:11 that Jesus' response to the annoyingly persistent crowd was that He welcomed them, I am once again struck with just how far I am from being like Him.
My default setting is to view "interruptions to my schedule" as... well, interruptions.  I don't get that from Jesus.  He welcomed them.  He viewed them as opportunities to begin "speaking to them about the kingdom of God".  In Matthew 6:33, He told me that I should "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

So, the so-called interruptions are not that, at all.  They are opportunities.  Jesus knew this, and lived it.  To become more like Him (which is, in fact, God the Father's purpose and will for my life), I need to do what the Apostle Paul exhorts me to do, in Galatians 6:10
"So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."

My prayer today is that the Holy Spirit will remind me of this realization, always, and that He will give me — and you — the strength to embrace "interruptions" as the disguised opportunities that they are.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today is my 23rd Anniversary with my incredibly loving, patient, wise, fun, gorgeous and determined wife, Jenna.  We had a truly wonderful day celebrating it with our 6 children... including enjoying a viewing of our crazy wedding video with the kiddos.   What laughs we had!  Then it hit me:

Watching my Dad make a few comments and give us his blessing "on camera", I was compelled to do some quick math, about how old he was in that video...

He was only 3 years older than I am now.

Yes, now I feel old.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Cat Is Out of the Bag

The Hotel on Block 46, in Whitefish, MT
(photo credit:  Flathead Beacon)
Well, a few months ago, I hinted that "Something New" was coming.  Now that my current employer has been notified, and my new venture has an inked contract, I can tell you, too:

I will be leaving my current employer as of January 15th, 2016, in order to pursue a new career in Finish Carpentry with my dear friend and pastor, Charlie Frederico of Berean Bible Church of Kalispell.  Over the last 2½ years, having been in very close contact with Charlie and his lovely family, I have learned that he is truly a man after God's own heart, a skilled "tent-maker" in the ministry, who pours all he has into every relationship, every task that the Lord sets before him.  I look forward to furthering our friendship and brotherhood in Christ as we labor together with our hands.  This will also represent a major shift in another area...

For the last 4+ years, I have been working in vocational fields that are somewhat outside of my personal interest.  In 2016, I will begin to get my hands on WOOD on a regular basis... and get paid to do so!   :-)  (See my portfolio here)
Those of you who know me well can imagine how elated I am at the thought of this.  Charlie and I -- and a few others -- will be installing all the doors, windows, cabinets and trim for the 89-room Hotel, pictured above.  We should be done in the Summer, then moving on to the next project.  My hope is that this line of work will afford me (God willing) the flexibility to begin building our house in the Spring.  I will admit that I am a little nervous about doing carpentry for a living -- I really want to do it well!  But as we are fond of saying: "It ain't rocket surgery!"  :-)

I praise God for every opportunity He brings... and for every trial He allows.

A Decision, part 2

(Image from StoneMill.com -- posted here for inspiration's sake :-)

Well, in my last post, I mentioned that Something New is coming, and it is.

But this is not that.

This is something else.  This post has to do with our home building plans.

In my post back in February ("A Decision"), I wrote about the decision to take out a construction loan to build our home.  Well, it seems that we may have to go a different route, given certain financial obstacles that are proving repeatedly difficult to overcome.  And so, we are grateful to God for this "trial" (James 1:2-4), for it will compel us to build with little-to-no debt, but requiring great resourcefulness.  I am truly thankful for the necessity of having to go this route.  Why?  Because once our house is built, we will own it free and clear.  We will not be beholden to a 30-year mortgage.  And in America's current economic landscape, that may be vital.  (Perhaps I will not be enslaved to the 40+ hour work-week, for the rest of my life, after all?  That'd be good.  :-)

A few things of note:
  • Montana's "building code" requirements are extraordinarily minimal; so while we will strive to build everything "to code", we will only be bound by excellence of craftsmanship, within the bounds of frugality.
  • We already have water (a well), electricity and phone/DSL going to the property.
  • We have always had our sights set on heating the home with wood, since that resource is abundant at the property site.  That decision remains.

In summary, here's how I see things unfolding, Deo Volente:
  1. We will install a septic system and a (mostly-finished) basement.
  2. We will temporarily roof the basement and live there, while we plan to build our timber framed home above it.  The basement will be 1,280 sq.ft... which is at least 200 sq.ft. larger than the place we have been renting (!) for the past 4 years.
  3. All former rent payments (and all other available resource$) will go toward purchasing building materials, prioritized by immediacy of need.  Building materials (both purchased and gathered/salvaged) will be stored in a timber-framed barn, which we will build on the property (near the 40'x80' garden), as a "test build" in preparation for building the home.
  4. Once the Timber Frame House Plan is complete, and the timbers designed and fashioned, the frame will be constructed, clad with SIPs and roofed. (Timber material will have been harvested from our property, milled and stacked.)  Basement occupancy will continue, until...
  5. When interior walls and flooring have been framed and clad, the family will "move in", and continue with the "finishing touches".
  6. Estimated completion time: 5 years from start date.
This is all I have time to write... thanks for reading, and we'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Little Birthday in the Woods

For her birthday, my Dear Bride wanted us all to do some work on our future home site.  So we all willingly obliged, cutting up some firewood for next Winter, and weeding the garden area.  It was a lot of fun, and the children all did their part.  Thanks, Uncle Dave Graham, for letting us use your tractor & log splitter!
The Firewood Production Line!
Every time we ask Ellie to smile, she also sticks out her tongue...
Wood stackin' & haulin'

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Something New

Something new is coming.

Something completely different, but longed-for.

However, I must wait to announce it until all is "official".

Keep watching... I'll post the news as soon as possible.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Decision

Years ago, when we began this dream of building our own home in the woods of NW MT, we soon became aware of a decision that would have to be made, which would affect many other facets of our life, for decades:

To mortgage, or not to mortgage?

We could build our house little by little, over the course of several years -- even decades (!) -- only as (or if) the cash became available.  We'd probably be living in an old single-wide trailer on-site as we built the house piece-by-piece.  Perhaps by the time our children had grown and had children of their own, our house would be finished...


We could assume a construction loan/mortgage, take on the responsibility of paying it back over the next few decades, and enjoy the privilege of spending those next years in that house with our children, having made not only the house, shoulder-to-shoulder with our dear family and friends -- but also having made many memories, and having given them a crash course (pun not intended) in home construction.

Now, perhaps I can hear the cries of "go debt-free!" from all the Ramsey-ites.  I don't disagree that being debt-free is a blessing.  Still, under the circumstances, the mortgage -- and finishing construction in under 1 year -- was the way to go, for us.  It was no small feat to bring our family of seven (now eight) from SoCal to NWMT.  We did it, in part, to pursue all the things we couldn't afford in the uber-inflated economy of California:
  • wide-open spaces
  • agricultural pursuits like chickens/bees/high-volume gardening
  • no HOA telling us how to use our land
  • hunting & trapping wild game on our property
  • even the simplest thing of owning a dog, with room for it to run around on.

All these things center on having a warm, safe, dry and secure "home on the range."  To be constantly pushing back that dream of a "clean, well-lighted place" would undoubtedly frustrate and exasperate my family (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 13:12).

So wisdom was sought after... and received.  And then we acted.  We secured the most trustworthy General Contractor & Carpenter that the Flathead Valley has to offer, and we are currently pursuing a construction loan.  Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward, by faith.  I will post as much of the process as as I am able, here on this blog.  Thanks for taking the time to read, and may the Lord bless your days, as you trust -- and rest -- in Christ.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Budging Boulders

(An example of a "walkout basement", similar to the one we've been planning.  Ours will be a two-story house.)

(O.K., I know I'm a little late in posting this, but I'm trying to tie up some loose ends here at "A Different Legacy", so I figured I better at least post this entry.  I started writing it last Autumn, before the snow hit.  Much more has happened since this post was started, but I'll fill you in with another more current post.  Thanks for your patience!  :-)

Lately I've been spending every available block of time (hard to come by!) over at the "homestead land", just digging-digging-digging, making sure we can accommodate a walkout basement foundation, before we are holed-up for Winter, drawing up the final plans.  So far, our prospects for a basement are good, and I have another foot or two to go, all around, to make room for the footing.  However, there are a couple of persistent boulders in the Northwest corner that seem to be comfortable in the place where they've been nestled for the last several thousand years.  Now, it is my job as a human to "fill the earth and subdue it" -- which means that either they go, or I go.  And, in the immortal words of the Bergermeister Meisterberger, "I am certainly not going!"

Since I didn't want to spend a fortune on blasting them out, I thought I would try a product I came across, and had ordered online:  Ecobust.  Check out the product info on their website.  Anyway, I drilled...

 ...and poured the stuff in the holes.

That was last Saturday.

Update, 1/20/2015:
The EcoBust worked!  The rocks split into pieces, and I was able to dispatch them with only a little more effort.  The boulder work is not quite complete yet, but we are well on our way to having enough room for the walkout basement.  More to come, soon!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Humbly receiving spiritual direction... and DOING what we're commanded.

"Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith...
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."
(Hebrews 13:7, 17)

When I consider what the writer of Hebrews is saying here to the early Church, I am struck with a couple of easily-overlooked insights.  But before I get into those, I have to begin with some ground-level understandings:
  • The human tendencies of the church (and human beings at large, for that matter) have not changed, in all of its historyWe want to call our own shots, and when anyone or anything except our own conscience or our own understanding makes any real or perceived attempt to instruct — let alone command — our behavior or correct our thinking, we usually resort to one of two responses:
                1)  aggressive rebellion; or
                2)  apathetic dismissal and distance (often including scoffing condescension)
  • Our "Americanism" (whereby the "supreme law" of our land — the U.S. Constitution — begins with the infamous "We the People"), our love of individuality, and our esteem of democracy is far more deeply entrenched in our worldview and our church life than we ever recognize.  In other words: we don't see ourselves through the lens of Scripture... we see Scripture — and church life — through the lens of ourselves.
  • No matter how dignified we'd like to think ourselves, the God of the Universe calls us "sheep".
So, having established these cautions, I would assert the following.

Verse 7 does not merely suggest, but commands us to not only consider the importance of solid, biblical leaders, but also to emulate their lives and "imitate their faith".  Make no mistake: this commanded imitation pertains to some very unpopular and personal aspects of life:
  • How we attire ourselves, in all situations
  • How we approach "birth control"
  • How we approach "dating" and marriage
  • How we allow ourselves to be entertained
  • How we enact our children's education
  • What we allow ourselves to find humorous
  • What line of work we pursue
  • What roles ought to pertain to our gender
...and SO many more.  Ultimately, what's being communicated here, if I may paraphrase it, is this:

"If your pastor and elders are practicing what they preach, from the whole of Scripture, then do what they do.  Period."

For example:
  • If your pastor intentionally wears something nicer than jeans-and-a-t-shirt to your worship gatherings, do the same.
  • If your pastor's wife would never wear any clothing that would highlight her physicality (ladies), do the same.
  • If your elders are content to live on less income, that they may devote more time and attention to their families and to the ministry, do the same.
  • If your pastor's family seems to be fruitful and multiplying in spite of the world's demonstrated disdain for multiple children and in spite of their financial inability to make sure every one of their children can be sent to an ivy league university, do the same.
Listen, God's Word commands us, in verse 7, to be imitators of our leaders, insofar as they are genuine imitators of Christ.  So let's stop pretending that it's our mission in life to discover reasons why we shouldn't have to admire, respect and emulate them, all while asserting that "they're only human, after all".  Yes, they are.  But they are doing a pretty darn good job at following Christ with every fiber of their being, faults-and-all.  So let's quit criticizing them and start emulating them.  I think that we'll then be surprised by how wise, in fact and in Christ, they really are.  It'll be a worthy endeavor.

Now, on to verse 17.

As far as our pride is concerned, this verse is where the rubber meets the road.  And, if you consider the account of Jesus and the centurion, submitting to biblical authority is what separates the men from the boys, as far as the Kingdom of GOD is concerned.  Nevermind trying to establish your own kingdom by acting within your own authority and individuality.  King Jesus died to redeem His Church, and it is SHE that He is coming back for.  There is an authority structure He has ordained within His "family", and it is those who are the servant of ALL who will be called greatest.  As for me, I want to endeavor to be a joy to those in spiritual authority over me, and to make their calling — that is, to serve and lead their local body of Christ, on earth — as pleasant and mutually encouraging as possible.  Therefore, unless blatantly and clearly proven otherwise, I'm going to assume the following of my own pastor:
  • That he (yes, "he" — not "she") is fully devoted to Christ, and has unreservedly resolved to preach the whole Word of God, whether it is en vogue or not.
  • Is a very humble man before God, who spends vast quantities of time and attention combating his own flesh and pride.
  • That he is immeasurably vested in the spiritual growth of all within his care.
  • That he is rightfully sobered by the gravity of his role in the Church, both locally and Kingdom-wide.
  • That to live out what he teaches his flock, from Scripture, is the highest possible goal I could aim for, as a believer in community with the saints.
  • That he does not choose so-called "open-mindedness" over Scripture-informed conviction.  Because after all, the latter seems to be in short supply these days.
I pray you find the joy that is available from humbly receiving "the word implanted, which is able to save your souls."  (James 1:21)

Friday, August 15, 2014

From a Reader: "Why Columbia Falls?"

Aerial view of Columbia Falls in Summer

On my last post I received a comment from a reader, whose question may reflect many of your own: 
"Great post Ric! My heart has been leaning towards the life you describe for many years now; however, my wife is a bit more attached to the conveniences and created comforts of the big city suburb lifestyle. I am curious, what influenced your decision to select Columbia Falls, MT? There are so many different places in the US that offer what you have found in Columbia Falls and it would be interesting, and educational for me, to learn how you selected it. Thanks."   -- D. from California.

Our landing in "C-Falls" (as they call it around here) was a mixed bag of decision and God's providence.  Here's the short story:
After deciding that we wanted to leave California (early 2011), we compared states that were friendly to the 2nd Amendment (as a litmus test for freedom in each state's culture) with states that were friendly to Home Education (another passion of ours).  Of these overlapping states, Idaho and Montana most appealed to us: lots of precipitaion, definitive seasons, fertile land, plenty of varieties of wildlife, etc).  Concurrently, we had heard of both the concept of the American Redoubt and pastor Chuck Baldwin's move to the Flathead Valley, and were interested in how our "story" overlapped with theirs in many ways.  So my Bride and I took a "recon" trip to the Flathead, and really liked it.  A little while later, some friends of ours who had decided to move there too, found a house to rent, while we had not, yet.  We ended up living in a tent in their backyard for 3 months (July - October), while I looked for work (and found my current employer) and we looked for a place to buy or build.  Nothing turned up on the real estate front.  Finally, as it was beginning to get too cold to sleep outside, we knew we had to knuckle down and rent.  Some folks we had begun attending a home church with had a rental duplex unit open up in Columbia Falls (providential!).  It was a 25 minute drive to my work, and the price was right, so we jumped in and unpacked (most of) our stuff from storage.  Here's more of the Providencial part: Public Transportation in the Flathead could bring me pretty much from our new home to my work for about $2/day.  I started using that option, in order to free up our only vehicle for my wife and children to use.  Also, I was able to (necessarily) find a 2nd job in Martin City, 12 minutes from C-Falls.  Furthermore, we bought a 1.5 acre piece of land from my Uncle, who'd just moved to Whitefish (20 minutes NW of C-Falls), whereupon we would eventually build our own home.  Finally, we have landed into a wonderfully encouraging church family, who loves the Word of God and the fellowship of the believers as much as we do: Berean Bible Church, Kalispell.

So, we came up here by faith, with some planning, but the Lord has certainly ordered our steps!  I hope this answers your question, my friend.  Remember Joshua 1:9 --
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."