Sunday, February 19, 2017

Testing Stones

A hundred and fifty years ago Indians would tell stories of testing stones scattered around their hunting grounds. When an Indian's son could lift one of these stones, he was considered a brave. When he could carry it, he was considered a warrior.

God sometimes uses character building events in our lives as testing stones. I used to think I was strong enough to carry those stones by myself. I couldn't. After I figured out how helpless I was on my own, I asked God for help. He has been helping me ever since. Our cabin and it's location is part of remembering the testing stones God used in my life. Someday I hope my grandchildren hear the stories of how those big stones helped me grow.
 Many years ago I was introduced to this gal at a church softball game where I was pitching. It was the summer after my Junior year of high school. After the game we went for ice cream on my motorcycle. I was impressed with how much she knew about farming. Of course that's about all I knew about. I knew little about girls and less about social life. She talked about John Deere tractors and insisted they were the best. Her favorite was a 4020. I grew up on all red tractors. My favorite was an 856. Today we have a 1971 4020 JD and a 1971 856 IH just for old time's sake.
A year and a half later Jan and I were married. We lived in this house that used to set along the Glendale Road on a farm owned by Doug and Robyn's grandparents. We had to buy water by the 1000 gallon loads and have them dumped in a cistern. What we didn't know at the time was that that cistern was full of snakes. One day I heard Jan hollering for me. She had come home from Fareway where she worked and found this snake. I killed it with a spade.
Kutos to Pablo for finishing up getting all our larger tractors cleaned up. In an earlier life he used to clean jet airplanes and he does an amazing job. Pablo works at Cargill/Eddyville and the plant manager told me this week Pablo is one of his top employees.
It's hard to see in this pic however there is tons of dirt just outside our washroom from all equipment cleaned up and vehicles from muddy rock roads.
Matt and Alex are fixing an electric tarp on a semi trailer. Electric tarps are great until they refuse to work once you've reached your destination.
Andy continues to haul a little corn for ourselves and others.
We are finishing up getting the dozers and track hoes serviced, repaired, and ready. An advantage I appreciate about Cat equipment is Zeiglar is open until midnight. Also, if you order parts by 10 pm they deliver to their parts drop in Oskaloosa by 5 am the following morning. Mike started dozing again yesterday.
We are also putting in tile. Yesterday we benefited from a large crew. BJ runs the plow. Matt was the tile stringer. 
Alex and Kurt dug in the set-ins. Ryan ran over some ditches with the closer. Grandson John ran after fittings. Ezra and Elliott came a little while and ran errands with my Ranger.
Kurt grilled burgers and brats for the crew yesterday on the home-made smoker he just built this week out of an old fuel barrel. It burns wood pellets that are slowly augered in from a outside hopper.
We had to attend class this week to keep our Commercial Sprayer Applicator license current. There are 6 of us on our crew who are licensed to spray crops for hire.
We were invited to attended a BASF meeting in Altoona where topics ranged from details for getting high yields in corn and soybeans to the new potential upcoming tax changes. After our evening meal we had a humorous, motivational, and talented speaker. Frank talked about his insecurities as a younger man and how he overcame them. In the pic below he is juggling 3 active and buzzing tasers. He also juggled some very sharp knives and some fire while on a unicycle. He shared how he has to focus on the handles and compared that to life.
Friday evening was the bazaar at our local Christian Grade School. Joel did a great job auctioning. Holly was the clerk. Kurtis and Adam held items and took bids. I thought I heard the evening raised over $40,000.
We received word from Malawi, Africa that torrential rains caused severe flooding. Our friends Moses and Maria and their family were chased from their homes by flood waters and were working to save their few belongings.
They also lost their crop of maize (white corn) which looked to be about waist to shoulder high. We received an email from them this week that they were safe and thankful to their God.
Some of you will remember my cousin David's son Adam. He and his wife Jennifer live in Overland Park, Kansas. Adam is a chiropractor. Jenn has been fighting Lyme desease for the last 4 years and has been struggling with walking, seizures, and taking care of their 4 kids. They have had a rough time. For Valentines Day Adam gave Jenn a desert rose. That's a stone formed by constant blowing sand. What symbolism. They have constantly looked to God for their strength through this. Adam, You and Jenn amaze me.
 Jan and I have a sun room on the south end of our home. Of course Jan loves plants. Pets are not allowed in our home, however plants are and they thrive. I watched her put these dead looking bulbs by the window. In a couple of weeks the tops started turning green. Now they are maturing and forming buds that will undoubtedly bloom soon.
Jan and I have went through some tough times together. We have also experienced many tender times since that first visit after the church softball game. We have experienced God planning and giving us a family that we helped raise. We watched them grow, mature, and bloom. Today, thanks to God, they are all not only assets in society but Christ's kingdom as well.
Now we are experiencing and watching our children raise their children. What a blessing. Today we will get together at Sully and experience Hazel being baptized by her father. I was at Brian and Becky's house this week and Hazel was outside, enjoying the warm winter, and watching her dad replace a hydrant so her brothers don't have to carry water to Boo, their calf.
Are there still testing stones in our lives? Yes. And I'm sure there are in your lives as well. Just remember, the sands of trials that seem to blow far too often are forming who God wants us to be. Stones create dependence on God and develop character for remembering others. Have a good week.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Risk/Effort/Reward

Can you remember a time when you took a risk, worked at it with all your potential, and really felt good about the results? Everything worthwhile takes effort. And there is a risk involved with most things we try. Mike is putting on the finishing touches of the TW20 we refurbished.
This week was construction equipment week in our shop. Our Ziegler Cat mechanic comes and checks everything out, makes a list of what he thinks needs fixed for us to have a trouble free year, and then lets us decide how much to do.
 Oil leaks are a killer because in the busy season we forget about leaks. And you know what happens when heavy moving parts run out of lubrication. It gets very expensive to replace heavy moving parts. In order to replace a $10 oil seal on a rear shaft, the blade, the tracks, the side rollers, and the equalizer bar had to be removed. Its a risk if it's not fixed. It takes effort to get to the problem. The reward is a trouble free working season.
 BJ's trackhoe needs a center pivot seal so we put it on blocks so we could work on it standing up.
 Growing and marketing crops are full of risks including weather and markets. It takes 110% effort. There are many rewards to farming that don't involve dollars and cents.
 Do any of you remember the tastee-freez in Oskaloosa? I remember when it was the only place in town to get a soft serve ice cream cone. I don't remember many other options other than a malt.
 Jan is always experimenting with recipes and usually comes up with some pretty good stuff. Super Bowl evening she put together a combination of raw vegetables with dressing.
Lake View Camp needs a couple of wet bottom fields tiled for future use. BJ, Irv, and I went this week to look at the project. We decided we could help them out if we could complete the project yet this winter. Stay tuned. 
After looking over the tile possibilities we were invited in to the lodge for coffee. What great fellowship we had with John, Carol, Bob, and Dort. Joe and Diana, directors of the camp took a risk by stepping forward with their dream. There has been huge effort by many parties in helping make this camp happen. And the rewards are many including blessing the young folks that attend this camp and meet God.
The Osky Chr. Sch. 5th -8th graders put on a Lion King production at Penn Central Mall in Oskaloosa. The kids did a marvelous job.
It was a risk. Would the kids buy in? Would folks come? Would it work out at the Mall? Think of the effort. Setting up, including building props. Coming up with costumes. Kids learning their lines. It was rewarded. Folks filled the Mall both nights. Angie, the band director and Lisa did a great job of directing. Other parents help out as well in many ways.
Luke was the bad lion and his helpers, dressed in black, were hyenas. 
Kyle was the good lion and his cub was Trent. Trent and Kyle are cousins.
Nicole was a puma and Garrison was a warthog. Both did an excellent job. Jan and I went both nights to watch. We had 5 grandkids in the play with smaller roles.
Back in the late 1990s some folks had a dream about a new facility. Was it a risk? You better believe it. Bathed in continual prayer a plan started to form in 2000. In 2002 twelve men bought land on the edge of town in case things would move forward. Late one rainy afternoon after a groundbreaking ceremony in 2005 I went to the property to pray for direction. My Aunt Dorothy, a widow, came and I invited her into my pickup to join me. I will never forget that time with her and God. Did the project take effort? 13 years worth of effort, hundreds of folks helping, thousands supporting with finances and prayer, and millions of dollars, all privately contributed. The rewards continue today. Folks who said it wasn't possible have grandkids  getting a Christian education. Folks who said this will happen over my dead body come to events and functions and praise the institution. God is faithful.
There are organizations today considering some changes. Are there risks? Yes. Do changes take effort? Yes. Will there be questions? Of course. The question always comes back to, what is our purpose? Will there be rewards? If motives are right, absolutely.
Sometimes organizations have an opportunity to move. The question becomes, are there benefits? Can we fulfill our mission? Is this an open door? Would location help our purpose? Do we want to maintain or expand? Is stepping out scary? Of course. What about finances? Suppose God has a plan to help and is just waiting?
Once in a while it makes sense for organizations to combine and work together. Having worked a lot together with family I have a little experience here. A single organization, business, or family member has it's own DNA. A combined unit has a completely different DNA. The risk for working together is keeping score. What about me? What if I lose what I've got? I have experienced you can't work as a combination of singles. I have the privilege of working with family that cares more about the end result than what's in it for them. It takes caring about each other's needs. It takes total TRUST in each other. If this can happen, borders are expanded beyond what you have the capability to get done.
Last evening a group of men took a risk. They rented the cabin. It took effort. They created a valentine atmosphere. They actually cooked. Have you ever tasted bacon wrapped onion rings? Wow. They had their wives chauffeured to the cabin and were rewarded with a great evening. Good job guys. And I was thinking about getting a card.
 It's so easy to choose safety, security, comfortableness. Don't rock the boat. We need to ask, is that accomplishing 100% of what God has planned for us or will taking a risk and giving the effort result in the reward of doing a better job of honoring God and blessing people. How big is your God? How personal is your God? Do you talk often? Change can be challenging, even discouraging. I can tell you this. Whatever your organization or business or family, Satan hopes you stay comfortable, sit on your hands, and think about your own needs. Go into your sunset years with no regrets, looking forward to the reward of seeing folks in Heaven that you were part of helping.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Now And Then

Every now and then I have to stop and remember that I'm either approaching or have already attained senior citizen status depending on who you ask. That Jan and I have kids approaching 40 and the grandkids getting bigger in size and numbers.
John is BJ and Cassia's third child. He is standing by his forge. John turned 11 this week. I totally forgot his birthday until his Mom mentioned it. John and his brother Gideon are busy choring this week.
Times aren't always peaceful at our house. Once in a while we have a domestic dispute, like fighting over a bike. I much rather have them learn to share when they are three rather than trying to learn at thirty.
Yes, the law comes occasionally. But mostly just for coffee and hunting and fishing stories.
Mark and I worked at burying the leftovers from burnt tree piles. We have a farm about a mile from the Des Moines River that under the top soil is a 16 foot layer of sand.
Matt and Ryan helped me put some more machinery inside that has been through the shop and we won't use until next fall.
Early in the week our family met with Russ, Mike, and Brent about our herbicide, fungicide, and top dress nitrogen needs for next spring. We paid for our inputs and also talked about a number of custom application jobs we help them out with.
It has become an annual event with us to take the older grandkids out of school a day and go and see the new ideas and new paint at the Farm Machinery Show in Des Moines. We usually split up some when we walk around however inevitably we meet up a number of times. My favorite part of the show is visiting and catching up with past friends we have done or are doing business with over the years.
The second part of this annual trip is to stop at Perkins afterwards for a late lunch. It's a good time. The kids look forward to it and so do I.
Shorty and I used to work together at spiritual retreat weekends. He was always full of energy and positiveness. He passed away this past week. His family are in our thoughts and prayers. Although they will miss him, they celebrate that he is with his Lord. 
Now and then I stumble on to the past. This back then picture was taken in the basement of 1st CRC Osky. Talk about life in black and white! The Mona Lisa has nothing on these sober faces. Front and center are my grandparents, William and Tina. The rest of the crew is their ten children and families as of early 1960s. Front row to the left are my parents. I'm the only one in stripes, on the left edge. I still enjoy living on the edge. I added this pic to our visit this morning because I think I have a cousin or two that reads this and is in the picture. 
This back then picture is the Osky 1 church council. Life is starting to get a little more colorful. At least Ervin and Duane have on red ties. I'm guessing this is mid 1990s.
Finally the good looking bunch were our organist back then. Wilma and Joann are making music in heaven. The rest of the crew are still with us although Kathryn, Brant, and Neil have retired. That just leaves Shirley and Gloria. They are still very much part of our worship music today. Thanks gals! In fact, this morning Gloria is playing the organ and Shirley is playing the piano.
Last Sunday Kurt and Emily's Jaydon was baptized. He was born the last week of December. We had lunch at the cabin afterwards and enjoyed each others company.
Kurt and Emily are members of 2nd CRC Pella where Pastor Tom and Erin have been filling in for the last couple of years while the congregation is in the process of searching for their next pastor. Along with the parents, Pastor Tom had the grandparents and great grandparents come forward to show God's promised faithfulness.
Rachael and Amelia are watching Hazel, Brian and Becky's daughter. All three girls are cousins. We are looking forward to Hazel's baptism in just 2 weeks at Sully where her father, Brian will probably do the honors. Hazel has 4 brothers.
Now and then means like occasionally, or every once in a while. I don't know why it means that. I don't understand the English language. However every now and then we look back, like we did some this morning. Every now and then we also look forward. Our family is looking forward to another addition and hopefully another baptism in August. Stay tuned. Some of you may wonder why we baptize children. It's a promise. As parents we promise to do our best to raise our kids to honor God. And God promises through baptism that He will help us. Thanks for the visit.