Tag Archive: sheep

Luke 11 and Blackberries

There’s an interesting passage in Luke 11. It says:

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

It reminds me of blackberries. Yeah, blackberries – I’ve got this (super fun, sorta) project that I’ve been working on in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been carefully grubbing up blackberries and their roots.

Himalayan blackberries love it here in the Willamette Valley. They aren’t native plants, which means that they don’t have terribly effective competition. Given half a chance, they reproduce faster than rabbits. They’ve become a real problem in some of my mom’s pastureland. Most of one field has a low covering of the stalks, the edges sporting snagged wisps of wool waving the sheep flock’s surrender.

There are many methods that could be used to clear the field, to sweep clean the house. Spraying it with an herbicide like Crossbow is pretty popular and probably one of the easiest methods. Herbicides can be effective, but there are possible drawbacks. You can kill off plants you want to keep or leave behind poisonous residues. Hacking, leveling with large equipment, and burning are other methods, none of which are terribly effective and all of which have cons. You see, blackberries have roots, highly resilient, life loving, strive to survive roots. Those roots don’t much care if you hack off all of the shoots above ground. Whatever. They’ll just wait until you’re not looking and put up some more. Death by flames? Haha. Most of those roots will survive just fine. Use large machines to gouge those roots up? YES!!!…. Maybe not so much. Some will die, sure, but some will just get uprooted, reburied, and start – you guessed it – putting up shoots. Those shoots won’t even have any competition but for the other weeds, ‘cause large machinery is nondiscriminatory and digs up everything. Too bad the sheep wanted to eat that grass, huh? It’ll look like you swept the ground clean, but those berry roots are just biding their time, waiting to shoot up and reproduce.

I suppose this is why we’ve found the laborious method of grubbing up blackberries by hand to be the most effective. I get rid most of the roots, and I don’t completely thrash the other plants nearby. Much of the grass is still there, and especially this time of year, it doesn’t waste any time creeping into the empty space. Root removal by Rebekah helps evict those wicked berries and preserves and encourages other plant growth. If all I did was try to clean out the canes, even if I managed to kill off the roots, if I don’t fill the space with something else, those berries will be right back in there growing like mad.

That’s why the story in Luke reminds me of blackberries. I’ve never had any lasting success in keeping a field clear of berries without introducing something positive (plants, animals, etc.) to help control their persistent encroachment attempts. Likewise, I’ve never had any lasting success in my life in overcoming bad habits, repenting of sin, or being delivered of any sort of wickedness if the process stops there. Can’t leave the space empty. It leaves room for all of that junk and then some to make itself right back at home.

Many Forms

Blue skies, gentle breezes, green pasture, sunlight splashing off white backs onto grey coats as the flock of mommas with their little lambs went scudding across the grass together, all in a wild, ungainly rush of floppy wool – priceless!

Beauty comes in so many forms.

Not The Easiest Week

The last few days have been… er… interesting.

My brother is moving, somewhat unexpectedly, from 25 minutes away to more like 4 hours. He’s been frantically packing and prepping.  Several of us have been over at one time or another helping paint the house.

One of my sisters took a road trip and had another sister watch her puppy dogs. On the way to the dogs, that sister had car trouble. There was something with a fuel line and shredded tire. The fuel line caused problems on her way home, too, which meant gas went on the ground instead of her tank, two other family members ran to her rescue, and there was an attempt to hitch the van to a trailer to haul sheep for shearing that gave the van a dent. Oh, and one of the dogs? She might have ringworm. My sister tells me that the canine version isn’t terribly easy to catch as a human, but it’s a definite possibility. Guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.

An outdoor rave was thrown a few miles away. I can’t imagine what it was like for closer neighbors. We and others miles from it had no trouble hearing the bass and even vocals at times. That’s not at all normal for where I live. Noisy stuff is usually somebody’s power tool, tractor, or motorcycle. Something about the “festival” felt icky and strange. No neighbors received notification of a festival being held nearby, which I understand is common practice for large events. Seeing rescue vehicles held up at the gates instead of being allowed into the area (ambulance summoning usually implies emergent need) and hearing reports of drug usage and inappropriate defecations didn’t make me or the rest of my family feel any better, either.

I’ve had some stress from work. I also managed to acquire more blisters, scratches, and bruises from working outside over the weekend than I’d probably had in the last couple of years altogether.

My roommate’s summer work scramble has been stressful, and her homework load hasn’t been easy, either.

Another sister just had to treat her head for lice!

One of the dogs caught a chicken and yanked a bunch of her feathers. I don’t know that the hen took any more damage than feather loss, but I don’t think she wanted a summer do.

Little Miss Tire Troubled wasn’t done with her car woes, either. She went out last night to find a different tire had gone flat.

It’s County Fair week. Baking has had to be done; animals have had to be prepped; plants have had to be hauled. It’s a massive undertaking. I think this year three of my sisters are entering lambs, chickens, a bunny, baked goods, table setting, plants, fabric arts, and I don’t know what else. It takes multiple trips just to haul it all into the fair.

We (mostly my mother, a sister, and myself) worked outside. We hung a swing from a tree (the interesting part about that was cutting down the old tire to provide the tree limb with some protection), put a chicken wire top on the chicken’s run (we’re very done with them flying out, and they would not have been out for the dog to chase if the door had been properly shut), tilled a good sized patch preparatory to planting it with grass next fall, weeded (thistles – guess where some of my scratches came from?), removed the limbs from several felled trees, started cutting those trees down into firewood (need to figure out where we’re going to store the wood, but at least we got the downed trees off the fence), hauled rocks and sticks and other junk out of the area to be tilled, burned all of the excess wood and the (nasty) weeds, and did other random cleanup chores. We managed to do laundry, feed folks, and all the normal stuff. Mom even worked in crewing for her hot air balloon buddies early a  couple of those mornings.

It’s just been a crazy, busy, tumultuous week. Good stuff, hard stuff, weird stuff – all tumbled together and wearing us down until we were out of resiliency. No more rubber, no bounce back, gone was the elasticity! The lice last night were about the last straw. I had a moment where I thought one of my sisters was playing a joke in very poor taste, but no. True story. I poked my nose in to say hi and see how she was doing. The poor kid was combing the lice out of her hair, exuding something of the same horrified disbelief that I was feeling, that “How did this happen? What’s going to happen next?” She said, “I’m just trying to remember to be anxious for nothing.” She’s right. She’s exactly right.

Philippians 4:6

New International Version (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The Straying of Sheep

Picture, if you will, a green field. It is well furnished with clover and pasture grass. It has two shade trees, a placid water supply, and sheep. Your sheep can look however you like, but, just so you know, mine have white bodies and black faces. The sheep are busily doing what sheep do – eating, pooping, and getting themselves into trouble. Sheep like to wander. They’ll check out the neighbor’s garden or try to drink out of his pool, likely falling into it instead. They’ll chase figurative butterflies until they’re completely lost. They’ll freak out over their own shadows and start a brainless stampede for “safety.” Poor sheep!

Fortunately for them, there’s a fellow nearby watching over the sheep. He’s the shepherd, and it’s his job to, as the Psalmist put it, lead and keep the sheep in green pastures and beside still waters. He watches the sheep and keeps them safe and relatively content. If he does his job well, the flock prospers. They want for nothing.

Hang onto that picture of fat, happy sheep while I change directions and talk about II Corinthians 10:5. It says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I’ve heard more than one sermon or lesson on this idea. On the online Bible Church site, a group “dedicated to the expository teaching of God’s Word,” I found a study on Taking Thoughts Captive. It seems to be a pretty good representation of what I’ve heard before, as it emphasizes King James, the insidious pervasiveness of sin, spiritual warfare, and Philippians 4:8. The author even managed to tack on an argument against evolution. What I learned from this was that people are evil stinkers, God expects constant vigilance, and that Christianity is an unrelenting exercise of intellect in the pursuit of righteousness. It seemed like a lot of work and had a militant feel. That may not have been what they were trying to teach me, but I did learn that.

What I didn’t hear so much about was Proverbs 4:23. It advises a person to “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Of course this particular verse popped up a lot in Ransomed Heart Ministries offerings, and I saw the idea of guarding one’s heart frequently referenced on their now vanished forum. From all that I learned hearts were supposed to be good, emotion was more important than I’d previously supposed, and that God expects constant vigilance. It sometimes seemed terribly permissive to me. I was none too sure how to mesh the concept of demolished arguments and captive thoughts with guarding my heart. They seemed at odds with each other, even though they also seem like they should fit together. For that matter, I wouldn’t say now that I’ve a good idea how they mesh now!

However, I do have is this funny picture in my head about sheep. Isaiah 53:6a tells us that “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, [and] each of us has turned to our own way.” Sometimes a sheep will meander off on its own, idly snatching tempting mouthfuls of grass until it has managed to become thoroughly lost. Lambs are especially good at this. Then we hear panicked bleating from both lamb and mother until they find each other. Sometimes a sheep will find a hole in the fence, and it will go through just because there’s a way. Can it find its way back? Goodness me, no! It wanders around the outside of the fence until it can see the other sheep and then stands there bawling. Sometimes something startles one sheep, and it takes off. Does the rest of the flock have a clue about why the first is running? Haha, no, probably not, but, eyes rolling, they scatter themselves every which way trying to escape! Look out, look out, it’s sheep astray, running each their very own way! These sorts of behaviors don’t make for a prosperous or content flock. A shepherd’s job is one of constant care and – you guessed it! – vigilance.

The silliness of sheep does make me giggle, when, of course, I’m not exasperated and trying to chase the silly things back where they belong. Watching them also makes me think that the behavior of sheep and the behavior of my emotions aren’t so different. In fact, if I let go of the idea that people are constantly just horribly and deliberately wicked (sheep usually aren’t malicious, which most certainly does not prevent them from getting into trouble!), I can see a resemblance to the behavior of sheep to my thoughts as well. Haven’t you ever followed a tempting train of thought only to stop and realize that you managed to get a little lost, or that maybe you’re on the wrong side of the fence? What about panic? Have you ever had something just scare you, and all of the sudden, your heart is racing while your thoughts and emotions are surging wildly, “each. . .turned to [its] own way.” I hate feeling like that.

I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I think the human soul has much in common with a flock of sheep. I wonder if perhaps I took my cue more from the Shepherd and less from the militant or permissive extremes, maybe my “flock” would also be more prosperous and content. It’s something to think over, anyway!