Saturday, May 25, 2024


I like meat.  In fact, you could say that I love meat.  Not so much that I would marry meat, because that is just a pathetic effort at lame dad joke.  I love all kinds of meat whether it be pork, beef, poultry, mutton or venison. My palate is appeased to both wild and domesticated meat options, though I will draw the line on rodents and potential pets.  I was once offered grilled woodchuck…I adamantly refused…however, if you have a pet chicken, I am all in. 

When my dad briefly tried his hand at pretend farming, he added livestock to his 3.5 acre farm.  After planting an acre and a half of corn and potatoes he turned 1 of the 2 remaining acres of land into a pig pen and began filling it with young swine.  His idea was to buy small piglets and grow them into large hogs to sell, butcher and breed.  Once the pigs were purchased, my father, affectionately referred to as Fake Farmer Father, set his 3 sons to work feeding and watering the pigs. 

We were required to provide food and water for the pigs both before and after school.  During the Minnesota winters, watering the pigs consisted of filling a 5 gallon pail with hot tap water and carrying it to the barn and then pouring the hot water over the concrete water trough that was frozen solid from yesterday’s water.  The hot water would spill over the top of the trough as it unsuccessfully attempted to melt the frozen lump of water.  The pigs would usually get a few licks in before the January morning laid claim to the hot water, adding to the forming mass of ice. 

The payment in our farming efforts came in the form of pork chops, bacon, side pork, ham, pork steaks, breakfast sausage and pork burgers.  It was through these early childhood farming experiences that I learned that meat was expensive.  It has always been a family value to save money and one of the best ways to save money is to raise and or harvest the meat yourself.

That is why I am so passionate about hunting.  Why go to the store and buy burger for $3 a pound or more, when you can go into the woods and shoot your own deer and turn it into burger. The venison burgers are better anyway, and when you take into account the cost of additional incidentals like Little Debbie Snack Cakes, the price of venison may be in excess of $168 a pound.  I figure that the experience of hunting to be a value of $170 per pound, thus making the venison only $2 per pound.  The average deer could give you up to 60 pounds of burger and that would be a savings of $60!  I can’t see why more people don’t hunt.

The lessons that I have learned as a child has helped develop me into the kind of man that I am today…a man who hates wasting anything and will go to great lengths to eat old leftovers including nearly expired meat. It is remarkable how long meat will last if you add enough salt.  In fact I figure that fresh cuts of pork, beef and venison can last in the refrigerator 2 months or more if salted enough.  

I remember learning in Elementary School how Christopher Columbus and his crew preserved their meat for their 2 month voyage by salting excessively. When considering old meat I have come to live my the motto, “When it looks distrusting, start the salting.” I have yet to eat a piece of meat that has killed me.  Although, I have apparently eaten some bad salt from time to time as food born illnesses have permeated my past. 

Salt has saved my life.  My doctor says it is killing me…but what does he know about meat?...He’s a vegetarian.

It is possible that I have exaggerated my willingness to eat potentially spoiled meat…but then again…maybe not by much.  The truth is that salt is an incredible preservative and a delightful flavor provider.  I feel that Jesus must have had these factors in mind when he references the value and purpose of salt in Matthew 5:13-16.  We may sometimes get lost in the text for fear that we may “lose” our saltiness.  I don’t think Jesus is necessarily calling us to avoid losing our saltiness, but rather to use our saltiness to preserve and enhance the decaying world around us.  I think Jesus is the one who makes us salty in the first place and thusly may we use the transformation that he has caused in our lives to bless the lives of other and our world that the world too may taste and see that the Lord is good.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

 The Great Reward

I grew up as a farm kid.  Actually, that is not entirely true.  I grew up as a pretend farm kid.  It was not that I pretended to be a farm kid, but rather that my dad pretended to be a farmer.  After buying a 1930’s Allis Chalmers B series and some antique farm equipment, my dad began his journey into his own personal land of make believe farming.

He used the antique orange crank-starting horse to plow up half of the 3 acres of land that we owned.  My brothers and I were sent out to “help” him. 

“Dad!? Mom sent us out to help! What do you need us to do?”

“Mostly just stand there and watch.”

So, we stood there and watched our father begin to turn over the hard soil with the single blade plow.  We watched as he went around and around, lap after lap.

“Dad! are you done yet?”

“No…a few more laps and then I need to disc it.”

“How long will that take?”

“Not long.”

Dad put in enough laps with the disc to contend for a spot in the Daytona 500.

“Are you done now? We want to go inside.”

“No…I still need to drag it.  You guys can help.”

“What do you need us to do?”

“Mostly stand there and watch…I don’t want to run you over with the equipment…it would turn you into bloody raw hamburger and your mother might regret sending you out here to ‘help.’”

This helped assure that I stood at a distance, watching.  As the sun was setting, Dad finally turned off the tractor…or ran out of gas, but either way our “work” was done.

“That should do it for today…tomorrow we plant.”

The next day we did indeed plant.  We planted…(watched planting)…corn, potatoes, onions (I really didn’t care for onions at the time), carrots, radishes and some lettuce.

At the end of day two, Dad announced, “Boy it’s nice to have that done.”

What he really meant was…”boy that was fun and now I can’t wait to engage my three sons in slave labor by making them weed the 1 ½ acre farm over their beloved summer break.”

It was a pain staking effort.  It was painful to watch the planting and even more painful to weed the oversized garden. The harvesting was a little more pleasant.

As mid to late summer arrived, we would occasionally revel in the great reward of the fruit of the labor.  I remember the sequence.  Dad would light the charcoal grill while my mother called us boys to gather 6 big ears of sweet corn and 6-8 of the largest potatoes we could dig up.  We would husk the corn while our mother pulled out the vintage french fry cutting press and slice the potatoes while the oil heated over the stove. She sent us out with the ground venison patties to give to dad while the corn boiled in water and the potatoes were lowered into the deep fryer.

When all was said and done, we sat down to burgers, fries, and sweet corn…and on rare occasions chocolate shakes…great was our reward.  It would have been even greater if mother hadn’t secretly contaminated the burgers with onions.

Jesus speaks at length about the struggles that we will find throughout our lives.  I desperately wish that this were not the case.  I don’t like anxiety, back pain, stress, injury, heart ache, and persecution.  I can’t envision anyone relishing in any such toils…except for maybe the apostle Paul…but he has always seemed a little quirky to me.  I think Paul was able to come to the understanding of what Jesus spent so much time teaching.  I think Paul understood what Jesus meant when he says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

As this daily struggle continues, and I continue to feel the heaviness of life, the burdens of existence, and evidences of evil in the world appearing victorious, I all the more long for this promise of Jesus, “Great is the reward.”

May the Lord give you the strength to endure and remain standing as you await the great reward promised to those who have put their trust in Him.