Friday, June 29, 2012

Giant Retirement Gift

Just when the Colonel was settling into a comfortable, self-imposed, re-retirement routine of not giving a rip about nothin' or nobody, the Good Lord gets his undivided attention with a reading of His word.

The Colonel has read the book of Joshua in whole or in part many times in his life, and, true to the way God works, nearly each study has provided a different lesson.

This lesson hurt -- convicting the Colonel of an error, to add to the many he already recognizes, in his spiritual walk.

In the 14th Chapter of the Old Testament Book of Joshua, the writer pauses in his recounting of the allocation of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel to relate the actions of Caleb.

Caleb comes to Joshua, the man God ordained to lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land upon the death of Moses, and reminds Joshua of a significant event in both of their lives 45 years before.

A little more than a year after leaving Egypt, Moses led the nation of Israel away from Mount Sinai and straight to the southern borderlands of Canaan -- the Negev Desert.  As any good operational leader should, Moses sent a long-range reconnaisance patrol north (Numbers 13: 17-20). 

Caleb and Joshua were two of twelve "spies" sent north.   When the twelve spies returned, they brought good news and bad news.

The good news: The land from which their patriarch Jacob (aka: Israel) had fled to Egypt to escape famine was once again rich and bountiful.

The bad news: In the Hebrew nation's 400-year absence from the Promised Land, other peoples had settled the land and built strong, heavily-defended, walled cities.

More bad news: Some of those walled cities housed "giants" (Numbers 13: 31-33).

The other ten spies focused the report of their reconnaisance patrol on the bad news and, although Joshua and Caleb counseled that God would deliver the land into their hands no matter the seeming insurmountable odds and obstacles, the Hebrew people collapsed into open revolt calling for a return to the "safety" of Egypt.

God's judgement on His people for this lack of faith in Him was to condemn them to forty years of exile, wandering in the wilderness, until the unfaithful generation (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) had all died.

The Nation of Israel's wandering eventually took them north along the eastern side of the Dead Sea.  After Moses' death, God commissioned Joshua to lead the Hebrew army west across the Jordan River north of the Dead Sea. 

For the next several years, the Hebrew army executed an invasion campaign that defeated a total of 31 kingdoms, and, in the aftermath of this campaign, Joshua divided up the land between the tribes.

As Joshua was divvying up the Promised Land, his old reconnaisance patrol mate, Caleb, came to him with a reminder and a request.

The writer of the Book of Joshua relates Caleb's words thus:

“You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me.    I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.   So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.'

 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”  (Numbers 14: 6b-12 NIV)

Joshua remembered, and kept Moses' promise to Caleb.

Heretofore the Colonel has always read this passage as a retirement reward for Caleb's, and, by extension any man of God's, life of faithfulness.  

But, take a look at the last sentence of Caleb's request above.

Caleb was asking Joshua to fulfill the promise of Moses by giving him choice land... on which giant enemies still lived!   

Some "retirement" gift!

Only Caleb, 85 years young, wasn't retiring.  He still had giants to face.  The writer of Joshua later tells us that, with God's help, Caleb conquered the giants in his territory.  

So, what is the point toward which the Colonel has led you in no doubt frantic anticipation?

Glad you asked.

1.  The Colonel is convicted that there is no retirement from the Lord's work here on earth.

2.  The Colonel is convicted that one must be careful what one asks of God.  Even the greatest blessings may still harbor great responsibility. 

3.  God is in the giant-killing business, and the battle against our "giants" belongs to the Lord. 

Now, where did the Colonel leave that slingshot?  

Friday, June 08, 2012

Cornucopia Costs

It's the time of year when the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere begin to give back to the Colonel and his kin.

The return on investment is a little out of whack, though...

God's Garden, so named by the Colonel and the produce therefrom dedicated to His service, has, just this past week, begun to yield fruit (okay,... veggies) for the intense labor invested by the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and her man.

A dribble of fresh spinach, new potatoes, crook-neck squash, and green beans has flowed from row to plate and there is great anticipation of the freezer and quart jar-filling torrent to follow.

It had better be a torrent -- the nozzle on the Colonel's money hose has been wide open for the past two months stimulating the local economy via garden and hardware shops.  

And..., as the Colonel's time is invaluable, there's no way to calculate the hourly costs committed to the cause of counted-on cornucopia.  

So, let's just tally up the tangible, shall we?

The least expensive element in gardening is the seed and seedlings.  Still, the Colonel's cash outlay for enough of said seed and seedlings to sow in an acre of gardens has thus far been well into three figures.  

To coax green from the Confederate Concrete that passes for soil hereabouts requires generous applications of fertilizer.  Fertilizer, thanks to our federal government's absolutely absurd energy policy (or lack thereof), ain't cheap. 

Triple thirteen (13-13-13) on a bag of fertilizer used to refer to the chemical content.

Nowadays it more closely refers to the price.

With visions of vegetable bounty dancing in his head, the Colonel happily ran up his credit card balance for seed and fertilizer; thinking all the while that once seed and seedlings were sown and planted and fertilized, that would be the end of capital investments and all that would remain would be the time and elbow grease required to cultivate and harvest.

So, the Colonel merrily planted and fertilized and waited for Spring rains.

He waited.

And waited.

Interesting little fact about plants: they need water. 

They need sunshine, too.  But, sunshine without rain is to plants like taxing the rich to buy the poor vote is to effective governance. 

Eventually the producers get too dry to soak anymore.

As the days since planting passed without precipitation, the Colonel began to panic over the parching of his planned-for produce.

Did the Colonel mention that the aforementioned gardens are a considerable distance from the Big House?  "Considerable," in this case, defined as roughly a quarter of a mile.

After a week of hauling water in buckets and ladling out the precious liquid by hand, the low-watt idea bulb in a dark recess of the Colonel's little used brain-housing group began to flicker and throw sporadic light across the cavernous space between his ears.  A few of those sporadic particles of light illuminated just enough photo-receptive cells to energize a lone synapse to fire.

"Eureka!," the Colonel exclaimed, straightening from the back-bending task of pouring water on pitiful plants.

"I hope you've found gold," the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda responded from a row over.  "We are fast depleting our life-savings on this stupid garden and on Motrin for my back."

"No gold.  But, I've just had a great idea!"

"Well, let's hear it, Einstein," the Colonel's Lady responded encouragingly.  "If your idea is to let Kroger do our gardening for us, I might just approve it." 

"Kroger?!? No, dear, not Kroger."

"Fine, Big Star it is thenThey're cheaper, and you haven't discovered gold."  

"Oh, Sweetthing!  You are such a kidder!"

"Who's kiddingJust say the word and I'll be back down here in a New York minute with an acre's worth of RoundUp."

"No! You're not gonna kill my garden!" 

"You're right, Knucklehead.  No sense wasting RoundUp; the sun will burn it up in a few more days." 

"No it won't!" The Colonel stood to his full height (five, six and three quarters -- and don't ever forget the three quarters) with arms akimbo and a look of undaunted determination fixed on his ruggedly handsome facial features.  "I'm gonna install an irrigation system."

"Great," the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda grunted with no little sense of sarcasm.  "There goes the money I've been putting aside for new shoesAnd why are you grinning like a mule eating briers?"

"New shoes?  I just got you a new pair of muck boots.  Besides, how much could a couple thousand feet of 3/4" PVC cost?"

Fertilizer ain't the only thing that ain't cheap, thanks to our federal government's absolutely absurd energy policy (or lack thereof).

The irrigation system was fully operational the day before the drought broke.

The Colonel and his beautiful bride picked an ice cream bucket-load of green beans this morning.

The Colonel figures each bean is roughly worth its weight in gold.