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An integrated life

Letting Our Light Shine Before Men

Some folks ask me what this “integrated life” stuff has to do with the gospel. Sometimes, I am accused of being “legalistic” or “pharisaical”. Well, I certainly won’t say that I don’t have my legalistic or pharisaical moments, but I do understand the gospel, and it compels me to lead, or attempt to lead, an integrated life, with love for the Lord holding it all together.

This morning I was reading Matthew 5:13-20… by the way, all Scripture quotations below are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
 Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation 
Used by permission. (http://www.Lockman.org)

13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. 17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. Ultimately, he fulfilled the law by paying the penalty for our sins. Whether I, or anyone else, leads an integrated life doesn’t really matter when it comes to our final destination.

But, you know, he could have just said that and left out all the rest. Nowhere in his time on earth did he ever say that we should ignore God’s design. He told us to make disciples – those that follow. We can’t follow our leader and ignore His design. That would be hypocritical. That’s what he had against the pharisees, not that they “followed the law”, but that they added to the law and had no compassion and mercy… that’s not following God. If you look at what Jesus pointed out, he didn’t say, to be righteous you must become antinomians (those who think that law no longer applies to them). Jesus actually pointed out that righteousness exceeds following the letter of the law (like the Pharisees did) to the spirit of the law. (Read the rest of Matthew 5 through chapter 7)

So, this week in the bible study I’m leading, we are discussing our responsibilities to our daughters (or future daughters). One of the passages we are studying is Numbers 30. Now those who are egalitarian or antinomian will say that these are archaic, antiquated, chauvinistic rules loved by those men who love to oppress women and not very Christian. Although they may be loved by men who love to oppress woman, leaving it at that would miss the spirit of the law. In fact, I think Jesus Christ would disapprove of those who follow the letter of Numbers 30 who miss the spirit of the law and call them hypocrites like he called the pharisees. Jesus tells us not to be like those who love lording over others. But that is not what Numbers 30 is about. It is about the responsibility to protect our daughters and wives.

Let’s look at this a little deeper. Numbers 30:3-5 states:

3 ″Also if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by an obligation in her father’s house in her youth, 4 and her father hears her vow and her obligation by which she has bound herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 ″But if her father should forbid her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her because her father had forbidden her.

Authority and responsibility go together. But, if we lift authority over responsibility, we usually get into trouble.

For example, say my daughter tells someone whose car has just broken down that they can borrow our family’s car. I can pull out the authority given me and tell my daughter how rash she was, how she shouldn’t have said anything to anyone about borrowing our car before asking me first, and tell the broken down person that my daughter spoke out of turn and I did not give her the authority to offer our car. Sorry, you have to find another ride.

Same situation, but I pull out the responsibility given me and begin to inquire who the person is who broke down. If I find out that it was someone in a stolen car who was wanted by the police, I can use my authority to release my daughter from her rash vow and keep her from being an accomplice to a crime. I’ve protected my daughter as a responsible father should.

Granted, the example I gave was a bit forced, but I think it clearly illustrates the point that God gives the authority of the father not to lord it over her, but to protect her.

My daughter gets that. She loves living here and she loves that her daddy believes Numbers 30 applies to her life. She’d rather be protected here than unprotected on her own.

I remember hearing many years ago, a retiring judge in Texas who said, “in all my years on the bench, I’ve never had a woman who was loved by her father standing before me in a position of trouble”.

Know God’s law. Learn and follow the spirit of it. Responsibility should come with authority, but authority should never trump it. Jesus was given all authority and he took the responsibility for our sins.

Praise the Lord!

Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Myth of Adolescence

About ten years ago, I had the privilege of seeing David Black speak about the “The Myth of Adolescence” at the North Carolinians for Home Education conference. It wasn’t the first time that I had been challenged about the modern concept that there was something between childhood and adulthood. According to God’s design, there are children and there are adults. I was already apprenticing young men, but was challenged as to why I should wait until young men were 18 or so to begin the apprenticeship process.

In fact, if adulthood starts at puberty, why shouldn’t they start working/apprenticing around the same time? Well, for one, they haven’t been trained for it. That wasn’t always the case. John Quincy Adams was an ambassador to Russia at age 15. Marquis de Lafayette was commanding ships when he was 14 and was already a seasoned military man. What’s missing in the preparation of our young people today?

I made the leap that training in important skills needed to start earlier than adulthood. So, when my son Caleb was six or so, I started looking for ways to train him in useful skills and some other men I was associated with started a “Knights of Christ’s Table” club where men and their sons would get together to train up their sons in a variety of character qualities and skills. We did a variety of unusual things, but eventually several of us decided to put together a group of young men to form a FIRST Lego League team. We not only taught them some programming and research skills, but also how to work as a team, agile project management, and a lot of biblical principles.

Fast forward a few years, and some of the Lego League boys are now young men. My son, Caleb, is 14 and has picked up some graphic design skills over the past few years and is apprenticing as a web designer in our studio. Zachary, also 14, has been apprenticing as a programmer. And we recently added Bruce Ricketts as an apprentice…

In addition to the Lego League training, Bruce has had some programming training from one of our apprentices (Austin Taylor), and then an apprentice (Steve Iannopollo) of an apprentice (Adam Williams). So, recently when a potential client came to us with an idea for an iPhone app, we decided to see if Bruce could do the majority of the work with some oversight from Steve and some graphic help from Caleb. It turned out great.

Somehow, the local News & Observer picked up on what Bruce has been doing.

We’ve got another project for a client starting up that is going to have apprentices of 14 years of age working on it with supervision of more experienced developers. They’ve still got a lot more to learn, and are only putting around twelve hours a week into the project while they are still learning a lot of things, both academically and practically, but they are young men and are capable of doing more than the world thinks they should be. Each one started preparing for this while they were still children and had parents who encouraged them. They look at this as part of their maturing as young men… and they jump around on the trampoline at lunch time like you would expect young men with a lot of energy to do.

Are these amazing young men? Well, I think they are all very special, but I also realize that they are normal and a testimony to what happens when people recognize that God designed us to go from childhood to adulthood with a vision for how to help them make the transition.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Cor 13:11 – NASB)

Man has created the concept of adolescence. God designed boys to become young men and girls to become young women. Man’s wisdom has determined that children should get 12, 16, or more years of education in classrooms and campuses surrounded by peers. God’s wisdom says

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deut 6:7 – NASB)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4 – NASB)

The sound doctrine of the Lord has led me to attempt to live an integrated life which includes older men teaching younger men and older women teaching younger women as pointed out in Titus 2. The world has come up with their system that segregates younger people from older people, putting fools (of the same age) with fools in an environment where God is kept out of the equation. An integrated life was the norm 150 years ago in this country… young people learned how to work by their parents’ sides while they were young. They were trained in the Scriptures. Once they got established, they generally got married and stayed married. No, it wasn’t perfect. There were still sinners. Not everyone built their life on God’s words. But, society was built on the basic foundations laid out in God’s Word.

In the last 150 years, God’s Word has been pushed out. How has the world’s plan worked out?

When the Apostle Paul was spreading the gospel, planting churches, and attempting to fulfill the great commission, making disciples of all nations, he was going into a world built on man’s ideas. He said,

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5 – NASB)

Time to do it again.

The myth of adolescence is a lofty speculation of man raised up against the knowledge of God. As for me and my house, we are going to raise young men and young women in the fear and admonition of the Lord. No adolescents allowed.

Have I Achieved an Integrated Life?

It’s been way too busy to add blog posts, but I’ve been wanting to share this story that makes me feel that perhaps I’ve achieved some form of “integrated life” where work, family, education, entertainment, and spiritual all came together.

Our office is located at the bottom of the building we also live in. When the in-law-suite isn’t used by Carol’s mom (who lives here six months of the year) we’ve sought to use it to bless others in our lives. Graham and Sarah Langdon (Graham is a designer who works with us) have been living there since they were married in June and Graham has been working with me on an exciting project. Stephen Keel had the idea of a Kiosk Evangelist (note: although full of good information, this site was not designed by us… http://www.kioskevangelism.com/ [NOTE: Stephen Keel went to be with the Lord before this project could be completed… but he assembled and kicked off what became this great organization: Mobile Ministry Forum]) and we’ve decided to invest in this project in many ways.

My son Caleb and apprentice Zach helped unload the prototype hardware as Graham & I and others worked on the software and interface. Stephen visited and found out the power supply was 220V only and found a place in Raleigh that could help him change that. So, we helped him load the kiosk hardware prototype in his van.

A couple of hours later, we received a call from Stephen. “I got it fixed and I’ll be back with the Kiosk and the chicken.” While we were loading up the van, Joshua (our “chicken boy”) was letting out our chickens so they could free range. As Stephen was pulling in to the engineering group in Raleigh, he looked and saw a chicken beside him in the van.

So, the personal chicken of my youngest son took a ride in the van of our Christian client who my older son and apprentice helped load while we learned about some key issues of kiosk design and worked on software for him, and we were all greatly entertained.

Just another day in the integrated life.

To Permit or Not to Permit

For my 25th wedding anniversary, Carol and I were blessed with the opportunity to visit the Finger Lakes region of New York and learned that all roads (at least those between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes) lead to Ovid, a village of roughly 600 where the Holden Coal family business resides.

Mark Holden is a wonderful brother in the Lord married to a wonderful wife and the two of them have many wonderful children and a growing number of wonderful grandchildren. They bought an old coal business several years ago from a retiring gentleman who had acquired several buildings and lots of stuff. They’ve turned it into a profitable business with a continuous, slow but sure, makeover from the inside out. The functionality of serving the community with the resources God has given them has been their priority, rather than the all-too-current trend of making everything look easily accessible, while outsourcing customer service overseas to people who don’t know that when you need a hotel in Rochester, NY because your departing flight has been cancelled, you really don’t want a hotel in Rochester, MN that has a free shuttle to its medical clinics… but I digress. Instead of having customers waiting in line for custom coal orders (everything used to be a custom order), the Holdens have streamlined the operation, packaging coal into 50 pound bags ready for pick up or delivery and making custom coal orders of any size a quick one-two man job. (I wished I would have taken pictures or video, but you can find out more in an upcoming video series – Family Works, Volume 1 – from Franklin Springs Family Media, another great family run business).

His oldest two sons, Jeremy (business mgmt, renovations, trucking and more) and Micah (vehicle maintenance and bag coal… moves 70 to 80 thousand bags of coal per year) work full-time. Everyone else in the family pitches in as needed. With virtually no notice, Isaiah (14) and Nathaniel (9) demonstrated how quickly they can turn an empty bag into a packaged 50 lb bag of coal.

I got a tour of the majority of the mostly-attached facilities that took up a small portion of the village block:

  • A small office where customers can enter and make transactions;
  • A small workshop where things get fixed… including my sandals that had an issue while on vacation;
  • The storage facility where large trucks deliver coal;
  • The “processing” building where the coal bags are packaged and stored;
  • The large sheds for the trucks;
  • The house (in which the Holdens no longer live due to complications of the tax code that makes living in it “income” rather than resourcefulness… they hope to rent it out soon);

But one of the largest and most versatile buildings, “The Grange” (do a google search on “History Grange” to learn about how buildings were bought and used for agriculture in the past), though put to some use, is significantly underutilized. Why?

Well, Mark thought it would be a great idea to have the local church assembly meetings in this large building on one floor. After all, the building was originally used to house a Baptist church more than a hundred years earlier. Now that it had 3 floors (due to renovations in the intervening years), one of the floors – the main floor accessible from the main street, remarkably named Main Street – would be more than adequate for the small assembly meetings (40-70 people on average).

So, Mark respectfully asked the local inspector, “what would I need to do to the building so I can have assembly meetings here?”. Building a ramp (for all the handicapped people who aren’t currently part of the assembly) and getting running water into the building for a bathroom facility were the main things he was told. These seemed reasonable to Mark, so he got an engineer to sign off on his ramp plan (because it couldn’t possibly be proven to be sufficient otherwise), bought the wood and scheduled a bunch of guys from the church to come by for a day to build the ramp.

In the midst of the construction of the ramp, another inspector showed up and asked to see the plans. He didn’t quite see how it was going to work “according to code” since the entrance door was 40 inches wide rather than 36 inches wide the code called for. The engineering plans were irrelevant to him. (Why the inspector didn’t realize that a wider door would actually make it MORE accessible rather than making people fly off the ramp and be hurdled into the street into oncoming traffic when the extra 4 inches of door was opened, I’m not sure). He told Mark and all the men who arranged their day to volunteer their service to “stop work” until he could investigate further. And then he said the fateful words, “well, while I’m here, just let me look around a little”.

You can probably guess what happened next. He came back with all kinds of other requirements to upgrade the building that basically shot Mark’s plans out of the water. Ovid is a quaint, somewhat depressed little village, whose Main Street is not that impressive. There are a variety of buildings on Main Street whose market value is extremely low and are not in active use because updating the buildings to meet the inspector’s approval would be prohibitively expensive. Otherwise, they could have many uses. Stuff that prevents good stewardship happens in the cities and towns. It also happens in the rural settings.

In an article written by Joel Salatin titled, “Everything I want to do is Illegal” he lists more of these issues that stop families trying to do good with the resources they have. But, I don’t want this to just be a rant.

There are families that are moving forward like the Holdens who recently expanded into a Water Conditioning and a Dumpster business. The Dumpster business is more active in the summer when the coal business is slower and slower in the winter when construction is slower and the coal business is “heating up”. It has allowed them to not only keep their family members busy and thriving, but also allows them to keep employees all year long rather than having to hire and train new people every season. Joel Salatin, toward the end of his article points out,

Those of us who would aspire to opt out — both consumers and producers — must pray for enough cleverness to circumvent the system until the system cannot sustain itself. Cycles happen. Because things are this way today does not mean they will be this way next year. Hurrah for that.

In looking back, Mark pointed out that he could have just made a better opening from “the house” that was attached to “The Grange” and had people enter his home for a “home meeting” that happened to meet in the large room in the back of the home (which happened to be part of “the Grange”). But now, that the building has been “flagged” with red tape, Mark has a half-finished ramp (which is probably more of a safety concern than a finished one would be) and a large storage room that is being “watched” for any suspicious activity.

As you begin to think about how to have a more family-integrated life and come up with wonderful ideas of how to be good stewards of what you’ve been given, I would encourage you to ask the question, “Is there a way to do this which will serve a good purpose for our family and others that does not need to be ‘permitted’ by those who don’t seem to permit good stewardship”.

I’ll write about some of the ideas I’ve come up with or heard of in the (hopefully not too distant) future. I need to think hard about how I write about some of them, because there are those people out there who may decide they need to close some of the loop holes. Hopefully they’re not “inspecting” this blog too closely.

Hen-pecked by Local Government

So, I recently received an email update from a local town councilwoman, Linda Hunt Williams.

Linda is a fan of property rights. Evidently others on the town council aren’t.

UPDATE ON HENS AS PETS IN HOLLY SPRINGS?

As you probably have already read in newspaper articles, the Council, did not second my motion (emphasis mine) to allow residents to obtain a permit to have up to four hens in an enclosed coop in their back yards.

Since that time, Ken and Wendy Webster, who are teaching their children how to live a sustainable lifestyle, continue to ask for a change in the ordinance to allow them to have up to four hens for eggs and as pets for their children. To comply with the current ordinance, they have moved their four hens to another location. They again presented at the last two Council meetings. It appears they are continuing their efforts. Below are some links on the issue, if you are interested.

FRIENDS OF HENS

Several years ago, we found and purchased property and moved outside the town limits of Holly Springs, not just so we can have chickens (which we do), but because we don’t think the government should control what one does on their own property. People should be responsible for what they do on their property, and if that means containing chickens so they don’t eat the neighbors’ property (in case you’ve never had them, chickens are much less discerning eaters than goats), they should do so.

So, what do hens have to do with an integrated life? Do I need to have hens to have an integrated life?

If you read the Bible to find out what God considers the fundamental economic unit, I don’t think you’ll find anything but the household. The household has a structure. The household is where sons and daughters learn about life. The household consists of “the nuclear family” but can extend beyond that to extended family, servants (voluntary or otherwise… no I’m not suggesting purchasing slaves, but there have been many indentured servants who’ve done well throughout history), and others working directly or indirectly for the head of the household. The household’s jurisdiction can extend beyond the home. Although the home/dwelling place is expected to be a place of industry, the industry of the household can extend beyond the confines of the home/dwelling place. (I’m sure I’ll write more on this later).

Many government officials don’t recognize this. They think it is up to them to make sure people are educated to work within THEIR structured economy. Their structured economy continues to assume that “work” takes place outside the home in all but an ever narrowing set of circumstances (things that can happen in a small room with a telephone and internet connection possibly). Most municipalities only have a few categories of land use, perhaps residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural/farming. Every once in a while, a municipality will designate something as “mixed use”, but they don’t mean “mixed use”, they mean “one or more of the above categories in a fairly restricted manner in close proximity”.

“In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23 – NASB)

Child labor laws, land use restrictions, and many other “good intentioned” public policies lead us to a society where it is not expected that young people learn to work on anything other than “school” (or school activities, public recreational activities, or private lessons reserved for “the privileged”). The economy is centered around “the corporation” where Daddy (or Mommy) goes off to work and “the school system” where children go to learn so that someday they can get a job at a corporation and go off to work and have a place to send their children to. Hopefully the activities in between keep them “out of trouble”. Children become consumers, not producers. And they are taught that it is essential to continue the system.

How many children today are taught the following (and how many parents know?):

In spite of the “agrarian economy” of the early 1800s (which is painted as a bunch of unenlightened people who didn’t know much of anything besides working long days and nights), literacy in the US was at its highest in the 1850s before compulsory government education was in place. When early compulsory education laws were put in place, the generally accepted standard was 60 days per year for 4 hours per day. The “enlightened children” of today (180 or more days/year for 6-8 hours/day or more) are not prepared to read the standard texts aimed at children in the late 1800s. Purchase a GA Henty book or Martha Finley’s “Elsie Dinsmore” series (the original not the revised versions) and introduce a junior high student to them to verify that this is the case.

And, I’m sure that even fewer of them are aware that chickens are less discerning eaters than goats, or have ever been given the responsibility of gathering fresh eggs from those chickens in order to help provide for the economy of the family. Most 16 year olds today have never “worked” a day in their lives, and are poorly equipped to do so. In the past, they were very capable and productive.

How could these children in the 1850s have possibly been very literate and have the time to gather eggs (or build a chicken pen or …) and become well-established as producers by their early to late teen years? Examine how your children spend their day and how much time is spent “not producing” anything of inherit value that benefits others. Whether or not you save money on eggs by having hens (you may not), or save money on vegetables if you plant a garden, or make money on some craft business, or … Find ways that your children can produce something of value before your elected officials find out that you are doing it!

I had mentioned David Brown in an earlier post (see Evening with the Peter Bradrick clan. At age 18, he not only had an excellent resume, but finished high school… and had his own house built, debt-free, as he has begun to provide for his new wife who works alongside of him. I guess there wasn’t enough government officials that had been warned that something like this could happen if he was allowed to continue what he was doing when he was younger.

Evening With the Peter Bradrick Clan

I first met Peter Bradrick in 2001, just days after “9/11″, at the “Family Friendly Church Summit” in San Antonio. This was, in many ways, the launch of what became the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. I met a number of godly men and families at the invitation of Doug Phillips, but one of the singular moments of that event was when Peter, an 18-year-old young man, walked in with his father. He looked me in the eye with a huge smile, gave me a firm handshake, and introduced himself. There was something about that young man (and his father, Michael) that impressed me. This is what I wanted for my then 4-year-old son. I could say so much more as I watched and interacted with Peter and his father over the next few days, but I saw a combination of joy, humility, character, and a love for the Lord and others that stuck with me.

The following year, my first apprentice, Nathaniel Talbott, was getting married in Oregon. I remembered that the Bradricks lived in Washington State and told my wife that we needed to visit the Bradricks (a mere 7-8 hour drive from the place of the wedding) and get to know them better. Not only did the Bradricks welcome us for a visit, but they volunteered to host us for several days and use their camper out back as a place to park as we did whatever else we wanted to do in the area. We ended up spending somewhere between 36-48 hours with the Bradricks and learned so much about what a godly family with an integrated lifestyle should look like.

Fast forward eight years.

Peter has moved to Wake Forest, NC to work with his father-in-law, Scott Brown, to be an integral part of the NCFIC. We were blessed to host his family (Kelly, their 3 delightful sons, and Peter’s youngest brother Stephen who is interning at the NCFIC) last night in our home and, in the midst of our fellowship, we discussed many topics.

  • The Household as the Fundamental Economic Unit
  • Advice to a Daughter Who is Graduating
  • Young Men seeking Opportunities
  • Why Don’t More Men Provide Apprenticeship/Mentoring Opportunities
  • Being Committed to Life Without Debt

More to come…

An Integrated Life

Well, I’ve held out from blogging for far too long.

However, when I spoke at the Software Craftsmanship conference last summer, a few attendees said that I needed to share my thoughts and information with others. I’ve owned this domain for quite a while, but haven’t used it… I guess the time has come. I plan to use this blog to discuss what an integrated life looks like (or should look like, or could look like).