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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sinning Ignorantly

The idea that we can sin ‘ignorantly’ causes a great deal of confusion and even guilt in honest hearted Christians today.   False teachers use it to keep their followers in bondage and Satan uses it to torment innocent  saints. 
IN THE DAYS BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST, in the Old Testament, sinning ignorantly was possible since there was a long list of ‘dos and don’ts’ to be remembered and the priests of the latter days were constantly adding to them. So anyone could commit sins that weren't through willful disobedience, but ‘ignorantly.’  Lapses of memory and just plain not knowing of a law (sin) was completely possible.  And to unknowingly do a thing that was contrary to the law was possible.  (Lev. 4:2"... If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done..." )  And God made arrangements for it.
Paul tells the Galatians the purpose of the Law: Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”  Gal 3:19   “…Without the law sin was dead.  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”  Romans 7:8-9  The law showed Man what sin was.   Again in Galatians 3: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. “   So we see that God had practices in place to let the early Hebrews know what sin was.

BUT IN THE GOSPEL DAY we recognize sin through the leadership of the Holy Spirit:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  John 14: 6   Some would argue that this is only referring to the teachings of Christ, but the phrase ‘all things’ eliminates this theory.  

And again,  “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”  I John 2:27 That Spirit that saved us will also teach us what sin is.  Again, the phrase ‘all things’ covers EVERYTHING necessary for our life in Christ.

So, we see that sinning without knowing we sin is not possible under the administration of the Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit in our lives will let us know. Before Salvation a man might be able to do all sorts of sinful things thinking they are all right.  Paul lets us know this in several places. But AFTER being born again, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and teaches us those actions and thoughts which are sin.  Hebrews tells us, “He will write his law in our hearts.”  “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: Heb 8:10 and 10:16  His law isn’t written in books and books that we must search through, it is now in our heart and mind.  You can’t sin ignorantly if it’s written in your heart and mind. You have to consciously override it.

It requires an effort to walk close to God and listen to his still small voice that calls us to a closer walk and a life free of sin.  That’s why humans like to have a check list as to what they can and cannot do.  They like to have a check list they can point to and say, “Lookee here, sister So-n-so went here or there.  That’s a sin.”  Or ‘Brother Somebody-r-other played basketball with only a tank top on. That’s a sin.”

And we like to have a list we can point to and say, “Look, I do this and this and this. I’m a good Christian.”  And at the same time condemn others by that same list.  Christ called people like that ‘whited sepulchers.’ 

Some pastors and congregations get bogged down in providing a laundry list of sins.   Short hair, short dresses, (for women) bare arms and chest, (for all) wearing jewelry, going to fairs, movies, concerts….the list goes on and on.  And a definition of sin becomes an effort of trying to include these things under the title of ‘Sin.”

However.  There are several places in the Word  where we are given SPECIFIC lists of sins.  We often overlook these in our efforts to include a whole bunch of other things:   Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” I Cor 6:9-11  and in Rom 1:29-32:  “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

Depending on our background in the Word, we may lack in understanding of God’s Word, but as we study and follow God, we will come to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”  Eph. 4:13  As we learn more and more of what God requires of us the Word of God is written in our hearts and we bring our life into accord with His Righteousness.  There is a very definite process that leads to sin.  “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”

We cannot sin without knowing it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When God's Hand Moves

When Rachael and Michael were established here, I wanted more than anything for my whole family to be in church together.  Michael had always gone to church services with me when he and Rachael visited.  But in Westerville we had no good congregations to attend, Rachael’s job made her work on Sundays and the closest congregation was too far for me to ask Michael to drive.  So we hadn’t gone to church together for several years. 

Notah and Kerra have been attending a little Nazarene congregation since they moved here.  It is closer to our house than any congregation I’ve ever attended—only about ten minutes’ drive.  I hoped Rachael and Michael would go with me.  Another blessing, when Sunday rolled around, both of them were up and dressed and ready to go without my saying anything.  It blessed me because some of the Christians Michael had experience with had not been the best examples. 

The wonderful thing was that he liked Pastor Chad and enjoyed the services.  He listened to the messages and seemed to soaking it all in.   Then in October brother Arnie came to hold a revival for us.  At the end of about the last service Michael took Rachael’s hand and went forward to pray!  Thank the Lord.  It has been wonderful.  And there has been a real change in Michael.  Every once in a while he’ll make reference to the ‘old Michael’ doing something different from the way he is now!  He and Rachael have always had a good marriage, but I can see them both growing in the Lord together. 

They bought the house in Tierra Grande and from the first planned to have family and church people to visit in the big courtyard at the back.   Incidentally, and again this had to be the Lord, the house had an in-ground pool in that courtyard.  Not many houses in the desert have swimming pools and they hadn’t been looking for one.  When Rachael injured her back in the accident at Kroger’s the company had refused to pay the medical bills and compensation for it.  She has suffered with it ever since and her private doctor recommended that she swim as rehabilitation.  The swimming pool was simply God planning to take care of her!   

On January first or second, they began cleaning the house!  And it was a major job.  Two thirds of the house had to be gutted.  ALL of the floors had to be torn up; it was so urine soaked that it couldn’t be saved.  When all of the carpet, ceramic tile and wooden flooring had been ripped up, the subfloor was scrubbed with bleach and detergent but still had to be coated with a special sealer to be rid of the odor.  The central portion of the house was broken up with half walls and posts.  Those were torn out and the area turned into a beautiful great room.  The master bath had to be gutted also since the bathtub was cracked and the shower needed renovating.    

Now it is nearly complete, only the master bath needs finishing.

The landscaping looks like a different place.  The wild brush and trees have been pulled out and cut down.  The fruit trees and larger landscaping trees have been pruned.  The pool has been cleaned and Michael had the pool men out to tell him how to maintain it.  It’s like a little paradise.

This is June.  Our family have gathered several times for late dinners after church on Sundays.  Last Sunday Seth’s friend, Andrew from church, came and they spent the whole afternoon in the water! Everyone was in and out, too. 
Now I’m only waiting for this house to sell so I can move into the room they’ve designated as mine.  I was praying and meditating the other morning and the lord gave me the most wonderful assurance that when everything was complete at Marta Court this house would be sold.

He has already done so much for me.  Why should I doubt him now?

Friday, June 10, 2016

A List of Miracles

I haven’t spent much time here in the last months.  It isn’t that there haven’t been many, many blessings, but simply that my time has been taken up with so many other things.   

Looking back, I see that I’ve neglected to mention that we have moved from Ohio to New Mexico.  Rachael and Michael have had A Plan to move here from the time they were married.  They had a beautiful house in Ohio. They loved their house and its location, but it wasn’t New Mexico.  Their plan was to save their money, upgrade their house and accumulate enough money to make the move.  When Rachael and Michael set their minds to something, they DO it. 

Shortly after the first of the year in 2015, they decided the Time Had Come.  They began putting the finishing touches on their property to make it as attractive as possible.  They made a trip to NM to scope out available properties.  That provided a contact with a realtor and access to a very attractive house.  Things moved forward for the move

One of their problems was getting ME moved.  I have a lot of junk!  After a number of conversations with Notah they hatched a design to move me and some of my things first, at the end of April.  I began packing my personal things and cleaning drawers, shelves and my closet.  Some of the things I boxed and left for them to take their moving truck.  My clothes, some of my books and my plants I took with me.  My bearded dragon and Maggie were at the top of the list to go along.  Moving pets was a bigger hassle than moving myself.  In addition to them, I took Rachael’s turtle and her cat, Cole. 

Notah was in the process of purchasing a cargo van for the moving company.  He would have to pick it up at some location since it wouldn’t be shipped to them directly.  He elected to pick it up in Columbus as the least expensive way to go.  See how God works things out for his children?  His time table is NEVER wrong.

I stayed with Notah’s family while Rachael and Michael moved forward, listing their house with a realtor and arranging their move.  As soon as that was accomplished they began packing.   Their house was listed in May and sold within a month!   We have an amazing Lord!  How often does a house sell within thirty days!  Yet when God has His Hand on the timing, it happens.  There was blessing after blessing but by mid-July Rachael and Michael arrived in New Mexico!!  How can I help but praise the Lord?!

By this time I was living in Notah and Kerra’s  ‘old house’ that they were preparing for sale.  Rachael and Michael were able to store their things in the back room and live with me while they were job hunting and getting organized for a few months.  But after six months of rushing and working and organizing, they took a little time to kick back and relax.  Rachael wanted to show Michael her homeland.  He had seen the area around Albuquerque and Gallup during the times they had visited Notah and our family in Rock Springs, but there was the whole southwest that he’d never seen.  They took a week or two as a break and visited Monument Valley, Zion National Park and other.’ landmarks around the reservation before they began looking for jobs.

Now another example of how the Lord works things out for His People.  When they returned and began job hunting they both had jobs within a month.   Again, how amazing is that!!  In a time when jobs are hard to come by, especially good jobs they found good jobs almost immediately.  Michael was hired to manage an ironworks shop—the same position as he’d had in Ohio.   Rachael was hired as an assistant manager in a bank!  I could hardly believe it! 

The next issue was finding a house.  They explored the area around Albuquerque, north to Santa Fe and south to the Tijeras area.  They wanted a house ‘in the mountains.’  After they had made a few rounds viewing houses, Kerra mentioned that some friends of theirs had a house for sale in Tierra Grande.  I didn’t thing they would be at all interested; Tierra Grande is a wide flat plain lying in the bowl between the Sandia Mountains, the Manzanos, Los Pinos and the Ladrones.  I liked and still do like, having the distant mountains watching over us, but the land could by no stretch of imagination be called ‘mountainous.’

But when Rachael and Michael looked at the house they liked it immediately, in spite of many drawbacks.   The people living there were horrible housekeepers.  Their could-be beautiful house was in an awful condition. They had goats and pigs and dogs running loose.  Their granddaughter kept Rabbits and chinchillas in wire cages on the floor in her bedroom.  The property was overgrown with well-intentioned but improperly maintained vegetation.  I couldn’t believe it when Rachael and Michael began talking of buying it.   Now THAT was the Lord.

At any rate, the sale finally went through and they took possession the first of December, 2015.. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Lift your your eyes


There’s a gospel song that goes, in part, “Lift your weary eyes and look above the shadows, all your many troubles will be gone…” 
I was thinking of that this morning as I was wrapped in my blanket sitting on the deck waiting for the dogs. The people next door have three dogs, neatly kept and well cared for, but scattered around and two boats parked in their yard.    The boats aren’t neatly parked but one was just left at an awkward angle on the slope of the hill.  It’s not particularly attractive, but it is their yard.  
Then the house down the hill from us has an old car, an old pickup, a camper and two boats squeezed behind their house and garage.   They are all crowded in among the natural sagebrush and bunch grass-- seems like tempting haven for rattlesnakes to me. 
Anyway, the combination of properties there aren’t what I’d like to see from our deck.  BUT, and here is where the song comes in, all I have to do is ‘lift my eyes above…’   Above the clutter I can see the sage and grasses in waves stretching to the mountains where the sun is sending its glow above their ridges.   I guess I could moan and grouch about the boats and the old cars, but the view above them is worth it all. 
And I was thankful for it.
Then I came inside and it was warm.  I went to the kitchen and turned on the water to run a pan of water to boil Rachael's breakfast eggs.  I remembered the day when I had to dip water from a barrel to cook or wash.  I was thankful for the stream of water running out of the faucet.  It was so easy. 
I set the pot on the stove and didn’t have to build a fire under it.  My Ma and Pappy had to do that. My mother in law had to do that. I learned to do that.  I know how, I can cook on an old wood stove.  I can cook on an open fire.
But this morning I was thankful I didn’t have to.
The Psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.”  I never considered the verse until I saw the mountains of New Mexico.   No matter what is happening in my life, no matter how I might worry, those mountains endure.  The Hand of God that placed them there is the Hand that controls.  He sends help when it is needed.

And for that we can be thankful.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Road trip and God's Grace

 One of our family's favorite weekend activities is taking road trips.  Most people reading this think of a road trip as a pleasant drive along some scenic highway, looking at the trees and livestock grazing in green fields. Maybe you stop at a 'scenic overlook' to view a sight of historical significance or special beauty. After a couple hours, you might stop for dinner at a pretty little restaurant off the beaten path, then drive straight back home.
Not the Howe Family.
On Saturday we took a road trip-- Notah, Kerra, Seth, me and our honorary uncle, Pat Smith.  Somewhere south of Socorro Notah chose a side road at random. It was almost non-existent.  We followed it for maybe a half mile and it literally ended at a deep wash.. 
"We'll go up the road a little ways and there'll be a connecting road to bring us back around." Notah said. 
Yeah, OK.
We did go up the road a ways and we did find another road, somewhat better than the first..  You see it here.

Not too bad as New Mexico roads go...not the best either, but it promised adventure.  The problem was that after a ways, it turned into this....



And the next thing we knew, here was Notah looking for the road.
He was disappointed at the direction it took so he justc turned off the road across desert, over sage brush,  small dead trees, humps of grass, washes, low places and dead.  We bounced all over the truck. I cracked my head on the ceiling. The three in the back seat yelled. Things flew off the console and we came up on the other side of the bump. 
And then there was this long ominous hiss....like the sound of opening a soda bottle.
Now THAT's a puncture!
Okay.  Flat tire.  Everybody has had a flat tire once in their life.  The difference was, this flat tire was in the desert, probably five miles from the nearest hard road, eight or so from the highway and another thirty from a town with even a gas station.  I'm guessing here;  my estimation of mileage is shaky at best and I'm writing this on Monday when Notah is at work so I can't check with him.  You get the idea anyway.  We were in the middle of nowhere.
 Changing a tire in the desert is an Experience.  First, the truck was sitting is soft earth.  Jacking it up required that stones be placed under the base of the jack to make a firm surface.  Otherwise the jack just sinks into the sand instead of raising the truck.  ( I didn't help with this tire change, but I have with others.)  Notah sent Kerra off to find flat stones.  He sent Seth back and forth to the bed of the truck, bringing tools and sending them back.
 The most difficult part of the whole process was removing the nice little lugnut caps  put on for decorative value.  They been spun on with a pneumatic wrench and wouldn't move.  I don't know how long Notah spent with a screwdriver and a hammer loosening them up.  I don't know if they will ever be decorative again.
When the little caps were off and the lugnuts loosened, of course, the wheel had to come off, which required more jacking and more stones to support the jack.  Because of the soft soil, Notah and Pat worried continually about the truck slipping off the jack.   One of them came up with the idea of slipping the old tire and wheel under the frame so that if the jack did slip while they struggled with getting the spare on, the truck wouldn't fall on anyone but would be caught by the wheel.
Another difficulty, that anyone who has changed a tire knows, is that when the flat tire comes off, the axle isn't high enough to get the spare on!  More worrying about getting the truck jacked high enough to do that.  It isn't a problem when the vehicle is sitting on concrete or pavement; it's a different story when it's sitting in the middle of the desert. Eventually either Pat or Notah came up with the idea of letting the truck stay at the height it was and digging out under the tire.   That worked.
 The tire was back on. They released the jack.  That old wheel they'd shoved under the frame to catch the truck if the jack shifted...remember?  Yep. It did its job.  It caught the truck and kept it from falling.  Problem was it kept the new tire from just barely touching the ground...in the bottom of the hole, of course. 
 Jack the truck again, just enough to drag the wheel out.  Release the jack.  The truck is sitting of four good tires.
"Okay, load up,"  Notah instructed.  "Let's go!" 
I'd spent all of the two hours while Notah and Pat struggled on the ground in the dirt and heat, sitting in my camp chair under a shade pavilion that Seth and Kerra pulled out of the truck and set up!  We all snacked on summer sausage and cheese.  It was pleasant in the shade where the easy wind kept things cool.  Notah and Pat weren't so lucky down there beside that flat tire.
At any rate, tools were collected and stowed away.  The pavilion came down and was folded into its bag. All of the trash and water bottles went in plastic bags.  We all crawled back into the truck.  We were ready to go back across that vicious sage and dead tree desert to the road.    And we had no spare!   I said my own prayer that we'd get back without another hole in a tire.
It shows you what our flat tire site was like when I say we were all glad to get back on this road.
A good time was had by all. 
The thing I want to point out is this.  We spent the afternoon in the heat of the desert.  That tire was a hard job and those lugnut caps were the dickens to get loose.  The thing that blessed me repeatedly was that there was not a single cuss word or even irritated complaint!  Nobody got mad and slung the tire tool across the desert.  Nobody kicked the tires and slammed the jack handle into the fender.  
And there was plenty of justification for any of those things.  What wonderful evidence of the power of God in a man's life. 
We didn't get any place special, but it was an adventure.  And there was plenty to see while we were there.  Seth brought me a pretty little horny toad.  I even held it.  Kerr,a Seth and Pat picked up the usual trash to be found in the desert remnants of men who struggled and lived there.  Notah and Pat looked at the ruins of an old stone house where Pat found a belt buckle that said 'JEWETT' on it and an 'emerald.' probably from a ring or a button.  It was evidence of a family that lived out there so far from anywhere a long time ago.
The desert is always fascinating.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gabriel Felix

Gabriel Felix Howe
February, 1997-July 7, 2014 


I don’t have words for the emptiness.  Gabriel Felix has ceased from his suffering.  Yesterday was a hard day for me.  Gable wasn’t walking except for a few feet then he would slowly collapse onto his side. He stopped eating Sunday and would only drink water.  Yesterday he would stand over the bowl and lap a few times then look at it as he slowly slid down to his belly. 
I carried him with me when I went any place because otherwise he still tried to follow the pattern of years and follow me.  Wherever I went he was always with me.  If I went to the kitchen, he was there. If I sat in the den he was beside me or on my lap.  If I sat on the deck, he was right there lying in the sun.  For meals, he was beside me.  If I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night he got out of bed and went with me.   These past days, he was too weak to follow me all the way but he’d go as far as he could and collapse until he’d regained his strength.  So I carried him.
For the last three days he couldn’t walk out in the yard to potty.  I would carry him out and put him down on the ground.   He would stagger a few feet and lay down or potty then stagger a bit farther.  The last night he was with me, he wanted out at 4:00 in the morning.  I carried him out and sat on the deck with him until he’d walked around a bit and fell in the grass.  He liked laying in the grass.   Finally he was all the way to the fence and could go no farther.  Using my phone light I trekked across the yard in my bare feet and nightgown in the dark to pick him up and carry him in.
And that was OK because I loved him.
The vet, when he saw him, knew immediately from the odor that Gable had kidney failure. He said it was time to end the suffering.  And I knew that.  It is just that I’ll miss him so much.
Last night I woke up in a little panic twice thinking I had slept past the time when I needed to take him out. The first time I was about to get up before I realized he was gone. The next time it was storming and before I was entirely awake I thought he would get wet and cold.   Then I looked across at the empty bed and remembered he was gone.
It was strange this morning, letting only three dogs out.  And when they came back in it took a minute to remember that I didn’t need to look for Gabriel because he wasn’t there
For almost seventeen years, if he had a choice, he was with me—on my lap, standing in my shadow, lying down beside my chair at dinner, following me when I walked laps around the yard.  He went to New Mexico with me until he was too old to make the trip comfortably. 
When he was a puppy he went to day care with me.  He was so cute and even his toys were tiny.  The staff would bring him little balls and stuffed animals even though he already had several; the floor of my office was littered with puppy toys.   Kids and staff vied for the chance to take him out to potty.  Or just take him for a walk.  Peggy Miller took him out with her for a smoke break, the children would come and ask if he could go to the playground with them.   Sometimes I had to say that he’d just been out and had to rest. 
All sorts of events went through Gable’s life, but he was content as long as he was with me.
And now my life goes on without him. 
Gabriel, I’ll miss you.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lonely Abandoned Ranch

On the day we visited the Rocky Canyon we passed through an abandoned ranch site.  I’m sure the property belongs to someone; at least someone has re-built the windmill fairly recently.  The watering trough is full and the whole area has cattle tracks and cow piles around it. 
It was another one of those sites that carried a sense of history. 
There was a rock house that was tumbling down. From a distance it was nearly invisible among the brush and rocky landscape.  At one time it was a pretty decent home for the times.  Laid up neatly of stone, there were two decent sized rooms with sizable beams that must have been hauled a long ways to make the roof.  It didn’t appear to have had a board floor, but that might have been covered by years of blowing sand and trash sifting over it.

(Here's a closer picture in case you can't see the house.)

It looked like another pile of rocks if you didn't know what you were looking at.

The home site had once had sizable cottonwoods growing around it but now they were dead. Some stretched along the ground; other still stood offering skeletal arms to the sky and weather.  All around now brush crowded the walls. 

Across the way in front of the house there was a corral.  It was built with a combination of the old close-set-stake fencing, wooden post and rails and woven wire.  I think it had probably been used more recently than the house.  It might have been able to contain my mom’s placid milk cow, but I’m not sure any animal with more energy would have had much difficulty getting through it.
The ranch site stood in the center of a bowl surrounded by ridges and cliffs.  We arrived there after a long bumpy drive across the desert through sage and clump grass.  In the middle of the bowl a hundred (maybe) yards behind the house was a huge boulder that had broken free of the cliff off to the right.  And when I say huge, I mean huge!  It was larger and much taller than the house.

We parked the truck and walked around the site for a while.  It was evident the property had been intentionally abandoned.  There were no articles of living remaining in or around the house.  The corral had been maintained but there was no other evidence of use. 
Once again I was awed by the courage of the men and women who lived here.  We had driven probably two or three hours across country in a TRUCK from the nearest paved road.  The nearest town was probably an hour, hour and a half from the turn-off.  For a man on a horse it must have been most of a day to the nearest town.  With a wagon it would have been two days.  You know those cowboy movies where Pa hitches up the wagon and trots in to town and back by noon?  Well it didn’t happen here!  I doubt I we would have made the trip and back in the truck before noon.
 All of these things go to demonstrate how very fleeting life is.  Men build in wood and stone as permanently as they know how, but nothing lasts.  And yet man persists in believing his works are supreme. 
Who do we think we are anyway, when our works are so easily destroyed?
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?  5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour  Ps 8:3-4