Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Killer to Lover

By Brenda Black

David Letterman has his Top 10. College basketball it's Big 12. And the Apostle Paul has his Trusted 37+. You'll find them listed in Romans 16.

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea...Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus...Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia...

“Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you...Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me...Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord...Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

“Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ...the household of Aristobulus...Herodion, my relative...the household of Narcissus who are in the L

“Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the dear friend Persia...Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too...

“Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (Romans 16:1-16a)

Whew! That's just a few of the faithful followers in the church at Rome. Another eight are listed in verses 21-24 who didn't make the trip with Phoebe, but sent their greetings. But why would Paul take the time to call them out individually and attribute compliments and character assessments? Because as much as Paul was a learned philosopher, he was also a loving friend.

This tender side is yet more evidence of the true transformation that opened his blinded eyes when He met the Messiah on the Damascus Road. Remember, before he was Paul, he was Saul who authorized the murder of Stephen when “...they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts. 7:57b-58) He watched an innocent young man, with the face of an angel, fall on his knees and cry out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 60) And then Saul watched him die and he walked away.

The Paul in the book of Romans is not the same cold-hearted legalist of early Acts. He is now a believer, a brother, a teacher and a friend. God put the humanity into the man and made it possible for him to love again. So by the time a letter is written to Corinth, Paul spells out the kind of friend he aspires to be; the kind of servant he is to the King. He defines true discipleship in agape terms of endearment.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Paul learned how to love because he was first loved by God. Though he amassed great knowledge and garnered tremendous respect, this love factor softened his heart and fit him for service that would last thousands of years past his life on earth. That's the kind of lasting impact from a love that is perfect, a love that is patient and kind and does not envy or boast; a love that is not proud or rude or self-seeking and is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.

The love of God that Paul felt toward his companions was love that “protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:7)

That's the kind of love that changed a killer's destiny into a blessed legacy where the numbers have grown from 37 in a local church to millions worldwide who read the Pauline letters and discover for themselves that we have nothing if we have not been changed by the love of God.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Giving Bovine Babies a Fighting Chance

By Brenda Black

Soak it up! Bask in it! Run outside and throw back your head, close your eyes and just enjoy it! Hello SUN! Now that you got that out of your system, brace yourself, because we still have a ways to go until it is officially spring. My guess is most folks would welcome the season about three weeks early this blustery year. Those most ready would have to be cattle farmers.

Up until the past couple of years, the idea of calving in February seemed clever for Missouri. Sort of a head start on gains for bigger, better weanlings later in the year. After this second year in a row of massive snow, we're thinking it's time to push that back a bit farther for next year. Like maybe April when the birds are singing and the grass is greening instead of freezing!

Like it or lump it, calving started whether the weather cooperated or not this season. While one of our calves was born prior to the 2011 blizzard, it was still a pretty frosty morn. And it took plenty of extra loving attention to make sure she survived her first week. We employed a barn to block the wind and offered ample feed and water to her mama to keep the warm milk flowing for baby.

Two more little black calves waited till the first storm passed, but were then born during arctic blast number two and arrived back to back. One on Tuesday. I named him "Black Blizzard." One came in the wee hours of Thursday around 4 a.m., born to a cow with #8 hanging on her ear. His name shall be "Eight Below". He's dubbed after his mama AND the mercury reading!

Suffice it to say, all three of these calves were feisty fighters to be born on such bitter days and have thrived in spite of the harsh elements. But sometimes it takes more than natural instincts and shear determination to adhere to the law of the fittest. At times like we've experienced in the past couple of weeks, it takes humane care, sacrifice and lots of extra attention.

We can't keep all the cows so close to the house, but for the rookies in the herd, we try to keep a close eye on them. So I am thankful for the warm hay barn to shelter them in their first hours and for a husband who will fight frost bite and sleepless nights and even pack a 70-pound, slimy wet critter a hundred yards to the house to make sure that baby gets everything it needs for a healthy start.

As for me, I'm right there pulling my shift at ten and midnight and two a.m. if needed. I hold the gates and flashlights and offer experienced mothering advice. I open doors en route to the laundry room floor where we offer colostrum and I talk to and sooth and rub the damp from bovine babies before returning them to their mothers.

Farming is chores and responsibility. It is taking seriously the charge to care for land and beast. More than anything, it is a privilege to be God's loving hands and strong backs when these animals we cherish need some help.

To fellow beef cowboys who have braved the elements this month and triumphed over record-breaking mercury drops...and to those who have sadly lost some of their herd in the fight against impossible odds...I tip my hat to all of you. Because I know if I were to ask any of these hard-working, dedicated souls why in the world they go to such lengths. They would just humbly say, "It's my life and my job. I do what I have to do."

God bless you!

*For more farm stories, get your copy of Were You Born in a Barn at

copyright 2011
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The Purpose of Pentecost

By Brenda Black

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: 'Fellow Jews and all of you who are in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.” (Acts 2:14)

He had no microphone, but the roar rising from the masses called for Peter to match its intensity so that he might be heard. On this day of Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ, a multiethnic crowd reacted vociferously to the strange commotion they witnessed and heard. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-4) Peter then stepped up to seize the moment and impart explanation to the ever-restless and riled that were drawn together in bewilderment, for each of these visitors to the Holy City heard their own native dialect and they were “utterly amazed” (vs. 7).

Some heeded the miraculous event and curiously pressed for answers while others made fun and accused the disciples of drunkenness. The power of God had seized their attention, but it was up to Peter to capitalize on the moment and point their hearts in the right direction. He quoted the prophet Joel who generations earlier spoke of a fiery day like this. Then Peter began to tell them about Jesus – his life, his ministry, his death and resurrection!

They were perplexed. They were opinionated. Mostly, this eclectic crowd was pierced to their very core as Peter began to call for repentance. Remember, most of these people were in Jerusalem two months prior. Many then were among that crowd that called for Jesus' crucifixion! Conviction and fear gripped the ones who realized they had scorned and rejected and killed the Messiah for whom they had been watching and waiting.

The mobs had met the person of Jesus. They saw him die and watched the sky turn black. They felt the earth shake and heard of the temple curtain ripped in two. They knew!

If ever they needed proof of God's great power and authority, they saw it that day when Jesus died. They were still talking about the empty grave 50 days later and still no body had been recovered. They saw God-power again when Holy Spirit flames licked the roof top on this Pentecost day and unlearned men spoke in dozens of different languages penetrating ears and minds and hearts.

They knew the person, they saw the proof. And some responded. Those are the ones who discovered the purpose of Pentecost.

The rest of the story in the Book of Acts tells of a great response to the Truth message that Peter declared. “'Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.'

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'

“Peter replied: 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts. 2:36-39)

The good news is that about 3000 accepted his message and were baptized!

But what of the nay-sayers? They had to be spiritually blinded and ignorant. Think about it: If a drunk slurs his own name, how could the Pentecost cynics reason that drunkenness would make unlearned men articulate linguists! Their hearts were cold and hard so they believed that the Twelve were filled with wine instead of the Holy Spirit.

The sad news is not everyone that day repented. Some resisted the plea, rejected the person and refused to believe the powerful proofs right in front of them. Those who received salvation devoted themselves to teaching and fellowship and to communion and prayer. The rest – well, their decision took them a far darker way. Instead of being filled with purpose, they perished.

Pentecost had a purpose. It birthed the church. Today, the greatest story ever told has not changed. And people still get the chance to hear the truth and turn from their dark paths and walk in light and love when they repent and are baptized into Christ.

If you would like to learn more about this Jesus, I'll gladly be your Peter and tell you everything I know about him. Decide for yourself. Will you believe and be saved by God and filled by the Spirit? Anything less is as foolish as drunkenness and only leads to death.

Monday, February 7, 2011

CBB Tour of Duty Just Beginning

I'm back home after a week in Denver, Co, where I attended the 2011 Cattle Industry Annual Convention. During the event, I was sworn in as a new appointee to the Cattlemen's Beef Research and Promotion Board and introduced to the role I'll be performing on the Joint Public Relations Subcommittee. I'm very excited about the excellent programs in place funded by the Beef Checkoff and learned more about how this amazing and complex system is working to reach millions of consumers with sound science, new products, and the true story of American Beef Producers.

I encourage you to visit to learn more. And while you are there, click on the "Checkoff Meeting Blog" button to get a glimpse of the far-reaching and various activities of this past week during the Convention.

Here's a taste from early in the week when "Yours Truly" was interviewed:

It might be a tough task for some producers who like to stick to their business and their families, and stay out of the ‘politics’ of running their farm or ranch, but it’s a necessity that all producers start to speak out for themselves to defend the future of their operations and their industry. That’s one of the reasons that Brenda Black is here at the Cattle Industry Convention this week.

Brenda is a cow-calf producer from Missouri, as well as being a mother, a writer — and one of the incoming members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. And she’s proud of each of those roles and wants to share that pride by telling the beef story to consumers, for the benefit of the entire industry. That’s at the core of her goals as a Beef Board member: to serve her industry and help her fellow producers do the same.

CBB Media Manager Melissa Slagle had a nice conversation with Brenda about her new job as a Beef Board member. Take a listen here: Brenda Black.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thinkin' 'Bout Home

By Brenda Black

There is a wandering soul in many of us that perpetuates discontent. The monotony of familiar surroundings causes longing for fantasy in far-away places, yet foreign locations and strange faces make us pine for the comfort of home. Thousands of travelers are stranded this week, trapped in airports or along closed inner state highways. I wonder if they are curled up on hard airport benches or hunkered down in semi truck cabs and dreaming like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz: “There's no place like home, there's no place like home.”

For me --I arrived at my destination safely, but I am nonetheless dreaming about home. As heavy as the cold, damp air was the heavy feeling in my heart when I left home a day ahead of the storm and embarked on my cross-country flight. I sat alone and waited for my delayed plane to arrive and hoped none of the other passengers sitting at a distance would notice the big crocodile tears pooling in my eyes.

I wasn't afraid of flying in the weather. Wasn't worried about losing my luggage. I didn't fret over the journey much at all. Well maybe a little later, when we chopped our way through clouds that looked like cotton candy but punched the plane like choppy waves on a rolling sea. I prayed through that stratus-slicing portion of the ascent then relaxed when we cruised through blue, sunny skies above the tumult of white below. But before take-off, my foreboding was more attributed to leaving my husband alone at home to fend for himself in the forthcoming blizzard.

Sure he's a big boy, but what if...and a dozen scenarios littered my mind. We didn't spend much time together that morning and our good-bye was rushed. I worked all morning to rebook the last available flight leaving town ahead of the front. We didn't get to linger, talk or pray as we had my last trip away. As I headed west, he would get in a car and drive north on potentially icy streets and face the arctic blast beating it's away across his path. And that bothered me.

You see, I would have rather crawled into that car and braved the trip with him than to go it alone to fairer skies without him. I would rather be home in sub-zero weather with a storm so fierce that it blows the curtains on the inside of the house than to be far away, alone and safe. Because that's home and my family and neighborhood friends and those are my cows and horses and dog and cat that I care about more than my own comfort or safety.

So while I am sitting in warmth and quiet in the Mile High City of Denver, all be it bitter cold beyond this 20th floor hotel window, I am sheltered and I am comfortable, but I am thinking about home. Home is family and memories. It is where I'm known and mostly loved, sometimes tolerated and always forgiven. Home is my heart and my haven even if it lies in the eye of a blizzard.

As much as this distance during dire circumstances makes me long for home and hearth, there's another home that I yearn for even more -- heaven -- where I won't be alone.

After seeing how God could lift me from storm to sunshine, carry me out of harm's way and land me safely where He's called me to be this week, I have no doubt that the home I'll one day see will be perfect! And there I'll be with family and friends safe and sound and no distance between us or blizzards to harm us! I'll have no worries, sense no fear, cry no tears. That sounds like home to me. Like where I want to be.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-9)

Home. I hope just thinking about it warms your heart this cold, blustery week.