Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ego Gone Amuck

By Brenda Black

“We are the first society to be living in a world where we don't worship anything besides ourselves,” says Alain de Botton, Swiss/British writer, philosopher, television presenter and entrepreneur. “Our heros are human heros. This is a very new situation. Most other societies have had right at their center the worship of something transcendent – a god, a spirit, a natural force, the universe. Whatever it is, something else is being worshipped. We've lost the habit of doing that.”

Earlier in his TEDtalks presentation on success and failure, Botton quotes St. Augustine: “It's a sin to judge any many by his post.” He then goes on to explain Augustine's perspective with his own creative edits. Botton says, “Only God can really put people in their place and he's going to do that on the day of judgment with angels and trumpets and the skies will open. Insane idea if you are a secularist person like me. But something very valuable in that idea, nevertheless. In other words, hold your horses when you're coming to judge people. You don't really know what someone's true value is.”

How can a secularist see the problem with such an egocentric society who has forsaken worship and sets itself up as judge, yet condemns the omnipotence of a the one true God who is worthy? How can one who appears to respect the grace and justice of God, discount His power over the affairs of man?
First Botton clarifies the vacuum in which humans exist apart from God. “We've lost the habit of [worship] which is why I think we are particularly drawn to nature. Not for the sake of health, thought it is often presented that way, but because it is an escape from the human ant hill...We like to feel in contact with something that is non-human and that is so deeply important to us.” Then, on the heels of pointing out the error of humanism, Botton falls prey to it, concluding his “inspirational” message with, “Make sure we are the authors of our own ambitions. Focus in...”

Whip lash reasoning at its best! Just because a person refuses to acknowledge God, doesn't make God disappear. Choosing to deny deity doesn't elevate humanity. It only makes our ant-like status more miniscule. For in refusing to believe in God and substituting worship of Him for worship in ourselves, we become less powerful, more ignorant, less capable and more desperate.

Ironically, this same talk began with Botton defining snobbery. A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete view of who you are,” he says. “The opposite of a snob is the ideal mother – someone who doesn't care about your achievements.”

So just who is the snob? Is it the secularist who takes God and puts Him in a box and tells Him He doesn't exist or shall have no participation in life on earth? Or is it the Christ who doesn't care about your achievements, He just loves you to death, even death on a cross?

I think I'll keep God at the center of my universe where I'll gladly worship Him. I'd rather feel more like a child of the King than an ant in the dirt. And with the Lord on the throne where He rightly belongs, success is guaranteed.

 “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17-18)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bewildered and Blessed

By Brenda Black

Had someone been in the room with me on the day I played back a phone message of congratulations, they may have offered to assist in closing my gaping mouth and suggested a cool drink of water. They may have offered a wet rag to counteract the obvious shock I felt when, in joyful tears, I plopped into my chair.

I was coerced to enter the Missouri State Fair Woman in Ag contest. I resisted repeatedly, justifying my hesitancy by suggesting a dozen deserving women who I thought stood a far better chance. I would have endorsed each of their nominations heartily had it not been for my persistent fan who insisted I complete the application to accompany her letter of recommendation. Out of sight and out of mind, I never gave the matter another thought until the day I got that news and nearly fainted. I had been named the 2013 Missouri State Fair Woman in Ag.
Award Ceremony

To say I am honored is a terrible understatement and throughout fair week, I was reminded over and over how very much I long to share this moment with hundreds who have influenced my life and shaped my Aggie world. It begins with gratitude to God for allowing me to live in the country my entire life and love the work I do and enjoy the life I lead. I'm thankful for parents who taught me how to be a good steward of the land and livestock and how to treat a neighbor with kindness and respect. They also taught me how to work hard to achieve success --much of that learned while working together with horses and cows and a brother and sister.

I'm thankful I married a wonderful cattleman and gentleman to share the journey and together to have raised a couple of country kids who developed character and skill through life-altering lessons learned on the farm as a family.

I remember the influence of Ag teachers at Mizzou and 4-H leaders from my childhood who opened my eyes to possibilities and trained me to meet those opportunities. Family friends cheered my every venture and peers with whom I competed gave me cause to work at getting better. Judges critiqued and sharpened me while I showed in a ring or gave an Ag-focused speech.

Professionally, I'm delighted to utilize the gifts God has given to tell the stories of hundreds of farmers and ranchers. I am glad for editors who challenge me to dig deeper in a story and uncover something unique or help shape my Ag journalism style and encourage me to keep on writing.

My mom standing in front of a picture of herself
taken in 1955 while exhibiting at the Missouri State Fair
The natural tendency is to give little thought to the cause and effect of day-in-day-out choices. We seldom stop and inventory our blessings, our talents, our destiny. We may take for granted the heritage from which we come or the legacy we leave. For many who live and work in the Ag Community, we just thank the Lord, care for our families, do our jobs and go to bed tired, but happy. It's a life infrequently analyzed, though filled with abundant blessings and deep satisfaction, whether or not an award is ever presented or accomplishments celebrated.

As the recipient of this amazing acco
lade for a woman involved in agriculture, I think it should be made clear that I am only one of the fortunate. With great honor, I truly represent all of the remarkable, industrious, dedicated and talented women from generations past and present. These women collectively comprise one of the greatest assets in Missouri's agriculture. And I share this tribute with each and every one of them – especially the amazing Missouri CattleWomen!

Though I am certainly not the perfect candidate, I have no doubt it is by God's great love and grace that such a good gift has been granted. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11)
Maybe, just maybe, my bewilderment made me look blameless to the the Lord and He decided to bless and bestow.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Disoriented Apart from Home

By Brenda Black

Slept like a rock near the Rockies last night until city sirens broke the peaceful Colorado silence. The unfamiliar blare from the streets of downtown Denver pierced through a hotel window 18 stories up in the Mile High City. Instantly, I scanned my brain, searching for locality and realized I was no longer at home in the country.

It is an odd sort of experience to suddenly be so disoriented. Thankfully the mix of fear and confusion is just as quickly answered with reality and reason. But the desire to be in familiar surroundings lingers, even as sleep slowly returns. Home.

Wide awake and full of faith, the faithful hall-of-famers listed in Hebrews 11, must have felt that same sense of disorientation and longing. By faith and in holy fear, Noah built a boat for a rain unknown and waters unseen. By faith, Abraham journeyed to a land far away and believed in the promise of heirs though in his old age and married to a barren woman. Both desired a place of refuge and the comforts of home. Enoch, who pleased God, took the short route, bypassing even death to make his final and eternal trip. He goes down as one most blessed! They all had in common a distant destination to a place of perfect rest, undisturbed by the sirens of this world. Home.

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Like the saints of old, the longer I live on this earth, the more disoriented I feel and the more desirous I become for that heavenly home.

The world is filled with flood waters of grief and pain. We're instructed to rise above the murky waters and rescue the perishing. "Get on the boat! Take others with you!" are the cries of our Heavenly Father, who holds out a lifeline that pulls us Home.

The Lord calls for us to be obedient even when we don't know the way and can't see the city. He reaches down with an unseen hand that guides us gently and intentionally toward Home.

And some day, through immediate lift or by death, we shall make the journey of Enoch and instantly be in the presence of holiness. If we walked in faith on this earth, we'll be Home.

In the meantime, no matter where I lay my head, I can set my mind at ease if I cling to the goodness of God's plan for transformation and transportation from this world to the next. It's about scanning the brain and landing on the reason I live and breath then trusting in the reality of life everlasting.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
(Romans 12:1-3)

God's perfect will is that none would perish, but all would come Home.