Tuesday, May 30, 2017

You Will Be Saved

If I told my kids "if you invest $1000 per month in a fund that returns 10% annually, then you will be a millionaire", does that mean they will be millionaires the first month they invest $1000? Of course not.  If I told my kids "if you invest $1000 per month in a fund that returns 10% annually, then you will be an investor", does that mean they will be investors the first month they invest $1000? Yes! Does it mean they will be investors if they only invest once? No! Both statements use the future verb tense "you will be", but one implies that they will eventually reach the end state, and the other implies they will immediately be in the end state for as long as they continue to meet the condition.  I have to pay attention to the future verb tense and discern what the verb tense and condition implies.

Romans 10:9-10
For if you  confess on your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your hearts that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Faith in the heart leads to justification, confession on the lips to salvation.
I might think that I will be saved immediately if I confess on my lips and believe in my heart; this is the doctrine found in some protestant denominations. I might also believe that when the condition is met once, it lasts forever, which is the once-saved, always-saved doctrine, also found in some protestant denominations. I could even think that eventually, enough belief and confession will earn me salvation, this is a merit-based salvation doctrine that many Christians fall into but that no denominations officially teach to my knowledge. But in order to understand the intended meaning of this particular verse, we should look deeper at what the term "be saved" means, and look to other verses to help us discern. The second sentence gives us a little clue, in that it separates being saved into multiple aspects.  To understand the different aspects of salvation, we must ask the question "what are we being saved from?"  The simplest result of salvation is that we're saved from the consequences of sin, the eternal separation from God; this is justification.  But another result of salvation is that we are also being saved from sin itself, through a gradual process, being healed to the point where we eventually commit no sins and fully love God. This is the part of salvation called sanctification.
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling
2 Thessalonians 2:13
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
2 Timothy 1:9
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time 
Titus 3:5-7
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 
John 15:2-7
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
These imply that salvation needs to be worked out, that it is an on-going process, that it isn't an instantaneous result of a single prayer, that it isn't guaranteed, that the condition "if you remain in me" is an on-going condition.

Looking at it this way, salvation is a three-part entity, a state of being (justification), a process (sanctification), and an end goal (eternity with God, free from sin),

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cold Shower, No Shower

Last year, I fasted for most of the year from hot showers for an Exodus 90 fast. Let me tell you about the benefits of avoiding hot showers!

  • I used a lot less water during my showers, and the water wasn’t heated, so I saved money on water and electricity. For comparison sake, let’s assume you normally take a 15 minute hot shower with a 1.5GPM showerhead, and the water costs $5.00 per 1000 gallons.  Let’s assume that it takes 0.13kwh per gallon to heat the water, and that electricity costs $0.08/kwh.  This 15-minute hot shower costs 11.25 cents in water, and 23.4 cents to heat that water, for a total cost of 34.65 cents. That’s $10.39 per month.  Switching to a cold shower, I have the water running 1 minute (15 seconds to get wet, then I soap up without water running, and 45 seconds to rinse).  This reduces the cost of each shower to less than a penny, for a monthly cost of $0.23, a savings of $10.16. This money can be better spent on charity!
  • I spent a lot less time in the shower. This freed me up to spend more time in prayer. 12-13 minutes more!
  • It toughened me up. Dealing with suffering is part of the Christian life.  Taking a cold shower is minor suffering compared to what many Christians are dealing with, and my cringing at the cold shower early on showed me how soft I had become.
  • This one didn’t apply to me since we have a tankless water heater, but if you have a tank, you won’t as easily run out of hot water for dishes, laundry or other family members’ showers.
  • Cold showers are healthier for you.  Some websites cite improvements to metabolism, testosterone, blood circulation, mood, breathing, and your immune system. (http://www.thehackedmind.com/7-reasons-to-take-cold-showers-and-1-that-really-matters/   http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/07/21/the-health-benefits-of-cold-showers-video/)
  • Occasionally on Saturdays, I wouldn’t feel the need to shower at all since I was just doing projects around the house.  This is less severe than taking a cold shower, and is in fact more in alignment with the rest of the world than taking cold showers every day.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Franciscans Unplugged

Franciscan Challenge for the Week: Live without electricity for 24 hours.  Why would we want to live without electricity for a day, you ask? There are a few things to consider, here.  
  1. Living without electricity is a way to live in solidarity with those in poverty around the world. According to the U.N., 1.4 billion to 1.6 billion people around the world live without electricity.
  2. Living without electricity may give you some peace and quiet that you didn’t even realize you were missing. When we eliminate some of the noise, we're left with ourselves and God. "We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls."-Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta.  "Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10
  3. Living without electricity may show you how dependent you are on “the system” and help you depend more on God. "What consolation! The Book of Exodus is our story as we will see! This ancient text is a metaphor for modern men; whether we are enslaved by lust, or technology, or food or drink, or to any other thing, we find ourselves helplessly enslaved all the same." - Fr Brian Doerr
  4. Living without electricity can help you care for creation a bit more by not consuming energy created by fossil fuels. In fact, many aspects of simple living are aligned with care for creation.
So how would you go about living without electricity for 24 hours? You can accomplish this simply by turning off the circuit breakers in your house, all except for the one or two controlling your refrigerator and freezer; I don’t recommend turning them off since wasting food is not part of this exercise! You may also want to only do this during warm weather so you don’t risk freezing water pipes in your home.  To prepare a bit for this exercise, make sure you have a way to cook food that doesn’t require electricity (wood stove or campfire), have a few gallons of clean water handy if you are on an electric well, and a few candles or oil lamps with matches to see with in the early morning or late night.

An Inconvenient Life

As Franciscans, we are called to live a simple life.  And by choosing to live a simpler life, we are caring for creation whether we realize it or not.  We end up using less electricity, gas, and oil.  Fewer disposable containers go into landfills.  Fewer agricultural chemicals are washed into rivers and aquifers.  Don't confuse a simple life with a convenient life, though; in fact, it often is often a very inconvenient life. But it is a life that is more intentional, often less costly, slower, healthier, and better for creation, all at the same time.  Simple living is getting rid of the television and the microwave.  Raising our own vegetables, eggs, and meat.  Building a “green” home with cash.  Limiting trips to the store, and rarely if ever eating at restaurants.  Freedom from attachments, owning one car for a family of eight.  Eliminating debt in our lives so we feel the freedom to follow the next step of God's calling.

There is also a sense of slowness that is involved in simple living; the long processes.  The slowness of waiting six months for each coat of plaster to cure on the straw-bale walls.  The slowness of waiting three months for a tomato to grow and ripen. The slowness of soaking shell beans overnight then simmering them two hours instead of getting them from a can.  The slowness of cooking a meal instead of eating fast food.  The slowness of walking a couple miles to work instead of driving. I don't always find myself meditating during these long processes, but they do offer a sense of the sacred – the respect for creation that comes from being less wasteful with toxic building materials, disposable packaging, refrigeration and transportation fuels.  At first, these long processes might test our patience, but if you choose to embrace it and meditate on it, you might also discover the presence of God.

What is particularly interesting to me is that choosing a simple lifestyle is also a form of solidarity with the poor; it ties the “J” and the “IC” from JPIC together.  I have a friend who is on welfare due to a medical condition, and over the years he has complained less and less about how bad he's got it because he knows that I live a simpler life than he does; that I raise a garden and livestock, that we cook most of our meals, and that we built our house ourselves.  He's comfortable around me because of my lifestyle.  When I visited Haiti a few years ago, I felt right at home, and felt like I shared so much in common with our brothers and sisters there.  I didn't fear them or pity them – I just loved them and worked alongside them because my lifestyle was already so close to theirs. 

What are some simple lifestyles that you admire, either from history or from modern times?  What aspects of these simple lifestyles can you adopt this week and continue throughout your life?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Second Coming of Christ

What would you do if the second coming of Christ happened today? If you heard that Jesus was back and on his throne in Jerusalem, would you clear your calendar and make preparations to see him, talk to him, and be in his presence?  When you got there and saw him, would you recognize him, even if he came in humble form, with humble attire with humble surroundings?  Would you fall to your knees before him in worship? Would you join with the heavenly host of angels and archangels surrounding him, proclaiming "Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts"?  If He offered you his body and blood in communion, would you first repent of your sins and beg him for healing?  After visiting with Jesus, worshiping Him, and feasting with Him, would you rush out to go back home, or would you linger a while?  If he asked you to go and tell others that He had returned, that he was really here, would you do it?

Friends, Jesus is back.  He is here on earth, physically. I went to visit Him, worship Him, and feast with Him yesterday.  Just like 2000 years ago, most people don't recognize Him, even when they see him.  They expect Him to come with military might and overthrow governments.  Most people that see him treat Him casually when they see him, and only go through the motions of worshiping Him. Most visit out of a sense of obligation rather than joy, awe, or love.  Most who do visit Him leave in a rush so they can see the ball game on the networks.  Many heartfelt Christians refuse to believe that He has come back, so never even go to visit Him.

The Kingdom of God is at hand and Jesus has returned, just like the Book of Revelation describes, in the Mass.  Come and worship our King!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Experimenting with a Free Fodder System

Sprouting grain is a great way to stretch your feed costs and improve nutrition for your farm animals.  We recently started sprouting grain for our laying hens and meat rabbits and have had some great results.  I've also learned a lot, and thankfully I didn't invest any money in the equipment setup while I was learning.  If you're considering starting a fodder system like this, I recommend the same approach: spend as little as possible and experience the daily rhythm for a month before buying a nice setup.  I started with 21 extra "1020" seed starting trays that I had, an adjustable shelf, 2 extra 5 gallon buckets, and an extra 20 gallon tub.  If you had to buy all of this brand new, it's still relatively inexpensive compared to fodder system kits.

I watched several videos on YouTube and found these two to be the most helpful:
Sarah Cuthill's DIY Fodder System
Paca Pride's Fodder System

I'm currently growing in 3 new trays every day, letting them grow to 7 days before feeding the sprouts to the animals.  At night before bed, I measure out 4 cups of wheat for each tray that I'm planning to sprout (12 cups total) and put that in a 5 gallon bucket, then soak that with water, bringing the water line to twice the height of the grain since the grain will absorb so much of the water.  I let it soak overnight, 8-9 hours. At the same time before bed, I water the rest of the trays that are already sprouting.  In the morning, I take the oldest/tallest 3 trays of sprouts and pull the sprouts (called a mat) out of the tray, upside down on a large cutting board.  I use a large serrated kitchen knife to cut two of the mats into 8 equal size pieces for the rabbits.  I also cut one tray in half for the laying hens.  After a couple of weeks, I had extra buckets that used to hold wheat so I put the cut pieces in those buckets to take out to the animals.  We currently have 8 rabbit does, 2 rabbit bucks, and 20 rabbit kits eating fodder, plus about 40 laying hens.  The adults each get 1 square of fodder, and the kits get 1 square for every 3-4 kits.

Early on, I always had a portion of the finished trays not sprout, and the mats fell apart.  This tended to occur in the end of the tray that was downhill, near the drain holes, and more in the trays that had the worst access to light. The water runoff also had a strong odor to it, and the portions of the trays that were downhill had a white slimy film in them after I emptied the tray and fed to the animals.  I was using unfiltered well water, which we knew had high levels of iron. I also noticed that one of the trays always produced superior fodder mats, it had drain slots all along the tray rather than just in one end.  I also had tried sprouting barley that never sprouted - it just fermented. To remediate these issues, we did the following:
- added an iron filter from cleanwater.com
- spread the trays out a bit more so they could get better light access
- put the oldest 4 days of trays on top with more vertical space between shelves
- added more drain holes in all the trays
- stopped using the "flood and drain" method, started watering all trays evenly with a gentle shower setting on the garden hose nozzle, using far less water with each watering.
- ceased using the barley and stuck with wheat.  Found out that "pearled" barley (which I was using) has the germ removed, so it won't sprout.  Whole grain barley should work just fine, just don't use pearled barley.

Also, many of the videos and blogs out there make some stellar claims about reducing your feed bill.  I've validated that, but in a slightly different way.  We switched from commercial non-organic rabbit feed to organic fodder and cut our costs in half.  Our meat rabbits would eat 1 cup (4oz) of commercial pellets per day when not nursing, 3 cups per day when nursing.  The bags were 50# and cost $20.  This meant we spent $0.10 per day per non-nursing adult rabbit, and $0.30 per day per nursing doe.  When we moved to fodder, we started using organic wheat that costs $18 for a 50# bag.  Each non-nursing rabbit's fodder started with 1/2 cup (2oz) wheat, which costs 4.5 cents per day.  Each nursing doe gets 3 times this, or 13.5 cents per day.  So, we cut our feed costs on rabbits by 55% while switching to organic.  Of course, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison.  I'm guessing that if we had switched to conventional wheat or barley instead of organic, we would have seen a reduction of 75% or more in out feed bill.  What is especially important about this, as I explained in a previous blog post, is that I can now produce rabbit meat raised on organic feed for $0.53 per pound.  With these kinds of costs, organic rabbit could easily compete on price with conventional chicken.

Another thing that I learned from my free fodder system is that my laying hens still prefer the un-sprouted seeds instead of the sprouted grass.  They still eat the grass, which is great for their health and for the eggs, but because of this preference for the seeds, I haven't taken them all the way to a fodder-only diet.  They still get organic layer mash, but half the portion they had been getting.  So I've only seen a reduction of 20% or so in my chicken feed bill.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Chickenomics vs Frugalibbits

We raise laying hens and meat rabbits and I've been doing some projections for starting meat chickens next year.  After a lot of analysis and thought, I've decided that I still want to raise meat chickens, but a lot fewer than I originally thought.

The typical meat chicken is a hybrid (32 levels deep in hybridization) between Cornish and Rock, also called a Cornish Rock, or a Cornish Cross.  Chicks by mail from Murray McMurray hatchery cost $2.25 each when you buy 25-49 chicks in a straight run, which is a mixture of males and females.  These birds gain weight fast!  In 6-8 weeks, you can butcher them as fryers and get 3-4# dressed weight from them.  That means they gained about 6-8# live weight in 6 weeks.  Amazing!  We're shooting for 600# of meat for the year (we have a big family!) so we'll need 150 chickens to do this; again this is assuming a full 4# dressed weight and no mortality.  In those 6-8 weeks, they will also eat an amazing amount of food.  One fellow blogger estimates 3# chick starter plus 21# chick grower.  We don't want *icides in our feed, so we buy organic feed at $0.60/lb so this adds up to $14.40.  We plan to put our chickens on pasture, which will replace 25% of their feed, so our feed cost is down to $10.80.  If we're optimistic and have no mortality (ha!), our cost of feed plus chicks is $13.05 per bird, or a total of $1957 per year; if we are optimistic and get the full 4# dressed weight from these birds, our cost is $3.26/lb.  Wait, we haven't included the cost of the equipment yet.  We can do this is three batches of 50 birds each or 6 batches of 25 birds each.  For economy of labor, the 3 batches of 50 birds sounds better.  We can get all 50 birds in a 10x10 pasture pen, so we only need one of those, and we estimate it will cost $300 between caging material, watering system, and feeder.  To process this many birds at once, there is no way I or my family will pluck by hand or manually keep scalding water to the right temperature, so a plucker and scalder are needed.  We already have the freezer.  The plucker from Premier 1 costs $1060 and the scalder costs $1390.  2 kill cones should be sufficient, at $30 each. We have knives and a processing table already.  Total one-time equipment cost comes to $2780.  If we split this cost between all the birds for the year, we're looking at an additional $18.53 per bird.  Total cost for our family (equipment, chicks, and organic feed) would be $4737.50.  Again, if we're optimistic and have no mortality and a full 4# dress weight per bird, this will cost us $7.89 per pound plus labor. The second year, we pay only $1957 for the chicks and feed, or $3.26/lb.

Switch gears with me.  Let's take a look at rabbits instead.  Instead of buying baby animals every year, we keep the moms and dads around and breed them ourselves.  This costs us extra money to feed the parents, but then there we get baby bunnies out of the deal, so they pay for themselves.  The kits (baby bunnies) are weaned at 6 weeks, and grow out to 12-14 weeks on grass alone, which means no feed costs.  We feed the rabbits organic feed, as well, in the form of sprouted organic wheat (grown 7 days into a nice green grass).  Bucks eat 2# fodder per day, or 730# per year.  Does eat 2# fodder daily while they are not nursing, and up to 6# fodder daily during the 6 weeks when nursing.  We breed three times per year and give them a break in the winter, so the does require 18*6 + 36*2 = 1260# fodder per year. The kits dress out at 2.5# each in 12-14 weeks, and we aren't concerned about how it takes to get to slaughter weight since the feed is free.  To get the same 600# of meat, we need to produce 240 kits.  Each doe can produce 8 kits per litter on average, so we need 10 does to produce this much meat. So we need 2*730 + 10*1260 = 14060# fodder per year.  To produce 1# fodder, it takes 1oz organic wheat, which costs $0.36/#.  So to produce all our fodder for a year takes 14060/16 = 879# organic wheat, which costs $317.  The equipment to house 2 bucks and 10 does year round, plus 10 litters in separate pasture pens is estimated at $2,500.  Processing equipment is a little more reasonable since a plucker and scalder are not needed.  I use a processing station that I describe in another blog post, which cost me $10.  So our total cost the first year is 2500+10+317 = $2,827, or $4.71/lb.  The second year, we only pay $317 for feed, or $0.53/lb.  Note that the second year, I'm my feed cost is a sixth the cost of chicken feed.

Here's a summary:
150 Chicken 240 Rabbit
Capital - caging, brooder, watering $300.00 $2500.00
Capital - processing $2450.00 $10.00
TOTAL Capital $2750.00 $2510.00
Operating - chicks $337.50 $0.00
Operating - organic feed $1620.00 $317.00
TOTAL Operating $1957.50 $317.00
TOTAL First Year $4737.50 $2827.00
TOTAL Second Year $1957.50 $317.00
First year cost per pound $7.89/lb $4.71/lb
Second year cost per pound $3.26/lb $0.53/lb

So regardless of whether you look at this from a start-up cost perspective or a operating cost perspective, rabbit meat appears to be significantly lower cost.  We also have been optimistic in both of our analysis.  In reality, it is highly unlikely that there will be no mortality with chickens or rabbits.  However, in our experience with rabbits and seeing friends raise Cornish Cross meat chickens, the mortality rates in the chickens seem to be much higher.  It is equally unlikely that all the chickens will reach slaughter weight in 6 weeks, while rabbits can always reach slaughter weight since we aren't concerned if it takes them an extra 2 or more weeks to do so on free grass.

Now, back to my conclusion that we're still planning to produce meat chickens next year.  The fact is, we like the taste of chicken just as much as rabbit, and we like variety.  If we do smaller batches of birds, and possibly limit it to one batch per year, we could probably eliminate the cost of the scalder and plucker, or find some DIY projects like the Whizbang Chicken Plucker.  We're also going to experiment with feeding the chickens some sprouted grain fodder to replace some (if not all) of the organic chick starter and grower feed.  We are skeptical that we can replace all of it; our laying hens currently like the fodder, but really prefer the grains to the sprouts and they mostly ignore the root mat.  I'll try to post again in a year with the actual results and I'll include actual mortality rates and recorded dressed weights of both types of animals.