Tending the Sheep and Fields

Tending the Sheep and Fields

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, Give careful attention to your herds;
for riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secure for all generations.

When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
the lambs will provide you with clothing and the goats with the price of a field.

You will have plenty of milk to feed your family and to nourish your servant girls. Prov. 27:23-27

This Old Testament passage looks like a word of warning to a farmer to tend to the needs of his animals and land. Grass is to be cut and gathered at the right time, just before the rains, so that the water will refresh the earth and allow another crop of vegetation for the animals to graze.

If the shepherd gives proper care to his animals, making sure they have food and water, the animals will reward him with clothing, milk, food and income. With the money made from selling animals he can afford to buy another field and expand his operation.

“Be sure to know the condition of your flocks” literally reads, “know the face of your animals.” The implication is that the shepherd spends real time with his flock. He knows his animals and evaluates their health. Knowing the face of his animals means he is investing considerable time and effort with them. Further, even if the shepherd has enough money to hire others to work his flocks and land, he still gives the time and energy to move among his animals and see how they are doing. There is too much at stake as the shepherd of the flock to leave all the evaluation and care to others who have no personal stake in the health of the lambs and goats.

Interestingly, while this poem addresses shepherds and flocks, it may not be about animals at all. This poem appears in a section of proverbs known as the “Hezekiah Collection” (Prov. 25:1), a group of sayings that concern the king and his reign. So, this poem is really addressing the responsibilities of a monarch toward his people.

We know a king would deal with political and economic issues, but in Israel the king had one more important responsibility: providing spiritual leadership. Deuteronomy 17:18-20 says the king was responsible to copy, learn and remain faithful to the law. The king was not just responsible for providing healthy economic conditions for the people, he was responsible for providing healthy spiritual leadership as well.

A crown is not secure for all generations (Prov. 27:24b). That means, a king who does not tend to the needs of his flock could lose his position as king. Whether through rebellion, assassination or takeover from outside forces, a king who failed to monitor the health and contentment of his people could find the loyalty of his people fade, and with it, his position and authority.

It isn’t difficult to see several application of this for today. Dads and moms, we are shepherds of our home. Do we know the faces of our children? Not just what they look like, but how they function? Are we giving proper attention to their emotional, physical, and spiritual health?

This has application for churches, too. Teachers, we don’t just teach Bible classes, we teach the Gospel to our flock. Elders, we don’t just provide general leadership, we move among the flock to “know the faces” of our people. Preachers, we don’t just deliver sermons, we speak the Word to hearts hungering for good food. Deacons, custodians and maintenance workers, we don’t just tend to a building, we provide a safe and clean atmosphere for our fellow worshipers. To all of us who provide leadership at any level, our number one task is to spend time with and know the faces of our people. If we do, we will find loyalty returned to us. If we don’t, we may find we our flock grazing in someone else’s pasture.

Warren Baldwin


How To Change Your Husband Or Wife

How to Change Your Husband or Wife

As soon as the ecstacy of the romantic stage of marriage is over, frustration, doubt, and a sense of “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?” can terrorize a young husband or wife’s heart. The realization that their loved one is not the person they thought they married can lead them to manipulate or coerce them into becoming the kind of person they want them to be (or thought they were). Do you find yourself in that position? If so, here are seven suggestions on how to change your husband or wife.

One, watch them closely to catch them doing something good and helpful. Spend a few quiet moments reflecting on the kind spirit that motivated them to perform such a gracious act. Give yourself a few moments to let the things that irritate you about your spouse slip away so you can concentrate on what is good.

Two, do at least one thing everyday that you know your spouse likes. It could be cooking a meal, cleaning part of the house, wearing a certain outfit, taking them out to eat, attending a ball game, or anything else you know he/she likes. Perform your task with a genuine sense of joy, knowing you are doing something for the simple reason of pleasing your partner.

Three, take a look at yourself. Try to discover anything you may be doing to hinder the honesty, intimacy and pleasantness of the relationship. Do you constantly find fault? Do you criticize? Are you ungrateful? Are you forgetful of the reasons that initially attracted you to this person? Have you forgotten the vow to love for better or worse? Are you selfish?

Four, pick one of the personality or character flaws you have identified in yourself and devote a month to work on it. If you identified a tendency to criticize your mate, dedicate the next month to not saying anything that could be construed as critical or judgmental. Nothing, period. If the urge to criticize becomes too strong, leave the room. If you are selfish, submerge your will and allow your spouse to have his/her way. For at least thirty days take the back seat willingly and joyfully. A begrudging spirit, one that says, “Ok, if I have to,” doesn’t count. If another flaw is a lack of gratitude, devote yourself to finding reasons to be thankful for the spouse you chose.

Photo compliments of Amy Free Photography

Five, pray fervently for the next thirty days that God blesses your efforts to change for the better. Work and pray; pray and work. Personal improvement and prayer does not end at the end of the month. When the period is over, pick another flaw and devote thirty days to working on it.

Six, keep your personal inventory, self-improvement and prayer to yourself. Do not use this as an attempt to impress your spouse or to leverage for advantage. Do not use it to guilt or manipulate them into changing. That would ruin the very purpose of the exercises. Keep it to yourself, expecting nothing from your partner.

Seven, compliment your spouse, sincerely, at least once everyday. Now that you realize you have your own slate of problems, and you contribute to some of the difficulties in the relationship, it should be easier to be genuinely appreciative of something your spouse does.

Work these seven steps faithfully, and there is some hope your spouse will change. As you become an easier and more gracious person to live with, your husband/wife will likely notice the difference and may just make the effort to become the person you need them to be, even without your demands and coercion. But, even if they don’t change, you will.

Joe Beam says, “You are the only person you have real control over. So instead of trying to change your mate into the perfect human specimen, look inward. What is it about yourself you need to work on to make you a healthier, happier and kinder individual?”

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to give any feedback or suggestions.

Warren Baldwin


Reclaiming Lost Skills

Reclaiming Lost Skills

Computers. iPods. iPads. iPhones. Other smart phones. iTvs. GPSes. Xboxes. Are there more? More technical gadgets and toys? I’m sure there are. Too many for me to keep track of. And really, too many for many of us older folks to want to keep track of. That’s a lot of tech stuff.

But they come natural to young folks. Punching buttons, hitting switches, swiping screens, they think nothing of it. Manipulating a tech device is as natural for young people as splitting firewood was for the older folks.

We are in a period of rapid transition. The necessary skills of the present are huge challenges to the previous generations. Will we be able to successfully navigate all of the electronic changes? We’ll try. To live in this age, we have to know the tools and tricks of this age.

But, there is something for this generation to consider: what are they missing by not learning the skills of previous generations? Shelley Emling wrote an intriguing article entitled, “7 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don’t.” The seven skills are:

1) Cooking from scratch.
2) Sewing, crocheting, knitting and darning.
3) Canning.
4) Ironing really well.
5) Meeting people without benefit of the internet.
6) Haggling.
7) Writing beautiful letters.

My grandparents and parents did all of these. Cheryl and I do some of them. My kids do fewer of them.

We might ask, “What does it matter? These skills are all out of date for our modern era. Who ever cooks from scratch anymore?”

Just asking the question, “What does it matter?” shows that more than just a skill has been lost. A way of life has been lost, a way of life that was self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Many of our grandparents worked the farm, raising the food that they ate. Their fingernails had dirt under them from tending the crops and their ears heard the final cries of the hogs at slaughter. They knew their food came at great costs, both in their own labor and in the shed blood of their animals. Supper was a family effort, with all the family members planting, raising, harvesting and canning the crops, feeding, slaughtering and packaging the meat, and then cooking it. Then, the family dined around a common table. No fast food or microwave dinners for our grandparents. They ate food their bodies could digest.

Meeting people, haggling, and writing letters are all part of interpersonal skills and communication. Many times grandma or grandpa needed some cloth or a tool, but didn’t have the money for it. They know how to haggle, barter, or negotiate for what they needed. They didn’t have charge cards. Their communication skills were learned in conversation with family members and friends, so they learned words and concepts that could be written with proper grammar in meaningful letters, many of which they saved for generations.

Society has made a lot of gains with technology, gains that have made our lives more pleasant and enjoyable in many ways. But, society has lost some things in the transition from the farm to the iPhone as well. Might it benefit us to occasionally put the phone down, turn off the tv, sit around a home cooked meal, and be family? The excitement of our eight year old talking about her great play at third might quiet the call of our devices, and we might begin to reclaim some of the lost skills of our grandparents.

What are some other ways we can reclaim the lost skills of our grandparents for our own kids?

Warren Baldwin


The Five Stages of Married Love

The Five Stages of Married Love

There are five stages in a love relationship. The five stages progress from that early feeling of romantic love that flies away all too soon, to the highest stage known as reality love. These five stages apply to that couple that married in the throes of that wonderful, energizing first stage, and then wonder what happened to it. Let’s start at the beginning and go through all five stages.

Stage one: Romantic Love. Romantic love begins with attraction and moves rather quickly to attachment. A young man simply can’t live without seeing his beauty, and she can’t live without his strong presence. The development of love at this early stage is wonderful. The sun shines brighter, birds sing louder, and world peace is just around the corner. Yes, another characteristic of this stage is an altered state of consciousness. The young love birds can only see the positive traits of their lover, and they are carried away with hope and ecstasy. It is often during this stage that a young man and woman marry, and the feeling lasts for a bit longer. But, it can’t last for ever, and soon, there is stage two.

Stage two: Power Impasse. In the power impasse stage you finally realize the perfect package you married actually has some imperfections. They snore too loudly. They burp at the table, something they never did while you were dating. One or the other has never done laundry, and has no plans to start now. And worse. Ecstasy now gives way to frustration, irritation, fear and anger. The illusion is now over, and instead of seeing only the positive traits as in romantic love, all you can see now are the negative traits. You may even purposely look for the bad things in your spouse, and you vilify their attitude, actions, and character. Instead of accepting them as they are, fear and anger drive you to try to change them with coercion, threats and manipulation. Some spouses even become abusive. The love of your life has become your adversary. If you stay at this stage for too long you will likely divorce, or hurt each other badly. Fortunately, for those who will hang in there, better days are coming with stage 3.

Stage three: Awareness. Stage three doesn’t mean everything gets better right away, but it means your love is maturing. Instead of just judging your spouse you now begin to look at yourself to see how you may be contributing to the problems. You start to feel a degree of differentiation. In romantic love you were absorbed in each other. In the awareness stage, you realize you are two separate people learning to become one. You’ve changed your name and living arrangements, but now you need to change your hearts. You may feel anxiety over the state of the relationship, even grief and remorse at the loss of romantic love. But, you also have clarity of thinking, and that will help you move further along the continuum to stage 4.

Stage four: Transformation. You now begin to accept that your spouse may never change some of his or her annoying ways. You realize you can fight them for the next 50 years, or accept them. You release control, meaning you don’t try to manipulate or coerce your spouse to live up to your expectations. If anything, in the transformation stage you become the one who changes. You pray and work for patience. If your spouse adamantly refuses to ever do a load of laundry, you start to notice some of the other chores he or she is willing to do, and you appreciate that. You are practicing more positive attitudes and behaviors, and you are working on yourself. In the first two stages love was reactionary, both in the attraction to your spouse and later in your frustration. In stage four it becomes intentional. You think, pray, and act out of commitment.

Photo compliments of Amy Free Photography

Stage five: Reality love. If we can endure long enough, we can reach this most rewarding of stages. At this stage, we have survived the illusion of romantic love, the frustration of power impasse, the anxiety of awareness, the freedom of the transformation stage, and we are now ready for the joy of reality love. At this mature level we don’t attack our spouse for problems in the relationship: instead, we work with him or her to address the problems. We have become the one of Genesis 2, so that our individual efforts have merged to form a synergistic effect. We accept and appreciate our mate, faults and all. Our goals and passions are traveling the same direction, together. Our love is also our friend, and our joy together can be celebrated in a passionate embrace or simply holding hands during a movie. There is integrity to the relationship, meaning it now has depth, substance and the concrete it needs to hold it together no matter what. This is reality love, and it only comes to those who hang in there through all the ups and downs, joys and woes, that two people in love can experience.

I urge you: hang in there. It’s worth it.

Warren Baldwin

(Note: I received this list of five stages of love from one of my professors, Dr. Charles Siburt. I don’t know where he got it from).


Skyler James

Skyler James

Skyler James was one of the many high school graduates of 2014. She graduated from Charleston High School in Charleston, Illinois and has plans to attend Concordia University in Chicago. She wants to major in communications.

Not much of an unusual story, is it? She joins millions of other young people who walked the stage this spring and will begin that transition to be out on her own in just a few months. But, there is a bit of a twist to Skyler’s story.

Eighteen years ago on a cold November day in 1995 dispatchers in Champagne, IL received a call that a baby had been abandoned at nearby Mt. Hope Cemetery. Emergency crews were sent out and diligently searched the area, but could not find the baby.

An off duty firefighter, Charlie Heflin, heard the call and decided to help. Hearing that the police and fire crews couldn’t find the baby at Mt. Hope, he decided to try another nearby cemetery. Charlie didn’t have any luck, either, at least not at first. He was on his way back to his truck when he had a hunch to try again. Later Charlie said, “I heard a little whimper when I got close to the tree,' said Charlie. "I dug down inside this real huge pine tree and found her.”

Charlie found a newborn baby girl covered in blood and leaves. She was barely alive in the sub-zero weather. He scooped her up and handed her to paramedics. Five days later, baby Skyler was adopted by Bonnie and Greg James.

Bonnie, the birth mom, wondered about the man who saved her adopted daughter and wanted to make contact with him. When Skyler turned five she began her search for Charlie. Bonnie searched for 13 years, and three weeks before Skyler’s graduation, Bonnie found the man who saved her little girl. On Facebook. She called the Patoka Fire Station where Charlie works and made the initial contact.

“Do you remember rescuing a baby back in 1995?” Bonnie asked. “My heart just sank,” Charlie said. He added, “ Bonnie didn’t tell her daughter about the call, nor did she tell her that she invited Charlie to her graduation and party. “There were quite a few tears, both on the phone and the day we met,” Charlie said.

It couldn’t have gone better. Skyler says, “I was talking to someone at my party and my parents came up and said, 'We need you for a second. They took me over to Charlie and he introduced himself to me and told me the whole story again. I was totally shocked. It's something that I've dreamed of since I was a little kid, and it's amazing.”

Charlie had some gifts for the little girl he rescued who now is a beautiful young woman. He gave her framed newspaper clippings of her rescue, pictures from her graduation, and even gave her the jacket he was wearing on the night he found her.

The pictures and video of the meeting between Charlie and Skyler are very moving. Even though they’ve only met twice in 18 years, there is a definite bond between these two.

Incidentally, Skyler's story inspired the 'Safe Haven Law' in Illinois. In the event parents do not want their child, the state allows them to drop-off their newborn at an emergency room, fire department, or police station without any repercussions. That is certainly better than leaving them under a tree in a cemetery.

There are so many tragic stories in our world today, isn’t it nice, occasionally, to hear one where God has clearly been at work rescuing one of his children with his power in our lives?

How do you see God at work in this story?

Warren Baldwin


Teaching Men to Respect Women #3

Teaching Men to Respect Women #3

This is the third and last in a series about teaching men to respect women. The first part dealt with women. It makes it easier for men to respect women when the women give them something to respect. A woman’s attitude, speech and behavior either attract, or repel, a respectful attitude from men.

On the other hand, men can be respectful, and should, even if a woman’s attitude, speech and behavior don’t attract respect. By respect, I mean more than just being polite, although that is included. I’m thinking also of not using someone for selfish ends, such as pleasure or gratification. Our perfect model, Jesus, never used anyone in a demeaning or hurtful way.

In part 2 I gave the first of three points on preparing sons. They were one, we as the husbands and fathers must respect our own wives. Two, young boys should be corrected, even punished for improper treatment of girls. Three, dads should never speak of women as objects or as conquests to their sons.

Four, we should help our sons see every woman as someone’s wife, mother or daughter. This will help us resist reducing her to an object for our gratification. One man was able to break his addiction to pornography in part by realizing that every woman he was looking at was some father’s precious daughter, and his heart was breaking at how she was treating herself. He raised her for better. Can’t you imagine such a father praying for a young man to value his daughter and rescue her from that lifestyle, rather than affirming her in it?

Finally, fathers need to be very familiar with the scriptures that speak of respect and honor in general and toward women in particular. “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust ...” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5a). Controlling his own body and mind is what enabled Jesus to treat all women honorably, no matter what their circumstance. It is also what will help a young man resist the aggressive attention of the Proverbs 7 woman. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her ...” (Ephesians 5:25-26a). The ultimate goal of a godly man is prepare a woman, particularly his wife, for Jesus. That calls for an immense measure of love and respect. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1Peter 3:7). How can a man be degrading, abusive or sexually improper toward any woman when he is meditating on verses like these? Finally, consider 1 Peter 1:16: “Be holy, because I am holy.” God in his holiness is seeking to redeem all mankind, men and women, to himself, and he invites us to join him in his project. So, we live like him, holy.

To encourage respectful treatment, it is good for a woman to act in a way that is respectful. Her language, relationships, dress, and behavior project an image that encourage a man’s honorable or denigrating treatment of her.

But, our choice on how to treat a woman is not solely determined by her behavior. It is far more determined by the character that has been produced within us. We can choose to treat everyone respectfully, and God will give us the strength to do it.

There is a selfish motivation for men to treat women respectfully, and for dads to teach their sons to do so: the boomerang effect. The positive influence we send out may protect our own daughters with the expectation for respect we place within them, and with the young men who come calling to our homes.

Warren Baldwin


Teaching Men to Respect Women #2

Teaching Men to Respect Women #2

To receive respect a woman needs to give a man a reason to respect her. (I've had some conflicting feedback on this opening line, which is based on part 1 (click here). That is true, but only to a point. Some women may feel unworthy of respectful treatment and invite ill behavior toward themselves. This often happens when she has been deeply hurt, usually in childhood, by someone she trusted. A male family member or friend taking physical advantage of her can crush her heart and damage her spirit. This sense of violation may leave her feeling she doesn’t deserve to be treated with respect and dignity (even though she most definitely does deserve it). But, she may settle for any kind of attention she can get, even being used, preferring bad male companionship to none at all.

Even if a woman, because of her brokenness, seems to invite ill treatment (see part 1), does that mean it is ok for a man to treat her accordingly? Absolutely not. Our character and actions are not based upon what another person allows, but upon the high standards a godly spirit calls us to.

In the four sections of Proverbs that discuss adultery (chapters 2, 5, 6 and 7) the man is always held accountable for his part in the sinful behavior. Even if the woman came out of her house to meet him in the street, kiss him, and invite him home, God does not excuse the man for accepting the invitation (see Proverbs 7 for this scenario). The man must reach deep inside his heart, summon the character, and treat the woman as a daughter of God, not as a woman of the street. He needs to respect her by declining the invitation without belittling her and reinforcing the sense of brokenness she already has.

How does this kind of character develop in a man? It starts at home, largely by the character of his father. Dads can do at least five things to develop the kind of sterling character in their sons that enables them to respect women as children of God and not as objects for gratification.

One, we must respect our own wives. Nothing speaks more loudly to a son than when he sees his father speak kindly to his wife, open a door for her, ask her opinion, and treat her royally. Of course, he will also hear their disagreements and arguments. But, even these heated exchanges can be conducted respectfully, free of name calling and belittling statements. Even under pressure respect can be maintained. Observing this plants a sense of respect deeply into a young man’s fiber and encourages respect to become the norm for his own life.

Two, young boys should be corrected for improper treatment of girls. It is true that children will bully each other. It is also true that we can teach them it is wrong. I’m thinking specifically of a time I was bullying younger cousins, two of them girls, and my dad made clear how severe my punishment would be if it didn’t stop immediately. He spoke specifically of my girl cousins when he said they are not to be treated like boys. That was nearly 50 years ago, and I still remember that conversation (which was very one-sided!) very clearly.

Three, dads should never speak of women as objects or as conquests to their sons. "See that one? Think you could get her for a date? Go for it!" Such conversations are based on physical appeal and pleasure. Those inclinations are already in the minds of teen boys, and it is a dad’s job to elevate the thinking of their sons to thoughts more noble and honorable. A woman should be valued because she is a person, not because she has certain appeal. When Jesus saw a crippled woman doubled over in discomfort and disfigurement, he didn’t treat her as unattractive and thus unworthy. He called her a daughter of Abraham. He saw her value even when no one else might have, and he treated her with dignity (see Luke 16:10-17). Likewise, when Jesus encountered streetwise women, who may have been attractive, he didn’t gratify himself in anyway at their expense. Instead, he spoke forgiveness and healing into their lives. That is the kind of spirit we want to instill within our sons.

Part 3 in a few days ...

Thanks for reading.