Some Birthday Resolutions

Today is my 32nd birthday. When your birthday falls this close to Christmas and new years it tends to get lost in the stress of one and the excitement of the other. Because it is so close to the new year anyway, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead I try to make some resolutions for my own next trip around the sun.

Before I start on the resolutions for this year, let me count this past year’s blessings. This year I finally got my full time fire job. I was blessed to travel through 15 states and live in 4. I gained incredible experience in firefighting and friendship. I gained at least five new friends. I got to watch my children frolic and explore nature in the mountains and the deserts and the ocean. I grew closer to my wife and watched her grow in incredible ways. I learned to pace myself and trust in the Lord’s Providence. I saw many beautiful parts of creation. There are probably many more that I will remember after writing this.

This year was also a painful year. With blessings come the crucible fires of sanctification. We started off the year treating the depression that has plagued Nicole for as long as I have known her. This meant the trials of antidepressants and the struggles of adjusting to a wife that I had never known. Follow this up with a job offer in February almost all the way across the country. After accepting the job I made perhaps one of the worst decisions that I have ever made by buying an old rv from a squirrely redneck in western Florida. This choice led to thousands of dollars of debt and two months of beating my head against the wall trying to get the thing to run, not knowing if I should just turn down the job to stay with my family.

Given the stagnation of our lives and my career for the previous five or more years we decided to take the job and trust the Lord to reunite us when He saw fit. This meant driving alone to Utahzona and leaving Nicole and the five kids back in Florida. She worked on the RV as much as she could before one of her worst nightmares came true.

A report was made to the session of our church and they were bound by law to call the Department of Children and Families (CPS) to investigate. I got the call from Nicole while in training, followed by a call from our pastor explaining how it had all come to that. They tried to ensure they would be with her when the agent came, but the CPS lady knocked on the door before they could get there. In five minutes the focus shifted from reunion to preservation.

Nicole spent the hardest week of her life cleaning and disposing all of the clutter that had filled our home and our lives for the past ten years. Our church family sprung to action and acted with the most love and generosity that we have ever known. By the time the investigator returned our home was the best it had ever been. But the pain was deep and it left me feeling like I had abandoned my family and Nicole feeling much bitterness towards me and my hoarding habits.

I spent six weeks living as a bachelor in AZ before she finally gave up on the RV and bought a trailer. Ten days after that purchase and one very long trip with five kids, two cats, one dog, and one bearded dragon (who sadly did not survive the trip) we were searching for a place to park in Kanab, Utah at around midnight. We spent our first night together in a dirt pull off north of town.

The following day we moved to the Kaibab and began dealing with the problems of trailer life, namely lack of water supply, dump sites, or steady electricity. In time all of these problems were solved, and new ones came to light.
I dealt with difficult people at work and probably made my first enemy in life. She dealt with loneliness and fear that someone might attack her in the woods. There were some hairy moments in our marriage out there on that mountain.

Then came the unexpected death of Nicole’s granddad and the unsuccessful attempt to get her to VA for the funeral. I have never had to help her mourn for any family member and I am still not sure I did the best I could have.

Six and a half months of work and life on the Kaibab ended in October and for the first time since graduating college I found myself unemployed. Driving to VA with practically no money was a trip in itself. We made it in ten days.

Now I find myself a full-time stay at home dad while Nicole is (happily) working two jobs. This has been the most trying two months of this year as I learn a completely new job managing five hooligans while living in two houses and a trailer.

Money is tight and the mortgage is late, but for the first time this year we feel somewhat hopeful for what the next few months will bring.

My biggest resolution this year is to learn contentment. For as long as I can remember my focus has been on the negatives of life. I have always seen all of the wrongs and never the rights. I apologize for enjoying anything and feel like I should be ashamed of good feelings. I push down all the good and instead focus on all of the “shoulds” of life. Far too often my response to a blessing is “This should be____” or “I wish this was more____”.

This year I want to learn how to enjoy my blessings and be content with all that God has given me. I resolve to play with my children more. I resolve to love my wife more passionately and with more abandon. I resolve to take every day as a gift and work to glorify God in each one. I resolve to live life according to what is, and not according to what I wish it was. I resolve not to take for granted my work, my talents, my family, my friends, or my days here on Earth. I intend to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I enjoy my blessings and instead say “thank you.”

By the Grace of God I will do all of these things and whatever else He intends to teach me to do this year.

My Brain

Before we go too much further, it may be helpful to describe my brain.

Most people think linearly, like so:

linear-brain

These people are Power Point.

My brain however is like this:

my-brain

I am Prezi.

I made friend maps before Facebook invented them. Just to see how everyone was related.

Every bit of data that enters my mind has to be connected immediately to another bit of data, or it probably won’t stick.

And when I have a conclusion to get to I tend to stop and make a connection everywhere. Everything in my mind is somehow connected to everything else. That’s why it takes me so long to change my mind on something. That’s also why sometimes my posts may get rambly. I promise I am going somewhere!

Part of the reason I started this project is to learn to focus and stay on a single track. That doesn’t mean that when I start tagging my posts you won’t see a million different topics tagged, but it hopefully means you’ll only read about one topic at a time.

So bear with me. I’m learning to control this brain of mine. Someday maybe it will make sense to everyone…

kill-you-with-my-brain

Save

My Chief End

100_5211.jpg

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This, I believe, is the Bible’s answer to the commonly asked question “What is the meaning of life?” If I was asked about the meaning of life, that would be my answer. How that answer is applied is a bit more nuanced.

As seen on my definitions page I define truth as “that which corresponds to reality” and economy as “household management”. If I had to apply the first catechism question to my life I would say my chief way of glorifying God is to learn true truth and apply it the best I can to my personal economy.

“True” truth is objective. In our post-postmodern world, most would say there is no truth. To most in our world truth is as subjective as one’s feelings about a subject. As feelings change, so also does truth. This has led to a myriad of confusion on a number of topics, gender and sexuality being two of the more recent hot buttons. Confusion about reality used to be called “psychosis” where now it is often labeled as just another version of reality. Raised in a world where truth is subjective, we are quickly becoming a generation of psychotics.

My biggest earthly goal is to gain the proper perspective of the truth and not rely on my subjective viewpoint of it. This can be tricky of course, as my mind is finite, flawed, and my perceptions are skewed my own sinful nature. As a created being, I will never know the full extent of all truth in the universe, only God can know that. But it doesn’t mean I should stop trying.

Where does one find truth? This is a hotly debated question among Christians. Some insist that truth can only be found in the Bible while others feel truth can be observed in other places. I tend to be of the latter camp.

The Bible contains the only necessary truth for saving the human soul from damnation, but it does not contain every truth or the only truth that man can know. There are some in the Reformed camp who believe that man can know nothing outside of scripture, but I think a basic reading of Romans 18-22 makes this argument mute.

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

Man observes nature and self and understands the existence of God, as well as His attributes and nature. He knows God and understands Gods attributes just by virtue of being created in the image of God and in being able to observe creation itself. Man knows before he suppresses, he is perfectly able to discern, he just chooses out of his depravity to suppress the knowledge (this is normally where I point out to Presuppositional apologists that man is “without excuse”, but that’s another topic for another day).

It’s not just the nature and attributes of God that man can observe and understand in nature, it’s anything which God chooses in His sovereignty to allow man to know. For instance: we can know truths about nature, about economics, about physics, about math, and about our physical bodies, all without consulting the Bible. Sinful man may never get a full view of every subject, and our imperfect views may lead us to false beliefs about a topic, but with enough observation it is possible for us to get a workable grasp on reality.

Some would say that our finite minds and flawed thinking prevent us from having real knowledge, but I think it’s close enough that we shouldn’t squabble with semantics. We can know well enough to put our knowledge to good use.  We can understand our physical reality enough to manipulate it for our needs, otherwise we would have never survived life outside the Garden.

Should we rely solely on our observations to comprehend reality? No! Scripture contains enough truth about other matters (besides Salvation) that we can make comparative analysis. When we make an observation about the physical universe Christians can and should consult scripture to see if our observation matches with scripture. If it does not match scripture, either our interpretation of scripture is wrong or our interpretation of what we observe is wrong. In many matters it is impossible to discern which is which (thankfully those matters have little to nothing to do with our salvation, it is quite clear in scripture what man must do to be saved).

For example: the question of creation. Folks will argue endlessly about young earth vs old earth creationism, one side finding irrefutable evidence in the Bible, the other finding irrefutable evidence in nature. While the Bible states that God created everything, it is not specific on the actual process by which creation took its shape. This is a topic for another day, but let’s just leave it with this: either the young earth interpretation of Genesis is incorrect or the old earth observations of nature are incorrect.

My chief desire in life is to find the truth about as many things as I can and live my life as consistently with the truth as I can. This means all matters of my personal economy must be consistent with reality, even if that reality is not observed by the world at large. This has created some conflict in my life. This should create conflict in all Christian’s lives. All Christians are going to live a life that is in conflict with the fallen world.

But what if the conflict comes within the church? What if what I think is the “truth” about a topic is disliked or even condemned in the church? Obviously as a Reformed Christian I have only the Bible to turn to. On many topics it seems the church at large is hasty to adopt the larger cultural perspective. Whatever the prevailing attitude of the world is, so too is the prevailing attitude of the church. In other topics, the church often seeks to distance itself so far from the world that it misses whatever truth the world may actually be promoting.

The truth about any subject will only be found when the church bases its moral attitudes in scripture. I often stop Christians who are railing about a certain topic to cite me chapter and verse. It is truly depressing the number of believers who simply can’t come up with anything more than quotes from church patriarchs. No disrespect to the patriarchs, but they may have been wrong. And until one has at least a tentative grasp of what scripture actually says, he should probably avoid quoting flawed men. If there is a question about a matter, one should first consult scripture, then consult a multitude of sources to explain what he does not understand.

What is my point in all of this?

Seek truth, seek it in the Bible, seek it in nature, and seek it in the wisdom of church patriarchs. Then seek to live your life in accordance with your findings.

My Journey

15174401_10104950871251183_281670482_n

If that first post wasn’t enough of an introduction, here’s a better one! This is pretty much a repost from my previous blog “D” Naturel Farm (http://dnaturelfarm.blogspot.com/). After each paragraph I’ve done a bit of an update.

“After reading the blogs of several others who share our passions for an self-reliant, agrarian, Spirit-filled life we felt it was high time to put our journey into a blog.”

We’re still self-reliant, still Spirit-filled, but not so much agrarian at this point. We raised our fair number of chickens and rabbits and grew multiple gardens and have decided now to change lifestyles again (for the short term at least).

“I’m Jon, just shy of 26, and I’m married to my high school love, Nicole, who’s not too much younger. We’ve been blessed with three beautiful daughters, L 4, B 2, and K 6 weeks. While they take up most of our time we hope to occasionally find time to post on here.”

I’m now just shy of 32, still married, and we’ve added two sons to our horde.

“I developed a love for the outdoors in my days in Scouts. During those days I dreamed of being a chef and owning a restaurant. My love for the outdoors was not considered “profitable” so it was placed in the “hobbies” category of my life. I started college fully intent on a degree in business management.  Once I discovered the short-sightedness of my classmates and after taking dendrology as an elective (who does that?) Providence, and prodding from Nicole, led me to a new career path in forestry. Land management combined my love of the outdoors with my desire to control my surroundings. That and I was making an impact on the world that lasts far longer than the next quarter.”

I still love the outdoors, but I’ve veered off from my land management job and went in to full time wildland firefighting. I just completed my first season with the Forest Service on the North Kaibab National Forest. And with my prodding and her own gumption Nicole has also started looking for work as a wildland firefighter.

“Upon graduation, I, the young idealist, went to work for state government in a state 4 states to the south of my roots. The outdoors became my office, I was at the bottom of the totem pole, and all that mattered was pushing out next year’s timber sales. So much for long term thinking and being my own boss. Pine plantations were a foreign outdoors to me, so my love was replaced with a semi-apathy.”

After staring at these plantations for nine years I finally got enough fireline days under my belt to switch careers.

“Youthful ambition can lead to a dangerous disappointment when reality replaces its idealism. In my shock I settled down into the normal American lifestyle. I was already married, with one child, and a career, so I took the next plunge and bought a house. We took on a mortgage with gusto (and a little help from the government), a car payment, and a few credit card debts. We ate hamburger helper, store-baked bread, and far more fast-food than any small country could handle. I went to my job, 8-5, Monday to Friday. After work, there was four hours with the now two children and one very frazzled wife, some tv, a bit of internet, bed, and repeat. Thus was our modern American life.”

I’m still an idealist, I couldn’t escape that! However, I wrote that paragraph as a bit of a condemnation of that lifestyle, and in my agrarian days I was definitely a cage-stage snob. As an Ancap I cannot condemn people who choose that life, there is a place for them in the world. Personally, I can’t do it. It’s just not for me.

“Now, about 80% of that is still true. I still have my mortgage, my car payment, my credit card debt; I still spend the vast majority of my time away from my family, and we still eat far more fast-food than we should. But something changed in the last year or so. A desire to avoid the materialist debt trap of my fellow countrymen developed. The desire to be my own employer reared its head again. A new idealism took form in my mind.”

See? Still an idealist! Unfortunately, even idealism can’t save one from the inevitable debts that come with a low salary and a large family. While we escaped the materialism that led to deeper debt, we are still trapped in a mortgage and we still have the credit card debt, though it’s getting smaller and not larger. While in those days I was completely opposed to debt I now see times and places where debt can be necessary. Debt should be leveraged for productivity, not simply short term gratification.  Our modern use of credit cards and fractional reserve banking is NOT a good example of good debt.

“Back in college I invited my wife on a class tour that would have far more of an effect on me than I ever imagined. My Forest Operations class routinely visited logging sites to teach us about the various methods of logging. This time is was horse-logging. I figured she like horses, so why not invite her. The impact was not known then, but this tour would plant a seed that would only germinate after several seasons of scarification. I plotted in my head the path to a horse-logger career: I would graduate and while she finished up her last year of school I would take the apprenticeship and learn the trade, then we would face the great unknown, hand-in-hand. God had other ideas.

Two weeks after the tour she woke me up with the news that we were expecting our first child. ”

Now we have five and we are jumping into another unknown, this time the life of a seasonal firefighter and full time travel in an RV.

“My mind quickly changed gears, I would not go the unknown route, I would take the safe route. I would do the standard “get a degree, get a career, buy a house, settle for security” route. Only after two years of taking this route would I realize the liberty I had sacrificed. I was now tied to a house, tied to my debts, fully reliant on others for my subsistence, and at the whim of any financial disaster brought about by the embrace of Keynesian economics.”

Realizing that Keynesian economics were a lie led me on my path to anarcho-capitalism. I took an odd route to get there though. I started reading blogs like the North Country Farmer (https://northcountryfarmer.wordpress.com/) and the Deliberate Agrarian (http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/). I began to think of agrarianism, self-sufficiency, and individualism as the highest ideals.

I read Locke, Smith, Hobbes, Mill, and John Talyor Gatto. All of these philosophers and thinkers got me thinking capitalist thoughts, and my neocon mind became more minarchist. At one point I began reading Gary North and Rushdoony and became a Reconstructionist Theonomist, this was very close to agrarianism and made a ton of sense to me.

In my late 20’s I was introduced to Tom Woods, Fredric Bastiat, and the Non-Aggression Principle. I learned about Mises and Austrian Economics and found that while all of my previous positions on economics were reasonable, none of them were completely consistent. I had to abandon pure agrarianism and pure individualism because they weren’t completely capitalist. Theonomy was a blatant violation of the NAP. Minarchism was completely inconsistent with the NAP. I became an Anarch0-capitalist in the mold of Tom Woods and others.

“The dream to be a horse-logger came back to life, and along with it a desire to do for ourselves all that we are able. We started cooking from scratch, planted a garden, bought chickens, read more about off-grid living than anyone should, and a variety of other things. There are still debts to be paid, skills to be learned, character to be developed, and tons of logistics to figure. Thus, we are somewhere in the middle of our transformation from suburbanite consumer to rural producer.”

And now we are in the transformation from rural producer to on-the-road producer. Some time around 2013 I decided that I wanted to fight fires full time instead of staring at pine trees full time. This would mean six months a year working away from home. Given our dedication to parenting and keeping a more family-centered economy we decided that the only way to have both a full time fire career and a family would be to take the family on the road. So our plan became “buy an old bus, make it an RV, and follow my career wherever it goes”.

This year were finally able to get the job, but the RV part wasn’t so easy. We ended up with a 27′ travel trailer instead. Five months later we have learned much and decided this is a good short term solution. Long-term we still want the Skoolie. If we ever go back to rural production it won’t be in FL. Our current desire is to find property in the Idaho Redoubt and build a self-sufficient homestead. But for now the call of the open road beckons.

“This is our story of the rest of that journey, if God wills it.”

This is a continuation of that journey, but this is a little different. Not only will this blog have biographical posts, it will have opinions and commentary. And Nicole is not much of a writer so this one will be all me.

As the good folks at Monty Python like to say “Get on with it!”