THE HOMESTEAD

The term “homestead” means a family’s home, including the house and any other buildings or lands that go with it.  Often, we think of it in terms of a large tract of land, but that is not necessarily required.

However, there is an area in Tennessee, along the Cumberland Plateau, where a New Deal Subsistence Homesteads community was built.  There were about 100 of these communities throughout the country and the Tennessee community is evidence of the ingenuity, hard work and dedication that these folks had.

Of the initial 233 families selected for the Cumberland Homesteads project, 30% were distressed farmers, 30% were unemployed miners, 30% were unemployed textile workers, and 10% were struggling professionals (including teachers, nurses, and a doctor).  Architect William Macy Stanton, who designed a number of buildings in TVA’s planned city of Norris, created the basic design for the homes and other buildings at the Homesteads. The community’s first stone houses were completed in late 1934.  

Although the original purpose of the Homesteads project failed, the community survived, and over half the farms remained in the hands of original homesteaders through the 1950s. Indeed, the homestead house design is still visible if you drive through the area.  There may be some additional rooms added, but the basic homestead house design is still identifiable.

I was speaking with a gentleman who was a child when his parents received a homestead.  He said that they would build the barn first, because that would house the animals that they needed for food and it would hold whatever equipment that they had to use on the farm. 

He laughed and said that, since there was no glass on the barn windows, the rain would come in through the window openings.  That meant that they needed to see which way the wind was blowing so that they could move their hay mattresses and clothing to the other side of the barn so they would not get wet.  This was a vivid memory, and I suspect he could feel the damp hay even as we were speaking.

Homestead water tower

The Homesteads water tower provided a source of water as well as serving as the social headquarters for the community. 

Today, the water tower building is used as a museum recording the existence and perseverance of the community that thrived there almost 100 years ago.  In the museum area, there are hundreds of letters, pictures, and personal items, many of which provide an interesting view of life in the rural Cumberland mountains.

Homestead museum 3 revised

The typical homestead house was made from the stones that were on the property itself!

Homestead museum 5 revised

Telephone communication was certainly not something that could fit in your pocket!  In fact, you will notice that the only way to speak into the phone was to put your mouth up at the phone itself.  You would hear by using the ear piece attached by a cord hanging on the side of the phone box.

Homestead museum 7 revised

This is a picture of a Conlon Zephyr which was a type of ironing machine. Indeed, this was state-of-the-art in the mid-1930s.  The little sign on the fabric reads:

“Flowered feed sacks were welcomed bonuses for the farm wife. She carefully chose her colors and patterns for making dresses, quilts, curtains, etc.”

Homestead museum 10 revised

The wood stove kept things toasty in the kitchen, likely the area most folks would congregate during the harsh winter on the plateau.

In our world, things always are subject to change.  Today in 2018, we in the United States certainly do not live like they did in the 1930s.  We have electricity and we have cell phones.  Most of us don’t use feed sacks for curtains or clothes.  Some would argue, I suspect, that some of the changes in modern days are not for the better, while other changes have surely made our lives significantly easier.  But like them or not, changes have, and will, come.  Things change.

But there is One who does not change, and I am referring to our God and Father.  Scripture says:

“”For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachi 3:6

God, Himself, is saying that He does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us.  He is immutable.  He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. And, He will be the same when time is no more.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

Christ’s divinity and His immutable nature is highlighted by the writer of Hebrews when he says:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8  

Praise the Lord that He is unchanging and that His promises are, therefore, secure.  This gives the believer security to know that when we have been adopted into God’s family through faith, we can trust God not to change His mind and “unadopt” us because of something we have done. 

No man can slip through His fingers into the breach of hell if that person is a child of God and has expressed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God neither changes His plan, His covenants, His prophecies, nor His justice. In other words, God is dependable – God is immutable, unchangeable!

While things change in our world, we can be secure in the knowledge and conviction that our God does not change.  His perfect plan for us will be accomplished no matter what the circumstances surrounding us may be.  Thank Him, today, for His wondrous love and mighty strength to keep us in His arms throughout the turmoil and change that we see all around us.

Father, the old hymn says “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” and those words are true.  Christ is the Rock on which I stand when all else around me is tumbling and changing, when the world is rushing to evil and violence, when even Your people are abandoning Your Word.  Father, I pray that my Homestead is in heaven, secure in the grip of Christ my Savior.  I further pray that You would use these thoughts to encourage, challenge and strengthen those who read them. May Your Spirit move in our world, today.

BUT IT’S TOO BIG!

Do you ever have the feeling that some task or calling is too big for you? It just doesn’t fit … it’s just too big! (This chair was at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum during our visit in 2011 — incredible craftsmanship!)

Huge Rocking Chair at Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum
Huge Rocking Chair at Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum

I can’t climb it, I can’t see my way around it … it’s just too big!

I can’t cross it – it is too big! [Picture of river and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee]

Rocks and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee
Rocks and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee

It asks for skills that I don’t have; I don’t know how to do this task; I am not equipped to handle it. If it were smaller, maybe then I could do it, but this is … well it is just too big!  (Picture below was taken in Yosemite National Park)

View from mountains in Yosemite National Park
View from mountains in Yosemite National Park

Have you ever said: “Lord, you must be thinking of someone else! You can’t possibly be asking me to do this! I’m not smart enough, not strong enough, not ready for such a challenge! I love you, Lord, and I want to serve You, but I can’t do what You are asking! It’s too big for me!”

Moses said the same thing when God spoke to him out of the burning bush, recorded for us in the Bible at Exodus Chapter 3.   [I confess that the pictures that follow are not of the wilderness facing Moses when this conversation occurred. They are taken in The Badlands National Park in South Dakota; but when I think of a wilderness, this is what I envision.]

Badlands towering ahead.
Badlands towering ahead.

God tells Moses what He wants him to do, and Moses’ response might be in different words but the meaning is all too familiar to us because we say the modern equivalent when God directs us to do something that is out of our comfort zone:

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

God reiterates the fact that He will be with Moses all along the way.

Badlands stretch forever
Badlands stretch forever

The conversation continues and Moses says:

“But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you. ‘” Exodus 4:1

God shows His power to Moses to confirm that this was, indeed, what Moses was to do and that He was who He said. Notwithstanding God’s patience in this conversation, Moses responds with yet another objection:

“But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’” Exodus 4:10.

The Lord’s response is that He is fully aware of Moses’s abilities, skills and nature – and He wanted Moses to do this work notwithstanding those shortcomings.

 “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’” Exodus 4:11-12.

Badlands are formidable.
Badlands are formidable.

Moses’s options seem to have evaporated – left with nothing else to argue, he gave his final plea in opposition to God’s demand:

“But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’ …” Exodus 4:13.

We really aren’t any different than Moses, are we? When an assignment appears insurmountable, we balk, make excuses, plead that the job be given to another, and then pout.

It is as if we were standing before God and stomping our spiritual feet, just like toddlers, while we are saying “I don’t want to!”

Beloved, God is the same today as He was thousands of years ago when He directed Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. When he assigns a job for you to do, even if it is bigger than anything you had ever done, He will prepare you and strengthen you so that the assignment will be done according to His plan.

Consider Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah Chapter 6. When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon His throne, Isaiah was confronted with the power, majesty and holiness of God and with that came an immediate recognition of how sinful he was:

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5

God did not leave him in that condition, however – a seraphim touched his lips with a burning coal from the altar and said that his guilt was taken away and his sin atoned for. Isaiah 6:7   Then, God said:

“Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”

Now that he had been cleansed and his sin removed, Isaiah was able to respond to God’s inquiry with no objections, no excuses, no stalling, no stomping his feet – he simply said:

“Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8.

When we are tasked with something outside our comfort zone or beyond what we think our abilities are, we must trust God to give us the words, to give us the physical strength, and to give us the wisdom necessary to accomplish His purposes in the work at hand. In short, we must trust that the Holy Spirit will work through us to accomplish things of eternal consequence which we, in our own strength, could not comprehend.

So, is there something too big for you to handle staring you in the face? Has God directed that you undertake some task and you are balking at the assignment? Do you want to pull the spiritual covers over your head and pretend God didn’t really ask you to do that thing?

Trust Him. Ask for forgiveness for your stubborn pride, for your refusal to believe that He is able to work through you in this circumstance, for your spirit of laziness in refusing to undertake the project … you can add whatever else is appropriate. Then, be a 21st century Isaiah and respond “Here I am. Send me.”

The job is not “too big” – in fact, it is “just right” when God is in it with you.

Father, May we be modern day Isaiahs! May we hear your call and respond “Here I am Lord. Send me.” May You bless us as we travel our spiritual path in Your Strength, Father, and may we, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, as given to us through Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, be effective in serving as You direct and enable.