Cielo

I used to travel a lot for business.  I wish I could say that I managed to incorporate a lot of tourism into my travels but that wouldn’t be true.  Usually I believed myself to be in such a hurry that I just flew in, did my job and flew out, as quickly as possible.  But even with that attitude I was able to experience a lot of different cultures and see a lot of things I would otherwise never have seen.

Aside from around the U.S. my business took me to, among other places, Brazil, Australia, Israel and Malyasia.  And because I travelled so much I accumulated lots of frequent flyer miles that enabled us to take long family vacations to Europe every year, as well as trips to the Caribbean and Central America.  I was such a workaholic then  that it was important that I get far away from the office and be very difficult to reach if I was to have any peace.  In those days before the internet had succeeded in shrinking the world that was possible. 

Then as I made the transition to the life we live now I commuted by plane to work every week for years.  I came to hate travelling.

I would never recommend that anyone travel as much as I used to.  It’s unhealthy and breeds unhappiness.  But I do think it is valuable for people to actually experience other cultures and come to know people outside our cultural shells.  Going to a resort in Cancun doesn’t count.

Now those travelling days are seemingly behind us.  We’ve been to Haiti a couple of times but our international travelling seems to be something of the past.

I don’t miss travelling.  I’m very blessed to live on a beautiful farm.  There’s enough here to keep me amazed the rest of my life.  But sometimes I think of places I’ve never been and wonder if I should have visited them.  Sometimes I regret not drinking deeply enough at the well in some place we went.

I suppose everyone, even someone as grounded to a place as I am, has a little wanderlust in them.  And some have way too much.

I remember something that happened when we were in Girona, in Catalonia, Spain.  Girona is a beautiful ancient town.  We met some young women there who were astonished that we, being from America, would want to see their town.   They didn’t want to be there.  They dreamed of going to Madrid.  “Madrid es cielo,” one of them said to us.  Madrid is heaven.

I’ve been to Madrid a couple of times.  It’s a beautiful city with friendly people, great restaurants and fine museums.  But it isn’t heaven.

My guess is that Madrid is full of people who wish they lived on the coast, or in New York. 

Sometimes I wonder if we dream too much of exotic places and miss the beauty that is right in front of us.

We had a light snow last night, our first of the year.  At sunrise I carried hay to the pastures.  It was really beautiful.   I can honestly say that there is no place I’d rather be.

As I try to drink deeply of what is right here, I have come to know that in some ways, White Flint es cielo.

Love Wins

Blessed

I know I say this a lot, but this is an exceptionally beautiful time of year on the farm.  We’re busy with winter chores and I’m not getting nearly as much done as I’d hoped, but sometimes I have to just stop and take in the beauty of the place.  Even though I do that often, I probably don’t do it often enough.

I’m excited about what the year will bring for us here.  But there some things going on here that sometimes sadden me too.  It saddens me when I think of something as beautiful and precious as this farm being exploited.  It saddens me when something so deserving of love and care could be treated like a mere commodity.  But those things and thoughts will pass.  What will remain is a place soaked in love, where we nuture and are nutured.

So we prepare the gardens, we care for our animals and we await our next wave of kids.

Last night as I walked beneath the clear, moonless sky, I took a few deep breaths of the cold air and admired the stars in all their glory.  As I reflected on how few people are able to do that these days, a familiar warm feeling swept over me.  The feeling that tells me we are blessed.

Love Wins

Incarceration

In the U.S. we have over 900,000 law enforcement officers.  There are over 7 million Americans in prison.

We incarcerate more of our citizens than all the other countries in the world combined.

How can that be?  Are we the most criminal society in the world?

What is going on here?

Love Wins

Shalom

Shalom is the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. . . . We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or cease-fire among enemies. In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight.  

Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

Shalom y’all.

h/t Emerging Scholars Blog
Love Wins

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Years ago, Cherie handed me a copy of Wendell Berry’s poem “The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” saying she thought I might like it.  At the time I knew little about Wendell Berry and I had read none of his work.

I’m not sure exactly why, but that poem blew me away.  I kept the copy she gave me on my desk at the office (where it still is).  I’ve read it many times.  I’ve pondered it much.

Later, Cherie discovered that Mr. Berry was going to be a speaker at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group conference in Louisville that year.  She suggested we go and I quickly agreed.  At that time I had no intention of becoming a farmer.  I didn’t want to go to the conference to learn about farming.  I just wanted to see and hear Wendell Berry.

But that conference had a profound impact on me too.  I found that an itch was being scratched–an itch I didn’t even know I had.  The things Cherie had been saying to me for years about sustainability started making sense.  Before long I was passionately on the road we now travel.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing Wendell Berry speak a couple of times now.  As readers of this blog know, I’ve become a great admirer of his writing.  His is the voice of a prophet.

Here is the poem that helped change my life.  I’ve posted it on this blog a couple of times already, but it merits reposting yet again.  Of course, it is from this poem that the name of this blog is taken.

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

 

Another Year

This is the time of year when folks tend to reflect on the events of the past year and make resolutions for the coming year.  So I’ve spent a little time thinking about the last 12 months and the 12 before me.

2011 was, of course, a monumental life-changing year for me.  After 26 years of practicing law, I retired just before my 51st birthday.  While this had always been my plan, it wasn’t easy to do.  I am naturally resistant to change and walking away from my law career at it’s peak is obviously a dramatic change.  Some important events in my life over the previous few years, and a lot of soul searching, had started me on the path, but it might not have happened had we had not gone to the Wild Goose Festival.  I was so inspired and awed there that I just couldn’t continue to live a life inconsistent with the values that I profess.  So I took a mighty leap and am excited (even as I am nervous) to see where it goes from here.

Will has begun his final year of college.  Peyton is a junior.  Both are doing well and preparing to launch into a messed-up world.  While I’m very happy for them, it’s sad for us too.  Any parent will know what I mean.

Cherie will graduate with her masters this spring, on the very same day Will graduates college.  I will graduate the following spring, at the same time Peyton graduates.  I wonder what the demand will be then for ex-lawyer farmer-theologians?

My goals for 2012 include helping our farm help lots of folks eat healthy natural food.  I intend to focus my work on the areas where I feel I am called.  With God’s help, I will try to purge myself of bitterness and try to be constantly animated by love.

It’s going to be a good year.

Love Wins

Triunity

I’m studying systematic theology this term.  I don’t think I’ve ever studied a subject more difficult to comprehend sensibly than the orthodox understandings of the Trinity.  The whole concept is wrapped in paradox and essentially requires a field of thinking all to it itself to be comprehensible.  Coming to some sort of consensus on that exceedingly complex subject has been historically challenging for the church.  As a friend of mine said, to avoid the vast majority of the historical heresies, just stay quiet about the Trinity. 

But (borrowing some ideas I’ve picked up from others) the concept of a triune God, the parts of which are somehow distinguishable, seems to lend itself to a fragmentation of the character of God.  I wonder if we don’t separate ourselves (unintentionally) into groups that put an unintended emphasis on what we might think of as characteristics of a particular member of the Godhead.

For example, it seems to me that among Protestants there are churches and denominations whose emphasis is on God the law-giver and judge.  They focus on the commandments of God and the punishment that awaits those who don’t obey them.  They tend to have an emphasis on the “end-times,” which they expect to be violent and filled with God’s wrath.

It seems to me that there are also churches and denominations that focus on God the Spirit.  They emphasize “spiritual gifts” given to individuals.  They often emphasize physical, mystical, material, emotional and financial rewards available in this life to those who do or receive certain things.  They seem to have an emphasis on a God characterized by mysticism, and certainly less detached than the judge/lawgiver God.

And there are churches and denominations that focus on the Jesus God.  They tend to emphasize compassion for the poor and weak, social justice, and good community works.  Expressions of their worship tend to avoid an emphasis on either judgment or personal mysticism. 

One way of thinking of it is that some churches tend to focus on what God can do to people, some on what God can do for people and some on what God can do through people.

Of course I realize that these thoughts would be unfair stereotypes if applied to individual churches.  For example I attend a church affiliated with a Pentecostal denomination, but we don’t have rowdy worship services and the so-called “prosperity gospel” isn’t taught there.  I also know Southern Baptists who are focused and devoted to caring for the poor and weak without judging them.   There are some Methodist congregations that are “charismatic” and others that are legalistic.  If true at all, clearly my observation isn’t universally true.

But I do wonder if as individuals and communities of faith we don’t tend to orient ourselves around a particular constituent of the Trinity, unintentionally elevating that constituent above the others.  I wonder if what we see in this division is a product of an imbalanced appreciation of the Trinity. 

I also wonder whether that’s even a bad thing.

OK, that’s enough wondering for this morning…

Love Wins