How it Could Be

I recently ran across a couple of interesting blog posts which gave me something to think about.  In 1966 it took over 120 hours of work at the average hourly wage to make enough money to buy an oven ($330).  At today’s average hourly wage working 120 hours a person would earn enough to furnish a kitchen and laundry room with 8 new appliances:  a stove, washing machine, dryer, chest freezer, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and blender.  See the details HERE.

Another blogger notes that thanks to the internet it has become cheap to keep ourselves entertained, and that maybe folks just don’t need to work as much anymore to get the things that make them content.

To a point I agree with these guys.  It really should take less work now to meet basic needs than it once did.  We really should be able to enjoy more leisure once our basic needs (including entertainment) are met.  But sadly the reality seems to be that once we attain a particular level of material well-being, we tend to define the level necessary for contentment as the one we have not yet reached.  In other words, contentment is always something we place just beyond our reach, guaranteeing perpetual discontent.

I’ve blogged on the subject of contentment frequently.  One example was with respect to the ever growing size of our homes (HERE).  In 1970 the average new home size was 1500 square feet.  Today, despite the fact that families are smaller, the average new home is over 2400 square feet.

So despite the fact that we don’t have to work as many hours today to be able to buy a particular item as we might have had to work then, we’ve become so addicted to accumulating stuff and so unable to find contentment with what we have, that whereas the norm used to be that only one member of the family would earn an income, now both must work to be able to afford all the stuff that fills our expanding homes.

It’s good that stoves are cheaper now than they used to be.  But until we learn to be content, cheaper stuff won’t mean fewer hours worked.

Love Wins

What a Waste

While much of the world lives under a constant threat of starvation, we waste an extraordinary amount of food in our culture.  Consider these facts I saw in an article in World Ark magazine.

  • In the U.S. 40% of food is thrown away
  • The amount of food waste in the U.S. has increased by 50% since 1974
  • 1/3 of the food produced worldwide is never eaten
  • Every year 222 million tons of food are thrown away in industrialized nations, enough to feed 925 million people.

We try to be very careful here to waste no food.  We try not to prepare more than we can eat.  Any table scraps are given to the chickens or put into our compost pile.  I’m convinced that one of the reasons food waste has increased so much is because of the separation of people from the production of their food.  Trust me, if you work hard to raise the food, you’re not going to just throw it away.  If you raised the animal who ends up on your plate, you will not just throw it away because you’re not as hungry as you thought you were.

Love Wins

Neighbors

During my professional career I divided my life into six minute increments.  My time was billed by the hour and every hour was divided into tenths.  After everything I did I wrote down how many “tenths” it took me.  My secretary would type it all up the next morning and send it off to our accounting department, which would eventually generate a bill.  My productivity was measured by my “billable hours.”  It was the metric that seemingly ruled our lives.  Even when I did pro bono work, I “wrote down my time” and it would end up in some report showing my “non-billable hours.”  Front and center on my desk every day was my “timesheet.”

Now that I’ve left that world behind I no longer have to measure time so much.  I still sometimes have to race the clock to complete something before sundown or to be somewhere on time, but I just don’t look at clocks so much anymore.  My life is no longer divided into 6 minute increments for which someone must pay.

Now I can take time to help neighbors and friends without worrying about the impact on my “billable hours.”  As I type this, I’ve just returned from helping a neighbor deal with a sick cow.  Tomorrow I’ll be helping a neighbor seed his greenhouse.  No one is getting charged anything.  When I need a extra hand I know my neigbors will pitch in.  I like it much better this way.

Love Wins

Drink Water

“At this point, sugary beverages are the number-one problem in the American diet.  They’re the number-one source of calories on average.  Sugary beverages are also the number-one sales item in terms of dollars in grocery stores, and a lot are consumed at McDonald’s and other fast food places.  They’re like cigarette smoking.  They’re only bad and they have no redeeming virtue.  And the adverse effects are weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, gout, cavities and maybe some cancers as well.  Even fruit juice is a problem.  It’s associated with a higher risk of diabetes.  And you’d expect that because fruit juice has about the same number of calories per serving as Coke or Pepsi, and it will have the same metabolic effect.  Some nutrients come along with fruit juice, but there’s a big metabolic price to pay for getting nutrients that you could get from foods that have fewer calories.   And most people are getting those nutrients anyway, so two glasses of orange juice a day doesn’t have many health benefits and has many harms.”

Walter Willet
Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

Love Wins

The Furious Love of God

Here is a very moving post from our friend Matt.  The original is HERE.

The Furious Love of God

Stories are very powerful. They can motivate us, challenge us. Stories can break our hearts and heal our hearts at the same time. So, here is a story of God’s unrelenting love:

On a beautiful, summer day in 1981, a boy named Paul was born, and Abba smiled down on His new creation. Also present—as with all births— were Jesus, who was praising the Father for His creation, and the Spirit, who lit on the child and filled him with life-giving breath. A humbling scene for sure: the Sacred Three at the birth of a mere human! And so began God’s unrelenting pursuit of this child.

The boy grew in size and in mischief. And he wasn’t alone in his mischief. He was fortunate enough to be in a family of two brothers and two sisters—each equipped with his/her own special form of naughtiness. But Paul was different. He was a typical boy in some ways: wrecking his bike on purpose, showing off for girls, etc. But he was unique in that he seemed to have spiritual maturity that went beyond his 16 years—a fact that his siblings couldn’t deny.

As the boys lay awake at night, they would make up stories—sometimes ridiculous, funny stories; at other times, deep, meaningful musings on life and death, God and humans. Paul almost always led the conversation to more spiritual discussion. Paul knew the grace and the unrelenting love of God; he knew what was important to his Abba.

He had a passion for God that was confusing to his brothers and sisters. Paul seemed to get in trouble all the time for all sorts of things, things that “good boys” shouldn’t do: smoking at school, getting bad grades, driving when he wasn’t supposed to. But when it came to God, Paul was bold and faithful, committed and unashamed. Paul looked out for the underdog—he loved the outcasts and his enemies alike. Much to the frustration of his brothers, Paul would compliment and joke with the kids that ridiculed and hurt him. At his young age, Paul was putting to practice the words of the enemy-loving Jesus.

On one particularly memorable night, Paul and his youngest brother were talking about life and death. Paul, filled with the deep love of his Abba, humbly stated, “I would give my life if one person would come to know the love of God.” His words were powerful but painful to his youngest brother. The conversation quickly ended, but those words remained deep in the hearts of both boys.

About one month later, on a Wednesday night, Paul and his sister, Mary, and youngest brother were heading to church. Earlier in the day, Paul pretended to be sick so he could get out of a test at school, but he was adamant about not missing church that night. The evening sun was nearing its final descent beneath the horizon, and its rays were blindingly bright. So bright, that as their car crossed over the highway into on-coming traffic, none of the children saw the car barreling towards them. And as the car plowed into them, his life ebbing away, Paul heard the soft, tender words of his Abba: “Come now, my love; my lovely one, come. For you, the winter has passed; the snows are over and gone; the flowers appear in the land; the season of joyful songs has come. The cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. Come now, my love; my lovely one, come. Let Me see your face. And let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful. Come now, my love, my lovely one, come” (Song of Songs 2:10-14). And Paul’s broken, wounded body was, in the words of Brennan Manning, “swept up into the reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.”

As I stated before, stories are powerful. They have the potential to change lives. And this story has changed my life. It’s the story of Abba’s furious love for my brother Paul. And for me… Because of my brother and his desire for others to know the unrelenting love of God, I now know the love he was talking about. Because of my brother’s willingness to give his life, I can experience the furious love of my Abba for me, an unworthy, broken, ragamuffin.

Love Wins

Marketing

I really dislike the marketing side of sustainable farming.  For farms like ours to be economically viable, however, we have to sell our products directly to the consumer.  And to do that we have to market.

A dislike for marketing comes along with a love for farming, it seems to me.  Folks like us would rather be working in the gardens than out trying to sell things.  But as someone from Virginia State University said at a conference we attended recently, if we grow the best food in the world and no one buys it, then our farm will fail.

I don’t like selling stuff any more than I like buying stuff.  I’d rather just grow the food and give away whatever we can’t eat.  And even though we’re fortunate enough that we don’t have to depend upon the farm for economic survival, we will never have the kind of agricultural community we’re advocating unless young people can take up farming and still get their bills paid.

So even though it is uncomfortable for me, we have to go to the farmer’s market.  We have to exhange food for money.  We have to a website, a logo and the things that give economic credibility to a business.  We also have to do these kinds of things, of course, to get healthy food on more plates in our community.

Of course we’re giving away lots of our food to the needy and that won’t change.  And we’ll never compromise our farming practices for a marketing or price advantage.  Marketing may be a necessary part of what we do, but it is not what we’re about.

We’re considering bringing on an intern or apprentice to help this summer.  If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll find someone who likes marketing. 

Love Wins