Cutting Wood

We heat our house with wood, so I have to spend a lot of time with the chainsaw.  Our outdoor water stove has a big door, so it’s not necessary for me to split the wood, although I’ve split plenty in my life.

Land and Table’s gathering in the Bedford area is at Mountain Run Farm.  The farm is owned by Ben and Carly Coleman, who we had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times.  Ben recently put up an interesting offer on their farm’s facebook page.

Pointing out how many American men these days have abdomens bigger than their chests, and how that virtually guarantees them an early grave, Ben challenged the men in his community to start heating their homes with wood (as his family does) and to stay fit by splitting wood. 

Here’s what he wrote:

“Our proposal is that ANY man who wants to change their habits and heat their home and family with Nature’s bounty of deadfall wood is welcome to come to MRF and collect your wood for FREE. Start now and collect for next winter, We can help you with wood stove advice and options to heat with. Englander wood stoves are made in Amherst VA and Stihl chainsaws are made 90% in VA. Better yet, get a cross cut hand saw. Nothing is more invigorating than splitting wood. It is what men were meant to do! Please come see us for more details.”

I admire him for putting out this offer.  Sadly, I don’t expect he’ll have many takers.

I’m not sure we can afford to offer free firewood to anyone who wants it, but it has given me something to think about.  But if there was some way I could limit the offer to those whose inactivity is killing them, I’d do it.

It saddens me, and sometimes makes me angry, when I look around at the folks I see in public places.  So many of them have ruined their health and are destined to become wards of the state (then die a premature death).  And in almost all cases it’s completely preventable by consuming only a reasonable amount of food and by getting a reasonable amount of exercise.  The human body wasn’t designed to take in mountains of food (particularly processed food) while remaining inactive.  That is a recipe for a health disaster.

May we figure this out before it’s too late.  For many, splitting some wood would be a good way to start turning things around.

Love Wins


Our Big Oak

There is a grand old red oak in front of the old farmhouse here.  When I was a boy I loved swinging in the big porch swing that hung from one of its branches.  That tree has shaded at least six generations of us.

Recently Cherie pointed out something about the tree that I’d never noticed before.   When the power lines were put in they zagged them, to avoid the tree.

The lines are on the north side of the road, except where our old oak stands.  There the pole is on the south side of the road.  The lines essentially move around the tree, then return to the north side.

So 80-something years later, I applaud whoever made the decision to save our tree.  I’d like to think my family insisted that the tree take priority over the power lines.  But whoever is responsible did a good deed.

My guess is that the tree is around 300 years old.  May folks 300 years from now still be admiring it.

Love Wins


Among the accusations made against the early Christian community is that they were atheists, cannibals and practiced incest.  Today these claims seem so outrageous on their face as to be utterly ridiculous.  But in the Hellenistic Roman culture they were widely believed by people who hadn’t made the effort to truly understand the Christians’ beliefs.

Sadly, throughout the world today millions of people hold outrageous and utterly ridiculous opinions about the beliefs of other religions because they haven’t taken the time to try to understand them.  Instead they just grab onto whatever nonsense suits their pre-existing bias and accept it as truth.

For centuries many Christians believed Jews sacrificed Christian children as part of their religious ceremonies.  Today millions of Muslims believe Christians worship three gods and endorse sexual immorality.  Christians, in America at least, commonly believe that Islam teaches that Christians should be murdered and that killing Christians is a ticket to paradise.  My guess is that very, very few in our disfunctional Abrahamic family have taken the time to get a true understanding of the faiths other than their own.

The Greeks and Romans believed there were many gods, so they had no trouble believing the Christian god existed.  But they were baffled at the Christian insistence that there was only one God.  Because the Christians denied the existence of the other gods, the Romans called them atheists.

When the Greeks and Romans heard Christians refer to their wife as their “sister” or their husband as their “brother” they concluded that the cult included some kind of weird incest theme.

And of course they concluded that the ritualistic eating of flesh and drinking of blood at their meals meant the Christians were cannibals.  To understand the symbolism of the eucharist without declaring it to be cannibalism one must take a few moments, set aside cultural and religious bigotry, and listen sympathetically. 

Of course the early Christians weren’t atheistic incestuous cannibals.

Maybe we should learn a lesson from their experience.

Love Wins

Giving Something Up

We’re in the middle of Lent, a season during which Christians of the past 20 centuries have fasted.

It’s interesting to notice what folks give up in this season of fasting.  Orthodox Christians become vegans during Lent–they eat no meat or diary products.  Roman Catholics become vegetarian–they eat no meat.  What about American Protestants?  Well, we’re not consistent in what we surrender.  While the Orthodox give up meat and dairy and the Catholics give up meat, many of us give up facebook.

But there is some beautiful, creative and redemptive fasting going on now too.  The United Methodist Church has called on people to give up alcohol for Lent.  One good practice, which Cherie is doing once again this year, is to keep track of what she would’ve spent on  during Lent, and donating it to Blood/Water Mission to help bring clean drinking water to Africa.  In the past she and I have observed Not a Cent During Lent, by not buying anything during Lent.  But we buy so little that just wasn’t a genuine sacrifice.

I like the idea of giving up something you never want back.  One year Cherie gave up watching the news (which usually just made her angry and frustrated).   By the time Lent was over she’d lost her interest in watching it and now we don’t even have television.  I’ve done the same kinds of fasts (though not directly tied to Lent) and permanently walked away from fast food, for example.

Although the discipline of fasting can be greatly beneficial even if only temporary, the benefits are much greater when we edit out harmful or unnecessary things forever.

Love Wins

Sabbath Poem

It is the destruction of the world
in our own lives that drive us
half insane, and more than half.
To destroy that which we were given
in trust: how will we bear it?
It is our own bodies that we give
to be broken, our bodies
existing before and after us
in clod and cloud, worm and tree
that we, driving or driven, despise
in our haste to die, our country
spent in shiny cars speeding
to junk. To have lost, wantonly,
the ancient forests, the vast grasslands
is our madness, the presence
in our very bodies of our grief.

1988, II

Wendell Berry
Love Wins

Launching the CSA

Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, we’re launching our CSA today, weeks earlier than we’d anticipated.  For now all we have are asparagus and eggs, along with last fall’s sweet potatoes and garlic, but we’re off and running for the year and happy about it.  Hoping we can keep good healthy food coming for our members all year.  It feels good to be able to provide great food to so many families.

We’ve planted all of the cool weather crops now:  carrots, radishes, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, collards, turnip greens, onions, Swiss chard, spinach and potatoes.  This week we’ll be planting rhubarb, strawberries and asparagus.  And we’ll be hoping we don’t get a late hard freeze, while also hoping it cools off some.  Spring is a tricky growing season for us, but if all goes reasonably well we’ll be rewarded with some great food.

It’s a beautiful time of the year as life returns to the trees.  The pears and redbuds are blooming.  The dogwoods are soon to follow. 

Loving it.

Love Wins

Left Behind

Dr. Bill Brown of Columbia Seminary led two sessions on creation care at the Q3 conference and they were both very inspiring.

One of the themes of his second talk was the danger of the “rapture theology” that seems so prevalent today, thanks in large part to the “Left Behind” series of best-selling end-times novels.    But even before those books we had books like “The Late Great Planet Earth,” promoting the notion that God’s ultimate plan is to destroy the earth.  The concept, which Dr. Brown called the greatest heresy of our day, originated in the early 20th Century and is unique to North America.  It has engendered destructive, irresponsible and irreverent thinking about tending to the earth and even spills dangerously into attitudes about foreign policy, as folks imagine and anticipate a violent, bloody end of our world.

While it is best to be cautious, humble and not overconfident when thinking about eschatology, the notion that Jesus will return twice, once to rapture believers to heaven and a second time to destroy the earth, seems to be based on a misreading of a couple of Bible passages.  Never a part of Christian thinking for nearly 2,000 years, it was popularized in parts of America as a result of the publication of Cyrus Schofield’s Schofield Reference Bible in 1909.  The doctrine has now become incorporated into “dispensationalism,” a theology prominent among a few American denominations (principally Southern Baptists).  As a result of the wildly popular Left Behind novels, it now seems firmly entrenched in some segments of American Christianity.

But although eschatology can be slippery at times, what the Bible seems to anticipate is not the destruction of God’s creation, but rather its renewal and redemption.  Christians for 20 centuries have anticipated a general resurrection of the dead and eternal life on earth in a new creation, very much like the original Eden.  In the book we call Revelation John describes his vision of a “new heaven and a new earth.”  He sees “the holy city” coming down from heaven to earth.  John writes, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!

John specifically alludes to the prophecy of Isaiah, whose own vision of God’s plan for the world was its redemption and restoration, not its destruction:

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare 
   a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
   the best of meats and the finest of wines. 
On this mountain he will destroy
   the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations; 
  he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
   from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
   from all the earth.
            The LORD has spoken.

 The “new creation” as described by Isaiah and other prophets was a restoration to the way things were in Eden.  God walks with humanity, there is no death, and there is peace and harmony among God’s creatures.

 The wolf will live with the lamb, 
   the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
   and a little child will lead them. 
The cow will feed with the bear,
   their young will lie down together,
   and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
   and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 
They will neither harm nor destroy
   on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
   as the waters cover the sea.

As Dr. Brown put it, “Revelation 21:5 does not say ‘I am making all new things.’ It says, ‘I am making all things new.'”

When that day comes, what a blessing it will be to be “left behind,” to enjoy it forever.

Love Wins