Top 10 Posts of 2012

It’s the time of year for lists.  Being a lover of lists, I can’t resist using the year end report from Word Press to create my list of the ten most-viewed Practicing Resurrection posts of the year.

First, a few caveats.  As I say every year, the list is a bit misleading since it doesn’t count hits on the main page.  There were over 5,000 more visits to the home page than to any of the posts on this list.  And if the About page counted, it would be the hands down number one post of the year.  But since it isn’t a post per se, I don’t include it.  Finally, if this photo was a post it would have been in the top five.  But since it wasn’t a post proper, but rather was part of my Tanks post, I didn’t include it either.

So here’s this years top 10.

10.  Johnny’s Opinion

Our billy goat weighs in on the Chick-fil-a controversy.

9.  Questionnaire

Wendell Berry’s wonderful and provocative poem, which I posted here in February, 2010.  Four of this year’s top ten are just reposts of the writing of others.  Maybe that should tell me something.

8.  Enriching the Earth

Another great poem from Mr. Berry, who is a primary inspiration for much of what we do here.

7.  Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

I wrote this about the Thursday evening community suppers we are a part of.  I had more page views the day I posted this than on any other day since I started blogging.

6.  The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

This essay makes the list for a second year.  I don’t think there’s anything special about it.  I’ve posted much better essays on the blog, in my opinion.  My guess is that students at Wesleyan schools find this when searching for sources to help them write papers like this one.

5.  Miracle

The story of our sweet little kid Miracle.  Sadly, the happy ending was only temporary.

4.  Selling Water By the River

My review of Shane Hipps’ new book.  If I’d known this was going to be read so many times I’d have done a much better job with it.

3.  Top Ten Reasons Men Shouldn’t Be Pastors

I just borrowed this from another blog, but it was a big hit here.

2.  Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet…

This one is surprising.  It is nothing but a quote from Thomas Jefferson, which I posted in May, 2011.  I’m guessing its popularity this year was from folks searching for ammuntion to use in political arguments, which isn’t why I posted it. There is wisdom here, which is diminished when a sentence is extracted for use as a partisan soundbite.

And the surprise winner is…

1.  Chicken Insanity

This one was from September, 2011.  It is my look at the amazing surge in chicken consumption in America, and some of the consequences that has had on how chickens are raised.   This didn’t make last year’s list, yet captured first place a year later.  I’m glad this post got so much attention this year, but I really don’t know why.

I regret, however, that I didn’t title the post “Chicken Crazy” in honor of the great Joe Tex, who had no idea just how crazy it would get.

So now on to 2013!

Happy New Year y’all.

Love Wins

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White Flint Pork

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We have pork now.   It is from our pasture-raised chemical-free pigs.  It is our healthy, delicious, locally-produced alternative to industrial pork.

Consumer Reports recently announced the results of an indepth study of commercially available pork.  Testing dozens of brand names and multiple locations, the researchers found that 69 percent of the pork tested was contaminated with bacteria, almost of all of it resistant to antibiotics.  The report concludes, “The frequent use of low-dose antibiotics in pork farming may be accelerating the growth of drug-resistant ‘superbugs’ that threaten human health.”   I’ve been saying that on this blog for a long time now.

Further, 20 percent of the pork tested was laced with ractopomine, a growth hormone banned in 160 countries but legal in the U.S.  Read more about the report HERE.

Human beings were simply not meant to eat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pig growth hormones.

Our pigs lived on open pasture, which is a very rare thing these days even on organic farms.  They were never given any growth hormones or antibiotics.

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Our pork is delicious, naturally produced and safe to eat—a very rare combination these days.  Our animals were raised naturally and humanely.

We’re happy to be able to make quality pork available in our community.  Hopefully it will remind folks of what the pork tasted like at their grandparents’ house, back when people raised animals the way they ought to be raised.

Love Wins

The Cost of Real Food

One of the things that those of us who advocate for better eating hear regularly is that poor people can’t afford healthy food, and that only the affluent can afford to eat organic food.

It is true that organic and naturally produced items are usually more expensive than their industrial counterparts, but the notion that only the rich can afford to eat well is a dangerous myth.

Cherie has addressed this frequently on her blog and she knows all the facts about it better than I do.  Check out her blog for details on this.  But this morning I’ll touch on a few highlights.

Comparing the cost of a fast food meal and the cost of fresh produce is a false comparison.  This is often done to suggest that the poor eat fast food because they can’t afford fresh produce.  This fallacious argument was made in the movie Food, Inc. and it is widely believed.

It is wrong, however, to conclude that if fresh veggies won’t fit into today’s budget, then the only other choice is a meal from McDonalds.  Frozen veggies are cheap.  Beans and rice are cheap.  There are countless options for very inexpensive, healthy meals.  Fattening processed food is simply not the only alternative to fresh vegetables.

Of course most of the costs of processed food are externalized.  The chemical-based farmers who produce the corn and soy are heavily subsidized by federal tax dollars.  And of course we all end up bearing much of the cost of the health care expense that eating this food brings.  If those costs were added to the price of the processed food, then it would be much more expensive than organic.  As Joel Salatin says, “You think organic food is expensive?  Have you priced cancer lately?”

Before I go too far down the rabbit hole, I’ll close with a few thoughts about the cost of breakfast.  Many Americans spend lots of money to buy sugary breakfast cereals.  There is almost no nutritional value in them and they’re produced from the cheapest, government-subsidized grains.  The packaging costs far more than the stuff in the box.

Cherie pointed out to me recently that grits cost 4 cents per serving.  Four cents!  A person could eat a bowl of grits every morning for a month and barely spend a dollar.

We charge $4/dozen for our eggs and $6/lb for our sausage.  That is expensive compared to what’s offered in the grocery stores.  But even at those prices, you could have a couple of eggs with the grits and still spend less than a dollar for breakfast.  If you’re really hungry you could add a sausage patty for another 75 cents or so.

I’ve been on a very tight food budget before and I know what it’s like.  So I don’t fault those who have to compromise sometimes on the quality of what they’d otherwise buy.  But we ought not to reinforce the false notion that it is somehow necessary to eat unhealthy food.  It just isn’t true.

Love Wins

More thoughts…

I try not to put up too many theological posts here.  I doubt that’s what most folks come here to see and there are already plenty of blogs out there that do theology better than I ever could.

But today I want to return to my wonderings about how to reconcile God and evil.  Pardon my ramblings…

No father with an ounce of compassion and the ability to prevent it would allow his children to be slaughtered.  Yet we must come to grips with the reality that if God exists, and if he is omnipotent in the classical sense of that term, then he does just that every day.

As I’ve said before, I have no ultimate answers and I’m highly suspicious of anyone who claims to have them.  But today I have a few more scattered thoughts to offer, beginning with the example of Jesus.

Jesus prayed for God to intervene and save him from suffering, and God didn’t intervene.  Jesus was arrested, beaten, tortured, mocked, humiliated, abandoned by his friends, stipped naked publicly and nailed to a cross to die.  In the gospels of Mark (the oldest of the gospels) and Matthew, Jesus is recorded as having said only one thing on the cross.  In those two accounts (Matthew’s being essentially a copy of Mark’s) Jesus doesn’t forgive anyone, he doesn’t promise paradise to one of those executed with him (in fact, in both those accounts those executed with Jesus also “heaped insults on him”), and he doesn’t make any theological speeches.  The only thing Mark and Matthew record Jesus as saying on the cross is the anguished cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Unanswered prayers for divine protection and feelings of being abandoned by God are nothing new.

To be sure, the ancient prophets have predicted a coming New Creation, in which all things willbe redeemed and restored, and death and suffering will be no more.

But that is not the world we live in.  Our world is violent, brutal, cruel and often unfair.

But I turn again to Jesus, who never promised an easy carefree life to those who follow him.  Instead, he told them they’d suffer.  Any who would follow me must “take up a cross,” he said.  I’ve studied those words.  I’ve come to conclude that he did not mean (as we commonly sanitize them) that we’ll all have difficulties in life.  He meant “take up a cross.”  His words were shocking because to be executed by crucifixion was the most shameful, humiliating form of death known.  In his culture any who suffered such shame were thought to be in God’s disfavor–forsaken by God.

At least 12 people were murdered while worshipping at Christmas Eve services in Nigeria this year.  Those folks knew they were risking their lives when they went to church, as dozens of worshippers have been killed at Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services in Nigeria each of the past two years.  They went anyway.

Through the centuries and around the globe today, there are many who regularly take up a cross.  But the vast majority of us don’t.

As Thomas a Kempis wrote, “Jesus hath now many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of his cross.”

The way of Jesus is not a way free from suffering and the world is not free from senseless evil.  So should we just passively accept suffering and write it off as part of God’s intended order?  Should we just “grin and bear it” taking comfort in the fact that Jesus not only suffered himself but predicted suffering for all who truly follow him?

I don’t think so.  That kind of fatalism is dangerous and cannot represent God’s final plan for the creation he loves, in my humble opinion.

Of course I’m aware of and embrace the words of St. Paul, quoted powerfully by President Obama at the memorial service:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;  we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But Paul preceded those words with words of expectation that creation will someday be liberated from the bondage of decay and that we patiently wait in the hope of that liberation.

Things are always changing.  Creation is not something that happened once, then ended.  It is ongoing.  But the process of creation is brutal, violent, ugly.  We are red in tooth and claw.

The problem with my natural evil analysis, which otherwise seems so neat and clean, is that it ignores this.  “Natural evil,” violence, death, mutation, extinction–all existed before humanity existed.  They seem to be part of the very fabric of the process of creation.

Jesus in some sense may represent a revolt against the tide of biological evolution.  Biological evolution tells us that the strong, the fittest, will survive and the weak will die off.  Jesus denied that.  The first shall be last, he said.  Woe to the “fittest.”  The weak shall inherit the earth.

But earthly power doesn’t reside in the weak.  Jesus brought hope and comfort to the weak.  But he was also killed for doing so.

I take comfort in the fact that Jesus didn’t stay dead.  He rose, arguably the first of the general resurrection to come.  At least that is the dream and vision of the prophets of “new creation” — where there will be no death, no violence, no suffering.  Where the lion will lie down with the lamb.  Where swords are beaten into plowshares.  Where little children aren’t murdered.

If we look at a snapshot of  the world in 1912 and compare it to a snapshot now, the contrast  would reveal great progress and advances in almost every measurable metric.  There are fewer starving people, fewer sick people, fewer poor people.  The world is less violent now than it was then, and less violent now than it has ever been.  Yet between 1912 and now we’ve had two world wars, multiple genocides,  and innumerable tragedies.  The path upward is not a straight line.  It seems to be puntuated with fits and starts.  Humanity may be moving toward a better future, but the trail behind it is littered with bodies and injustice.

I don’t know what it all means.  Maybe individualism has corrupted our thinking.  Then again, maybe it has corrected it.  I’m not sure.  But I hold on to hope for better days for all us.  And I firmly believe the world is destined to synch up with the divine in a beautiful way.  I especially believe that we can be part of making that happen.  Starting now.  I believe it is expected of us.

Love Wins

Rejoice?

Beloved, we are always in the wrong,
Handling so clumsily our stupid lives,
Suffering too little or too long,
Too careful even in our selfish loves:
The decorative manias we obey
Die in grimaces round us every day,
Yet through their tohu-bohu comes a voice
Which utters an absurd command – Rejoice.

W.H. Auden

I found this at The Outpatient Monk, along with this beautiful reflection on the recent tragedy in Connecticut:  http://www.outpatientmonk.com/making-sense-of-it-all-how-advent-confronts-us-in-the-wake-of-tragedy/

Love Wins

Unreal

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I looked at a jar of honey in the grocery store to see where it was from.  This is the label.

Seriously?  They can’t even narrow it down to single continent?

Of course it’s possible that this all came from a single giant vat containing so-called “honey” from around the world.  Keep in mind that honey produced by bees being fed a diet of high fructose corn syrup, which is how industrial honey is produced, really ought not even be considered honey.

Unpasteurized honey made by bees feeding on a diet of pollen and nectar from blooms and wildflowers has great health benefits.  Among other things it is a natural way to fight seasonal allergies.  But to achieve that benefit the honey must be local.

Honey is a superfood.  It may be nature’s perfect food.

Real honey, that is.

I highly recommend that folks find a local source of naturally produced honey.  Don’t bother with the stuff on the supermarket shelves.

Love Wins

War is Over (If you want it)

Merry Christmas y’all!  Hoping everyone has a day and season filled with joy and peace.

As we enjoy our celebration, here’s something to think about.

This time of year Isaiah 9:6-7 gets quoted a lot:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

It’s a beautiful passage and it is fitting that we remember it at Christmas.  But why do we always begin the quote at verse 6?  The first word of that verse is “for.”  In Hebrew the word is ki, which can also be translated “because” or “when.”  Verses 6 and 7 are meant to explain that which precedes them.  So how does this passage begin?

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9 is not merely a prophecy of the birth of the Messiah.  It is a prophecy of the end of war.

Cherie is part of a women’s interfaith fellowship group.  They sometimes have speakers of varying faith traditions come and talk with them.  Once a Christian pastor who was speaking to them asked one of the Jewish women in the group (a leader in the local Temple) why they don’t believe Jesus was the messiah.  She quickly answered that Scripture says that when Messiah comes war will end.  Since war hasn’t ended, then Messiah hasn’t come.

When Cherie told me about that, it struck me as a stinging indictment of Christianity.

Certainly the fault doesn’t lie with Jesus, who taught nonviolence and love for enemies.  For the first three centuries of the faith Christians were pacifists.  Any person who joined the military was expelled from the church and if soldiers became Christians they had to vow to disobey any order to kill.  Christianity was growing fast, and it was deemed incompatible with war.

That all changed after Constantine, of course, and these days plenty of Christians believe that war and Christianity are compatible.  In fact, plenty of Christians are just as bellicose as any unbeliever.  And, of course, warriors’ boots are still used in battle and warriors’ garments are still soaked in blood–despite the birth of the Prince of Peace.

The prophet Isaiah also announced that the Messiah will “teach us his ways so we may walk in his path.”  He will settle disputes for many people and

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

I know most believers have not lost faith in this promise.  Most, however, will probably say that this will happen the next time Jesus comes.  Next time he won’t just ask us to follow him and do as he says, instead he’ll force us to follow him and he’ll compel us to do as he says.

Maybe so.  But why wait?  Why not get on with it now?

War is over, if we want it.

Love Wins