26 February 2007

Community Garden

My wife is part of a community garden group called the Greenbriar Collective.  The community garden is one of their many projects.  They rotate work weekends with the various community gardens with which they are involved.  Our gardens were the weekend of the February 17th and 18th. It was a blast!  As I am not readily involved with out-door projects (I am a geek, after all -- manual labor to me is moving computers around), I was a little hesitant about what I could do to help.  But, as they were going to be at my house and working in my gardens, the least I could do was help in some way.  And I did.  And it was great!  There is such a feeling of satisfaction when people from all walks of life come together and accomplish something.  Now, granted, I was more of a support person, but I think we all were that to some extent.  We had a lot to do and I wondered if we would be able to get it accomplished.  I would say we got about 95% of it done.  Here are some pics of the stuff that was done:


These are raised beds from last year, filled up with fresh dirt and compost.  These beds will grow squash, onions, garlic, and various herbs.




New Back Raised Bed

This was one of the new beds we created.  This is made of 2 x 6s and 4 x 4s.  We cut the 4x4 into 18" posts and then sunk them roughly 6".  We then cut the 2x6s into 4' and 8' sections.  Next we fastened them to the posts, one on top of the other, so that the depth is roughly 12".  Then we layered the bottom with recycled cardboard, compost, dirt, and topped it off with a layer of leaves.  In this bed we will grow tomatoes





These are some great compost bins built by our friend Mike.  As you can see, these are just discarded pallets.  I use bungee cords to secure the fronts.



New Front Raised Bed

This is a new raised bed in the front yard.  It is similar in construction to the previous bed except it is only 6" deep.  Actually, we built this one first.  It will be used to grow beans and peas.




New Front Bed

As can be seen by the picture, this bed is next to the street.  This bed was just measured and then the top soil removed.  We 'fluffed up' the soil, removed the Bermuda grass from the top soil, created a border with timber from some trees we had cut and made a walkway out of straw down the middle.  On the left there (north side), you can see a lighter colored area.  These are some pavers we put down for access to the water meter.  In this bed, we will grow potatoes.




New Rain Water System

Here is one that I am most proud of.  It is a water catchment system.  I modified the front gutter so that the rain water would funnel into the barrel.  This is a 50 gallon pickle/pepper barrel we purchased from Atwoods.  It came equipped with the front spigot.  The plan is to connect a water hose to the spigot and attach a splitter on the other end of the hose.  The splitter will have two soaker hoses that will be for the front beds.

It's so exciting when you see a project like this come together.  It gives one a real sense of community when a group of people get together to help each other.  It reminds me of well, of the first Christians.  Of how 'the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer' (Acts 2.42).  I pray that this will continue to grow, mostly in me.

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that we may all share the fruits of the earth, rejoicing in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.

+ OD

13 February 2007

The Chance to Witness

As some of you may recall, I have decided to become a vegetarian. This has been a great struggle of late. I am really having a hard time, harder than I at first thought. I am really -- I mean really -- craving meat. It is becoming increasingly harder to sustain this diet.

And yet . . .

Just the other day my family and I went to a chili cook-off. I know, trouble already, right? Not really. There were vegetarian chilis there too. And it was great! But the greatest bit of all was the ability to witness! I was talking with one of my friends that had cooked a vegetarian chili (which got first prize in that category, btw), and told him that I was thankful that he had vegetarian chili since I had recently become a vegetarian. Well, there was a young man in ear shot of this conversation and he gladly joined in. 'That's awesome! What made you decide to become a vegetarian?'

And there it was. The golden opportunity to share the Gospel. And I did. I said:

'I believe that this world is the very good creation of a very good god. Death is an intrusion on that very good creation. However, this very good god has set in motion a plan to rebuild the creation -- to bring about a New Creation. In the ultimate future of the New Creation Project death (and all of the things that scar and destroy the very good creation) will be removed. This very good god is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. The New Creation Project was started when Jesus was resurrected. I believe this and am living in anticipation of that day. Therefore, I look for ways of implementing that ultimate future now. Since death will be removed I am looking for ways I can remove death now. And vegetarianism is one of those ways.'

You can imagine the looks I was getting from these guys! The whole 'deer in the headlights' thing. It was great. And the next part of the conversation was good too in that it quickly became something else. But the 'seed' was 'planted'. My prayer is that the Gardener will bring others to water the seed.

So, while I am at the moment finding it difficult to stay a vegetarian, I find the strength in situations just like this one. May God continue to grant me the stength and the opportunity.

Peace to you all,


12 February 2007

The Subversion of Culture

When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.

“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.

“What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now, for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets."


Luke 6.17-26

This little passage is sometimes called 'The Sermon on the Plain' because of verse 17. This passage reminds us of the 'Sermon on the Mount' found in Matthew 5 - 7 with various differences. Some people use those differences as 'proof' that the Bible contains errors. However, as someone who has spoken many times about a certain subject, whether it be in a public forum or in a private setting, I know that I tend to repeat myself but that there are also various differences. Does this mean that I didn't really speak in both settings? Of course not. It just means that some things change and some stay the same depending on the situation (and my forgetfulness). I see the same here. I'm certain that Jesus had a series of topics and he talked about them over and over again. He traveled to various regions, 'counties', and towns telling the same stories again and again. Along with that retelling, I'm sure he changed some of the situations and settings. But the basic message was the same. And it is to that message I now turn.

Let's ask some really basic questions to start off with. Why did the people come to see Jesus (and mind you, they came from quite a long distance. Tyre and Sidon were roughly 100 to 150 miles away). The people came to have certain 'felt needs' met. Verse 18 tells us that they come from near and far to 'hear him', to be 'healed of their diseases' and some of them were even 'delivered' from 'evil spirits'. I think this is a much over looked point in the life of the Church. We need to be asking ourselves -- are the 'felt needs' of the community, of those around us, being met by what we do through our various church programs? I am not so much talking about things like Vacation Bible School, although the spiritual life of a community, of the people, is extremely important. I am referring to 'real world' things. Where the community is in pain. How can we better address those needs? I think verse 18 gives us some clues. Are the physical needs of people within our communities being met? Are there adequate places for receiving medical attention? What are the costs for receiving that attention? Are those businesses that are trying to meet those needs looking to make a fast buck or are they genuinely concerned with the people? Or are they just putting a bandage on a much larger problem? In the case of those with 'evil spirits' (and we must acknowledge that some of what the first century called 'demon possession' we now label 'Mental Health'), are we just locking them away and drugging them up until they finally die? Where should the church be in these type of situations? Should we be doing anything about these things? I think we should. I think that is part of the point of these stories we read about in the New Testament. To show us ways in which we can change the world. To help us discover ways of bringing God's New Creation Project to fruition in the 'real world'.

And this is not just limited to the things we can do locally. We should also be looking into the policies and procedures that make up those situations. In other words we should be rallying for change in the areas where the poor and outcast are being treated unfairly -- where people are being discriminated against. I'm not saying we have to agree with every position. What I'm saying is that we have to look at the bigger picture. Of what the world would look like if God were running the show (because God, through Jesus, really is). With that in mind, we look to implement what we can here and now to bring that about. And this can be a scary thing for those the 'world', the culture, deems rich and powerful. As you can see, this leads us directly into the next section of the above passage.

Jesus compares, as he often does, the poor with the wealthy -- the down-and-out with the well-to-do. He says time and again, that the poor, the outcast, will one day be the ones on top. The wealthy, he says, will be the ones on bottom one day. How are we to take this? Is he saying that it is evil to be wealthy, well fed, respected, etc.? That the true goal is to be poor and that all that really matters has nothing to do with here and now? And what about this 'reward in heaven'? Does this mean that we have to go 'to heaven' to get this 'reward'? That is, that going to heaven is the end of the game, so to speak?

I think it can be taken that way. That is to say, if we take these verses out of context with the rest of the Bible, we would probably get that conclusion. Certainly there is comfort for the outcast. That is a major theme throughout the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. But the reality is not to be found 'in heaven'. I once heard a lecture where the speaker made this comment that is germane to my point. He said, 'That is not how the logic of this works. If I tell a friend that I have a beer for him in the fridge; that doesn't mean he has to get into the fridge to drink the beer.' The 'reward' comes 'from heaven' to earth. Look at these verses from Isaiah:

Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes . . . The Lord has sent this message to every land: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’ ”

Isaiah 40.10; 62.11

And this passage from Revelation:

Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.

Revelation 22.12

In these passages (and many others could have been cited), we see that the 'reward in heaven' that Jesus is talking about in Luke 6 will be brought to the people here on earth. That is the whole point of New Creation -- the joining together as one, the marrying of, 'heaven' and 'earth', of God's dimension of creation and our dimension of creation. At the consummation of 'all things' the whole creation will be together again (Romans 8.18ff; Revelation 21-22; etc.). Sure, okay, the 'rewards' that Jesus is talking about here won't be paid in full until that time. There will be an outpouring of God's grace to 'finish the job'. But we don't 'go there' to get it. God, through Jesus of Nazareth, will bring it to us.

But what about the well-to-do? Again, I think we should be aware of the whole context. The point is, what are the well-to-do doing with their blessings? That is the question. Are they giving to the poor? Are the feeding the hungry? Are they consoling the sorrowful? If the answer is 'no' to those questions, then their 'reward' won't be so pleasant.

I think it goes right back to 'felt needs' that I wrote about above. There is nothing in these verses about trust or belief. It is understood. Jesus was directing this sermon to his followers, not the general public. These are statements about how the faithful are supposed to act. They are 'signs' of faithfulness. These signs come out of a trusting in Jesus; of believing that God raised him from the dead. That is the point of doing those things. If we see our brothers and sisters in need, we are to act. We are to give to them. It seems that if we don't act, then it would constitute 'evil'. That is what the next few verses are all about.

You know, I started to go ahead and start on that section but instead, I think, I'm going to save that for another time. Perhaps I'll do a series on 'good works' and what that truly means for those of us who believe that God has really, actually, reconciled 'all things' to himself, things in heaven and things on earth, through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Until next time, Peace be with you.


A couple of things . . .

Things have been going full speed over here. I am in the middle of trying to get my home business off the ground. It is a computer business and you can see an ad for it here. That is taking a lot of my time. I am hoping that I can get a sign made for my front yard, seeing as I live on a busy street, it should help bring in business.

I also read a great article (or should I say letter) from Steve Jobs. Whose that? Where have you been living? Mr. Jobs is the head of Apple. The guy behind some great things like . . . um . . . oh, I don't know . . . the iPod! Apple also makes some great computers too (the best, in my humble but correct opinion). Their latest 'gadget' is called the iPhone. It is an iPod, an Internet communications device, and, well, a phone all rolled up into one! It isn't available yet, but when it comes online, watch out! It will set the phone world on it's ear.

Anyway, back to the letter. In it, Mr. Jobs has thrown down a gauntlet. He is asking the recording companies to drop Digital Rights Management (DRM) from their downloadable music catalogs. He makes a very good point. Basically, the majority of music that is purchased comes without DRM. That is, most music purchases are still CDs. CDs do not have DRM and probably never will. The restriction is only on music that is downloaded. DRM is supposed to help prevent pirated music. But, honestly, how many times do people trade CDs with other people and then copy it to their computers? A lot. So the point of DRM is rather useless. And Mr. Jobs is saying that we don't need these retrictions any longer. It will be interesting to see this one unfold.

As a slight aside, I have read an interesting article (or series of articles) about how Microsoft's new OS, Vista, has DRM embedded in it. What this means is that Vista checks to see if your media has DRM, if it doesn't, it won't play it! So, all those CDs or DVDs that you have purchased legally will not work with Vista! I think this could be another key feature in the request to remove the DRM restrictions from music. But what that means for Vista, since it is embedded with the OS, is unknown.

And lastly, I have saved the best for last. A very good friend of mine, a brother really, has started a blog -- The Evenin' Shadders. It is a great site with great stories and articles. Go by and check it out. I think you will enjoy it.

Until next time, peace be with you.