You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2008.

I’m putting this out there for any of my “Kingdom Gardener” friends.  Kingdom Gardeners are people who are understand theology differently as they spend more time in the garden.  People who the menial task of weeding as an opportunity to meditate.  People who wonder if they are maturing at the same rate as thier tomatoes.

Mr. Cynic, I’m writing in your direction.  Shannon, I’d be interested in your thoughts on this matter too.  And Gabe, if you’re out there, I know you would have some great things to say.

It started with this post I wrote and then Maria wrote her own.  I suggested a syncroblog on the topic and she set it up.  Check it out. It’s called Tomato Theology.  The post date is August 8 so there is still some good time to dwell on the topic before posting.

If anyone is interested make sure to let Maria know so she can add you to the list.
Happy Gardening and Happy Theology

Advertisements

I have a two guilty pleasures that really confuse Lauren.  The first is TBN.  For some reason I’m drawn to the big hair and the clapping and singing and the verses used out of context.  I have a hard time explaining it to people, but I think I have been able to view it as entertainment and not as some form of spiritual teaching.  The other guilty pleasure is closely related but a bit more tame, if you ask me.  I enjoy listening to Christian talk radio.  In part it reminds me of my childhood, as I hear the voice of Chuck Swindoll and Dr. James Dobson.  It also has given me the opportunities to critically evaluate what I believe and how my beliefs have changed over the years.

As I was driving home from work I was listening to a call-in show on the Christian talk station.  A lady call in and ask a question along these lines, “Could you tell me any Bible verses that support putting a pet to sleep when it’s in pain.”  Oh how I wish I could have been the DJ.  I would have quoted Hezakiah 13:8  “If thouest come upon an animal in pain, do unto it what must be done to relieve it, thus saith the Lord.”  Then I would talk about the interpretations for the word ‘relieve’ in Hebrew.  It would have been fun.

On a serious note, as soon as she asked her question I felt like I understood the motive behind her question.  To me it sounded like she knew the answer that she wanted to hear and now she was looking for the authority of the Bible to back her decision up.  This view of the Bible is merely an Answer Book from God.  This view of the Bible is far too common.  I’m waiting for Zondervan to come out with a Bible that has the Index as the Table of Contents.  “Need a verse that talks about adultery?  Here’s the pages….”  Forget about all the other verses that make up the context.  This way of thinking doesn’t need the Bible, it needs an encyclopedia.  Simply study the parts that you’re interested in and leave all those other boring or convicting parts alone.

I know this approach to the Bible; I used it for a long time.  And what’s worse is that I have used it while preparing sermons.  For this I’ve repented.  I remember being certain of what I was going to preach and then going to the Bible to find support of what I wanted to say.  How arrogant!  But it is so easy to do, and it make you sound so certain of things.  The problem, as I’ve come to see it, is that it is not that certain.  I hope that as time has passed I have allowed myself to read the Bible to understand what the Bible is saying, and not to support what I think is valid.

OK that’s it.  I realize that it might come off as an incomplete thought but I felt like I needed to get it off of my chest.  I also thought, “hey, maybe someone else will have some thoughts on this subject.”  So, do you?

The beginning of June is a rough time for a vegetable gardener. Most people can plant their warm season crops in mid May (the very ambitious might put a few out in early May) so the scenery of the garden filled is small transplants and bare soil where seeds are trying to emerge. The warm season crops are the ones that should come to mind when you think of eating something right from the garden: juicy tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, beans, squashes. The beginning of June is rough because it is filled with anticipation of all of these wonderful vegetables.

For some people there is little or no excitement about eating food straight from the garden. After all, we can eat cucumbers any month of the year now. We have an unlimited supply of fruits and vegetables available to us at grocery stores all across the country, so why should we wait with such high anticipation for vegetables to be “in season” when the supermarkets have no need for any season? Taste! If you have ever compared the taste of a vegetable from a garden at the peak of it season with the taste of the same vegetable purchased from a grocery store you will wonder how it is that grocery stores can even call that round, red, dry and bland orb a tomato. There is no comparison. People who grow their own vegetables know this. There are people who don’t or can’t grow their own vegetables who know this, too. They wait eagerly for the few month of farmers markets and roadside stands to buy fresh, homegrown produce.

As you can now see I was very perplexed when I passed by a gas station that cart outside that had I sign boasting “FRESH TOMATOES $.25.” It was early June. I didn’t have time to stop and look but as I drove by I knew two things. 1) There is no way those tomatoes are fresh, and 2) people are being deceived by that sign. The next time I drove by that gas station I made sure I stopped. On the cart were small wicker baskets with five or six perfectly shaped, red fruits. I got back into my car pretty frustrated. I was right. The description of fresh was merely a cheap marketing ploy. How could I tell? The fruit. It was uniform in size, shape and color. These are telling marks of food that is grown in factory-like conditions where every aspect of the “production” of food is streamlined into whatever is most efficient. Food is developed for the look rather than the taste. Think about it, when you are standing at the grocery store in the produce section, you reach for the tomato with the reddest skin and the perfectly round shape. What’s interesting about this is that we are buying produce like we are buying art-as something to look at (no offense to my wife or other artists who value art as more than ‘something to look at). Isn’t this odd? We buy our food in a way that says we enjoy looking at the food siting on our counter more than we enjoy the taste of it. For those grow produce, or those who strive to purchase it from small scale, organic farms the values are reversed. We seek out the produce that will have the right taste regardless of the shape or color. This isn’t to say that we would deliberately grab a squash that has boring beetle hole all through it, but a scar on the outside doesn’t scare us away.

A few weeks ago, as I drove by the same gas station with the produce cart I had a new thought, “It seems like people approach finding a church the same way they might approach that produce cart. Whether we (Westerners) want to be or not are fueled by consumerism. I believe that this is a part of who we are because of the culture that shapes us. The church is no different. Church culture has shape us to approach church as consumers. There are, of course, different degrees to this. I believe that Protestants probably have a harder time with this. After all the Reformation lead to the denominationalism that almost encourages people to go find a different church if you don’t like something about the one you attend. (This leads to a rant which needs its own soapbox for, so I’ll step down.)

Back to the produce stand. I think it is easy for us to reduce our expectations for a church to what is seen on the outside. I’m purposefully using broad general statements here because I’m commenting on what I see happening across the evangelical church landscape. I’m not trying to get too deep into specific situations. We look for a church that has the type of music we like or the charismatic preacher or the programs for our kids or the big building. We see these things on the outside and assume that those characteristics are consistent to the core. To me, these reasons for finding a church are similar to shopping for produce based solely on it’s outer appearance. We look for the churches that appear to have it all together. Churches that have the right shape and color of what we have come to expect a church to be like. But we have replace the desire for taste with the the expectation of a look.

A few post ago I wrote that “I want to be involved in a group of people who struggle their way through living out what Jesus taught. I want to be steeped in “deep church” that sinks into the core of my being.” To me, looking for this type of church is like selecting produce because of its flavor and simply because of the bright color. I believe that when we find a church (the people) we should be able to see it’s scars and bug bites. The scars are signs of life that show that the church has been growing though the elements, and not produced in isolation away from anything that might harm it. These struggles and flaws should be visible and accepted as a sign that says this is in season, locally grown, organically cultivated, tastes great and less filling. We should desire to join with a group of flawed people, scared by life and misshapen as opposed to looking or the “perfect on the outside” yet lifeless on the inside.

I think I’m running out of steam with this post. Maybe if I find the ambition I could do a series entitled “Marks of an in season, locally grown, organically cultivated church.” These are my thoughts, what about you? Does any of this resonate with your experience finding a church? Am I way off base with my comments? Did you find any spelling or grammar errors? Let me know.

peace.

I’ve wanted to sit down and write out some thoughts that have been swirling through my head, but instead Lauren and I have been watching Bones on Hulu.com.  I thought I might put up a list of a few things so that I’ll remember what I want to write about.  If any of you would like me to start with one in particular let me know.

In no particular order:

1. This phrase came into my head a few weeks back and I cant seem to shake it out: “GOD being present in the filth and business of the city and distant and removed from the bread and wine in the sanctuary.”  As I’ve thought about this sentence I’ve wondered about my own recognition of GOD’s work outside of the church in ways that I have been to arrogant to see before.  Also, it reminds me a lot of the prophets cries that GOD was not pleased with the peoples sacrifices, but desired their hearts more so.

2.  The garden has been a big part of my life these days.  I should probably start making a list of things I’m meditating on while I’m out there.  The garden is growing, and we are starting to enjoy some of the ‘fruits of the labor.’  I continue to be sure that studying food crops and organic agriculture is the path I should be taking, but I do not know where the path.

3.  There is a gas station that I pass by nearly every day that has a little cart out front that sells tomatoes and other produce.  The sign reads “FRESH TOMATOES $.25.”  As you know, I’m all about supporting local, sustainable farmers, but this smells a bit like rotten tomatoes to me. (I’m really sorry for the pun, I was going to say ‘rotten fish’ but this just made more sense.)  The cart has been out for nearly a month now selling “fresh tomatoes.”  This does not make sense because you cannot have large, locally grown tomatoes in June.  It just doesn’t work that way.  The tomatoes are perfectly shaped and perfectly colored, so this leads me to believe that someone is just buying conventionally grown tomatoes from somewhere far a way and selling them as “fresh.”  So on to my thoughts: I think I see this approach with church, too.  The thing is small, local, organic farms are not going to have perfectly shaped and perfectly colored tomatoes.  The expectation of the perfect tomato look has been traded in for the wonderful range of tastes that tomatoes should have.  OK, I’m getting close to actually ranting about that here.  I need to stop and move on.  But I will say this, I’m interested in a tomato that is a bit scarred and is grown near by, and that goes for churches too.

4.  The more time I spend reading Eugene Peterson’s pastoral books, the more I desire to pastor in that way.  As I read his words of encouragement and challenge, I’m understanding that if more pastors would take time to sit with the congregation they have been entrusted to rather than work from the far off distance the church would be a far healthier place.

5.  The transition to Fort Collins has been wonderful.  We feel a great sense of peace about being here, and I think that we feel more “ourselves” here, too.  I’ve been trying to think about why that might be.  I might have a few post that deal with that.

6.  I really do intend to write a bit about the church that we’ve been to a few times.  I’ll have to use code words in case any of the Revolution people are reading.  Ha!

That’s my list (for now).  And now I’m late for work.  Maybe tonight I’ll try to knock one of these out.  Or maybe we’ll watch another few episodes of Bones.

cheers.

I spent an hour in the garden this morning.  It was wonderful.  Yesterday I bought some FoxFarm fertilizer for my veggies and I put it to work this morning.  The whole point of organic gardening is to take care of the soil so that the soil takes care of the plant.  We test the soil for its pH level and add nutrients accordingly.  Also we watch the plants for cues that it might give.  I’ve been trying to learn what I can from the plants and the soil.  I used the FoxFarm stuff on my tomatoes, beans, and peppers.  I’m hoping to find out what I can do to help my cukes, onions, and melons along, too.

Everything seems to be growing along just fine.  I’ve got a cucumber on the vine that’s about 4 inches long.  little green tomatoes budding out.  Yellow squash stretching away from the main plant.  Peppers forming.  Life is good.

There have been a few times when I catch myself in amazement that things are growing as well as they are.  For this to be my first garden, I think I’m doing A OK.  The few people that have been over to see things have been very encouraging.  It’s often hard to recognize the growth when you look at stuff daily.  The growth from day to day seems minimum.

This I know, the more time I spend in that 200 sq. ft. of food, I become more certain that I am pursuing the right thing.  I get excited about the possibilities that schooling will lead to.  I’ve been thinking about ways that I can start to get involved in the community through my love for food.  I’ve thought about talking to the Lab school about creating an after-school garden club/program.  Or maybe talk to a small cooking school about growing some food for them.  I know there are things for me to do, it’s just a matter of finding the right people to get involved with.

peace,
steve

People marching down the street.
Mortars sounding off in the distant.
Explosions flash into the darkness.

But we rest in peace
It’s only friendly fire.

-words for my friend, Gabe