Saturday, August 25, 2012

Forgotten Post: Tsunami Reflection

Yes, agony to see others, esp. children, suffering in such a disaster.

But think for a moment that God HAS taken the children who have died from their homes, and taken them to a safer place with Him. How can He call us to Him, except through death? If we had enough faith, we would understand that death is a good thing, and not rail against any "unfairness" of it. Yet, we should still lament our lost loved ones, while waiting and suffering here in life until our turn to join them in peace and freedom from suffering.

Of those left to suffer through this terrible can we think that today is the end of God's working in their lives? It is a beginning, or a milestone. It is for some a day that their eyes are opened to the existence of God because they survived when others did not...or their eyes are opened to the existence of God because their only solace is to think that a dearly beloved one is now safe in the care and comfort of God. God will lead each one, comfort each one, strengthen each one-- if they let Him--and even if they don't, He will find a way.

Things like the tsunami, tornadoes, fires, etc., are sometimes the only way He can get our attention and remind us that it is not the THINGS in our lives that are important, but our relationships with Him and with others. When we have too many material possessions, we begin to think that WE are the source of our sufficiency, not Him.

This I speak not from a life of having been raised with a belief in God, nor of having been taught by other people much. I speak as one whose life was turned upside down by God working directly through His people to destroy my old life and lead me to a new one. It is a slow, painful process but I am very grateful for the pain and suffering, for they are the source of a faith and security that is unshakeable by the whims of the world, either the human world or the natural world.

So my prayer is that all may be comforted in their affliction, and know that the ultimate source of their comfort is a loving God who can use even the most horrible circumstances to bring us to Him, so He can better teach and sustain us.

Gift Exchange

We have been working hard at cleaning the brown barn. When its stewardship passed to the farm from the man who built and used it many years ago, it was packed floor to ceiling, back to front, with decades of accumulated stuff--the good, the used-to-be-good, and the ugly, as well as stuff that was simply beyond categorization.

Bob took what he wanted, and I gave him permission to leave anything he didn't want.  I didn't figure he'd leave the Model T (or whatever it was), but I do enjoy poking through old junk, and figured I might find something fun. With the amount of stuff he had to deal with, it seemed kindest to not insist on an Absolutely Empty Barn.

The "stuff beyond categorization" fraction has contributed to the lengthy time it has taken to really claim the Brown Barn as our own and incorporate it into the full life of the farm. Periodically we'd sort through some more, but then the pile of "boards that might be useful someday" kept getting out of control. Interesting/non-categorizable items get shifted from one corner to another, becoming slightly more dilapidated with each move.

One such item was the bowling pins. Ten of them, regulation size, heavy,  yellowed, with the plastic coating cracking off in big flakes. Their box disintegrated, and they spilled on the gravel floor. They were always in the way, but too amusing to simply dump in the trash can. Yet I couldn't think of anything to do with them.

Finally, I had a brainstorm the other day. They are exactly the right size to sit nice and stable in the hollow tops of the vinyl fence posts of the Brown House's picket fence. I've been landscaping the front yard off and on this season, and putting in place a number of quirky ornamental items I've collected over the years, and the bowling pins would fit perfectly into the evolving theme.

So, up went the bowling pins the other day, and the Brown Barn is one step cleaner.


This evening--a Saturday--we finished up the night's work on the barn (building a lumber rack for the "might be useful someday" category) and dragged ourselves up to the Brown House for a celebratory slice of pie. B. stepped into the house a bit ahead of me.

As I started to close the door behind me, I heard a rough shout. Without stopping to think, I wheeled around and popped my head back out the door.

"Hey, BABY!" someone slurred the words nearby, hidden to my eyes freshly blinded by the kitchen light.

Not necessarily the recommended response to a drunken stranger on a dark and lonely street, but the one that came to me in the moment (simultaneous with gratefully remembering that B. was now sitting at the kitchen table) was a curious and friendly "What?" Not sure where this was going, and it might not be good. But I stepped out onto the porch anyhow, trying to at least see where the voice was coming from.

"Hey, I really like those bowling pins." Definitely slurred, stumbling over the words.

"Me, too" I replied, simply. I could make out the man now, 30 feet away on the street, silhouetted against the streetlight puddle on the otherwise dark street. Neither voice, nor silhouette, nor manner gave me any clue that I might know him.

He paused in his walking and weaved a little. "I really like 'em. Make me smile. I used to love to bowl. It just made me so happy when I saw them up there, reminded me of when I bowled..."

I smiled and said, "That's exactly why I put them there, to make someone smile."

"Well, they made me smile." He clumsily resumed his slow wavering pace. "God bless you, Sister."

And off he went into the night, anonymous.


"God bless you, Sister." A very long way from his initial salutation of "Hey, BABY!" A remarkable transformation, in fact. Why?

I have learned through the years, through many disquieting circumstances, that often a simple and fearless attitude of friendliness somehow wards off unwanted interest from drunken men. Focusing their attention to something other than me, that they enjoy or relate to somehow, in a positive way, can defuse a potentially threatening situation. And likely my attitude of open neighborliness would have guaranteed an amicable end to the conversation, no matter what.

But the vast distance between the greeting and his final benediction hints at more. I think this was another in a long series of spiritual "gift" experiences that I've received from wearing the prayer covering.

There is something about the covering that seems to affect most powerfully those of a rougher nature when they are in that discomforting condition of vulnerability and threat. They know better, but the bottle has deadened their caring to do better, and loosened their inhibitions. But somehow, simply seeing me in the covering, and being treated respectfully as a neighbor, they come to their senses just a little, just enough to recognize that they DO know better, and to choose to act on that knowledge, no matter how poorly they started the exchange.

I have given him the gift of bowling pin memories, a reason to smile and remember smiles. And he has given me the gift of humbly knowing that a little, insignificant thing I did, just as a whimsy, brought joy to someone who might not have much of it. Not just a little joy, either. Enough joy for him to earnestly shout out "Hey BABY" to a stranger in the dark, to share that joy right back at me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why Not Sell and Go?

I'm going through and finishing off some half-finished blog entries from the past couple years. This was written in 2010.

This essay belongs to both blogs, The Rainbow Covering and Reports from the Farm. My life belongs to both worlds, the natural world of the farm, and the spiritual world of my Christian journey. But wait--the farm is God's creation; that's spiritual...and my Christian journey is so deeply fed and supported by the practical day-in, day-out work of the farm. The "two" worlds are inseparable.

Today, for the umpteenth time, someone suggested "the solution" to "my problem".

"The problem", as usual, being that I am a) very land-poor at the moment and b) even more time-poor...a) in spite of and b) because of the fact that I am farming as well as working a full-time job off-farm, which is obviously too much for one person.

"The solution" usually begins with the person asking, "Look, I know it's none of my business, but how much equity do you have in this place? You're never going to win this [insert current regulatory/local politics struggle]; why don't you just sell the whole thing and buy a place in [insert name of more rural county that doesn't have such restrictive zoning regulations], and then you can live a nice, sane, peaceful life for a change?"

I really do try to keep an open mind. When folks make this suggestion, I don't necessarily try to rationalize my decision to stay and keep struggling to them (after all, it's my decision and my life; if they don't "get it" now they probably never will). But I do try to honestly, once again, put all the issues, assets, and liabilities on the table and give them a good looking-over.

Today it was one of my Old German Baptist acquaintances that suggested this, and for some reason that gave me some new insights.

He had offered to drop by and share his construction wisdom on the proposed remodeling project at 501 North St., the farm's "little brown house". We spent the better part of an hour going over the plans and fleshing out some of the details, but I could tell he was thinking grave thoughts about the whole thing.

"Why not just keep the big house, and sell this? Or better yet, sell the whole thing and move to Franklin County." My first response was to tell him what really special soil we have here...I often quip "I'd move to ____, but I just can't figure out how to take my soil and groundwater with me." Then I told him about my rock-solid understanding that God put me here to serve him in a way like Noah--building the farm as an ark for a multitude of species, safe from the pesticide-poisoned world out there.

The mention of Franklin county brought an odd sense of dissonance as I pondered his words. Mostly folks recommend I sell out and move to Leavenworth County, just north of the farm. Then I realized: he was suggesting his community, not mine. Many of the Old German Baptists live in Franklin County, south of Douglas county.

And that lead me to reflect on an increasingly real consideration for sticking it out and staying here: Here is where my people are.

Here is where my people are. And that is my greatest treasure.