Living Water


Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished…
—Psalms 68:9

It rained—finally. Started last night a bit before midnight. Got about an hour’s worth.  Then a veritable downpour today from 4:30 to 5:15, before returning from 6:30 till 8:00.

One of the ways we live faith-impoverished lives comes from our lack of connection to the land. I get criticized for saying this, but I think the fact that most Christians have no direct connection to the food they eat allows us to skate by on less faith. You go to Kroger, Safeway, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart or wherever and it’s just there, ready to go.

In most places in the world, though, it doesn’t work that way. You eat what you farm. For that reason, farmers need real faith. If God doesn’t open up the skies from time to time, doesn’t halt the locust, doesn’t increase calving, doesn’t bless the land…well, you’re done for.

I’d be lying if I said we grew all our own food. But that’s where we wish to be some day—at least enough to keep us alive. Our orchard can’t compare with some thousand acre tract of Washington State apples, but it’ll do. Some day we’ll get our wine grapes in. Plus, we’re expanding our vegetable and herb gardens. We collect all the black raspberries and blackberries off our property, too. The wife keeps pressing me for chickens. She mentioned cows and that’s when the head started spinning—too much, too much!

I love the black raspberries, but they dessicated on the cane this year. Or they were hard, tasteless nothings. Why? No rain.

Without rain, nothing works. I haven’t mowed my grass in three weeks. Only the plantains grow. The grass goes brown and crunches beneath your feet like rice krispies. The ground cracks and threatens to swallow you à la Koreh. If you’re a real farmer and you survey your wilted fields, the desperation oozes out of your heart, etching lines into your brow.

But the rains came. The clouds disgorged the lifeblood of your land. How can you not be thankful? How can you not drop down on your knees, press your lips to the wet earth and say, “Oh, dear God, thank you! Thank you!”

Some people live in their own parched fields, unseen land, the habitation of the soul. And they are dry to the point of blowing away in a meager wind. You can see the dust devils sucking up their life and hurling it far away. Who will bring life-giving water?

You can.

You see, you, my friend, are a fount of Living Water. What flows out of you can restore the driest desert. rain_green.jpgWhat God asks of His simple clay vessels, each filled with Living Water, is to be poured out. If we’re in touch with the Spirit, we need not fear emptying, for He will fill us. But it is not so for those who don’t know Him. Nor is it always true for all Christians, for many are so very dry because they’ve lost connection and drifted off into desolate places.

What good comes from holding back that living water? None. Only when we pour it out does it restore the parched.

Are we properly stewarding God’s Living Water?

Don’t be afraid to be poured out if you instill life in others. It’s your purpose this side of heaven.

Murder in My Backyard


And to Adam [God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
—Genesis 3:17-19

I turn into a brutal murderer this time of year. Ask the tens of thousands of victims I killed just this week. I’ve got a bucketful of rotting corpses sitting on my patio that I’ll be adding to in just an hour or so.

My preferred method of dispatching my victims? Suffocation. They trash around for a couple minutes and then its lights out—forever. And nothing gives me more pleasure.

Hey, it’s them or me.

You see, it’s Japanese Beetle season here at Edelen Acres.

Being organic fruit farmers ain’t easy. About the only things that kill Japanese Beetles outright are pesticides strong enough to kill a motorcycle gang or the traditional method of dealing with them by hand. So that’s what we do. Lacemaking, the Japanese Beetle wayWe pick many of them by hand and dump them into a jar of soapy water. The soap plugs their breathing holes and that’s that. It’s a lot of work, but weirdly satisfying, too.

We divert many of the beetles by stationing a couple pheromone traps far away from the trees. The first year we used the traps, we had them too close to our trees and they ate the trees anyway. This year I put them in the middle of nowhere on our land and that seems to work far better.

I’m using a natural kaolin clay mixture to coat our cherry trees, the hardest hit of our fruit varieties. The first year we had the trees in, we took a day trip over to the county next to us to visit the Amish general stores, only to get home and find that in one afternoon the beetles had eaten our tender cherry trees leaves down to lace. One day. We tried natural pyrethrin (as opposed to synthetic) powders that summer, but the bugs ate the leaves and then died. Didn’t see the point in applying pesticides, even organic ones, if the beetles eat the leaves and then die. The end result is still a bunch of eaten up leaves and a highly distressed plant. You’ve got to stop the beasts before they eat anything and pesticides are not going to work when you’ve got several hundred Japanese beetles coating your tree. If each one takes a hundred bites before the pesticide does them in, your tree’s done for.

We put up netting last year. However, the trees grew so fast the branches deformed against the netting. Now we’ve got a few trees with branches that look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Plus, netting a big tree is a lesson in futility. Beetles will find the smallest gaps in the netting and they’re in by the droves.

So I’m trying the kaolin clay barrier. It seems to work well. We’ve been under assault by the beetles for about ten days and my cherries have hardly been touched. When it rains, though, it has to be re-applied. Still, it’s natural and washes right off. They use kaolin in makeup. Obviously not a health threat. I suppose you could use it to thicken gravy, but it has a certain yuck factor. 😉 But if the beetles don’t like eating it, that’s fine by me.

Talk to me about that curse in Genesis and I’ll tell you just how much a curse it is. Weeds. pests, drought, even fire. We’ve had a drought going on in this area and the farmers all have that anxious look. Sure, it’s rained, but five minutes of sprinkling followed by a clear blue sky and a hot sun ain’t gonna do it. Downpour. That’s what we need right now. Don’t need more stinking non-native Japanese Beetles or any other non-native beasties. Ask me about the non-native, invasive weeds we get around here, too.

God had a plan and we threw a huge wrench in it didn’t we? We had our own ideas, but consider the outcome.

That kind of arrogance lives on. You can see it in farming. Pesticides coat our food and pool in the fat stores in our bodies. They linger for decades in the soil. They run off into our water supplies and poison the fauna. Haven’t seen a frog or salamander lately? They’re the canaries in the coal mine, folks. Our man-made pesticides killed them off. And now the true pests are resistant to what we spray. We thought we had an answer but it’s not a very good one.

Scientists splice jellyfish genes into corn and then tell us nothing’s wrong with that. Then those jellyfish genes wind up moving into the genetic structure of other grasses surrounding our corn fields. We solve one problem to create another, another that may well be far worse than the original.

God’s given us natural ways to combat problems. We just need to trust them.

It’s like that in every aspects of our lives, isn’t it? Sometimes the old, simple ways are the best ways. But we don’t trust them. Science tells us otherwise and we get paranoid that we won’t keep up with the times. Well, the times they might well be a-changin’, but the wise man doesn’t give up wisdom to suit the age. Remember, Adam listened to the wrong voice in a certain situation and look where it got us.

Our churches launch some guaranteed program backed by the slickest marketing and the best sound bites from the hottest church leaders and we hope and hope. A couple years later, that program stands forgotten. Sure, it was billed as the pesticide for whatever plagued us, but it wasn’t God’s way, was it? No fruit.

It’s all about the fruit. If all our work produces no fruit, then we’re just being wasteful. Sadly, that’s what a lot of churches are doing, just wasting time, money, resources, and people’s patience.

I think our problems with patience underlie the greater issue here. Yes, people get upset when the newfangled program bears no fruit, but it was sterile from the get-go. What people need is patience for the simple ways that work, the real discipleships that spans decades, not months. You try too hard to rush the fruit and you wind up with tasteless fruit. Think your typical grocery store here. Sure, you bought a package of mass-produced, industrial-strength strawberries. But they taste more like straw than berries.

We may be doing the same with our disciplemaking process. Better to go local, go organic, be patient with the old ways that served us for eons—even when it comes to making disciples.

God knows we have enough spiritual pests out there, but we can’t poison our young “plants” in our attempts to kill the weeds or wipe out the bugs.

Unshackling the American Church: Treasuring the Creator’s Handiwork


Forest brookIt took me a minute to figure out the plastic emblem on the car I saw this afternoon. Where one would normally see an “ICHTHUS” or “DARWIN” sat an iconic piece of vehicular propaganda altogether different. Emblazoned with an “FSM” in its center, it looked vaguely crab-like. And then it hit me: Flying Spaghetti Monster .

If you’re not familiar with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s the creation of anti-Intelligent-Design folks who say that the Designer advocated by ID supporters could just as well be a Flying Spaghetti Monster and not the God of the Bible.  While some of us may bristle at the notion that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world we now live in, that particular form of idolatry isn’t far from what many ardent Christians believe—if their reaction to the created world is any indication.

I worked in Christian Camping ministry for a number of years in various roles. My first job was as a counselor. I’ll never forget that first cabin of sixth-grade boys from the Cleveland area. They embarrassed a girl I was crazy about who also worked there, but I shrugged that one off. But when they removed a bird’s nest (cardinals, if I remember correctly) from my cabin’s porch rafters and smashed the newborn birds underfoot, “livid” could not describe my emotional state. As an avid birder with a long life list and several years of teaching outdoor education to children, I revealed the full wrath of Dan and scared those boys so much that afterwards they pretty much flinched whenever I looked at ’em the wrong way.

Boys who nonchalantly kill birds God gave us to enjoy in plumage and song grow into men who cavalierly bulldoze the prairies to put in another WalMart. (“Because we all have to have more cheap stuff.”) Sadly for us, those boys of summers long past may have grown to become the pillars of our churches today. What else explains the rampant disregard so many Christians have for the world God created ?

It’s beyond my ken, frankly. I don’t understand why I’ve chalked up at least a dozen instances in the last three years of occupants of  Jesus-bumper-stickered cars plastered with every form of Christomemorabilia tossing garbage out their windows on the highway near my home. I don’t get how an Evangelical politician whose plank is “God, Guns, and Good Government” can be touting care of the natural world one day and advocating strip mining the next.

No matter how you slice that kind of throwaway mentality, it comes down to one thing: self-centeredness.

The narcissist who tosses his full load of McDonald’s leftovers out his car window thinks nothing of others. And it’s not just the ignored people whose properties become the final resting place of his trash. It’s the God he supposedly serves, too. The first command of God to man is to steward the Creation. Depositing trash all over that Creation spits in the face of the Creator by questioning God’s calling of that Creation “good.” Choosing to despoil Creation says, “God may have called it ‘good,’ but since when is He the arbiter of what is good? Aren’t I the master of my surroundings?”

The litterbug is an easy target, though.

The person who believes that the natural world exists only to satisfy our cravings, on the other hand, is a more subtle monster. I see him all the time in church settings. He’ll fully acknowledge that God is the Creator but then turns God into a figurative Flying Spaghetti Monster by insisting that the created has no purpose other than its economic value to us. In other words, the value of God’s created world is found not in any intrinsic value God bestowed upon it, but only what it can give us monetarily.

The value of the meadow lies only in the oil underneath it. The value of the walnut tree is only in its expensive wood. A chicken’s value is only in the eating. A dog’s value is only in protecting the household valuables. A great horned owl’s value is…well, does it have any monetary value? What does owl taste like? (For a satirical look at the end result of this kind of thinking, consider this classic.)

When we consider only what something can do for us, ignoring any other value that God might give it, that’s called utilitarianism. The meaning for a Christian is “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The meaning for a utilitarian is “The ends justifies the means.” Look how often Christians, particularly those in positions of authority, function out of utilitarian thinking and not a godly worldview that sees meaning at a deeper level. The inherently self-centered worldview of utilitarianism is at extreme odds with a truly Christian worldview that believes that created things have worth beyond their economic value because God invested them with worth and meaning.

The end result of utilitarianism is euthanasia of the unnecessary elderly, the aborting of useless unborn children, the wholesale pillaging of natural resources just because they’re there, and a coarsening of all societal constructs and culture that do not provide immediate, personal gratification.

Does anyone else find it strange that Christians protest euthanasia, abortion, and the coarsening of our nation, but bring up caring for the natural world and it’s “Hey, is that going take money out of my wallet?”

Think about the following verse in light of our stripping of the natural world of any value except the monetary:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
—1 Timothy 6:10a ESV

By nature utilitarians are consumers, not producers. We Christians decry utilitarianism, but the fact that so many of us are sitting in church asking “What’s in it for us?” exposes the utilitarian underbelly in modern Christianity, especially in churches that identify with man-centered, “Gospel-lite” Church Growth Movement principles.

Oddly enough, though, many of the strong opponents of the Church Growth Movement are ridiculously utilitarian when it comes to Creation. They may quote truckloads of Scriptures that include references to the created, but they too take a utilitarian approach by opposing anyone who questions whether we should conserve the natural or not. To even think about environmental issues is to take too much time away from spreading the Gospel. This kind of foolish one-dimensional thinking leads those folks into maddening inconsistencies, though. They certainly find time to take a shower several times a week, but to give two seconds to choose recycling over tossing something in the garbage can is too much to ask—as if it’s somehow okay to be clean on the outside while the world around us becomes a dump.

You’ll also find that same blasé attitude in Christians who say it’s all going to burn in the end, so let’s roast ivory-billed woodpeckers over campfires made from old-growth forests. Again, we see a utilitarian approach that finds no inherent meaning in anything God made.

Earlier in this series, I noted that Satan opposes God by seeking to destroy meaning. If the typical Christian’s belief on Creation care is any indication, he’s done a superior job.

Yet what do the wise say about Creation?

Solomon, who petitioned God for wisdom and had it granted, says this:

My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi. Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful. Our couch is green; the beams of our house are cedar; our rafters are pine.
—Song of Solomon 1:13-17 ESV

Song of Solomon is replete with images from the bounty of nature. Read it sometime. (And not just for the erotic parts.)

The wise king continues:

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
—Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV

Consider anything from an ant? The only thing good about ants is the fun one gets from frying them with a magnifying glass, right?

If not Solomon, then how about Agur:

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. Three things are stately in their tread; four are stately in their stride: the lion, which is mightiest among beasts and does not turn back before any; the strutting rooster, the he-goat, and a king whose army is with him.
—Proverbs 30:24-31 ESV

No, there’s no inherent value in that lizard. Ever eat a lizard? Tastes like chicken way past its expiration date.

Or David:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
—Psalms 8:1-9 ESV

Certainly, Dan, you’re not implying that there’s a revelation in Creation that speaks to the majesty of God, or to Man’s place in the universe! Stars just twinkle; they can’t enhance our 401k. And we went to moon! Nothing but rocks there.

And what of the parables of the Lord Himself, who spoke of the mustard seed, the pearl of great price, the sower who sowed the good seed, the lilies of the field who are clothed in God’s raiment, or the wheat and tares? What of God’s final discourse with Job, wherein He silences the most righteous man on the planet by regaling him with the natural wonders He created?

We do God a disservice by refusing to wonder in light of all He’s put around us. We castigate those out of Romans 1 who ignore God’s revelation of Himself by what He’s made, yet we eagerly join those same fools by carelessly stripping the Creation of wonder and mystery. A supposed Christian who—without wondering— can pass by a downy woodpecker hunting for insects in a dead tree is the same person who can later pass by his fellow man and not care one wit about him. In the soul of that passerby, a deadness dwells, a necrotic region God never intended His people to possess.

As for me, I never desire to see anything dead in the hearts of people who call themselves Christians. It’s time we become people in tune with God’s view of meaning by delighting in and treasuring the good world He gave us. Otherwise, we are no better than those who believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster or a Darwinian universe ultimately bereft of all meaning.


Previous posts on this topic:

Warring Evangelicals Make Iron Eyes Cody Cry

Out in the Country

Creation in the Heart of the Christian

It’s Not Easy Being Green


Other posts in the “Unshackling the American Church” series: