Friday, January 30, 2009

Tired of Stimulus Packages? Here's a Different Approach.

I have long been fascinated by the ideals, thoughts, novels and poetry of Wendell Berry. He is, as some have termed him, an agricultural prophet, connecting environmentalism and economics with revolutionary insight. He is idealistic, for sure, and yet his ideas are surprisingly sound - just challengingly uncomfortable. In a time where it could be argued that America has maxed out all of its credit cards and is applying for a new line of credit so that it can support life as we know it, Berry seemingly asks, "Why support life as we know it?" Maybe that is the problem. Maybe we are realizing that life as we know it is unsustainable. Berry proposes a progression from globalization to community-centric living: to community economics, to community trade, to community agriculture. The following interview with Wendell Berry is from the Autumn 1993 issue of Orion. In times of hardship, I tend to find most meaningful that which was not concocted during moments of desperation, but that which was formed with the tools of thoughtful reflection and scholarship over the course of a lifetime. Enjoy economics and environmentalism, minus Washington D.C, stimulus packages and summits on global warming; this is a long post, but it gives a lot of food for thought and is, I think, worth the read. The full interview is here. - Sarah

Fisher-Smith: What, in your opinion, are the most dangerous superstitions, as you refer to them, of modern industrial culture?

Berry: That industry will inevitably come up with solutions for the problems that it has created; that knowledge is neutral or value-free; that education is good; that education makes people better; that you can make people better by means of technological progress. Those are some of them.

Fisher-Smith: The superstition that knowledge is neutral reminds me of a discussion you and I had last month, about the Luddites in early nineteenth-century England, who broke up machines and burned factories when faced with new weaving machines which, they felt, would disrupt their way of life. I notice that the term "Luddite" has a kind of sting in popular usage...

Berry: Luddism has been far too simply defined. It doesn't mean just the hatred of machinery. Luddism has to do with a choice between the human community and technological innovation, and a Luddite is somebody who would not permit his or her community to be damaged or destroyed by the use of new machinery. The Amish, for instance, have succeeded simply by asking one question of any proposed innovation, namely: "What will this do to our community?"

That, to me, is an extremely wise question, and most of us have never learned to ask it. If we wanted to be truly progressive, if we were truly committed to improving ourselves as creatures and as members of communities, we would always ask it. I think some of us are beginning to ask it. The question isn't often spoken outright, but it lies behind a lot of these grassroots movements to save forests and rivers and neighborhoods and communities, and so on.

Fisher-Smith: Much of this environmental action seems to focus on legal remedies: lawmaking if there's time, or lawsuits if there's not. In the long run, the aggregate of our attempts to control the effects of economic activity on culture and on nature seems to result in a body of regulations and an expensive bureaucracy to manage them. Is there an alternative way of controlling what is done for profit?

Berry: The alternative is revival of the idea of community.

I don't think you ought ever to give up on the law, and on the public effort to improve law and to improve the effectiveness of it--to try to see that the government acts truly and effectively in the interest of the people. But that kind of effort obviously isn't enough.

The real way for these bad innovations to be prevented is for the communities to refuse them, and that's happening to some extent. Communities do refuse bad innovations. There's a lot of scorn now toward people who say, "Not in my backyard," but the "not-in-my-backyard" sentiment is one of the most valuable that we have. If enough people said, "Not in my backyard," these bad innovations wouldn't be in anybody's backyard. It's your own backyard you're required to protect. Of course, it's better if you defend your own backyard with the understanding that in doing so, you're defending everybody's backyard. Or with the understanding that you may need help in defending your backyard, or that you may need to help others defend theirs. But the "not-in-my-backyard" sentiment is an altogether healthy and salutary and useful one, and I'm for it.

However, a community has to understand that if it refuses the public proposal, then it has to come up with something better. And if the government or a corporation comes in and says, "We want you to have this obnoxious installation because it will employ your people; it will bring jobs," then the community has to have an answer to the question: "Where are we going to find jobs?" Sometimes it won't be an easy question. Sometimes it will be a devastating question, but the community nevertheless has to begin to look to itself. It has to look to itself for the answers, not to the government--and not to these corporations that come in posing as saviors of the local community, because they don't come in to save the local community.

So the communities have to begin to ask what they need that can be produced locally, by local people and from the local landscape, and how it can be produced in a way that doesn't damage the local landscape or the local community. And by local community, obviously, you can't mean just the people. You mean the people and the natural communities that are supposed to exist there--the trees, the grasses, the animals, the birds, and so on. Everything has to be included and considered.

Fisher-Smith: But I notice that there is not much of a constituency for coyotes in this part of Kentucky, especially around your sheep. The restoration of populations of wolves is not a popular idea in the cattle country of the Northern Rockies, and I've seen sea lions and otters dead from gunshot wounds along the Pacific coast fishing grounds, all the way from California to Alaska. How do you address this apparent failing, in practice, of the stewardship ethic you are proposing? Such an ethic seems to favor those things for which you have, what you call, "affection."

Berry: Well, we obviously have to enlarge affection so that it includes more than those things that are most congenial or profitable. Stewardship means simply the care of something that doesn't belong to you. Originally, it meant the care of property belonging to God. The most suggestive and comprehensive understanding of the world is that it's God's property, but of course we could understand it also as belonging to our children and their children and their children. Beyond that, we have to understand that human interest can't be the definitive interest. If we're not going to be religious about the world, we have to see that it is a property belonging to itself--a stranger and riskier proposition, it seems to me, than the theological one.

If the coyotes are getting your sheep, as experience has shown, a very impractical approach is to say, "Well, we'll just kill all the coyotes," because you're not going to kill them all. They seem to be a species that thrives on human malevolence.

A better question is how can you raise sheep in spite of the coyotes, and there are ways of doing that. Here we use donkeys and a guard dog, some electric fence, and we're saving our sheep. All kinds of questions are involved in any of these issues, but the important thing to me is to define the issue with a due regard for its real complexities.

The inherited approach to this kind of problem in America is that if you're in the sheep business and coyotes eat sheep, then you must kill coyotes. But that isn't corrected by adopting the opposite one. The opposite approach espoused by some environmentalists is that if you like coyotes and there's a conflict between coyotes and sheep, you ought to kill the sheep. The necessary, and the most interesting, question is how these two things can exist together. It may be that in some places this effort ought to be given up. I thought when the coyotes came in here that this might be one of those places.

Fisher-Smith: Thus this question of "What is possible here?"

Berry: Right. What's the nature of the place? The proper approach to any kind of land use begins with that question. What is the nature of this place? And then: What will nature permit me to do here? There was a lively interest in such questions in the poetic tradition from Virgil to Pope, and it undoubtedly goes back well beyond Virgil. That way of thinking continues in the work of some modern agriculturalists--Albert Howard and Wes Jackson, among others--whose approach is to ask what the nature of the place is, what nature would be doing here if left alone. What will nature permit me to do here without damage to herself or to me? What will nature help me to do here? And those latter questions imply another one: How can I make my work harmonize with the nature of the place? Wes Jackson and Albert Howard would argue that the farming in a place ought to be an analogue of the forest, or the prairie, or whatever naturally occupied the place before farming began.

Fisher-Smith: I want to question you a little more about this idea of identifying with and defending the specific region where one lives, as opposed to a "global" sort of environmentalism. It seems there are at least two more problems with this.

First, what about areas that are not really any particular group's domain? And second, what are we to do if we see someone else failing in their responsibility? It seems to me that if we are to take regionalism or bioregionalism seriously, we must respect other people's sovereignty. Yet if the Koreans, for example, are mining sea life with huge drift nets against international accords, or people in Southeast Alaska are removing the rain forest there at an unsustainable rate, shouldn't people in Kentucky do something about it? Do others have a greater right to destroy what is in their charge than we have to defend it?

Berry: Nobody has a right to destroy anything, and everybody has an obligation to defend as much as he or she possibly can. But sooner or later you'll have to chose. You can't defend everything, even though everybody has an obligation to be as aware as possible, and as effective as possible, in preserving the things that need to be preserved everywhere. But I've argued over and over again that the fullest responsibility has to be exercised at home, where you have some chance to come to a competent and just understanding of what's involved, and where you have some chance of being really effective.

Let's understand that a little more carefully. Another superstition of the modern era is that if you don't have it here, you can safely get it from somewhere else. A corollary superstition is that it's permissible to ruin one place for the benefit of another. So you can wreck Eastern Kentucky in order to supply coal to the industrial cities of the Northeast, or you can contaminate a nuclear waste site in order to supply power to some other place.

Those two superstitions lie behind this willingness of any community to destroy the basis of its economic life. Any fishing community that fishes destructively is undermining its own existence, obviously. But it's doing that because of these superstitions I'm talking about: "Well, if we use this up, we'll do something else. If we ruin this place, we'll go to another place."

Fisher-Smith: But that superstition you are talking about goes so far back that all of our enterprises seem to be built upon it. Take, for example, the rich tradition of pastoral writing that your work follows. The construction of the Library at Alexandria in third century B.C. Egypt, and the pastoral poetry of Theocritus, were made possible by ruinous taxation of the production of the agricultural people that pastoral writing celebrates. How do you expect to root out something so ancient and fundamental to Western culture as this superstition you are talking about?

Berry: Yes, Rome destroyed itself by undervaluing the country people, too. I guess we should leave open the possibility that we'll be too stupid to change. Other civilizations have been. But at least it's more obvious now that this superstition is a superstition, because now there's no place else to go. The "other places" are gone. If we use up the possibility of life here, there's no other place to go, and so the old notion is bankrupt, though it still underlies most destructive practice.

"Space," I guess, is the new "other place"--a place for a few privileged people to get government subsidies, take souvenir photographs, and have expensive mystical experiences. But it's important to see that all these "other places" have been bad for us. They have been the poor excuses that have allowed us to ignore the limits of nature and our own intelligence, and so avoid our responsibilities. One of the oldest American assumptions is that if you don't like where you are you can move: if you don't like Virginia, go to Kentucky; if you don't like Kentucky, go to Missouri; if you don't like Missouri, go to Texas or Oregon or California. And that assumption has done damage everywhere it has gone.

But what if people gave up that idea or began to move away from it, and began to ask, "What can we do here?" and "What that we need can we produce here?" and "What that we need can we do for each other here?" In the first place, there would be less incentive for those people to over-fish their fisheries because we'd be promoting local consumption of local food right here. I mean it's not just enough to find out which tuna fisheries are killing the dolphins. If you really want to get radical, the question is what have we got here that we can eat instead of tuna fish?

Fisher-Smith: To, as you say, shorten the lines of supply?

Berry: That's right. Shorten the supply lines. Bring your economic geography back into your own view. That's not to say that we don't need tuna fish here, but even if we were catching ocean fish in the least destructive way, it would still be wrong for us to be too dependent on tuna in Kentucky. We ought to eat more catfish.

We ought to see to it that our rivers are unpolluted here, and eat the local fish from them. And we ought to fish in a way that preserves the supply and, therefore, preserves the livelihood of fishing. What I'm trying to talk against is the idea that a so-called environmental problem can ever be satisfactorily reduced to a simple moral choice. It's always complex in its causes, and so its solutions will also have to be complex.

Fisher-Smith: It seems to me that you've turned these words "complex" and "simple" upside down, in terms of their usual positive or negative values. You've said you wish to complicate, not to simplify, every aspect of daily life.

Berry: Absolutely! Simplicity means that you have brought things to a kind of unity in yourself; you have made certain connections. That is, you have to make a just response to the real complexity of life in this world. People have tried to simplify themselves by severing the connections. That doesn't work. Severing connections makes complication. These bogus attempts at simplification ignore or despise the real complexity of the world. And ignoring complexity makes complication--in other words, a mess.

Fisher-Smith: But that complication is considered to be outside the accounting?

Berry: It's left out of the accounting. That's right. People think either that they'll die before the bill comes due or that somebody else will pay for it. But the world is complex, and if we are to make fit responses to the world, then our thinking--not our equipment, but our thoughts--will have to become complex also. Our thoughts can never become as complex as the world is--but, you see, an uncanny thing is possible. It's possible to use the world well without understanding it in all of its complexity. People have done it. They've done it not by complicated technology, but by competent local adaptation, complex thought, sympathy, affection, local loyalties and fidelities, and so on.

Fisher-Smith: I don't expect to see those words you use, "sympathy, affection, loyalty, and fidelity," appearing this week in a business or scientific journal. Our Western cultural inherence seems to have been bifurcated between the time of the scientific revolution in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the time of romanticism in the early nineteenth century, into one side which is the manipulative and the effective, science and industry; and another side which is the feeling and affective, art, spirituality, and the emotions. How does this play out in the current trouble that we're in with nature?

Berry: It plays out in the construction of tools that can't be used sensitively. People try to conduct their lives, say, as whole human beings, and yet do their work in ways that are unfeeling and violent. And that won't work.

How can technology be sensitively and intelligently applied? How can it be used with the utmost intelligence and sensitivity? You can make your equipment so powerful and so big that it, itself, institutionalizes the impossibility of using it sensitively and intelligently.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fireproof DVD

I was a little surprised by just how much I enjoyed Sherwood Baptist's Church's Fireproof. The script, I thought, was so well woven with humor (which the volunteer cast successfully pulled off) and with powerful insight. The life-long commitment to marital vows was certainly a powerful backdrop for the story, but overall I think that I was most impressed by the way that the film integrated the power of God to change lives. - Sarah

Father, John: Has she thanked you for anything you've done the last 20 days?

Son, Caleb: No! And you'd think after I washed the car, I've changed the oil, do the dishes, cleaned the house, that she would try to show me a little bit of gratitude. But she doesn't! In fact, when I come home, she makes me like I'm - like I'm an enemy! I'm not even welcome in my own home, Dad. That is what really ticks me off! Dad, for the last three weeks, I have bent over backwards for her. I have tried to demonstrate that I still care about this relationship. I bought her flowers, which she threw away. I have taken her insults and her sarcasm, but last night was it. I made dinner for her. I did everything I could to demonstrate that I care about her, to show value for her, and she spat in my face! She does not deserve this, Dad. I'm not doing it anymore! How am I supposed to show love to somebody over and over and over who constantly rejects me?

Father, John (While gazing at the cross.): That's a good question.

Son, Caleb: Dad, that is not what I'm doing.

Father, John: Isn't It?

Son, Caleb: No, Dad, this is not what this is about.

Father, John: Son, you just asked me, "How can someone show love over and over again, when they are constantly rejected?" Caleb, the answer is, "You can't love her because you can't give her what you don't have."...Son, God loves you even though you don't deserve it. Even though you've rejected Him. Spat in His face. God sent Jesus to die on the cross to take the punishment for your sin because He loves you. The cross was offensive to me until I came to it. But when I did Jesus Christ changed my life.

Let Them Eat Dirt - NYT

The New York Times carried a personal health article on Monday, promoting the idea that children are most healthy when they are allowed to play in dirt and subsequently eat dinner without washing their hands. It sounds like Farm Living 101, and is definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Have No Plan

Maybe it's my linear logical side, or maybe it's just human nature, but I love to have a plan. I love to know exactly what my goal is and I love working toward that goal with hopes of one day seeing a dream come to pass.

But there are times of life that come where my ability to wield influence over the events of my future are greatly diminished. And as news reports forecast more and more job losses, I find myself ever cognizant of the reality that the future is not really mine to plan.

It never really was mine in the first place. But sometimes that sure truth is more apparent to me than other times.

I hope, I have faith, I work and I pray. But, I don't control tomorrow.

I don't know, with Belshazzar, when the handwriting on the wall will appear, "Mene mene." I don't know, like the rich fool, when God will say, "Tonight your very life will be demanded of you."

God speaks, and He is not silent, but sometimes His words come with just enough light to walk the path called today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Introducing...Speedumpling and Speedarling

Rebecca has successfully found two new names beginning with "Speed" (her specialized line of cow naming) for her two new calves!

Monday, January 26, 2009

If He Lays Me Aside

The end of a marking quarter is always a ferociously busy time for me. My whole life becomes consumed with grading and number crunching, my working hours increase exponentially, and I always struggle to find energy for anything besides work. It is common for me to feel discouraged because I feel as though I am "layed aside" from any important task. When I read this last night, it was just what I needed. In those times when our energy resources are consumed, He is saying, as it were, "Be satisfied with Myself, be content to know I love thee." - Sarah

If He uses me, it is a great honor. If He lays me aside because self was elated, it is a great mercy. He is saying, as it were, "Be satisfied with Myself, be content to know I love thee."

Are you content with His love? The secret of all service is the due appreciation of the Master's grace.

- John Darby

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Marching for the Preborn

This past Thursday, Nate (center) with buddies from Princeton and Yale convened in Washington D.C. for the 36th annual March for Life. Nate says, "I didn't realize how much these banners could be interpreted as marketing slogans to attract potential students."

Many other members of the Angell family, along with representatives of the Naglieri and Blue families also journeyed to Washington D.C. (along with hundreds of thousands of others from across the country) to pray for an end to the violence against the 3000 preborn girls and boys who die daily in the United States as a result of abortion.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter's Sunshine

Nate came home from Princeton for a brief visit. He brought his friend, Luke, from England with him. We stayed entertained with fun on our iceskates. Even though there is quite deep snow on the ground, the boys plowed a lot of snow off of the pond with the Gravely. Enjoy, too, some pictures of the farm and the Catskills (as viewed from Bentley).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Violence and Discord at the Heart of the Most Intimate of Human Relationships

May we pray today (as always), on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, that the seed of violence and selfishness that has disrupted the magnificence and perfection and fulfillment of eros, be purged, foremost, from our hearts. May we hold sexual intimacy in holy awe and esteem the fruit of its union as our most valuable treasure, not as a commodity with which we have the right to dispose. May we pray for the women and men who are scared and confused for the life that they have created, that they may receive comfort, counsel and support, to raise their child to know the presence of love.
- Sarah

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men.

It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts -- a child -- as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.

And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.

Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.

Mother Theresa -- "Notable and Quotable," Wall Street Journal, 2/25/94, p. A14

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Emily and I watched United Artists' Valkyrie last night. The drama and suspense of the failed July 20, 1944 assassination plot against Hitler, along with the deep questions of conscience, bravery, sacrifice and resolve that such a story entails, have certainly given this film a lengthy lingering period in my mind.

I was particularly fascinated by several aspects of this story:

(1) I was stunned to learn that Hitler survived fifteen German assassination attempts.

(2) It was striking to hear Hitler proclaim, in the radio address after the July 20 Plot had been unsuccessful in its mission, "I remain unharmed. Providence is certainly with me." What a strange idea (for us) to think that God was in favor of Hitler's actions. Hitler, though, seemed convinced. How could Hitler think God honored his actions? Yet, how often do we mistake our own temporary prosperity as an indication of God's favor?

(3) Though Valkyrie doesn't make this point, I was interested to learn that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was ultimately executed for his connection with the same group of high-ranking military officials that executed, unsuccessfully, the July 20th assassination attempt.

(4) Although not necessarily true to history, I was fascinated by the scene where Colonel von Stauffenberg moves the Reserve Army to Berlin and begins to arrest all of the SS officers to prepare for the new regime. It seemed as though many government officials didn't really even care what side they were on, and for the moments while it seemed that Hitler was dead, it was quite revealing of human nature to see this portrayal of a mindless change of allegiance. Mostly it seemed like the majority of people just would give obeisance to anyone, so long as they could keep their head in return. This scene requires sober personal contemplation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Basting a Quilt

Basting (the process of tacking all three layers of a quilt together) is hard work! Especially when your basting gun breaks and you spend two hours fixing it to no avail, only to replace it, to find that the new one breaks again...but, finally, success!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Scenes of Winter at Bentley

From a Spark to an Unquenchable Flame

[I was shown that] faith will never die on earth. Many people carry it within them - some with ardor, others with a trembling respect, others again just carry a spark - and it is essential for them that a good priest help them as a pastor to turn this spark into an unquenchable flame of faith. The Lord showed me that the people who carry the faith, and especially the shepherds of human souls, must help fight for each person to the end of their own strength, until their last breath. The basis of the fight for a soul is love, kindness and helping your neighbor, help given not for one's own sake, but for the sake of one's brother. People judge faith, and judge even Jesus Christ Himself based on the behavior of others.

- Excerpt from Father Arseny, the true-to-life story of a priest who was imprisoned in a Siberian Soviet labor camp under Stalin and was given grace to replace the terrible abuses commited against him with a seed of love and faith.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

And 'Till Next Time...

The holiday season is officially over...Today Isaac had to say "Good-bye" to Allie and "Hello" to veterinary school. So hard!

Quilt Planning, Newborns and Young Family Life

Emily, Mia and I spent most of the day with Natalie's beautiful and growing family (Christian is almost two and Nathaniel Roland is now three weeks old). In addition to talking, we somehow managed to get some quilt planning and calculating done as well!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Our family learned a lot about Kyrgyzstan (a land-locked country west of China and south of Kazhakistan) this evening when Brian (family friend) and his new bride, Elizabeth, came to share their experiences as medical personnel in this mountainous and beautiful country. Not only did they come prepared with great pictures (see presentation and audience in the collage above), but they also brought outstanding musical talent as Elizabeth played a very intricate and complex Russian composition for piano to an intrigued audience. Brian and Elizabeth plan to return to Kyrgyzstan in February. Godspeed!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Must I Trust Him?

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12)

There are times when I, like the little boy peering into the telescope, look to the Heavens and say, "God I don't see. I don't perceive. All is shrouded with a cloud of mystery."

But in contrast to my doubts, my uncertainties and my unknowings stand the words of the Christ, "I am the light of the world. I see all. I understand all. In me there is no darkness."

He sees when I don't see. He is light. That is why I must trust Him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beyond Tracing Out

Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!

- Romans 11:33-36

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snowy Days and Marks of Love

This was fascinating - unintentionally, when Isaac dropped Allie off at her place, he left two side-by-side heart tracks in the snow. Wowie Zowie!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Death on a Thursday Morning

What a great loss the Christian community suffers with the passing of Father Richard John Neuhaus. My intellectual and spiritual growth throughout the past fifteen years has been generously watered by Neuhaus' brilliant, insightful and witty writing in First Things Magazine. I have heard Neuhaus speak in person at least four times (most recently in October of this last year) - what an eloquent and thoughtful man of understanding and wisdom. I was shocked to learn today that Neuhaus had died yesterday from complications due to a recent bout with cancer.

His own words speak so beautifully of what we all must learn to claim in our dying and in our resurrection. - Sarah

When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work that I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers throughout my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my own. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of "justification by faith alone," although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misunderstood formulation was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways—these and all other gifts I have received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will, with Dysmas, look to Christ and Christ alone.

Then I hope to hear him say, "Today you will be with me in paradise," as I hope with all my being—because, although looking to him alone, I am not alone—he will say to all.

- Death on a Friday Night, by Father Richard John Neuhaus

All Flesh is Like the Grass

(In the gray dead of winter, there is a certain shock that I experience when I look back at pictures of summer and see the lush greenness. Could this plot of land really be the same as the one that is now covered in a darkening blanket of ice and snow?)

A voice says, "Cry out."
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."

- Isaiah 40:6-8

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

No-Knead Bread

School was cancelled today because of the weather which means that I got to watch Mom create her newest culinary surprise: No-Knead Bread.

This bread has only four ingredients (flour, salt, yeast and water) and requires virtually no human attention. The New York Times featured Jim Lahey's recipe and there is a blog now devoted to variations on this bread. This bread is amazing in taste - perfectly chewy on the inside and crusty on the outside. It has no fat in it, and no sugar either. Pretty swell!

Fighting Fire With Fire (John Piper)

We must fight fire with fire. The fire of lust's pleasures must be fought with the fire of God's pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone - even the terrible warnings of Jesus - we will fail. We must fight it with the massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust's pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction.

- John Piper, Future Grace

Do It Again! (G.K. Chesterton)

Is it possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes the daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain.

- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Dusk of Early Winter at Bentley

Nothing Spells "Holidays" Like...


Oops! (From the Bentley Kitchen)

Yes, that unbaked homemade pizza was our dinner. Yes, that is our kitchen floor. And, yes, the pizza is upside down on our kitchen floor. So sad.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Good Questions When Considering "Gray" Areas of Christian Morality

1. Is it beneficial to me personally and to the gospel?
2. Will I lose self-control and be mastered by what I participate in?
3. Will I be doing this in the presence of someone who I know will fall into sin as a result?
4. Is it a violation of the laws of my city, state, or nation?
5. If I fail to do this, will I lose opportunities to share the gospel?
6. Can I do this with a clear conscience?
7. Will this cause me to sin by feeding my sinful desires?
8. Am I convinced that this is what God desires me to do?
9. Does my participation proceed from faith in Jesus Christ?
10. Am I doing this to help other people, or am I just being selfish?
11. Can I do this in a way that glorifies God?
12. Am I following the example of Jesus Christ to help save sinners?

- Greg Surratt

Thursday, January 01, 2009

An Old-Fashioned New Year's Day

The boys worked on building up the fence in the side yard so that Rebecca can buy sheep in the spring. Hannah, Rebecca and I finished setting the quilt. The backing and the quilting still remain to be completed. What a project! I've never felt so patriotic!

We all went (with Allie and Clarence) to Trip and Sally's Tamarak home for a New Year's party!

We watched a lot of old home videos and they were terribly funny and wonderfully embarrassing!

Trip showed us his old/new photographs of the small town area that changed pictures based on the tilt of the photo.

Bringing in 2009!

We attended Millbrook's New Year Celebration in the bitter cold and snow, but it was delightful nonetheless - we were so impressed with the local talent - a string quartet, a marrionette show and a circus!
Ben and Emily joined us for a late night Cranium game...

...and a new year's midnight sleigh ride. It was so cold and the snow was all powdery and we definitely got face freeze!

Happy New Year! It's 2009!