Monthly Archives: July 2014

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Reflections After Working on a Farm for Chester County Foodbank

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photo 1It’s been nearly 24 hours and my fingers, despite many hand washings, still smell like onions.

Chad and I spent three hours removing the stalks from thousands of onions at Pete’s Produce Farm in West Chester, PA, volunteering our time for the Chester County Food Bank. The thousands of onions we processed yesterday will tweak the taste buds of hungry families throughout the county. It was a pleasure serving alongside six other adults and two elementary age twin boys.

The scent of onions on my fingers is a metaphor of how volunteering is supposed to be. We shouldn’t forget the experience the day after. We need to avoid the “I did that, I can cross it off my bucket list or put it on my resume” kind of thinking that can so easily satisfy the thoughts of volunteers. People in need wake up day after day longing for relief from their despair. It’s somehow fitting if the scent of their struggle continues to emanate from the fingers of volunteers long after the experience.

Helping people in need is messy. Dirty. Sometimes outright repulsive with stench. Literally and metaphorically. Their lives can be a big mess. There are odors associated with caring for people who can’t take care of themselves physically. The incarcerated and the poor don’t live in houses whose scent can be labeled as Ocean Breeze or Apple Meadow. In some cultures, the people who need our help have open sewers right outside their front door. The smell of onions on my fingers one revolution of the earth later is a bargain!

The Chester County Food Bank does a wonderful job scheduling hundreds of volunteers to serve at the many farms they partner with across the county. Volunteers plant, weed, and harvest throughout the various seasons of the year. Individuals, nonprofits, and businesses, as well as those ordered by the court, all donate their time to help their neighbors who cannot afford to eat. A walk through their state-of the-art and amazingly clean facility in Exton, PA leaves you with the impression of an organization that knows exactly how to provide nutritious and safe meals for thousands of families – day after day.

With the money they have invested in their efficient systems, the charity could have bought thousands of processed and ready to eat meals for families from Oxford to Pottstown. However, once those meals are consumed, the food storehouses would be empty and the families will be hungry once more. Instead, they invested the funds into farming –planting seeds, cultivating the plants, and then harvesting corn, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, onions, and more vitamin and nutrient rich vegetables in order to feed thousands on a long-term basis.

Volunteers will get dirty. They will get pricked and scratched by thorny weeds. But that is fine – that is what volunteering is really about – getting dirty and exhausted day after day so that others can recover from adversity in life. May the onion smell on your fingers remind you for days after you volunteer that it will be a joy to do it again because the need never goes away.

Onions before we removed the stalks, along with 8 other volunteers.

Onions before we removed the stalks, along with 8 other volunteers.

Onions after we removed the stalk at Pete's Produce Farm, volunteering on behalf of Chester County Food Bank.

Onions after we removed the stalk at Pete’s Produce Farm, volunteering on behalf of Chester County Food Bank.

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Mother Nature bakes chocolate chip cookies

Don’t ask me!

I don’t know why I watch documentaries on television about hurricanes and tzunamis. We will save that analysis for a couch in some office lined with the academic shingles of a psychiatrist.

During the program today about a devastating tornado, someone made a reference to “Mother Nature” being in a furious mood.

Apparently, somewhere there is some lady who controls the weather worldwide. When she is in a good mood, we enjoy beautiful weather. However, when she had a bad day at the office, burnt the dinner for the family, had words with her significant other, or doesn’t like her dress size, the earth is ravaged by hail, wind, rain, snow, ice, and sleet. When she raises her voice, the earth can quake and volcanos can erupt.

“Yes dear! Whatever you want, dear! Just don’t get upset! We have no more insurance money!”

It really is bizarre. We attribute intelligent design, acts of the will, and emotional displays of raw power and might to “Mother Nature” so that we can avoid acknowledging intelligent design, acts of the will, and emotional displays of raw power by, uh, hmmm, God.

It is OK to refer to acts of mother nature but it is not OK to refer to acts of God because only a fool believes God exists. We prove our point that God doesn’t exist by acknowledging the presence of another god, a female deity named Mother Nature. In other words, we will show you God doesn’t exist by showing you another god does. We wish for a world free of “God” by creating another “god”. Capiche?

Are we nuts?

The truth be told, most of us would put “Mother Nature” in the hall of fiction, along side the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and Bugs Bunny. We don’t really believe in “Mother Nature” anymore than we expect Linus to have seen the real Great Pumpkin. We all know Mother Nature doesn’t exist.

Why then do we refer to her in a documentary about a killer tornado?

  1. There is something in our nature that wants to believe something larger than the disaster is in control of things. Imagine a world where there was no one driving the weather bus who could pull the bus safely to the side of the road when it blows a tire. Who wants to be in that bus when no one is sitting in the driver’s seat when it hits a pot hole at 70 mph? We find comfort in believing there is someone in control, who can prevent, diminish, redirect, or scale back natural diasters. When the ravaging storm can seem so random and pointless, there is comfort in believing there is some larger plan that does make sense of all the loss of life and property. We really do want there to be someone in charge of the weather.
  2. There are seven billion little gods running around the face of the earth. Each of us are our own god, or so we wishfully think. We make our own decisions about right and wrong. We make our own decisions about what we will and won’t do in life. We live each day for our own pleasure and purposes. We define truth for ourselves. However, if we believe in a true god, a real god, one who, uh, gulp, controls the weather, well we darn better listen to him! If he defines truth, right and wrong, or the course for our lives, we’d better get in line with his will or else that 200 mph wind or 20 foot storm surge might be knocking on our front door. However, who wants to serve the real true god when we are ourselves the only god we want to serve? Nope. Let’s deny the existence of a powerful and righteous god who can take us to the woodshed for an appropriate spanking. Let’s replace him with a grandmom figure. You know – “Get your mittens on! It’s cold out, sweatheart!”, “Did you get enough chocolate chip cookies to eat?”, or “Can grandmom rub your back?” Grandmom doesn’t tell us that we aren’t little gods. Grandmom treats us like we are!

“Mother Nature” is the invention of the human race, a race that wants to believe there is some all powerful being who is in control of the weather but who also caters to our every desire to be our own gods. The news reporter who refers to Mother Nature’s fury is sending an allegedly comforting message to all the listeners:

We can feel safe because, despite all the damage and loss of life, this disaster was controlled by a supernatural being with a plan. However, that being makes no demands on our lives for how we are supposed to live. All she is interested in is expressing herself through the weather. She has no interest in our moral character or obedience. From time to time we have to put up with her fury but at least we don’t have to bend our knee before her and ask for forgiveness of our sins.


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Malaysian Airlines Flight 17

malaysia-plane-shot-down-wreckage-ftrDear Lord,

Our hearts go out to the innocent lives lost on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, apparently shot down by a missile.  We ask your compassion and mercy to overflow into the lives of the victims grieving loved ones.

Lord, there is no doubt that pastors across the country are going to be asked to make sense of this tragedy.  They will be asked to shine the light of wisdom into dark places where people can only see the absence of a sovereign and loving God.  We ask today that you bless pastors with wisdom and understanding about how to give meaning to this event in the context of the expectation people have that a truly loving God would prevent these things from happening.

We also ask for special grace for any pastor who may be on the front lines in this issue, counseling grieving and perhaps embittered loved ones.  Lord, they need your grace in this area.

In the name of Jesus Christ,


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