Category Archives: Work

Run the Race in Such A Way…

identity-640x480A friend from seminary recently asked for some help with theme of creation care for a sermon and the coming church year. She even said, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of you sooner.” I have spent enough time and energy in this area to develop a reputation as someone she “should have thought of sooner.”

I scoured the archives for some relevant writings to share. I was thankful to have some of my past work on this blog to point her to. Hopefully it was helpful. I realized that everything I shared with her is several years old or more. There’s nothing wrong with that. One of my good friends only reads books that are over 20 years old, because often time sifts out the junk and leaves us with those things that are worthwhile and timeless.

But it leaves me wondering what I have to say today. What is it that I want or need to write today?

The answer is that I don’t know. Continue reading

The Grass Has To Be Meaningful

Meaningful_work3047From the tone of the last post you might surmise that not everything is working out perfectly or at least how I dream/imagine in my life. I’m not living my ideal life, or the one I have absorbed from the culture and others. I continue to work full-time in technology for a local school district which means a lot of screen time, sense of meaninglessness, boredom and a salary that qualifies my family of five for government assistance. Yet my life is also very full and filled with things I am thankful for, like my family, my community, chickens, gardens, rainwater and a job.

I recently had two interviews with a local non-profit. It was down to two candidates and I didn’t get the job, a blow to my self-esteem. I’ve also decided to quit my small business, Edible Lawns, after one last project at a local school. The stress of being successful (but not enough to quit my job) while continue to work full time for the last year and a half has taken it’s toll and proved to be too much. We’ve also been at the center of some difficult conversations in our community. All this has come together in the last week.

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So, after realizing that I might not get a dream job, might not be a successful small business owner and could someday not be a part of the intentional community we’re a part of, I have sat with the thought that there is no thing on the horizon, no next thing to work on or work toward. I asked, “What if I just work at my job and go home to my family every day?” Continue reading

Your Best Life Now

Your_Best_Life_Now_coverThat title’s not just an attempt to steal web traffic away from everyone’s favorite self-help gospel peddler… though I wouldn’t feel bad if it did. There’s this myth that we’ve all been indoctrinated with. Some call it the greener grass syndrome. Some believe that progress is inevitable. Some are working for the golden age of retirement. Some want a better spouse, kids, house, car, stereo, etc.

Most of our lives are spent thinking about the future. What college should I go to? What job should I get? Who should I marry? Where should I live? What’s next? Our consumerist addiction to the new also translates into how we think about our lives, the decisions we make and our feelings of insecurity and restlessness. There’s always someone else who has a better life, job, family, house, etc. Continue reading

Living in Limbo

I’m not unemployed or underemployed like some of the people protesting at various Occupy gatherings across the US, but I am in limbo. When we were deported from Bolivia, I thought our time at home would be a vacation while we visited family and waited to hear from MCC and figure out what to do next. We have visited family and friends all over Texas from Waco to San Antonio, Kingsland and Fredericksburg to San Angelo. It’s been good to see everyone again, especially my new niece which I couldn’t visit for a while because of a case of shingles.

Shingles comes from the chicken pox virus that lies dormant in your spine. It can be triggered by stress and comes out in your nerves which is often very painful. My case was pretty mild, but it definitely got me thinking about stress and how I was really feeling about our situation. Since we’ve had a lot of down time, I’ve also been following the Occupy Wall Street movement pretty closely. Democracy Now! in their coverage of the movement interviewed Dr. Gabor Maté who was at the Wall Street encampment. Maté makes some interesting connections between the protests, economic crisis, stress and our health:

“50 percent of American adults have a chronic medical illness, and much of that has to do with stress. And if you look at the literature on what causes stress, it’s uncertainty and lack of information and loss of control and lack of expression of self. And the uncertainty that has been forced upon the American population by the recent economic crisis, the loss of control as power has flown into the hands of very, very few people, and the absolute powerlessness of the many in the face of all that, and the lack of expression through the ordinary political process, people are totally disempowered and deprived of their voice. This protest addresses all those issues. So I can only say that this is an extraordinarily healthy thing to happen. People who participate here will be healthier for it as a result, and maybe society, in general, as well.”

Uncertainty, lack of information and lack of control describes our lives over the last few months pretty well. It’s hard to thrive in these circumstances. There’s nobody to blame except the Bolivian government for our situation, but it is clear from this experience that we are not meant to live in an extended state of limbo without job, purpose, productive work or direction. In this period we have also lacked the kind of community we enjoy as a part of Hope Fellowship in Waco.

I’ve written before about this tension we feel in our culture between jobs and community defining and ordering our lives (Looking for a Job in the Kingdom). The thing is that while my life is in limbo, community can provide more certainty, stability, purpose and maybe most importantly a place to express myself. We have not been living in that community and that has made life extra stressful. We’ve visited a couple times and it has helped us remember what life in community provides in circumstances like ours.

I have also missed the time that I had in Bolivia to read and write a lot. Last week marked the end of what I wrote while we were in Bolivia. It also marked the end of our time away from our community. We are now back in Waco. I hope that this will be a time of renewed life with our beloved community and also a renewed energy for the writing and reading I have left off in the last few months. If posts are more sporadic and infrequent bear with me as we make yet another transition to some sort of new norm.

My prayer is that you and I find ourselves in a place and with people that will allow us to freely express ourselves in the midst of a sick society. Raise your voice. According to at least one doctor, it’s the healthiest thing you can do. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to make a better world.

The Lazy Way of Farming

I’ve been intrigued by Fukuoka and his natural way of farming for a while. This precursor to the modern permaculture movement developed a way and philosophy of agriculture based on his observations and experiments in Japan. Eventually he was able to produce as much rice using his method as others did with more traditional (mono-cropping) techniques. One of the things Fukuoka did was go into a field and just throw seed randomly out in the field and see what happened. If something grew particularly well in one place, he would make observations and try to figure out what nature was doing. In this way he tried to base his way of farming on nature.

Fukuoka’s method actually reduces the amount of labor needed, because you aren’t trying to apply lots of inputs, use tillage and cultivate the ground in a way that works against nature. Instead you do your best to let nature do all the hard work and you sit back and reap the results. I’ve been wanting to experiment with this way of cultivating food. Well, I had a bag of seeds that were not labeled. So, I had no idea what they were or what to do with them. This was the perfect chance to begin developing what I would like to call the lazy way of farming. Sounds good right?

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Here’s the bags of seeds without any labels. I might have learned something by trying to identify the different seeds. Instead I thought it would be fun to plant a bed in my garden Fukuoka-style.

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Here is the result of mixing my seeds all together in a bag. Then I prepped a bed in my garden for them by hoeing it up (I know this is not pure Fukuoka, but I’m experimenting okay?). Then I just tossed the seeds out on the bed, watered them in and then mulched them with some weeds.

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The thing I’m most worried about is birds getting to the seeds before they germinate, but so far so good. My hope is that something will grow this season and the seeds that don’t grow will lie dormant until the time is ready. So, I won’t replant this bed. I’ll just knock down whatever grows, let it mulch the bed for weeds and see if anything else comes up when the rainy season starts in November or so. I’ll let you know what happens and what I learned from the experiment. Hopefully, down the road it will develop into a low-labor, low-input way of farming a la Fukuoka and permaculture that will result in sustaining ourselves more and more off of whatever plot of ground we happen to be on.