I’ll Have One Customizable Jesus To Go, Please

Luk 4:14  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. Luk 4:15  And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. Luk 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. Luk 4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, Luk 4:18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, Luk 4:19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luk 4:20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Luk 4:21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luk 4:22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Luk 4:23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” Luk 4:24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. Luk 4:25But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, Luk 4:26and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. Luk 4:27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Luk 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. Luk 4:29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. Luk 4:30 But passing through their midst, he went away.  English Standard Version


One does not have to look at me very long or very hard to realize that I like to eat.  I like to eat, a lot.  And, I like a lot to eat.  I am fond of buffets, for example, if I get there early, that is,  while the food is still fresh.  Once it gets a little feeble and pawed over, I’m not nearly so enthused.

I like those option menus, too.  You know, take one from column A, two from column B, places.  One of my favorite eateries B and I frequent is like that.  It’s called “Starch R Us” or something along those lines.  Anyway, there’s a list of meats and a list of side dishes.  You can mix and match as you like.  It’s great fun. And so healthy, too…NOT!

Last weekend, Brittan and I went out to eat at a nice family steak place.  As we studied the menu, B showed me an item that looked good.  It said (I paraphrase, but am pretty close), “a juicy sirloin served with two skewers of grilled shrimp over a bed of rice, with tomato butter, one side and your choice of a side salad topped with garlic croutons and your favorite dressing or a Caesar Salad, along with unlimited warm soft brown wheat bread.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed with much enthusiasm.  When the waiter came to take our order, I turned to him with great aplomb and said, “I’ll have the sirloin and shrimp, please.  But instead of a sirloin, I’d like a filet.  Instead of rice, I’d like broccoli.  No bread please.  I’ll have the side salad please.  No croutons and I’d like the blue cheese dressing on the side instead of on top.”

I’m guessing both Brittan and the waiter are still speechless.  What I ordered was certainly based on the menu item, but was customized to my liking.  Fortunately for me, there was no notice in the menu carrying the dreaded phrase, “No substitutions.”

Here in America, we’re pretty spoiled.  We’ve come to expect to have our every wish accommodated.  We are the mix and match generation.  We want our food that way, smart phones that way, our wardrobes that way, our relationships that way and, yes, we even want a customizable Messiah.  Introducing the all new iJesus.  Download the features you like from our convenient app store and configure the Savior just the way you want.

“Yes, I certainly want the salvation part.  I’m big on the ‘friend of sinners’. Oh, and definitely hook me up with the water into wine feature.  You can never have enough of that.  That ‘take up your cross and follow me’? Nah, not so much into that.  ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’…definitely.  ‘Go and sin no more’, I can do without.  As for ‘hungering and thirsting after righteousness’…well you can just forget that one too, honey.”

Desiring a customizable Savior isn’t new.  We’ve just made it high tech.  Take a look at Luke, chapter 4, which is where we are in our study.  Jesus has been on the road making headlines, making friends, making enemies, changing lives.  Now He’s come home to Nazareth and has been invited to be the guest Rabbi in the local synagogue.

I have no doubt that the place was packed.  Homeboy makes good and comes back to wow the locals.  That’s always a draw.  Jesus does not disappoint.  He begins his sermon by reading a very popular passage of Scripture from Isaiah that everyone would recognize as Messianic (see text at the beginning of this post).  The coming rescuer of Israel would indeed liberate them from poverty and set them free from the prison of oppression to the Roman invaders.  Messiah would set up His kingdom and restore the fortunes of the nation.  This is just what the crowd wants to hear.

The synagogue is ripe with anticipation, filled with wonder and awe as Jesus reads them this favorite scripture.  When He’s finished, He rolls up the scroll, takes His seat and listens for a second to the pregnant silence. Finally, He speaks, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Oh yes, this is the stuff heroes are made of.  Jesus, the home grown prophet has just declared Himself the fulfillment of a most important prophecy.  The crowd is filled with excitement and hope.  They love this guy.  They love this message.  It fits all their expectations.  Then, in the blink of an eye, He becomes the ultimate buzz kill.

Jesus follows His announcement of Messiahship with a story about God reaching beyond the people of Israel to the nations around them.  When Jesus reminds the people of Elijah raising the son of the widow from Sidon, they instantly understand that He is saying that He doesn’t merely want to rescue the Jews; He’s come to save the Gentiles as well.

Unfortunately, that message was incompatible with the desires and expectations of the people.  They didn’t want a Savior of the World; they wanted a Savior for Israel.  Jesus message did not fit their view, so they quickly went from adoring Him to wanting to murder Him.  Jesus, though, took advantage of the chaos created by their rage and escaped through the mob.

Jesus is not always going to meet your expectations.  He is not the creation, He is the creator.  We don’t get to customize Him.  He wants to upgrade us.  There is no Jesus shaped box to keep Him in.  He’s way to big, way too awesome.  He is still saying, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  He’s also still saying, “Leave everything and follow me.” Jesus is not customizable, neither is the Gospel.  There are no substitutions. He is, and always has been perfect just as He is; out of the box.


My Beef with Monsanto’s GMO Alfalfa and Why They Get My Goat (or want to)

I’m not an opponent of GMO’s per se.  After all, from a literal perspective, all deliberate hybridization of flowers, fruits and vegetables is a kind of Genetic Modification.  It’s selective breeding of flora rather than fauna.  As a long time breeder of sled dogs, and now livestock, I understand hybrid vigor.  It’s much easier with animals than with plants, but the idea has the same potential.

Unfortunately, when it comes to cash and commodity crops, and now forage crops, we’re not talking about hybridization to build a better cantaloupe.  In its normal connotative usage, the phrase GMO is about creating pesticide resistant plants. 

The genes of a plant, let’s say Soy, are altered by inserting roundup resistance into the organism.  This is not selective breeding, it’s genetic manipulation.  And it’s kind of scary.

The technology and science is amazing.  The consequences are potentially horrifying.  For example, it is well documented that super weeds and pathogens are appearing as nature fights back against human chemistry.  This, in turn, will ultimately result in additional manipulations, stronger pesticides, more super weeds, etc.  Where will the cycle end? 

What the long term effects of GMOs on livestock and humans are is still anyone’s guess.  We need not worry, of course, because the laboratories of the big Pharmaceuticals are hard at work creating medicines and drugs to help us cope with whatever ill effects may arise.

A chilling report in 2001 indicates that the DNA of marketed soy did not match what had been sent to the labs for approval. There were additional inserts.  While these may or may not be harmful or even intentional (hmm…), the potential for abuse is obvious. For further research check out this publication, http://www.greenpeace.to/publications/Unidentified%20DNA%20-%20backgrounder.pdf.

In addition to soy beans, Monsanto’s GMO corn is widely used by farmers.  The potential issues are identical.  Since soy and corn are rotational crops in most places and are the most important ingredients in animal feeds as well as their prominence in the human diet, we should pay very close attention to what’s going on.  You’re eating this stuff and so are your children.

The potential problems are exacerbated by cross pollination with the non GMO crops of nearby farmers.  It’s impossible to keep the wind from blowing or bees from flying (though it looks like we’re trying hard to kill off all the bees, but we’ll save that rant for another day.), so the pollen from one field makes its way into another field and the corn or soy has hybridized babies.  Perhaps we could say, infected babies.

The non GMO farmer doesn’t want the cross pollination, but knows you can’t fight Mother Nature, so he/she deals with it.  Monsanto has figured out that while it’s not possible to fight nature it IS possible to patent it.  And this is where the moral outrage really begins.

Monsanto has legally, and rightfully, patented their GMO corn and soy.  There is nothing wrong with that.  They made it; they have a right to it (and to all its consequences).  In their contracts with farmers, the seed giant forbids their customers from saving seeds.  Again, perfectly legal, if not altogether occupying the moral high ground.  Farmers are intentional participants in the agreements. Caveat Emptor.  Not content, though, with the huge profits they make from the sales of their abyss born products, Monsanto has gone after farmers whose fields have been contaminated with their GMO pollen, demanding royalties/penalties and that the farmers cease and desist in saving their polluted seed.

I know you’re thinking, ‘so let them sue.  There’s no court in the land that would uphold such a claim.’

Common sense and every moral fiber in every civilized society of all time would think the same way; however, Monsanto has won multiple court cases enforcing their demands.  Some of these cases have gone all the way to the Supreme Courts in the USA and in Canada.

How can this be?  Simple. Follow the money.  From donations to Congressmen of both parties, to a Secretary of Agriculture with close ties to the company, to a Supreme Court with justices who represented them in the past, Monsanto’s fingerprints are all over the system.  It is corruption of the highest order.  And it goes virtually unnoticed, because agriculture flies way under the radar.  The company knows how few Americans pay any attention to food related issues other than what’s happening at the checkout register.  Monsanto also knows just how far their money goes inside the beltway and in State Governments all over the country.

Folks, they are patenting LIFE and not only patenting what their hands have produced, but are patenting its offspring.  We have crossed a moral line that man has no right to cross. 

Now Monsanto have turned their attention to Alfalfa. Earlier this year, Secretary Vilsack withdrew the Dept. of Agriculture objections to the introduction of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa.  Holy cow, what have we done?

Alfalfa is hugely important to the dairy industry.  As the owner of a small herd of dairy goats and the occasional dairy cow, I know just how important alfalfa is to us.  We feed it to all our lactating animals. It has a high percentage of protein and is loaded with additional nutrients and micronutrients.  We don’t feed corn, so alfalfa is even more important to us than to grain fed dairies.

Alfalfa is wonderful nitrogen catcher.  It grabs the nitrogen from the atmosphere and plants it firmly into the soil beneath its feet.  It has none of the risks normally associated with soy, making it a great rotational option and fertility builder.  Oh, and since it’s a forage crop, alfalfa doesn’t particularly need to be weed resistant (Roundup Ready) and the fields don’t need to be sprayed.  Simply put a few goats or donkeys in the field after cutting and your weed problems are eliminated naturally. But again, I digress.

What is going to happen when this GMO alfalfa contaminates nearby farms? What will that mean? Is there going to be some long term benefit for Monsanto?  You can bet your last peso they’ve been looking down the road and see a pot of gold somewhere.  Perhaps it will be that they will introduce the suicide gene that will render an already poor reproducer even less sustainable, requiring more frequent replanting.  That makes some sense for the farmers using their product, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a more sinister end game.

For some time now there has been a persistent rumor that Monsanto wishes to apply for claim to the animals and meat from animals that ‘benefit’ from their products.  For example, if my pigs eat Monsanto corn, the company would be entitled to Royalties from the sale of said pig, or the pork products that come from the pig.  Don’t think it’s so farfetched. Remember they already stop farmers from saving seed from fields they’ve contaminated and they claim compensation from the sale of those seeds. The courts have upheld this outrage.

Track with me.  Let’s suppose the bought and paid for politicians and courts eventually allow the application for entitlement to products that ‘benefit’ from GMO alfalfa.  Monsanto would virtually control the food chain.  We know their alfalfa will contaminate nearby fields and they’ve already established precedence in the courts.  So if they can establish that my goats have been eating alfalfa that contains their genetic material, even if I didn’t sow it or want it, then they would have recourse to royalties or penalties from the milk, meat or sale of my goats. The prospect is beyond Orwellian, it’s Apocalyptic. 

On their website, The Monsanto Company vehemently denies this desire, but the denials reek of ‘methinks he doth protest too much’.  I have no confidence in an organization that has demonstrated the depth of depravity Monsanto already has shown. 

My ‘beef’ with Monsanto is that they profit from a vile from of immorality.  They have stacked the political and judicial system with their own purchased players who will enable them to use natural forces to first line their pockets and ultimately gain power over the food chain.  Be vigilant, America. Speak up. The Europeans see it.  India sees it.  Speak up? Heck, WAKE UP!


Heroes of the Good Food Movement, Part 2 – Samaritan’s Purse

With 26,000 children around the world dying every day from hunger, and thousands more from water borne illness, arguments about organic vs industrial and grass fed vs corn fed, tend to fade into the background.  While those subjects matter in the big picture, there are life and death struggles going on in the now.

 It is into this heart wrenching reality, that Samaritan’s Purse, from Boone, NC, has chosen to carry the fight.  These heroes step into the void and quite literally are rescuing the perishing.

 Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian Organization headed by a team of Faith filled directors and laborers, with Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist, Billy Graham, serving as President and CEO.

 Many Americans know them best for their seasonal “Operation Christmas Child” drive, where they give Christmas boxes to tens of thousands of poor, orphaned and neglected children around the globe.

 The service doesn’t end there, however.  Far from it.  Operation Christmas Child is only the surface of the many ways Samaritan’s Purse touches the most needy.  They have a disaster relief arm, taking food, supplies and medical care to locations hit by a variety of natural disasters.  Samaritan’s purse has a whole range of economic development programs, including many that are agriculture related.

 Among my favorites, are the small livestock and sustainable gardening initiatives.  Samaritan’s Purse employees and volunteers train families and individuals in small animal husbandry, like dairy goats or poultry, so that they are able to raise animals to feed themselves and build a small business selling milk, cheese, eggs and such.  You can even go online and donate to animal specific projects.  My wife and I have donated many goats, rabbits and chickens through our giving.  Yes, we believe in Samaritan’s Purse enough to invest.

 They train communities in sustainable gardening practices, too, so that those people groups can continue to feed themselves long after Samaritan’s Purse workers have left the region.

Brittan and I are very attached to the clean water projects in the Samaritan’s Purse portfolio.  We have donated wells, water filters and more.  As one who has had Giardia three times in my life, I understand the importance and value of access to clean water.

Before I finish, I would be remiss if I did not point out the Faith Based programs they manage, as well.  Going well beyond campaigns and crusades, Samaritan’s Purse is involved in Church Planting and Evangelist training.  These projects are dear to my heart and I have loved being able to partner in some of them.

I’ve only scratched the surface of all that Samaritan’s Purse does, but I think I’ve highlighted enough for you to understand why I consider these fellow Southerners as Heroes of the Good Food movement.  Check out their website to learn more.  And stay tuned, we’ll have more heroes next week.


Worlds Apart On Common Ground

Brittan and I are part of a grass roots movement that makes the Tea Party look like a week night crowd at a Florida Marlins game, virtually nonexistent.  I mean, this movement is huge.  And it’s growing at a pace that could soon make us an irresistible force.  If we don’t implode, that is.

We have many names and many flavors.  People are in for a variety of reasons.  Some are about local food.  Some are about whole foods.  Some are interested in food security or better nutrition.  Others are about sustainability and permaculture vs. Big Agra and monocultures.  Many participants are fighting ‘Climate Change’ while others have faith based motives to care for God’s creation.  The list of reasons goes on and on.

We are old and young, male and female, religious and secular, conservative and liberal.  We speak a hundred languages live in all corners of the globe.  We are strong.  And we are fragile.  Our uneasy alliance could crumble at any moment.

I see two large contingents in this ‘good food’ movement.  The first is liberal and secular.  I would even argue that they may be the dominant force.  They are certainly the most vocal in the social media environs of Facebook and Twitter.  They are all about ‘food justice’, anti- Big Agra and very active in urban areas.  They are well educated and articulate.  They are also passionate and dogmatic.  This group wants to see more Govt. involvement in all things food related.  This group is responsible for some outstanding films like, “Fresh” and “Food, Inc.”  I would consider Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and Will Allen, the heroic founder of “Growing Power” in Milwaukee as poster children for this branch of the movement.

The second large force is conservative and Christian.  Brittan and I are in this group.  This contingent has a large number of small farmers, bloggers and writers in its constituency, but appears to be less vocal.  On the whole, we want Govt. out of the food chain.  We consider Big Govt. as big a problem as Big Agra.  We promote personal responsibility over federal responsibility.  We would rather mobilize the Church, communities and individuals and keep Govt out of the way.  Lift the restrictions and let the people go free.  I’m guessing that Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia is the most recognizable name and face in this wing.

Conservative Secularists seem to make up smaller part of the movement.  Some of them, though, like the very awesome Nature’s Harmony Farm, in Elberton, GA are making a significant impact.

All the branches are about making healthy, tasty, whole, natural, safe foods available to the masses.  We all want it to be affordable as well as accessible.  We are all working day and night as producers, consumers and advocates to make it happen.  There are, however, fundamental differences in our core values and even some of our desired tactics.  It is here that we are most vulnerable.

For example, at the end of the film “Fresh”, which I own and which my wife and I opened our home for a public showing before its national release, the statement is made that access to good food is a fundamental human right.

The implication of that is then that all forces, private and Governmental, should be marshaled to achieve the noble goal of food security.

I whole heartedly agree with the goal.  I fundamentally disagree with the premise, and there’s the rub.

There is nothing in Scripture or nature that indicates food is a basic human right.  It is a basic human NEED, but need and right are not synonyms. 

In nature, animals starve to death all the time.  There is nothing in the physical world that suggests we have a right to food.  If I am competing with a gorilla for the same banana, unless I have a firearm, his strength and quickness will trump my ‘rights’ every time.

It the Bible, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul wrote, “If a man refuses to work, he shall not eat.”  The implication is that eating is conditional. Note: This refers to the ‘won’ts, not the ‘cant’s’.  I get it. 

For me, and for others like me, it is my love for God and my fellow human beings that drives me to CHOOSE to meet their need for good nutrition.  “Pure religion, and undefiled,” James wrote, “is to look after widows and orphans.” Note:  This one is about the ‘can’ts’.

It breaks my heart to see pictures of starving children.  I am angry that 35 million Americans are genuinely hungry, not to mention the hundreds of millions around the world.  I shake my head in frustration and rage when I read about a new salmonella outbreak.  I am outraged at the conditions of animals in Factory Farms and CAFOs.  It should not be this way.  It should not be easier to get a packet of ramen noodles than an apple.  Kids are starving to death on Happy Meals, even as those same dinners are making them obese. 

Unlike my liberal allies, I believe more Govt. intervention will only make it worse.  I guarantee you that more taxes, more regulations, expanding subsidies to small farmers, will not make things better.  It will make everyone poorer.  It’s simple math. 

I want to find a way to make healthy food affordable.  I want mothers and fathers to learn to cook again.  I want people to read the labels on what they buy, before they put the stuff in their mouths.  I want families to grow some, or all, of their own food, but you can’t make people do any of that. 

I don’t want Tyson or Smithfield legislated or regulated out of business.  I want people to see inside their chicken houses and CAFOs then come see our chickens and pigs running around in the sunshine, eating grass and leaves and chestnuts.  Let them see our cows grazing away in the pasture or our young goats and lambs romping around at sunset.  Then let the consumer choose.  Transparency is better than regulation.  Openness is superior to legislation.

People should be able to know what’s in the food they eat.  Supermarkets and restaurants should voluntarily make it known.  Then people can make informed choices.  If the sellers won’t release the information, consumers should move along and buy from those who do.  It is not Govt.’s place to get down in the weeds and regulate that kind of behavior.  There are simpler, self policing methods.

As consumers, we’ve gotten lazy.  We want cheap food.  We want to drive about two blocks to get it.  We want to toss the bags, boxes and cans into a trolley and have someone else make sure it’s good for us.  Or, at least that it’s not bad for us.  Hey, adult, Mommy doesn’t look after you anymore.  Take some responsibility.  Stop being so trusting.   I promise you, if we start paying attention and ‘voting’ with our dollars, knives and forks, the food producers, markets and restaurants will follow.  They want their profits.  If we move our dollars elsewhere, things WILL get better.

As a producer, I choose to take some responsibilities, too.  I choose to grow the best tasting, healthiest, food possible.  I choose to ask a fair price for it.  I choose to avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  I choose to avoid soy.  I choose to sell locally, direct to the public.  I choose to make our farm and garden open to the public and let people come in whenever they like.  I choose to teach others how to do the same thing.  I choose to try and persuade Churches, schools and civic groups to adopt ideas like community gardens.  I choose to give away 10% of everything we grow to people who can’t afford to buy it. 

Hmmm, I intended this to be a series of observations rather than conservative libertarian discourse, but there you go.  I know that some of you will go, “Amen.  You preach it.”  Others will tremble in anger.  A few will ‘unfollow’ me on twitter.  And there’s the problem.  Ultimately, we have the same goal.  It is an honorable one.  We are working together, so far, but we are building from different sets of blueprints.  That could become problematic.

I am hoping that what we have in common will be stronger than our differences.  I am hoping, too, that we will be tolerant of each other rather than begin some ugly infighting.  I am hoping, but I am not confident. 

In the surprisingly current words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney:

“Try to see it my way
Do I have to keep on talking
Till I can’t go on?

While you see it your way
Run the risk of knowing that
Our love may soon be gone
We can work it out
We can work it out

Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still
You think that it’s all right

Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and
Get it straight or say good night
We can work it out
We can work it out

Life is very short
And there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend

I have always thought
That it’s a crime
So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way
Only time will tell
If I am right or I am wrong

While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might
Fall apart before too long
We can work it out
We can work it out

Life is very short
And there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend

I have always thought
That it’s a crime
So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way
Only time will tell
If I am right or I am wrong

While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might
Fall apart before too long
We can work it out
We can work it out”

Well, darn, wouldn’t you know it, they were liberals, too… 🙂