Living with a Morso Squirrel

On having a Danish in the living room

The  Morsø wood stove has been a good companion giving warmth with only minimal maintenance.  But why wasn’t there a place for it other than the living room and why is it called “Squirrel”?  We struggle with these bushy-tailed rodents at the bird feeders. We would rather not have a reminder of them interrupting our “warm and comfortable”. (The Morsø is of Danish origin.  I downloaded a brochure from the Morsø website, but it didn’t give much help on using the stove, partly because it was written/translated by a person whose first language was not English.)

stovein sunThe smallish Morsø (25” wide by 14” deep by 52” high) was in the living room when we purchased the house and finding another location for it was questionable.  Previous owners had closed off the rest of the house from the living room with folding doors to retain heat and probably used very little heating oil.

Our adventures with the stove, included an insurance company’s demand to replace the brick wall behind the stove, to finding out from the guy that delivered wood from “Jake’s Firewood” that there was no Jake, to having a gathering entertained by birds that had fallen down the stove pipe.  We, with the guests, heard rustling and scratching in the stove pipe. By the time the guests had left the noise had stopped, so we did nothing.  The next time I removed ashes, I removed two dead sparrows along with them.  When our home insurance was to be renewed, we were required to have a home inspection—this was five years after living in the home and safely using the stove. The inspector said there was not enough space between the stove and the flammable material in the wall behind the stove.  The brick wall behind the stove was not enough. The options were a new stove or having a wall built behind the stove with an inch of air space between the new wall and the established wall.  We could not find a side-loading stove at a reasonable price, so we chose the wall.

Getting a fire started


It took a while to learn how to get a fire started.  Although I grew up on a farm where there were many trees to produce wood for firewood, Dad an early riser, always had the fire started when I got up.  I occasionally added wood to the stove, but do not remember starting a fire.  I had learned of the “Boy Scout” method of putting in some kindling and gradually adding larger pieces once the smaller stuff was burning. Later someone told me about the top down (or in my case front-to-back) method.  In an enclosed area like a stove, as opposed to an open fire, this works quickly.  My stove has a narrow fire box. So, I place at the bottom of the box, two or three pieces of wood (20” long and 4” to 9” wide at the widest side).  Then I lean half a dozen or so pieces of twigs or other kindling against the logs.  The next part is two to four “newspaper knots” made by opening up a double sheet of newspaper, rolling it loosely, then tying in in a loose knot.  To speed the fire along, I have ready several more newspaper knots to push in as necessary.  The Morsø has a very good draft which makes starting a fire fairly easy.

Getting more wood

For the first few years, wood supply was not a problem.  Ash tree down '00An ash tree stood just to the south of the area where we hoped to have a garden.  The trunk was more than thirty inches in diameter.  Taking it down was a good idea for several reasons.  First, the garden area more sunlight now reached the garden. Second, we had plenty of firewood for several years.

A year or so later, a neighbor’s large crab apple tree fell onto our yard, causing only the grass any damage.  The neighbor expressed her appreciation to us for cleaning up the tree and also to a friend down the street.  He had a large oak tree taken down.  The tree company wanted $100 for hauling the wood away.  I agreed to haul the wood away for the several pickup loads of wood.   That lasted us another year.  I think we scrounged firewood another year, so that it was nearly ten years until we needed to buy firewood.  One source was a special deal to get several pickup loads from an area where firewood had been stacked.  We could take as much as we could get in two loads for a price well under the going price for firewood.  In quantity, we got a good deal.  In quality, not such a good deal.  That brought us to Jake’s Firewood.  We were disappointed to learn from the guy that brought the wood that there was no “Jake”.  The pieces of oak “Jake” delivered were from logs rejected from a nearby paper plant.  Some of them were too big for my stove, so I was thankful a friend to help split the wood to save my back.  Thanks, Dennis.DKsplitting

Pricing firewood is a problem.  Some sellers want to sell by the pickup load.  When one seller told me, he was selling me half a cord, I realized after the wood was delivered that I got only a “face” cord.  (A full cord is 4’ X 4’ X 8’.  A face cord is half of that (2′) or maybe only 16” deep.)  Jake’s Firewood brought the wood on a small dump truck.  I measured the size of the truck bed and the height the wood was stacked, but the curve of the top of the load made any estimate of the amount of wood questionable. The wood was fairly dry and the size of most of the pieces just right for my stove. I think I got a good deal!logends

Getting the stove clean

The stove pipe for the Morsø goes straight through the ceiling and attic to the metal chimney.  Since the stove burns clean, there is seldom creosote or ash to be cleaned out of the pipe or chimney.  I have a set of brushes to clean the chimney. (I use a wire brush to clean the chamber above the firebox).  But the last few years my strength has, apparently, diminished to the point that I am unable to pull the brush out of the chimney once I push it down.  Then, too, my partner doesn’t like me to be up on the roof.  So, the chimney cleaner is coming soon.  The ashes will go to the back of the garden between the compost pile and the forsythia bush.  If the scant blooms on the forsythia is due to excessive nitrogen from the compost pile forty feet up the hill, the potassium in the ashes may give us more forsythia blossoms. So, use of the stove brings beauty as well as warmth.

The “squirrley” presence in our living room seem strange, at times.  But, we have enjoyed the warmth the Morsø has provided.

 


 

Fallowing land, Jubilee year for land

 

Biblical principles and todays gardens?

middleeasternploughmangrimmversion2016From childhood, I have had the blessing of being immersed in scripture.  My parents regularly read the Bible and Bible storybooks to us.  My father had only one year of high school, but he had gone further in knowledge of scripture than anyone that I knew.  On Sunday evenings our small church frequently featured a Bible quiz.  Because he could answer quicker and more questions than anyone, a “Dean Alleman rule” was instituted:  When anyone answered three questions, that person was not eligible to answer again until no one knew the answer.  From that heritage, I have questioned why we don’t celebrate Christmas as the disciples and Paul did, wondered if it was significant that the only time in the Bible a man tells a woman “I love you” it is Samson to Delilah and raised the question of “fallowing”. I have known of the “fallow” year rule, but have never heard a farmer or gardener practice it or discuss it**.  After all, we eat pork, plant two kinds of seeds in a field (rye with clover) and wear cotton/polyester clothes. Fallowing fields is commanded by God:

Ex 23:11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.  (See also, Lev. 25: 1-4)

 Interpretations of “fallow ground” law

To what extent is the ‘land rest’ command binding on the Christian today? What are the principles by which to interpret scripture on the matter of land rest?    Do we choose the general interpretation, looking for the principles behind the law?  This approach would conclude that practices like crop rotation, manuring the fields, composting and mulching meet the purpose of these regulations and are the equivalent of “rest”?  Or, should we follow the practice of some observant Jews who do not use the land at all during the seventh year. I read of some who lease their orchards the seventh year (to Arabs) to meet the requirement of the law of land rest?

Basic principles

What is the basis for the Christian taking this scripture literally?  First, I assume that the Gen. 2 instruction to Adam to “serve and preserve the land” provides the basis for interpreting this passage.  Second, Jesus (Mark 2 23-28) tells us that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  From this I conclude that the Sabbath rest was made for human benefit in three areas: 1. Observing the Sabbath and the Sabbath year was commanded the Hebrew people as a symbol of their trust in God to provide for them.  Letting the land rest for the seventh year demonstrated their trust in God.  2. Resting the land from cultivation during the Sabbath year provided for rejuvenation of the land.  3. Sabbath rest for the land was one way of providing for the poor.  These three principles stand behind the literal application of the fallowing law (as it does the related practices in Leviticus).

Trust in God

How do Christians demonstrate their trust in God for provision of food?  Trust in God for provision of food seems even more distant in a society where most do not have gardens, get their meat and dairy products from the grocery store and buy their orange juice from Brazil and more distant sources.  Gardens, however small, give parents and children a way to experience dependence on God.  Even when the water comes from a faucet and the fertilizer comes from a bag, there is realization that some part of the growth is beyond our control.  Organic practice seeks to feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant.  Here the dependence is a bit clearer.  With the use of permanent mulch, the work of worms and their allies to convert leaves, grass and kitchen trimmings to “new earth” is evidence of God’s creative work on our behalf.  The third principle, providing for the poor relates closely to this one.  Giving a portion of our garden production to the poor acknowledges that we rely on God to provide for us.  However, one benefit that observing the Sabbath rest demonstrates, trust in God, is difficult to provide for in modern agricultural practice.  Is it possible that returning to a literal “fallowing” would be an opportunity to increase our trust in God?

Rest and renewal

What contemporary agricultural practices provide for the land to get rest and renewal?  While the “rest” part may be difficult to understand in modern practice, the renewal part is clear.  I believe that the organic standard of “feed the soil, let the soil feed the plants” comes close to replicating the benefits of the Sabbath year.  Jesus words that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath establishes the principle.  The practice of agricultural Bible-believers to exempt farmers, especially dairy farmers and poultry farmers from the “no work on Sunday” rule is a tacit recognition of this principle.   The agricultural practices seen in the Bible such as those required by the fallowing rule were reflective of climate and soil conditions typical of the Middle East.  Stiff soils and dry climates where there are two crops per year taking off the land, lose fertility faster than in temperate zones where the soil lies dormant from Oct. to April (or is covered with a “green manure” crop of rye, vetch or a combination of plants.

The renewal of permanent mulching is apparent at the garden I worked with.  The red clay ridge had probably been stripped of most of its fertility before the slaves were freed.  With the application of six inches or so per year of leaves, hay, grass and the addition of coffee grounds, what had been “waste” became soil amendment: “fertilizer”, if you please.  (Due to the pressure of companies producing nitrogen fertilizers using fossil fuels, organic gardeners/farmers are not permitted to call these ingredients “fertilizers”.) Over a period of ten or so years, three to six inches or more of organic matter has turned to black soil—the original red mineral portion of soil (subsoil) is still below it.  The soil tests completed (at conventional agricultural laboratories) show that all nutrients are well above optimum for nourishing crops.  A soil scientist told me that if I were a farmer with a soil management plan, I would not be permitted to add even compost to the garden.  So, does this restoration of land (and the rescuing of organic matter from the landfill) equal the Biblical requirement of renewal? If all of creation is good, then the worms, sow bugs and microorganisms that process leaves, grass and coffee grounds into soil are an important part of creation.  When the right conditions are created, these creatures transform raw organic matter into compost or humus which is the plant and animal part of soil (the rest being primarily mineral).  By mixing carbon and nitrogen materials, reducing the particle size and maintaining a good moisture level, worms and the microherd can convert several feet of “yard trimmings” (wastes) into “new earth”.  Is this part of God’s work to bring about a new earth/reverse the degradation of land by erosion and overuse? Extending the idea of shalom to all of creation is a continuation of this understanding.  The good or best of conditions for organic matter processors is the “shalom of the microherd”.  Mulching creates a suitable environment for sow bugs and worms.  Letting the worm created channels for moisture and nutrients function in the intended manner creates soil creations that permit plants to be at their best:  part of the creation God declared was good.

Care for the poor

How do contemporary gardening practices provide for the poor in the way that gleaning from volunteer grain or other plants might provide during the fallow year?  The garden referred to in the previous paragraph raised produce and flowers for a food pantry.  If there was a practice comparable to carbon sequestration/carbon banking which permits those adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere to pay, for instance, forest owners a fee to continue to pump out excess amounts of carbon.  Forests sequester or capture “excess” carbon and give off oxygen.  So, food pantry gardens can be a “bank” for agricultural practices, which do not of themselves provide for the poor.  Since 1995 the Garden Writers of America/GardenComm (a secular organization) have promoted their “plant a row for the hungry” program where the extra rows of produce can be taken to the local food pantry.  Again, this is a way that gardeners can meet the principle of “providing for the poor” while continuing to use the land.  https://gardencomm.org/PAR Can permanent mulch, minimum and organic gardening fulfill the purpose of the Sabbath rest for the land?  If the poor are fed, the land is improved and trust in God for provision is taught and experienced, then one can say that there is some accomplishment of the principles behind fallowing/Jubilee year.

(Whether conventional gardening practices accomplish God’s purpose in giving the fallowing command can be investigated by someone else.)

 

**Two later references (Jeremiah 4:3-4a, Hosea 10:12) to “break up your fallow ground” are sometimes interpreted to mean ‘stop sinning.’  But since God instructed the Hebrews to let ground lie fallow, normal “fallowing practice” would not constitute sin.  Ploughing previously fallow ground would begin the next cycle of creation and renewal.  That seems the most likely focus of Jeremiah and Hosea.

 


 

Isaiah to Joseph: Watch out for leaders who rely on political/military alliances over Immanuel

Isaiah and Ahaz

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. Isaiah 7:14-16

What happened in Isaiah:  Ahaz made an alliance with Assyria and traveled there.  He liked the altar he saw there and had one made to use in Jerusalem—he may have been required by the treaty to erect an altar for Assyrian gods.  Israel became a dependent of Assyria.  During the time it took the young woman’s son to reach twelve, the kings threatening Ahaz and Judah were defeated and, one of them, Israel, ceased to exist as a nation.   (See the story of Asa for the prophet’s pronouncement of judgment because Asa made a military alliance with a foreign nation, rather than trusting God as he had in the past. 2 Chron. 16:7-10)

What would have happened if Ahaz had trusted in “God with us”?

Five hundred years later

 Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 This all happened so that what did the Lord through the prophet speak would be fulfilled: 23 Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God with us.  Mt. 1:20-23 (NET) [Emphasis from NET]

Was the angel was reminding Joseph of Isaiah’s word to Ahaz of the consequences of not trusting “God with us”?

We might conclude that part of the message was that Joseph’s trust in God (Immanuel) was essential in the days to come. Challenges included social disapproval due to Mary’s pregnancy, immigration to Egypt under the threat of death, and a son would be born into a world hostile to the message of “God with us.”

For Isaiah, Immanuel meant trusting God, rather than turning to military alliances (violence).    The freedom fighters of a century and a half before Joseph, the Maccabees, decided that only by a violent revolt against Syria and a military alliance with Rome could the people of God practice their religion as they should. Their contemporary, compiler of the Daniel experiences, called for faithful living like Daniel and friends, teaching wisdom, and trusting the visions of God’s control of history.

However, the “chief priests and rulers” of Joseph’s time were part of the ruling class which gained power after the successful revolt against the Syrian (Seleucid) government.  The Jewish leaders had chosen violence as a way to protect the temple and their way of worship.   After the Hebrews gained their independence, the Romans used the treaty with them as a pretext to take over Judah.  Some of the chief priests and legal experts maintained their alliance with Rome for personal economic advantage as well as to protect their religious freedom.

Later, the legal experts were frequent opponents of Jesus during his teaching ministry.  At the time of Jesus’ torture and execution, we know that the chief priests collaborated with the Romans to seek the death of Jesus – Immanuel.  Did the angel bring a word of warning to Joseph because they, like Ahaz, had made accommodations with a pagan nation of the day, rather than trusting Immanuel?

The Wisemen

This collaboration of the religious leaders with political shows up in another part of the birth of Jesus events.  The Persian priests came following a star, looking for a king.  But, then they went to Jerusalem.  It is not clear that the star led them to Jerusalem.  I wonder if it was their assumption that religion and government/politics (a king) went together led them there, not the star.  When Herod consulted “the chief priests and experts in the law”, they gave him the location information he requested.  Surely, they found the passage about “Immanuel” as well as the Micah passage they quoted for Herod and the Persians?  When they left Herod the text of Matthew is “once again they saw the star” which suggests to me that they did not see it on their way to Jerusalem. The bias (only the political/governmental capital would house a king) of the Persian priests about a king which may have led them to go to Jerusalem, rather than keeping the star as their guide.   That and the Jewish leaders’ alliance with Herod, the Romans ruler, resulted in the death of many young boys in Judea and forced Jesus’ family to be refugees.  Could it be that the rest of Isaiah’s words (not quoted in Matthew) warned Joseph?   He knew that the rulers of his time, like Isaiah’s, would prefer a foreign military alliance to trusting Immanuel, so he was ready to flee to Egypt


 

Mary’s prophecy, Jesus’ first sermon

What’s the connection?

 

Mary responded to Elizabeth’s confirmation of the angel’s words about the identity of the child she was carrying.  She spoke strong words about God’s work in the future:

He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.

The angels declared:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people
with whom he is pleased!”

After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 

 

The message from the angels of peace was one to be remembered and passed on to her son.  In her song are words about raising up the humble.  Didn’t the shepherds coming as Jesus’ first visitors reflect Mary’s song of praise?  The visit of humble shepherds and their response to Jesus have been remembered throughout history.  Mary’s place in history is a prime example of the humble being raised.  Jesus should be added.  A carpenter’s son in an area remote from the centers of political and economic power who become the most important name for many.

What of these words and birth events do we see in Jesus’ first sermon and subsequent work?

 

Compare Mary’s song and Jesus’ first sermon:

He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:51-53)

 From Jesus first sermon

 “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 release to the captives
and the regaining of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 (Luke 4:18-19)

 

 The Connection?

What in his sermon shows that Mary had taught Jesus her understanding of how God worked in the world? I do not believe I have given Mary enough credit for her influence on Jesus and his teachings.

To what extent does Jesus omit Mary’s theme of bringing down the mighty?  Can one only release the captives by eliminating the “mighty”? Should we conclude that this is a call to revolution?  Followers of Jesus in the spirit of Mary should, perhaps, seek by force to eliminate the Roman oppressors and their Hebrew collaborators. Taxes imposed by Romans and collected frequently by Hebrews, plus the temple tax often led to the peasant farmer losing his property due to the inability to pay the taxes.  But Jesus’s way was different. The oppressed, of course, are freed only by dealing with the oppressor.  Mary sees the hungry filled with good things and Jesus speaks of good news to the poor. This good news is possible when “the mighty” (Mary’s words) are not like the “rich fool” (Luke 12:13-21), Dives (who neglected Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31) or the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30).  The poor will be feed when people understand Jesus’ parables of the rich farmer (and what he should be doing with his bountiful harvest). In understanding the Lazarus parable, they will see themselves as the “brothers” (Luke 16:28) who should pay attention to the “law and the prophets” and care for Lazarus’ kin.   The wealthy will see the contrast between the rich young man and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

Heeding Jesus’ word there will be more people now like Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus’ example of giving half his wealth to the poor will be the model for those who, living in the spirit of Mary’s prophecy, want to be true sons of Abraham.

 

Quotations from The New English Translation

Also posted on Rawley Pike Peace and Justice Notes

__________________________________________

One more read

Saving books through “Little Libraries”

For the past several years Julia and I, when visiting our son and family in Texas, have been taking books with us to read on the way and while we were in Texas. Rather than bringing the books we had finished back to Virginia with us, we placed them in a Little Library within sight of our son’s house.  One year we decided to take additional books to just to put in the Library. Recently we discovered there are little libraries in Harrisonburg, too.

Booksavers (Gift & Thrift on Mt. Clinton Pike*), where I volunteer, keeps many books from an early trip to the landfill.  Our donors bring their books (as well as CDs and DVDs) to our store for resale.  Booksavers recycles for paper, books that are not saleable (due to minor blemishes, etc.) or have not sold after time on the shelves.  But some of us at Booksavers have wanted to give these books “One More Read”.

Harrisonburg “little libraries”

People of Harrisonburg are giving books one more read by putting them in “little libraries” –free libraries, usually along the street. Some belong to the “Little Free Libraries” organization**.  Some of the “little libraries” are not a part of the Little Free Library organization:

Collicello south of 3rd

IMG_20181025_142020563_HDR
Collicello near 3rd
Collicello just north of 5th. (Beneventos)
IMG_20181108_132408097_HDR

Cornerstone Lane off Rt. 11 north near/at Cornerstone School

East Market just east of Mason at Strite Donuts—called “Free Library” (John Shafer, Steward) ++

East Wolfe between Myrtle and Sterling (Mary Lou Wylie) https://www.whsv.com/home/headlines/Little-Free-Libraries-Encourage-Kids-to-Read-During-Summer-Months-262338191.html

Eastern Mennonite University near the corner of Parkwood and Park.  Stocked by Hartzler Library.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 660 South Main Street, near MLK, Jr. Way.

Friendly City Food Coop, Mason and Wolfe –bookshelves near the cash registers and windows‡

Immanuel Mennonite Church, 400 Kelly Street – near Hill Street.

Madison Street-between Jefferson and Monroe–stocked with the help of Vine & Fig Tree—a very colorful Library ‡

IMG_20181030_131110559

Mountain View Elementary School, Rawley Pike, Rockingham County

IMG_20190819_092540867

Myrtle and Kelly – Stocked by Gus Bus people

Our Community Place – (boxes inside occasionally) outside–proposed

Pale Fire Brewery off Bruce Street between Chesapeake and Liberty – inside

Ridgeway Mennonite Church, 546 E Franklin St

Sentara RMH Wellness Center, 2500 Wellness Drive, HNBG

 

South Dogwood just south of Neyland Avenue ++

IMG_20181220_101247039_HDR

West Market (33 West) near North Dogwood

IMG_20181031_121938263

Lincolnshire Drive – North end (this one is actually in Rockingham County)

Other locations stocked by Booksavers people:

Children’s Clothes Closet

Refugee Resettlement

Roberta Webb Preschool, Kelly Ave. (for school participants only)

Salvation Army, 895 Jefferson Street (available on distribution days)

Sentara Hospital:  One near the Main entrance and one near Emergency entrance

Waterman School, 451 Chicago Avenue (for students only)

[If you know of others, please let me know at dave528va@gmail.com.]

Free book offer

These people and organizations are to be commended for their work setting up the little libraries and in giving books “one more read”.  Booksavers can supplement what the owner/stewards of the existing little libraries are putting in their libraries.  The books available may have blemishes, may be out of date (at least, some people think so), or just don’t sell in the store.  (Books that are not claimed, Booksavers sells to paper recycling.) To see what Booksavers might have to give your “little library”, make an appointment with Booksavers’ Manager, Amy Rohrer at (booksaversmanager@gmail.com ).  Currently, Booksavers’ employee Sue stocks an unofficial “little library” at Waterman School and several others.  Gary helps stock the one on East Wolfe.  David has been delivering books to Our Community Place, Salvation Army, Vine & Fig Tree and others. Julia has sent books to Refugee Resettlement and Children’s Clothes Closet.  None of these are official library stewards, just book and people lovers. We have distributed more than fifty boxes of books since the One More Read program started in October of 2018.

Booksavers has many books worthy of “one more read”.  We will make these available to library owners or stewards (stewards of the Little Free Libraries they maintain are required by Little Free Library Org.). Volunteers are ready to deliver books to the Little Library stewards.  Additional volunteers are welcome.  For more information text David Alleman at 540-705-1437, or email at dave528va@gmail.com

More little libraries needed

Observers (nationally) of the Little Library movement have noted that most of these libraries are located in more affluent neighborhoods.  This appears to be the case in Harrisonburg as well.  We would like to locate Little Libraries in neighborhoods not currently served.   Harrisonburg does have a few little libraries in less affluent areas.  Madison Street, Myrtle and Kelly, Myrtle and Hill, and Ridgeway Mennonite on Franklin.  Possible sites are near Our Community Place, Lucy Sims School, and the Salvation Army on Ashby Avenue. Stewards/caretakers are needed for these locations.

What more is needed?  The Little Library organization asks $40 registration fee to make the library an official Little Free Library. This fee pays for instructions, publicity and signs.   Additional funds are needed for the materials for the library box, the post and the cement.  The cost would be under $75.  Finally, people are needed to install the little libraries.

Ridgeway Mennonite Church, 546 E Franklin St, Harrisonburg is the latest to install a Little Library. They opened in early September.  Our Community Place has made a commitment to install a Little Free Library.  It should be the next Little Free Library in Harrisonburg.

*

https://www.facebook.com/booksaversofvirginia/

http://giftandthrift.org/

**For more on the Little Library organization, see their website:

https://littlefreelibrary.org/   https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/

 

‡libraries currently stocked by Booksavers staff or volunteers.

Praying for rain

rain.pexels-photo-459451

The record for rain in a twenty-four-hour period is 73 inches on an island in the Indian Ocean.

Mt. Wal-ale-ale (Hawaii) gets 460 inches of rain per year.  Rain falls 335 days of the year.

 

Then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil.  Deut. 11:14

Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.  Deut. 11:17

The Desierto del Atacama in Chile had 1/4 “ of rain in 1971.  As far as can be determined, the previous rain had occurred some 400 years earlier. (Weather Book)

 

At one time in my life, I would not hesitate to pray for rain.  Now, I hesitate to pray for rain.  As a boy growing up on the farm, I welcomed the rain.  Frequently, rain meant no more digging out thistles or chopping brush out of fence rows and the possibility that I could spend some time reading.  A refreshing summer sound, the cooling rain rattled the corn leaves to announce its coming across the creek field and up the hill toward the house.

Some pastors or worship leaders were uncomfortable about praying for rain in public.  “I always give thanks for rain in public prayers.”  said a worship leader.  Another person said we should not expect God to give an area normally getting ten inches of rain a year to suddenly get forty inches a year.

Rain imagery occurs in many songs and hymns of the church.  Most people I ask for their memories of “rain” in songs and hymns thought of “Showers of Blessing” The song “Healing River” implies rain to cleanse.  A song from my childhood, “Sunshine and Rain” invites both rain and sun.  The children’s song “The foolish man built his house upon the sand” has in the third verse “The blessings will come down as the prayers go up.”

 

Rain images abound in the Bible as indicated (see the header):

“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, 2 Chronicles 6:26

Throughout most of the OT rain is associated with blessing, the lack of rain with sin of God’s people.

The prophets saw rain as blessing:

He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day, your cattle will graze in broad meadows. Isaiah 30:23

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater. Isaiah 55:10

 

Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”  Hosea 6:3

Rain as blessing frequents the Psalms, although Psalm 78: 47-48 provides a contrast:  Storms, at least hail and lightning can be a means of punishing God’s enemies:

During the twilight of the Kingdom of Judah, the prophet Ezekiel brings this word:

Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: In my wrath, I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. Ezekiel 13:13

Ezekiel’s God can use the rain to punish as well as bless.  Just as the “day of the Lord” once meant salvation for Israel, later it meant a day of judgment, so now rain comes to warn and punish God’s people.

But in the New Testament, Jesus announces:

“that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  Matthew 5:45

If God sends us rain without regard for our goodness, and if we have the Weather Channel, why pray for rain?  But today with the likelihood that some drought is the result of (in part) human caused, climate change, the prayer of repentance (including changing our behavior) takes on new significance.  (The verse from Matthew focuses on how we should treat those around us, not on what we should pray about–or when we should pray.)

Reflecting on praying for rain the thought came to me:  Does “give us this day our daily bread” imply a prayer for rain?  Praying the prayer Jesus gave his disciples gives us a start with our prayer for rain.  Perhaps praying for rain is part of our regularly reporting to God what we feel our needs are, not telling God what he should do.  Maybe I can pray about rain without feeling embarrassed!

 

Moses’ farewell “song” is an excellent blessing:

May God’s teaching fall on you like rain and his words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.  [paraphrase of Deut. 32:2]

 

 

Advent:  Learning about the other side of Christmas?

Our congregation is beginning the Advent season worship observances. Do these make our Christmas different from that of the rest of the world, Christian and otherwise?  The bright side of Advent has always been well represented.  There will be candles, bright lights, “Joy to the World” and angels, all as they should be.  Most of these we see and hear when we venture outside our church or home where the world is bright with lights, filled with inflated animals, birds and machines; busy with shoppers and noisy advertisements.  How might we use Advent to make our Christmas focus different from what we see and hear at the Mall?

Mary’s Role

Perhaps to get away from the negative attitudes of neighbors who wondered why she was pregnant before marriage, Mary left Nazareth.  She traveled nearly ninety miles, perhaps by herself, probably on foot to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, to exchange news of their pregnancies.  (Mary would have been six or more months pregnant by the time she returned.)  When Mary arrived, Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, praised God for blessing Mary as the mother of the Son of God.  Mary responded by praising God for his promise to bring salvation, to bring down the rich and powerful and to feed the hungry.   Not long after that, Mary and Joseph experienced the effect of the oppressive government.  To fund their oppression of the people of Judah, the Romans were collecting a tax that required Joseph and Mary to go to Joseph’s hometown.   They traveled ninety miles (probably more) from Nazareth east to the Jordan down the Jordan valley to Jericho, then up into the hills to Bethlehem.

Jesus birth

Did nearly nine-months-pregnant Mary repeat her prophecy of the downfall of the rich and powerful of her time to Joseph as she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem?  Because many people had arrived in Bethlehem for the taxing, the couple could only find shelter in an animal pen.  They may have found the warmth of animals for their comfort there or the animals may have been out in the field because it was warm at the time. Due to the Roman occupying army, Mary had none of the comforts of home, presence of family and friends and may or may not have found a midwife.  After the Jesus birth, Mary may have placed Jesus in a feed trough of stone.

The lights, bells and cheery greetings of the season as we celebrate it do not remind us of the words of Simon reported by Luke.  Simon’s words to Mary “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35).

Herod’s role

Then after somewhat less than two years, Persian wisemen/astrologers/priests stumbled into Herod’s schemes.  A violent ruler who had killed several relatives who he feared wanted his throne, Herod saw Jesus a threat to his rule.  Jewish leaders located scripture that they probably could guess Herod would use to find and kill the child.  To try to eliminate Jesus as a threat to his throne, Herod ordered killed maybe 10 to 30 young boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.  God had already warned Joseph to take his family away; so, by night they were started their trip to Egypt when the massacre happened.  For several years Jesus’ family were immigrants in Egypt.  So, Joseph, his teenage wife, and son had been away from home probably five years.  Murders, forced immigration and hardship due to the efforts of the political and religious leaders to maintain their power and privileges are nothing new.

Advent vs Christmas?

Perhaps the old Anabaptist idea of “separation from the world” needs dusted off and used here.  Perhaps our Advent observance should be used to balance the world’s (including much of contemporary Christian world’s) Christmas focus?  Maybe we need a sermon on occasion from the Revelation 12 Christmas story on the dragon and the woman.  Do we recognize that turmoil and suffering will be a byproduct of Jesus coming (and probably of our proclamation of his coming), but redemption and peace is the goal of the season?  Mary, mother of Jesus spoke of a time when the rich and powerful would be brought low and the poor and hungry would be cared for.  Thirty years later her Son spoke very similar words in his first sermon at Nazareth (see Luke 4).  This, too, was Jesus Advent.  Is this our Advent proclamation?

 

______________________________

How is Christ our Cornerstone?

“Christ is our cornerstone,

On Him alone we build.”

Hymnal:  Worship Book #43

            “A cornerstone is a largely ornamental architectural feature.” -Encyc. Brit. (unknown ed.)

In celebration of our church’s one-hundredeth anniversary, the pastor had carefully chiseled away the crumbling mortar from around the stone.  As people of the community, former and current church members watched, he carefully slid the stone onto the stand prepared for it.  A small metal box was removed from a recess in the stone.  From it came a few coins, a decaying newspaper and a moldy Bible.  Later, the first cornerstone was replaced with a new, hermetically sealed container with new ingredients in the recess in the stone.  In the weeks between the removal of the stone and its replacement, the church building, minus the cornerstone, stood, and the church (people)  continued normal activities.  The still functioning, cornerstone-less building remained in my memory.

Singing “Christ is our cornerstone” reminded me of the earlier experience.  Having recently studied the scripture referring to Christ as the capstone, I wondered how the capstone and cornerstone were related.  While beginning some research on this topic, I asked several people what the image suggested to them.  “Christ is the foundation, something strong and firm.” one offered.  Later she agreed that she didn’t distinguish between Christ the foundation stone, and the  corner foundation stone .  A song leader offered that “cornerstone” suggested a rock with it’s strength and solidity*.  Another said that the cornerstone was the one by which the foundation was set straight.  After these comments, I still felt the dissonance of the song and dictionary definition.  My research turned up some clarification.

In the modern era, most buildings do not have a functional cornerstone. I have not been able to find out when the load bearing function of the cornerstone ended.  I did find some information about a commercial building in Chicago (early 20th century) that was thought to be the last commercial building with a load bearing foundation.  I am still trying to find out when the “surveying” function of the cornerstones (plural) was no longer important.

During the time the Psalms were written, foundations were seldom laid with dressed or finished stone.  Rough stones were used.  For Solomon’s temple, however, dressed stones were used for the entire foundation  I Kings 7:9-10 which reports that the stones used were eight and ten cubits (12 to 15 feet) and that they were all trimmed with a saw on the inner and outer surfaces.  The first stone laid was carefully squared and finished to line up the rest of the foundation wall.  The other corners had some of the same function, but the first was the “chief” cornerstone.  The rest of the wall was laid up, often without mortar.  Fresh cut stones would dry and settle together.  Some of these foundations remain today, cut so precisely, a knife blade could not be stuck between the stones.

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. Isaiah 28:16

Since uniform, ready-made stone was not used, some irregularities would result so that the last space to be filled required a stone not exactly the size of the others.  Since this was the final stone a good fit would tie the wall together.  A stone which previously had been set aside might be used because it was an exact fit.  This was the capstone, the one that tied together the wall and fit exactly.  Laying the last stone was a ceremonial occasion as

“What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of `God bless it! God bless it!’ Zechariah 4:7

In the New Testament, Jesus is seen as both the chief cornerstone and the capstone.

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, 1 Peter 2:6, 7

If we believe our eyes and experience, we understand that in our day, a cornerstone is a decorative repository of items from the past history of a church or other institution.  A closer look at the world of the Bible helps us see how the people of Jesus time used this image to move toward an understanding of him.  I hope this helps.

Jesus is the first stone and the last, the “tested” stone, the one that determines that the rest of the building is well-build, solid, and will stand.  He is the final stone, the one that just fits and holds the building together.

 

*The image of the cornerstone and stone or rock overlap.   I have pursued these images in another blog, “On being chips off  the old Rock.”

Stories of my Dad

Dad’s Frugality

The big three bay, bank barn held several thousand bales.   The hay wagon pushed into the center bay. Getting the bales into the side bays from the center bay required use of ropes and pulleys.  Dad was usually the one who pushed the four prongs, called “forks”, into eight bales.  A rope ran from the forks to a combination pulley on a track running the length of the barn at its peak. The other end of the rope from the forks was attached to a tractor supplying the power to pull the bales up to the track and then to one bay or the other.

I was stacking the bales in a nearly full bay. So, while waiting for the next load of bales, I sat on the ten-inch beam that was about 15 feet or so above the hay mow floor.  As the load of bales neared the top of the barn there was a crack and I felt something hit my head.  God was with me in several ways at that moment.  First, when I was hit, I did not fall forward fifteen feet onto the mow floor where there were a number of things dangerous to fall on.  Second, the place where the bolt from the fork assembly hit me—the middle of the top of my head—was less threatening than, say, my eye.  At least the bolt didn’t ruin my good looks.

The fall back onto the bales I remember, but I do not remember climbing down the ladder or walking the hundred or so yards up the hill to the house.  I do remember that as Dad and Mom cut away the hair as the blood flowed from the cut, they discussed whether to take me the fourteen miles to the doctor.  (I don’t know if there were ERs in those days or not–this would have been about 1957.)  As I remember the discussion Dad thought that since I had only a small cut (as you can see from the scar depending on how I part my hair), a trip to the doctor wasn’t necessary.  Then, too, there was hay to be made.  Neighbors or maybe a hired man were helping with the haying.  Mom was worried about my head.  At least since Dad had his way I had an excuse for whatever trouble I got into later—it was due to the hit to my head.

Funny thing is, I do not remember the accident’s aftermath:  Was I embarrassed about having a strange haircut?  Did I have a lot of pain?  How long did I get to read instead of needing to go back to helping with hay making and doing chores?  The outcome apparently was good:  no infection or other problems.

Dad was frugal.  No doctor’s bills and haymaking continued.

 

Dad’s Kindness

Dad was kind to his children.  Once he sent me with our old Case tractor (maybe a DC4) and chain saw to clear out a fence row a mile or so by road from the buildings.  As I remember this tractor, the tires were nearly as high as the driver’s shoulders and seemed higher than the hood of the tractor.  Some of you know that when a tree grows up in a fencerow, the tree often grows around the fence wire.  The wise thing to do is to start the cut above the wire so that you don’t cut into the wire.  Chain saws around 1955 were heavy and I wasn’t full grown.  So I used the manure scoop on the tractor to lift me high enough to notch the approximately twenty-inch-diameter tree.

After notching the tree, I went around to the other side of the tree where the ground was higher to drop the tree.  Just as the cut was finished, I realized the tree was falling toward the tractor.  I hadn’t moved it!

I stood there imagining I could run around the tree, start the tractor and move it, when smack, the tree hit the tractor.  What damage do you think there was?  Surprising little to the tractor.  Only the muffler and the battery were damaged.  On that model, the battery sat just in front of the steering wheel.  What happened was the tree was wish-bone shaped with branches that curved around just right to rest on the high wheels of the tractor.  This protected the tractor’s vital parts.

The greater damage may have done to my sense of well-being. My fears expanded rapidly as I walked the three-quarters of a mile across the pasture and field to the barn to get Dad to help get the tree off the tractor.  I do not remember how we got the tree off the tractor, just that dad did not make a big fuss about the cost of the damage or get mad at me for my mistake.  He was merciful.

 

Working on Sunday

 

Dad was careful not to work on Sunday.  Of course, he took care of the animals on the farm.  That was different.  Some farmers thought haymaking was in the same category and would “make” hay on Sunday; but Dad wouldn’t.  But in the Spring, though, sometimes he would work on Sunday.

We lived off the main road on a gravel road that just past our house and barn became a dirt road that got bad just past our buildings.  With no trees and low ditches the road across the creek and up the hill stayed dry.  Once over the hill there were trees close on both sides of the road and several low spots that stayed wet.  So “Sunday drivers” would zip down the gravel road past our house, over the bridge and up the hill and out of sight on the mud road.  A little later our Sunday dinner or Dad’s nap would be interrupted by a knock at the door and a stranger would inquire about help getting a car out of the mud.

Dad would agree to have dinner interrupted or to give up the nap to help the “Sunday Driver.”  But, giving that help required getting out our tractor.  We had a John Deere A 1937 with a flywheel crank start. (If you have heard the “putt-putt” John Deere, you have heard one of these.) For those who do not know about late 1930s John Deere, the flywheel was a large thick wheel (3” x 14 or 16”) attached to the left side of the tractor.  To start the tractor, one grabbed the wheel with both hands and tried to spin the wheel counter clockwise to get the engine to fire.  On rare occasion in the summertime it might start on the first spin.  Most times it took many attempts and interspersed with adjustments of the choke.  Incidentally, being able to start the JD-A was a test of manhood for a young teen.  But, starting the “A” was not a favorite Sunday activity.  I was 11-14 when these rescues happened (before the road was graveled) and I don’t think I went with Dad on any of the half-mile trips.

Dad may have commented about the emotional and mental qualities of the Sunday Drivers when he returned, but I don’t recall that.  I do remember he refused pay for the rescues. And, I remember that Dad was compassionate enough to work on Sunday even to help foolish “Sunday Drivers”.

 

Ultimate Composting: Our experience with “no-till” gardening

 

Our first attempt at a “no-till” approach to gardening in Virginia came when we arrived for a quick visit to Virginia to complete a purchase agreement on a house in June.  We purchased a sheet of plastic to cover a garden space currently in grass.  When we completed our move in mid-July, we began preparing raised beds to be ready for Fall planting.  Neighbors later told us that the former owners had spent considerable time getting the grass started during a dry period the previous year.  When we expanded the garden, we put down leaves to kill the grass.

At our current residence the grass in the backyard was in good shape.  I worked in a library giving me access to a steady supply of newspapers.  Two convenience stores and a college dining hall produced fifteen to thirty gallons of coffee grounds plus filters per week.  (Some of which was used on another garden.)  Wasteful city residents placed bags of compostables (grass clippings and leaves) at the curb for me to pick up.  (When looking for grass clippings, I watched for clover and dandelions–indicators of no weed spray.)

A fellow worker moved to a farm with a barn housing a quantity of old (5 years plus) hay.  He would drive my pickup with a rack home on Friday and return it Monday full of hay.  (Julia once said we had a yard full of hay and no cow.)  Five or six loads of broken bales of hay with the other organic matter gave us a good start on “ultimate composting”.

All of these ingredients permitted us to enrich the clay ridge we lived on.  The top soil that may have been there was probably gone before the slaves left the area.  Now there are five garden beds of sixty-six feet down to thirty feet of black soil on top of the clay.  The technique we used to improve the soil is similar to what has been called “lasagna” gardening.  The book with this title came out about time we were refining our practice of soil preparation and helped us to systematize our practice.  However, “stew” gardening seemed a better label.  My reasoning?  Mixing the materials as is done in a compost pile helps the microherd.  The microherd have little mouths/teeth and little feet.  Having both nitrogen and carbon mixed together as throughly as possible helps the microherd (bacteria, yeasts and allies) start converting the organic material into soil.  Below is a summary of the procedure which I have used with workshops on this procedure.  We used this procedure with several flower beds and to expand a food pantry garden.  The food pantry garden included patches of wiregrass which provided a constant battle during the 8-10 years of using that patch of ground.

 

________________________

Ultimate Composting a.k.a. “lasagna”/stew gardening or  sheet composting

Why should I sheet compost?

* Enrich the soil in your garden by composting on site

* Superior to bin composting for improving soil

* Save money — purchase less topsoil, humus and peat

* Reduce tax-funded yard waste processing costs

* Protect water quality by increasing the efficiency of water and fertilizer use

What is compost?

* Dark crumbly material like top layer of soil in a forest

* Produced naturally by microbes and compost worms feeding on compost pile materials, including leaves and yard wastes from your own backyard

* A soil amendment that will improve clay or sandy soils

How does composting work?

* Composting is microbe and earthworm management

* ‘Feed’ for compost critters is material rich in carbon–fallen leaves, straw, even newspaper

* Microbes also need a source of nitrogen–green garden trimmings, manure, alfalfa, etc.

What do I need to begin?

* Manure fork or garden fork

* Newspapers soaked in water (if a new garden or if you have lots of weeds)

* Composting materials (dry leaves, garden waste, coffee grounds, peat, straw, hay, other materials)

* May need to add water

How do I begin?

Collect materials including carbon (leaves, wood chips) and nitrogen (grass, coffee grounds, manure)

  • Place 6 or more sheets of wet newspaper overlapped on sod. Cardboard can be used for fall application. (Cardboard is hard to get fully wet and to get to conform to shape of ground so that there are no spaces for weeds/grass to grow around/through.)

Spread up to 1 ft of leaves and grass clippings, shredded, packed down or up to four inches of green wood chips (in dry weather, water each layer.  2 bags leaves to 1 bag grass)

* Mix with nitrogen-rich material:

~1/2 ft or more green garden wastes); OR

~1-2 inches manure; OR

~A scattering of alfalfa meal (rabbit pellets); OR

~a few cups of organic N fertilizer (5-2-2)

[leaves alone will decompose eventually.  I am assuming you want faster breakdown]

* Add a sprinkling of finished/mature compost.

* Water to consistency of wet sponge

*Microbes get full diet quicker if you mix the different materials.

*Some recommend covering the area with porous material–burlap is best–until planting time.  (Google “Interbay” method.)

What stays out?

* Cat litter and dog droppings

* Sick plants

* Pesticide and herbicide treated plants

* Petroleum products

* coal ashes (wood ashes are good)

* Noxious weeds and weed seeds

* Oils, fats, large amounts of dairy products or meat

What about kitchen trimmings?

* Must be covered to avoid smell, insects and attracting animals.

*May introduce seeds—cover with leaves or hay to control sprouting seeds from trimmings

* Contribute valuable micronutrients to the pile

* Reduce organic wastes going to the landfill

* Add any amount on an on-going basis to composting material.

* Dig a hole or trench and put in scraps, cover with at 6″—8″ of leaves, hay, and grass, shredded paper

* Next visit, dig the hole in a different spot or cover with more dry material

 

When may I start planting?

*Best to start sheet composting in summer or fall for the next year.

*You may begin planting immediately–especially plants. Monitor plants to see that the mulch around them does not decompose and let them “high and dry”.

*You will need to put down mature compost or potting soil (soil pockets) to plant small seeds or plants.

For more detail:  https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-make-a-lasagna-garden-2539877

See the book Lasagna Gardening by Lanza (published by Rodale Press)

Also at gardenweb.com there is a lasagna gardening forum.