Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I have the greatest job in the world but it doesn't give me enough time to write about it! People are so exquisitely interesting. Today I met four people. Each one of them true and real and alive, all filled with blood, mucus, sweat and tears pouring out of them depending on the activity. A war with pollen and mold brings mucus, a war with evil-tears, a war with flesh - blood, a war with the earth-sweat. Today I met a builder, a milker, a milk hauler, and a dairy farm designer. The one with eyes that seemed most alive was the milker. Big fat dude with manure all down the front of his t-shirt and on most every part of him. He stretched his wide smile over pearly white teeth and we talked about coyotes howling outside his house and how his "old lady" wanted to look for a different house because she gets scared after he leaves at 3:00 a.m. to go milk cows. We talked about growing gardens and eating farm fresh eggs. You have to cool them or they break all up in the pan, fresh eggs don't hold together well. We talked about the deer hunters travelling down his dead-end road. We talked about manure - we can't help but talk about manure at a dairy farm, its everywhere, on his hands, face, and clothes but there he stood grinning and twinkling - precious.

This morning I got a call from my buddy Baldy, the one whose mom died about a month ago. I need to visit his dad, he's giving up on life and just keeps playing some crazy Allan Jackson song about "walking in heaven with you" or something. It breaks my heart to see lovers mourn. I don't think I have anything to say but Baldy thinks I need to come. You can't say anything to a person like that. I'll just go and sit with him. I'll ask him to play me that song - precious.

Friday, September 14, 2007

September 15

Tomorrow is my mom's birthday. She was born in 1934. She died in 2001. I miss her. She gave great hugs (if you didn't know how she would teach you how to hug and she didn't go for any halfway hugs) and made the best oven-fried chicken. She had blue eyes. She had a round face and many many crows feet from her smile that rarely left her face. When they did she was disappointing. She was also very messed up and hit me alot but she loved so strongly that it's been easy to forgive her. I think I probably didn't ever really get mad at her for it. I don't remember hating her like I hated my father. I remember feeling sorry for her. She would get so fierce that I thought something was going to break. When the hurt came down on me I can remember thinking "maybe she'll be okay now and I can say I'm sorry and we'll hug".

I'm glad that she was who she was. I loved hearing her stories about when she was young and single and living it up in Detroit with her girlfriends. I love to look at the photos of her sunbathing in the 50's. She was free from her abusive mother, had several friends and a couple roommates, worked as a keypunch operator at GE. She didn't look like that ever as a mom. She worked almost all the time, back when women ironed sheets. I remember her being exhausted and going to bed by 9:30 p.m. every night. The closest she got to relaxing was when we took a break from hoeing or picking pickles. She'd pour herself half a beer and sit in front of the fan in her sweat-soaked sleeveless white shirt. Her brown hair would be flying every which way making her look much like a TV madman, except for her smile. I felt so sorry for her and wished we were rich then. Her eyes would droop as she relaxed but it would only be for about a 1/2 hour and then we'd be back out again hoeing weeds or picking pickles until 3:00 p.m. Then she'd go in to start dinner and put on her "shows". She'd escape into General Hospital and then get on the phone with my abusive Grandmother to talk about what was going to happen tomorrow. I hope she felt that she lived a good life when she died but I don't think she did.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Carson City Politics

To the residents of Carson City and all those without jobs in Mid-Michigan:

The last lines of Wendell Berry’s poem “A History” reads “This place, that the great nation passed in its hundreds of hundreds, becomes again the place that they were searching for.”

As I read I was reminded of our own fair city of Carson City. I thought of the farmers and families that had carved a life out of mid-Michigan, had coffee together, raised barns, threshed grains, shocked corn, and built schools, churches, and businesses. The industrial revolution and more specifically the automobile has been kind of like the fire in Berry’s poem, “They set fires behind them to discourage pursuit. Behind them, the way would not support another passage.”

We find ourselves, as in Berry’s poem, at the point where the fires are out (as well as many of the manufacturing jobs), the opportunities are popping up like new shoots of grass through the ashes but it will take much vision and determination to culture a different kind of community from the devastation that many call the “Rust Belt”.

Agribusiness will continue to figure prominently but as any farmer knows diversity is the key to success. Picture a landscape broken by a huge wind farm. Farm and municipal waste flowing through sewer lines toward anaerobic digesters to capture the earth-suffocating methane- redeemed as heating fuel or to power a generator. Maybe our roofs will reflect the blue skies as photovoltaics turn sunlight into energy to serve our homes and community. Perhaps a biodiesel plant processing corn stover or wood chips into syngas in a biomass gasification process and using the waste heat to make ethanol or heat a hydroponic greenhouse where fresh vegetables are produced year-around.
Change is right around the corner and I urge you to resurrect and embrace the frontier spirit that calloused the hands of those that came before us. Don’t be drawn into negative politics this fall, concerning yourselves with what has been done wrong, but rather ask what will be done right and choose someone you believe will do it. Indifference is our only enemy. If we are not building we are dying.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Spring Hill Camp

Check out this waterfree urinal. I saw some at the camp and they are clean, not smelly, and use NO water! Since the camp is in the same town as Pepsi's Ice Mountain water plant that is good news to the world. You'll have your bottles full and none of that precious water will be used to wash away urine at the camp. I didn't realize that Ice Mountain was there but we've been enjoying that water for years before it was bottled. My wife's family had a hunting cabin near there and its water supply was/is an artesian well. We stopped by on this trip for a drink even thought we had to trespass to get it (the family sold the place). Our kids have lots of good memories there. Dear Lord forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who cut in the candle dipping lines at the craft barn (dripping hot wax on the heads of 4-yr. olds as they reach over them to dip the ugly candles).
We got back this afternoon from our second annual trip to Spring Hill Camp. The setting is beautiful, food much too plentiful, and accomodations to suit everyone's needs. This year my son and his girlfriend went along with the rest of the family. We had a blast but for some reason it just seemed wrong to me. I didn't rain on everyone else's parade but there is something unsettling about the amount of food that gets thrown away, the squabbles about "what are we going to do next" that we overheard while being shuttled between activities, and the praise and worship that speaks of a God of the good and plenty and not of the God of the suffering, the naked, and the oppressed.
My son and his girlfriend listened to Shane Claiborne (Irresistible Revolution) on the way north. Roman said he felt like he should join the Peace Corps or something. Hopefully he'll just really try to be a person that loves regardless of where he's doing it and be mindful of his impact on the world.
Finally, here are a few words sent to me from my Greek pen pal, Nektarios. They are from Demetrios the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America.
Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year
Protocol 112/07
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained; What is man, that You are mindful of him?(Psalm 8: 3-4)
September 1, 2007
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Once again we are blessed to enter our Ecclesiastical New Year on this date of September 1, 2007. Also known as the Feast of the Indiction, this date begins the calendrical cycle of our Holy Orthodox Church. As such, it is a date that marks new beginnings and renewed opportunities for our spiritual growth through our worship of the Triune God. It is also a date that our revered Ecumenical Patriarchate has fittingly established for the Orthodox Church as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. As we begin our cycle of worship and praise to the Lord on this date, it is only appropriate that we pause to consider the majesty of our universe and the infinite love of God for all of us as His children. Here, the Psalmist provides us words of guidance in the verses referenced above from Psalm 8 of the Old Testament. The Psalmist considered with awe the God-created glory of the stars in the heavens, the work of God's fingers, and how in the midst of this immensity humankind might compare. The vantage point of the Psalmist was truly a magnificent one, and his question is as important today for us to consider as it was in his time thousands of years ago. Whereas the Psalmist was inspired to ask his question upon beholding the untainted purity of God's creation at such an early stage in human history, our vantage point is a bit more clouded, both physically and spiritually. Today, as we look from Earth into the heavens, we do so from a world that has been strongly affected by the consequences of our over-consumption of the earth's natural resources, the harmful effects of air and water pollution through inefficient means of waste disposal, wide-scale deforestation by human beings, and increasing threats to the stability of the polar ice caps of our planet. While these are unfortunate realities, they are not beyond human repair. Considering these challenges and the important question posed by the Psalmist, it may seem instinctive for us to think of ourselves in a diminished capacity in comparison to the sheer immensity of the universe that God has created. The truth of the matter, however, is that God has placed human beings "over all the works of His hands" (v.6), as the Psalmist concludes in the final verses of Psalm 8. Thus, God is very mindful of humankind, to the point that He came to visit us and live among us as a human being on this precious Earth, and by the reality that He created us as inherently good and as beautiful, indeed after His very own image and likeness. Each year on this date, as a day dedicated to new beginnings, the Church calls us to move toward a genuine repentance in our way of life and in our relation to our planet. We therefore pray to God that He rekindle within our hearts a keen awareness that it is a profound privilege and high honor to inhabit this earth, and that we can act today as extensions of His fingers in fostering an environmentally sound world. This privilege carries with it many opportunities and responsibilities: forging loving and lasting relationships with others as families and communities, building peaceful relationships among friends and enemies alike, progressing responsibly as a human race in science and the arts, and growing closer and closer to God, our eternal Creator. Where we have succeeded in these opportunities, we see across our world evidence of clear gains in the pursuit of truth, justice, and peace. Certainly, it is these gains that should be the rightful order of the day, this year, and in all years to come. On this date, I ask each one of you to deepen your commitment to caring for our natural environment through ways that are both practical and prayerful. In this way, we can work to dissipate the clouds of ignorance and neglect that stand in the way of our considering and respecting the pristine and sacred state of the heavens and stars as God created them. Through our faith, our dedication, and our love to God and to one another, let us offer today, at the beginning of an Ecclesiastical New Year, hymns of glory to God for all that He has done for us, for the great potential He has given to us as stewards of His creation, and for the wonders that He continues to work in our lives and in our universe.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America