Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Spending our first Christmas Eve service with our new church family here in Vancouver, we had a marvelous time of food, joy and thanksgiving. During our service, we showed this beautiful video:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Restaurant Owner Tim Harris

Tanya and I both fought tears when we watched this piece about Tim Harris who is a restaurant owner, though having Down's Sydrome. I continue to grow into the deep conviction that "ordinary work" matters deeply to the work of God in the world. As Tim says of his work, "we are a gift to the world." Yes, Tim, you are right. I praise God for you. 

"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" -Psalm 90:17  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian

Joining a new church community, I'm getting acquainted with new resources and favorite books that serve as backbones to the community of Grace Vancouver Church. Bolsinger's book It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian: How the Community Transforms Lives is one such book.

Here is an excerpt from Bolsinger:

"The early church understood and taught that to be baptized as a Christian meant to undergo an 'extraordinary thoroughgoing resocilaization' so that the community of believers would become virtually the primary group for its members supplanting all other loyalties.' Through this relational restructuring of the Spirit, the believer progresses in depth of faith (relationship to God) and in transformation into the likeness of God (understood in relational terms and expressed in relationships with other believers- see 2 Cor. 3:17-18; John 13:14-15). Indeed, as the 'fruit of the Spirit' (Gal 5:22-26) attests, relational maturity is virtually indistinguishable from spiritual maturity, and the spirituality of a community is defined by the quality of the relationships formed" (pp. 75-6).

Monday, December 9, 2013

On Writing Well

So I have not been blogging much as of late as the transition to Vancouver has been quite an adjustment. However, in preparing for my dissertation writing course this January in St. Louis at Covenant Theological Seminary, I've been going through Zinssser's classic book On Writing Well. It may sound like "boring reading," but actually I have found much of it to be helpful and enlivening. Let me share a small excerpt that talks about the concepts of "quest, intention, character and values":

"The quest is the oldest themes in storytelling, an act of faith we never get tired of hearing about. Looking back, I notice that many students in my class, assigned to think about a place that was important to them, used the assignment to go on a quest for something deeper than the place itself: a meaning, an idea, some sliver of the past. The result was that the class always had a warm dynamic for a group of strangers. (Some classes even held reunions.) Every quest that a student embarked on found an echo in some search or yearning of our own. Moral: any time you can tell a story in the form of a quest or a pilgrimage you’ll be ahead of the game. Readers bearing their own associations will do some of your work for you.

Intention is what we wish to accomplish with our writing. Call it the writer’s soul. We can write to affirm and to celebrate, or we can write to debunk and to destroy; the choice is ours. Destruction has long been a journalistic mode, rewarding the snoop and the hatchet man (or woman) and the invader of privacy. But nobody can make us write what we don’t want to write. We get to keep intention. Nonfiction writers often forget that they are not required to acquiesce in tawdry work, to carry the trash for magazine editors who have an agenda of their own- to sell a commercial product.

Writing is related to character. If your values are sound, your writing will be sound. It all begins with intention. Figure out what you want to do and how you want to do it, and work your way  with humanity and integrity to the completed article. Then you’ll have something to sell.” (pp. 259-60)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Common Grace on The Eve of a Hallowed Day?

Like Easter through the years, in recent years, I have come to anticipate All Saints Day on Nov. 1st each year. As Tom Wright says in his remarkable book, Surprised by Hope, "The two appropriate times for remembering the Christian dead, and for doing so in a way that expresses genuine Christian hope, are Easter and All Saints Day." Among evangelical Protestants, this time of year does not receive much mention, short of referring to Oct. 31st as Reformation Day for a small company of Protestants among the Reformed and Lutheran traditions, who commemorate Martin Luther's pinning of the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg door in 1517. Perhaps there are good reasons and appropriate concerns from the Faithful regarding certain doctrines surrounding purgatory, etc.; however, it seems to me that to celebrate the triumph of Christ and His resurrection, ought to at least have an eye towards the brothers and sisters who have gone before us and now reign with Him (anyone read Heb. 11 and the beginning of Heb. 12 lately?) Well, so I found this video I thought to be quite good and share it with you:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Is Somebody Singing

My brother-in-law Brian who lives in Toronto passed this on to me. Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. He wrote this song with the lead singer of the Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies. Brian tells me that every Canadian kid knows it; it's a cool song.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Proud Papa and a Happy Day

Yesterday was a marvelous day for me; ironically enough, the day was 9/11. Grace Chapel, the church that Tanya and I planted in 2000 with folks from our mother church, recently voted on their 2nd senior pastor (to succeed me as our family is now in Canada: unaware? see the call to BC) Ben Loos received an overwhelming majority by the Grace Chapel congregation to become her next senior pastor. What can I say? I am a "proud papa." When I was on the phone with Ben earlier today, I told him, I think I am more excited for this than even you (Ben was simply humbled and sober about the whole bit- I was telling him that he needed to go out on the town with the elders of Grace Chapel and celebrate!) Praise God from whom all blessings flow! 

To hear a bit more about Ben's story and relationship to Grace Chapel, watch the 5:05 - 6:20 mark of the video below, a video that was produced by the church-planting arm of the Presbyterian Church in America last year, before we took the call to BC. I am happy.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Beauty of BC and the Photo-Bomber

So we are missing our friends in Nebraska but settling in well to BC. We are getting to know and enjoying the people of Grace Vancouver Church. Undeniably we are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. In this photo we are at Garry Point Park in Steveston, BC grabbing some fish and chips at the famous Pajo's. The personalities of our children are highlighted in this picture as Mia and Isaac are enjoying the water and the sand, and Calvin our youngest is doing what he does best, running like a crazy man and photo-bombing.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Culture of Renewal

I was greatly encouraged by this piece recently:

CULTURE OF RENEWAL - DAVID BLANCHARD from Trinity Grace Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Grieving for Leaving Nebraska

Yesterday morning, the moving trucks left our Diablo Dr. house. This was the house we lived in for 11 years, in a city we lived in for 15 years. Our children had known only one house to this point, and when we left Lincoln late in the afternoon, it was incredibly difficult to do. Along with our neighbors and friends, we all cried. Our two oldest didn't want to leave the house at all; and the rest of us hurt in our own ways. How do you leave a place that you have loved for so long? And why do you leave a place you have loved for so long? My oldest Mia is pretty angry with me- I can tell as we have always been close and have a tight dad-daughter relationship. I think she may be a bit mad with God as well; after all, she likely thinks it was dad and God in cahoots on the idea of moving to Vancouver B.C. And if this is what she thinks, she is for the most part right.

I don't know how to fully grieve this incredible loss, other than to write. I write- that's much of what I do. When I think of Lincoln, NE, I think of Grace Chapel and I think of our neighborhood on Diablo Dr. in particular. Someone said to me recently that there is something wholesome about Nebraska. It took me a few minutes to take in the comment, as I have been an evangelical Christian for many years now. Our first instinct as evangelicals is to assess that there is a real problem with this world, and that problem is sin. I think the instinct is right and that we must be honest about brokenness and sin in this world; however, I also think we get away from the theological notion of Common Grace that often permeates a people and a place as well. After all, we are His creatures (apart from redemption in Christ) and this is His world (apart from the New Heavens and New Earth). This is not to say that we no longer need to be redeemed or that this world doesn't need the transforming power of Christ and the hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth; but, it is to say that all good gifts in which we partake come from the Father of Lights (James 1:17).

What are the "good gifts" that have come from the Father of Lights to this corporate thing called Nebraska? To borrow from Wes Jackson, what is the "genius of the place"? I think it is probably wrapped up in this idea of the wholesomeness of Nebraska. When we were negotiating a deal on our house, doing a For Sale by Owner, we got to the point where we had two offers on the house. The first family to offer had the first right of refusal and basically the promise that their situation was solid, and that they were committed to buying the house. However, the question of an earnest payment then came up, so that before we could let the second family "walk," we had to have some sort of good faith deposit that the first family would actually come through on the purchase of the house. Coming from more of an urban cutthroat environment, some of my new friends from Vancouver thought we should ask for a 5-10% earnest payment on the house ($15k-$25k), before releasing the second family from their interest in the house. We talked to a good friend here in Nebraska, someone who had been a realtor for years here, and our friend said that he had never heard of such a large earnest payment from an interested buyer. Our friend said that in Nebraska, $1500 was a more typical earnest payment, so that's what we asked for.

Now, what would keep a family from walking away from a $240k house, if the only thing they stood to lose was $1500? Well, here's the answer: not much. But what I came to realize in the experience was there is still very much a "handshake culture" in Nebraska; someone's word is their bond. The good faith expectation from this first family has been that they will do everything on their end to see the purchase of the house through; $1500 and a handshake is what has been asked of them initially (we plan to close on Sept. 6th). Of course, in the middle of all of it, we have made new friends with the buyer family, and we have said to them, in the future, we would love to come visit our neighbors and see how they as a new family to Diablo Dr. add their personal style to the house as well. They responded, "We would love for you to come over when you are back in Nebraska and hope to stay in touch with you!" This is the wholesomeness of Nebraska. You see, I trust my neighbors with my life and my children. What am I describing? It's the notion of the wholesomeness of Nebraska, isn't it? It's the good gifts of the Father of Lights to these people, a wonderful attribute of our neighborhood we will miss terribly. Now, as a good evangelical, I can spend a lot of time qualifying what I mean and what I don't mean, how it pertains to salvation, how it doesn't, but I don't want to qualify anything at this moment of grief, just to appreciate the moment for what it is. So we grieve for leaving Nebraska, but we do so with thanksgiving and hope.

Since today was the first day of school for our Diablo Dr. neighborhood kids (and we think about them today), as a way of honoring our neighbors, which is a way to honor the genius of Nebraska, I thought I would post a picture from the first day of school from last year 2012:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Beautiful Lincoln

While we are preparing to move to Vancouver B.C., one of the most beautiful cities in the world, we by no means take for granted the natural beauty we find right here in Lincoln, NE. Trying to get some exercise to assist the recovery process, coming off the heels of my surgery, Tanya and I took a walk by Holmes Lake yesterday here in Lincoln.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mission to Vancouver B.C.

Hi Friends,

Some of you have asked about ways to get involved with us as we transition to Grace Vancouver Church (GVC)  in Canada. We are seeking to raise $100k over the next 3-5 years to assist with our needed living expenses. To share a bit about our work, Vancouver B.C. is sometimes called "the east coast of Asia," the metro area boasting of an international community of 2.3 million people, with half as visible minorities. The city is open to new age as well as many eastern religions, but the largest growing category of religion identification is "none"; difficult social problems run alongside the advantages of living in such a beautiful harbor city. The Gospel of Christ's Kingdom is desperately needed. So joining the 100 people GVC and their ministry, and as a qualified church-planter in the Presbyterian Church in America, I (Mike) am raising funds again. Vancouver happens to be the most expensive place in North America to live, and Grace Vancouver Church, being a smaller church, is under-resourced at the moment.

Here are two weblinks for those who are interested in partnering with us: 

Blessings and thanks,

Mike, Tanya, Mia, Isaac and Calvin

In addition to the two online links, other funding options are as follows:

1. Mail your donation to:

Mission to North America
P.O. Box 890233
Charlotte, NC 28289-0233

* Please make your checks payable to Mission to North America
* In the memo line specify Michael Hsu (or Acct. #1452) of Grace Vancouver Church

2. Donate stock for Michael Hsu through Mission to North America.

           * For info, on how to give stock, please visit MNA’s website at     
     for info. or contact MNA directly at 
     or (678) 825-1253.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Thankful for my father today, thankful to be a father and especially thankful for my heavenly Father, the Father of lights, from whom every good and perfect gift comes (James 1:17). I share a poignant excerpt about fatherhood from Margie Haack. Margie's father was killed in an accident when she was still unborn; her stepfather did not love her:

"There is a mysterious sense in which a man who becomes the father of a child - natural or surrogate, it doesn't matter - he participates in the shaping of that child's image of a God who claims to be Father of us all. It's mysterious because we waken in this world longing for the hands of a father that will not only lead us safely down dark paths past rabid skunks, but love us, tenderly enfold us. The ache may lie dormant for years or may never be spoken, and yet any child whose father has left or was never there, is familiar with those aches. Where do they come from - these desires for fathers who never leave?"

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Call to Vancouver B.C.

Last Thursday evening, Tanya and I announced to our congregation, Grace Chapel, a call we recently accepted to Grace Vancouver Church in BC Canada. This was a decision that took place after a six-month process of prayer, deliberation, wrestling with God, many tears, extensive interviews over the phone and through two trips we made to BC. Our elder board has walked with us through this entire process since mid-November.

Grace Vancouver Church was a church we were invited to help start, once we had finished seminary in 1998. We declined back in 1998 because we felt a strong sense of call to Lincoln and for me to work as a church-planting apprentice at Zion Church. Back in November of this last year, I received a call after so many years from the founding pastor of Grace Vancouver Church, John Smed, who had recruited us to Vancouver in 1998. John said that he had resigned as their founding pastor about 1.5 years ago and that GVC was still looking for his replacement.

GVC is the same age as Grace Chapel (started in 2000), but hasn’t grown nearly as much; there are about 100 people at the church who faithfully serve Christ in a region that is very much post-Christian and tends to be challenging ground to sow. Vancouver is a huge mission field boasting of an international community of nearly 50% minorities (25% of which comprise immigrant groups), with the Chinese being the most prominent minority group. This church itself is comprised of a high concentration of Asians, with many mixed-race couples like Tanya and myself.

On paper, the move doesn’t make a lot of sense as Vancouver BC is the most expensive place in North America to live (more expensive than New York City), and to realize this small church can provide the equivalent of about 80% of my current salary at Grace Chapel. But because the need as well as our call is so compelling at this point in our journey, I am returning to church-planting status with Mission to North America (the church-planting arm of the PCA), and hitting the trail raising funds again (like I did from 1998-2000 in order to start Grace Chapel). We will plan to move somewhere in the middle of August and be up to BC for the start of school for the kids after Labor Day. My last official day as Grace Chapel’s lead pastor will be July 1st.

These last 15 years have been a remarkable journey in Lincoln; we are very sad to leave. Still, we leave Grace Chapel in a great place with a strong, united and courageous elder board, a man in Ben Loos who is the right person at the right time to lead Grace Chapel for many years into the future, and a bonded, united and faithful membership. Grace Chapel is truly a remarkable place; we are very proud of our association with its membership these last 12+ years. Also, we are asking for people to pray for the transition, especially for our children as they are rooted, stable and loved in all areas of life (school, neighborhood, church, friendship networks throughout Lincoln), and we are uprooting them from all of it.

I will be posting a bit more about Vancouver once we get a little more traction and direction with our move as well as our fundraising efforts. Thanks for all your prayers and support.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Amelia Allen

Yesterday was an incredible day. Amelia Allen underwent a baclofen pump procedure, after a two-year process of decision-making on the part of her parents. The surgery went off even better than anticipated, and she came out of anesthesia after two hours, despite some original estimates being as long as five hours. Continue to keep Steve and Jen (parents) and Miles (brother) in your prayers, but also enter their joy as yesterday was a remarkable day of mercy for the Allens as well as for us as their church family; God has been kind. Go Amelia!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Grace Chapel Ascension Day Party!

On Thursday, May 9th, our folks at Grace Chapel gathered to dance, eat and celebrate the Ascension of Jesus! The Nebraska winds didn't fully allow us to send 150 Chinese Lanterns into the sky as we originally planned, but we did get a few off!

Here's Kaylee Koenig's webpage and wonderful comments about our church family. Kaylee put together the sweet little video:

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Recently, I watched this fascinating documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85-yr.-old man considered by many to be the world's foremost sushi chef. It's a fascinating story about a man and his sons who love their work. Surprisingly enough, as focused as the Onos are on their work, they still have a heightened sensitivity to the larger environment in which they work and live. As the Onos lament in one part of the documentary, overfishing has led to a worldwide shortage of fish. Ono's eldest son Yoshikazu says:

"The tuna stocks are declining each year. It takes ten years for them to grow to 100 kilograms. Net-fishing and bottom-trawling methods catch everything, even the younger fish. There should be enforced regulations on catching only bigger fish. Catching the smaller fish before they've matured lowers the overall number. Businesses should balance profit with preserving natural resources. Without fish, we can't do business. However, that doesn't mean they should catch all the fish to the brink of extinction. For posterity, we must be conscious of this issue."

Yoshikazu's reflections remind me much of what we have been talking about the last couple of years in my Doctor of Ministry cohort meetings, that we live in a covenantal universe with the offers of both blessings and curses to the one who chooses to live either within or outside the prescriptions and limits of our covenantal obligations.

"Always strive to elevate your craft. That's what he always taught me." 
-Yoshikazu Ono speaking of his father Jiro

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wes Jackson in Lincoln this Friday

Wes Jackson is a scientist and founder of The Land Institute in Salina, KS, also a good friend of Wendell Berry’s.  As the link below states, Life magazine predicted Jackson would be one of the most 100 influential Americans of the 20th century; he will be in Lincoln this Friday.

Jackson is giving a lecture at UNL this Friday, April 26th, at 10am. It is free and open to the public. The topic is "The Future of Ecosystem-Based Agriculture" and will take place in the Main Gallery, Center for Great Plains Studies, 1155 Q St.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Washington Institute Missio Blog Post

I had a recent post at the Washington Institute site and thought I'd pass it on here: Dogs Playing Checkers

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Sports is All About

Last Saturday at the Nebraska Cornhusker Spring Game, 7-yr.-old Jack Hoffman ran for a 69-yd. touchdown.  Jack recently completed a 60-week regimen of chemotherapy for brain cancer. I still tear up every time I watch this video. This really is what sports is all about:

Friday, March 29, 2013


My good friend Deb Sheely sent this to me recently; it very much ministered to me.

I Hurt 
by Bart Breen

Sometimes the most difficult thing I can say is just, "I hurt."

I would much rather tell a long involved story explaining why I hurt, why I deserve to hurt, why my hurt is complex and profound and why my hurt is a part of what makes me a special and unique person.

Yet, the more I build up around my past to explain why I hurt, the longer I prolong my healing and make it a long drawn out process instead of just admitting that I hurt, that it doesn't matter why and go through the feelings and toward leaving that hurt behind in favor of being able to live in the moment and look forward to the future with a measure of hope and joy.

When I can just say, "I hurt" to myself and to others and then feel the pain and accept the help and care that is around me, then I can simplify my life, remove the artificial complications and enter into communion with fellow human beings whose story may be different but they hurt too. Even pain can be a blessing when I learn I can share it in this way.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Big 12 Champs! Harlem Shake Time!

This year, my alma mater, the University of Kansas (KU), had to share the Big 12 regular season crown with their in-state rivals Kansas State University (KSU). Both programs finished the conference season with 14-4 records. Forget the fact that KU had beaten KSU twice during the regular season and forget the fact that KU has won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title for nine straight seasons, while KSU had not won a conference title in 36 years. Forget the fact that KU is 39-3 versus KSU in the last 42 games played. At the end of the day, KU wanted to prove without a doubt that it was the better team, and they did it with a 16 pt. win in the Big 12 conference tournament defeating KSU for the third time this season: Big 12 Champs!

It's good to be a Jayhawk fan!

Just to celebrate a little, here's KU's "Harlem Shake" video. The guy in the center of the picture above as well as wearing the chicken head in the video below is KU's star player Ben McLemore who is projected to be the #1 or #2 player taken in the NBA draft this year. USA Today ran an article about McLemore's poverty-stricken background and his desire one day to buy a house for his mom. As McLemore says closing out the article, "A lot of people don't have a house. My mom is proud of me. I just want to keep working hard so one day I can help my family. I am going to get a big house one day and we all can stay in it and eat." For people like me (Mike Hsu) who have always had provided the basic necessities of life, I often take for granted the blessings of the "ordinary" daily provisions of God. What a noble desire for a young man to so deeply desire to provide food and shelter for his loved ones. McLemore Article

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Typical Day of Clinic in Haiti

At Grace Chapel, we've been sending medical teams to Haiti since 2006. Last week, we had a team of 30 serving in central Haiti; here was one of their clinic days. On second thought, I say it is a "typical" day, but watching the video, it looks like a bit more of a low-key day than most clinic days in Haiti. Many of the days can be intense and pressure-filled as our teams are limited as to how many patients they can see on any given day, and the sheer demand of the number of people wanting to see a healthcare provider is often great.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grace Chapel Team in Mirebalais

Last Saturday, we sent off 30 people from Grace Chapel as well as other area Lincoln churches to serve in Mirebalais, Haiti. Grace Chapel folks have been traveling to Haiti since 2004; this is the first large group trip I have not been on. I'm bummed but also delighted that the team is in good hands under the leadership of Gene Summerlin, Carla Pisel-Nixon, Craig Moore and Carrie Davidson. Please pray for our Haiti team this week; the nature of their work is medical. To track their work, here's their weekly blog:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Recent Happenings and The Washington Institute

Since my last posting, a lot has been going on; it's been a while since that last posting, definitely. What have I been up to? The week of Jan. 21st, I spent a week in St. Louis at Covenant Seminary working on my doctoral work. On Jan. 15th, I submitted my fall project which consisted of 60 pages and a two-page bibliography. The project was nearly all-consuming this last fall and explored the virtues of Loyalty and Affection in the writings of Wendell Berry. Also, in the project, I interviewed eight of my pastor friends in Lincoln who have served a combined total of 158 years in pastoral work (each in one place). The question I asked these eight men was what has held them in their places of service for as long as they have been. The general themes from the interviews revolved around: 1) having faithful and loyal friends with whom to do ministry; 2) collaborative work, a sense that "we are in this together" and we are attacking problems together; and 3) that the work is united around a sense of a greater purpose and mission. These were described as the primary "human factors" that held these pastors in their local church settings for as long as they had been in those places. My hope was that in identifying these "factors," that all Christ followers would have a deeper sense of what meaningful work, characterized by excellence, faithfulness and relative longevity in their workplaces, might look like for Christians. In other words, as a fellow pastor with these men, my commitment was to help equip God's people to seeing their lives as being shaped by "calling" to all that we put our hands to.

Well, the project was wonderful and full of meaning and joy, but also it took a lot out of me! So I've laid off the blogging a bit, also I've taken some time off from my doctoral work, hoping to give it a little rest as I have a very full spring. By June when I travel to my next doctoral co-hort meeting in Chicago, hopefully I will have been able to ramp up some by then. In the meantime, from time to time, I've been asked to blog on the ministry site, The Washington Institute, of one of my doctoral mentors Steven Garber. I'm excited about this opportunity and look forward to expanding my writing ministry some.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Covenant with Kol Basar

A View Looking Out from the Front of "Bill's Cabin" Near Hordville, NE
"Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” -Acts 14:17 

This last weekend I went deer hunting with my friend Dirk Grenemeier for a second year in a row. Last year Dirk and I were out for 2.5 days, despite not seeing any deer until leaving the property: It was good to be out again on the property that was previously owned by Dirk's late father-in-law and best friend Bill Morse and mother-in-law Ann. Dirk and his wife Debbie now own the cabin. It was good to be in God's creation, to hear stories about Bill and to think about him as well. Well, on Friday, I got my first doe; she came up over the hill, along with five others, and I whispered "Dirk! Dirk! Look Deer!" Dirk said, "Shoot, Mike." I aimed, got one of the does in my sight and whispered again to Dirk, "I'm going to shoot Dirk!" He said, "Shoot, Mike." I said, "I'm going to shoot!" Dirk said, "Shoot, Mike!" I squeezed the trigger and the doe fell immediately. Dirk lined up to shoot again in case one shot had proved inadequate, so I plugged my ears with my fingers (we were in a tent and our rifles were loud), but upon seeing the doe wasn't moving, Dirk pulled up his gun. We went to "dress" the doe and Dirk asked me if I wanted to do any of it, and I said "no, you go ahead." I took a few moments to gather myself and to take everything in and then helped some with holding the doe's hind legs as Dirk "dressed" her. On Saturday, along with Dirk's son Grahm and nephew Will, we drove up to Clarks, NE and had the doe processed.

What have been my reflections on the event? Well the moment of shooting a deer was this for me: sacred. It's amazing to me how many people (including close family members) are a bit turned off that I would shoot a deer, but at the same time have no qualms with eating meat. Regarding objections to hunting, I'm most willing to engage my vegetarian friends who have the benefit of consistency going for them; I myself am eating more veggies these days: But I continue to see animals as provided for the human race, in part, to eat. But the sacred moment was in this: I have eaten hamburgers my entire life. Most of my life unfortunately, I have barely given a second thought to how food makes its way to my plate. When you take the life of an animal, you realize that a significant and substantial sacrifice has been made on the part of the animal. The creature who had life coursing through her veins one moment is now felled the next, because I pulled the trigger. I thought about the sacred moment of taking the creature's life for food so that I might have a source of nourishment and sustenance, that in essence that doe gave up her life that I might continue on being strengthened and sustained in mine. It made me all the more committed to eating as little industrial meat as possible, for a doe out in the Nebraska wilderness is given a kind of life of decency that a cow on the feedlot is not.

I just completed a 60-page fall project for my doctoral work. The title of the project was "Loyalty and Affection for a People and Place." I wrote about the thought of Wendell Berry and his love for God's created order, and also I interviewed eight pastor friends of mine who had served a combined total of 158 years in pastoral ministry between them. In one of the closing sections in the project called "Final Implications," I began by quoting from Duke Divinity School professor Ellen F. Davis:

"From a Biblical perspective, the covenant is not purely a two-way relationship between human beings and God. The covenant is a three-way relationship, . . . thinking about the aftermath of the flood story in Genesis when God makes a covenant with kol basar, 'all flesh,' . . . all of the nonhuman creatures. . . ."

And I commented in my paper:

"How do Christians need to think more intentionally about the larger context out of which their lives and ministries transpire? Will we continue to deplore 'worldly goods' all the while enjoying their fruits that sustain us and uphold us in order to thrive and flourish? Our 'spiritual' work is ever-so-dependent upon the material sustenance that the world and its nonhuman creatures provide, whether thinking of the goodness of sunlight, soil and water coming together to produce crops for food or nonhuman creatures providing love in the form of pets, food in the sacrifice of their lives or replenishment for the soil in the form of microbes. Such nonhuman creatures may inhabit the soil or the linings of our intestines in the form of probiotics promoting human health; either way, our lives are ever-so-dependent on the nonhuman part of creation. On this point, Christians need to have a deeper connection to 'the soil.'”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Sandy County Almanac

"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts." -Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold is well-known in the world of conservationism. Leopold was born in 1887 and died prematurely in 1948 while fighting a brushfire on his neighbor's farm; he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and A Sandy County Almanac is his most enduring work. When today's critics of industrialized farming speak about the problem with ridding crops of their biodiversity and planting uniform crops, they speak of the dangers of "monocultures" and the need to return to raising animals and crops in "polycultures." The premise among such writers is that the biodiversity of the prairie has a lot to teach us about the health of ecosystems and their interdependence on humans and really all creatures, to respect some of the inherent limits and mechanisms of the world; Leopold calls this need "A Land Ethic," Christian people might simply call it responsible stewardship, Reformed people, a world that is covenantal in nature.

Here are some of Leopold's thoughts:

"For a biotic community to survive, its internal processes must balance else its member-species would disappear. That particular communities do survive for long periods is well known: Wisconsin, for example, in 1840 had substantially the same soil, fauna, and flora as at the end of the ice age, i.e. 12,000 years ago. We know this because the bones of its animals and the pollens of its plants are preserved in the peat bogs. The successive strata of peats with their differing abundance of pollens, even record the weather; thus around 3000 B.C. an abundance of ragweed pollen indicates either a series of drouths, or a great stamping of buffalo or severe fires on the prairie. These recurring exigencies did not prevent the survival of the 350 kinds of birds, 90 mammals 150 fishes 70 reptiles or the thousands of insects and plants. That all these should survive as an internally balanced community for so many centuries shows an astonishing stability in the original biota. . . .

What is the most valuable part of the prairie? The fat black soil the chernozem. Who built the chernozem? The black prairie was built by the prairies plants, a hundred distinctive species of grasses, herbs, and shrubs; by the prairie fungi, insects, and bacteria; by the prairie mammals and birds, all interlocked in one humming community of co-operations and competitions, one biota. This biota, through ten thousand years of living and dying, burning and growing, preying and fleeing, freezing and thawing, built that dark and bloody ground we call prairie.

Our grandfathers did not, could not, know the origin of their prairie empire. They killed off the prairie fauna and they drove the flora to a last refuge on railroad embankments and roadsides. To our engineers this flora is merely weeds and brush; they ply it with grader and mower. Through processes of plant succession predictable by any botanist the prairie garden becomes a refuge for quack grass. After the garden is gone, the highway department employs landscapers to dot the quack with elms and with artistic clumps of Scotch pine, Japanese barberry and Spiraea. Conservation Committees en route to some important convention whiz by and applaud this zeal for roadside beauty.

Some day we may need this prairie flora not only to look at but to rebuild the wasting soil of prairie farms. . . . A little repentance just before a species goes over the brink is enough to make us feel virtuous. When the species is gone we have a good cry and repeat the performance.

The recent extermination of the grizzly from most of the western stock-raising states is a case in point. Yes, we still have grizzlies in the Yellowstone. But the species is ridden by imported parasites; the rifles wait on every refuge boundary; new dude ranches and new roads constantly shrink the remaining range; every year sees fewer grizzlies on fewer ranges in fewer states. We console ourselves with the comfortable fallacy that a single museum-piece will do, ignoring the clear dictum of history that a species must be saved in many places if it is to be saved at all."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Amazing Interview with Shack Author

In this amazing interview, Paul Young, author of The Shack, talks about his own journey with Christ and hitting rock bottom. In one powerful moment, Young talks about he and his wife working through his betrayal that had taken place through an adulterous relationship; Young says:

"Part of what saved my life was the fury of my wife. And she would tell you there were a lot of mixed motives about all that. But let me tell you one of the things I know about the wrath of God is that it is motivated by love, because God hates everything that is keeping me from being free, and He's going to go after it."