Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I’m writing this after Christmas, at my in-law’s farm in Mississippi. And I just learned that they recently invited bees onto their farm. A neighbor who’s getting into that industry asked to use their land. They said fine. And their explanation of the bees’ impact reminded me of Jesus.

Here’s what I mean. Initially, the farm’s focus was beef. More specifically, they raise grass-fed cows who aren’t pumped full of antibiotics and unnatural chemicals. Plus, they allow their cattle to roam freely across their ample pasture land. In other words, it’s an operation that shames most grocery store beef, whose cows may start on farms like these, but eventually are packed into overstuffed feed lots and industrial slaughter machines.

Not an ideal cow life, to say the (very, very) least. It’s also terrible for soil. When cow farmers pump pastures with extra fertilizers and herbicides, they boost production over the short term. It also kills the soil’s long-term viability; by encouraging shallower grass roots, destroying diversity of bugs and microbes, stripping away beautiful black topsoil. Plus, when rain washes those ugly, artificial inputs into our groundwater, it poisons ecosystems down river. Anyone hear about how diminished ocean life has become in vast swaths around where the Mississippi drains into the Gulf? Ugh.

So my in-laws’ farm is intentionally planned to behave differently- more local, more attuned to older/wiser/pre-industrial farming practices, more respectful of the health of both nature and beef customers. Besides, their meat tastes waaaay better! I’ve looked forward for years to packing a cooler full of their steaks and burger meat right before we return home after Christmas.

But cows aren’t the only commercially useful farm animals, of course. So a few years back, they lent some unused land to an organic hog and chicken farmer. Then, they integrated both operations into each other. The chickens run around on the cattle pasture, movable fences keeping them away from steers. Every few days, that set-up shifts a bit north or east, and the chickens peck at and poop on new parts of the pasture. That natural fertilizer beats any petroleum-based product eight days a week. It just takes patience and time, and respect for the earth. The result has been healthier creatures and farmland.

Hence, when another neighbor brought up bringing bees to the farm- for honey production- the in-laws said, “Alright.” And apparently, those bees then spent all last summer pollinating garden flowers and pasture grass. They flew all over where cows and chickens went already, or were going next. The results were even deeper roots, increased biodiversity, and much healthier soil. In fact, a Mississippi State University researcher has been studying their farm. He claims that within two years, it’ll be a carbon neutral, profitable operation. Awesome!

All that reminds me of Jesus because, as a Disciple of Christ, I believe the church’s essential function is inviting as many as possible to the Lord’s Table. That table’ open, after all, to all. God so loved the (whole!) world…etc. Thus, we’re called to make that blessed mission a reality at our communion table.

But here’s the thing; God didn’t give us that calling as a burden. Instead, God knew that the more people we welcomed and kept at our tables, the better our communities would be. Like the soil on a farm, diversity is the source of health, of blessing, not a distraction or an optional aspiration.

Would only that all churches believed the same, amen? Or acted like it… Would that we didn’t spend all our time reaching out to only those who think or look like us, who make the same amount of money or share the same political opinion as us? Have you considered recently that if you found ways to bring folk to church who other churches aren’t working to include, the result won’t be embarrassing? It’ll be unexpected blessing, more healthful community, more diverse and- therefore- exciting church!

That’s what those bees did on my in-laws farm, at least. It’s a brighter, better, more beautiful place now than before. And it’ll share those blessings for generations to come. Jesus, I bet, approves.

Grace and Peace,
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