Saturday, March 29, 2008

refugee furniture project

many of you will know we were blessed recently to participate in the transportation of furniture from Georgia to Kentucky.  the main man behind the project was Paul Espy (Sherry's dad).  he worked tirelessly with his wonderful church (Mountain View Community Church) and other friends to collect, pack, and deliver a 24foot truckload of much needed household items and furniture.  we were also thrilled to have Dick and Judy Gabriel from RiverStone 'come along for the ride' - they served with their usual (and always remarkable) joy and energy to collect and distribute the donations.  the local refugee agency (KRM) we have been involved with for many years very much appreciated all the work put in and, as always, God's kingdom economy meant everyone came away from the project nourished and blessed.

here are some pictures from the effort...there are more pictures to see - if you click on any single image you will be taken to the full collection at our flickr page.

furniture for refugees

furniture for refugees

furniture for refugees

furniture for refugees

furniture for refugees

furniture for refugees

Friday, March 28, 2008

to the deep south

yesterday, jodie, asher, isaac and i drove out of lexington heading south to birmingham. we left behind 50 degree temps and heavy rain. after we passed through nashville spring began to emerge fully. jodie is from b'ham and she returned to celebrate asher's first birthday with her family. my sister and her family live here so isaac and i came to have a few restful days with them.

we were here about three minutes yesterday when the yellow, dusty pollen began to collect on our car. the trees are glorious in full bloom and flowers are everywhere. as we drove in, we put the windows down and welcomed the gentle warm temperatures of spring. our bodies relaxed and we inhaled. with a body clock on eastern time, isaac woke me this morning well before dawn. dacy was kind enough to send me out the door on a walk as she sat with isaac. the pre-dawn noise of spring was stunning. the insects and birds (and the absence of urban sounds we're so accustomed to) surrounded me as i walked up and down the hills of this b'ham neighborhood. prayers came very easily in the stillness and i relished a start to the day with nothing ahead but my favorite local bakery and time with family.

Monday, March 24, 2008

some time in the community garden

late last week we were thrilled to witness the breaking of ground at the community garden sherry and others have worked so hard to get off the ground.  isaac was there with some of his buddies digging in the ground.

london ferrill community garden

london ferrill community garden

london ferrill community garden

Saturday, March 22, 2008

first day of spring

here's a crocus growing in our garden...spring is here!

first day of spring

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lazarus at Our Gate

* my dad sent me this from a CMDA newsletter.  (Sherry)

At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. (Lk 16:20-21)

Peter Yok was only 11 years old when Muslim soldiers attacked his Christian village in southern Sudan. Like thousands of young Sudanese, Peter was permanently separated from his parents and other family members. After spending several years in a refugee camp in a neighboring African country, Peter was granted permission to immigrate to the United States. On arriving he was given a few hundred dollars to pay for food and the rent on a sparse apartment in a declining section of town. Having received some instruction in English while in the refugee camp, Peter was able to secure low-wage employment in a factory that was accessible by bus. He was granted Medicaid health insurance for nine months. Apart from the emergency room at the nearby county hospital, there were no primary health providers near his apartment willing to accept his Medicaid insurance.

Across the globe and around the corner, we have the poor at our gates. While Americans enjoy an unrivaled standard of living, 2.8 billion people (47% of the world), live on less than two dollars a day.1 Here at home, 12% of Americans live at or below the established poverty level, the majority of those being women and children.

The collective hardship and suffering of so many people, particularly women and children, is so overwhelming that many of us have chosen to turn away. Our ability to do so is facilitated by the fact that we can live our lives without having much real contact with the poor. For some Christian physicians and dentists, our affluent suburbs, social organizations, educational institutions, and even churches make it possible to largely avoid meaningful interaction with the needy, except in distant or token ways. Such a world makes it easier to forget the needs of the poor and subsequently accumulate more for the purposes of personal and family consumption. One generation of affluent Christians teaches the next generation, by virtue of the economic choices they make, to build prosperous and protected lives. Without careful consideration, we can unknowingly blend in comfortably with our self-directed culture. In that case, we neither honor God, nor help our needy neighbors.

O God, please help me open my eyes to Lazarus at my gate!

1 World Bank PovertyNet,

Adapted from Practice by the Book.

You can read all CMDA weekly devotions online at

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

lights out

More than 88,000 individuals and over 5,000 businesses have taken this pledge ---
Please consider signing it --- turning your lights off for one hour -- from 8- 9 PM (local time)
on March 29th -- to show that we support legislation to stop global warming NOW--

Monday, March 10, 2008

what we don't see

i've gotten hold of ryan's copy of wendell berry's "andy catlett."  in this work of fiction, berry recounts a childhood like his own.  it is a sweet remembrance and a delightful read.  it is set in the period of world war II.  in it, a nine year old boy relishes a trip to his grandparents' farm and his relationships with the farm hands.  in one conversation the boy has with the wife (sarah jane) of a beloved black worker (dick), berry gives us a moving and eloquently forceful reflection about issues of race:

"but not everything she told me came from the realm of wonder.  she also spoke that day, as she often did, of the rights that her people had been promised but had never been given.  she was my first preceptor in the matters of race and civil rights.  because i always listened attentively to her, everything she said struck in.  she made me feel responsible, for i knew, as she required me to know, that i was a product of my culture; but i felt it vaguely, for i could not precisely locate in myself the cause of the injury.  i had no ill will toward her or dick, or in fact toward any of the black people i knew, and besides, if i were greatly to blame, why was she so nice to me?

both the sense of responsibility and the perhaps necessary vagueness have stayed with me until now.  starting probably with those conversations so long ago with aunt sarah jane, i have learned to understand the old structure of racism as a malevolent convention, the malevolence of which is hard to locate in the conscious intentions of most people.  it was a circumstance that was mostly taken for granted.  it was inexcusable, and yet we had the formidable excuse of being used to it.  it was an injustice both accommodated and varyingly obscured not only by daily custom, but also by the exigencies and preoccupations of daily life.  we left the issue alone, not exactly by ignoring it, but by observing an elaborate etiquette that permitted us to ignore it.  white people who wished to think well of themselves did not use the language of racial insult in front of black people.  but the problem for us white people, as we had finally to understand, was that we could not be selectively complicit.  to be complicit at all, even thoughtlessly by custom, was to be complicit in the whole extent and reach of the injustice.  it is hard for a customary indifference to unstick itself from the abominations to which it tacitly consents.  but we were used to it.  what is hardest to get used to maybe, once you are aware, is the range of things humans are able to get used to."

i think these words of art capture a bit of the magnitude of unreconciled differences between races, the unacknowledged power within society and the gap that stands, even today, between comprehension and action.  as i begin to contemplate the gospel work of reconciliation in our neighborhood, this passage brings me painful humility (and humiliation).  it also demonstrates wendell berry's almost unending capacity for the prophetic.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

living theologies

i've just started a book that is lighting me up. it's a theological and ethical text on eating called "food for life" by l. shannon jung. early in its pages it is teaching me and opening my mind in fundamental ways. in a discussion about the meaning and role of theology, the author presents the way some theologians speak from...

"their experiences of god's activity in the world, they call us to recognize where god is active rather than make us 'think god into the world' or 'apply' their theology to the world. most christians believe that god is already present in the world. thus, theology is a way of thinking about our religious experience of god."

i love this clarification, especially coming out of seminary training that, on its own, can't help be mostly divorced from the activity of real life. in an academic context concepts and learning structures often end up floating theoretically until one day they (hopefully) land in a mode of application.

as i read this my thoughts jumped to sunday when geoff, isaac and i worked in the garden. we planted our first seeds in the ground - spinach, arugula, swiss chard (silver beet), beets and lettuce. in between extracting worms from the rich black soil, isaac helped us with a focused intensity. as we blanketed the seeds with a row cover and the rain came we paused to pray together. we asked for god's blessings and remembered (from 1 corithians) that it is god that makes all things grow. in these moments, our sense of god, our theology, was alive and central to our garden practices and the life of our family. this is one way in which god's grace is manifest to us in developing new reflexes that join our understanding of god and life around us.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

oh the sunshine

with the last two days of sunshine breaking through our windows and our bones, i realize just how deeply my winter fatigue had settled in.  in these last weeks i've joined the ranks of the best of the winter whingers and my longing for spring is unprecedented.  not only did the calendar flip ahead to march 1st over the weekend, the weather has warmed (if only temporarily) and the sun is coming up before 7 am.  as i woke this morning, my heart beat faster at the thought of working in the garden today and checking on our emerging seedlings in the kitchen. 

first seedlings 08

in addition to having two winters this year (with travel to australia), it has also been a year and a half since i've properly worked the soil in any capacity.  it wasn't until this beloved sunshine pierced our dawn that i recognized the full impact of my separation anxiety from outside.  whatever free time we have today, it's going to be in the garden.