The Least, First

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Pagan Abraham, father of three religions (part 1)

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A sermon (and a worship gathering sequence— Proper 8 A), preached in June of ’05 at home at New Oaks Church in Washington, IA.

Monte: [God] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15 NRSV)

But how? And when? Ancients thought of time differently than we do – what did it even mean?  And why millions of descendants?

If you could have one thing from God, would you ask for millions of descendants? Is that what you were aching for as you came in this morning?

Abram’s world, 4,000 years ago, was almost incomprehensibly different from ours. The birth of Jesus, 2,000 years ago, in a world so different from our own, is only halfway back to Abram.

I wonder what God was really saying to Abram. I wonder how Abram understood it.

And now, after 40 centuries, I wonder how it could possibly speak to me?

Pray Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

June 26, 2008 at 3:47 pm

The ethanol effect: When alt fuels go bad

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Iowa grows corn. Miles and miles and miles of it. We don’t eat it, of course—it’s not that kind. We feed it to cattle and hogs, and we send it by the trainload to processing plants that make it into that “high-fructose corn syrup” that’s in everything else we eat. Read the labels in your pantry.

And, this year especially (the angst of the times being as it is), we plant corn in every available corner in order to save the planet (and make pretty good money) by selling it to ethanol plants.

Trouble is, it’s a little like tobacco and Kentucky: government subsidies contribute to the growth of something that we’d probably be better off without. Check out MotherJones excellent explanation:

clipped from
EVERYTHING ABOUT ETHANOL IS GOOD, GOOD, GOOD,” crows Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, echoing the conventional wisdom that corn-based ethanol will help us kick the oil habit, line the pockets of farmers, and usher in a new era of guilt-free motoring. But despite the wishes of Iowans (and the candidates courting them) the “dot-corn bubble” is too good to be true.

Click the thumbnail below to see the larger image
The Ethanol Effect
  blog it

And it’s impact on soil conservation is not good.

Corn is a hot potato here in Iowa. Though not a lot of us are still farmers, our friends, our industry, and our economy are linked to corn in a big way. But in the long run, it’ll be a bust. We need another scheme for agriculture, and we need pioneers and politicians and professors who’ll help us get there.

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Written by Monte

April 3, 2008 at 10:48 am

Posted in Environment, Iowa, Politics

Community Supported Agriculture

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I’ve changed my blogroll to link (under Washington) to Choice Earth’s Blog. Lori and I buy a share in Choice Earth each spring and get locally grown vegetables all summer long. Think how much energy is saved by buying food grown here, rather than diesel-hauled from a thousand miles away! Jocelyn has links to help you find a CSA near you if you’re not from “these parts.” But her blog is worthwhile in itself. Here’s a sample:

Choice Earth CSA

Choice Earth is a Community Supported Agriculture group growing fresh, local, organic, heirloom vegetables for members in Fairfield and Washington area communities. … The mission of this blog is to tell all the day-to-day stories and action that happen on an organic vegetable farm…

Sunday, May 20, 2007:

What Am I?

Sometimes identifying a vegetable in the field can be tricky. Sure, we know what the vegetable looks like on the store shelf, but are we sure we know what it looks like in the garden? Frankly, I haven’t always been able to recognize the vegetables in their natural state. Here are some of my favorite “clueless vegetable” moments …[read more]

Drop by! And I hope you find such a food source near you, too.

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Written by Monte

May 26, 2007 at 3:40 pm

You wanna know who I’m voting for?

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OK, I’ll tell ya. If you promise to believe me that these are not recommendations for you. Shoot, I might change before morning!

For Iowa 2nd District U.S. House of Representatives:

I’m going with Jim Leach, the Republican incumbent. Why? I think the biggest problem that faces American government is big money. Money is why America goes to war, most of the time. Money is why legislators fall, most of the time (think Tom DeLay). Corporate money is why we are in Iraq, why global warming is not a priority, why the war on poverty fizzled.

Leach doesn’t take big money. That’s huge, to me. And he has been more consistent on Iraq than anyone in Iowa, Republican or Democrat, as far as I know.

For Governor/Lt. Governor of Iowa:

Call me stupid (no doubt some will), but as of tonight, I’m voting for Wendy Barth and Richard Johnson of the Green Party. Greens are seriously green. I’m not convinced many others are (big money links, see?). Global warming will roast us. As to the big boys:

Jim Nussle just presided over the development of the largest deficit in House of Representatives history. No thanks.

Chet Culver seems to be shedding his ultra-politico persona, but it’s too little, too late for my taste. I’m not convinced.
Won’t voting for Barth mean Nussle might beat Culver? Yup. And it would serve us right. And give us a chance to see where the neo-conservative agenda takes us. Iowans wouldn’t like it. The next election would be different. Both parties could benefit from noting that some voters were not satisfied enough with their candidates to keep them from wasting their votes (as they say) on the Greens.

What about values? If I’m not mistaken, abortions often go down under Democrats and up under Republicans. Shall we shake our pom-poms or make a difference?

For Secretary of Agriculture:

Denise O’Brien, the Democrat. O’Brien looks seriously to the future of Iowa – and, once again, has fewer ties to big money.

Friends, it is heresy to say it, but corn-and-beans industrial farming isn’t good for land, for small farmers, or for communities. It won’t last forever. Let’s get on with the transition into diverse crops, liveable small farms, and healthy communities.

For Washington County Attorney:

Ah, a write-in independent: Brooke Chesney. A little lean on experience, but Brooke brings an awareness that justice really does boil down to people talking to people. Washington County has suffered from a couple of decades of a “I win-you lose” prosecutor. Neither justice nor peace have resulted. Give me light on experience over compassion anorexia any day.

We’ve got a community to build. Everybody counts, especially the people with whom we disagree. Brooke will listen.

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Written by Monte

November 6, 2006 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Politics, Washington IA

Iowa Ag race in NY Times op-ed

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Blogger Chris Woods spotted a mention of the Iowa Secretary of Ag race in the New York Times.

It’s an interesting piece. For instance:

Both candidates support ethanol production, and who wouldn’t when ethanol has given Iowa the lowest fuel prices in the nation? But otherwise they are about as different as it is possible to be and still be an Iowan for agriculture. Bill Northey, a Republican, farms corn and soybeans and has been endorsed by the Farm Bureau. His Democratic opponent is Denise O’Brien, who raises poultry, apples and strawberries. She and her husband farm organically, and her campaign vehicle is a green biodiesel school bus.

The candidates capture a real split in the farm world — in Iowa and the nation as a whole. Mr. Northey proudly represents the industrial vision of farming that has turned Iowa into the land of the two-crop, corn-soybean rotation, a place where the chance to produce corn-based ethanol looks like diversity. Ms. O’Brien . . . is a reminder that Iowa would be better off with greater agricultural diversity, stronger communities and a greater emphasis on the health of its natural resources.

Sometimes it seems like the parties don’t give us much choice.   In this case, a first glance suggests that we may actually get to say something about the future of Iowa farming.

Click here for Woods’ comments or here to see it in the Times itself. Know any details?

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Written by Monte

October 11, 2006 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Environment