Sending Roots Deep

vermontc1We’ve been on our land now for two weeks. We have mostly unpacked and gotten things settled, but renovations are ongoing, so we have been living with dust and drills and jackhammers.

Our most recent improvement to our house was installing a woodstove. These are those old-looking cast iron boxes with stovepipe going up to the ceiling that can heat an entire house. I’ve wanted one of these for years, and finally we moved to our farm, where it made sense to get one. My hope is to never use the heater again.

It’s a great feeling of freedom and security to have a woodstove. Suddenly, I have the ability to heat my home and keep my family warm using wood, wood that I can get from our own acreage. If the electricity goes out on a freezing day, we have nothing to worry about. And it is a simple device, unlike the electric heat pump/compressor that is normally used.

I was asked to give a talk up in Minnesota recently, at another FOCUS event. I was honored to be invited, but I declined and gave the missionary a name of a friend who lives up there. I am feeling called to invest myself in the local area, in the Austin diocese and nearby environs. Houston or Dallas or San Antonio is as far as I want to travel. I’ve been invited to be on The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi, but I will only do it if we can make it a family trip.

I want to send roots deep in the place and with the people that surround us. I want to serve at my parish and diocese to help educate my brothers and sisters in their faith. I don’t want (or intend) to be a celebrity of any kind. If God makes me one in certain people’s eyes, that is his business. But, as I sometimes remind myself when I’m tempted to get a big head, I’m going to “leave my eulogy for God.” He alone knows hearts and minds. Rich Mullins said, “we are not as strong as we think we are,” and that is so true. We are, all of us, very small, and can do nothing without God.

The fields are ripe for the harvest around here, both figuratively and literally. Our land has not been managed that well, so the soil and trees and pond are just begging for some TLC. I can see the possibilities with it, beginning with rotational grazing of the cattle already on the property.

But also at our parish, there is great need for conversion (and reconversion), education, good formation, community, and catechesis. God asks for laborers to go out into the vineyard, using the gifts and skills he has given them, to help gather a harvest. I hope to be one of those laborers, along with you.

What does a “culture of life” mean? It means cultivating life at every level and in every way. Our civilization is so far down the path of despair that it will take a deep healing to renew it and forge it upon a solid foundation, that of God. The despair is manifested in women who abort their babies (often due to pressure from boyfriends, husbands, and parents), in families who choose to contracept their marital embrace so they will not have children (or have more children), in our country’s acceptance of torture as a licit practice, in drone attacks that kill innocents, in euthanasia, in same-sex “marriage,” in bullying and rape and brutality that goes on in schools and cities around the nation.

But while passing laws and protesting are good to do, they are striking at the symptoms. People have forgotten, or never learned, what it means to be truly human. Christ reveals man to himself, He shows us what it means to be truly human. On our farm, we hope to be a haven, a sanctuary, where people can learn at the feet of Christ, in the school of love. We don’t know how that will happen exactly, but we believe the Holy Spirit is revealing it to us.

So we are putting out into the deep by sending roots into the soil, where they will tap into the wellspring of water that is God. Then we can send out the shoots of new life, the blossoming flowers which will turn into seeds and bear fruit a thousand-fold over.

Thanks for joining us on this journey.

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10 thoughts on “Sending Roots Deep”

  1. Wood stoves are great for disposing of junk credit card offers, too! That’s mainly what my parents use theirs for. They also have a more modern wood-burning furnace in their basement, because the woodstove can’t really heat the whole house.

    You’re in Texas so I’m guessing you have one of those broad, flat houses with no basement, right? Old New England houses are very narrow and tall so that a woodstove downstairs can heat the second and third floors. At least you won’t freeze, but you may find yourselves huddling in one room on cold days.

    1. Joe, yes no basement. Our house is fairly squarish in design, with the woodstove in the central living room that has a tall cathedral ceiling. See my comment below to Adam about the thermostats we got to circulate the air through the house–a friend of mine with a woodstove tipped me off to these.

  2. They can cook up a room that’s for sure. I remember visiting a friend who had one in Indiana. It felt strange to be sweltering knowing it was below zero just outside the door.

    1. Adam, yeah that is what I have heard, too. So we got one that has a maximum heat area of 1800 sq. ft., while our house is about 2300. Also we got special thermostats that can just circulate the air via the fans, without turning on the heater or A/C. They run the fans 5 minutes every 30 minutes, so we will use that to more evenly distribute the heat through the house, into the bedrooms, etc.

  3. Indeed, Devin, where you are is where you can change the world. Someone said something along the lines that in order for one to be universal, one has to be as local as he can get. It may sound strange, but I got from the context was that human experience is not wildly different anywhere, so, instead of diluting one’s experience, it’s better to dive deeply into the experience of life right where one is. And a life lived deeply is will always something that people anywhere at any time can relate to.

    I’d only suggest you to not ignore a good propane tank. Unlike wood, propane has a quite high energy density that can provide for many needs and last a long while, even transportation. Using a fuel-cell that doesn’t cost more than an AC unit, propane can even provide energy for a whole house, including its heating and cooling needs.

    PS: back to cell coverage, using T-mobile you could still use AT&T’s GSM network with transparent and free roaming for less than AT&T charges.

    1. I know Texas is very different than New York State, but I would second the propane tank idea. My grandparents use a combination of propane and a wood stove to heat their home and it works very well even in the middle of winter (and those are some cold winters!)

  4. Devin, I’m delighted to see you’re settling in reflecting on the need for conversion and community. After a few year of contributing to your blog and sharing with Catholic friends I have been taking stock. We live in a time where many of us are fundamentally challenged to consider our ‘roots’ – particularly since everything around us seems to be on the move. It’s a good time to consider our roots, considering everything around us seems to be on the move. Your emphasis on community has resonated with me. It’s been a key element in my conversations with Catholics, over many years. I have a piece on Catholic/Mennonite ecumenism over at radref at the moment:

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