Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feed Nature

As far back as I can remember nature has always fascinated me. I've watched it wander through its seasons with wonder and amazement, sometimes frightened by its roar or humbled by its gentleness. But always I've been its student, enrolled in life and captivated by the tales it tells. Though I've not always been a careful student, it has always been a patient and forgiving teacher.

I was never worried that winter would consume the hope of spring or that summer would burn away the hope of snow. Watching nighttime snowflakes dance to the ground as they swirled past the outdoor light, I understood that this white death was no death at all but nature's plan for renewal. The snow would feed the spring and help to mix the nutrients trapped in the fallen leaves of autumn into the soil that lay below.

The storms that threw down lightning on the edge of spring were not angry. They were inspired. The lightning split the clouds, commanding them with a thunderous roar to loose their moisture upon the earth. Torrents rushed into watersheds that nature had prepared to absorb them. Streams swelled with spring's joyful surplus, carrying their treasures to the bottomlands where they would enrich the valleys, lakes, and rivers that were home to the abundant fish and wildlife so dependent upon them.

When the summer sun baked the soil, one could almost hear the July corn growing in the fields. It's stalks cracked in happy stretches that gave honor to the warmth of the sun for which they were so anxious. And when it began to paint the edges of summer's growth with golden brown, one knew the sun was preparing summer's proud effort for an autumn harvest so that there would be seed and fruit again in spring.

Once again the world would need to bare itself to winter's blanket so that it could sleep a refreshing sleep till spring. Trees would flame with color, waiting for a cold and blustery wind to cast their autumn cloaks upon the ground, leaving them naked against a graying sky. Frost would dance on windowpanes and cast its spectra on fields like diamonds that danced in gentle breezes before the morning sun. Overhead, the geese would sing their plaintive song, urging their neighbors ever southward.

The first snow would fall from a November sky where every living breath hung in sacred stillness. Masterpiece upon masterpiece, the flakes would fall until their individual beauty was lost in the overwhelming brilliance of the all. Trees and grasses would bow in humble reverence to the weight of such accumulated beauty. The snow would squeak its protest against being so unjustly impacted on roads and lanes of winter life. Nature stilled her voice to listen to the cold winter lullabies carried by the wind.

Then the sun would shine again, the crocus would burst through the snow, and simple grass would ignite the song of spring in every heart that stopped to gaze upon it or stooped to welcome it from it's winter sleep. Icicles would form on eaves in crystal celebration of the sun and streams would trickle beneath the snow, popping out here and there to display their urgent rush for spring.

These are memories. But they are filled with life and knowledge because they are filled with nature. From them I have learned life's most painful lessons, 1) if you leave it alone, it will usually survive, 2) if you cultivate it, it will thrive, and 3) if you abuse it, it will usually die.

Nature is an organic collective and like all things organic, it needs food, water, and good neighbors to survive. If you feed it, it'll feed you and whatever you feed it, you will end up eating. These are wise admonitions for our treatment of the nature upon which we so desperately depend for life. The violation of nature is ultimately a violation of our selves and of all that we were meant to be. We cannot neglect it without becoming victims of our own neglect.

If we feed it poison, those poisons will poison us. If we deprive nature, we will suffer nature's deprivation. If we exploit it, sucking the life out of it for profit, it will suck the life out of us. That is nature's way of balancing our neglect. We cannot presume to reap what we have not sown. Neither can we presume to sow harm and not reap its harvest.

Nature is not a tool we exploit for profit. It's a friend. When you visit your friends, what do you do? You eat! Friends do not hesitate to offer you their best. But if you are their true friend you will not exploit their kindness. You will not eat everything they have in the cupboard or return day after day until you've impoverished their household. If you do, they will weary of your friendship. Real friends are meeker than that. If you're a true friend, you'll feed those that feed you. You'll give them the rest and encouragement and sustenance they need. You, too, will feed their friendship.

The earth is crying out for such a friend. Its convulsions are signs of its discomfort. It is not asking for much, only that we would cease to poison its friendship with our human ambition. It has meekly yielded to our every importunity. But its cupboards are growing bare. We may continue to exploit its kindness for a while longer, but in so doing we may also render it incapable of feeding those that are supposed to be its friends. If we want nature to continue feeding us, we must learn how to feed nature.

Returning to life's most painful lessons, some things are best left wild, some things need to be cultivated, and any seed of abuse or neglect will produce a harvest after its own kind. Nature needs mankind to stand up to its friendship responsibility. Nature needs man to recognize what must be left alone, what needs to be cultivated, and what abuse must end. Nature needs mankind to replenish, not exploit the soil, to purify, not pollute the waters, and to act more like its neighbor than its master. The earth is a meek friend and only the meek shall inherit the earth. All others will destroy it.

"For yet a little while, and the evildoers will be no more; though you look with care where they used to be, they will not be found. But the meek [in the end] shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." (Psalm 37:9-10, AMP)

Michael Hennen

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Natural Blessing

Nature is inherently fruitful. Barrenness is unnatural. Sterility and barrenness are perversions of nature. That is not to say that all barrenness is the result of perversion. Rather, perversions of nature are inherently sterile. Wherever barrenness and sterility prevail, a violation of nature has probably taken place. One organism can impose that violation of nature upon another, or the violation of nature can be a mutual choice. But wherever this trespass has occurred, nature wars against its perpetuation.

There are distinctions of kind in nature that prevent unwholesome and unhealthy imbalances. These distinctions prevent one kind of animal from regenerating offspring with another. They also prevent animals of the same gender from regenerating. Thus, mules cannot reproduce with one another any more than females can reproduce without males or males without females. Such relationships represent a perversion of nature.

Nature tends toward harmony and balance. Anything that threatens to compromise this harmony and balance is unnatural. Whatever is unnatural depends on what is natural to sate its appetite. But, though the unnatural can sustain itself with the nature that surrounds it, it does not and cannot contribute to the collective resource value of nature through regeneration. Rather, it siphons off nature's resources to satisfy its own short-lived narcissistic imbalance. The unnatural can destroy the local balance of nature, but it cannot regenerate that ability in others. Praise God! At some point, when it has consumed all available resources, without the ability to reproduce, the unnatural will invariably perish.

But, lest you think that such unnatural perversions and the resulting sterility are limited to the animal kingdom, consider the genetic barriers that prevent plants of one kind from crossbreeding with another kind. Apples and oranges, except when engineered by the most rigorous imposition of perverse and unnatural processes, cannot regenerate 'appanges' or 'orpples'. And when such perversions of nature are forced upon it, we often find that fauna dependent on flora for its daily sustenance, when given the choice, will prefer the unadulterated varieties to these engineering marvels. Thus, beef cattle prefer natural corn to genetically engineered varieties.

Wherever the preference for unnatural food does prevail, it is usually because flavor enhancers have been engineered into the product, not because the engineered variety is necessarily better for us. We can fool our preferences into consuming poison but not without devastating effects. Eventually, because nature strives toward balance and harmony, the detrimental effects of the perversion of nature will manifest in barrenness and death.

By contrast, nature is inherently reproductive. It regenerates itself by the most efficient means possible. It seeks out the environment that provides it with the best venue for regenerating resourcefulness. Thus, certain seeds prefer and flourish in certain climates and soils and certain animals prefer and flourish in certain climates at certain seasons. By the same virtue, certain animals gather in herds, others in prides, packs, swarms, schools, or flocks, and humans gather in families and neighborhoods.

It is only natural that organisms of one kind should gather to perpetuate their natural preference. It is also only natural that barrenness and death should limit unhealthy, unnatural preferences. When the viability of an organism is threatened, nature intervenes to nullify that threat. That such conflicts occur within nature should not surprise us. Far more remarkable is the genius that gave nature that ability.

There is a natural blessing cast upon all of creation. It is a blessing from God that perpetuates the balance and harmony of His design. Wherever the violation of that balance and harmony is threatened, barrenness and death inevitably seek to sterilize such unnatural preferences. All of nature conspires to oppose what is unnatural.

Thus, seed that is unsuitable to a certain soil or environment will either cross with more suitable seed of its kind or eventually deplete what it needs to regenerate and survive. Where, certain animals have become overpopulated, the nutritive resources that sustain them dwindle to regulate their population. Where human preference wars against healthy families, the families that sustain a neighborhood, community or nation are decimated through barrenness, poverty, disease and war.

God's blessing is upon whatever He considers natural and His curse is upon our destructive, unnatural processes and preferences. He has designed nature to be a blessing. Whatever resists or opposes the perpetuation of that natural blessing is eventually consumed or destroyed by it. War will never generate peace, sterility will never produce fertility, greed will never reproduce generosity, selfishness will never reproduce love, and exploitation will never reproduce conservation.

Nature is both meek and tenacious. When threatened, it takes the meekest possible road. When left alone its tenacity erodes even the most durable of human monuments. Though it is so delicate in the hands of men, yet, nature will prevail long after time has erased the last footprint of mankind from the earth. Ultimately, nature is inescapable.

To enjoy natural, regenerative blessings here on earth, mankind must cooperate with nature and yield to nature's God. No amount of defiance or human engineering will ever erase God's natural blessing. Nature is a reflection of the meek and the indomitable character of the Creator. Nature is bigger than man's pride and presumption. The sooner we come to this realization, the sooner we'll be able to return to living in harmony and balance with God's nature.

Michael Hennen

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Recovering Heritage

This article is, first of all, about restoring our relationships with our fathers. I say fathers in the plural sense because, while we all have only one biological father, there are various other fatherly influences in our lives. For instance, God is also our Father -- our spiritual Father. There are also those fatherly influences indicated in the New Testament when Paul calls Timothy "my son." And there are always those mentoring influences (Galatians 6:6) where men of wisdom have led us to maturity. Certainly these mentors have also played a fatherly role in our lives. We ought to honor all these fathering relationships. And yet, recovering heritage is about more than just fathers.

While it is true that fathers are responsible for passing on their heritage, heritage is about more than the dynamics of this paternal relationship. A heritage is a tangible thing. It is either tangible in terms of the character displayed by the one receiving the heritage or it is tangible in some form of material inheritance. Sometimes it is even apparent in our beliefs. Beyond our genes and relationships, our character, reputation, inheritance, beliefs, and more can all be a part of our heritage.

When we talk about recovering our heritage, we are not just talking about restoring our relationship with our father and our family. We are also talking about recovering the original purpose God had in mind when he created our forefathers. It is an undeniable fact that bodies and brains are made distinct from one another and that some are more apt for some work than others. There is no shame in recognizing this distinction and no shame in using a tool well for the purpose for which it was crafted. In fact, there is a certain wisdom and satisfaction in using our minds and our bodies efficiently. This too is part of the heritage we should endeavor to recover.

There is a dynamic thread of aptitude running through our ancestry that is also woven into our bodies and sometimes, through stories, into our memories. Our forefathers found nobility in doing well what they were made to do best. In that activity, there was no comparison, only the merit earned as they became masters of their respective crafts. Whether they were builders or simple carpenters, their satisfaction came not so much from the money they earned as much as from the masterpieces and reputations they built.

Sometimes, these masterpieces were songs or stories or poems. At other times they were fields and flocks. And sometimes they were also boats and buildings, tools and trades, and any other craft man could put his hands to. But more than this, these masterpieces were the communities built around skills, around the pursuit of excellence, and around the exercise of integrity. The real masterpieces were not made of wood and stone, but of flesh and blood. They were relationships and communities of relationships whose corporate expressions of excellence and compassion reflected the excellence and compassion of God.

This is the heritage I am seeking to recover -- a comprehensive heritage that encompasses everything Jesus died to redeem. Whether it is honor or riches or talent, I want it all applied to the glory of God. This is the richest heritage -- that man might join nature in acclaiming the glory of God in every action, every word, and with every breath. This is the heritage that I claim -- that God is my Father, that He is glorious, and that reflecting His glory is the most suitable and honorable occupation for mankind and our most noble pursuit.

Michael Hennen

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Medicinal Herb Course

I just received my copy of the Medicinal Herb Course offered by Cheri Shelnutt of Sweet Hollow Farm in Tennessee. It is full of information on growing and using herbs. I am pleased by the clarity of the presentation and the simplicity of the instructions. This is a valuable tool, and I recommend it to anyone interested in herbal remedies. There is so much to learn about God's creation, and the uses of various herbs is just one of the many delights He has waiting for us if we take the time to learn. If you want to try this course, contact Cheri at

Since I live in Cyprus, I am adapting what I am learning in this course to our present location. Many of the basic culinary herbs are found growing naturally here in the Mediterranean area. It is easy to grow them here in their own habitat. We are also graced with many varieties of fruit and vegetables. The main challenge is the lack of year round water, so irrigation is a must. The medicinal herbs that Cheri teaches about can be grown here too. Some of the local medicinal herbs include ironwort (sideritis), hyssop, lavender, fennel, chamomile and dandelion. Of course the regular culinary herbs like basil, rosemary, chives, oregano and thyme are easy to grow here as well, and many of them have medicinal uses as well. When we think of all the side effects of many synthetic drugs, perhaps the gentle art of herbal medicine deserves to be revisited.

The climate and weather of Cyprus is similar to that of Israel, so many of the herbs mentioned in Scripture grow here as well as there. Hyssop, mallow, chicory, myrrh, wormwood, mint, dill, cumin, mustard, rue and coriander are other herbs well known in Cyprus and that grow well here.

Herbs are a fascinating branch of botany. It makes an interesting science study for home school, and the practical uses of herbs make them important in any home garden.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer Move

It is time to post again, now that summer has slowed down a bit for us. We started in May to look for a house near the coast. Our time in the mountains was coming to a close. Although we dearly love our friends and community in the mountains, it seemed that it was a wise move to get closer to my husband's director for the work in the Middle East. We looked for a for some months and we were just about to give up!

One day, driving around and seeing so many houses for sale, we pulled up in front of a likely one and in spite of the for sale sign we called and asked if the house might be for rent. It was not, we were informed, but the lady had another house in a village, would we like to see it? We spent a lovely afternoon in the village with her, hearing the whole story of a wonderful revival that took place in the 50's when her uncle went to the States and received the Lord Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He came back and preached to the village, and many responded positively to his message. It was the beginning of a denomination here on the island of Cyprus. We were excited that we had made a random phone call, and stumbled upon the history of the gospel in Cyprus.

She changed her mind a couple of weeks later and called us back, offering us the original house for rent. We told her our limitations, since we are on a missionary budget, and she graciously agreed to our price. So we moved in the hottest time of the year, right at the beginning of July.

It was hard to part with our mountain home and our friends, but we are near the airport and so expect to see many of them on their journeys into and out of the country. We enjoy a good sea breeze most days, although we are having to cope with high humidity. At least this house has air conditioners for those days when it's just not comfortable and sweat is pouring down our faces. Of course, there is the nearby beach where we can go soak in the water until sundown and cool off.

The back yard of our new home is completely unlandscaped. It brought to mind the Dervais' in Pasadena, California, and the way they transformed their back yard into a garden producing over 6,000 pounds of food in a year. Wow, can we do that here? To some extent perhaps. The house and lot are not ours, we are renting, so that is a limitation, but we have been told we can plant anything and landscape to our hearts' content. I am already envisioning lemon trees, bay laurel, palms, frangipane, and perennial herbs to name a few ideas.

Behind our house are fields. In the mornings, we can see a goatherd who comes to take his goats out for a walk in the cool dawn. There are irrigated fields and greenhouses, or polytunnels as some call them. We are right between two stone Orthodox churches so we hear bells frequently. It is quiet and breezy and we are sure we are right where we need to be for the time being.

We are still dreaming of our land in Missouri. That day will come. In the meantime, we continue to be faithful in all that the Lord has for us in this assignment.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jeremiah's Property

Did it make any sense to buy land in the middle of a siege? This is what the prophet Jeremiah did. "And Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me saying, 'Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle is coming to you, saying, "Buy for yourself my field which is at Anatoth, for you have the right of redemption to buy it." ' (Jeremiah 32:7) This did take place, just at the time that "the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard, which was in the house of the king of Judah" (32:2) Babylon was at that time the great world power in military might and economic strength. It would be the same as buying land in Baghdad when the US Army was moving in to take over. Things looked dark, and it was only going to get worse.

This is where faith comes in. Jeremiah believed the word of the Lord and acted upon it. He not only bought the land, he had the deed registered and then put in a secure place. What was God's reason for directing Jeremiah to do this? "For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, "Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land." (32:15) There was a future filled with hope and restoration.

Jeremiah's example of obedience to the word of the LORD, in spite of how things were going at the time, should inspire us to obey the voice of the Lord now. In my heart there was a nagging thought that we really should invest in some land. I have talked with many Christians who have confided that deep down they feel the same way and they are so tired of the rat race, their boring job, etc. Could it be that the Lord is speaking, and we are so good at ignoring His voice because we are so filled with cultural and societal expectations? 

Jeremiah's cousin explained the reason why he was offering the parcel to him, "for you have the right of redemption to buy it." (32:7) In Leviticus, the rights of redemption of land are clearly stated in a systematic way. Every man was to hold on to his inheritance, and even if he rented it out or "sold" it, it came back to him through the right of redemption if he exercised that right. 

We have a God-given right to redeem the land. We are encouraged to consider that the creation is longing to be redeemed and to be brought into the sphere of hope in which we await the coming of the Lord. (Romans 8:19-23) If we follow that small, still voice that keeps urging us to "move to the country" or to "get back to the land", it could be because God has a plan!

It takes obedience and then careful planning to make this transition from an industrial based lifestyle to a rural independent lifestyle. It can be done. It all starts with the purchase of property, even in the time of economic woe.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Give Me Eyes

Lord, give me eyes for a new generation

Let me see their hopes and dreams,

Let me weep their tears, hear their cries, and shout their joys


And if their dreams are washed away by the rush of yesterday

I will sing a new song to ignite their hearts again


Awaken my eyes to primal things whose natures' never change

Awaken my ears to hear the words that never die

Awaken my heart to feel the love that is enough, and not enough,


And if my love is washed away by the rush of yesterday

I will sing a new song to ignite my heart again


Lord, make me thirst for unreached nations

Make me thirst for truth and justice

Make me thirst for Your holiness


And if my thirst is blown away by the rush of yesterday

I will sing a new song to ignite my thirst again


Lord, give us eyes for Your soon return

Let love-struck hearts with passion burn

Let us see Your eyes ablaze with fire


And if our awe is washed away by the rush of yesterday

We will sing a new song to ignite our wonder once again

Michael Hennen

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Passover and the Lord's Supper

It is the time of year again to celebrate both the Passover and the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ the Messiah. If you haven't had a chance to attend a Passover Seder (meal), then it would be good to find a friend who knows how to have one, or to buy a Messianic Passover Haggadah to help you navigate this meaningful and traditional meal.

Passover commemorates the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. It is a story that has been remembered for thousands of years and that is celebrated each year in the spring by the Jewish people. Christians are often unaware that the Lord's Supper, or Communion, is defined by the context of the Passover. Jesus, or Yeshua as His name is in Hebrew, led His disciples in a Passover Seder which we now call the Last Supper. There is so much symbolism in the order of service for the Passover meal that I can't go into it here in this blog. There are many good books available on this subject.

I want to share with you a recipe for home made matzoh, the unleavened bread that is famous for being prepared hastily because the Israelites had no time to let their bread rise by the usual sourdough type method. In the book "Food At The Time Of The Bible" by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, the author shares a recipe for home made matzoh. If you home school, cooking up this ancient bread recipe could be a good learning experience for your children.

On page 90 of her book, Ms. Vamosh gives us this recipe for "Israelite Unleavened Bread":

2 cup whole wheat flour (Durum wheat if possible)
3/4 cup cold water
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
You can add any Biblical flavoring: hyssop, onion, garlic, sesame seed, sumac, etc.

Combine the flour, olive oil and salt with the water to form a dough and knead for 3 minutes. Add chosen flavorings. Divide into 8 balls. Flatten each into a thin round and prick all over with a fork. Cook individually on an inverted wok over a hot cooking stove, or bake on a greased cookie sheet for 10 minutes in a hot oven. (500F or 250C)

A Messianic Passover Haggadah, which is a book that leads you through the Passover meal explaining its symbolism regarding the Messiah, is available from the following sources:

"The Messianic Passover Haggadah" by Barry and Steffi Rubin
The Lederer Foundation
6204 Park Heights Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215
Phone: (301) 358-6471

"The Feast of Passover Haggadah" by Lars Enarson
The Watchman International
PO BOx 3670 
Pensacola, FL 32516
Phone: (850) 453-2907

We celebrated Passover this year with the Gateways Training School here in Cyprus. About 100 people were gathered together to remember the Lord's great act of redemption for His covenant people Israel. In the same way, we remember on this Resurrection Day, that Jesus our Messiah, the perfect Lamb of God, took away our sins and rose in victory over death. We remember, and we look forward to His return, and to eternity with Him in His blessed presence.

Aimee Hennen

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Garden of Worship

Standing on the south ridge, looking northward over the rolling hills and the creek winding through the bottomland of our property, one consuming desire arises within my heart -- to make it a garden of praise to God -- a place in which every effort is worshipful. I have always believed that work could be worship, but never have I seen it so clearly as when I consider how to shape our land to reflect God's glory.

A garden is a heritage of worship to God that we pass on to the next generation. Long after we are gone, if it is planted and tended well, its life will praise His name. It declares our appreciation of all God's creation. It declares a commitment to pursue a godly heritage for our children. It rejoices in the fruit and the flowers and the grain. It humbly expresses our dependence on God's grace for our daily bread. And, as we worship God in the garden, our praise is not hidden. It can be seen and appreciated by every passerby.

Those with heaven-bound eyes will look on our garden and see an act of praise. Those with earth-bound eyes may only see it as the beautiful but obsessive preoccupation of reality-escape artists. But no matter how they view it, it will bless and inspire nearly everyone and, perhaps, feed more than a few during lean times.

A garden positions us in agreement with the stewardship responsibility God has placed on the human race. It recognizes that mankind was created suitable to this worshipful brand of labor -- to responsibly till the ground and cultivate its wildness. It recognizes both the limits of our temporal nature and the limitlessness of our generational duty. A garden bridges the span between today and tomorrow in a living way.

Cultivating life in a garden is more than a mission. It's a lifestyle birthed in reverence for God. Inseparable from the Divine genesis that first displayed nature's glory or from the redemption that restores it, the cultivation of life is a holy pursuit. Enjoined continuously by mankind from the beginning of time, cultivation is also likely to be part of our eternal destiny -- an eternity that forever celebrates life.

What better place and what better way to celebrate life than to engage as a family in the cultivation of a garden? In this occupation, we feed our children, strengthen their frames for useful labor, and teach them the essential principles of life that all creation shares. In this occupation, we discover together, as family, the wonders of nature and of nature's God. In this occupation, as we all pass through the seasons of life together, we learn to become neighbors willing to help neighbors in need. In this occupation, our genius is bent toward creating implements for the cultivation of life rather than instruments of war.

A garden is a good place from which to worship God and, perhaps, that is why God first placed mankind there (Genesis 2:8). It was in this garden that mankind said to God, 'Not Thy will but mine be done." (Genesis 3:1-6) It was from a garden that God chose to initiate redemption -- the Garden of Gethsemane -- where Jesus prayed, "not My will but Yours be done" (Luke 22:43) and where Jesus was betrayed into the hands of sinful men. And, finally, a garden is part of the consummate venue of God's redemptive plan. Perhaps, that is why much of our most inspiring eschatological Scripture points toward the liberation of creation from its man-engendered corruption (Isaiah 2:4, 35:1-10, 51:3, 55:12-13, 65:21-22, Jeremiah 31:10-14, Ezekiel 36:33-36, 47:6-12, Joel 2:18-27, Amos 9:13-15, Micah 4:1-4, Zechariah 3:10, Romans 8:18-22, Revelation 2:7, 22:1-3).

If there is a garden aspect in heaven, to which mankind is redeemed, I think I would prefer that occupation as the venue of my worship. I would thrill to be a co-laborer with God in the cultivation of life. My faltering contemporary steps toward a more agrarian lifestyle, as clumsy and childlike as they are, are a worshipful, anticipatory attempt to position my heart for that heavenly occupation.

I think a garden is and should be an act of worship toward God. I think a garden passes on a heritage of worship to our children. I think gardens can feed a world increasingly desperate for redemption. I think a garden is the ideal place for the heart of a man to reconnect to the heart of God.

Michael Hennen

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Eat Seasonally, Eat Locally

God had a reason for creating food to ripen at certain times. It seems that the nutrients we need are supplied in the right season. Oranges and lemons in the winter, cherries in the spring, eggplant and peppers and zucchini in the summer, sounds Mediterranean to me. The foods we preserve keep us through the winter, but the remainder of the year, fresh seasonal food is the best choice. The picture you see above was taken after a shopping trip to my local grocery store - artichokes and citrus in season!

Most people today have a disconnected view of food. I heard an interview on TV a few years ago with people on the street in Maryland being asked if a certain law regarding farmers should be passed. One woman remarked, "Why do we need farmers? We have the supermarket." I was astounded. Just recently, a friend mentioned to me that it was too bad we couldn't grow certain vegetables out of season, "After all, they are in the supermarket, so why can't we grow them now?" Amazing. She apparently had no idea that these foods were imported from other lands where they were in season, picked too early, gassed and shipped many miles to this island so we could eat the things we want any time we want. This generation is deeply out of touch with the rhythm of life, the changing seasons, and the pace of nature.

I propose that we live more in tune with the seasonal changes of food production. I enjoy the changing vegetable options as the year progresses. On the corner near my house there is a small mom and pop grocery store. I talked to the owner and asked him about his produce. He said, "I buy the vegetables from the farmers here nearby. It is always fresher." I inquired about the rabbit meat and asked where the rabbit farm was. "It is not a farm for rabbits, it is a house where they keep rabbits." Hooray for local food production! It is not organic, but it is local. So I go with local whenever I can.

Our garden about 7 kilometers from our house is organic, but we do not sell the produce. Instead we use it to feed several missionary families that live in the area. We have avoided pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. One day we were out with everyone hoeing the healthy weeds out, when one person said to me, "Haven't you ever heard of herbicides?" I said, "Yes, first it poisons the weeds, then it poisons you." Another disconnect from the city-raised folks. There is no firewall between the pesticides and herbicides and your own body.

I am happy buying the seasonal vegetables from our corner store. In fact, when I go to the city supermarket to buy my monthly supplies, I skip most of the produce section and save my money for the local stuff closer to home. I would love it if the local farmers would not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, but all the world has bought into the food production paradigm offered by modern industrial agriculture. I buy organic when I can, grow it when I cannot, and then buy locally to enjoy the seasonal variety of foods.

Aimee Hennen 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Almond Tree Blossoms

The first food-bearing tree to blossom in the spring is the almond. Its beautiful pink blossoms are showcased against the bright blue Mediterranean sky. Even though the cold winds still blow on the mountains, the almond tree bravely leads the way for the rest of the fruiting trees to begin their march toward spring and summer. 

The almond has great significance in the Bible. Aaron's almond-wood rod, which budded overnight in the Tabernacle while the rods of the other leaders lay dormant, was a rich symbol of authority and the vitality of life that is blessed by God. His rod was kept in the ark of the covenant along with a jar of manna to commemorate the choices of God in delegating authority to the levitical line in ancient Israel.

In Jeremiah 1:11-12, the almond is again emphasized, "And the word of the LORD came to me saying, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" And I said, "I see the rod of an almond [shaqed] tree." Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching [shoqed] over My word to perform it." Does God keep His word, even though centuries and millenia may pass between the time He speaks and the time He fulfills? He certainly does! One hundred years ago, who would have thought that the promise of the rebirth of the nation of Israel was even a remote possibility. Yet Israel was born in a day, just like the Lord promised. (Isaiah 66:8)

When Moses interceded for the newly freed nation of Israel, he reminded God of His promise, "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself and didst say to them, "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever." (Exodus 32:13)

When I see the almond trees blossom in spring, I am reminded that the Lord watches over His word to perform it. No matter what is going on in the world, everything is under control. This was all prophesied long ago. Is it any wonder then that it is coming to pass? He will do what He said He will do, and the plans He has for mankind will not waver. When we see the fulfillment of His word, it just confirms the trustworthiness of His character, because God never fails to keep His word. The almond tree lifts up its blossom-laden branches to wave in the March wind, a testimony to His faithfulness.

Aimee Hennen

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beyond the Shadow

Beyond the shadow of human glory
Where light reveals our human form
There diffused by love's bright shower
Grace and truth hath flesh adorned

Cast in timeless hues of wonder
Wrought in mercy's fiery forge
Light from darkness split asunder
Redeemed to God forevermore

Worthy not of fame or fortune
Deserving not of His great love
Yet released from cruelest torture
Earthbound sons are born above

Neither act nor heart commend us
Infirmed by pride and arrogance
Only faith in God, resplendent
Grants us our deliverance

There, on knees before His gaze
Bent in prayer and humble quest
God extends His hand in mercy
As unto His honored guests

Oh, the day that song breaks forth
When shadow's edge is finally frayed
Then we'll stand in His bright glory
Never to be cast away

What awesome strains of praise we'll sing
What visions beyond measure
When we look upon our Savior
Finally counted as His treasure

There, in grace, in one accord
One heart, one song we'll sing
Bowed before majestic splendor
Heaven's halls with shouts will ring

Every tongue and tribe and nation
In robes of white before the Lamb
Crying out with loud acclaim
Palm branches waving in our hands

"Salvation" from our lips resounds
To God who sits upon His throne
As all the angels stand around
To hear our hearts His praise intone

Blessing, glory, wisdom, honor
Thanksgiving, power, might
Amen! The Lamb shall hear our praise
Forever God's delight.

Michael Hennen

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Naked Heart

Though godly influence is not always visible to the naked eye, it is obvious to the naked heart. "What exactly," you may ask, "is the naked heart?" It is the heart unencumbered by ambition or shame. It is the heart of humility that recognizes its own limits and weaknesses while trusting fully in the only remedy for them. It is the heart that is laid bare before God in prayer and repentance. It is the heart that hides no fault of its own, yet seeks to uncover no fault in others. This is the naked heart -- a heart that has nothing left to hide and, therefore, nothing left to lose by its openness.

The odd quality of a naked heart is that it so easily perceives the deception and ambition in others from which it has been liberated. Yet, it does so without judgment. It is not looking to wound, but to mend -- not to accuse, but to reconcile. The naked heart views judgment through the eyes of mercy.

Afflicted with remorse, the naked heart endeavors to alleviate the stripes of shame that so indelibly wound the souls of other men. There is no room for condemnation left in it, only compassion for those that suffer the cruel scourge of pride. It cannot give itself more fully to others than it has given itself to God. In its nakedness before God, it is stripped of the pretense that would render it unsuitable to minister to men.

The naked heart recognizes the quiet pressure of godly influence, and yields more readily to it than it would to the most intimidating force.

The naked heart is a heart so in love with God that every shadow of sin screams for relief in the light of His glory. And yet it is a redeemed heart, a heart that confidently accepts the sacrifice made to purify it. It is a heart whose image is made perfect in God, a heart that rejoices in the unique identity that God has bestowed upon it.

It does not compare itself to others for to do so would both demean its own worth and the worth of others. Rather, from personal experience, it recognizes that all men and every heart are in need of sanctification. Therefore, it is unimpressed with position and finds that yielding to it is less loathsome than striving for it. To the naked heart, the more sought after prize is not the position of influence, but the position of one's heart in the midst of influence.

Having yielded to God, the naked heart will not knowingly yield to anything less worthy. And far from being the attitude that resists human instruction and sets itself above mankind, this allegiance to God is the very attitude that most often sets it in mankind's midst. It is a servant heart, not because it lacks value but because its value is so common and necessary that its influence should saturate every sphere of society without exception. Were it any more notable, it would have no access to humble homes. Were it any less confident, it would have no audience in the courts of kings.

This is the naked heart, a heart at once at peace with God and with itself and, therefore, at peace with the world still so blind to its value and hidden influence.

Michael Hennen

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bird Sanctuary

"The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God." (Psalm 84:3)

I can imagine the psalmist worshiping God in the Temple in Jerusalem, his gaze rising up to the swallows flying overhead, busy with their nests and young. Here in the eastern Mediterranean, swallows come in droves in the spring and nest anywhere possible. Any building, wall, or niche can be the dwelling place of these diligent birds. I've seen their nests on the high walls of the airport terminal in Larnaca, and on the rafters of the little shack at the horse riding stables. In and out they fly, carrying food to their little ones who wait with open beaks, sounding out their impatient hunger with the beginnings of bird songs. Those many millenia ago, the psalmist was in the Temple contemplating the swallows of old, making their mud homes on the walls, flying above the altar in the house of God.

He does not mention any swallow eradication program for the Temple; apparently they were acceptable inhabitants of the holy place. Their presence in the Temple did not in any way interrupt the service of sacrifice and worship of the God who made the heavens and the earth. The psalmist enjoys their company and compares himself to the swallows, "How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house! They are ever praising Thee. Selah." (Psalm 84:4) We dwell in His house as the birds dwell in His house, accepted and appreciated for what we are - God's creation, His redeemed ones, those who offer the sacrifice of praise and simply enjoy His presence.

Today in the south of Israel, on the edge of the Red Sea and the Negev desert, there is a bird sanctuary called the International Birding and Research Center. Israel is the only land bridge between Africa and the continents of Europe and Asia. The birds that nest and breed in the northern regions of the earth migrate south to the feeding grounds of Africa, passing through Israel twice a year going and coming. It is estimated that 1.5 billion birds of 430 species fly through Eilat twice a year. 

Situated on the edge of what is left of an old salt marsh, the only remaining habitat for the birds is 5% of the land area that once was available to them. The rest of the salt marsh consists of development, hotels, suburbs of the tourist haven Eilat has become. When we consider the future, including the return of the Lord, how will areas like Eilat be transformed by the redeeming plan of God? Perhaps when God is finished judging the god of mammon, the earth will once again revert to its original purpose, the appropriate and adequate dwelling for man and beast. 

We are stewards of God's creation (Genesis 1:26, 28). We have been given dominion over the fish, the birds and the animals on dry ground. Like the birds in the Temple, the birds that pass through our lands and lots deserve a little more thought and consideration. I am not just talking about feeding birds in the winter, I am talking about considering how God takes care of all things, even us. "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

Dwelling in His house, close to His altars, is the place from which we can gain perspective on the tumultuous times in which we live. God takes care of the birds, He will take care of us. As stewards of His creation, we can take part in making our part of the earth a better place for ourselves, our children, and the animals God has entrusted to us. It is not a matter of money as much as it is a matter of will. As we gaze upon the swallows making their nests and taking care of their young, may we understand our place in God's creation and fulfill the original purpose of God for man -- for fellowship and for tending the garden of God. 

Aimee Hennen

Friday, January 30, 2009


Trees are earthbound witnesses. They wear the scars of every storm, every fire, every drought, and every year of abundant rain. They also humbly wear the scars of men and animals as if they were trophies of grace.

Trees declare the warmth of every sunny day and the cold of every snow-swept winter. They display the colors of change for everyone to see, and herald, sometimes with bright flowers, the coming new life of spring.

They are silent witnesses, not casting judgment, but unafraid to declare what they cannot deny. Their roots are familiar with ancient things. Their limbs and leaves ring with the laughs of children, the kisses of lovers, and with the sobs of old men.

Though they never raise in protest a voice that men can hear, when cut down, they continue to witness faithfully and loudly both to the skill and to the finiteness of mankind.

We sit on them, write on them, sleep on them, put volumes of our knowledge on them, and seek shelter under them. Trees are without prejudice, friends to every man. There is not one of them that will raise itself in war against him or against his neighbor.

When burned, they testify to the warmth of their Maker. When formed and fashioned by the hands of men, they testify with a sweet fragrance to God's strength and beauty. By their fruit the savor of God's love for mankind is unmistakable. When barren, the earth beside them mourns.

If you see a tree as a witness of God's glory whose voice can reach beyond your own generation, or even beyond that of your children's children, you will not hasten to cut it down except in the most dire or noble of pursuits.

Trees, planted to declare the glory of heaven to men, are earthbound witnesses of our compassion, of our faith, of our steadfastness, and also of our cruelty. Perhaps that is why God chose to display His love on a tree, so that we would never forget the beauty of His steadfast love or our desperate need for His redemption.

Michael Hennen

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Other Economy

I know everyone is worried about the economy. It is definitely on the ropes, and there is cause for concern. I have to say, though, that there is another economy that concerns me more deeply. The one we hear about every day that is sputtering and failing is the legal economy. What gets me is the illegal economy.

To what am I referring? Well, as missionaries, we have lived on 4 continents and visited others. Since we are ministers, we have met and ministered to the needy in all these societies. There is a hidden economy, the economy of misery, that pervades this world. I think some people gleefully watch the failing economies of the world, as if they are getting their come-uppance, but if the legal ones fail, I hate to think of the illegal ones taking over.

There is the hidden economy of drug trafficking. Rebels and terrorists worldwide fund their evil deeds with the money made on heroin and cocaine. There is the hidden economy of the sex trade. Children in Thailand and women all over the world are trapped in this dark underworld of mafia and prostitution. There is the hidden economy of weapons dealing. Secret pacts and hidden agendas which are publicly refuted, are very real and very much taking place in many places of the globe. There is the hidden economy of poaching. Animals and plants are at risk in many parts of the world from the unscrupulous business of selling animal parts and skins, and taking plants out of their environment to sell to the uninformed peoples of the world. There is the hidden economy of exploitation. In many places, people work for wages that are so low it makes them virtual slaves in the sweat shops of designer products. And there is the economy of slavery, still very much alive in Sudan, Turkmenistan, and other places. What is hidden is much worse than just the greed we see on Wall Street.

Our attention is turning to local economy. Here we find accountability, and we are able to take care of our neighbors so that no one is hungry or without shelter. We are longing for community, in which neighborliness abounds, the caring for one another like brothers and sisters in the Lord. The world's economies, both legal and illegal, will be judged by the Lord. In the midst of judgment, may we wake up to the opportunity to establish a glimpse of heaven here on earth, taking care of one another in the love of the Lord. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Little Background

Our agrarian roots go way back. My parents were both raised in the farming community of Dutchtown, Louisiana. Although after World War II they headed to the oil fields of Venezuela to work, they nevertheless always had a little garden in every place we lived. Mom loved okra for her gumbo, and Dad enjoyed nice juicy homegrown tomatoes.

MIchael's father was raised on a farm in MInnesota. After World War II he studied Mechanical Engineering and Economics in college. He and his bride settled in Ottumwa, Iowa, to pursue a career with John Deere, working to improve tractors. Always in their back yard a little garden grew, and behind their lot there was a 7 acre cow pasture, home to many adventures for the little cowboys and Indians they raised.

Growing up, I always had an interest in the great outdoors. At first I was drawn to oceanography and marine biology, since we lived on the beach of the Caribbean Sea while my father was refinery manager in Costa Rica. The beautiful tropical foliage, the wonderful and colorful bird life in the trees, and even the little land crabs that migrated once a year across the landscape, all fascinated me. In our side yard someone had planted a hibiscus bush and then grafted in many different kinds and colors of hibiscus flowers. 

After moving back to the States, I finished high school one month after my sixteenth birthday and in the fall of that year I enrolled in LSU. My major? General Agriculture. The counselors all advised me to go into agribusiness, but my feeling was that I wanted to grow things and have a cow, not get involved in the big corporations or the competitive world of agribusiness. 

My fellow classmates seemed to all have farm backgrounds, so I was at a disadvantage. For example, for one class we went to a barn to judge sheep. They brought out four sheep and we were supposed to classify them from best to worst. This was my first close up look at a sheep. I had no idea what to look for. So I guessed at my answers. I was wrong.

My Dairy Science class was all about how to run a dairy and artificially inseminate cows. ONe of my fellow students, a Vietnam veteran, was feeling the same uneasiness I was feeling. When would they begin to teach about cows and how to take care of them?

After a year at LSU, I transferred to NLU, a little college in northeast Louisiana, and I changed my major to Horticulture. Here I got to spend time in a green house, and we went out to collect soil samples in the forest, then brought them back to the lab to analyze them. I didn't finish my degree, but I did continue to have an interest in growing plants.

After returning to Venezuela as a missionary in 1988, I met my husband Michael and we began a joyful partnership for life. One of the first things we did in our mountain home in the Andes was to plant a garden. Michael dug the whole thing by hand and then we planted strawberries and a few vegetables. He bent the shovel on the hard ground! We bought chicks, reasoning that a little food production would help the Lord out with our missionary support. Well, the neighbors (an extremely poor family) stole our strawberry plants. One morning our chicks, that were supposed to be all hens, began to crow at daybreak. We gave them to the extremely poor family down the road.

In Russia we didn't have any land to plant on, since we lived in the collective apartment housing of the city of Togliatti for six years. But we thoroughly enjoyed every visit to the small Russian villages in the summer, to eat and drink with our church members and other friends, and enjoy the beautiful Russian countryside. I have to say that if Russia could ever straighten itself out after centuries of the feudal system, bad government, and crazy politics, homesteading in Russia could be a good thing.

In Kazakhstan where we ministered for three years, we again did not have any land to plant on, but we did take advantage of the fresh vegetable markets all around the city of Almaty. Amazing produce, sold by the farmers of the villages surrounding the city, graced our table at every meal. "Sister, buy my apples!" a local Muslim in the market would yell at me. Herbs and spices, the colors of the vegetables, the smells of roasting chicken kabobs, made every trip to the market an enjoyable experience. It was just hard to lug home the bulging mesh bags filled with all the goodies.

Here in Cyprus, we moved to the mountains to be with our Messianic Jewish friends who have a discipleship school and community. They bought 4 and a half acres nearby, so guess who helped set up the garden? That's right! We did. 

In the fall of 2008, we purchased 26 acres in northern MIssouri. This will be our future homestead, Lord willing. Meanwhile, we continue to appreciate God's good earth, and the gifts He gives us through other members of His Body, and the celebration of the Feasts of the Lord together. This agrarian life is good.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Rediscovering Lost Knowledge

In the last 150 years, our country has experienced an extraordinary loss of knowledge. While we think these days that we are far ahead of our predecessors in scientific and technological information, the fact is that when it comes to taking care of ourselves we have become as dependent as newborn babes are for their diaper change.

As part of our homeschooling last year, I read a book with my daughter called "Diary of an Early American Boy". It is about a 15 year old young man named Noah Blake and it chronicles his life in the year 1805. Here is a young person who knew how to build a house and a barn, plow a field, build a bridge, construct a mill with a pond, clear the forest, and that was just to set up the homestead! He knew about moon phases, how to grow food for his family, and how to make nails at a forge. This appears to have been common knowledge among farmers and settlers in the past. 

Then we also read the delightful story by Laura Ingalls Wilder called "Farmer Boy". Although I think she rolled all of Almanzo's life on the farm experiences into one book covering one year of his youth, it is still an amazing picture of know-how and industriousness that makes our present-day young people look pretty useless.

We have lost so much knowledge that I wonder if we can recover it in this generation. I am thankful for the books that are available about the many aspects of gardening and farm life, but it would be great to have more practitioners in the flesh nearby who could show the way.

Years ago I lived in the country on 8 acres. My neighbors were an elderly couple who had cleared the land I then lived on. The pear tree she had planted 50 years before was still bearing fruit in my yard. I would go visit her regularly and watch everything she did. If she was digging in her garden, I would pay close attention and try to copy her activities in my own garden. She probably had forgotten more than I would ever know about raising food on that plot of land in Louisiana. I learned so much from her.

I am now passing on my knowledge to my daughter. We garden together, we learn about being productive together. The next generation needs to know how to be producers and not consumers. It is satisfying to be able to grow your own food and make your own clothes. The knowledge of past generations is our national heritage. Let's rediscover the many treasures of know-how and common sense living that have been handed down to us, and let's leave this heritage to our children.