I was just reading an article this morning about the wildlife we like to attract to our garden. It talked about the fact that all of us love to see nice furry creatures like squirrels and winged creature like colourful birds and buuterflies out our windows. We tend to ignore the destructiveness of some of these creatures – the racoons and deer that eat an entire row of corn in the night for example. After all they look so cute while they devour our favourite plants. Most of us are not so keen on the less loveable creatures – the stinging, slithery and slimy critter like toads and snakes and spiders. They make some of us shudder just to think about them. Ironically these are the creatures that we most need in the garden.
When it comes to preventing damage to your garden, however, these critters are the ones you want visiting. Snakes, frogs, carnivorous lizards, wasps and eetles help keep the true pests in check.”
As I thought about this I could not help but think about the similarities to the church. What makes a healthy church? We love to attract the well dressed and the wealthy. We love to attract the energetic and the likeable people. We are not so keen on the outcasts – the mentally ill, the homeless, the disabled. Yet so often it is those that look good on the outside who do the most damage in the church. A pretty face and a well packed wallet can easily disguise a deeply broken personality that suddenly erupts in broken relationships and destructive behaviour. The perfect pastor or church elder who is suddenly caught in an adulterous relationship. With the outcasts we are often aware of the sins and the brokenness right up front. And they scare us because as a result of their own brokenness they are able to see through our facades. They know our churches are not healthy, they know the well dressed are as broken as they are. It amazes me how transparent my struggles are to those who are often ostracized and disregarded by the church. Maybe that is part of the reason for our rejection. We don’t want to face up to the areas in which God still needs to transform us and unfortunately in the process we turn away the very people that can make our churches healthy.
Just as the garden needs the stinging, slithering wasps and reptiles so our churches need the homeless and the marginalized. We need the broken and disabled people in our midst to enable us to confront and eradicate the real pests both in our own lives and in the life of the church.
Well the pace of life is ratcheting up as we get ready for our trip to Australia in 12 days as well as my trip to LA tomorrow for the West Coast Healthcare Missions Conference. So many details and at the moment we do not have an assistant to help us. And that all reminded me of another prayer I wrote over the summer which as I read through it again this morning reminded me to take a deep breath, slow down and pray. I really do find that when I do take time to slow down, pray and listen, the burden lighten and the sense of urgency disappears. Suddenly all those details I was struggling with either seem to disappear or suddenly become manageable.
God you promise us a burden that is light and a load that is easy,
You anoint us to study your word and meditate on your ways,
May we never be too busy to listen,
May we never be too tired to pray.
God you invite us into your community but also to solitude,
You call us to work but also to rest,
May we never be too busy to listen,
May we never be too tired to pray.
May we see this day as an opportunity,
To see you, to know you, to represent you,
May we never be too busy to listen,
May we never be too tired to pray.
My friend Jeff Johnson has just put together this promo for an upcoming CD he and Rhil Keaggy have produced. It Features photographs and images by artist, Kathy Hastings which inspired the instrumental collaboration between guitarist, Phil Keaggy and keyboardist, Jeff Johnson. As you know I love Jeff’s music and often use it as background for my meditation videos. This is a great collaboration. Enjoy
Summer is drawing to a close, and it seems to me that the end of the year is moving towards us at a very rapid clip. The MSA team has begun a series of discernment sessions to try and shape at least some of what we focus on over the next couple of years. As we have gotten back into this process which we began using about 18 months ago I realize how much I have missed them over the summer.
This is a group discernment process developed and used by Quakers for running not just church but also business meetings. It works from the premise that God speaks to and through everyone and provides an environment in which we can listen to the ways in which God is speaking to us and discern our direction together.
We live in a world with much uncertainty, one in which we all feel buffeted by change beyond our control. Often we wonder where and whether God is really in the midst of what is happening. I find that using this process really helps us to discern where God is and how God wants to lead us. So many of our strategic planning and futuring techniques stem from our belief t – spoken or unspoken – that the future will be more of the present only bigger, better and more prosperous. The last year has dispelled that illusion but many of us still want to go back to the old ways of doing things.
I mentioned in the recent MSA yearly report that using this process has stimulated our creativity. It makes life a little messier than a well ordered strategic planning approach but is exciting to watch God take control and shape what we do. It is also exciting to see each person involved in this process grow and blossom as they are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and their sense of God’s leading. None of us really know what the future will hold but I am more convinced than ever that this is the type of process that provides the flexibility we need to lead us into our rapidly changing future while maintaining a sense of the fact that God is indeed still in control.
You can read more about the process we initiated last year at these posts
I had just finished the draft for this article when I came across this post
The Problem with Non that seemed so appropriate in relation to what I had just written that I thought I would add it as a reference for reflection. I think that part of the reason non profits find change difficult is that they develop structures and ways of thinking that build rigidity and inflexibility and really do not allow for change at any level. What do you think?
Many of you are just starting back to school so I thought that you might be interested in this site which I just became aware of because they listed my blog amongst their 100 Best Blogs For Real World Advice and Education
As the site says:
College comes with a hefty pricetag. And why would it not? A university degree is invaluable, and students get a lot for their money. However, certain things aren’t part of the enrollment package: insight, wisdom, maturity, humor, patience, humility, perspective.
They do have some interesting sites listed and have some previous lists that may be of interest to students in specific areas. Because of my interests I particularly enjoyed looking at the list on Green Technology and Design.
Well I am drawing the What is a Spiritual Practice series to a close at least for this year, with this one final post. I am delighted at the many responses I have received about articles and the ways that this series has encouraged many of you to rethink what a spiritual practice is. I am now thinking about launching another series for Advent: What are we Waiting for? I will get the details posted next week.
Today’s article is from Mark Buhlig a member of Roadtrip Project. Roadtrip Project gives expression to sustainable spiritual transformation available through the modern pilgrimage they call service trip.
Reinventing the Wheel
Dream of a wheel, and on that wheel are three points. The points on the wheel symbolize Service, Reflection and Worship. Some of us have found that service is an entry gate into the wheel. We have found that for some reason, during these off campus, away from everything experiences, we feel more love, more peace, more the person that we really want to be. In fact, it is during these times that we are perhaps more the person that we really are. We have found that these experiences are so moving and so profound that we are compelled to reflect. We are compelled to look inside for the answers to the questions that these experiences require us to examine. And finally, we find ourselves drawn back to both the service and reflection as we worship. And the circle is complete.
As we start to embrace these points on the wheel, as we begin to look forward to the next point, the wheel begins to turn, and in the turning the motion of the wheel causes the points on the wheel to get closer and closer. Soon the points begin to blur and blend. What if the points blended together? What if they became one? What if these three points dissolved into one and the one became a lifestyle? What if the blended points were reflected in all that we did, all that we thought, all that we are?
More often than not we who participate in service/mission trips discover a counterintuitive truth: we receive much more than we give. We pack our bags and lace our boots and head out believing that we are the ones giving and those who occupy our destination are the recipients of our proficiency. We discover that these trips, these experiences, reveal not our proficiency but our deficiency. We come home broken and humble and for a short season we have a humble attitude. We question our values. We question our priorities. We question our culture. We even question our faith, or at least the faith we inherited.
There is a place on the horizon that we can see. There is a place ahead of us where we find ourselves free to cut the ropes that tie us to a culture that devalues community and elevates the individual. There is a place in front of us where we no longer make decisions that reinforce our comfort at the expense of another. There is a place ahead in the distance where we begin to live as Jesus taught us to live. In this place in the distance we do not make decisions that reinforce what is good for me, but what is good for us. It is a place where faith is as valid as fact. It is a place where we live our lives and make our decisions based on faith not fear. It is a place that provides the tools that we need to cultivate and sustain the lifestyle that we experienced for those days at our destination, because in those days we lived in nearly perfect community and we knew it. We were our best self and we knew it.
And then we come home. We turn our backs to the horizon and look back to the place we started from. We come home and for a short time we walk through our old world with fond memories of the place we saw in the distance. And then the memories begin to fade and when we remember those days it seems less than real. In fact we are told it is not real. The place we came back to, that is the real world and we continue to walk through our days with our eyes to the ground and our nose to the grindstone, because this is the real world not that land in the distance. Not that land of promise, the promise we knew after we packed our bags and laced our boots. Everything about this real world tells us that the land of promise is a lie.
And still, somewhere, somehow we hear a small voice that tells us otherwise. Calling from a distance we hear a voice that tells us of a better way. This voice tells us that sharing is better than having. This voice tells us that listening is as important as telling. This voice tells us that eating together is better than eating alone. It is a voice that tells us that all of the living we do is better when we live with others. But the voice is quiet and unfamiliar and when we think we hear it, we think that we may be crazy and we are afraid to turn to the one next to us and say, “Did you hear that?” You see, when we acknowledge the voice we are asked to step aside so that others may pass. Or, we are told that we should wake up and quit dreaming, because dreaming has no place in the real world.
But one day we pack our bags and lace our boots and turn to the horizon one more time and we walk again toward the small voice. And, we see that place we thought we had lost. As we get closer to the horizon the voice gets stronger and more familiar. We see that place again in the distance and questions are exposed. How can we sustain the love we feel? How can we sustain the peace we feel? How can we sustain this land on the horizon? How can we live like this every day?
The goal of our project is to find answers to these questions. No one of us has the solution, but all of us, listening to each other and for the Spirit of God can be about the holy task of bringing this holy place home with us. By talking about the holy moments that we have had in that land of promise we can better understand how real this dream can be. By becoming very familiar with that holy place we can better learn to recognize that which sets it apart from the real world. When we become more familiar with that which defines the dream we can talk about it with more confidence and we are not afraid of the voice that tells us to quit dreaming, indeed we become so bold as to ask others to come and dream with us. Dream of a wheel, and on that wheel are three points.
I just made my first apple cake for the season for our MSA Board meeting tomorrow. It is a great way for me to relax once I have all my materials ready for the Board members.
Our apple crop is not as big as usual but there are still plenty to enjoy. This recipe was given to me by Janet Hutchison the wife of our Board chair – Janet’s grandmother became a widow with seven children (all under the age of thirteen) when she was still in her thirties. She was still climbing her apple trees to prune and spray even in her seventies. Janet was fortunate enough to grow up living next door and enjoyed her fresh pies, cookies and this delicious apple cake. Enjoy!
- 6 cups Apples,Peeled & Diced
- 1 cups brown or raw Sugar
- ½ cup Oil
- 1 cup Walnuts,Chopped
- 2 Eggs,Beaten
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla
- 2 cups whole wheat Flour
- 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
- ½ cup Yoghurt
Stir together apples, sugar, oil, nuts, eggs and vanilla. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda & salt. Add flour mix to apple mixture. Bake in a 9×13″ pan at 350℉ for about 45 min or until toothpick comes out dry. Freezes well. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream
Top with Cream cheese frosting 8 oz cream cheese, 3 tbl margarine, 1 tsp vanilla 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar OR top brfore baking with 2tsp cinnamon, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp flour, 1/4 cup rolled oats
Per Serving (not including toppings which I usually leave off: 308 Cal (38% from Fat, 6% from Protein, 56% from Carb); 5 g Protein; 13 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 3 g Mono Fat; 44 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; 30 g Sugar; 16 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 336 mg Sodium; 33 mg Cholesterol;
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