I used this for a birthday card a few days ago...


"more than all those"

I stopped by Emmaus Ministries this week, to meet some more of the guys and maybe make it easier for them to feel comfortable coming on a retreat with us. They're planning to bring a group next weekend.

Heather and I are excited to be planning a retreat again. We're thinking of focusing on this little story for the weekend:

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. Jesus called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury."

"For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living." (Mk 12.41-44)


"permission to lead"?

In a recent discussion, someone spoke of leaders needing to be "given permission to lead" by the community. That so clearly points to the reality that such leaders derive their position and authority in the group from the people themselves (as do leaders in all other human organizations). It reminded me of something I wrote when similar discussions were going on over three years ago:

It seems to me that voting someone into office directly reflects the understanding that the power and authority of a leader derives from the strength of the people. In our church meeting, someone even said that: "The elders have authority because we have chosen them." This is the basis of every human authority and power (it's a little different if the leader is appointed by someone in a higher office, but even then the whole authority structure depends on the people accepting it, participating in it, submitting to it—if they don't, there's no power there). Jesus was not chosen, not "empowered," in this way. Neither was Paul. And the earliest church didn't have an official authority structure by which leaders were chosen and their leadership enforced. Paul had to keep writing and preaching and offering his strong example to keep the Christians in the various churches following his teaching; and it's clear from some of his letters that not everyone saw his word as authoritative. But, like Jesus, he didn't have an office to appeal to, he just had to keep speaking the truth to them. With both of them, it was always clear that God (not some group of people) had chosen and empowered them.

Because of the reality of God empowering those he chooses to lead his people, there doesn't seem to be the need for granting them any human authority or backing up their decisions with human force. As I said before, Jesus led without these. And he taught his disciples not to rule over each other, that they had one Father and they were all brothers and sisters. When someone has been given special abilities or wisdom from God, we naturally follow them as "authorities" because we see they have what is good, what is from God. There is no need of human force to make us obey. If we choose not to obey, then our efforts flounder or fail and we suffer the consequences of our foolishness. God backs up the authority of those who he has chosen.

So, in the church at least, it seems to me that we should set aside human authority, offices of power, and the enforcement of leadership decisions through force or threats of force (social ostracism being also a form of force, by cutting people off from the support they need to survive). Set aside the human power that causes resentments and dissension, and tempts leaders to abuses. From situation to situation, let each one lead according to their gifts and abilities from God. Seek out those gifts in ourselves in others, because we need them as a church.

If God calls us, we don't need anyone else's permission.


against the flow

Click to view it on Matt's blog (larger size available there)
Here's a sketch by our friend Matt that I'd like to see him share at our worship time tonight. It's of a little piece of Plow Creek. Drawn on pages in a daily planner.

What I found especially interesting is that the flow of the water is from the lower right to the upper left. Against the progression of days. Or maybe it's our daily planning that's going against the flow...



"for him it is sin"

"Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4.17)

I came across these words this morning. They reminded me of thoughts I'd been having over the past several months, wondering if God might expect more of us the more spiritually awake we are. Apparently so.

That shouldn't be a startling discovery, I suppose. We naturally expect more of children as they mature. And there's other similar biblical teachings, about teachers being judged more strictly, for example, and "to whom much is given, much will be required." But I guess it's one thing to accept that teaching and another to see "much will be required" actually happening. To see God's hand heavy on someone, even when that person is actually doing only what most people do, what most people seem to get away with, without God's resistance. The reality that God might actually insist on our living the truths that we have been shown, when others don't seem to be held to those same standards.

Perhaps this goes along with Jesus' harsh warnings about hypocrisy.


growing home

Yesterday on my way home from Chicago I visited a small farm that provides vegetables for the Growing Home CSA (information here). It's part of an organization that helps people in various recovery programs to gain job experience working in their gardens, both in Chicago and out at their farm, about 50 miles from us. Friendly, interesting people there. It would be great if our farm could get some ideas from the things they are doing. They may also have some suggestions for people to contact and offer retreats. A pleasant discovery.


ol' glory

Ol' Glory (by the psalters)

The killing fields are striped with red, white lies in between
While on a placid blue they float like islands safe from all they sowed beneath
High above that poor man's toil they lay in sacred isolation
Safely placed in rows they are stars of self-preservation

And on good Friday, (and all that glory,) and on good Friday...

In that corner sea serene fifty stars line up against you
Flying high but they will sink with the weight of a heavy millstone

No man is an island, no one can run from all they've done
In that deep blue they'll sink, fifty stars never to see the sun

And on good Friday those red stripes are carved into your back
And on good Friday those stars spangled your body blue and black
And on good Friday the stars and stripes were torn in two
And all that glory, all that ol' glory belongs alone to You


another way

One way we can show we are passionate about something is by pursuing it actively and relentlessly, pushing harder and harder until we achieve it.

Another way to demonstrate our passion is by holding on to our desire for something and waiting for it without wavering, though it take a long, long time and though it may look like we will never receive what we seek.