Friday, October 23, 2015

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Waiting

It has been some time since we've posted anything here.

This came our way today, & seems fitting to share as we approach the solstice.

You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time, want us to wait for the right time
in which to discover who we are, where we must go,
who will be with us, and what we must do.

So thank you … for the waiting time.

- From the Iona Community Worship Book


~ Keith

Friday, March 29, 2013

Disillusion Meets Dissolution

This month The Orchard passed a new milestone. We are no longer an incorporated non-profit in the state of Oregon. In that legal business sense, The Orchard has been dissolved.

The reason we originally incorporated was so we could take donations and allow people to claim a tax deduction. Our goal was never to make money for ourselves; I never planned to have a salary or to "be the Pastor". Rather, we wanted to collectively pool resources and give those funds away to the people in our lives who we knew needed the money.

As I referenced in A Bend In The Road, we were originally a "church plant" within the Association of Vineyard Churches. As such, we had some funds in our account as a start-up which had been a gift from our "sending church". So, over time, we simply gave all that money away.

One great example is a single mother whose minivan broke down. It would cost $1500 to fix it, or she could try and buy a used one for $2500+. She had about $1000 she could scrape up if she really scrimped, but either way she didn't have enough money. So, The Orchard wrote her a check for $1500, no strings attached. We didn't write the check to a mechanic or a used car lot. We wrote it to her personally and she got to decide what to do with it -- whether she used it toward a car or not wasn't the point. Expressing God's love to someone in need was the point. She was in tears and didn't really know what to say.

THAT's the kind of thing we wanted to do more of -- and so if people wanted to donate and help us decide where that money could best be donated, then at least all those who gave to The Orchard could get a deduction on their taxes.

Here's the deal though: no one ever gave us any money. No one. Ever. (not even us -- we didn't donate to our own non-profit!).

As the money in our account dwindled and ran out, we realized that we (Cathy & I, as a couple) would still be giving away money (and time and love, etc) to people around us who were in need, with or without a tax deduction, since that is not the point. And therefore we had no need to maintain a non-profit corporation. In fact, doing so sort of went against the basic essence of the last directive we really received from God about this whole journey we've been on here at The Orchard when The Orchard Master said to us:
"Don't build anything. Just love people"
So as of this month, according to the State of Oregon, "The Orchard Community" does not exist as an official entity. We've been dissolved.

Dissolved. Un-solved. I like that, since there are no easy answers.

And we're also now more disillusioned than ever.

But don't get me wrong: disillusionment is a good thing!

Being more and more disillusioned means we have fewer and fewer illusions; less deceptions and false visions in our sight as we look at the people in our lives and in the world around us, as we look at ourselves, and as we look to The Orchard Master for where we are all headed together on this crazy mixed up journey.

In our early days here in Oregon and just before we moved, I described what we were seeing like driving on a foggy road out in the country. We were not sure what we would look like or how we would function and "be" the church. We had some ideas of course, but they were vague and nebulous -- like looking out into the fog and seeing a general outline of a house. We knew there was "something" up ahead, but we were not sure what it was. I thought as we moved closer we would see it more and more clearly. Instead, quite the opposite has happened. The longer we are here, the more we realize what we thought we were seeing was not what it was at all. There were a lot of illusions as our eyes and our hearts played tricks on us.

So this month as we celebrate the arrival of another Spring,
And we consider the timing and wisdom behind the dissolution of our non-profit corporation,
And we enjoy the journey of dis-illusion-ment, we might just be starting to see some things more clearly.

The imagery and symbolism of an orchard still makes a lot of sense. But if all we ever look at is the orchard itself, we miss so much around us. As we begin to look around us as the fog clears a bit,
maybe when it is all said and done and disllusion meets dissolution there really is no house up ahead in the fog; no "place" for us to inhabit and "do things".

Perhaps instead we're seeing a natural playground, a wide expanse to explore and enjoy with whoever we encounter along the way. That sounds relaxing and fun; daring and adventurous and exciting: full of possibilities and new life and growth as we experience, enjoy, reciprocate and express Creator's great and marvelous ever-expansive love.

(click for larger version)


~ Keith

Sunday, December 23, 2012

To Know The Dark

Winter in Oregon includes a lot of dark.

It has been somewhat dark at The Orchard for a number of seasons now:
We're not sure where we're going or what we are to be doing.

As they say: "Old orders are good orders"
and so we rest in what we heard from Creator a few years back:

"Don't try to build anything. Just love people"

Beyond that we don't know much at all.
Walking in the dark is something we are getting to know.

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

~ Wendell Berry 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No Matter The Season

As Summer comes into it's fullness here in Oregon,
we remember how long Winter lasted; how rainy Spring seemed.
We also begin to sense just the faintest chill in the evening air.
Daylight begins to shorten, and we know
the Autumnal changes are not far away.

In this time-between-the-times
we cherish the goodness of what and who
is here and now; with us.
And we bask in The Orchard Master's faithfullness
to us and to all
no matter the season...

(the gift of love)
by Susan Palo Cherwien

O blessed spring, where Word and sign
Embrace us into Christ the Vine:
Here Christ enjoins each one to be
A branch of this life-giving Tree.
Through summer heat of youthful years,
Uncertain faith, rebellious tears,
Sustained by Christ's infusing rain,
The boughs will shout for joy again.
When autumn cools and youth is cold,
When limbs their heavy harvest hold,
Then through us, warm, the Christ will move
With gifts of beauty, wisdom, love.
As winter comes, as winters must,
We breathe our last, return to dust;
Still held in Christ, our souls take wing
And trust the promise of the spring.
Christ, holy Vine, Christ, living Tree,
Be praised for this blest mystery:
That Word and water thus revive
And join us to your Tree of Life. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Blest Community

Blest Community
by Loretta F. Ross

O Most Holy Trinity
Undivided Unity,
teach us the gentle deference
of your dance of surrendered love
how with infinite tenderness
and utmost esteem
you so gently
are present
to one another.

Teach us your perichoresis,
your grand circle dance,
where you eternally birth joy
from the womb of reverence.
Teach us your unending,
enfolding regard
for the pure holiness
you hold and behold.

sweet breath and the lungs of creation,
eternally giving,
and eternally receiving
are filled.

You release and bind,
but never push nor pull.
You hold accountable,
but never blame.

You incline yourselves to one another
as a grove of green willows
bending in the breeze
bowing to each other's grace
known and cherished
on the broad plain of mutuality.

Deepen our trust, O Blest Community,
that we may enter such intimacy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

One Vine, One Branch

For lent I gave up facebook. It hasn't been as hard as I thought it might be -- not really much of a sacrifice. But I suppose the sacrifice is not what it is about. For me, it is about making space for something else; creating an emptiness and then stepping back and allowing God to fill it.

He filled it...with an awareness of my emptiness; how stark it is & how right & good it is.

As per my usual, I began to see and think in terms of some comparative imagery. This is what my life is like right now:

I'm realizing the story of the three little pigs is not just a faery tale! Houses made of straw and twigs -- the trappings I've always felt protected by are really not sufficient shelter from the rains & winds which are bound to come in all lives. I want a house made of brick -- set firmly on the foundation of Jesus' Kingdom. The house He is building (Psalm 127:1) is the one I want to live in. But first the houses I've built (and the ones given to me which I've stepped into and tried to live in) must be left behind. There are three ways for this to happen:
  1. Build brick re-inforcements around the current house. Valid option, but not what I am called to (think traditional churches adding contemporary services, and morphing over time into a contemporary church).
  2. The old house of straw can come crashing down in one fell swoop, and I can go running like the first little pig into the house of my brother which looks A LOT stronger...and he and I can laugh and feel safe there, until the big bad wolf comes again -- and then he and I can both run away to the house of our brother who built with bricks, and find refuge there. Thank God that's not what we've experienced!
  3. Neither of these really felt right to us. Instead, we've felt called to something different:
  4. We've stepped away from the hard work we'd put into the other houses, and have begun to build a brick house.
    This takes time and energy and during the building, it feels very vulnerable...the wolf may happen along at any time and what if my house is not yet finished?
Plus, the most difficult piece is simply stepping *out* of the old house. We thought we'd done that but at every next season, it seems we are being called again and again to step out and leave the old behind.

And it seems more and more that the "building" is not so much a house being constructed as artificial support structures being demolished. Michelangelo was once asked how he could possibly sculpt something as magnificent as David. He replied "All I do is chip away what does not belong". That is what God is doing in me as He removes the shell. It is not so much about building a brick house as it is getting rid of the shell so that I can be free.

With Easter right around the corner, I'm realizing what a baby chick must feel.
emerging from the shell of religion into a new world of freedom is at first exhilerating: new light streams in, and there's fresh air. New sounds, etc. But once the majority of the shell is gone, it can be a bit frightening, cold, with no more shelter.
And I'm realizing how flimsy the shell is now that I'm on the outside looking back at it.
"Really? That is all that was protecting & feeding me?"
I'm starting to (just starting mind you) to understand Psalm 127:1 and the other Psalms which refer to Him as my Refuge, my Strong Tower, my Place of Shelter, my Rock.

In this place of emptiness there is work to do; I am not spiritually idle. But the work I do feels different. I feel like a member of a crew team
See that little dude at the far left, that's the coxswain. That's Jesus. I'm a crew member. I'm facing away from the destination, and have to trust the coxswain. All my hard effort is absent of seeing the prize, but with my ears and eyes and heart fixed on the one who *can* see the destination. He directs my strength; my rhythms of work and rest.

But this is all so new, and strange. What He's telling me is so freeing and life-giving, but so different from what I've ever known. It is like being pruned.
Bearing fruit is the goal, and if that means cutting away pieces that appeared fruitful, but were not as fruitful as the final result will be -- then trusting the Master Vintner's experience for what to cut and how far back, etc is a good thing...but is still difficult -- since to my relatively inexperienced eye, I'm thinking "But that piece was bearing some fruit..." or "You're cutting away too much! There's nothing left but a single solitary branch cut back to the beginning!"
And He says
"Yes, Keith but do you see that bud?..."
I do see it.

It is so small. It is so fragile; so vulnerable.

And it is so beautiful. It represents the beginnings of new life.

And while it still seems so stark and empty; so barren...
"You are The Vine. I am a single branch.
One vine. One branch.
I need nothing else.
That is enough for me."
~ Keith