Saturday, December 20, 2008

Solstice Simplicity

Tomorrow is the winter solstice and in our neighborhood all is quiet and white. Beneath the surface though, new life is germinating. A few days ago we received an eMail from the Association of Vineyard Churches officially welcoming us as a Vineyard church plant.

Rather than getting caught up in busyness and trying to somehow make things happen, now is an excellent time for us to pause. Resting quietly, we can consider our roots. Our good friend and coach Dave recently sent us a quote by Thomas Merton which served as a wonderful reminder to us of what we're here to accomplish or, better put; who we're trying to become.

Merton had aspirations to move near the Ecuadorian capital of Quito to start a new community. In a letter dated July 1958, he said
I would like to embark on a new form of monastic life, a very simple kind of life...fully integrated in the life of the region, and in the soil, yet also fully in contact with the intellectual life of the Capital.

I would not carry on any special “work” or “apostolate”* (this is where the mistake is generally made by so many). I would not have any arguments to sell to anybody: I would not try to “catch” people and make them go to confession, etc. Preferably I would not even dress as a priest or as a monk, but as an ordinary person. I would live a life of prayer, of thought, of study, with manual labor, and writing, a life not only in contact with God in contemplation but also fully in contact with all the intellectual, artistic, political movements of the time and place. But I would not intrude into the life of the place as one with a “mission” or a “message”; I would not try to sell anybody anything. My function would be (as it must be in any case) to be a man of God, a man belonging to Christ, in simplicity, to be the friend of all those who are interested in spiritual things, whether of art, or prayer, or anything valid, simply to be their friend, to be someone who could speak to them and to whom they could speak, to encourage one another, etc.

Thomas Merton: A life in Letters (p. 28)
We're settled in and watching the snow fall; resting quietly and reflecting. What a wonderful time.

~ Keith

* "apostolate" is the Catholic term for a "church plant"

Monday, December 1, 2008

What is The Orchard?

An orchard is a collection of trees, intentionally planted by The Orchard Master, as an expression of beauty, and as a source of healthy nutritious fruit.

We are a community of people trying to model ourselves in The Way of Jesus, The Master. Like trees in His orchard, we want to bear fruit in our lives which offers sustenance to others around us, and join with God in fulfilling His dreams of beauty in all we are and do.

We're friends of God, relying on Him as our source, relating to Him intimately, looking to Him continually, and honoring Him fully.

We love all those He brings our way: walking beside them, encouraging them, and championing them; sharing our life with them -- inspiring them on their journey toward God.

We endeavor to impact others with the Love of God in practical, purposeful ways so as they experience God's love through us, they come fully alive in Him and find their place in His family -- in His Orchard.

A Life Community

If you came here wondering
"What time do you meet on Sunday mornings?"
"Where is your church building located?"
then I'm sorry to disappoint you by telling you we're not that kind of church. If you are looking for that type of a Vineyard experience, there is a fantastic Vineyard church right here in Salem, and you can visit them online here.

Don't get me wrong -- we love churches that meet on Sunday mornings in a rented space or in their own building and explore together what it means to love God and love each other. We just see ourselves living a life a bit different than that. We were a part of that type of church community for many years and as you'll read in various posts here, we've felt pulled to start something a bit different. It used to be that we were so busy in church activities we were never able to rest. Now we want to live a quiet life and love God and love people in the midst of that rest
Before, it was a problem if
we had no normal life outside of church.

Now, we're actually trying to have
no church outside our normal life.
So what does church look like to us? Well, it is somewhat hard to put into words on a blog like this. Probably the best way to begin to explain it is to say this: how about you eMail us, and we can talk about it over a glass of wine and a good meal?

One day we'll have had enough meals and hung out with enough people that it will make sense to start having larger gatherings of folks where we all eat a meal together and spend time exploring Christian Spirituality. Or maybe we'll go do something to impact our local community in a positive way, and then hang out at a coffee shop together and share with one another what we saw God doing in our midst. Along the way we'll be following Jesus and loving Him, each other, and anyone else we encounter along the way.

Sound good to you?

More Reading? You Want MORE Reading?

You've read through a bunch of posts and still have questions; you still want to read more about what it is we're trying to do; who it is we're trying to become, but you're not ready to eMail us and start a conversation just yet. That's OK -- you asked for it!

Probably the best thing you could do is go to my other blog The Can Opener Boy Translations and read through the posts with the labels "church" and "following Jesus"

You can also read these four foundational posts:
  1. What is church?
  2. What is your role in receiving from the church?
  3. What is your role in giving to the church?
  4. What is your role in participating in the missional nature of the church?

Also good for you to read would be this post I did about how we view other churches and our relation to them.

Happy reading!

~ Keith

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Autumn Beginnings

Autumn is here with its crisp cool mornings and early twilight.

I think of Autumn as a season of nesting and readying for hibernation; of pruning back and storing up. In order to store, one must harvest. Autumn is about bringing in the fruits of the year's labors, to sustain one's family through the winter. Autumn is for gently removing bulbs from the ground and placing them in warm safe pots so they can be replanted and bloom again next spring. Outwardly, autumn seems a dormant time. Inwardly, preparation work teems at the cellular level.

Recently we received our official release paperwork, affiliating us with the Association of Vineyard Churches. We'll be applying for our non-profit status in Oregon, and Federal 501(c)(3) status, speaking with potential board members, figuring out by-laws, State & Federal regulations, trademark agreements and liability insurance.

All of this is necessary work, but it is also secondary -- the deep, cellular work of formation is continuing right on schedule. We're not driven onward by goals and agendas and two-year plans. We're drawn forward gently by the Voice of The Master Who speaks to us of purpose and potential; of hearth and home.

Autumn is here with its golden-leaved changes, layered-warmth walkings, and hope-filled ponderings.

Roots of The Orchard

In the original post on this blog, I discussed the unique distinctions of The Orchard as compared to The Vineyard, and why this led to us choosing a different, but similar name.

Despite these distinctions in form and practice, our values and character; indeed who we are today, is very much influenced by our roots in The Vineyard movement of which we've been a part for the last 20+ years. Here is a great (18 min) video of the heritage there:
Vineyard USA 25th Anniversary from Vineyard USA on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We're Not Doing Anything

Recently I read this quote by Thomas Merton on Inward/Outward:
Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny…. This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in God’s creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity. We can evade this responsibility by playing with masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living. It is quite easy, it seems, to please everyone. But in the long run the cost and the sorrow come very high. To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls ‘working out our salvation,’ is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment, and great fidelity to God as God is revealed, obscurely, in the mystery of each new situation.
It was a timely thought for me to read, you see, because I've been reflecting on having been here in Oregon over a year now. Moving here from the Bay Area of California has been a big culture change, and we have enjoyed this much slower and much more restful lifestyle!

But I was wondering "what do we have to show for ourselves, in the spiritual realm? What have we really done since moving here? In California it felt like we were always doing something. Should we be doing more here?" The answer I sensed in my spirit to that question was a strong "No" but I couldn't figure out why. The best I could come up with is "Maybe we just need to detox more from the busyness of the Bay Area?"

And then I read this, also by Merton, in Seeds, on pg 14 and it all made sense:
There are times, then, when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for awhile and do nothing. And for [people] who [have let themselves] be drawn completely out of [themselves] by activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act [they] can perform: and quite often it is beyond [their] power.
Don't get me wrong: I understand that there is an insoluble link between faith and action (I even blogged about it here). So mark me: if God said "Do this." or "Do that." we would -- but He's not saying that. Instead God is saying:
"Don't do anything -- just rest and let Me restore and refresh you and continue to craft you into who I've made you to be as individuals and as a couple. That way, in this new unique situation, you'll be able to naturally, properly reflect my image within your context, without striving."
So we're being intentional about not doing anything right now -- and that is the best thing for us.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Filling In

On the 1 year anniversary of our arrival in Oregon, I had the privilege of being a guest speaker for my friend Jon Nethers at the Sunset Vineyard in Hillsboro. If you'd like you can check out the audio link here:

Friday, July 4, 2008

Community = Cross Pollenation

Some day, when we begin having community gatherings, we want them to be communal meals and worship collaboratives where everyone present can bring something to share, so that everyone's lives are enriched.

This past weekend we went to the lavender festival at Daffodil Hill. It was a beautifully sunny (hot!) weekend and we had a very nice time. We looked at some nice art pieces and smelled wonderfully fresh fragrances. We spent a long time clipping fresh lavender. We got really hot and sweaty and a nice woman working there came and spritzed us with fresh lavender water -- very refreshing! (once home, Cathy fashioned all the lavender into little bouquets for a few of our neighbors, which they loved!). In a small shed made into a small store, there were lavender products for sale. Around the top of the walls was painted a quote by Judy Phipps, the owner of Daffodil Hill. It does a good job of capturing what I would like to see in the life of our commmunity:
"Experiences are the elements from which our fondest memories spring -- the doing, the being, the sharing -- the coming together of friends all contributing their strengths of humor, intellect, creativity and compassion, to leave us more than we began with -- more laughter, more friendships, more smiles from the recollections we will forever cherish"
~ J Phipps

Friday, June 20, 2008


Today is the Summer Solstice. More than just a day of the year, it's an actual moment in time -- this year it is at 2359 UTC. I think that's cool: a moment in time when the "sun stands still". On the negative side: with time zone differences, that means for me the sun will stand still just 1 minute before 5:00 pm on a Friday!

Most people think of today as the first day of Summer. For others, it marks the mid-point. Like life for the poor characters in Shakespeare's famous play, midsummer is sometimes tumultuous. Think about summer rainstorms.When they're building up, and the sky begins to darken, everything seems ominous. The wind sometimes begins to blow -- other times it stops completely and everything gets eery.
Summer storms
come and go, but
in the midst of them
it seems
they'll last forever.
I suppose "sun stands still" is an apt description with regard to how long the daylight lasts, but this whole "stopping" idea fits very little else. Sometimes life gets untethered and I feel adrift, longing for some constancy.

Right now our front and back yard are both torn up; in the middle of a reconstruction project. The finished result will be peaceful and green and inviting. Right now it is just a bunch of dirt that keeps getting moved from one place to the next. The front walkway and the back patio are now almost complete. Or I should say were almost complete. The front walkway has to be completely redone. The workers somehow misunderstood our directions. They got the right kind of pavers, and installed them in the right pattern -- but the pattern itself is oriented at the wrong angle. So the whole thing has to be picked up, the already-cut stones discarded, the uncut stones re-placed (after re-preparing the pathway's foundation of sand and gravel) and then the borders re-formed from newly cut stones. There's about a 0% chance of being able to re-use any of the already cut stones.
Two steps forward
One step back
As another example: where we live in Salem, Oregon, the weather has been pretty goofy this year. The other day I was driving around and it was sunny. Then it became overcast, then it started to rain. Then, while still raining, the sun came out again. Then the rain stopped and it was just sunny again. OK, OK, I know what you're thinking: "Duh -- it is Oregon!" but what made it weird was -- it kept cycling like that...every 10 minutes or so for about an hour:
  1. Sunny.
  2. Overcast.
  3. Rainy.
  4. Rain with Sun.
  5. Repeat over and over.
At first I wished God would make up His mind and just pick one. Then I thought it was kind of cool how it kept repeating.

As I've thought back on that experience and shared the story with a few people, I finally realized God was speaking to me through that hour of weird weather:
Keith, I never change, but life all around you is always in a constant (often cyclical) state of change and growth.
He is Creator and Life-Giver -- and He never changes. So He is always creating and always giving life.

I don't know if He designed it for the sun to stay out really late so we could get more done since there is so much going on -- or if we overly-busy humans just naturally try to do more since it is light later. I've never been one to feel guilty for sitting on the couch reading a good book on a bright sunny day, but at this time in my life I'm trying to listen as He teaches me about real rest for my soul. Apparently it has little or nothing to do with inactivity.

It is Summer here in The Orchard. Many things are in the midst of change, but I'm learning that is an OK thing.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Stillness

Yesterday was the vernal equinox.

Now it is Spring.

The world around us is alive with color and sound as buds open and small birds move in for the season. Amidst this activity it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of the world around us, and bow to the tyranny of the urgent.

This morning I was reminded of a better way:
The world gives itself
up to incessant activity
merely because
it knows of nothing
The inspired man
works among
its whirring wheels
also; but he knows
whither the wheels
are going,
for he has found
the centre
where all is

~ Paul Brunton

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Friends with Ordinary People

A poem I read recently helped me get words on the type of people we want to be:
The House by the Side of the Road

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat
Or hurl the cynic's ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

~ Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)
When others are happy, be happy with them,
and when they are sad, be sad.
Be friendly with everyone.
Don't be proud and feel that you
are smarter than others.
Make friends with ordinary people.
~Romans 12:15-16

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why Are We Doing It This Way?

I say I love Jesus and I want to honor Him. I say He is my treasure -- the most valuable person in my life -- but does my day-to-day life reflect this? Is becoming more like Him in love and kindness and wisdom and graciousness and closeness to The Eternal my #1 goal at the forefront and in the background of all I think and say and do?

This has nothing to do with "Simple Church" or "House Church".

Many who leave traditional expressions of church life claim it is to seek a more day-to-day following; one that is not about a once-a-week meeting or a ticket-to-heaven (read: "cheap grace") gospel. These well-intentioned Jesus followers often point back to the structure they left behind as the reason they could not achieve the kind of following-life they wanted. They point to a house church meeting as the only way to really become a true follower of Jesus...but I say this is not true. Millions of people worldwide still attend formal, traditional, even liturgical (gasp!) churches and...are becoming more like Jesus every day! It is also possible to be in a house church setting and not be formed into Christ's image. Arguably it is harder to stay anonymous in a house church setting. I agree house church can be more conducive to responsibility and accountability and community. Structure does matter some, but it's just not central.
If the central goal of one's life
is becoming more like Jesus, then
the type of room in which one meets
with other followers is immaterial.
House Church is not better than other forms of church at forming followers into Jesus' image. The Bible refers to the church as "The Bride of Christ" and I believe Jesus loves the whole bride, not just parts of it.

Worship (honoring God) can happen anywhere.

A large cathedral can inspire awe.A contemporary building can evoke camaraderie.A living room can invite one to intimate community.
If structure does not matter, then why would we embark on this journey of seeking to form a community that, when it meets, does so in homes over meals with friends and new acquaintances?

Any time a new Church is started, a question asked of the new pastors (by a coach, or by a neighbor, or by whoever!) goes something like this: "There's already a ton of churches in this town with plenty of room, why do we need another church here?". The best answer is "Because those churches still have plenty of room!"

There are people in Salem who are not following Jesus but are interested in finding out more about who He is and what it really means to follow Him. These people have preconceptions and past histories which keep them from ever darkening the door of the churches already here. Maybe this new opportunity to follow Jesus will be the salt that makes them thirsty for Jesus' offer of Living Water. Maybe this new expression of church life will be the light that frees them from some sort of darkness which has been holding them captive.

So why a community like this one? Simple: we feel God asked us to, and built us and brought us together for, in part, this current purpose. In this season of our lives, in this place we now live, in this era of our culture, we just feel called by God to offer this particular version / ethos / vibe / brand / style of an opportunity to learn to live like Jesus and be His hands and feet to all around us.

That is why we are seeking to form a community in this manner. That is the only reason we're doing it.

We don't look down on other structures and we don't exalt this one.

We exalt Jesus.