Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winter Peace

The word Solstice comes from Latin and literally means "sun stands still". It seems little else stands still at winter anymore: calendars are filled but checkbook balances dwindle along with patience, and peace.

As I looked out our window this morning I saw some trees bending and swaying; dancing in the rhythms of the wind. Five months ago when we moved here these trees were lush with heavy foliage. Had those leaves still been there today the tree would surely have broken under the wetness and stresses. When leaves give up their color and fall, it sometimes seems like a mournful time, but there is a Wisdom and Protection behind these rolling seasonal changes.

Yesterday our house purchase became official and, as a sort of Christmas present, we are now able to begin settling in and feeling planted here. Our leaves are bare but amidst the pressures of the holiday season this is a good thing. Had we been encumbered with other responsibilities and duties our branches would surely have broken by now.

There is a natural quiet and peace in our hearts as our dreams lie dormant and yet so very alive, resting and abiding; listening to the Wind and the Water.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Storm Damage

I was driving around today, enjoying the cold and rain and gray. Then in the midst of enjoying this brisk autumn weather, I suddenly realized it is already a cold winter.

What tipped me off? I saw this bumper sticker on the truck in front of me, and it broke my heart:
Dear Lord, please save me
from Your followers
There is a stigma in American culture today, sadly (albeit well) represented by this picture. Look at that man's face. It almost looks like he is about to giggle, but he is not: that is instead a grimace of pain. He's encountered yet another 'bible thumper'.

I wonder how many people have had hurtful experiences with closed-minded, argumentative, dogmatic Christians with really poor social skills? I wonder how many times that closed-minded, argumentative, dogmatic person has been me?

My guess at the answer to both questions is: way too many.

The kind of person who has been hurt in this way, and chooses to respond by putting that bumper sticker on their truck is like a broken tree, isolated and pushed away from an orchard, and that makes me very sad -- especially when the damage was done by someone who says they are following Jesus.The kind of person who would put a bumper sticker on their truck like the one I saw is the exact kind of person I want to know and relate to and just be normal around, because Jesus loves these people and they've been ripped off -- many times by yours truly.

~ Keith

Saturday, September 8, 2007

We're More Like Bamboo than Ferns

Autumn is here. Visible signs of growth begin to wane as colors fade from green to orange; yellow to brown, until branches lie bare and dormant for the winter. As life slows down, it is easy to wonder if growth will ever happen.

Some people have asked us "What day do you meet?" and "Where do you meet?" When we say we don't meet, and it may be 18 months or more before we have any sort of official meeting, people are perplexed.

I received an eMail this morning with a story about bamboos and ferns which speaks to this issue. I haven't researched the horticultural claims this little gem makes (and the whole thing about quitting has nothing to do with us!), but be that as it may, the story still serves as a good explanation of why it looks to some people as if we aren't really doing anything yet.

One day I decided to quit...
I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality...
I even wanted to quit my life.
I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.

"God", I asked,
"Can you give me one good reason not to quit?"

His answer surprised me...

"Look around", He said.
"Do you see the fern and the bamboo?"

"Yes", I replied.

"When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds,
I took very good care of them.
I gave them light.
I gave them water.The fern quickly grew from the earth.
Its brilliant green covered the floor.
Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed.
But I did not quit on the bamboo.

In the second year the Fern grew
more vibrant and plentiful.
And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed.
But I did not quit on the bamboo. He said.

"In year three there was still
nothing from the bamboo seed.
But I would not quit.

In year four, again, there was
nothing from the bamboo seed.
I would not quit." He said.

"Then in the fifth year
a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.
Compared to the fern it was seemingly
small and insignificant...

But just 6 months later
the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.
It had spent the five years growing roots.
Those roots made it strong and gave it
what it needed to survive.I would not give any of my creations
a challenge it could not handle."

He asked me. "Did you know, my child,
all this time you have been struggling,
you have actually been growing roots".

"I would not quit on the bamboo.
I will never quit on you."

"Don't compare yourself to others." He said.

"The bamboo had a different purpose
than the fern.
Yet they both make the forest beautiful."

"Your time will come", God said to me.
"You will rise high"

"How high should I rise?" I asked.
"How high will the bamboo rise?"
He asked in return.

"As high as it can?" I questioned.

"Yes." He said,
"Give me glory by rising as high as you can."
We have no idea how high we will rise, but we know this season we are in is about putting down roots, and that is a good place for us to be.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

2-up at the Orchard

We're enjoying settling in, getting planted, & exploring our surroundings, sometimes on the back of a motorcycle. Here we are on a local country road by an orchard.The sky is beautiful here -- I call these "Simpsons Clouds"A nice little loop around the countryside

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Flowers & Friends

Flowers are wonderful, but if a gardener spends time trying, at any certain frequency, to make a flower grow that gardener will quickly become frustrated. Likewise a plant is lovely to look at and it is delightful to watch it grow over time, but one cannot make a plant grow any more than one can make a flower grow. Roots also, important as they are, cannot be coerced.

To be sure, even a novice gardener has plants which produce flowers, and an accomplished gardener has at his or her disposal a full array of tools and wisdom to enhance and ensure growth and bloom. At the end of the day though, all a gardener can do is remove obstacles to growth and provide food, water and sunlight to the plant as it grows.

Sometimes the more fragile, beautiful, or fragrant (read: valuable) a flower, the more likely the plant will have thorns or some other mechanism of protection. A creature attempting to harm the plant will suffer pain -- while the gardener, in wisdom and care, can prune and trim the plant at will and only occasionally be pricked by a thorn.

In my ponderings one recent morning I came to this realization about life and relationships:
Depth of trust is the flower,
relationship is the plant,
and the roots are love.
If one's main intent is to help the plant thrive, and one accomplishes this by providing food and water to the roots, and diligently, carefully caring for the plant itself, then flowers will come as a natural overflow of the health of the plant.

But if one focuses solely on trying to produce flowers, neglecting the roots and the plant, then any blooms produced will be inferior, short lived, and less fragrant.

~ Keith

Friday, July 27, 2007

Two Saplings are Planted

In ancient Hebrew literature, a Vineyard is often symbolic of life and prosperity and blessings from God. The story of the ancient Hebrews is one of a people being called out and charged with caring for His handiwork. They were also greatly blessed by God -- in order to be a blessing to the world around them.

After 20+ years of life and growth in a community of Jesus followers affiliated with the the Vineyard, we are continuing to follow The Master by following our hearts and dreams as God calls us to a new adventure in Salem, Oregon.

The way in which our community gathers will differ from traditional models of Vineyard churches, in that we will be home-based rather than church-building-based. With no paid staff, we will work in our respective professions and live in The Way of Jesus wherever we find ourselves.

Since our heart's purpose is the same, but our model differs, we are choosing to stay affiliated with the Vineyard, but also choosing a new name which reflects our unique situation and personality.
We are choosing to call ourselves The Orchard because 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. And if we, collectively, are like an orchard then individually, we are like trees.

Writer, poet, and leader in the Emergent church movement Mark Scandrette captures this idea very well in his book Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in The Way of Jesus:
To sustain life, a tree must stay both rooted in the soil and open to the energy of sunlight and carbon dioxide. If a tree is cut or pulled out of the soil, where it draws water and nutrients, it will eventually die. Similarly, if a tree is shielded from the radiance of the sun it will eventually wither away. The life of a tree is an apt metaphor for...making a life in the way of Jesus. To see the Creator's genesis-vision fulfilled in our lives we need to be both rooted in the soil of our humanity, people, and place and open to the transcendent energy of God.

The dirt of life in the here and now provides the nutrients to cultivate a life with God. We also need exposure to the Spirit of God surrounding us. Jesus demonstrated a life that was grounded in humanity and struggle and open to the energy and breadth of God. We find him in the marketplace caring for the needs of people and on the mountainside connecting with the eternal Father. His life was an example of dynamic unity and synergy between the pursuit to love God and everything that God has made. And this is the life we are being invited into.
We desire to form 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.

But for now we are just two saplings He has lovingly tended and cared for. He has now bound up our roots and is transplanting us to the rich soil and temperate climate of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.We look forward to the adventure and invite you to join with us as we put down roots and begin to grow.