humbly planting seeds

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Ecclesiastes 11:6

I am amazed when I consider the course of my life, how seeds sown bore fruit even years later. This is true both in terms of lives lived as exemplars as well as words spoken. It takes a while for those seeds to settle and germinate, sometimes at just the opportune time, perhaps laying dormant for years and years.

This should be instructive as well as encouraging to us. What seeds of hopefully good would we like to sow for others? We had better be an example of that. Truth is certainly much more caught (by life) than taught (by words). And that is a lifelong project for us. We aspire and direct ourselves fully to what we would like to see in others.

Needless to say, a whole lot of humility must accompany all of this. If we’re not committed to being open to learn from others and think we’re somehow anyone else’s teacher, then we’re not in the place where our sowing will do any good. We need to be open to what more our garden of life needs, along with what it doesn’t need.

Just a simple word for me, maybe for someone else today. Humbly plant the seed by word, deed, and above all life. And be patient, remembering that we need the same ourselves, and that any good change in us did not happen overnight and is ongoing.


making our words count

Some people keep silent and are found to be wise,
while others are detested for being talkative.
Some people keep silent because they have nothing to say,
while others keep silent because they know when to speak.
The wise remain silent until the right moment,
but the arrogant and the fool miss the right moment.
Whoever talks too much is detested,
and whoever pretends to authority is hated.

Sirach 20:5-8

How many times have I went into a meeting, which for me was blessedly few times given my factory work so that I was far from weary of them, even if wary… But how many times have I gone into such meetings full of things to say? And the result was less than satisfactory at least in my eyes. Thankfully I think a majority of the time I had little to no idea how or what I would contribute. And those were the times when something would come to me based on my experience and working knowledge at what seemed to be the right or at least a good time.

It’s not like we should choose silence and not be open to speak. Maybe we will do well to prefer silence and if we have something helpful and fitting to say, then we can speak., but if not, then fine. Especially when we remember the times when what we said may have been alright, but did not necessarily fit the need of the moment. Or may have simply been too much, and therefore less helpful.

It’s not like we’re going to get this perfect. We should want to contribute and especially so when we can in spite of our inevitable mistakes or incomplete view of things, which is in part why conversation/dialog is so necessary. Considering everything, weighing all of that, not the least of which whether or not the person or persons on the receiving end are ready. And most of all, only after we’ve not only listened, but have heard well enough to understand. Which may mean we will do well to ask clarifying questions, a good practice. Always in my opinion with the default being simply being silent, and refusing to say more than what might actually help.

with no agenda except to listen and hear

You must understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak

James 1:19

One of my numerous regrets in life is the failure in large part to make it my number one priority to simply listen and hear someone when we’re crossing paths. To those who had an ear for such things, I would often fill it with some enthusiastic stuff I was working through, processing, or reading. I can more than understand why someone I much respect I once saw trying to escape me when they saw me. I see this now as an error on my part. Understandable in that I have a bent to wanting to teach and share. But even if it could have been helpful, all of that really did little to no good, because it was out of place.

What I’m working on in this regard now is to have no agenda at all except to listen and hear, and keep doing that. If we end up in a conversation in which I might be able to share something which is helping me, all well and good. There are those relationships in which you give and take on this. But by and large we will do much much better if we just settle into a listening mode, attempting to really hear and understand what the other is saying. Perhaps stating back in our own words what they’re saying to make sure we’re getting it. But with no agenda other than that.

Part, I think, of the greater wisdom.

Thoughts here from this podcast.

avoiding the ivory tower

And the Word became flesh and lived among us….

James 1:14a

God teaches us on the ground. God meets us there. And God in Christ actually became one of us and lived right where we live, with us.

The ivory tower is the idea of people, usually scholars or some kind of authority figures pontificating on life when they are as far removed from life as can be. It’s like major changes being made without consulting those who would know the most about it, since that’s where they live or work. No, the Bible and the wisdom found in it comes from feet on the ground, from the understanding of life as it is, culminated of course in the Incarnation.

We need to challenge ourselves to listen, listen again, and listen well, and not only that, but live among others so that we might begin to understand. Not on an armchair somewhere, unless we’re making a serious effort to reflect on real life itself.

It’s an understanding of who we are, how life is, the ins and outs, and ups and downs, and what might be absolute. That’s where God’s revelation in Christ comes into the picture.

But make no mistake about it, we learn with feet on the ground in real life. And really no where else.

for followers of Christ no force of any kind, but only love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

I beseech and admonish you in love, but it behooves me not to force you, even if I could do so.

Menno Simons: CWMS, 452

Obviously for all who are part of the Anabaptist stream from Menno Simons, all physical violence is renounced as part of following Christ together and individually as his disciples. What can too easily be forgotten or even ignored and rationalized is any other kind of coercive action.

We might draw a strict line which we would never cross, against physical force of any kind with maybe the exception of a nonlethal stopping of some attacker. Yet at the same time we might engage in attitudes and actions which are somehow forceful, perhaps manipulative, seeking to let others know often in nonverbal ways and sometimes even verbally that they need to change.

But as scripture informs us and specifically all scripture giving us Christ and his example and teachings and all that follows, and as Menno reminds us, in the face of wrongdoing we’re to do one thing and one thing only: love.

That love will take on different actions. For most of us it will be silence and prayers and seeking to do good to the person. For a few it will be a kind listening, asking questions, and trying to help someone see the error of their way.

Unfortunately, even for the best of us it’s all too easy to throw our hands in the air in frustration and/or disgust and have attitudes that whether shown in actions or not, are clearly felt in spirit by those around us. We can read each other and people us far more than we often realize.

So the bottom line is that we love and keep loving regardless. We have to leave the outcome of everything to God, remembering that we too are in need given of patience, grace, even correction, and sometimes forgiveness given our own imperfections.

Never force of any kind. Only love. In and through Jesus.

about making mistakes

For all of us make many mistakes.

James 3:2a

I ran into something online about a Christian leader who acknowledged making a mistake and I remembered how I am subject to the same given all the issues and details few if any of us are aware of fully. It’s good to be aware and sensitive and to apologize and adjust ourselves when need be. And to develop more of a listening ear and less of a desire to speak with the imagination that what we say might be a game changer or even make a difference.

That said, we might as well face it. Whatever we do in this life will inevitably be imperfect and we will make our share of mistakes along the way. This is especially true of those of us who have a propensity to teach and to say a lot. Or to write or be out there in public in some way related to any of that. Yes, we need to be careful and try to be aware, learn and do better.

But we must not let any of this stop us from sharing whatever gift we have. We’ll just try to do better with it. But nothing we do in this life will be perfect. And some will insist we’re mistaken while others will not see it that way. We’ll have to make judgments and seek to listen well and take seriously the reality that there are some who believe we are mistaken on a given matter which itself should give us pause. After all, we are to seek to do what is right in the eyes of everyone (Romans 12).

We shouldn’t just do whatever, thinking in the end that God will be our judge. God is and will be our judge for sure. And part of that judgment will be just how seriously we consider the thoughts of others and not run roughshod over them when we disagree. And also realize that our disagreement can be mistaken. While at the same time being willing to be mistaken and corrected along the way since that is inevitable.

you can’t separate Christ from his teachings and commands

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you who behave lawlessly.’

“Everyone, then, who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

Matthew 7:21-27

If you consider what is actually taught and practiced, there seems to be centuries and centuries of mainstream Christian teaching focusing on Christ and Christ’s self-sacrificial death on the cross as being the basis for salvation and what it means to be a Christian and in the faith. Many will go to the book of Hebrews to underscore that. What Christ did accomplish on the cross is unique, redemptive, and universal as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. No one or nothing else can replicate that. It’s done, completely accomplished.

But what follows from that is a faith which receives and gives. If we are not active in our faith, as James tells us, whatever faith we think we have in Christ and Christ’s death for sins is null and void for us. It is dead. Faith that doesn’t make a difference in our lives is not the faith Jesus talks about in Scripture. Even though there’s truth in it, it’s not good enough to say, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” (bumper sticker). There has to be cleansing of sin in a regenerative process symbolized as a marker and witness in water baptism with the baptism of the Spirit which effects the change.

What that brings is nothing less than a following of Christ which takes seriously all of Christ’s teachings and commands. Unless Jesus in “the great commission” at the end of Matthew’s gospel is mistaken when he told his disciples to teach new disciples of every nation to obey all he had commanded them, and that he would be with them in this, to the very end of the age, meaning up to the time of his return.

A good place to start in this is Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This will become a life-long project for us, and we’ll never get it perfectly. But unless we’re dead set and fully committed to both listen, listen and listen some more and keep listening, as well as put into practice everything, every day, then we’re not really followers of Christ. And we’re not really “in Christ.” No matter what we say about resting in Christ’s once for all sacrifice on the cross. Unless Jesus didn’t really mean what he said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, as quoted above.

learning a life of prayer

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my accuser.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

Hopefully our prayers are filled with pleas for justice. We have all kinds of reasons to pray. The psalms are best in helping us see that. Over our own struggles, sins, faults, shortcomings. Over fears and this and that, and whatever else. There’s really no end.

Jesus’s parable seems to suggest that we will either pray or lose heart, one or the other. And not just pray once, or once in a while. “Always” meaning it’s a habit of life, something we do. As if we were always carrying on a conversation with the Lord, with God.

We want to cry out for whatever might be good and right in the situations we see and find ourselves in. That is the tenor of our Lord’s words in this parable. It’s about need: ours and others. And it is God who answers, taking seriously even the weakest but sincere prayer, but never according to our own wishes but in accordance with God’s wisdom and will.

This is a practice I’m pursuing and seeking to grow in. To talk to God and to listen for God’s voice. And to keep doing that. There is no shortage of things to pray about. And hopefully more and more in concert with others. In and through Jesus.

from the place of privilege and power (and willful or unwilful ignorance)

If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength being small;
if you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death,
those who go staggering to the slaughter;
if you say, “Look, we did not know this”—
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it?
And will he not repay all according to their deeds?

Proverbs 24:10-12

Today is the second year of the newest US federal holiday, Juneteenth. It commemorates the day when slaves in Texas at last realized that they were free, a freedom that had to be enforced. Unfortunately that freedom was not maintained over the decades following so that there was an ongoing need not only to resist the evil of white supremacy seen in lynchings of blacks, but also the necessity of the Civil Rights Movement to claim basic human rights and equality.

To think that all is much better now so that there’s a level playing field and that all is well and good is simply to be uninformed and ignorant of the problems from the past that are very much present. And it’s a continued refusal to listen and consider the cries of those who suffer not only a secondary status at best, but injustice simply because of their skin color or ethnicity. It is an ongoing problem here in the United States due to white supremacy and the support of that in Christian nationalism, which when looked at is found to be racist so that it really amounts to white Christian nationalism in keeping with its story of the founding of the United States. And with the insistence that history not be taught, for example how much of the US economy and US itself was actually built by slaves.

Juneteenth is celebration for those set free, but it should include the rest of us to consider what this means in the present time, and to lament over the wrong and injury suffered, as well as to lament and resist calls for renewed white supremacist rule thought to return the US to an imagined and fabricated greatness and glory of the past. Make no mistake about it, it seems clear that at least there are forces out there active to bring this all about. And a major part of Christianity here is deafly silent because of the complicity of many with this from its ranks, not to mention it doesn’t seem to have either a sufficient theology and understanding of the gospel along with the will to counter that and present a better alternative.

It is a challenging time. But we have to stand up to it in a peaceful way. Willing though not wanting to risk life and limb but preferring to be facilitators of more needed change. With eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts open to learn from others and from God. And to pray and act accordingly, especially from the lead of those who know firsthand what this is all about. In and through Jesus.

pray on

pray without ceasing…for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18b

To be told to pray without ceasing seems pretty unrealistic. To be sure, we can’t be praying every moment of the day. Maybe the idea is that along with actual praying, we’re in an attitude of prayer all of our waking hours. Or that it is to be a habit of life that fills our days. For me, I take it to mean that I’m to be much in prayer which includes not only talking to God, but listening and seeking to hear God’s voice, and discern God’s will in it all.

This is addressed to Christians together, so there needs to be an emphasis on corporate prayer, that we’re all in this together. But that includes individual practice, that each of us are involved in playing our part.

I find that two practices are vital for me: being in Scripture with an emphasis on application and personal growth and being in prayer. I honestly think a missing link, all too true in my own life is that insofar as this is possible, we need to be joined together in this.

In my own experience I find that the attitude and practice of ongoing, persevering prayer is so important to keep my head afloat, out of the deep waters in which I lack the breath, light, the perspective and life of God. It is almost like the necessity of applying a magnet so that another piece of metal doesn’t fall to the ground.

The only way I seem to be able to really stay grounded and centered on God and on God’s will is to remain in Scripture, but with persistent, ongoing prayer. When I let up on that, it’s not long before I’ve lost focus and perspective. And what comes out of that is not good. We’re not in a Sunday School picnic. At the same time what also needs to be remembered is that much good comes out of this practice. Not only to help center us, but in actual benefit for others.

As we’re told in the Scripture passage quoted above, part of God’s will for us. In and through Jesus.