By: Bren Dubay
When reading a pamphlet about vocations, this sentence caught my eye, “[God’s] love cannot do without personal response. He neither manipulates nor forces anyone. He does not know what we will reply and cannot answer for us.”
For some reason, the sentence turned my mind to Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. It was about noon when she came to the well. That’s not the typical time women in that day and age would go to the well. They would have gone much earlier. This woman comes alone and at noon and that must be significant.
Jesus is at the well waiting.
I have spent a great deal of my life seeking God, running this way and that. Maybe the heart of the spiritual life is how do we allow ourselves to be found by the waiting God.
An analogy I ran across that has helped me — imagine a helicopter that’s trying to land. The helicopter is God’s presence, God’s grace. Our spiritual life is not about finding ways to jump up and grab the helicopter. The helicopter is already there. If we long for that helicopter and we want it to land, we clear the ground so it can.
Find a place and spiritual practices that help clear the ground. Find a spiritual director. I know a person whose spiritual director suggested she write a dialogue between herself and Jesus and others. She wrote a scene where, after a difficult climb up a steep cliff dragging a huge bag of rocks and a tank of helium, she sits down and looks out over a beautiful blue lake. She calls Jesus by his Hebrew name Yeshua. It is a scene of letting go. There are prayers written on the rocks she carried up the mountain. They are her prayers, heavy ones that perhaps have held her back. One at a time, she reads the prayer then heaves the rock over the side of the cliff into the lake. After each rock, she unties a balloon from the helium tank or uses the tank to blow up a balloon; each has a prayer written on it, too, but it is a prayer of thanksgiving. She reads the prayer aloud, lets the balloon go and watches it float up and away. She is clearing the ground. Here is what happened when she climbs back down.
(HERSELF descends the cliff holding onto
the helium tank and the empty bag; SHE loses
her balance from time to time sliding on the
loose rocks. SHE sees YESHUA at the bottom
of the cliff; SHE is out of breath)
Why didn’t you jump?
(taking the helium tank)
Up there. Why didn’t you jump?
Into the water?
From up there?
(at a loss for words)
It… what? A bit irresponsible, don’t you think?
I could break my neck. Rocks. Lots of them. At the bottom of the lake. I put them there. Some of them.
Go back up there and jump.
Somebody told you to jump from a precipice once. Are you really Yeshua?
Climb back up.
(turns and begins to walk up the cliff)
This is crazy.
(YESHUA watches HERSELF climb back
(stands at top of cliff looking down at lake)
Are you kidding me?
(paces back and forth near the edge)
(walks away from the edge)
This is crazy.
(going back to the edge; shouts)
(sees YESHUA standing on the far shore
facing her; perhaps SHE paces as SHE
talks to herself)
What possible point could there be for my jumping into the lake? Sure, I did it in a dream. Not from a high cliff though. This is for real. Well, maybe not for real. I’m in my imagination. Awake in my imagination. Are you real? I don’t even know if you’re real. Who are you? Do you exist?
(a mighty shout)
Shut up. You are. What’s that supposed to mean? I am, too, but I don’t know how much longer I’d be if I jump off this cliff.
I’ve jumped off a cliff having faith in you before. Left a potentially lucrative career path to become a playwright. See where that has gotten me?
(pacing stopped by YESHUA’S shout
across the lake)
(HERSELF turns her back on YESHUA,
walks away from the edge then suddenly
turns back runs to the edge then dives)
(HERSELF hits the water diving deep.
SHE opens her eyes and finds peace in
the clearness of the water, in the smooth
sandy bottom of the lake and in the
colorful fish swimming about; SHE smiles
as well as one can smile a smile underwater;
the smile gives way when SHE remembers
the rocks; SHE swims turning this way and
that looking for them, but finds none. Even
if a bit confused and bemused, SHE gently
swims refreshed by the water; finally, SHE
starts for the surface needing air and as
her head emerges from the water, all sorts
of old, disturbing images flash through her
mind; SHE is knocked backed by them and
goes under then breaks through the surface
gasping for breath; this happens again then a
third time; SHE feels a hand on her arm
pulling her, lifting her out of harm’s way)
I’ve got you. The water isn’t very deep here. I’ve got you. Can you stand up?
(HERSELF clutches and coughs)
You’re all right. I’ve got you.
(HERSELF nods; MARY walks her to the shore
and helps her dry off with a big towel then helps
her into a thick bathrobe; MARY leads her over
to the campfire where YESHUA is frying fish;
HERSELF sits; silence)
There weren’t any rocks.
(focusing on the fish)
Where did they go?
(YESHUA continues to focus on the fish)
You took them?
When we reply, “Yes,” the waiting God joins us in clearing the ground.
The Samaritan Woman came to the well alone and at mid-day, a sure sign she was an outcast. At the end of the encounter with Jesus, she puts down her pail and runs to the village to tell others what has happened.
Jesus had said to her, “It is not you who have chosen me, I have chosen you.” Ultimately, after much dialogue between them, she goes to the village shouting, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
She was found. She chose to reply, “Yes.”
By: Bren Dubay
If there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality. — Henri Nouwen
I live where hospitality is more than a concept. It is our heartbeat. From the beginning, no matter the ups and downs, Koinonia has been a place of welcome. No matter background or level of education, no matter whether you possess a penny or a trillion pennies, no matter your faith or lack of faith, no matter, you are welcome.
But hospitality is not only about giving; it’s also about receiving. If Koinonia only gives, it may be a successful member of the hospitality industry, but it’s not living the depth of hospitality. We don’t see people as clients or customers, but as neighbors in the Gospel sense of that word. Neighbors help each other. We all have something to give. We all have something to receive.
Meals are important here at Koinonia Farm. So often, when I look around the dining hall, I am aware that I may be seeing something others may not be able to see. There, sitting side by side, are people who have found there way to Koinonia for many different reasons. Some are people of means in the material sense of the word and some are not. It does not matter.
Amy, Carl and their daughter Monica (not their real names), a middle school student, came to the farm in need of help. Some would say that the parents had made poor choices. Whatever mistakes may have been made, Monica was a good student and school personnel wanted better for her and suggested they come to Koinonia. Grateful for the welcome they received, Amy and Carl enthusiastically pitched in to help around the farm wherever needed.
Many nights at dinner, 12 year-old Monica, without being asked or coaxed, would happily help with the dishes. There came a time when the whole family said, “Let us do the dishes. Y’all turn in early and get some rest.” They showed us hospitality — we were the recipients. It was that giving and receiving the neighbors can share.
Before they left, Amy and Carl told us that being at Koinonia showed them there is a different way to live and that they wanted to do right by their daughter and each other. We pray for them every day.
Donna and Tom (not their real names) came from a very different background. She had been a journalist and he had worked for a trucking company. We do not know the exact details of what happened, but both had lost their jobs and ultimately their home. They asked if they could stay for a bit longer than the normal two week stay for guests. Their pride was shattered and their marriage strained near the breaking point.
Seeing the need, Tom offered to take on the landscaping and mowing around the farm. There was so much rain this past summer that we were convinced if you stood still and looked at the grass, you could see it growing. Donna was an exceptional cook and helped in the kitchen and bakery. They took time to look for employment and they took time to work on their marriage. They stayed here as neighbors, not as clients.
By August, Donna had found a teaching position. Soon after, a local trucking company offered Tom a job.
Having these guests and getting to know them has reminded me the importance of receiving hospitality as well as giving hospitality. But is this giving and receiving what Nouwen means when he refers to restoring hospitality’s “original depth and evocative potential?”
Seems to me welcoming and accepting welcome from the stranger, neighbor, friend or foe and the willingness to offer and accept the same from those with whom we live begins to take hospitality to its original depth and evocative potential. In today’s world, sitting across the table from someone very different from ourselves, looking them in the eye and hearing what they have to say is evocative. The world is divided. Does it have to be so? Is the simple act of giving and receiving hospitality beyond immediate family and friends, in part, an answer? That seems a provocative thought.
Koinonia Farm is proud to announce a new opportunity with Airbnb to provide a behind the scenes tour that follows the journey of a pecan from the tree to the bakery. Ride in a wagon pulled by a tractor and listen as Norris tells stories about the pecan orchards and the people who work them. Follow Jim as we explains the pecan plant and what part each machine plays in harvesting, cleaning, cracking, and sorting the pecans.
Visit Geneva in the bakery and get hands on experience with some of your favorite Koinonia products. And, of course, join us for a delicious handmade lunch!
We are beginning our tours on October 15 and will have these experiences available on Mondays and Fridays throughout the fall and holiday season.