By Bren Dubay
“The woman is young — not yet 30. Her name is Clare. While growing up, going to church was like brushing her teeth. No thought of not doing it, it was automatic. Like breathing. Not anymore. Going forward, she would write firmly and boldly one word, four letters, on any form asking for her religion: NONE.”
A Way of Prayer opens with these few sentences and becomes the first booklet in a series of publications we have named Short Writings from Koinonia. Our desire for this series is to spark discussion. We want to share with our readers topics of interest to the community — a glimpse into our life, work, and the many subjects which engage us.
I knew I wanted to write about the life of prayer at Koinonia, the way prayer permeates our day, but it had to be more than a mere schedule of our prayer times. Then Clare, a fictional character, showed up on the page. There is something going on in much of western culture. It has been going on in Europe longer than the U.S. Growing numbers of people do not believe in God. Our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques are emptying. I heard a statistic recently that 7 out of 10 young people in any particular Christian church would leave not only that church, but Christianity as well before they turn twenty.
What is going on and where will it lead?
Clarence Jordan called Koinonia “a demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.” So many people come to visit. I have always been struck that a good number who do, profess that they no longer believe. They are as welcome to be with us as anyone else who comes.
What do they see?
Clare was welcome to show up on the page I was trying to write.
What did she see? Why did she come? Why do so many “nones” come to Koinonia?
Even as so many in our world reject religion, there is a spiritual hunger, a spiritual longing. A Way of Prayer tells a bit about the environment we attempt to create here to feed the spiritually hungry.
Clare helped me get a fresh glimpse of Koinonia and realize once more the importance of demonstration plots. I don’t think people are looking for perfection. That’s certainly not what they’ll find here. Perhaps it is not God people are rejecting, but inauthenticity.
I hope for authenticity. I hope for all those who come walk our land, share our food, join in song and do some work with us to see authenticity in our life here.
I hope you will want to read A Way of Prayer and all of the short writings to follow. They are an invitation to learn not only more about this community’s life and the many topics that engage us, but to continue or begin a conversation.
By Bren Dubay
Recently, a number of us made our way down to Flagler Beach in Florida. We walked on the beach, some swam in the ocean, all experienced the drama of a thunderstorm dancing across the night sky above the Atlantic, we talked, we laughed. The time away together was refreshing and renewing. Even running out of gas on the way back couldn’t dampen our spirits (long story — perhaps for the telling in a future Brief Thoughts).
As happens on such outings, there was quite a bit of energy expended surrounding the subject of food. One of us planned the menu, a couple of us gathered groceries, and one of our rooms became the gathering place for meals. Humans know quite well our need for physical food — we spend a great deal of time planning, shopping, preparing then consuming it. On the trip though, I found myself wondering about our need for spiritual food. It isn’t the first time I’ve wondered about this subject. We are very aware of what happens when we go without physical food. What happens when we go without spiritual food?
Early on in my adult life, I worked for a private philanthropic foundation. One of my job duties was to review the many proposals submitted for funding to make sure all the needed information was included in them. I vividly remember an instance when in my left hand I held a request for funding to provide meals to migrant children arriving at our Texas border and, in my right hand, a request for funding to provide theater tickets to inner city children who had never been exposed to the arts. Thinking of those children who had traveled through dangerous circumstances without food and only limited water was visceral. Of course, their hunger was an immediate, tangible need. It was urgent.
I attended the quarterly meetings where board members of the foundation made decisions regarding which proposals they would fund and which they would not fund. Sometimes I was asked for my opinion. The chair of the board was a mentor of sorts to me. He picked up these two proposals, one in his left and one in his right, looked straight at me and asked me what I thought. I am not sure if what I shared surprised him, but it surprised me. My response was that as a child from a poor family I had known physical hunger, but nothing like the hunger the children at the border faced. But I did know what it felt like to have a very empty stomach and how the lack of food made my eyes dull. In my mind’s eye, I could see the dullness of those children’s eyes and it broke my heart. I didn’t stop there though, but went on to share that there was another hunger I had experienced. It was less tangible and therefore, more difficult to explain. It was the lack of stories, of color, of beauty, of music, and of books. I spoke of the first time I was taken to the theater. The dull pain of physical hunger must be satiated, but there is also the dull pain of spiritual hunger that needs food as well. Seeing my first play — a light came on in my eyes. They were no longer dull but bright.
Both proposals received funding.
Mother Teresa said that the greatest poverty she ever encountered was in the United States — it was our spiritual poverty to which she referred. At Koinonia, we work to feed the physical and spiritual hunger. Many times we can do both at the same time. At our communal meals, we sit around the table together and welcome all to join us. While we eat the food and share with anyone who is physically hungry, we also fellowship, talk, laugh, and sometimes simply sit in companionable silence. This feeds the spiritual hunger — the loneliness and isolation that so often plagues us in this modern world.
We do not have to choose between physical needs and spiritual needs. We can use our limited resources to address both. To remember that humans are body, mind, and soul and to neglect one is to neglect the whole human. This is how we feed the hungry physically and spiritually — by eating together, by praying together, by working and resting together.
By Bren Dubay
If you have come into contact with or read a word we’ve written since January, you’d be hard pressed not to know that Koinonia has declared 2019 the Year of the Pecan. We are planting 40 acres of new pecan trees — 800 trees of different varieties!
As soon as we decided to do this, we began giving extra attention to the soil in those 40 acres. Koinonia is all about the soil — everywhere on the farm, but, especially, where we’re growing food. Joel Salatin, a farmer and author I highly recommend, writes in The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs —
…soil is a pulsing, thriving community. Our cupped handful [of soil] contains more beings than there are people on the face of the earth… soil is a teeming community of beings… Now we know through work at Stanford that these microscopic beings (nemtodes, mycorrihizae, giberrellins to name a few] communicate. They actually have a language and respond to each other. Page 51
Does it not make sense that to produce healthy food, you need healthy, living soil from which it grows? For our pecans to have the best, most marvelous pecaness of pecans, we (and our animals, too) must work to help infuse life into the soil.
Koinonia has received a great deal of derision for its commitment to soil biology. There is a fungus in our part of Georgia we call scab and it, along with a whole myriad of other pests, will destroy a pecan crop unless you spray heavy doses of fungicide, insecticide and herbicide. We have been told over and over again, “Spray, spray, spray!” Those “cides” do mostly kill the pests, but they also kill those microscopic beings that bring life. And after you spray them, you can’t allow humans or animals to go for a stroll in the orchards for 72 hours.
Does it make sense to eat food doused with poison and grown in dead soil? Wouldn’t we rather eat food from plants that are healthy and thriving all the way from the soil in which they are planted to their highest leaf? Koinonia must live its values and we know too much about what is happening to this earth to not focus on healthy soil. We are sticking to the biological method no matter the names not fit to print we are called. I like these words from Joel Salatin, too —
I would suggest that a God-honoring farm is one that shows strength rather than weakness. … It’s one that has healthy plants and animals. It’s one that develops food that develops healthier people. This is not a health-and-wealth message. It is ultimately a humility-and-dependency message. God’s designs work. Page 68
So, we are planting 800 new trees and we are looking to get every last one of them a sponsor. If you haven’t already, I am asking you to sponsor a tree or two or three or a whole row. There is a lot of work to do. We could use your help to get it done. Find out more on our website.
I’ll end with these words from Clarence Jordan. Can it be said any better?
… we went there and bought that old, run-down eroded piece of land. It was sick. There were gashes in it. It was sore and bleeding. I don’t know whether you’ve walked out over a piece of ground and it could almost cry out to you and say, ‘Heal me, heal me!’ I don’t know whether you feel the closeness to the soil that I do. But when you fill in those old gullies and terrace the fields and you begin to feel the springiness of the sod beneath your feet and you begin to feel that old land come to life and when you walk through a pine forest that you set out in little seedlings and now you see them reaching for the sky and hear the wind through them… Men say to you, ‘Why don’t you sell it and move away?’…they might as well ask you, “Why don’t you sell your mother?’ Somehow God has made us out of this old soil, and we go back to it, and we never lose its claim on us. It isn’t a simple matter to leave it.”
No, Clarence, like you, we aren’t about to sell this land or leave it. And the only thing we are going to spray on her is life.
For those of you reading this, thanks for your support. It is needed.
By Bren Dubay
Easter is beautiful at Koinonia. The sunrise service, the celebratory breakfast that follows and the fun activities that fill our day, but it doesn’t stop when Sunday goes away. Easter continues. I like that.
In much of the Western Christian Church, the Easter Season lasts for 50 days — from the resurrection of Jesus to the ascension of Jesus celebrated on Pentecost Sunday. In the Eastern Christian Church, it’s 40 days, a significant stretch of time as well.
Not all denominations follow a liturgical calendar, but I find doing so helpful. There is Advent, a time of preparation followed by the great season of Christmas. There is Lent, another time of preparation culminating in the greatest season of all, Easter. Each season gives us the chance to immerse ourselves in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, while giving ample time to focus more deeply on one aspect or time period of his life.
Koinonian Norris Harris often breaks open the word Christian for us. He points out that the “ians” is a suffix and yes, it denotes “followers” of Christ, but it is much richer and deeper because it is calling us to be “Christ like.” Christians are to be “Christ like.” We are to strive day in and day out in all that we do to be Christ like. That is a bit intimidating. It is also a lot of work … but when we look at it step by step, mile by mile, it can feel perhaps more manageable.
If I decide to be a marathon runner, I don’t just get up one morning, strap on my tennis shoes, and go out and run 26.2 miles. I work at it. It’s a day in and day out discipline. Likewise, I can claim the word Christian, but if I am not daily doing all I can to live it, it’s an empty title. Following the liturgical calendar helps me stay focused. It helps me stay immersed in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and can constantly remind me that a life rooted in those four events — especially the last one — looks different than a life rooted in anything else our culture has to offer.
The liturgical calendar constantly turns my face toward Jesus. Hopefully, my mind and my heart follow. It gives me ample time to meditate on the mysteries of the Incarnation. We are used to four seasons — winter, spring, summer and fall — and know well the rhythms of them. To know Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter seems far more important than, though helpful and important, knowing the weather.
Easter is a marathon, not a sprint. Easter is a long walk, not a few hours on a Sunday in spring. So, too, is the Christian life. There are many tools that can help us stay focused and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
By Bren Dubay
Interns arrived last weekend. The Gospel reading at Gathered Worship was from Luke — the Sermon on the Plain. It seemed a perfect reading for the start of a new internship term. I told the interns that they had come to a remarkable place. And Koinonia is. But it is not Utopia and I stressed that they would not see perfection — everyone loving enemies all the time, everyone doing good for, blessing, praying for enemies all the time, everyone doing unto others as we would have them do unto us all the time. In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus instructs that we do these things. We fail. Sometimes we fail spectacularly. But what I told the new interns and the rest gathered there is what they would see is a real effort, a sincere effort, a very intentional effort to live the Sermon on Plain and the Sermon on the Mount day in and day out
What do we do at Koinonia? We can easily answer that with a “I take care of the pecans,” “I cook,” “I correspond with prisoners,” “I manage guest reservations,” “I visit the sick,” “I clean,” “I make sure the vehicles have oil,” “I work with people who suffer from chronic pain,” “I grow vegetables, grapes, blueberries,” “I facilitate the Circle of Friends,” “I write,” “I keep the bakery going,” and on and on. But really, truly, a more accurate answer to the question would be, “We fall down, we get up, and we fall down again.”
Those of us here have either committed ourselves to a way of life or to coming every day to support those attempting to live this way of life. Those of us who have committed to the communal way of life take vows agreeing that we will be guided by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Sermon the Plain; we have committed ourselves to being family. We have committed ourselves to a particular place. We have committed to go to God together. We devote ourselves to spiritual development and good works. What’s more, these deep and specific commitments are for the long haul. In essence, we promise each other and ourselves that we will not run away—even when it gets rough. And rough it gets. And, oh, yes, we do tasks, chores, and work to support ourselves.
Interns, for a period of time, immerse themselves into the communal way of life we follow here. We hope they take what they learn and experience into whatever configuration of community they choose. We try to show them a set of guiding principles that are constructive, healthy, and sensible. A good life, a mature, wholehearted life, takes commitment.
In the Rule of Benedict, Benedict writes, “anticipate one another in honor; most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or character.” This is sound advice for interns, for members of Koinonia, or for anyone. Community is about bearing each other’s burdens, staying when things get hard, doing the chores you don’t like, and being family. For our community, above all, we try and fail and try again to live up to this Sermon on the Plain
One of the best ways to learn about community and to see the imperfect and beautiful ways it works out is by becoming an intern at Koinonia. We have room for more interns. There are three terms a year — spring, summer and fall. Give it some thought and then apply?
By Bren Dubay
The crèche is put away now, but not the thoughts it sparked. Each year the crèche takes its place next to the entrance to the farm on Highway 49. It is a wooden cut out of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and others at the manger and is wonderfully painted. I realize I don’t know who the artist is who did this work. I realize, too, I don’t know how long this piece of art has been a part of the community. I do know it has been more than fifteen years because the crèche was here when I arrived. Who built the crèche? We should know that.
People come and go at Koinonia. It has always been that way. We are a house of hospitality and would not want that to change. But what Koinonia needs most of all is a core of people living the communal life together for the long haul — serving God and God’s people at, through, and from this place called Koinonia Farm. We need members who pass on the stories and the history to other members coming to join them. A group of people who can tell us who built the crèche, who painted it, whose idea it was — the whole story.
Yes, we do have a core of communal members. And we clearly understand how needed it is for that same core to still be here in another decade supporting and mentoring those who have come after us. Now we just need to find those who are coming after us.
Living this way of life is counter-cultural in the West, but not completely foreign. It has been a part of Christianity both East and West from the beginning. Intentional Christian communities have played an important role throughout Christian history — they have founded hospitals, schools, worked for the poor, started progressive movements; they have prayed, lived quietly and humbly, sharing what they have, responding to the needs and challenges of the times, and have given or inspired the birth of so much that is good. Koinonia has been praying, living, and sharing for over 76 years now. And it continues to have much work to do. It is a big place with a large legacy and a deep calling to live up to the example of the earliest Christian church. Surely, there are a dozen people out there who are called to Koinonia. Do the following words from the Acts of the Apostles resonate? If they do, you may be called to Koinonia.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Here’s where the crèche comes in again: our dream is that one day very soon our membership will be large enough so that we can have a live nativity on the lawn on Christmas Eve for friends and neighbors to come and enjoy. Our prayer for 2019 is that God stirs hearts and draws people to join our community. And maybe by next Christmas, or the one after that, we can have a live nativity.
P.S. If you know anything about the history of Koinonia’s crèche or you resonated with those words from Acts 2:42-47 and want to explore a calling to Koinonia Farm, please let us know! Email Bren at email@example.com or call her at Koinonia Farm at 229-924-0391. She’d love to hear from you.
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.”
A Few Thoughts from Bren
I found this in my notebook — God is not resigned to losing anybody. There was no indication where it came from. Usually, I jot down the name of the book and the page number when recording notes, but there was nothing there. I don’t think I am the author so, “Good author, though I don’t know your name you captured my attention and imagination and sent me looking.” I knew I had read a similar sentiment about God somewhere in Clarence Jordan’s writing. I found it in “The Father’s Pursuing Love” in The Substance of Faith, a collection of Jordan’s sermons. I highly recommend the book.
What if God’s pursuit of us is not limited by space and time? What if the redemptive process does not stop even with death? Clarence admits that “we’re on very uncertain ground here,” but he does go on to use Scriptural references for his musings.
What is the nature of God? Jesus came to give us insight into that nature. He may have asked [and still asks], “You hear what I am teaching you? You see what I am demonstrating for you?”
Clarence points to three parables in chapter 15 in Luke’s Gospel to underscore more about God’s nature. What does the shepherd do when he loses one of his hundred sheep? He looks for her. How long does he look for her? He looks for her until he finds her.
How about the woman who had ten coins, but lost one? She picks up her broom, lights a lamp and sweeps “until she wears out her broom, until the lamp went out, until her husband came home.” Does she quit sweeping to make her husband and herself something to eat? No. She keeps sweeping until she finds that coin.
The third is the familiar The Parable of the Prodigal Son. Clarence suggests that we call it The Parable of the Father’s All Pursuing Love. In Jesus’ culture, a son could ask for his inheritance ahead of his father’s death. If given, the father was then dead to the son even though he was very much physically alive. The son, too, was dead to the father — the relationship was broken. What does the father do in this parable? He waits. And, against all cultural norms, when the son comes home the father declares him alive. How long does the father wait? He waits until the son comes home.
God is the shepherd, the woman, and the father. God seeks the sheep, searches for the coin, and waits for his “dead” child. Clarence goes on, “Doesn’t [this] say to us that God in his relationship to us is not bound by time and circumstances?” Then he points to First Peter where between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Christ descends into Hades and preached to the people there. Clarence asks, “Why would he preach to them if there was no chance for their redemption?”
“This is what the resurrection is trying to say to us — that the grave is not the final answer. The grave has been swallowed up in victory, death has lost its sting,” writes Clarence.
My heart fills to overflowing when I think of being loved like this. My heart fills to overflowing that this is the nature of the Creator of the universe. Like Clarence, I’d like “to be an implement in God’s hand, an agent of his in shedding his love abroad to people.” I’m imperfect at it, but there is something about the collective at Koinonia through the years that has been just such an implement. People come here and feel, if only for a bit, this pursuing love of God. I think they get an inkling of it not being “the will of God that any should perish.” Perhaps they go from this place loving their neighbors and their enemies just a little bit more. Maybe they go from this place knowing a little bit more about God’s nature.
Let it be so.
A Few Thoughts from Bren
Aristotle wrote, “beauty occurs when all parts work together in harmony so that no one part draws unjust attention to itself” and “the chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness.”
My recent trip to Italy has me reflecting on beauty and what an important spiritual food it is. I got to see so much beauty — frescoes, sculptures, paintings, architecture, music, fountains, Michelangelo’s The Pieta, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, even the Roman Colosseum though some horrible things happened within it. I experienced beauty and was nourished by it
Beauty opens a door and invites you in.
It doesn’t have to be physical beauty. When I visited Koinonia for the first time, there were buildings in need of repair and a coat of paint here and there would have helped. Nonetheless, I remember thinking “this is beautiful.” Maybe it was those few minutes spent in the museum hearing Ellie Castles’ story about the commitment of the members in the early days. Perhaps it was the far off glimpse of the pecan orchards — we had no time that day to go for a walk among the trees.
This encounter with something beautiful led me to read Clarence Jordan’s books and to listen to his recordings. I was fed.
A writer I admire, Robert Barron, offers that of the ultimate values — beauty, goodness and truth — beauty is the most powerful, the most alluring, the most winsome, and can draw us in. When it does, then one can move from beauty to the good and then to the true. Beauty can open the heart so one can come to know goodness and truth.
I confess that too often I am distracted and don’t see the beauty around me. But I have returned from my trip desiring a steady diet of beauty. I live at a beautiful place. Fine works of literature fill our library. We sing often. I want to be aware of the beauty of the lyrics and hear the beauty of the melody. I want to take long, slow walks through the pecan orchards more frequently or I simply want to stand in our garden and watch the organic vegetables grow.
And the incredible people who come here … I want to be more aware of who inspires me and let their inspiration work on me. Just last week we had 47 young people from the Bruderhof Foxhill Community visit us. They were full of joy and their work ethic left us speechless. They had talents and gifts and freely gave of themselves. They were beautiful.
I have come home with my mind on beauty and how we all can thrive from this spiritual food. Who inspires you? Do you look for beauty? What feeds your spiritual life? What is beautiful to you? How can we incorporate beauty into our everyday lives, in big ways and small ways, so we may be fed and come to know goodness and truth? We are starving and we need food — good, wholesome, spiritual food. May beauty fill us up. May it spur us on to goodness, truth, and a full life.
A Few Thoughts from Bren
Elizabeth is away this week so I’ve had the chance to facilitate the intern study sessions. I’ve enjoyed every minute. It has been a while since I’ve been able to be with the interns as they discuss their readings. In four different sessions, the interns and I have talked about hospitality to the stranger, Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, non-violence and God’s economy.
In Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s God’s Economy: Redefining the Health & Wealth Gospel, he writes about subversive service. We serve subversively when we take seriously Jesus’ example — he came to serve not to be served. Our culture sets us on our way to climb ladders, to get ahead, to build up treasures and too often we are taught or at least see around us that “becoming great means making someone else small.”
Wilson-Hartgrove shares an interesting take on Jesus reprimanding the disciples for turning the children away. Children were worthless in the ancient household economy. But, to Jesus, the children were worthy of being served and taking their place in his lap and by his side. It is the small, the weak, the blind, the lame, the widow, the stranger, and what our world is quick to call the worthless that Jesus served and so we are to do the same.
As Wilson-Hartgrove writes, “Jesus didn’t aspire to fix the system or to overthrow it [the ancient household economy]. He submitted himself to people in simple service in order to show us a better way. Jesus offers this tactic: we usher in a new way by subversively submitting to others in the twisted economy that is all around us.”
It makes me think that we should rename the internship the Internship in Subversive Service. Interns come alongside us to welcome and serve people. This service is mostly in small ways: a smile, a meal, a clean room in which to stay, a quiet conversation … it occurs to me that the smaller the service, the more subversive it is. Every person is hungry, maybe not physically hungry, but hungry. Every single person is worthy of attention. It also occurs to me that if each of us submits ourselves in simple service then everyone is being served. Everyone is lifted and — using words our culture likes — everyone wins.
Many interns have come through the farm. I am in touch with a lot of them. There have been weddings and babies coming into the world. There was even a birthday party this last weekend in Virginia — Katie and Wyatt Miles who were interns during the spring term of 2014 turned 30. A couple of us got to go celebrate with them. Katie and Wyatt welcomed about fifty guests. We were from all over, of varying ages, various religions, and from all walks of life. For a party favor we got to choose from a stack of well used books — books that were some of Katie and Wyatt’s favorites. There was a personal note in each. We, of course, enjoyed delicious food, played games, and danced. Some of us even got to spend the night. I recognized their hospitality. It felt like home.
I like staying in touch. It helps me know that subversive service is spreading. That brings a smile to my face and adds a jolt of joy to my heart.