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.
Koinonia Farm is proud to partner with Canaan Palestine, a Fair Trade and sustainable farmers coop that makes delicious and traditional Palestinian food such as olive oil, Maftoul (Couscous), and Freekeh.
Looking for ideas for how to use these traditional Palestinian foods? We have some great recipes for you from Canaan Palestine’s own website! Here’s a delicious way to cook Freekeh and Maftoul (Couscous).
Heat olive oil in stew pot, toss lamb pieces over medium heat for
about 5 minutes. Add 6 cups of water, Freekeh pack, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn heat to low and cover to cook on low heat for 45 minutes. Then serve. For vegetarian Freekeh soup, simply skip the meat.
Ingredients: (Serves 8 to 10 people)
1 pound (500 g)/2 packs Canaan Maftoul (couscous)
1/4 cup of Canaan Nabali or Rumi Organic Olive Oil
1 cup raisins
1 onion, diced
1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 pieces fresh red cayenne or chili peppers, sliced thin
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon of black pepper, freshly ground
1-teaspoon of Canaan Za’atar spice mix, Herbes de Provençe or favorite spice mix
Prepare the Maftoul and set aside on a tray to cool. For one pound of Maftoul, bring 4 cups of water and one tablespoon of salt to a boil, toast 1 pound Maftoul in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 4 minutes on medium-high heat, then add toasted Maftoul to hot water and let simmer for 12 minutes. Fluff with a fork and spread on tray to cool.
Meanwhile, add a cup of water to a cup of raisins and simmer in a pan for 10 minutes. Then let cool and drain. Sauté onions in 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and let cool. Combine green onion, parsley, and hot peppers in a bowl.
Mix Maftoul salad: In the bowl of cooked Maftoul, add raisins, both kinds of onions, parsley, hot red pepper, 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and spice mix. Mix together and serve in small salad bowls.
Note: any hot red or green pepper will work, OR substitute Canaan Fair Trade chili olive oil for some of the oil, and use chopped sweet red peppers for the color.
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.
A Few Thoughts from Bren
“(God) has never learned to deal in fractions.” — Clarence Jordan
Our oldest son was born with a non-life threatening condition that would require surgery. The medical professionals told us it could wait until he was older. He was not quite two when we drove to the hospital for the scheduled procedure. There is one image from that day that still breaks my heart. These last several weeks that image has haunted me.
It was not comfortable seeing our active little boy lying there. The anesthesia had worked quickly. But for some reason, no one came to take him to the operating room where, of course, we would not be allowed to go. I began to worry he would wake up. And he did.
He began to stir so I rubbed his back hoping against hope that he would fall back to sleep. It didn’t work. He sat up just as the two surgical nurses came into the room. They were both friendly and one picked him up surprised that he was awake. She called him by the wrong name as she carried him away from us and into the operating room. He was reaching over her shoulder, crying, calling for me. She kept telling him he would be all right and kept calling him by the wrong name. It wasn’t her fault – we called him by his middle name. I was sobbing so hard I could not correct her. “His name is Dillon. Not Andy. His name is Andrew Dillon. Not Andy. Dillon.” I could not stop crying until long after my baby had been returned to the recovery room.
It is real for me what is happening on the U.S. border. I know the terror, the panic, the helplessness, the unbearable sorrow of being separated from my child. I know the look of my little boy reaching for me, crying “mommy” and how it felt when I could not rush to him and take him into my arms. I know all this, but I knew where he was going and that he would come back. And I had not fled from any horror to get my child and myself to safety. I spoke the same language as the nurses and the doctors.
Hearts are big at Koinonia. We are not a large group — sometimes we have more interns at the farm than members. Always we have far more visitors. We pray and we serve. We do what we can with the people we have and most of the time there is a peace in that. That peace has been shaken in recent weeks. As we reflect on what Clarence said- “Every little human being in this world is part of God’s set”- we can’t help but wonder if we could be doing more to show people with words and deeds the truth of Clarence’s words … and Jesus’ words. I don’t know for certain what more we can do for the children and their parents were there more communal members at the farm. What I do know is we sure could use a few more people with big hearts to join us, to grow deep roots, to pray, to serve, and to live out their lives loving neighbors with us.
There is much to be done.
“All truth, by whomever it is spoken, comes from the Holy Spirit.” — Thomas Aquinas
With no trees decked with ornaments and lights, no sunrise services or eggs hidden for children to scurry to find, Pentecost may be one of the most subdued days in the church’s year. Despite arriving on a violent wind and sending forth tongues of fire giving the disciples a voice that could not be contained, the Spirit is seemingly the quietest member of the Trinity. In scripture, the Father speaks often, and, of course, so does Jesus the Son, but we are hard-pressed to find famous quotes from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is surprisingly low key … or is that so?
Jesus calls the Spirit the “Paraclete” — “the one who comes to our aid.” Another meaning is “called to be with us.” When the Paraclete descended on the disciples, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” and the church was born [Acts 2:1-6]. And the Spirit continues to come to our aid so both individuals and the body of Christ the church may be born again and again and again. The spiritual life is something to be lived and practiced day in and day out. The spiritual life is work. It is good we have a Paraclete.
The presence of the Spirit is tangible at Koinonia Farm. I struggle to put into words what I mean — I fear that words will make it far less than it is. Many people sense something out of the ordinary when they come here. I know I did. Perhaps it’s because for more than 75 years, the people making this way of life their own have raised the voices of their souls in a constant cry for the Spirit. An invitation has been extended without ceasing. The Holy Spirit is always working, always with us, but yet, in another sense, has to be invited. To be filled with the Spirit, we must make space within us for the Spirit. I am grateful for all those who came before us who made room and extended the invitation. I urge those of us here now to continue calling on the Spirit.
The same Paraclete that is present with us was on Jesus. He broke the good news to the poor, proclaimed freedom for the oppressed, gave sight to the blind, helped those grievously insulted find dignity and ushered in the Lord’s new era. Hearts open, minds open when we open to the Holy Spirit. Truth and good comes if we live a life that says, “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”
A Few Thoughts From Bren
It’s Holy Week. In a Holy Week past someone said to me, “It’s just another week. I don’t feel anything.” I found myself responding – and what I said surprised me – “It was just another week to me, too, until I decided it wasn’t going to be.” The decision isn’t one I make once and it’s done. This Easter mindset is a decision to make over and over and over again. I choose to practice faith even when my faith falters. I choose to invite faith to permeate me even when cynicism threatens to take hold.
We intentionally gather as disciples. We share the stories of the first followers of Jesus. We feel their bewilderment as we do our own. We acknowledge their doubt, as we are honest about our own. We face their uncertainty as we admit our own. We can be helped to see and believe by looking through their eyes and by looking through their faith. We can do the same by looking at the lives of those throughout history who have taken Jesus seriously. This was made very real to me as I witnessed the gathering at the Koinonia Family Reunion and Koinonia’s 75th Birthday Party that culminated the Symposium. I stood in awe of those people who came before us reuniting in fellowship. Their presence enkindled the fire of belief in us.
Easter is more than a beautiful spring festival, but Easter won’t force itself on us. Easter can change us, make us different and make us new, but we have to invite it in and allow it to permeate our very being.
Shane Claiborne and I co-presented a pre-symposium workshop on community at the recent Clarence Jordan Symposium. I am always learning from Shane. As I listened to him, I was reminded of something he wrote, “The Jesus revolution is not a frontal attack on the empires of this world. It is a subtle contagion, spreading one little life, one little hospitality house at a time.”
I’m also reminded of what Shane wrote about mustard. Mustard was the kudzu of Jesus’ time and people didn’t like it. But in the Roman Empire that held sway over Jesus’ Palestine, mustard was a sign of power known for its healing properties. It had to be crushed and ground to become a medicinal salve.
Jesus compared the God Movement (as Clarence called it) to a tiny mustard seed that grows and grows. Oh, that the mustard will take over our garden. There is no promise it will be easy —mustard seeds have to be crushed before they can heal. This Easter may we have those full hearts of transformed disciples of which Clarence Jordan wrote and may the loving revolution spread. And on days our hearts aren’t full, let’s search for a little more mustard. May it be in us, may it spread out from us, and may it heal us all.
Happy Easter, everyone.