Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Working around my weakness

Anyone who walks into my office can see that I have a weakness. It's usally a mess of papers and books.

Sarah, my darling wife, likes an organized life. She survives my home office by deeming it as not part of the house and, therefore, not part of her responsibility to organize.

Focus is one of my strengths. I can walk into my office, totally ignore the clutter, and focus deeply and productively on a writing project.

In Evergreen Leaders workshops we teach you to go with your strengths and work around your weakenesses.

Usually I work around my weaknesses by organizing my office once or twice a year.
Recently I've tried a new tactic. I've invited Louise Stahnke, a woman at Plow Creek with a knack for organizing things, to spend an hour a week helping organize my office.

Organizing is draining work for me but an hour a week of Louise's help may be enough to work around my weakness.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friends with rich Joes

I admire Jesus of Nazareth's ability to relate to relate to all strata in his society: priests and prostitutes; Roman commanders and naked guys living in a graveyard; working class disciples and a rich guy like Joseph of Aramathea.

The gospels say only two things about Joe of Aramathea--he was rich and a disciple of Jesus.

While the working class disciples were cowering in the face of the death of Jesus their leader, Joe, the rich guy who was used to dealing with Romans, went to Pilate and got permission to give Jesus a proper burial.

Those of us who are part of the communal life at Plow Creek don't exactly take a vow of poverty but we aim for simple living. And all the property that can be titled--land, cars, etc.--is owned by PCF, Inc. As long as we are part of PCF we will not be rich in property but we can be rich in relationships, spiritual life, and good work.

Some folks might think a communal life is a sheltered life but my goal is to be like Jesus--to relate to as many strata of society as possible from poor campesinos from El Salvador to rich Joe's.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Palm Sunday and the pastor's limo

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and that reminds me of a story a CEO told me several years ago.

One Sunday morning he heard lots of cars honking. Quickly he went to his front window and saw a local pastor pass by in a limousine. He immediately knew what was happening. The pastor and his congregation had built a new building up the street. The pastor was leading his flock in their cars from their old, downtown church, to a new, spacious builidng on the edge of town.

The CEO stood at his window watching the entire parade. Following the limousine, many shiny, new, or almost new, cars passed. All were honking. Finally, came the last vehicle, a beat up old car.

I was stunned when the CEO finished with his story. "That's not the way it should be," I sputtered, thinking of Jesus riding on a donkey, "the pastor should have been in the beat up old car."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Still laughing after all these years

Thirty plus years into marriage Sarah and I are still laughing. One morning last week I woke at 4:45 a.m., went into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror and smiled and laughed at myself. What a great mood elevator.

When Sarah woke two hours later, I told her about looking in the mirror and smiling and laughing at myself. I recommended it as a great way to start the day. I could hardly wait to see what my congenitally anti-morning bride would have to say. She didn’t disappoint. She said, “It’s a good way to look like you’re mentally ill.”

I’m still laughing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Blog plugged in "Mennonite Weekly Review" story

Your faithful blogger is mentioned in an article on Mennonite bloggers in the current issue of ''Mennonite Weekly Review''. Check it out.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Loving your enemy on "Today"

I found myself in tears this morning as I ate breakfast and watched the Today show. I'm used to watching people killing their enemies on TV but I'm not used to watching people love their enemy.

Matt Lauer interviewed Ashley Smith, a young woman, who was held hostage for nearly seven hours by Brian Nichols, the man who killed three people in an Atlanta coutroom a few days ago.
Seven hours after he took her hostage, Nichols let her go, and when she called 911 and the police showed up, he surrendered peacefully.

A Washington Post story gives a few details of her Smith's amazing ability to love her enemy.
When he first took her hostage she thought he was going to kill her. He did tie her up but the Post story says, "She said as the night wore on, she tried to win his trust."

When you choose to love your enemies you can build trust with them.

Eventually he untied her and she said on the Today show that she read him part of the Bible
and a section from chapter 33 of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life.

Now that's loving your enemy.

"When morning came, Nichols was 'overwhelmed' when Smith made him pancakes, she said," according to the ''Post''.

When I heard a couple days ago that Nichols surrendered peacefully I wondered why he would surrender peacefully after having killed so many people.

Now I think I know why. He spent several hours with a follower of Jesus who knew how to love her enemy.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Biblical basis for social security

Today at Plow Creek we were studying a passage where Paul is raising money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem (II Corinthians 8). In verse 13 Paul assures the Corinthians that he is not trying to make them had pressed, while relieving others. He is looking for equality.

In verse 14 he says that the Corinthians plenty can supply the needs of others and later the plenty of others can supply their needs.

Jim Foxvog, one of our members, pointed out that the USA social security system currently works on that model. Those of us who are younger and working now pay into the social scurity system and it immediately goes to provide for the current needs of retirees.

He also pointed out that Bush's proposed private accounts seek to move away from providing for the immediate needs of others and, instead, proposes that you squirrel away money in the stock market so that you can take care of yourself later.

I think I like Paul's model better: care for others now while you have plenty and expect to be cared for yourself later when you are in need.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Surviving civilization

Our communal group at Plow Creek has a mission is to be a global village practicing the peace of Jesus.

I was on the phone with someone from Kansas this week and he said, "I don't know what that means."

There's two part's to our mission. First, there's the global part. For instance, last December we sent two of our members, Richard and Ruth Anne Friesen, to Argentina to walk with the Toba, a native American group, who have been trying to figure out for the last seventy years how to survive civilization. More on that in a moment.

Second, our mission is to be a local village. Plow Creek owns houses and a 192-acre farm. The second part of our mission is to be a thriving little village, a home-base for our global village people.

And both the local and global village people practice the peace of Jesus.

As I mentioned earlier Richard and Ruth Anne are walking with, listening to, and encouraging the Toba as they seek to be faithful to the Lord and survive the taking of their tradtional land.
Here's excerpts from a recent e-mail from Ruth Anne:

After lunch we went to visit a couple who has been very close to the Kingsleys since their beginning days here-- German and Hilaria. She is the president of a group of Toba in the Colonia La Primavera, near the border with Paraguay, who are organizing to protect their land. They actually were in the midst of a protest where the group blocked the national highway for about 10 days, only allowing traffic through for half an hour at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. They had long banners across the highway at two places with about 100 yards in between. They were doing their protest nonviolently, having started by informing the gendarmeria (national police force) of their action. So about 20 gendarmeria showed up very quickly and protected them from the nearly 200 police that showed up shortly thereafter. The police were told to go on their way, which they apparently did without problems. The Toba set up temporary shelters/lean-tos by the roadside, about 100 yards from German and Hilaria's house. We went up to talk with various folks sitting by the road. It was quite hot, but people were all quite peaceful. They had received donations of drink and noodles and meat from various neighbors, so they seemed to be doing quite well. They had also had a worship service right there on the highway. It was neat to hear how faith-based their protest was. The youth were quite involved! They were sitting there on the highway right by the roadblock, sharing some mate (tea). It was great to see the co-operation of the community and the spirit of togetherness. Hilaria commented that it was important to be friendly to officials who arrived and to negotiate with them. The news of the action has been reported in the papers here in Formosa. The Toba want to keep their land. They had been told that half of the reservation had been already sold and there was nothing they could do about it. They also want a change of administrator who is politically appointed and has been 20 years on the job. On March 3 Hilaria and several other Toba leaders had a meeting with Borriini, a government official here in Formosa, but according to Hilaria's report to Gretchen Kingsley nothing was solved! Only some pay-offs were again offered but refused! Pray with us for the peaceful and just resolution of these difficulties that the Toba are experiencing as they stand up to the government to protect their rights!'

Richard and Ruth Anne are walking with people who are trying to practice the peace of Jesus and save their land.

Jesus of Nazareth had an amazing ability to combine truth and love. For groups to thrive they must do the same.

I am amazed at how Hillaria could lead a protest, definitely speaking the truth. It's not right for the Argentine officials to sell the Toba's land out from under them.

And yet Hillaria could be loving and say it's "important to be friendly to officials who arrived and to negotiate with them."

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Of mice and women

It's Sunday night and I'm feeling a bit down. I thought of doing a blog on hunter-gatherers in India and Argentina--groups who have suffered much at the hands of us civilized people. Take a look at Tsunami spells hope for India's hunter-gatherers.

But enough of the world's pain. Let's go for levity.

My beloved Sarah loves to ride bike and walk along the road near Plow Creek and pick up the trash people toss out their car windows. Recently when she's been riding bike she's noticed a box from a 24-pack of beer lying in the ditch. Too big to try to carry on her bike.

On Friday she went for a walk with Louise, another woman from Plow Creek. Aha, she thought when they passed the box in the ditch, I'm not on my bike--I can carry the box home and recycle it.

She picked up the box and it seemed to have something in it. She shook it and out tumbled a mouse, almost landing on Louise's foot. I love imagining the screams.

This afternoon I visited with my mother by phone. I told her Sarah's mouse story. She had a mouse story too. When she was a young woman Dad had set a mouse trap on the ledge in the basement stairwell. One day as she was walking down the stairs she noticed that the trap had tipped over. She reached over to turn it upright as as she did she realized there was a live mouse in it, trying to scratch its way out.

She screamed, ran back up stairs, raced into the bedroom, slammed the door, and leaped up on their bed.

My mother is 77, long past her leaping onto bed days, but she and I laughed and laughed at her mouse story.

I feel better now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Keep me safe through the separation of church and state

I grew up on the evangelical right. In fact, in eighth grade when our school held a mock election, I was Barry Goldwater's campaign chairperson.

Now I find myself fearful that conservative evangelicals will continue to gain power in the USA. I also find myself a passionate beleiver in the separation of church and state.

I kind of shake my head and think, How did this happen?

Generally I prefer to live a life of joy and hope. So bear with me for a couple of minutes as I give voice to my fears.

In 1977 I became a Mennonite (maybe someday I'll do a blog on that amazing pilgrimage). Mennonites introduced me to a book called the Martyrs Mirror, first published in 1660 in the Netherlands.

Pardon me while I do a bit of history.

In the early 1500's when the first Mennonites were part of the reformation they believed in two things that separated them from other Christians--believers baptism and not going to war.

In the third century when Emperor Constatine became a Christian he declared that everyone in the empire was a Christian. After that for many centuries there was no separation of church and state. During the reformation some of the countries in Europe were Catholic, some were Lutheran, and some were Reformed.

And then along came the Anabaptists (today's Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites) who refused to do infant baptism and refused to go to war for the "Christian" state.

These Christian states began killing Anabaptists. Here's what about.com has to say about the number of Anabaptists killed by other Christians:

''Some estimates place the number of martyrs at around 50,000 by 1535, and it may be that other Christians killed more Anabaptists than Romans killed Christians during their 300 years of persecutions.''

Martyrs Mirror tells the stories of hundreds of these Christians singing hymns and praying as they were killed by "Christian states."

I think our country's founders had the right idea when they included in the Bill of Rights: ''Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...''

No wonder the evangelical right makes me a little nervous. Christians in power used to kill people like me.

So, please keep me safe through the separation of church and state.

Okay, that's enough fear for today. The rest of the day I'm going to share with folks I meet the joy that flows from the roots of God's love.