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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Farming on Tiptoe

I had a vision of a farmer in a war-torn land.  

This farmer's fields contain unexploded bombs, bomblets, explosive rounds, and land mines.  The farmer knows some of the locations.  There are several other spots where the farmer just believes there is something that could explode.  Nonetheless, these fields are the only ones the farmer has for the work that must be done.  These are the fields, the terraces, the irrigation system, etc. with which the farmer can grow crops.  To accommodate these possible explosive places, the farmer has cultivation patterns, paths, etc. that carefully avoid the potential danger.  When the farmer hires help, the farmer has to train them to the way things are and must be.  The farmer's children also know how to navigate the growing areas to conform to the explosive possibilities.  The farmer is frustrated because the size of the harvest is less than it needs to be to sustain the farm, the farmer, the family, and the workers.

The analog to the farmer's fields, in my vision, is to my church, any church really.  A church has areas into which we fear to go.  Congregational life includes ways of relating to each other and to people currently outside "the walls" that reflect paths people have used in the past.  Like the farmer, most church families have been able to cultivate our fields and produce fruits of our labors.  Like the farmer, most churches have a degree of health.  Like the  farmer, some, and perhaps most, people people in churches feel that there is a greater fruit possible from our efforts. 

To the farmer, walking the circuitous routes, avoiding certain places, and farming on tip-toe, is common sense.  It is what the farmer teaches children and newcomers.  To those in a church, the way we conduct ourselves seems like common sense too.  We teach our children and newcomers and, eventually, new pastors to navigate what will soon become plain to anyone is the common sense way to deal with each other.  In our tendency to adapt, and perhaps for the farmer too, we do not even see or acknowledge where the explosive places are, after awhile.  We just naturally shift our path to avoid them.

If the farmer could find a way to explode the explosives, remove the explosives, deactivate the dangers, and free up the farm from the necessity of avoiding all those places of danger, then the farmer could liberate whole sections of field, dig different irrigation ditches, and rotate crops more effectively.

I I picture the farmer looking out across the fields one evening when the work is done and the sky is glowing with the evening sun.  In the relaxed fatigue of a long day's work, the farmer's vision seems to shift and eddy.  The farmer sees the fields in a different way.  The farmer seems to see the farm with no danger spots, no explosions anticipated or dreaded, no paths that avoid part of the fields, no areas left uncultivated.  The farmer smiles.  Having more usable land will bring bigger harvests.  Having easy access to the whole farm will allow the farmer to do more work with less effort.  A smile comes to the farmer's face and the farmer begins to sing a song with the family all around of the better days to come.

I believe that the transformation waiting for any of us will involve changing some of the paths and irrigation ditches of our life together.  I accept as normal; I expect to step on some land-mines.  You too, you can expect to witness some explosions.  You can anticipate that, with courage, compassion, and work, you will be able to disarm some dangers.  I also believe that like the farmer gazing into that evening vision, we will look at our life, or the church, or our community, when the danger spots are gone and see that it is the same life/church/community that it has always been; recognizable and beloved.

Monday, August 11, 2008


One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!

by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown, Widely Quoted on the Net