guns, songs, and seeds

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017

(The following is a letter I wrote to the cast and crew of a community musical theatre production that was only staged once… but, as I recently discovered, continues to have an impact… you never can tell…) Hi there. Remember a little thing we did together a few years back, called “Selah’s Song”? Just over a week ago I had an experience that I thought I should share with you – I encountered someone in Oklahoma, of all places, who has been deeply impacted by the work we did together. It was at the tail end of a two week trip that I was doing, with engagements in Iowa, Illinois, and Oklahoma. I had been invited to lead a retreat with a “Church of Christ” congregation from Tulsa (The Journey Church – they found me online, when their pastor Googled the phrase “Reading the Bible With Jesus”). One of the elders of the community contacted me by email, and told me that he really wanted to sit down and have a conversation with me. So, on Saturday afternoon, at New Life Ranch in northeastern Oklahoma, we did. He is a no-longer-on-active-duty marine (he told me there are no ex-marines, just marines-no-longer-on-active-duty) and Vietnam combat veteran. He shared vulnerably with me about his journey, including the trauma that he has lived and the fact that he, to this day, feels naked without a weapon… how he has been trained and lived his life with a good-guys/bad-guys way of looking at the world… and yet has been on a journey with Jesus that has been leading him down a different path… he described how my music (and one song in particular) has touched him and helped him articulate his experience and take more steps down a different path… I think it’s a song you might remember. Here are some of the lyrics… “Oh the songs of war are all around I can hear them wherever I go There’s a drumbeat of worry, the frightening sound Of an enemy at your door If we’d get a look at the enemy’s face I wonder just what we might see Could it be that the people in some other place Are planting their seeds just like me…” (from “Won’t You Sing” on the Selah’s Song soundtrack and on the I’m Glad You’re Here album) He described watching the recent PBS mini-series on Vietnam, and that he had to stop after three episodes. Part of what impacted him about watching those shows was precisely that they did interviews with North Vietnamese and Viet-Cong… the enemy that he’d been fighting. “If we’d get a look at the enemy’s face…” – these lyrics narrated his own experience. “… for the drumbeat of war that we hear all around is a sound so afraid and alone There’s another drummer, drumming somewhere with a rhythm that’s calling us home…”...

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slow and long-term work

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016

(written yesterday, June 13, 2016. Spanish version below.) (escrito ayer, 13 de Junio, 2016. Mira abajo para la versión en Español.) Late last night I got back from a rich weekend in Goshen, Indiana with hispanic leaders and pastors from across Mennonite Church USA (and I was one of 4 participants from Canada). My role was to lead a series of sessions on “learning to read the Bible with Jesus.” Yesterday I did not go online, did not read/hear news, and our drive home was full of joking and laughter and reflection and sharing (and taking turns sleeping). When I went online this morning, I read the news about the massacre in Orlando, targeting LGBTQ people. I feel sick. But it’s not about the way I feel. Today I re-commit to the slow and long-term work of doing what I can to help build communities of faith that are peaceable and loving in the way of Jesus. In my case that includes helping communities to work at learning to use and interpret Scripture in the way of Jesus. About 12 years ago I wrote a song that I want to sing for/with my LGBTQ brothers and sisters today. In hope and faith that these words are true and being experienced, perhaps in small ways, even now; grieving where they are not and where they may sound empty and false; and in faith and stubborn hope that we might learn to live into the truth of these words more fully. “You’re not alone, we are one body You’re not alone, we stand with you You’re not alone, your time of suffering Is our suffering too And I know the day is coming When we will be rejoicing anew.” A noche volví de un fin de semana maravilloso en Goshen, Indiana con pastores y lideres hispanos de la Iglesia Menonita EEUU (yo era uno de cuatro que veníamos desde Canadá). Mi rol en el evento fue dar liderazgo a cuatro sesiones con el tema Aprendiendo a Leer La Biblia Con Jesús. Ayer no fui online, no ví o escuché noticias, y nuestro viaje a la casa fue llena de chistes y risa y reflección y compartir (y de dormir también, en turnos). Esta mañana, cuando conecté al internet, leí las noticias del masacre en Orlando, contra miembros de la comunidad LGBTQ. ¡Que horror! Me siento enfermo. Pero mis sentimientos no son los importantes. Hoy me comprometo de nuevo con el trabajo lento y largo de hacer lo que puedo para ayudar a construir comunidades de fe que son pacíficas y amantes en la manera de Jesús. En mi caso esto incluye ayudando a comunidades a explorar y aprender a utilizar e interpretar la Biblia en la manera de Jesús. Hace 12 años, mas o menos, escribí una canción que hoy quiere cantar para y con mis hermanas y hermanos de la...

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a big year

Posted by on Jan 15, 2016

2016 is shaping up to be a big year for SmallTall Ministries.

I’ll be teaching in three countries in the next few weeks… Today we did the final tweaks to the audio master of the new CD that will be coming out very soon…I have been named an instructor in the new Anabaptist Learning Workshop, and a Teaching Associate with the AMBS Church Leadership Center…

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