On hospitality

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Ron Woodward reflects on the welcome he and others experienced in Kotzebue, Alaska. “I especially remember the times that our crew took coffee breaks and accepted the hospitality of George and Maggie Melton in their tent out behind our work site. During those times George and Maggie served us coffee and homemade bread with jam.”

Ron’s text this morning comes from 1 Peter 4 in which we are reminded that “love covers a multitude of sins” and that for this reason, we should “be hospitable to one another without complaining.” Ron remembers that George and Maggie “were always kind and generous with our crew, and in spite of very limited means they gave of what they had.” George was a native pastor. Each winter, “after freeze-up – George and Maggie would pack up their tent in Kotzebue and return to one of the Eskimo villages.”

The Fruit of the Vine quarterly devotional reader has been helping to bring together Friends since 1961. That first collection of meditations was written by T. Eugene Coffin, Arthur O. Roberts, and J. Emel Swanson; and they suggested that “these ‘seed thoughts’ are put to best use ... for family devotions or for personal, supplemental reading – depends upon circumstances.” Back in 1961, each day had an assigned Scripture reading and a short introduction to that day’s Bible passage. Prayers were “not included, for we hope that as the Holy Spirit gains entrance into your hearts through the unfolding of Scripture you will discover both the need and words of prayer.” 

Nearly sixty years have passed, and we’re still producing a new issue of Fruit of the Vine four times a year. Each day offers a reflection – usually some personal experience – on a short passage from Scripture. Each day also now includes a song and a simple, one- or two-sentence prayer. I’m convinced that this little devotional reader is one of the ways – one day after another – that God has been teaching us to encourage, challenge, and inspire one another. And I suspect that another sixty years from now, we’ll still have much to learn.

Eric Muhr

Letting the Light In

Richard and Nathan Foster, Gina Ochsner, Dennis Littlefield, and I have been working for most of this last year on the details of a retreat for writers. Letting the Light In: Writing for the Growth of the Soul is for Christian writers who “need the vision to wrestle honestly with the complexities of the human condition and the skills to articulate those realities in ways that are crisp and imaginative.” Hosted just outside of Newberg on Camp Tilikum’s 93 beautiful, lake-front acres, the gathering is also sponsored by Renovaré and Barclay Press.

The 2017 Christian Writers Retreat is the first annual retreat of its kind at Tilikum and will bring together a broad spectrum of Christian writers and speakers. Along with Ochsner and the Fosters, presenters and writing mentors include Bill Jolliff, Mark and Lisa McMinn, Ed Higgins, and Linda Clare. One-on-one mentoring will also be available to retreat participants.

Richard Foster and his family lived at Tilikum in the 1970s when he was on the pastoral team at Newberg Friends Church. During these years he wrote the book, Celebration of Discipline. From this connection to Tilikum, the idea came to develop a special place for Christian writers. That idea has resulted in work on a cabin for Christian writers and in this retreat – the first of what may be many annual gatherings for Christian writers.

Lodge Housing and Commuters: Tilikum has overnight housing for 40 guests to stay in the Lodge (usually 2 per room with a private bath). We also have room for 6 guests to commute. The registration page has two links, one for overnight and the other for commuters. The cost is $350 for overnight guests and $150 for commuters, if registered by September 10, 2017.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2017 Christian Writers Retreat.

Eric Muhr

Rhythms of Grace

David Williams, general superintendent at Evangelical Friends Church–Mid-America Yearly Meeting, writes in Rhythms of Grace: Life-Saving Disciplines for Spiritual Leaders, that “there is no greater privilege in the Christian life than to serve as a spiritual leader within the body of Christ. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a genuine crisis in the church today. Pastors and other spiritual leaders are leaving vocational ministry faster than we can replace them.”

David’s book, now available for purchase and scheduled to ship July 10, identifies the problem as burnout, “a pastoral pathology resulting from a lethal combination of extraordinary job-related stress and woefully inadequate self-care.”

“Most of us know someone experiencing burnout,” David writes. “They might be serving in your church right now, or more than likely, they may have recently left. They may be your friends; they may be part of your own family.”

So what is the cure? David writes about the answers we find “in the life of the prophet Elijah, in his practices of physical refreshment, spiritual renewal, and vocational realignment, renewing rituals  or rhythms of grace [that] prove to be life-saving disciplines for spiritual leaders.”

Charles Mylander writes that “this is a helpful book for any Christian who feels stressed, overworked, or severely criticized.” Before retirement, Charles served as the superintendent of Evangelical Friends Church–Southwest and also as the director of Evangelical Friends Mission. “Rhythms of Grace speaks to the exhaustion and burn-out that many (if not most) spiritual leaders experience sooner or later. Williams cites his own story of trying so hard and ending up exhausted, disillusioned, and isolated. Then with the Old Testament prophet Elijah as a model, enormous research on the subject, and his own pastor’s heart, he takes the role of a shepherd to the wounded.”

Eric Muhr