To watch them go

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, J. Daniel Frost remembers his “hope – bright with excitement about the mission” to which God had called him, a call to pastor the Pelham (Ontario) Friends Church. “It was a bright day as I pulled away from my parents’ home in Delaware and headed north – alone.” In his contemplation of Jesus’ commissioning of the apostles in John 20:21, Frost wonders how it must have felt to send. Because even when we send someone out in obedience to a call, we are also sending them away. “I have thought about what might have been running through my parents’ minds and hearts as they watched me go down the road.... Did [they] feel an element of pain?”

It is good to name the gifts we see in others. But when they pursue their call, it can be hard – even in our hope – to watch them go.

If God calls someone we love, are we willing to let them go? And if God calls someone to serve with us, do we value the pain of those who, in obedience, released them?

Frost remembers how his ’57 Plymouth Fury “carried me safely to my destination and into my future life of ministry. And I have been the richer for it.” He also prompts us to consider “the pain and pride” felt by those who gave their “loved ones to the Lord’s service.”

Today, I’m thankful for people in my life who have been willing to let me go. I’m also thankful for the people and community God has given me – has always provided – no matter where I’ve been.

And I’m thankful for you.

Eric Muhr

Come closer

I woke up in Spencerville, Maryland, this morning. I’ve been here since Friday, worshiping alongside members of the Friends of Jesus, a Conservative Quaker gathering with meetings in Philadelphia, Detroit, and D.C. We had rain on Saturday – not much, but enough to keep us inside, sitting around tables in the wood-floored dining hall, talking about what it means to be a Friend, talking about our experiences with scripture, talking about where we’ve been and why we came this weekend, talking about all the things folks who care about Jesus talk about when there’s enough rain to keep them inside.

Some of the talk was good.

How does your view of the atonement affect the ways you welcome fellow wanderers? What’s an image that’s been helpful in thinking about what it means to be a gathered community? Where are you experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we prophetic? Are we willing to be?

Some of the talk was hard.

There were disagreements. There were times when people shared vulnerably and weren’t received, times when their experiences were questioned or corrected. There were tears of release, and there was also deep pain. Isolation. A sense that even here, where we are really trying, there might not be safety for those who need it most.

On Saturday night, I felt a leading to share out of Mark 3, a passage in which Jesus goes home, and a crowd gathers. Scribes come down from Jerusalem and accuse Jesus, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” Jesus “called them to him, and spoke to them.” For the next seven verses, we get a sense of what Jesus said to the scribes. And then his family shows up, “and standing outside, they sent to him.” But Jesus points to the people he’s been talking to: “Here are my mother and my brothers!”

There are gaps in the passage that invite additional interpretive work, but I have two noticings. The first is that Jesus appears to have conceded nothing in this conflict. He simply called them to him. And the scribes, also, as far as I can tell, conceded nothing. They simply came closer to Jesus.

And that made all the difference.

Eric Muhr

Share Stories Change Lives

About this time last year, I came on staff part time to work with Dan McCracken on the transition at Barclay Press. Dan had been an integral part here (and in several prior locations) for more than four decades, and we both knew it was going to take a little while for me to learn the ins and outs. As you can probably imagine, last fall didn’t give Dan and me all the time we needed. There are still a lot of moving parts that don’t make sense to me. So I’m trying not to do too much damage while also doing my best to move us forward in an age that is increasingly digital, increasingly connected, and increasingly complex.

In the meantime, we’ve published two books and have three more in the works for release in summer 2017. We’ve expanded the number of digital Fruit of the Vine subscriptions and moved forward on plans for a significant but subtle transition to Illuminate. Much of what used to fall under Dan’s responsibility has been transferred to other staff in order to allow me to continue in a half-time role. This gives other staff more autonomy and ownership while also saving us money. And we’ve started to attack our ongoing debt in earnest.

This last year, we’ve been able to retire more than $4,000 in continuing debt, putting us closer to our goal of being completely debt-free. That continuing debt – just a little more than $20,000 – won’t keep us from moving forward, but it’s a burden that slows us down, makes it harder to take on new projects, means I have to do careful calculations in deciding which bills can safely be paid at the end of each month.

It’s not a very exciting project, but this is what we’re aiming to do in 2016 – to finally get caught up on all our bills. And I could use your help. Please pray that God will help me to identify the right kinds of ministry opportunities that will meet real needs among Friends. Please take a look at our discounted books – stock we’d like to move out of our offices and off of our bottom line. Please also consider what you might be able to give to help us reach our goal. You can click on this link here or on the Share Stories Change Lives link in the margin to make a donation through PayPal.

Thank you for all the ways you’ve already contributed to the work of Friends and the work of Barclay Press!

Eric Muhr