Over the years

Almost every week I send out this newsletter, and almost every week I share a reflection on the morning’s Fruit of the Vine devotional thought. Today I’ve pulled excerpts from the last fifty-seven years of Fruit of the Vine writings. On this day –

– in 1962: We are not left to live our Christian lives in isolation. A relationship with those around us necessitates our learning to get along with one another – Catherine Cattell

– in 1972: The church has more technology at her disposal for getting out the Gospel than ever before. Still ... there is a passiveness, an insensitivity to the real world and the real issues – Edward Rawson

– in 1980: Beneath the layers of possessions and preoccupations, the voice of the Spirit of God continues to speak, ever so gently nudging us. “If you want to be My disciple you must make a commitment” – Louise George

– in 1991: Jesus’ presence at the well must have surprised the woman.... He actually spoke to her, asking a favor!... Racial and social customs were cracking all around – Nancy Thomas

– in 2003: In my teenage years I read verse 31 in the King James Version. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength....” Strength didn’t seem to be an issue then, but waiting sure was – Raelene Fendall

– in 2012: The shepherd feeds us through his body – the church. Have you ever found the energy to keep going because of someone else’s words or acts of kindness toward you? I have – Hubert Thornburg

This week we’re mailing out Fruit of the Vine for fall. We’re also just about ready to start printing Fruit of the Vine for winter. I’m noticing that these daily readings are giving me a stronger sense of the lived faith of Friends from across the country and around the world. I’d love to have you join me! You can find a print subscription to Fruit of the Vine in our bookstore. We also have an inexpensive digital version that comes right to your email inbox each morning.

As of today, we’ve also added another 55 titles to our collection of books discounted by 40 percent or more. Take a look at what we have. You just might take a book or two out of our collection and add it to yours.

Finally, just about every day, one of you sends me an email, stops by the office, or makes a small donation to help us do this work of publishing and preserving Friends history, theology, and biography. Thank you for being part of my extended community. Thank you for your encouragement and support. Thank you!

Eric Muhr

On surprises

Southern Idaho Friends churches hosted a youth volleyball tournament this last spring, and I’d driven the van for a team from Newberg. We slept on the floor at Boise Friends Church (which means I didn’t sleep well.) Then, early Saturday morning, I took my camera and walked through the neighborhood as the sun was rising, looking for something quirky to capture. I didn’t find much, so I walked back to the church where I was surprised by two geese loitering on the roof of the gym. They’d been waiting for me.

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Bethany Lee draws our attention to a story about Jesus, a story that contains a surprise: “The story is simple,” Bethany writes. “There were crowds of people listening to Jesus, and they were hungry.” 

The account in Mark 8 records the ensuing exchange between Jesus and his disciples:
2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.

Bethany continues, “Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread, and handed it to his disciples to distribute. And all the people ate their fill.”

Jesus’ disciples didn’t know where to look for food “in this remote place.” And they didn’t have to. Because it was already waiting for them. What little they had was more than enough.

Bethany includes nine questions to help us consider what to do with the surprise in this story, questions that help unpack the details of the exchange, questions that shed light on what might be happening emotionally under the surface of the narrative, questions that challenge the way I think about my place in the world and my responsibility to care for others.

In the meantime, I’m thankful for Bethany’s reminder that when I’m with Jesus, I need not fear going hungry “in this remote place.” When I’m faithful to offer what I have, I can trust God to make it more than enough. And even when I wander off, looking for that thing I think I’m missing, God can surprise me with warm sunrises, bright blue skies, and two geese on a roof.

And if you’re curious about those questions from Bethany, you can find a print subscription to Fruit of the Vine in our bookstore. We also have an inexpensive digital version that comes right to your email inbox each morning.

While you’re at the bookstore, take time to look through our discount books. This is the time of year that we go through our shelves and mark down all the books we’d like to move out of inventory. As of today, we have 173 titles marked down by 40 percent or more.

And as a follow-up, thank you! Last week, I offered a brief overview of how Barclay Press is doing financially. You responded with three notes of encouragement, one idea for a publishing project, and two cash gifts. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Eric Muhr

On the future of Barclay Press

“What’s going to happen to Barclay Press?” It’s a question I hear a lot. And the truth is that when I was hired as the new publisher, my goal was to keep the doors open for a year and then to try to do the same for another year. And so on. I’m 20 months in now, and I’m still giving people that same answer: I’m aiming to keep the doors open for another year.

In the meantime, we’re tracking long-term declines of several thousand dollars a year in our traditional curriculum lines – Fruit of the Vine and Illuminate – while production costs continue to rise; and we’ve seen cuts to our support, mainly for budgetary reasons, from the various yearly meetings that make up Evangelical Friends Church-North America.

How have we kept the doors open?

1) Part of the answer has been increased efficiency. We have fewer books sitting on our shelves, fewer unpaid bills, and a little more money in the bank. 2) Part of the answer has been increased production. We brought out three new books last year and are on track to publish four books and two e-books by Christmas. 3) Part of the answer has been you. A handful of you have faithfully sent monthly checks. We also received two cash gifts big enough to get us through some hard days this last winter and spring.

I send out this newsletter almost every week, and there’s a clickable link over in the right margin – Share Stories Change Lives. It takes you to a donation page where you can support the work of Barclay Press. (There are also some really cool historical photos!) Several of you have clicked on that link, and it’s made a difference. Here’s what your donation means for us:

  • A gift of $25 a month pays for the hours of one editor to work through a book-length manuscript.
  • A gift of $50 a month pays for the hours of all the writers involved in the production of one quarter of Illuminate small group curriculum.
  • A gift of $100 a month pays for the design and layout work to set up and produce a book.

We also do limited graphic design projects for Friends organizations, web support, and we sell books! We released Rhythms of Grace three weeks ago: “Biblically-grounded, theologically astute, and enormously practical – I consider this book a must for any pastor looking to sustain or regain the unforced rhythms of life-giving grace.” – Derek Brown, professor of pastoral ministry

Tomorrow, Danny Coleman’s first book comes out. Amazon was promoting Presence and Process early last week as the #1 new release in Quaker Christianity: “Presence and Process is an amazing book. It provides the best, most compact introduction I’ve come across to key concepts like mysticism, contemplation, and process theology.... And it invites practitioners to imagine a new kind of church for the journey before us.” – Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration

A year from now, people may still be asking, “What’s going to happen to Barclay Press?” And a year from now, I might still be unsure about much more than keeping the doors open. In the meantime, we’ll keep working on sharing stories and changing lives. Thank you for your support!

Eric Muhr