Too small for the task

Harold “Doc” Arnett writes in this morning’s Fruit of the Vine that pastors and leaders sometimes “feel too small for the task.” We ask ourselves whether we can do what God has called us to do – “comfort a family in the aftermath of tragedy,” say the words people need to hear, offer something of value on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night. We consider the pain and suffering in the world and in our neighborhood. We know that we can’t fix it, whatever it is.

“As I reflect on some of the situations that I’ve faced,” Harold writes, “I have to admit that my doubts are always anchored in my own expectations of myself.” For whatever reason, we think we’re supposed to be able to fix the pain and say the words that will make people whole.

But ministry isn’t magic.

Harold shares that he’s learned to pray, “Lord, help me to be a blessing to these people,” and that he is reminded that it’s not up to him to impress. His role – our responsibility – is to bring good to others, even if just a little. God “is always able to take the little that I have and multiply it for others.” 

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.

Jesus “gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied.”

We are too small for the task, but we dare not let that stop us from bringing what little we have, giving it to Jesus, and trusting that somehow it might be a blessing. 

Thank you,
Eric Muhr

My resolution, our resolution

A friend texted me last night: “Any resolutions for the new year?”

“The publishing non-profit I manage,” I texted back, “I want to keep it running for at least another year.”

I recognized later that what I’d shared wasn’t so much a resolution for me as it is a resolution for us.  For sixty years, Barclay Press has continued to publish Friends books and curriculum with the financial support of the yearly meetings it serves. As those yearly meetings make cuts to their budgets, Barclay Press has also cut its staff and its services. I serve as a half-time employee. Our bookkeeper maintains our production calendar and is also our archivist, an editor, and a project manager. Our shipping clerk is also our database manager, our graphic designer, our IT expert, and (for at least one project) our staff photographer.

On January 8, 2000, a task force met to determine the future of Barclay Press. That task force included Joe Gerick, Harlow Ankeny, Margaret Lemmons, Dave Hampton, Paul Anderson, Arthur Roberts, Dick Sleeper, Mark Ankeny, Dan McCracken, Susan Fawver, Ken Beebe, Floyd Watson, Leroy Benham, Dan Cammack, Dea Cox, Alice Maurer, and Stan Muhr (my dad!). The members of the task force agreed that Barclay Press should remain “a publisher of truth for many years to come” and that its “financial situation had to be improved if we hope to have any ministry in publishing/printing in the future.”

If I were to gather a similar task force today, it would likely come to the same conclusion.

I’ve written a few letters like this in the past, and many of you have responded generously. In the last month, seven individual donors have given $1,140 to support the work of Barclay Press. Which is awesome! Over this next year, I need to raise $25,000 in order to stay ahead of long-term debt, maintain equipment, pay staff, and support new projects. If you’ve benefited from the work of Barclay Press, or if you want to support the continuing work of Barclay Press as “a publisher of truth for many years to come,” I wonder if you might consider one or more of the following:

  • A one-time or monthly donation – just click on DONATE at barclaypress.com.
  • Talk to your church or monthly meeting about making support for Barclay Press a part of your budget.
  • Bring us your next project. This last year, we reproduced glossy, full-color bulletin inserts for a fund-raiser concert; we helped to print a church photo directory; we designed posters, bulletin inserts, and a curriculum guide for Evangelical Friends Mission; we designed and set up three websites; we provided stock photography and managed three weekly newsletters.
  • Pray for Barclay Press and for the work that we do.

Thank you,
Eric Muhr

On freedom

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Tim Almquist draws our attention to a Christmas carol, “O Holy Night,” and asks us to listen carefully to the words, especially those in the third verse:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

Tim draws our attention to the third line of that third verse that “touches on the institution of slavery with images of the Lord breaking the chains of our brother. It is a reminder of God’s love,” Tim writes, “and of our calling to respond to the very real needs and sufferings of our neighbor.” 

In his new book of poetry, a collection of meditations on how the Spirit of Christ teaches us to live, to love, and to lead, Jim Teeters offers these words on how to bring freedom into all of our relationships:

Bring spiritual nourishment
as you offer yourself freely.
Act with humility, and
never seek power over others.
Live this way.
You make Heaven visible.

When I give myself to others – when I give time and attention to a friend – I make Heaven visible. This is a call to love those who are close to me. In addition, Tim reminds us that our love for God is expressed through the breaking of chains, a “prophetic cry for justice” to us who have “forgotten the true priorities of Yahweh. Sometimes we must be shaken up . . . in order that our ways are realigned with those of God.”

In response to Tim’s reflection, I’m sitting with this query: Does my love for God move me to action in the world in order that those who suffer might be set free? In response to Jim’s poem, I’m sitting with this query: Does my life make Heaven visible?

And I pray as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

I hope you’ll join me.

Eric Muhr