Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Sunday
Jan222017

CHAPTER 3. ANOTHER PLANET

[If you've not yet read Chapter 2. "The Next Chapter," it should be read first. You can find it by scrolling down in the right hand column to "Christian Community" and clicking on Chapter 2.]

During the first two weeks of 2017, I was on another planet.

  • Consider this: I put my wallet, stuffed with dollars, in the desk in my room. I was in a building with hundreds of neighbors. My door was never locked. I had no fear of my wallet being stolen. Not only were my neighbors honest, they had no use for money.
  • For those two weeks, I had no use for money either, yet all my needs were met.
  • I was a guest at the Bruderhof's Mount Community, two-thirds of the way up the Hudson from New York to Albany.
  • The view east from my room was magnificent—across a wide lawn sloping down to the Hudson River, with Connecticut mountains in the distance.
  • I was staying at the Mount—a huge and lavish building, which in the first half of the 20th century was a Roman Catholic seminary to train priests in the Redemptorist order - called "The Roman Catholic Salvation Army."
  • The Mount is located on the Hudson, two hours north of New York City, between Poughkeepsie and Kingston. I was welcomed by neighbors at the Mount who were glad to see me, who were surprised and grateful that I had flown all the way from Seattle.
  • My first morning at the Mount, I was introduced to a man in his twenties, who in turn told his three year-old sun, “This is Jack.” The three year old held out his right hand and said, “Hello. My name is Joshua.” We shook. I was astonished and said to the father, “Well, I’ve never seen an American boy do that before.” He replied, “This is the new American boy.”
  • At the Mount in two weeks I had more scintillating conversations, with discussions in depth about Jesus in our lives, than I have had during the past six months in Seattle. In addition to discussing Jesus, we also talked history, our personal histories, government, politics, engineering, renovations, math, and a dozen other topics, including comparisons of conventional American congregations and Christian community.
  • In the sense we use the expression, "Going to church," for two weeks at the Mount, we didn't go to church. Rather, we were the Church. It was easy for me to experience Jesus' presence and to feel protected from the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
  • On the flight back, I told a seatmate about my experience. She asked, "How much did it cost you?” “Nothing.” “Nothing?” “That’s right. The two weeks were not only free, they were liberating. However, I did pay for my plane tickets.”

Jeff and Tami KipphutIn August, 2016, I met Jeff and Tami Kipphut in Seattle. They invited me to the Bruderhof Mount Community in upstate New York. I accepted. In December, I flew to Dallas to spend Christmas with my daughter, Christie and her family. From Dallas, I flew to Newark where the Kipphuts, as my hosts, picked me up for the two-hour drive to the Mount.

A former pastor, Jeff now teaches construction trades in the Bruderhof consolidated high school at the Mount. Tami works in customer relations for the Bruderhof's Rifton Company, which manufactures appliances for severely disabled people. While I was old enough to be Jeff and Tami's father, I regarded them as my parents and mentors during my two-week stay.

Here is the Bruderhof's own short description of itself: "The Bruderhof is an international movement of Christian communities whose members are called to follow Jesus together in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and of the first church in Jerusalem, sharing all our talents, income, and possessions. (See the final paragraphs of Acts 2 and 4.)

"Bruderhof communities, which include both families and single people from a wide range of backgrounds, are located in the United States, England, Germany, Australia, and Paraguay. Visitors are welcome at any time. To learn more about the Bruderhof's faith, history, and daily life, or to arrange a visit, go to www.buderhof.com."

My typical day at the Mount Community went like this:

5:45. My alarm went off. I showered and dressed.

6:15. Usually, I breakfasted with the Kipphuts. However, on four days I was the breakfast guest with other families.

7 to 8:45. Free time. I often took a nap. Also, I often wrote or copied articles to share with others.

9 to 11:45. I worked at the Community Playthings factory in Maple Ridge, the Bruderhof community five miles away. The work was fun. I was assigned to jobs with partners. We conversed as we worked.

Noon to 12:30. Lunch. On weekdays we had community meals in the dining hall.

12:30 to 3. More free time for hiking, writing, or sleeping.

3 to 5. Demetrius met me. In his 20’s, he was my daily driver and guide. He showed me the Mount, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and the Maple Ridge farm.

5 to 7. For dinner most evenings I was invited to dine with a series of other families. These were exciting times. We shared testimonies and personal histories. And we swapped yarns. I’m a very 19th century person. I love to swap yarns.

At one dinner, I spoke at length with Giovanna, a woman who had been in the Paraguayan community during the 1940’s. She said, “I’d like to ask you a very personal, intrusive question. Has Jesus entered your life?” I replied, “That’s not intrusive. It’s the most sensible question. Yes, in 1966 and every day since.”

7 to 9. On three evenings, I spent time with additional families, also with lively conversations.

Over nine and a half decades, some Bruderhof members have found this schedule too restrictive and have left. I found the schedule liberating. Here’s why: I recently heard the wisdom that to get great results, you need a great vision and not enough time. With four hours a day of free time, I was able to get more writing done at the Bruderhof than I do here at Esperanza Apartments in South Seattle. Here in Seattle, I have total discretionary time.

The Bruderhof communities produce much of their own food, and their three companies provide income to support their world-wide missions and 2,700 Bruderhof members. The companies are:

+  The Rifton Company which builds custom appliances for severely disabled children and adults so they can sit, stand, walk, and have means of mobility. www.Rifton.com

+  Community Playthings. This firm makes wooden toys, wooden structures and furniture, primarily for child care centers. I thought, “Isn’t that nice.” Even though my five year old grandson goes to a large day care center in Dallas for three to five year olds, I still think of a day care center as the front room in a woman’s house, with a slide and swing in the back yard. However, working at the shop at Maple Ridge gave me a new picture. Currently they are producing an order for day care centers in Singapore that are run by a British company. The order will fill twenty seagoing cargo containers. As a picture of how the Bruderhof operates, I encourage you to ask for copies of their catalogues. They may give you a referral opportunity that can truly change children’s lives. www.communityplaythings.com

+ The third company is Plough Publishing, which has an amazing selection of books. www.plough.com/en However, a friend at the Mount remarked, “Plough doesn’t make money though, they give away a lot of their books.” If you subscribe to the quarterly, "Plough Magazine," you can download any Plough book for free. 

On arrival at the Mount, I discovered that I’d be working at the Community Playthings shop six mornings a week. Was this a misuse of my talents? No. Instead, it was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed the work and the fellowship, because I was always teamed with another worker. The first day, it was a woman about my age who walked with a cane. We added trim to complete the big lego-like blocks for pre-schoolers. Where else in the nation, can octogenarians be a productive part of their communities?

I felt I wasn’t freeloading, but rather praying and paying my way. General Electric had trained me in time and motion studies (efficiency expertise), so I delighted in figuring ways to work easier and faster. Also, I discovered the reality voiced by C. S. Lewis’ friend, Ruth Pitter, “Working with one’s hands is the most satisfactory way of earning a living. It rests and refreshes the mind.”

Because the Bruderhof women wear Tyrolian dress from the 1700's, you might suppose that the Bruderhofs are like the Amish, using horses to drive and plough. Not so. They are up to date in their facilities, equipment, and manufacturing processes. In the Maple Hill Shop, I was awed by the creative engineering in both their products and methods.

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Here is the building at the Bruderhof Mount Community. Built between 1903 and 1907, it was the seminary for the Redemptonist Order of the Roman Catholic Church and was vacant for more than a decade before the Bruderhof acquired and renovated it in 2012. 

Click on the photo for a more detailed view.

While the Mount may look like the State pen at first glance, notice the tops of the walls. A century ago, the Roman Catholic Church was rolling in money. So much so that the Redemp-tionists could afford to crenel-late the tops of the walls and install fifty turrets. In contrast to the grim granite exterior, the interior is a palace. Public areas have terrazzo floors and marble base boards. Bathrooms have marble window sills. Built as a seminary, the Mount includes a glorious chapel, an equipped theater, and a library with three perimeter mezzanines. Thus, the Mount is a contrast to the simple, functional housing in the other twenty-one Bruderhofs around the world.

Why the difference? At the end of the first decade in the 21st century, the Bruderhofs recognized their need for a consolidated high school to serve the students from the Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York communities. For years they had driven past the vacant Mount seminary, awed by its size and the quality of its workmanship. However, when they did the numbers, they realized the Mount could be a practical slution to their needs for a school, as well as a place to house the students, faculty, and staff. With all the Bruderhofs in the world scrimping for several years, they acquired the funds to buy and thoroughly renovate the Mount.

On YouTube you can see the magnificence of the chapel at the Mount as you enjoy their performance of Schubert's Mass in G. www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rQWu8zzeMU. When the Redemptionists abandoned the Mount, they took with them the altar. Otherwise, the chapel is just as constructed by the Redemptionist order. Many Protestant denominations might have removed the stained glass on taking over. The Bruderhof just cleaned the stained glass and left it intact. Thus, assemblies in the chapel are surrounded by vivid stained glass showing the life story of St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptionists. 

View of the Hudson from my window. Pardon the bug screen.An example of the renovations: The beautiful terrazzo floors in the chapel, dining room, corridors, and other public areas were blackend with soot, grime, and debris. All had to be cleaned and polished with large grinding machines for restoration. If you visit, you can still see remnants of the black grime at the foot of the columns in the dining room.

Here is the view from my window -- across the slopping green lawn to the Hudson River and New York's east bank on the opposite shore. In the distance are Connecticut mountains.

On New Year's evening, January 1, we had a celebratory dinner The engagement celebrationfor the whole community. We honored a young couple who had just become engaged. During the meal, I was startled when the Mount's small chamber orchestra -- which I had not noticed -- began playing Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik. It was a delightful surprise. Never before had I enjoyed a seranade during dinner.

The Mozart was followed by a women's quartet backed by a guitar. They sang Simon and Garfunkel's "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme." And that was followed by a fun improv sketch with lots of quips and slapstick. The engaged couple was blessed by the performances -- and so were we all.

Pete Seegar is a neighbor of the Mount. He and the Bruderhof have a long, friendly relationship. You can hear him and see a tour of the Bruderhof Mount building on YouTube.                    www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY2TgSCF8KM

In one respect I found my visit to the Mount disappointing. I had been conditioned by "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof where Tevye sings, "And I'd discuss the learned books with the holy men / Seven hours every day."

While I wasn't expecting seven-hour Scriptural discussions, I did hope that we would get together for Biblical problem solving. (It may well be that members do this, but as a guest, I could not be part of the gatherings.) I did, however, have a marvelous conversation with resident theologican Charles Moore about the two natures of Jesus, our Messiah--wholly God and wholly man.

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Before I left Seattle in December, my son, accused the Bruderhof of being a cult. I investigated the accusation. The Bruderhof is not a cult. It is a gathering of  Christians who have chosen a lifestyle that parallels that of 16th century Anabaptists. A visible sign of their devotion is that all adults wear simple, plain clothing. Men wear work clothes. Women wear headscarves and dresses with long skirts. Among the actions which show that the Bruderhof is not a cult are the following:

  • Lifetime vows are taken by adults twenty-one and over only after a novitiate, usually a year.
  • Lifetime vows are voluntary, without compulsion, based on devotion to Jesus, our Messiah,
  • Children of members do not automatically become members.
  • After graduation from Bruderhof high school, youths are given at least a year in the world. It’s their choice whether to return or not. Many go to college and graduate school.
  • If a member is not adjusting well to life at Bruderhof, he or she may—as a matter of church discipline—be given weeks or months back in the world to work out his or her problems.
  • If a member or member family prefers another Christian community, they are blessed to try it. If they discover that they prefer the Bruderhof, they are welcome to return.

On my return to Seattle, my son was gracious. He wasn't much interested in my comments about the Bruderhof. But he did say, "Dad, whatever makes you happy. We want you to enjoy life."

Will I join the Bruderhof? If they had a community in Washington or Oregon—so I could be in contact with my family in Seattle—I’d sign up in a New York minute. However, I realize that the Bruderhof cannot guarantee proximity. Like any other community member, I could be sent anywhere I'm needed—to any Bruderhoff community or any mission site in the world. For example, I recently saw a picture of Bruderhof members meeting and helping Syrian refugees who had just crossed the Aegean Sea.

I want very much to return to the New York Bruderhofs. And I may join. In addition to devotion to Jesus, there is a compelling fringe benefit. Each Bruderhof has a car pool. For example, the Mount has several Hondas and a Dodge pickup. Here in Seattle, I’m terrified of driving. Whenever I go on I-5 or US 99, I wonder whether I'll end in a screaming, flaming crash. In contrast, the Bruderhof doesn’t allow people over seventy-five to drive. I’m eighty-two. So, if I join the Bruderhof I’ll be chauffeured for the rest of my life -- as well as being in daily fellowship with Jesus and fellow believers.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 20 years.

Copyright  ©  2017 by Jack Towe

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