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As I have kept seeking spiritually, poetry has become increasingly important and inspiring for me. I often find myself these days with a book of poetry in my hand. Trust me … it wasn’t always that way. But today it is. I even have some “signature” poems that I like so much I have adopted them for myself. Three of these are “The Woodcarver” by Chuang Tzu; “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry; and, “Snow Geese” by Mary Oliver. Feel free to “Google” them and let me know what you think.  

But, by far, my favorite Haiku poet is my friend, Brother Paul Quenon, a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemane. Paul meddles in many things; photography, making soup, singing in church, traveling outside the Abbey, and a variety of other useful and/or odd hobbies for a monk. I love to read and mediate on his Haiku, and he has published several books of poetry.

Below are some of my favorite Haiku poems by Brother Paul that I want to share with you. The first one was written at the end of an email I received by Paul. He mentioned that he was working on a new book of poetry and photographs, so I guess he wanted to try one out on me. I loved it instantly. I’ve never forgot it. Though I have never seen it published, I cherish it as I do the Gospel itself. I call it “Love Crazy Jesus” because that’s the first line, and because it’s the truth. Jesus is love crazy! I hope you like it too! And the others. 

So, take a little time in quiet … Explore the poems below … and see which ones speak to you in your heart. And then … listen to them again … closely.


Love crazy Jesus

Look who he chose for his friends

Me, You, and Judas


With big, white flashlight

moon is walking its night-rounds

asking: who are you?


After long rainfall

Leftover music dribbles

Dancing on puddles


Boy with camera

Shoots at the moon, wants moon tucked

snug in his pocket


Memory of our bull —

How he let me rub his eyes

Between us a sweet trust


I’ve nothing to do

So I’ll get down to nothing



Grandmother’s house odors:

linoleum, iron, dry lace

cooking gas, roast beef


A solo cricket

plays his one-stringed violin —

stroke, pause, stroke, pause, pause


Robin keeps chuckling

at that story he found so

wickedly funny


Loopy night friends flit,

circle my desk lamp – mad moths,

imps and fairies all


Smart Mockingbird learned

to mimic my alarm clock

Woke me twice last night



It’s not a weed.

It’s a misplaced plant, he said

Let’s leave it misplaced


Peace came to my door

Without luggage or sandals

With just its name — peace


“Narrow is the way”

How narrow? Tight as the vent

babes squeeze through at birth


All of Brother Paul’s poems above, except for ‘Love Crazy Jesus,” are found in the book, “The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed” by Brother Paul Quenon, Judith Valente and Michael Bever.

Enjoy some serenity along the path,                                                                                                                                                Pastor Bob <><


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Chapter 6 of Becca Ehrlich’s “Christian Minimalism” A Sneak Preview


This Sunday night we will hold our 3rd Book Study discussion on Becca Ehrlich’s new book, “Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living.” Each and every chapter for me has been enjoyable and compelling. And yes, challenging too. But the two chapters that we will be discussing this Sunday are, perhaps, the two most important.


Chapter 7 is called “Vocation.” It’s about our calling from God, something every follower of Jesus should be reflecting upon and praying about all the time. But it’s Chapter 6 – “Spiritual Growth,” that I want to highlight in this article.


Below I will offer you a few excerpts and statements from that chapter in order to provide a sneak-preview of the kinds of things we will be talking about Sunday evening – and individually should be thinking about often.


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Let’s start with this statement that opens up the chapter. As you read it, I want you to think about this: “Do I believe in my heart every word of each of these sentences?” Here it is:


Being a Jesus follower means cultivating our relationship with God. It’s a natural part of who we are. Jesus himself took time to pray, even when He was busy traveling and teaching and doing ministry. Because we have the Holy Spirit living in us, we are able to listen to the Spirit’s leading and inspiration even as we go about our everyday lives.


What do you truly believe in this statement? Which parts of it are harder to answer than others? Do you consider yourself a Jesus follower, even after reading this? Why, or Why Not?


Ehrlich claims that all the stuff we accumulate is actually garbage. She says that “we keep material possessions and bad habits and toxic people because we think we should, or because we are scared of what will happen if we get rid of it all.” Keeping these things “stinks up our lives” and builds a wall between us and God. Her point is that we need to put God first in our lives … not just by saying it, but by actually living it.


To emphasize her point, she quotes the Apostle Paul from his letter to the Philippians. Compare Paul’s view of the value of God in his life with your own view of God in your life, as you read this excerpt from Philippians 3:7-8.


Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.


Have you ever experienced the “infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus”? If yes, how has that affected the way you live in a culture where more is always better? If not, what are the things in your life that may be keeping you from “gaining Christ” and becoming one with him?


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When discussing how we use our time and money, Ehrlich uses an example that she says shows up in a lot of TV shows and movies. Read this and see if it could be a description of your own life.


… someone who works more and more hours to gain more and more money or recognition and has too little energy or time for loved ones.


Can you relate to this in your own life, or in the lives of friends and peers around you? Does this hit close to home?


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In the section called “Be Still,” Ehrlich proposes that God gives us a different way to live our lives, in contradiction to the lifestyle our culture promotes. Are you looking for an alternative lifestyle? Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever heard that Jesus promotes an alternative lifestyle? See if you agree with her statement below:


God offers us a different way of life. How are we to be still and listen for God if we are never still? How are we to exalt God and put God first when everything else in our lives crowds into our time? God did not create us to run full-speed through life, never noticing God’s actions. We were made to listen for God and notice what God is doing.


When is the last time you sat still and just listened for God? Did you hear anything? Did you feel like you had to hurry up because you have so many other things to do?


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In the section on “Surrender,” Ehrlich talks about the difficult challenge of surrendering to God. She describes her own struggle below. See if you can relate to her journey to surrender.


My whole life, I have struggled to surrender to God. I usually think my plan is better than God’s and charge ahead, never taking time to listen for what God’s plan might be. This has gotten me into trouble many, many times. You would think I’d have learned my lesson after each time, but clearly I am a slow learner.


Do you share that same experience with Becca Ehrlich? What is your aversion to surrendering to God caused by? This is how she describes her own challenge:


Since I had previously lived my life one way for over thirty years, grasping at control wherever I could, surrendering has been hard work. But here’s the thing: surrender = freedom.


What do you think Ehrlich means by “surrender = freedom”? Do you believe that? What things in your life are you perhaps over-controlling, but don’t really stop to notice it?


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My last example is from her section on “Fasting,” although for Ehrlich, the practice of fasting can (should?) apply to almost any part of our daily lives. One area she focuses on is that great American pastime, shopping. She describes her year-long fasting from shopping experience, and then offers us her “3 Biggest Takeaways.” See if any of these resonate with your life.


Takeaway #1: We often buy and consume on automatic pilot.

Takeaway #2: We regularly mix up our needs and our wants.

Takeaway #3: We need less than we think we do.


If these do relate to your own life, do you have any motivation to change? Why, or Why Not? Have you ever fasted? If not, would you be willing to try if it meant a closer connection with God?


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I hope you can join our little group this Sunday at 6pm in the overflow space. Even if you don’t share a word, you will still soak in a lot of good and useful wisdom from those gathered.


Stay well. Stand strong. Keep your eyes on Jesus –                                            Pastor Bob <><





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So God made a Farmer ~ Paul Harvey

This so deserves a repeat, I offer to you a famous poem of the late Paul Harvey which he delivered at a national FFA convention in Kansas City in 1978.

Here it is …

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker”

— so God made a Farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board”

— so God made a Farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild; somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it”

— so God made a Farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps; who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then pain’n from tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours”

— so God made a Farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds, and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place

— so God made a Farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.”

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church; somebody who would bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says that he wants to spend his life “doing what dad does”

— so God made a Farmer.


God bless our farmers!


Pastor Bob


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Have you ever listened to a tree?


Holly Worton has, and she “translates” for us the messages she receives from her trees in her book, “If Trees Could Talk: Life Lessons from the Wisdom of the Woods.” Holly is one of our 6 devotional authors that we are listening to for our “Daily Respite” devotional series. (All Daily Respite recordings are available at www.vinestreetchristianchurch.com under “Daily Devotions.) Below is Holly’s devotion from yesterday (Tuesday). In her book, Holly Worton offers both some opening remarks about each tree and how she found it, and closing reflections after the tree has finished speaking.

Below, I simply provide the transcription of what the Windmill Hill Hawthorn said to Holly.




“Windmill Hill Hawthorn”


You are correct in saying that this is your place.


      This is your home, this is your land, and this is where you belong. And in the same sense that this land is yours, this land is for you, you are for this land … everyone in this world has a land that is for them; where they feel connected, where they feel rooted, where they feel grounded, where they feel right, where it just feels like home. Regardless of whether they go out into Nature and connect with the natural land, some people may sense that one place is right for them, or not. But they can deepen that connection, they can deepen that relationship, they can deepen that deep sense of home by going to Nature around that place and connecting with it; connecting with the trees, connecting with the earth, connecting with the water, the sky, the wind, all of the elements.


      Many, many people have not yet found their abode, their comfortable place, their home, and their spot in the world. And this is sad – because everyone does have a place.


      We understand that people make decisions based on the practicalities of life; whether that be finding a job, proximity to family, friends, other things, practical things; but we would suggest that if you have not yet found your home, your place in the world; if you could just travel, visit, go to the places where your heart guides you. Whether that be the next town over the next country, or halfway around the world, if you feel drawn to a place; visit, experience, connect … and we understand that this sounds just a bit crazy, because again the practical brain comes in and says: I can’t afford that, I don’t have money for that, what if I want to go to a place that is, as you say, halfway around the world, and I just don’t have the money. We would like to suggest, again, that you put aside the practical thoughts, practical ideas, practical solutions, the practical problems, and simply allow yourself to dream.


If you have a place in mind, start connecting with it: by reading about this place, you can buy books about the place, you can read online, you can do searches, you can look at photographs, you can look at images, you can collect images, you can make a collage of all your favorite images of this place. And connect with this place on a digital level, on an intellectual level, by reading … and that will start the journey.


There is a reason you are drawn to some places.


And that does not necessarily mean that you have to move halfway around the world and live in this place – but perhaps, these are places that you could visit. And once you make the connection, you may find that it is easier for you to return to these places, and it is easier, and easier, for you to visit these places; and it is easier for you to return to these places, and it is easier for you to connect and feel the deep sense of belonging. That sense of, “I am home, I am here” that so many people crave.


And so, we would like to remind you, that perhaps this path starts for you by setting aside practical worries, and concerns and simply connect wherever you can by reading online, by reading books – connect, connect, connect. And perhaps you will find the ways, perhaps you will find the practical solutions, on how to get to these places and how to return to these places and how to perhaps even one day live in these places that you are drawn to. But it all starts with that intuitive nudge, that calling of the heart, as it connects to your heartland; to the place where you belong, to the place that feels like home, to the place of your abode, perhaps, perhaps not … but you will be surprised what happens when you answer that call.


This is all.


Note from Pastor Bob – actually, that is not all the Windmill Hill Hawthorn had to say to Holly that day. This tree had one more important lesson to suggest to all of us humans. That lesson will be featured in the Religion column of the Arthur-Graphic next Wednesday. I suggest we listen …


<>< Pastor Bob

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Mark Nepo is one of our 6 devotional authors that we are listening to for our “Daily Respite” devotional series. Below is Mark’s devotional today from “The Book of Awakening,” his classic little daily reader that has helped millions of spirit-seeking people around the world, of all (or none) religious persuasions.

  “Facing Sacred Moments”


“The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.” – Abraham Heschel


Maybe it’s part of being American, this want to build things instead of facing them. After all, our ancestors believed it their manifest destiny to keep moving on until they ran out of land. But now that there’s no place left to go, a different sense of exploration, that has waited centuries, is calling.


Instead of building a road to somewhere, other than where we are, the life of the spirit requires us to open doors that wait before us and within us. This is what Abraham Heschel calls, “facing sacred moments”: the opening of doors into the life we already have.


The effort to build our way elsewhere can be admirable and even heroic, but it often distracts us from inhabiting the life we are given.


Certainly, there is nothing wrong with bettering our outer circumstances, but these constructions mean nothing if we never face the very pulse of life that waits like a kind mother at the edge of our exhaustion.


  • Sit quietly, and bring to mind a sacred moment you have known.


  • Breathe your way back to it, and as you inhale, face it. Let its light warm you from within.


  • As you exhale, face your life today and let what’s sacred find you.


I hope you enjoyed this little taste of our daily devotion series, “Daily Respite.” This week we are focusing on Richard Rohr’s daily meditations. I hope if you haven’t been a frequent or regular listener, that you will use our little 10 minute of so devotions to create a sacred space in your day. If you want to be added to the email list for recordings of our daily devotions, just let me know.


Peace & Joy,

Pastor Bob <><

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MAKING PERSONAL DECISIONS: A GUIDE FOR CHRISTIANS A summary of Pastor Bob’s message last Sunday, edited and prepared by Jackson Silvanik

Last Sunday, we took a closer look at a familiar story – a story that’s been around for a long time that describes the earliest days of the first family on earth. We saw how their journey culminated in the Age of Cain – when Cain declared to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper,” though we already knew the answer. We met Seth, born to replace Abel, and we see that he ushered in a new era, a time when people began to call on the name of the Lord, when they began to pray and live for a higher purpose.

One of the important things that I like to do when reading these old stories is ask myself two questions. 

Firstly, what is the story being told? The Bible is a remarkable literary work, and often, simply reading the story at face value is a spiritual experience. 

Secondly, though, I look for one big thing: the universal truth lurking beneath the surface. One of the great gifts of scripture is that it’s always giving us more, and in this case, we have a chance to revel in the power of being God’s children and learn more about the reason that we’re all here – what exactly does God want from us?

Somewhere in the midst of the story that I’m reading, I eventually find it: my Jesus verse. It’s the point of the story that the lightbulb flickers on for me, the reader. The big idea, the main takeaway – but most importantly, the central question. Whenever Jesus works through the Old Testament, we learn about what Jesus is doing. And one thing we notice about Jesus is that he’s always expanding. Expanding on previous teachings, expanding the Kingdom of God, expanding the purpose that we’re here for. 

In the story of Cain and Abel, the big question comes in Chapter 4, verse 9 – am I my brother’s keeper? Cian is not. 

But are we? That’s our big universal question. Ask yourself – are you your brother’s keeper? 

Jesus takes it a step further, though. He expands on it, as always. And Jesus answers it in a way that’s even bigger and grander than God did. We’re here to love our neighbors as ourselves

Read this dialogue from Mark 12:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

It gets at the very core of what it means to be a believer. What are we here to do? What does God want from little old me? What is the most important thing that I can do for the Kingdom? 

He wants us to give our free will over to Him. When you come to love your neighbor as yourself, you’re following God’s will for you. You’re engaging in the purpose that the One True God has bestowed upon us. What happens when you invite Christ into your life? Jesus comes to live inside you, to enlighten your spirit and soul. Your body isn’t just yours anymore, it’s part of the Kingdom of God. 

Because of this transformation, your body and life are no longer your own. They’re God’s, and you live for God’s will. You live to serve others just as much as yourself. 

You’re the keeper of everyone in this world!

Therefore, your decisions are certainly personal – but now they’re personal in a new way. You’re obligated to do what’s right for everyone around you. But not just the ones you sit next to in church, or around the table with at dinner. You’re called to love everyone, and particularly the ones that might not seem to be asking for your love. 

Jesus is challenging us to adapt and embrace a new theory of love. He wants us to love every person we encounter, in every situation, in every form that it may take. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to preserve your own life? What about your brother’s and sister’s?

When I have to make a decision in my own life, I take my time. Yes — I think about the pro’s and con’s. But because there’s always tension between me and God about what the right decision is, I always turn to God. And stick with God.  

You have the right to make any decision that you want. When it comes to getting vaccinated and wearing a mask, it’s your call. We can just show you what the scripture has taught us. Ultimately, it’s your free will. 

If you are a follower of Jesus, however, you are called to use that free will for God’s purpose. And He wants you to take care of not just yourself, but everyone around you. He wants an entire community where people put others first. He wants a world where people love each other unconditionally. 

So, when you make that personal decision, it’s not just personal. Jesus is our Lord; we follow his way – not our own. Our decisions are based on our love for God and our love for our neighbor. 

God will tell you what to do, but first you must be willing to listen to what God is really saying. 

Love your neighbor as yourself,

<>< Pastor Bob

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