i have a black thumb. like if anything green enters my house–plants, flowers, yes even cactuses, within a week or two they are completely dead. it is funny to me that i ended up with this imagery from my post 2 weeks ago–plant new trees. i was amazed by how so many resonated with it and now i, the worst-grower-of-anything green, am going in for round 2 on the tree metaphor!
i also wanted to clarify something important about tree planting. trees just aren’t “church plants” in the typical sense, although they can be. i said,
these trees can be all kinds of shapes and sizes–individual relationships, groups, churches, ministries, organizations–little pockets of love & freedom cropping up all over that influence people and model a better way, a free-er way, an equal way, a more “oh, that’s what Jesus looks like” way.
we are the church.
wherever we go, wherever we are, wherever we are called to live, wherever we work, whatever relationships we are in, we can play our part in reflecting the fullness of God’s image and infuse the people & systems we are in with equality, dignity, and freedom in small or big ways.
in our families.
in our friendships.
in our neighborhoods.
in the places we work.
in our groups.
in our churches and faith communities.
in our ministries and places of passion.
we don’t have to keep perpetuating systems we fundamentally disagree with. we don’t have to pass on a legacy of inequality and sexism to our children. we don’t have to comprise our integrity to keep fitting in.
change starts with us. in down we go, i wrote “change is possible. otherwise I would have given up a long time ago.” so many of you know this, too. you’ve had every reason to give up after some of what you’ve seen in “the church” and you haven’t. you give me so much hope. but similar to what we are seeing in the farming industry right now, the big guys keep squeezing the little guys out. they control the industry, and use patents to force others to conform. they have money, influence, and power behind them. they control the information in the form of book & media distribution and countless other influential means.
they want us to keep using their seeds.
but when we are planting new trees–seeds matter.
to plant new trees we have to use new seeds.
it’s a little like what Jesus said about putting new wine into old wineskins–it ruins the wine. one of the things i have observed is that many people are interested in new wine, new kinds of trees and new forms of living out our faith in a broken, crazy world. the problem i see, though, is that we keep using the same containers/structures/systems and planting the same old seeds thinking something new will grow.
most of you have heard the definition of insanity–doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. and like addicts in denial about our using, we keep ignoring the bigger problem–us. and our crazy gravitational pull toward what’s familiar and stable, which is sometimes contrary to the kind of “kingdom now” living Jesus was talking about.
our only hope is to stop the insanity, ask for God’s help, and actually begin to do things differently. one day, one relationship, one group, one ministry, one system at a time.
so as we consider planting new trees, let’s keep reflecting on the types of seeds we’re using.
- are they seeds of the kingdom or seeds of the world?
- will they grow stories of change and hope or tales of power & control?
- will they invite everyone to be included or leave a lot of people out?
- will they leave room for doubt & mystery or demand certainty?
- will they create little pockets of love or big vats of competition and performance?
- will they cultivate equality and diversity or perpetuate the same kinds of people sitting around the same kinds of tables?
- will they value people above all things or make programs the priority?
- will our own life well lived be enough or will we always want “more, more, more”?
we have to reckon with this important reality: the cost of following Jesus is incredibly high. if things are only easy and “successful”, then something probably isn’t quite right. what he asked us to do was and will always always be contrary to the ways of the word (a lot of which the church has bought into). seeds of welcoming pain, diffusing power, practicing equality, pursuing justice and other practices based on the beatitudes will always be much trickier to plant.
but we must.
these are the kinds of seeds that will grow trees that reflect the kingdom and not the world.
people will laugh at us. we will feel stupid. we will look like losers sometimes. actually, probably often. we will look weak, we will seem inefficient. we will be called liberals, feminists, backsliders & rebels, as they’re missing the point of what we’re after. we will not have the money and resources we wish we could. we will get tired and want to give up. we will wonder why the leaves aren’t forming fast enough and our trunks aren’t thick yet. we will doubt ourselves. we will probably doubt God and question why those big shade trees keep prospering while we are sputtering to push up out of the ground and just stay alive through winter.
however, the stories of hope & change & healing & transformation will sustain us. those of you who have been planting new trees know that one story will water our soil for months, that one story of hope being fanned into flame or dignity being restored or a silenced voice being heard will sustain us through drought.
God, help us plant seeds that are reflective of you, not the world. we know they matter.
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check out a few other tree planting posts, good stuff: michelle krabill – i’m celebrating arbor day early this year, jessica mccracken – digging deep, planting trees & rachel held evans – let’s plant some seeds together
other kinds of new seeds: alise wright’s interview with dan brennan about cross-gender friendships & the monthly down we go column is up at sheloves magazine, diffusing power.