Build no Boxes



Here is another life-long learning from Harold Bauman.  In the seminar at Black Rock Retreat he taught us not to build a box around any one, giving them a hopeless label that says, “No change possible.”  Not even around myself.  So through the years I have observed much change in others around me, and also in me.  Even now as I approach a ninetieth year I expect change.  Not only am I aging, I am maturing as I get on with life.  This gives me hope for others and for myself as well.


sprouting bulbs

This past Sunday Morning I woke up to the task of filling a form used to evaluate our lead pastor’s ministry.  This process had troubled me during the night and I discovered that this was a duty I could not fulfil.  Too many painful memories stabbed me; I had endured and supervised too many pastoral evaluations. So, I did not fill out the form. Instead I wrote a letter explaining my pain to the person leading the process. After the letter was written, Joyce and I went to the worship service at College Mennonite Church. Lead Pastor Phil Waite preached on the theme:  “Owning the Mystery.”

The preacher used the metaphor of the relationship of a husband to his wife. The better a man knows his wife she becomes more mysterious to him. This is true of the Holy Spirit.  The more the church knows of the Holy Spirit, the greater the mystery.  We ended this part of the service by singing,  In the Bulb there is a Flower. 

Joyce and I parted to go to different groups during the educational hour.  The group I was with were in serious discussion.  Some of us had been hurt so deeply by a church in the past that the thought of entering a house of worship makes us sick to the stomach.  Others of us continue to be drawn to worship. Though we have differences, our commonalities are such that the group members care deeply for each other and for others.


lily bulb in bloom

At noon, Joyce and I enjoyed the congregation’s potluck. Appetite’s satisfied, the congregation evolved into a strategic planning session. The planning process tried to collect hard data to find out the mind of the congregation. Since Sunday, I’ve listened a second time to Pastor Waite’s sermon and heard something new. He concluded that the mind of the church revealed through strategic planning could be contrary to the mind of the mysterious Holy Spirit.  As the mystery grows, so grows mutual trust. Trust the Spirit, urged Waite.

After resting our weary eighty-year plus-old bodies, Joyce and I enjoyed our weekly Sunday evening popcorn repast. Then we went to the meeting of New Perspectives of Faith at College Church.  We heard a compelling report from Gwen Gustafson-Zook, pastor of outreach at CMC, on Finding God in Palestine Today!  Special attention was given to Palestinian Christians. What shall we do in response?  The Holy Spirit will guide us, and strategic planning may be appropriate.

Strategic Planning
may be dud laying in dust
bulbs bloom quietly

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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4 Responses to Build no Boxes

  1. Joe Sauder says:

    I agree with not putting people in a box. For instance, being tolerent of LGBT folks does not mean one agrees with that viewpoint, it might mean that we are willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers.. I am one who believes that Sodomy ,bestiality, adultery, incest, etc. Are taught against as I understand Scripture, BUT I am willing to admit that I don’t know everything and so am not going to shun those who believe otherwise. We need to be willing to obey the Holy Spirit and sybmit to His guidance. I don’t like being told that I hate LGBTs just because I disagree with their interpretition of Scripture. I have had friends and relatives who were gay but I still love them and DISSAGREE with them!

  2. Raymond Martin says:

    I appreciate the evaluation struggle. I know it too from the two sides-the evaluated and the evaluating. Richard Rohr’s meditation today, 1-28-16, I think speaks to this. At the very base of his theology is dualistic and non-dual thinking. I’ve struggled with that because I know from experience that some actions bring desired consequences and some unwanted consequences. His comments today on Matthew 25 help me understand his writings better and also speaks to this evaluation problem.
    “So, Matthew 25 is supreme dualism overcome by non-dualism. First you do your clearheaded rational, logical study of all sides of the issue of concern. Then you will see that the issue deserves much more subtlety than taking one side and damming all others. Non-dual thinking allows us to clearly hear, calmly detach and calmly see from a higher level”.
    For my part, we cannot evaluate a pastor without evaluating the congregation. The question is, “Does this pastor have at this time what this congregation needs”. This can be achieved in a non-dualistic way. Neither needs to be dammed. HALLALUJAH!

    • It seems that you and I have walked similar roads. I appreciate your references to Richard Rohr’s meditations. I have just signed on to them choosing the weekly option, but have had no experience. What is your experience; How often do you hear from him. This is a time of info overload. I contribute to it.

      • Raymond Martin says:

        I ‘ve been reading Rohr daily for a year. To me he speaks strongly to the big mistake Mennonites made in their response to modernism. This is my connection. Richard doesn’t talk about that. He talks about the desert fathers and mothers, contemplation, love, grace and of course non-dual thinking which you see above I think I might be beginning to understand.
        The fear Mennonite leaders experienced led to revivalism, a verbal understanding of inspiration of scripture and making rules that if obeyed would make one a good Christion. Now as I look at that statement, I know that impression of enforced rules is one I got at a specific place and time in my life and must be understood that way. As to revival meetings, I want to say I received many good and helpful messages from revival preachers. Some preached a God who if you do not accept will send you to hell to burn forever. Sometimes I was able to hold John 3:16 against that and sometimes I couldn’t. For me I became “saved” when at the age of 12 I stood to accept Christ in a revival meeting at Goodville Mennonite Church. Milton Brackbill was the evangelist and he preached love and grace. My sense that I was lost until that time and then became saved came from earlier teaching. I remember a young person somewhere around that time writing that she was always a Christian. That seemed wrong to me. That was in a Mennonite paper so I know the impressions I got were certainly not that way in some places.
        In my adult life I’ve been able to affirm John 3: 16 as the golden text of the Bible. I’ve appreciated the ways Rohr affirms this truth. I do not know any way to make a comprehensive statement about what I like about Rohr. He affirms many things I’ve learned in Mennonite writings, teaching and preaching. In writing about peace he said the church has to go to the Mennonites and Amish to learn about peace. At that time he was telling the way the church went after 303. He can be critical of the Catholic Church. Reading him makes me wish protestants and Anabaptists had not so strongly embraced “scripture only”.
        Rohr accepts the big bang as creation. I appreciate the way he integrates science and faith even though his science gets quite beyond my understanding.
        These are my scattered thoughts. Time to stop.

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