Tag Archives: Todd Wynward

Reflections on Breaking Free to Follow an Untamed God

By Jenny Duskey, Ambler Mennonite Church

Todd Wynward

An Exodus Time, a Great Turning, a Watershed Moment – whatever we call it, we are in the midst of crisis.  We, children of a free, wild, untamed God, try “to follow Jesus while shackled to Caesar.”  “Fast food, cheap oil, chronic debt, and constant pressure are only some of the cultural cages that hold us captive.  Bottom line:  We’ve been constrained and colonized by corporations,” says the prologue of Rewilding the Way: Breaking Free to Follow an Untamed God by Todd Wynward. Todd was the speaker this year for Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ Peace Retreat held February 10-12 at St. Mary of Providence Center in Elverson, PA.

A watershed is “a region draining into a river, river system, or other body of water;” or “an event or period marking a turning point in a state of affairs.”  (mennocreationcare.org/our-congregations/watershed-way/ ) The Winter Peace Retreat this year was about embracing this watershed moment, this crisis, and seizing the opportunity to break out of our shackles and live the Golden Rule Jesus teaches us, treating those downstream, both geographically and chronologically, as we would have those upstream treat us. Communities downstream and future generations have no choice but to inherit the consequences of our lifestyle today.

“Taking care of our environment is the most important social justice issue today,” said Todd.  He did not, however, discourage any of us from continuing to pursue the various peace and justice activities in which we are engaged.  If we are going to minimize the damage resulting from the way we have been undermining water cycles, atmosphere, soil, oceans and thermal balance for the past 200 years of industrial growth, we need to find ways for everyone to have clean water and renewable energy sources.  Human society needs to transition from industrial growth for the few to sustenance of life for all.  If we keep Jesus at the center of our work locally, in our state and nation, and worldwide, the church can offer the world hope, love and peace as we work for this transition.

Co-intelligence arises when we all share our visions.  Todd passed out sticky note pads and asked us to write what we’d experienced in the past six months in five categories:  Good News/Grounded Hope, Fresh Insights/Awareness, Examining Our Lives, Calls to Action, and Laments/Despairs.  We mounted our notes on newsprint sheets on the walls. When the “Laments/Despairs” newsprint fell off the wall from its heaviness, we shared some much-needed laughter!  Todd encouraged us to stay with our laments as long as we need to, going through them instead of around them, to find the hope and motivation that lead to action.

By the end of the final session, we felt highly energized and hopeful.  Many of us want to continue this environmental theme for the next five years, at least as part of what we do at Peace Retreat.  Some are motivated to form two or three ongoing regional groups within our two Conferences, to get together more often to encourage each other in efforts to care for God’s creation.  Any who are interested in being part of that may contact John Stoltzfus (jstoltzfus@franconiaconference.org) who will coordinate the effort.  Congregations, groups, or individuals are also encouraged to join the Watershed Way sponsored by the Mennonite Creation Care Network ,and/or to accept a voluntary Carbon Tax. To learn more about Mennonite Creation Care Network visit: (mennocreationcare.org/our-congregations/watershed-way/. For information on a voluntary carbon tax, where you can calculate the cost of your carbon footprint and choose to donate what you can afford of that cost to a project or non-profit that helps the environment visit: http://voluntarycarbontax.org/index.php.

As we continue to work for peace and justice, we must be mindful that our care for the environment is a part of that. As God’s creation provides for us, we must ensure it can continue to do so for everyone now and in the future.

“You shall not pollute the land in which you live…. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the LORD dwell among the Israelites.” -Numbers 35:33-34

Learnings from the Wilderness

by John Stoltzfus

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
~ Wendell Berry

“Why are we doing this, Dad?” exclaimed my daughter in dismay, in one of her low moments, as we walked into the thin air of the Sangre de Cristo mountains high above the desert region of Taos, New Mexico.

In spite of the incredible scenery, I asked myself the same question at various points during our family sabbatical experience in New Mexico. The path we chose for this time away was often full of challenges and obstacles, not the least attempting to climb mountains of 12,000 feet!

28512133866_b6b945227e_zOne of the constant refrains from our sabbatical host in Taos and wilderness guide extraordinaire, Todd Wynward, is that there is more in you than you know. Wilderness, in the biblical narrative, is often that place where the people of God are transformed and led to discover anew the essential nature of God’s presence in and around us. Much like it was for Moses, it is the place where God shows up in a burning bush if we have the courage to draw close and observe.

27928728283_4eb75fed16_zMy wife, Paula, and our three children spent three weeks this summer, as a part of my sabbatical, exploring this wilderness in and around Taos in an effort to provide an educational environment and pilgrimage for the entire family. After reading Todd Wynward’s book “Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God” we were inspired to embark on a journey exploring how we can be shaped into the kind of people God envisions to embrace a new day of justice, mercy and kindness for all the earth.

How can we model to our children and to our world a life that gives witness to the in-breaking wild and wonderful kingdom of God? How can we be made uneasy by, or as Martin Luther King Jr. says, “maladjusted” to, the ways our modern society and culture cause harm to the Earth, to each other, and to our spirituality?

28943426945_3618a91f07_zIn the pristine high wilderness region of New Mexico, filled with the stunning beauty of wildflowers, aspen trees and cool rushing streams, it is hard to come to grips with the harm we are doing to this planet, God’s good creation, and to one another.

Wen Stephenson, in his book “What We’re Fighting for Now is Each Other,” states that “we are not avoiding the catastrophe that is coming within our century and the lives of our children and grandchildren. Rather we’re plunging headlong toward the worst-case scenarios–critical global food and water shortages, rapid sea-level rise, social upheaval–and beyond.” And more importantly particularly to us as Christians, those least responsible for the climate change, the poor and marginalized, are often the most affected.

The climate is changing so why aren’t we?

28438661912_8ab4645c82_zMy children inspired me on this pilgrimage. They met and surpassed every challenge we put before them. I owe it to them and to all of our children to leave our planet, our earthly home in better shape.

The task before us is difficult. Coming to terms with the climate catastrophe is hard. It is a spiritual struggle. It confronts our deepest questions and values about ourselves. It requires a radical necessity of moral change. It requires our being saved from business-as-usual. It requires us to be grounded in the strength of God’s faithfulness and a faith community where we live into the call to be good stewards of the planet for the well-being of all of God’s creatures.

God will provide in the wilderness. Do we have the courage to see this place as sacred ground and encounter a holy God in the burning bush of our time?