Monthly Archives: May 2012

The role of community in becoming holy: a series of staff reflections

Why do we pray for others? Why do we go out into Athens County or invite Athens County to come to us? Are we doing it for ourselves, or are we acting in faith? These seem like simple questions, but they can be more complicated than they appear, for it is easy to put on the airs of holiness and fool those who are not discerning or those who want to be fooled. If you pray because you think you are supposed to, you are doing it for the wrong reason. If you serve others because you think that is what you are supposed to, your heart is misplaced. Make no mistake: We are supposed to do these things. But it is not passionless paint-by-numbers living. We are not following a formula set by God. These actions are only holy if we accept the Great Commandment and live it.

We often interact with people who are not citizens of God’s Kingdom. Many of these people come to us or invite us with some trepidation. When they tell us that we have acted in a way that changes their view on Christianity, it is because of our holiness. Through us, God found an opening to enter. When we show them the true nature of the Kingdom and not an image perverted by politicians, opportunists, and false prophets, we are able to do so because of our holiness. We show them not judgment or a sense of superiority but outreach, acceptance, and love. In so doing, we fulfill that greatest Commandment.

Often, our greatest challenge is not those who deny the existence of God but those who do harm in His name.They distort what the Kingdom looks like to those who live outside of it. But in the end, truth conquers deceit and light defeats shadow. If we are a true holy community, it radiates from us. People can tell from the first moment they meet us or come onto our land. We tear off countenances of falsehood and shatter illusions. Jesus walks in our woods. We bring the Truth- with a capital “T”- to people who know it and people who seek it. We could not hide it if we tried. The very air feels different in a holy community.

–Jeffrey Fitzwater

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The role of community in becoming holy: a series of staff reflections.

Are we trying to love one another? Are we patient in the situations we are in? Are we trying to be faithful in our commitments? Are we selfless? If we are trying to be these things, people see this in us and admire our efforts. This is a tall order for most of us. I know it is a tall order for me. In times of stress or frustration, patience is oftentimes the first thing to go in me. I lose patience and I give up on the situation or person because they have let me down or they have not shown a desire to change. It’s much easier to lose patience than it is to be patient.

It is a tall order to be holy. Christ is holy and perfect, we are not. Holiness is sacred and set apart. We ourselves are not sacred and set apart, but God in us is. Without God in us we cannot do all of these things. We cannot love one another. We cannot be patient. We cannot be faithful and selfless without God in us. So first, we must seek God. Then when God is in us, we become holy. When God is in the community, the community becomes holy. We are not holy aside from God because God is the only thing that is holy.

I am the Lord, who makes you holy.
-Exodus 31:13

— Matt Carlyle

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The role of community in resurrection and vision: a series of staff reflections

I haven’t written many stories myself, but I can understand that part of the joy of writing a story, of creating anything, is engaging the imagination. The “this-can-be-anything-I-want-it-to-be” factor. We get to dream: “What could this be? What could this look like? How could it feel or taste or sound?” And then we get to try to arrive at that place. What joy! To make something that involves our senses of creativity, of wonder and imagination and beauty and invention. I see this as one of the great privileges in knowing people and the stories of their lives. What’s truly unique about our stories, as different from the fictional stories I enjoy reading, is that they’re happening now. What has happened has happened already; it’s done and over. But it is only written up to this moment. What extends beyond, where the story will go, hasn’t been decided. Or at least it can yet be altered. And this is where I see creativity and imagination enter our lives. We can ask people, “What could be? What do you want to be?” We get to dream with people about how their stories could continue. Certainly what has happened up to this point has a profound effect, but there is so much room for HOPE! And we have this honor of dreaming with people, of helping people see things differently, of imagining a life different from what they’ve had so far. I love this. I love having HOPE, of helping people to see HOPE for themselves, of having new places for their story to go… and then helping to figure out how to get there. This involves a great amount of trust, of pain, of disappointment at times. Of giving and receiving grace. Of failure.

The question that I often think about is: What does HOPE look like? Is it singing at the top of your lungs, unashamed? Is it having your kids with you? Is it being able to look someone in the eye?

As I think about this and even write about it, I realize that these are beliefs I’ve had primarily for other people. Certainly I dream about this HOPE for people I meet whose stories have led to major life crises, and equally for friends who I carry in my heart. But now I’m realizing (finally!) that if this HOPE is for all of us, then it MUST be for me too. Wow. This is a life-altering realization: that my life, our lives, are still a story-being-written. We can have HOPE – creativity and imagination – for where our stories will go. And we can dream with each other about what they may be. In fact, I would say I desperately need others to dream with me about my story, and that others need my creativity to imagine what is to come for them as well.

— Anne Wilson

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The role of community in healing: a series of staff writings

HEALING:

What does it mean to be a healing community?

In my perspective, one of the main roles of a healing community is to become a new, spiritual family for people who are broken. The deepest human need is for the unconditional love of a father and a mother, and many have not received this love or suffered harm at the hands of their parents. Through the love of our Heavenly Father, the Church can express holy love that fills in the gaps and heals the wounds caused by our natural families. In this context, people can learn how to form new, healthy relationships. (To read more about this, ask me about a really wonderful article called Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You by a group called The Shepherd’s House.)

I see this type of family bonding or “adoption” happening inside the Good Works community to some degree. My mind goes to the loyal friendships that have been formed between particular staff members, Senior Friends, and former residents to name a few. Yet, I believe God can take us deeper in becoming a spiritual family for each other and those we serve. Our everyday choices can lead us towards greater capacity for love: we must choose every day to grow in our own maturity (healing), and to strengthen our relationships with each other. Having done this, when the time comes for us to embrace someone in need, whoever they may be, we will be prepared.

Finally, I believe that healing—an action of God—happens as the Church knows the good will of God and asks God to release this goodness into someone’s life. God wants us to ask, and persist in asking. A healing community brings broken people to Jesus through their prayers of faith. When we really don’t know how or what to pray, we know the Holy Spirit is interceding for us according to God’s will.

What does it mean to be a healing community? We ask God for gifts of healing, we help people reconcile to Jesus, the Healer, we walk with each other in the delicate process of growth, we embrace broken people in love, and most of all, we wait patiently, in hope for the day when all will be well.

— Dawn Tobin

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The role of community in resurrection and vision: a series of staff writings

We are all living a type of resurrection.

Colossians 3 says, “you have been raised with Christ…set your minds on things above…for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” I think once we have sunk into the comfort of our Christian lives we forget how powerful these words from Colossians can be.

Romans 8 also says, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” What a generous God. Not only did he raise Jesus from the dead but he also gave us new life. We are a new creation through our Christian rebirth, through the forgiveness of our sins. When we choose Christ we die to our selfish ambitions and pursuits and are given a new life.

The same is true for community. When we choose community we have a new life experience. Jean Vanier in his book Community and Growth says, “A community must be a sign of the resurrection.” (pg. 196). It is a process, first beginning with our self and our commitment to Christ. We must die daily to our selfishness and thank God for our new life with Him, in Him. Then, when we enter community, we die daily for the sake of others. We are reminded again that we need to die to live with others, together serving our Christ with the poor, with the stranger, with the fatherless. We first die to ourselves for the sake of our self then we die to our self for the sake of others, for the sake of our community.

— Emily Axe

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