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

Romans 6:1-14 We are dead to sin, but alive in Christ. Sin does not have to control us. Many of us have been lost in sinful behaviors and addictions, but the resurrection of Christ offers us the hope that this destructive nature can die and that something better can take its place. The things that kill us—the things that destroy our health and our relationships have no power compared to the power of the resurrected Christ. If we are willing to die to these things, then we can have a new life in Christ. Some people have a Damascus Road experience in which their lives are so radically transformed that they would be practically unrecognizable the next day after meeting Christ and submitting to Him—that’s the kind of experience Paul had. But others, like Peter, and most of us discover new things daily that we must decide to die to in order to be able to live to God.

Dying to my sins is appealing to me insofar as I do not like to experience pain in my marriage or friendships. I don’t like to do things that make me sick or carry guilt that sickens me. I don’t like carrying secrets that could destroy my reputation and credibility. For our residents I like to talk about this in terms of not having to be afraid of the cops or worry about ever having to go to jail again or relapse and overdose. Avoiding pain is a good motivator.

But living a productive, meaningful life, a life “to God” is even more attractive. This motivation moves past just thinking, “What if I didn’t have to worry about this any more?” It takes us to a new place of “What am I here for? How can I use my life in a good way?” And we get to begin to answer that question by first committing it to God—by realizing that it is now Christ’s life to live through us. The parts of our body can be “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

— Andrea Horsch

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