Tag Archive: community


this is a long psalm, with much stuff in it, but i am just going to focus on one or two things:

‘He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.’ [vs 34]

when i was young, in a galaxy far far away, there was a song we used to sing that went like this:

‘it is God who trains my hands for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze

it is God who trains my hands for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze

He gives me a shield of victory, my enemies fall at my feet

praise be to my Rock, He is the Lord of hosts.’

it was a round song which were always fun so while one group sings that verse, the rest of the group sing the dragged out, ‘the Loooooooord of hooooooosts gives viiiiiiii-ctooooo-ryyyyyyy’ repeatedly and then joined together on the last line and it was a lot of energy enthused fun.

it is tough to get excited about a violence-related metaphor while living in a non-violence focused community but i can still take something out of this piece:

the psalm begins with the line, ‘I love you, LORD, my strength.’

the reminder that God is our strength… and that my arms have the capability of bending bows of bronze because He has trained me to do so… a lot of people pray that God will take bad things away from us and I don’t know that that is the route He always chooses to go or even maybe often chooses to go… but as in Psalm 23 where it says, ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ [vs.4] or Psalm 34 where it says, ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ‘ [vs.18]

so it is not so much that God is removing danger or hardship or obstacle, but rather that He is empowering the person in the situation or accompanying them through whatever it is that they are facing, and that is how i have experienced God more often than not. the bonus on the other side is that, having gone through the tough time you emerge stronger, whereas if God simply removes the problem, you have learnt nothing and not grown at all.

This is echoed in verse 29, ‘With Your help I can advance against a troop, with my God I can scale a wall.’

and in fact, that is where i will leave it – encouragement that when things are hard/crazy/impossible/frustrating/painful that God is close and that He often does not simply remove those things in our life, but rather uses them to give a reason to strengthen us and provide for us and work with us and in us so that we might be strengthened and encouraged and built up so that the next time we are facing a similar thing we will be able to handle it even better, and also so that through us getting stronger we can assist those around us who may not have prevailed through the things we have, which helps build and grow community.

and on to psalm 14:

‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God!” [vs.1]

as Mr T’s B.A. Baracus from the A-Team would say, “I pity the fool!”

and that’s an apt combination of thoughts. and ‘pity’ has such strongly negative connotations where what i feel when i look at friends lives who do not know God and are going through stuff and trying to carry it all by themselves is totally a positive reaction of sadness and wishing-they-get-it’ness. even just the added effect of community when you are involved in a church or Christ-following community that understands a bit of what following Jesus is all about. to have to try and live life without that must be such a tightrope walk at times.

then the second part that this psalm gave to me was this:

‘You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.’ [vs. 6]

two sides to that – the scary question of whether ‘you evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor’ ever relates to me? does the way i live contribute to the plans of the poor being frustrated? and a bigger picture question of does the municipality or government where i live ever frustrate the plans of the poor and if so do i ever do anything about that? it’s been great being connected to the simple way where they have actively got involved where municipalities have created some really unfair to the poor and homeless rulings and even had a bunch of them changed [in partnership with other people] it is sometimes a lot easier to simply give a man a fish, or if we’re feeling generous even teach him to fish… but at some stage you have to ask the bigger question of who is polluting the pond and do we intend to do anything about that?

and the second part is comforting and speaks into the situation, that even when i [and my fellow man] are too lazy or confused or apathetic or too busy fighting about the how of it, that ‘the Lord is their refuge.’ God is on it. This shouldn’t mean that i mustn’t be. But it is still a comforting voice in the chaos of life. The poor and needy, the helpless and homeless, the naked and imprisoned and marginalised all have a place to go. and that place is a Person who Loves them very much.

my next evolution suggestion to help you transform yourself into a better, more effective you in 2012 is this:

SEEK COMMUNITY

whether it is belonging to a local church or youth group or small group, or if it’s the people in your street or your apartment complex, to be an active part of an intentional community is a healthy and thrive-full way to live

the beautiful val and myself have been living and working with the simple way community in kensington, philadelphia for six months now and how we describe the local focus is simply ‘trying to be good neighbors’ and that’s really it – so whether it is the food distribution on a monday or the after school homework sessions with kids three afternoons a week, whether it is throwing a birthday party with the neighbors for our block captain or sharing a Christmas meal with a couple of neighbors, it really is all about being intentional and invested in the lives of those around you, and giving them space to invest in yours.

i think when it comes to the people who live next door it can seem quite a daunting thing, but my folks are brilliant at it – any time someone moves into their street they arrive with a plate of scones or muffins and a welcome and so they know everyone in their street – my dad has jumped over neighbors garden fences and mown their lawns [this was a muslim family that moved into the community and they later invited my dad to pray for one of their kids when he went into hospital] and so it really is pretty easy to do, but often just takes that initial decision and step.

we can be part of a group as an attender without really committing to the group or investing in it and so if that has been you, why not take the opportunity to step up in 2012 and really start building deeper relationships and investing in the lives of people [so move beyond a superficial ‘hey, how you doing?’ on a sunday at church or as you arrive home and walk into your house – invite someone round for a meal or out for a drink or get creative in a hundred other ways that can be effective.

and take it a step further to seek community based on what you can bring to it more than what it gives you – we are called to serve each other in love and so try and emulate the love demonstrated by the life of Jesus by doing what works for them more than it works for you – offer to babysit so your neighbors can have a date nite, gather a group of mates and paint their garden wall [maybe get permission for this one first], have a potluck [bring and share] meal and invite everyone in your street [if only two people come, start building relationship there] and start learning peoples names and getting to know them and being in their lives and watch as community happens.

no person should be an island, we were created for relationship. but especially if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, it is impossible to do that in isolation. God works with individuals within communities, where each person brings what they have to offer [time, energy, money] and offers it to serve and strengthen the group and those beyond it.

seek strong, intentional community in 2012.

to read the next one on laughter, go here…

continuing with this series of new year’s evolutions – with the idea of moving beyond a dream list of ‘i wish this for next year’ to some specific steps and actions to put into place to help you transform yourself into a better person in 2012. and my next evolution suggestion is this:

DEAL WITH THE PAST, BUT LIVE IN THE PRESENT, WITH THE FUTURE IN MIND

wo, that seems a little complicated, but really it’s just some more intentional living and this one requires a bit more work and effort and maybe even sweat and tears, but it is vital to having a life to the full 2012:

DEAL WITH THE PAST – one of the biggest aspects linked to this is forgiveness and this is such an important thing as holding onto unforgiveness and the bitterness/anger/resentment that goes with it, can be one of the most damaging things in life [physical, emotionally and even spiritually]

it has been said that holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping that the other person dies… because most of the stuff associated with unforgiveness hurts you and often the person it is directed at, is blissfully unaware that you are holding something against them. sometimes they may know and so it will affect both of you, but it is impossible to not forgive someone and live unaffected by that. what often happens is you build walls around yourself to protect you from being hurt again [by that person, or maybe by anyone] and while that can be incredibly affective, what it does is it also keeps out the potential love and support from both friends and God, which leads to loneliness and bitterness and increasing resentment and so on. the bible is clear that if someone has something against you [not even just you against them] you should interrupt your worship [leave your gift at the altar] and go and put things right with that person [as much as is possible for you, sometimes they won’t be interested but you have to make the effort from your side] and then return when you can honestly and truly [and purely] be able to worship God properly [matthew 5.24]

so to create a base for great relationship with God and a platform for healthy, growing relationships with friends and family it is vital that you do not hold unforgiveness against anyone. there might be something that happened ten years ago [or when you were a young child] and yet every time you see the person or hear their name it sends shock waves through your body – you need to address it and bring forgiveness, or it will stick with you for the rest of your life. [and i am not suggesting this is an easy thing – when it heads towards areas of abuse, be it physical or even just verbal, and rape, then it can be incredibly difficult, almost impossible and will not be a one moment thing but rather a journey of choosing to forgive daily, but fortunately i am in relationship with a God who is great with the ‘impossible’ and so i know there is a hope and a future where He is involved]. taking this point seriously will revolutionise your life.

another aspect of dealing with the past is getting out of debt. living in debt is a crippling thing because it feeds itself and just continues to be an ever gaping’er hole. as much as it is up to you in life, live without debt because this affects relationships and opportunities and health and so much more. for some of you this will mean the tough decision to take a serious look at your lifestyle and making some changes so you can live according to your means and not beyond them – things like what you spend on entertainment, or even take-away coffee [i made a decision when i was in stellenbosch that as much as i love it, i can’t really justify drinking at vida e cos the coffee is so expensive, but had specific times when drinking at Seattle was allowable] and even maybe where you live and what you drive. the distinction between need and greed can be a really helpful one in this area if we can be honest about it. and often choosing to spend less on yourself gives you resources to pour into others.

one other aspect i won’t go into in depth her, but which i think is key is to stop living off yesterday’s stories and miracles and accomplishments – be strengthened when you look back on them for sure, but always be looking forwards to the new thing God is going to do – if the stories you tell of God working in your life are ten years old, you need some new stories…

LIVE IN THE PRESENT WITH THE FUTURE IN MIND

again, there is a lot that can be said here – hopefully this blog works as a catalyst to spark off much greater thought and life change, but just a few thoughts… one area which i think differently to a lot of people, but similarly to how i read and understand the Bible, is the area of savings. while i think it is good to save specifically for something you have in mind and are working towards [i spent six months in the UK working to save up enough money so I could do a Youth With A Mission school in Holland in 2000] i don’t think savings for the sake of having a backup plan are a God idea. i believe for the most part we should be living and using the majority of our resources [time, money, energy] for what is happening now [although always keeping the future in mind, but not having the now determined by then then] and not just storing things up to enjoy later [see the parable of the rich fool in luke 12 as one example].

take a look at the early church in Acts 2.42 and 3 as well and see how the community aspect of how they lived affected their finances and how they looked after each other [community will be a future part of this series so watch out for it] because if we are a part of a community who really live in and around each others lives, then their will be mutual provision in all areas of life and cross-resourcing and it has the potential to create a really beautiful thing.

the problem with being stuck in the past [unforgiveness, regret, holding on to past failures and missed opportunities] or living in the future [being fully focused on the thing that it yet to come – “when I’m finished school”, “when i’m married”, “when i’m retired”] is that usually the now suffers very much and present relationships, opportunities, life and potential lose a lot of what they could be.

and so please put some time aside to think through these things and more – deal with the past and then live now, keeping the future in mind, but not being dictated by it…

to continue to the next one on how you spend your money, time and energy, click here.

two nights ago val got a call from a guy from a local church who told her that some homeless people [who had been evicted along with the ‘Occupy Philly’ people this week] had moved under a nearby bridge and would we the Simple Way be wanting to do anything about it – i chatted to him and got the details and told him i would try go that evening…

something more prioritised came up that evening and i wasn’t able to go, but first thing the next morning Val and i drove to go and find them and i went in to go and assess the situation and see what was happening…

and i met Paul.

Paul chatted to me for maybe half an hour to an hour [while my beautiful wife Val waited patiently in the car, not wanting to interrupt the man moment – she was originally going to go shop while i chatted but decided to wait which was cool] and it was just the raddest time. starting off by saying they didn’t really need anything [a mind blow for me with homeless people with my general experience back home] but that they had most of their needs met [there were about twenty tents under the bridge and they had access to running water in a nearby laundromat that didn’t lock up and people keep on coming by and supplying food and more] but at the end i was able to offer some bedrolls and jackets which the Simple Way has had donated and i took them through last nite.

Paul handed me this letter which he had written and was hoping to have posted in a local newspaper [i found it online fortunately so didn’t have to write it again so it definitely got posted somewhere] and gave me permission to share it with you and i think it is just excellent and felt so privileged to have spent time with him and Joe who i met last nite and Val and i are hopefully going back tomorrow to join them for a Quaker type service:

“We are not here protesting or to make a statement, We’re homeless. We are sick of being forced to exist alone, sick of being told that shelters, which are not tolerable living facilities for sober people, are an adequate alternative to being “allowed”, by the government, to work, live and share together to create for ourselves, with much less help and expense than the government can do anything, opportunities to provide for ourselves that which our troubled economy cannot.

Philadelphia has about 4,000 homeless people and 40,000 empty dwelling units, but, apparently, unless the wealthy can profit by our occupying these dwellings, they would rather see us alone, with our possessions if not stolen by regular criminals, ‘confiscated’ by police, since we have no place to store anything we can’t carry and are not allowed to congregate to watch one another’s belongings.

To have poverty forced upon us in the land of plenty, is no longer a viable solution, if in fact, it ever was.

I know how to grow food, build structures, build communities from the fragmented elements that current policy, make craftwork to supply cash for what it’s needed for, etc. My friends know how to do the things I don’t. Those who ‘have’ seem satisfied to make sure I don’t ‘have’ opportunity to gather to have a safe place to sleep, let alone organize to provide for our basic needs.

We need the use of at least one abandoned structure, if the law requires it to have water and electricity, the Obama administration provided $21 million dollars to help the homeless, this is a drop in the bucket.

We need an outdoor long term camping area, close enough to mass transit for us to meet medical, legal, pension and benefits and other needs, and large and separated enough to not disturb our neighbors and start to grow our own food and do art and craftwork, feed one another and see to one another’s daily needs.

In this sort of camp, people who get along can meet one another and we can help one another and be helped by those in the community who believe in, rather than merely preach, compassion, to get long term housing, use our varied skills to rehabilitate abandoned structures as we rehabilitate ourselves and work toward the caring, loving society that many believe we will make happen.

There are many caring people in Philadelphia, whose deeds as well as their words, demonstrate the belief that the present “crisis” is in fact and opportunity to create a land of “Liberty and Justice for All” rather than a land of “Just Us”.”

my brother-in-law keith just introduced me to this new cartoon strip called Prickly City by a guy called Scott Stantis and i took a look at a bunch of them and there’s some good stuff – great series on the Occupy phenomenon and some other good ones – here are a quick pick:

i am sitting at the computer with three news articles in front of me:

one is the exciting story of the Chilean miners who have been trapped underground since August 5 who are about to be rescued and are ‘fighting’ over who can go last so that their friends can get to freedom first – inspirational story of courage and survival and just so enthralling to see the whole world focused on the kind of “just 33 people” we might write off in a plane or train smash – so much energy and effort and pioneering in digging techniques etc etc been aimed towards these not just 33 men – inspiring stuff.

and latest update on the rescue

the second one is the story of a four year old girl in cape town who survived a 5 storey fall and only suffered a fractured arm – it is believed she slipped off a balcony and fortunately managed to hit an area of lawn missing the large paved section surrounding it

as i read the second one i thort to myself what a pleasure it is to read good news for a change, and two articles worth of it…

then there is the third story which begins with the line, “Lindsay Lohan is reportedly being treated for cocaine addiction.”

and i know i should feel sorry for her (for those of you who have not been following the lindsay lohan story she is currently in the middle of an out-of-control spiral that is making brittney spears look good) and i do, and i really hope that she has some quality people in and around her life to stand besides her and strengthen her and pray for her and help bring her back to life… but my over-riding feeling is anger – at the fact that in the middle of these other two inspiring stories, it is lindsay lohan that gets a greater focus from the media, and from the world audience. she is the role model.

‘girl survives five storey fall’ gets a four short paragraph mention on the side of an iafrica news tab, but the papers and magazines and websites will be scrambling for lindsay space

imagine a world where good news dominates the headlines – imagine what that would do to us in terms of hope and inspiration and resolve and determination and community…

only we can create that demand. maybe we should start doing so.

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