Tag Archive: perseverance

on the way to the CCDA conference in Minneapolis that a bunch of us from the Simple Way are currently attending, three of us stopped over at a Nurturing Communities event hosted by David Janzen who has just released a book on community and met up with a bunch of people from different intentional communities all over the country and spent a really great day connecting and dialoging and having an opportunity to connect with some of the monks at this incredible place called St John’s Abbey.

the one idea that came out of a few people [and especially from the monks from this 1500 year or more old order] was a concept that i have semi visited sporadically over the last few years in terms of thinking about it but never really written anything on it and that is the idea of STABILITY.

the world as most of us know it is not currently well aligned for the concept – we have become a people of instant gratification whether it be microwaved meals or instant messaging or 2 year stints at a job before changing company or sometimes even vocation and so the idea of sticking with something for a long time does not come as naturally as it once did.

but there is something valuable in STABILITY, well a lot of things, but possibly the most powerful is RELATIONSHIPS.

try as we might by poking and retweeting and being skype-able we have just not been able to come up with instant relationships… well not often, and certainly not effectively. i mean we have definitely given a shot and as witnessed perhaps by a rising divorce or single parent rate the concept of disposability is also something we’ve quickly embraced as opposed to perseverance, hard work and commitment. if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it as Beyonce so famously sang, followed quickly by if you stop liking it then remove the ring and if possible put it on the next person or thing that you like… walk away, don’t look back [remember Lot’s wife] just turn away and keep walking, and then rush to the next thing…

the monk’s take a vow of stability and it was interesting to hear that these Benedicting monks take a vow to the specific monastery as opposed to the denomination or Benedictine group as a whole… so there is commitment to the movement but the specific commitment in the form of a vow is aimed at the specific location [and it is not set in absolute stone and so there are ways to move to another monastery but it is quite a big deal – for the most part it means a commitment for life or a significant portion thereof]

when i think of intentional community and being part of neighborhood change then the idea of STABILITY resonates strongly with me – especially in a neighborhood as transient as ours where many people might be there for six months or less at times – there needs to be some form of stability somewhere to strengthen, encourage and build into those people who do stay longer and might decide [or have it decided for them] to make this place their home.

we look back at something that happened last year and try to speak of the change we see in our community whereas these monks refer to incidents that happened 50 or 100 years ago that helped shape their common life… it is a completely different mindset and one that bears much thought and consideration…

what if more people put down their roots and committed to a specific place and a specific people… or group of people… for ten years or even twenty… what kind of long-term change might be possible then? how much would our focus on the long-term nature of our community and the bigger questions of justice weigh on us?

definitely think this is a topic that demands a lot more thought and conversation…

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 coffee…

met some friends for coffee at the BP to celebrate the end of the week which has been interesting – quite a stressful time in terms of packing up the house and finishing off transcription work and trying to organise visas and a bunch of other stuff but i think that’s cool in a way – we don’t get to always choose when life happens to us – and while this live below the line week may have been largely insignificant in the bigger scheme of things i think that good came out of it for us – hopefully we have learnt to appreciate the little things and be more compassionate to people who have this situation thrust upon them as opposed to choosing it for themselves for a time period.

i guess today’s big lesson was that perseverance is easy when the end is in sight – if you know that 00:05 holds a cup of BP coffee for you then skipping the cup or so you would normally have during the day is no big deal at all and so today pretty much rushed by – yes it was quite a busy one on all fronts but we ate pretty well and finished big.

breakfast for me was two eggs on bread crusts [which i happen to dig] cos had to save the two slices for lunch [val didn’t have bread] and half an avo each so i stuck mine under the one fried egg – very yummy…

lunch was leftover noodle mix on snackwiches which was fairly decent…

supper was last two pork sausages well cooked as sausages [been chopped up rest of week] with rice and last of the beans/carrots and was really great – definitely ate enough food and the majority of it was not too bad [altho i think we killed lentils after just one meal – definitely pick rice or pap repeatedly over those]

so ja, with fasting or living below the line for a week it is made easier by the time frame – you choose when you want to do it and pick your structure/boundaries [just skip meals during day, just a daniel fast of fruit and veg only, absolutely nothing, how much money per day etc etc] and then do it for a time period and it’s over. for many people it’s not over.

i’m convinced that giving people a fish is not the answer – teaching them to fish or linking them up with the fisherman or taking down the company that is polluting the water that the fish should be freely available in are all bigger options… however, in the times and moments and busyness when those things are not immediately possible, sometimes giving a man [woman or child] a fish is better than not giving them a fish [especially when your waistline is probly over-fished]

i’m glad we did it, it wasn’t all fun, but it wasn’t all not fun and it certainly was not horrible and i hope we remember and learn and thing and treat and consider…

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