Tag Archive: stability


If you haven’t yet read the story of Nigel and Trish and their five children who moved into Hillbrow in South Africa to do life, then you are one of the few. That story has been blowing up on my blog with over 2000 views [that’s ‘blowing up’ on my blog] and 350 Facebook shares.

People are resonating with the story. There is something about it that just reaches out and grabs you [and i imagine makes a lot of people uneasy or nervous in a kind of wait-a-minute-do-i-need-to-now-go-do-that kind of way].

I want to suggest that it is the idea of incarnation. 

One dictionary definition i looked up for incarnation described it as ‘the action of incarnating’ which was not so helpful. Another said it was ‘the bodily manifestation of a spiritual being’ which at least starts to give us something to work with.

It has been given as a description of what Jesus did which is well described in Philippians 2:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Basically, God, in the form and person of Jesus, came close.

After years of sending messengers is the form of leaders and angels and prophets, God took a step further and came to deliver the message and demonstrate the way to live Himself. He came and lived it amongst us. And forever took away our ability to say, ‘God doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know what I’m going through.’ Well yes He does, because He was here. He gets it.

It’s about not so much looking to your interests as to the interests of others [which Jesus strongly called us to in His ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me’ speech of Luke 9.23]

Now as followers of Jesus we have the Holy Spirit living in us and so everywhere we go there should theoretically be ‘the bodily manifestation of a spiritual being’ – but the question that needs to be asked on that is how often do we end up looking like us and how often do we end up looking like Jesus?

Here is another story i read about a South African family who look to be at least trying to ‘get’ this to some extent. Although their experiment definitely led to mixed responses from those around them:

‘Some condemned it as a “stupid experiment” and exploitative, calling for them to be “burned in their shack” by locals. Others applauded their courage in bridging South Africa’s massive wealth divide.’

And the same kind of story resonates in this American family, the Albrechts, who have lived in the UK since 1992 and have taken in around 250 homeless people over the last 7 years.

I would say that is one of the strongest lessons we have learnt or observed from our time over here. That moving in to the area ad building relationships with the people around you is one of the most effective ways to really get the chance to share your message [because the loudest sharing of it comes from the day to day of how they see you live life]

It is what resonated with me in my favourite book of all time, ‘No Compromise: The Keith Green story’ where Keith and his wife started taking people into their home within a few months of being married and they ended up on a farm with a community of many people [a lot of whom started out from a place of being down and out]. It wasn’t comfortable or cool or hipster or anything like that. It just felt like the word of God and so they did it.

i love how the word ‘nation’ is present in the word ‘incarnation‘ as well as the word ‘in’

do i think everyone is called to move into a poor, broken-down neighborhood to help bridge the gap between rich and poor and incarnationally make a difference around them? absolutely not. but i do think a lot more people are called to than are presently doing it. i also know that it would be a lot easier if people did it in greater numbers – so groups of friends moving into the same neighborhood [and i would thoroughly encourage the need for some form of relationship to be present before just deciding to move into a rough neighborhood]

i also think this is powerfully linked to the concept of stability – committing to an area, a community, a workplace for a considerable length of time.

maybe the question each of us should be asking is, ‘Why should i not go?’ and then, if there is an answer, stay where you are. there are a growing number of us who believe that poverty will end when the rich meet and get to know the poor. when they move in as neighbors and become some measure of friends.

are you being called? and what scares you about this most? [because i imagine this scares some of you a lot]

in Jesus, the Word became flesh

for most of us the challenge is seeing our flesh become Word…

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…

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