Book Review: Creating a Life Together
Author: Diana Leafe Christian
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Wow. This has to be THE “mother of all books” on intentional communities. It certainly lives up to the title and subtitle on its cover. I think practical tools is a likely understatement as the book goes into much detail on many of the serious nuts and bolts of forming intentional community. I was and am beyond impressed with the information I found in Creating a Life Together; Diana Leafe Christian has done an exemplary job of bringing together a large amount of information and summarizing it into an intellectually digestive form. I am surprised at the breadth and depth of detail she has been able to bring into one volume and still maintain a level of readability that is unexpected for a book that seems like it should read more like an encyclopedia or some multi-step manual. My point; it reads very well. In fact, I read most of the book during a 3-hour flight…finding it almost as exciting as a mystery or action-adventure title on the NY Times Bestseller list. Really!
As I have already said, the book is everything it claims to be and more. The book draws on the collective experience of the author, Diana Leafe Christian, who has served as the editor of Communities magazine since 1993 and has many years of experience observing and living as a member of intentional communities. Additionally, the book also shares insight and example from a number of community models—their best and worst practices—so the reader is provided with “real world” experience to examine.
Creating a Life Together is divided into three primary sections. Part one deals with start-up issues; this section of the book is worth its cost alone. Part two is what I might refer to as the “engine room” of the intentional community and includes discussion about agreements, policy, legal advice and entity, property concerns, zoning issues, neighbors, and financing. It covers most of the mechanics involved with forming an intentional community. While this aspect of community might seem burdensome and/or boring, it absolutely cannot be overlooked and I believe Diana has done a great job of presenting this information fairly and highlighting its importance as well. Part three shares about the nature and development of the community itself…the people factor as it were, describing how people thrive, are nourished, and deal with conflict within the close confines of this type of neighborhood. There are many great examples of how it is done right and how it is done wrong in this section along with a number of very good resources. The book is rounded out with a great compilation of resource material found in the appendices featuring examples of community vision documents, sample community agreements, and information that I found extremely helpful for setting up a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. There is also a great list of books, websites, and other organizations at the end of the book that can serve for next steps or deeper study into specific areas relative to the intentional community model.
I am so very glad to have found this book. Certain aspects of it caused pangs of depression as I considered some of the aspects of community forming that aren’t so exciting for me, but I am glad to have the reality check and awareness of these aspects brought to my attention, so I have both eyes open as I proceed with learning about (and hopefully becoming part of) an intentional community. If you are considering this type of lifestyle, this book is a “must have” for you. Don’t miss it!
Monastic Notes (Pt.17—July 8-9, 2011)
(Pecos: Days 19-20—July 8th-9th 2011)
Personal Reflections and Recollections:
July 8: —Today was full of great conversations… I had the opportunity to follow up with Father Paul, one of the brother monks here at Pecos Monastery, about my vision for a Church Community. He told me he “read every word“ and from the looks of the copy I gave him he had; there were highlights, underlines, and margin notes on almost every page. It was a blessing to me that he would take the time to read it in the first place, but to make time to really study and then provide me critique and insight over each page was very meaningful to me. All throughout our conversation this afternoon he continued to affirm me with “yep’s” and “you’re right’s.” I don’t think I could have come away any more encouraged than what I was at this point. Besides the affirmation and encouragement behind the overall vision for the Kairos Community he also provided me with some direction that I intend to follow up on when I return home. In all, the time with Father Paul was a great privilege and I was honored to be gifted with his time and wisdom.
Following my time with Fr. Paul, I met with my spiritual director, Ezra. He had suggested that I speak with Fr. Paul in the first place. I spent some time talking with him about my follow up visit with Fr. Paul, but spent more time discussing the significance of my experience in the previous day (see here). It was a good time of confession for me and a well received blessing to be able to pray with someone and celebrate God’s work in my life.
July 9: —For the past couple days we have been discussing the healing and nurture of the Inner Child. While I did not personally experience a deep need for “inner child” ministry, I found value in the experience and am grateful to learn a needful toolset for this type and form of ministry. I don’t think the style of teaching and this particular ministry “tool set” would appeal to a large demographic of the male gender, but there was solid reasoning behind the methodology and the material presented that will be useful to me in my future ministry I am sure. I want to be especially sensitive to being close-minded to anything that does might not specifically apply to or resonate with me.
Near the end of these Healing of the Inner Child sessions our lecturer had a special surprise for us. There was a beautifully wrapped package (present) on the table next to the lectern. She unwrapped the package in front of the class and showed us a framed mirror with an etching of an “image of Jesus” in it. After showing the mirror to the class, she carried it to each student individually stopping to share a prophetic prayer over each of us. Her word to me follows:
“Jeff, continue to walk with me in confidence and in love as you become all that I have called you to be.”
“…in confidence and in love.” These words stick out to me particularly. It means to me that faith tempered and drenched in the love of GOD (AGAPE) are the words of encouragement to me from Jesus. Faith and Love…continue to follow with those as my pillars, as I follow Jesus. This is the way to fulfill the passion within me of becoming what HE wants me to be. Continue to walk with me. ME, Jesus, in confidence…TRUST-FAITH, and in love. I will, God empowering me, by HIS Holy Spirit, I will do this. Amen. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Theresa. Thank You, Pecos Monastery.
This afternoon we had the opportunity to have “items” blessed by one of the priests here. Since being here I had purchased a couple reminders of my stay here at the monastery. I purchased a Medal of St. Benedict as well as a small bronze cross with the words “I Am Always With You” inscribed on it. I wanted to have these items blessed along with a set of prayer beads I had fashioned for myself before coming to Pecos, New Mexico. I gathered up my items and set out to meet with Father Sam. It was a joy to listen to Fr. Sam tell about us his journey with Jesus. He is in his “eighties” and was celebrating sixty years in profession of vows (wow…60 years of being a monk). He prayed a blessing of St. Benedict over our medals and a prayer of blessings for things of special meaning over my prayer beads meant to help my focus and meditations upon God when praying with the beads. He finished the blessing with an anointing and sprinkling of Holy Water and touching each item blessed with a Holy Relic. This relic was a special case in the shape of a cross which, when opened, revealed an ornate cross inside with a tiny splinter said to have been from the cross of our Savior, Jesus. I found this a pretty mind-blowing experience and difficult to wrap my mind around… but anyone is free to believe whatever they choose. I say I am blessed for the opportunity of a lifetime to receive a wonderful blessing from a beautiful saint. Thank you, Father Sam.
I closed out a wonderful couple of days with some very special and private prayer-time in my room this evening. While I was praying, I was doodling and drawing in my journal; this is something I do to keep distractions from my prayer. I will draw things that help my focus on Christ: crosses, ichthus fish, and other iconic symbols of Christian faith. While I was praying and worshiping…drawing a random scene, I was thanking Jesus for the journey He has shared with me over the years. And then, clear as a bell, I heard a Voice in my soul say; “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Wow. Praise Him! Amen.
Monastic Notes (Pt.11—June 30th 2011)
(Pecos: Day 11—June 30th 2011)
I didn’t take many notes in our lectures today. The material seems to be fine, but the information was taken directly from Barry and Connelly’s book, The Practice of Spiritual Direction. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is no sense in me recopying something that I have printed in a book. For the most part, we continued to answer the question, “What is Spiritual Direction?” I did end up writing down a few points as I pondered spiritual direction through the lectures. I made a bulleted list that is a consolidation of the things I have heard (or put together from what I think I’ve heard) that have struck me as very important during the course of spiritual friendships; my points follow:
- There should be openness and ease in the conversation.
- Invite and enter into deep conversation using evocative questions
- Do not try to problem-solve
- The conversation should weighted predominately with conversation about relationship(s) with God
- The Biblical narrative should be used as an overlay to our lives whenever possible so we might bring clarity and focus to the Bible
- Confidentiality is paramount at every level. Always.
Personal Reflections and Recollections:
I had the chance to speak with Fr. Paul today, one of the monks here at Pecos, about my vision for intentional community, church, spiritual renewal center (Kairos) as originally suggested by Ezra. During our time together, I shared some of my own spiritual journey and the “why” and “where” I think the Spirit is leading me. Before ending our chat, I left him with a copy of my prospectus for the Kairos Community and made a date to talk again next week. I look forward to hearing his thoughts and learning from his wisdom.
During the course of the last week I’ve had the unfortunate confliction or two with differing ideas between myself and other people. These conflicts have not been earth-shattering, but they’ve caused me some varying degrees of discontent. I mention these moments because I’ve been sharing how awesome my experience has been and how wonderful the conversations have been that I’ve been having each and every day.
I speak often about the joy of Christian community and how it should serve as an example to the greater human community-at-large. Many times in these monologues about community of mine, I am accused of being an idealistic dreamer or a person that has delusional visions of a Utopian society. Maybe some of these accusations are true, but I know that any community worth being a part of takes “work” to make it work; the sweetness doesn’t come without tears. I think the point of this is that in the mix of developing lasting relationships there is the necessity of trust, truth, temperance, and travail; through these efforts are born the loving community I believe God desires for His people. These communities may not be “perfect,” but they are perfected through the love exhibited between their members. This means differences and diversity are respected where they do not interfere with the core tenets of the Gospel and core tenets are not to be confused with the doctrinal biases or traditions of men.
When the Council at Jerusalem met concerning the non-Jewish believers they did not write up a lengthy charter explaining all the nuances of their doctrine. Ultimately, they accepted the Gentile believers because God had accepted them (go figure). There was evidence that the Holy Spirit was working in their (the Gentiles) lives, so the Christian Jews gave them a few simple guidelines to work with (Acts 15:28-29). They told them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. They said if the new believers did those things, “they would do well.” Why we don’t take a page from the “Playbook” of those who have gone before us is a mystery to me, but it seems that we could work past a lot off disagreements if we did. This doesn’t mean we might not still disagree, but these disagreements would not be cause for division. This has been true for my experiences where I have disagreed with some of my brothers and sisters here at the monastery. I choose to look past some of the things we do not see eye to eye on and celebrate the things we do. It really is as simple as that. Amen.
Monastic Notes (Pt.10—June 29th 2011)
(Pecos: Day 10—June 29th 2011)
Today’s lectures explored the question, “What is Spiritual Direction?” While the two daytime sessions where rudimentary, they weren’t boring. I was able to “connect a few more dots” and fill in a few more blanks from my personal studies through the past few years. I am thankful for the guidance I have been given with regard to building my personal library and organizing my reading schedule for the next coming months and year. I should give kudos to our lecturer today for providing an after-hours informal Q&A session where the students were encouraged to ask their questions that may or may not have been related to the day’s lectures. Pat (our speaker) talked at length about some of the more practical and logistical details involved with the ministry of spiritual direction that I did find very helpful.
Some highlights from the day’s notes follow:
- The ministry of hospitality sets the tone (atmosphere) for Spiritual Direction
- We “empty” ourselves in order to create a place of “welcome” for others to enter into; we create space for a holy place where others might share our soul.
- As spiritual directors we honestly and effectively welcome people into our heart
- We strive to help people find the “thin” places (where heaven and earth converge) in their world of dailyness
- Always pray with intentionality and expectation—participate with the Trinity in “Trinitarian Love” (Oneness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—John 17)
Personal Reflections and Recollections…
I’m on a roll… Today was another great day! The experience here at the monastery continues to be rich on so many levels; from the communal experience and atmosphere to the individual kairos conversations that occur every day, each moment continues to be an extension and enveloping of God’s sacred Presence. I am awed. I am blessed. There is a part of me that genuinely feels at home here, but in reality I know that I am not. I know deep in my soul that God has a specific place, work, and people to be with and this is my reality. I continue to pray with laughter and tears for this place and day that I know as real in my heart to become the reality of my life. I will continue to live surrendered to His time and His way of getting there. This is the essence of trust and the truth of what Kairos is… “God’s appointed and special time.” Amen.
Monastic Notes (Pt.9—June 28th 2011)
(Pecos: Day 9—June 28th 2011)
Reflections and Recollections…
Today was another marvelous “God-day!” My Lord continues to show Himself in evermore tangible ways. It’s almost as if He is taking special delight in giving me beautiful spiritual presents that I have “secretly” longed for. Today, especially, He was bearing multiple gifts handed out to me throughout the day… just as I would be delighting in one, He would shower me with yet another. What a great and loving God!
The first gift was a blessing of affirmation and confirmation with regard to my own spiritual gifting. These affirmations usually come from other men and women of God who recognize God’s gifts operating in you. While we are suspect of our own gifting, we can often be biased and are not the best judge to determine whether these gifts are real or not. When gifting is affirmed in you through your peers, it can be joyous and humbling in a delightfully encouraging way. This happened for me today and I am still reeling over it.
I also met with Ezra (my Spiritual Director while at Pecos) and he provided me with quite a bit of feedback regarding the proposal I shared with him about the Kairos Community Church and Spiritual Renewal Center. Every comment, suggestion, and observation was positive and affirming. He shared with me a number of helpful considerations and suggested that I speak with one of the monks here at the monastery about some of the aspects of intentional communities that might help me in the development of Kairos. He also thought Father Paul might be able to connect me with some additional resources that might be helpful to me with this endeavor. I considered this a second special gift from God today.
I continue to meet new people and make new friends and tonight was no exception. At the evening meal tonight we had a new arrival to the monastery, Kenny Mirman (Kenny is an artist, author, filmmaker, video producer living in Los Angeles, CA). Kenny will be teaching one of our sessions in the School for Spiritual Direction. His lectures will be on the subject of Life Scripts and how the stories of our lives connect with our spiritual journey. I believe our meeting on this particular evening was providentially ordained by God. I think there was a deep connection in the similarity of our life journeys. Both of us come from very different places, but the passion and intensity of our search for truth is so very much alike. The time we talked and shared together seemed like it passed as a few seconds, but we chatted for over a couple of hours. It was a great time getting to hear his story as I also shared mine with him.
Lectio Divina and Scipture Meditations for the day…
Psalm 19:1-14 –> What great thoughts to remember: “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, trustworthy, right, clear, pure, true, desirable, sweet, and a great reward. They revive the soul, provide wisdom, bring joy, give insight, last forever, are always fair, and provide warning for those who obey.”
And how do we respond to the God shared in the Psalm 19:1-14? Peter writes that our response should be as follows:
5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. 8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9 NLT)
After four days of a mild-dull headache (suffering from elevation sickness I believe: Pecos is around 7200-7300 ft. above sea level), I slept through the entire night with no wake-ups or weird dreams. This morning I awakened with the chanting of the “Glory Be” ringing in my heart…
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
Last night began the observance and celebration of the Feast of John the Baptist. This is my first experience with actually participating in the festal observance with the Church and one of the “days of the Saints.” At the evening liturgy last night there was a procession of the monks with the burning incense, special vestments and robes, and more… my heart was warmed.
My realization as I pondered the celebration of John the Baptist’s birth was that in six months we would be celebrating the birth of Jesus! What a wonderful blessing the Christian calendar is…keeping the family and Church of the Living God rooted and grounded in the eternal clock of our Great God! Standing there in this new awareness, my eyes grew hot and misty as my heart skipped with anticipation and giddiness looking forward to the celebration of our Savior’s Day.
Monastic Notes (Pecos: Day 5—June 24th 2011)
Many highlights today…
Our lectures today were SUPERB! Dr. Paul Spilsbury from Ambrose University (Calgary, AB) was our guest lecturer for the topic of “Scripture Study for Spiritual Direction.” The first two sessions were incredibly inspiring to me. I’ll be “unpacking” and reflecting upon my notes and thoughts for some time I am sure.
As Paul started his lecture, he said something to the effect of “Scripture having layers of interpretation…” He likened it to the imagery of sediment. A thought flashed through my mind: Scripture interpretation is like (or can be like) layers of sediment compacting upon itself to ultimately create a firm foundation of “Biblical-God Inspired-Rock-Truth.” Jesus said, “The wise man builds his house upon the rock…” Indeed, he does.
Not very far into our lecture, Dr. Spilsbury started to talk about the Parable of the Sower from the Gospel of Mark (chapter four). As soon as Paul started in this talk, I immediately thought about my own study from this Parable as it is retold in the Gospel of Luke (chapter eight). Echoing in my mind were the words, “Pay attention to how you listen…” (Luke 8:18). As Paul was framing his talk around Mark chapter four, the remainder of the lecture seemed to be filtered through Luke chapter eight for me.—I continued hearing everything through “Pay attention to how you listen.”
I’m not sure when it occurred, but at some point in the lecture the theme started to clarify for me. We were talking about hearing “The Voice” and God’s guidance through any number of ways He might speak…But always “The Voice”—so—again… “Pay attention to how you listen.”
Other great thoughts from Dr. Paul’s lecture today (these are interpretations of what I heard):
- We should become fully engaged when reading, studying, and praying Scripture
- “Hearing” Scripture is done will all our senses
- Scripture is “food for eating;” however, we cannot expect to be spoonfed
- Scripture is an invitation to share and explore the mysteries of God (Luke 8:9)
- Scripture requires a hermeneutic of obedience; “I know because I am willing to obey”
- Bible reading is a means of grace; it is sacred and sacramental
I left the lecture today with the following words ricocheting in my brain: Pneuma, Hear, Listen, God-Breathed, Speak, Spirit, The Voice, and this concluding thought—”It is hard for me to believe that we can be people who understand the Scriptures if we are unwilling to obey them…” (Luke 8:18 NLT).
I had my second meeting with my spiritual director (during my time at Pecos), Ezra, and shared with him my vision for the Community that I feel God has birthed in me. I gave him the prospectus for the Kairos Community Church and Spiritual Renewal Center; I look forward to the next time we chat, so I might hear what the Spirit would speak to me through him and our conversation.
I spoke at length with a couple more of my fellow students today (Jane and Ronda), wonderful ladies with fantastic stories of their journey’s with Jesus. I had a great time chatting with both of them and sharing what God is doing in our lives. Later this evening a few ladies who had heard me playing my guitar asked if I’d lead in a few praise and worship songs…so I did. Jeane, Charis, Beverly, and I had a delightful time playing, praising, singing, and worshiping Jesus. What a great way to end an AWESOME Day! I’m sure I missed some things that blessed me during the day, but it was so overflowing I just couldn’t keep up. Thank You, for a marvelous day Jesus!
It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were almost set to begin our journey west to live in Olympia, WA. What we thought we were leaving to live for was not what it turned out to be. That is not to say that what has turned out to be is not what God has directed…on the contrary, it is exactly what God has directed. I believe this.
Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.” -Hosea 10:12 NLT
Tomorrow I begin day one of a four-week adventure. This adventure takes me to New Mexico and the Pecos Monastery where I will enter into a cohort of followers who desire to learn more about spiritual formation and spiritual direction. You can learn more about what I will be doing and learning by checking out this link (SSD-Pecos Monastery). I would appreciate your prayers and thoughts while I am away. This school and time away is not only about learning, but about doing. I will be immersed in the Benedictine monastic experience practicing a rhythm that might help me to become even more responsive to our God who is always with us. I pray this will be one of the primary outcomes of these next four-weeks.
As a result of this “unplugged” time away, the iCrucified blog will be sparsely attended. I don’t know what chance, if any, I will have to post to the blog. I am not taking my computer, but may have minimal access to the internet from time to time. If I am able, I will share updates and maybe some photos while I am away. I will be journaling my experience and plan to share as I am able upon my return. In the interim, I plan to schedule a couple of posts from the archives of the iCrucified blog.
A prayer of my own combined with a prayer from John Wesley:
O LORD and my God, I pray that you will receive me again with all my faults and failings. I pray you will remake me and teach me… reveal yourself to me in ways that will sear your truth into my brain, heart, and soul. Dear Lord, my heart wants to be wholly owned by you… and I desire to serve only you. I long, O LORD, to find, serve, and contribute to a community of followers who desire also for the same. Lord, be my Teacher -jeff borden
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed GOD, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. -john Wesley
O GOD, do not be silent! Do not be deaf. Do not be quiet, O GOD. You alone are called the LORD; you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth. (Psalm 83:1, 18)
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 256 pages – ISBN: 9780849918841
As it has often been the case, it is so again… I have fallen “head over heels” with the vision that is portrayed in this book, Becoming a True Spiritual Community. Over the past few years there has been something almost providential in the way books have come up on my “radar.” The timing of where my thoughts and passions are running and the intersection of the subject matter of the book when it falls into my hands has occurred on more occasions than I can attribute to sheer coincidence. It is the case again with this book by Larry Crabb.
For forty years I have had an on-again-off-again relationship with the Christian Church that exists in North America. My primary experience has been with Protestant Evangelicalism, but my knowledge of the Christian church has extended beyond the boundaries of that circle in the most recent decade. What I have experienced in my forty years of churchianity has not been what I would describe as good and that experience of “not good” resulted in seasons where I danced intimately with the church and other seasons where there was no relationship at all. I accept the responsibility that is mine where my heart and my attitude were incompatible with the Christian church, but I can’t help but think if the church were living up to the organism it is described in the Bible there may not have been the tension between us through the years… there may never have been a break in our relationship at all. I wonder…
So, what is it about this book, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be, that I find so wonderfully endearing? Before I answer that, let me point out that this is a republication of a book formerly published under the name of The Safest Place on Earth. As far as I have been able to discern, the books are the same. Now, back to the question, what is it about this book?
Becoming a True Spiritual Community ranks as one of the most honest assessments and characterizations of the American church that I have ever read. Saying this I must also clarify that there is no “church bashing” or vitriolic rhetoric that demeans the church. The words are honest and written from an attitude of love for the church, but they are candid, blunt, and revealing. As Crabb reveals some of the shallow façade supporting the contemporary church he does so with painfully honest self-examination that draws the reader into journeying inward to make similar examinations of their own spirituality… sometimes exposing our own shallowness, pride, ego, and selfish desires. This process of exposing and examination continues through part one and into part two of the book before the tide begins to turn and the hopeful beauty of the church and spiritual community that God desires for us is revealed. There are allusions to this hope in the first half of the book, but the crescendo builds to a gloriously hopeful ending beginning at the halfway mark around chapter nine.
The book is full of personal anecdotes and many metaphors gleaned from classic and contemporary literature from the disciplines of spiritual formation. There is also a very thorough discussion guide at the end of the book that would prove itself invaluable for a group study.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I’m sure timing has much to do with my excitement, but I also know that my desire for spiritual community as described by Dr. Crabb has been my passion for at least twenty-five years. I am reinvigorated and encouraged by what was written in this book and will recommend it as one of the top reads concerning the study of ecclesiology (the Church). I look forward to sharing the thoughts contained in this book with others and being a part of the communities that will be formed out of those discussions.
LENT—Day 36: “Spiritual Incubators” [2011APR14]
Yesterday I quoted an excerpt from Henri Nouwen which I continue to mull over. Hear again the words of Henri Nouwen:
I had been received with open arms, given all the attention and affection I could ever hope for, and offered a safe and loving place to grow spiritually as well as emotionally. Everything seemed ideal. But precisely at that time, I fell apart—as if I needed a safe place to hit bottom. –Henri Nouwen
While it may not be the case today, I still contend and believe with all my heart that the Church that is the Bride of Jesus Christ is the place that Nouwen speaks of. I believe the Church is the incubator for our rebirthing and re-imaging…the very recreation of ourselves into the living images of Jesus Christ (Imago Dei). A book I’m reading at the moment is having a huge impact on me and speaking words to passions I have had deep in my soul for a looonnng time. In Becoming a True Spiritual Community, Larry Crabb writes:
The Church is a community of people on a journey to God. –Larry Crabb
Also in Becoming a True Spiritual Community Dr. Crabb describes what he calls the “furnishings of the upper room.” This is another description of the Seventh Mansions described by Teresa Avila in her classic work The Interior Castle. This is the place in the heart that God has carved out of the submissive soul who turns themselves over for “re-imaging.” In the safe place of a true spiritual community, the spiritual incubator of the church, God is free to do His life-changing work in His children. Crabb describes the furnishings of this “upper room” as follows:
- The renewed image of Christ with its passion to worship, a desire, unrivaled in potential strength, to glorify God by enjoying Him and revealing Him to others.
- A recognition of who we are and who God is that stirs a passion to trust, a passion that makes it possible to rest in a storm and continue, quietly, our journey to god, a passion to radically depend on God.
- An attitude that views life experiences as an opportunity to satisfy a passion to grow and as reason to celebrate trials as spiritually forming, and blessings as foretastes of what’s ahead.
- An embracing of God’s law as the character of the person we most love that fuels a passion to obey, not a pressure but an anger-free supernaturally aroused eagerness to please our Father.
We need the Church. We need to become the Church. We need to be the midwives of rebirth assisting the Holy Spirit as He wills to remake God’s wayward children into the divine creatures he created them to be. The Church needs to become the safe place where broken souls can become completely undone in safety and in love. O God, help us to rise up to all that you have empowered us to be… your spiritual incubator for your reborn children.
Let your compassion come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight. The LORD responds; I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye. Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.
5 “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” –Jesus (John 3:5-8)
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)
LENT—Day 35: “Confident Direction—Kairos: The Appointed Time” [2011APR13]
I’ve had the privileged blessing to have been set apart for a season of concentrated time alone with God. I don’t believe that time has fully run its course, but certain elements of my theology, ecclesiology, and mission are being clarified. One of these items mentioned is my thinking about church (what it is, who it is, what it’s for, and why it exists). I know these questions have been asked before and there are denominational statements that answer every question I could ever ask, but… as I survey the state of the church in America there seems to be a disconnect from what we profess about our church and where the proverbial “rubber meets the road.” Countless surveys, polls, and statistics reveal that church is not fulfilling the mission that was handed to it by Jesus… at least in the way of being a blessing to the nations, revealing God to the world, and reflecting true love with every act. The church (at least in America) has become an institution over the living organism she was intended to be. Pardon the sweeping generalization, but is seems as though rules, doctrine, membership rolls, and budget are arguably the most important aspects of most churches. Before I go further let me make clear, I love the church…although I am saddened at what she has become.
I believe that each member of the church bears individual responsibility; the shepherd (Pastor) of the flock will also stand account before God for their faithfulness and interpretation of Jesus’ commands. As I was reading from Jeremiah today, a passage of Scripture sent chills up and down my spine…
34 Weep and moan, you evil shepherds! Roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock! The time of your slaughter has arrived; you will fall and shatter like a fragile vase. 35 You will find no place to hide; there will be no way to escape. 36 Listen to the frantic cries of the shepherds. The leaders of the flock are wailing in despair, for the Lord is ruining their pastures. (Jeremiah 25:30-38)
There is context to this passage, the priests and teachers of God’s Law were misleading the people (God’s flock). They weren’t teaching the truth to the people, but placating their desires and permitting unspeakable atrocities for the sake of “not rocking the boat.” That is my paraphrased synopsis, but I think it sums up the context. As a result, God lays waste to the rebellion and mockery of His Name and he holds both the shepherd and the people under their care to account.
Will this happen again? Is this time upon us again? I don’t know, but there are some rather harsh indictments from Jesus in the Book of Revelation that some have interpreted to be related to the end times. Who really knows what that means? My heart tells me we are not living up to the potential that Christ planned for His Bride. It is with this burden that I have been striving and seeking God’s direction for my own life and ministry.
I had been received with open arms, given all the attention and affection I could ever hope for, and offered a safe and loving place to grow spiritually as well as emotionally. Everything seemed ideal. But precisely at that time, I fell apart—as if I needed a safe place to hit bottom. –Henri Nouwen
Nouwen’s confession is part of what I believe the church is supposed to exist for—a safe place for people to “hit bottom” or learn to deny self, so they might be reborn into the image of Christ (Imago Dei). It is my experience (such as it may be) that church rarely presents this option. Most people learn to lie very well in the church. Most people, especially pastors, are not permitted to show weakness or frailty… this is the unspoken doctrine of the church or the white elephant. It has been this understanding that has fueled the vision in my own heart to provide such a place. This place would exist for people to fully unmask themselves with no fear and in complete safety, so that once unmasked, they would be free to be re-imaged as the person God had originally destined them to become. This place would be called “Kairos” for it is the appointed time for God’s people and God’s work to be done.
O LORD, your word is everlasting; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness remains from one generation to the next; you established the earth, and it abides. The LORD shall watch over your going out and coming in, from this time forth for evermore. He has wiped out the record of our debt to the Law, which stood against us; he has destroyed it by nailing it to the cross; and he has stripped the sovereignties and the ruling forces, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession. (Psalm 119:89-90; Psalm 121:8; Colossians 2:15-16)
Qoph—I pray with all my heart; answer me LORD! I will obey your decrees. I cry out to you; rescue me, that I may obey your laws. I rise early before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. I stay awake through the night thinking about your promise.
Shin—I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure. I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just. Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.
Taw—O LORD, listen to my cry; give me the discerning mind you promised. Give me a helping hand, for I have chosen to follow your commandments.
(Psalm 119:145-148; 162-165; 169, 173)
“We have heard with our ears, O GOD, the deeds you did in the days of old.” (Psalm 44:1)