Thursday, October 16, 2014

Old Friends Must Always Begin as New Ones

*It's Day 16 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading yesterday's post and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

Every morning on our way to Sam's school I come close to veering off the road as I crane my neck to see the sun rising above the treetops and the early morning mist that's still clinging to the farm fields we pass. We drive by old barns that farmers are still actually using as they continue the rhythms of planting and harvesting. There's a lovely little pond that sits at the bottom of a corn field that never ceases to draw me in as we wend our way through the countryside. I realized this morning that as we drove by one of the little farms we pass every day, that I referred to it in my mind as "our farm." As if we have some stake in it now that it has become part of our daily routine and perhaps because it occupies a small place in my heart somehow.

The roads we drive to and from school have become familiar and comfortable and the short drive from our house to where Sam spends his mornings feels like it belongs to us in some indefinable way. I know where to look to see the morning sunlight breaking through the line of trees at one of the turns we make. And I know to look for the horses that have made their way out of the sleepy barn to eat their breakfast. And right now, as our local farm hosts it's own fall festival, there's an orange patch of pumpkins that almost glows with orange-ness through the foggy morning mist before the sun burns it away.

This morning found me pondering how less than two years ago, I didn't even know any of this existed. Even though I grew up in this county (before moving away for twelve years), I never laid eyes on a single one of these barns or farms or backroads. And, now they are becoming like old friends to me, familiar and welcoming and known.

I can't help but relate this to friendships we've made over the last two years since we moved here. I think we're finally starting to experience the depth of friendship we've hoped for and we're beginning to see friends start to feel like family. It always takes longer than you think it will, but once it finally begins to happen, you wonder how people it seems you just met have suddenly become so familiar.

Friendships that matter aren't usually forged over night. It takes time to reach the places in our friends' hearts that endear them to us and hopefully us to them. It takes time to learn the idiosyncrasies and the quirks and the expressions that make that friend themselves. And it takes time to let them discover those things about you.

Communities of friends are always in process. We are always learning new things about each other, hearing stories we haven't heard before, observing hand gestures and facial expressions that make each friend distinctive.

There is time for all of this. Rome wasn't built in a day. The community you and I long for can't be either.Give yourself time to live into the community you are hoping for. And remember that old friends must always begin as new ones.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Choosing People Over Technology

*It's Day 15 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading yesterday's post and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

Back in the old days (the '80s, obviously), kids who were really into computers and video games were kind of, well, nerds. Fast forward thirty years and those kids are billionaires and the rest of us who can't read code or write html (are those the same thing?) are just as obsessed with technology as those guys were in middle school.

Up until five days ago, my husband resolutely still used his flip phone. Despite it's having suffered a near fatal experience in the pool this summer, it lived long enough for Matt to realize it was time to enter into the modern world and accept the smartphone into his heart. And, now the blue glow of it's screen lights up his face in the evening when I turn to say something witty to him as we sit on the couch. Or is that the glow of the 50-inch television we recently acquired (i.e. won in a raffle.)

We love our screens over here, and despite my constant sense of our lives being sucked into the cyber vortex of our computers, iPhones, Nooks, and television, we cannot seem to pull ourselves away. It's disconcerting.

I know you've probably seen that short video circulating online that is basically a montage of people just living their lives while also staring constantly at their phones. The video is somewhat amusing until you realize what's actually happening. People aren't looking at each other, they're looking down, completely engrossed in whatever is happening on their tiny, little screens. I do this, too. All the time. Every day. It concerns me.

When I was in my twenties, phones were just starting to evolve into the smaller versions we hold in our hands from the bag phones and the awkwardly shaped flip phones that would fit into no one's pocket ever. I remember even then, before the internet had even thought about being accessed from a phone, that we were all starting to carry them with us everywhere. Obviously, that made sense for safety reasons and convenience and all that. But, they were beginning to be a bit intrusive. A pastor I worked with for a bit in my early twenties talked about this in a staff meeting at one point. He was noting that people were beginning to stop conversations with friends in order to answer their phones. The problem with that, according to him, was that it basically communicated to that other person that you would rather be somewhere else with someone else instead of in that moment with them.

That's been approximately twelve years ago since I heard him say that. And, the reality is, the epidemic of social media and smartphone worship is off the charts.

What I'm wondering is, how is that affecting you and I in our pursuit for real community? What do we lose when we substitute significantly engaging with the actual, living and breathing human beings in front of us with a glowing screen that gives us information and show us pretty pictures?

What are really sacrificing in the way of relationships and fellowship and connection (with people, not wi-fi)?

I'm a little unnerved by how enamored my little people are with our phones and our computers and our television. I find myself wanting to be super vigilant to teach them to value people over technology. Not just in theory, but actually, practically, intentionally valuing others over the screens that in the end can never offer what the person standing in front of you can.

Perhaps, today is a good day to consider what our screen time might really be costing us in the way of community and relationship. And, in response to the answer to that question, asking what we can do to change that.

Because in the end, people are what matter.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - 
immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Make Something Happen

*It's Day 13 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

At our little stay-at-home moms' Bible study group the other morning, my friend mentioned that she hated the word intentionality. Like hated it. I think her strong feelings towards that word might have something to do with how frequently it comes up in the land of Christians who love to speak Christianese. Similar to the words authentic, vulnerable, and possibly community (yep).

We Christians love to use words until they almost don't mean anything anymore. I'm sure every sub-culture does this, but we have a gift for it. There are websites dedicated to our idiosyncratic ways of communicating.

All this to say, the word intentionality might make your brain turn off when you read it because you may have heard it a thousand times. But being intentional is a huge part of creating community, so in order to keep you (and me) from going into a word coma when you hear it, here's a list of synonyms to round this word out:


Now add the word community to that list. And then take a minute to think about what that kind of community might look like. (i.e. purposeful community, conscious community, etc.)

On rare occasions, community happens effortlessly and it's possible that in different seasons of life we might find ourselves a part of a fellowship before we even have a chance to think about how to make that happen. But, in my experience, it usually takes real effort. Oh, and intentionality. Did I mention that? Making community happen involves what you might expect: prayer, planning, inviting, engaging, etc. Intention.

Matt and I love having people over to our house, but for the last two years we were either expecting a baby, having one, or living in the vortex of a baby year. Now that the babe is one, we're coming out of our cocoon and remembering how to use our home to help create community. We're trying to be purposeful in our desire to engage others in real, heart-deep fellowship.

Somewhat similarly to wanting to be married, the desire for community requires doing more than just sitting at home hoping the UPS man shows up and happens to want to hang out. That would obviously be all kinds of weird, but I think we can sometimes neglect to act because we're "waiting on the Lord" to make things happen. He definitely can drop a husband onto your doorstep or provide community in a completely supernatural way, but I don't know that it's going to work like that for most of us.

Acts 2 shows God's people committing themselves to the fellowship, sharing their food and possessions, attending church together, inviting each other into their homes and in the midst of all that, God was "adding to their number day by day."

Let's follow their example and be purposeful and deliberate as we invite people into our lives. If your intention is to experience community the way God designed you to, don't wait for it to just happen.

Take the first step toward someone else and invite them in.

Be brave enough to be intentional.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

When I Don't Have It All Together (Which Is Always)

*It's Day 12 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading previous posts and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

Sometimes I overachieve. Such as this weekend when I booked us to high heaven with stuff and now it's Sunday afternoon and we all want to crawl into our beds and sleep until next weekend.

A quick overview of the last 48 hours includes: cooking and delivering a meal to a family who just had the sweetest little baby imaginable, having friends we love over for dinner, and celebrating my mom's birthday all day Saturday at Stone Mountain Park. Activities not listed: grocery shopping for aforementioned events, cooking meals, baking a birthday cake, chatting with a long-distance friend who I never get to talk with, cleaning house for company, occasional showers, and keeping small people fed and clothed and alive.

All of this to say, I've been busy. And, on that note, let's talk about how to have community when we're keeping schedules that make us occasionally consider moving to North Dakota to live off the grid for a month or two. Or for always. We are all busier than we probably should be. And that makes it hard to have deep, meaningful, unhurried community.

As a card-carrying perfectionist, I get somewhat neurotic when things get busy because of my love for all things neat, organized, put-together and punctual. Busyness exacerbates this tendency, which is unfortunate for me, for you, for anyone who steps into my small tornado of perfectionism.

Friday afternoon, as I was somewhat frantically getting things ready for our friends to come over, I realized, close to half an hour before they arrived, that I had yet to take a shower that day. And I still had more vegetable chopping ahead of me. And there was a baby to feed. And a living room to vacuum. I considered not taking a shower and just wearing the yoga pants I was still wearing from the night before. They're close friends, but maybe no one should be close enough to make that wardrobe decision a right one.

So, I took a shower, and I felt more like a human being, which always gives your dinner party a better chance at success. But, it also meant that once our friends arrived, there were still lots of things to get done before dinner was actually going to happen. That wasn't ideal. BUT, the kids headed to the yard, the dads went out to get the grill started, and my friend and I hung out in the kitchen to chat while I cut up sweet potatoes and made sweet tea. My OCD nature was slightly disappointed with the fact that the evening hadn't gone exactly according to my plans, but it all turned out just fine. Better than fine.

The next morning my friend texted me to let me know that they'd had a good time and then said something to the effect of how community can still be great even when it isn't perfect. (Sidenote: She brought over a Dutch oven full of homemade mac and cheese that only needed to be kept warm in the oven. Somehow it managed to be baked an additional 25 minutes on 400 degrees.)

If you're anything like me, you can let your perfectionist tendencies keep you from inviting people over or from enjoying the time spent with guests when they do come over. I'm not free to feel joy in the midst of community when I'm so bound up by my need to be perfect or create a perfect environment.

Perfection is a myth. And it's a thief. It's steals significant moments from us by directing our attention to the details that are inconsequential in the midst of the fellowship going on around us.

It's hard, but I'm learning to let things go. To let there be dust bunnies under the furniture and small, greasy handprints on the windows. To be okay with dinner being an hour and a half later than I'd planned. To let go of the supposed need to look like I've got it all together

I'm trying to let insignificant things go for the sake of community unhindered by the trivial so that I can experience the unhurried, undistracted, life-giving fellowship you and I were meant for. Join me?


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