Friday, November 21, 2008

Community Update

Long blog....

Time for a community update.

Today we are getting a camper set up to stay in on the land. We have reached the point where it is just insanity to try to run back and forth to try to accomplish anything and just need to be there full time. It is going to take us a few days to get set up though. There is power run to the barn now, but no outlets to plug into. That needs to be taken care of. The nights here have been rather chilly and I don't want to wake up to below freezing temperatures every morning in a camper. I know..where is my sense of adventure. Have no doubt I have already been on an adventure. Our water use will be limited to what can be stored in the tank as we have not yet dug a well or had county water run to the land. But we know that God is going to bless every moment we spend there.

We have chosen a layout for the lots. All of the lots are between nearly 3/4 acre and 1 1/4 acre. There are eight of them. There is a circular area in the middle of the field of about a half acre which will comprise a community park area. Around this circle will be the residential road, around which the lots are situated. All the houses will face this park area (and each other). All of the area which is currently being leased to purchase will be community land and will contain the garden, orchard, barn and pasture land, and community house.

There is so much to be done, but it is becoming very real. We meet with our first builder Monday and are planning meetings with at least two more. The surveyors are going to head out and put up stakes to designate boundary lines. Then we will be able to get the health department out there to do the perc tests. Then......a well! Then we won't have to head to mom's house to shower. Woo hoo!

I just wish you could see the multitude of confirmations God has sent our way. This is most definitely what he desires for us to do. It's not easy. I does take sacrifice. But he is creating something absolutely amazing, and allowing us to be a part of it.

We have a few purposes at the forefront of this project. We want to promote fellowship because fellowship with each other not only encourages us on this journey, but it makes our lives more meaningful. But even more importantly, it strengthens the bonds of our fellowship with our God. He created us for himself. We want to grow closer to him. Secondly, we want to promote sharing because sharing is the key to abundant life, abundant relationships, and an abundant heart. Truly understanding that God is the owner of our possessions changes how we view things. It shuffles the priorities in our lives and frees us from bondage to stuff. Lastly, we simply want to feed the hungry. We intend to grow food for a dual purpose. We want to use it to feed the hungry, and to feed ourselves so that we can direct the money God has given us to govern into different areas. We want to be able to leverage our resources for something, not just use it to meet our own needs.

So many people are in a panic over the state of the economy. Their retirement funds are quickly disappearing. The price of living is rising. Well-paying jobs are becoming harder to find. How will we survive? Not by trying to find a way to make more money to fund their current lifestyle, I assure you. But by standing in unity we will survive. By sharing our resources, and living more simply, and by giving away to those in need. We will not only survive, but we will live in abundance, blessed with a heart overflowing with love and thankfulness.

I will be offline temporarily once we get moved to the land...until we get wireless service. I'm not so sure that is a priority though, so for now...good day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hate and Anger ~ A Dangerous Pairing

Hate and anger - have you ever seen them paired together? Sure you have. They are the automatic response of many of us when we have been wronged. They are the automatic response of many of us when we have a preconceived notion of the way things ought to be...and they aren't. They are the automatic response to other hate and anger.

But Jesus told us to be different. He told us to respond to people's anger and hatred with love.

Matthew 5:44
44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

Luke 6:27
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.

Luke 6:35
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.

Why would he do that? I thought Jesus loved us as well. Doesn't he want us to defend ourselves? Doesn't he want us to ensure our own safety? I understand that he wants us to teach others about love, but doesn't he want us to be around to teach them? After all, we won't be around to teach about love if they kill us...will we?

I have worked in a juvenile placement facility and at a prison, and have learned a thing or two about self defense. I learned a thing or two about the most effective way to respond to anger and hatred. I would love to share them. When I first interviewed to work at the juvenile placement facility I was a bit nervous. I was going to be working with big, angry teenage boys, many of them gang members, and I was a small, young woman, less than five feet tall. Everyone was scared that they were capable of overpowering me. But true power doesn't come from physical strength. It doesn't come from physical control.

Back to the interview. I was asked how I would respond to someone if they came at me full of hatred and brandishing a weapon. I listed off my best street fighter self defense moves. My interviewer slowly shook his head and told me that the ONLY response would be to act calm and indifferent. He told me to lean back against the wall, stand on one foot, and fold my hands across my chest or stuff them in my pockets- James Dean style. I'm thinking he is insane. I am just opening myself up for a beating. But here is what he taught me, and after quite a bit of experience with such situations, I have learned that he was, without a doubt, right.

There is no more dangerous animal than a cornered animal. If you respond with anger and hatred and attempt to control someone who is already angry and full of hatred, they will shake off any remnants of coolness and self control, and come out fighting for their lives with fully unrestrained, undignified rage. If you do manage to overpower them...if they do appear to surrender, you still have not conquered them. They are still seething with anger and hatred on the inside, looking for another opportunity to rise up again and perhaps get the upper hand.

I have also learned that anger and hatred are like rabbits. They produce plentiful offspring. But their coupling doesn't just produce more anger and hatred. They produce contempt and disrespect. They produce prejudice and violence. They produce a feeling of righteousness and justification for sins. They produce loathing and they produce rage. They produce torture and they produce killers. But they must be fed in order to have the strength to reproduce. They must be fed anger and hatred in order to develop.

And I believe that is why Jesus told us to love our enemies. If we feed the anger and never obtains the strength to produce any offspring. Love is the only thing that has the power to disband the pair. The only thing! Love is like an infectious disease to the darkness of anger and hatred. It eats away at all the darkness in it's path until no more is left.

Romans 12:18
18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 14:19
19 So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.

See, love and peace are the only way to victory. I have heard people say that 'redemptive violence' is necessary. To redeem something is to recover it, to free it, to restore it. This can never be accomplished through of the offspring of anger and hatred. Because more anger and hatred, even justified through a valiant cause will merely feed the anger and hatred of the enemy.

I once had a friend who was a victim of domestic abuse. We would rally around her and try to defend her. We would strike out toward the angry coward she chose to live with. Finally she begged us to stop. Our anger only fed the anger of the man who was beating her, which led to more violence toward her. It always does.

If we think we are going control people who are mistreating others...if we think we can strong-arm them into ceasing their violence, their rage, their torture and murder of innocent people...through our own anger and violence....were are wrong. They are not going to say "Oh, now I see where I was wrong. I should be treating people with compassion" because the anger and hatred within them will only grow stronger, fed by our own. And we begin to create exceptions to the commands of Christ. We begin to see loopholes, and we readily step through them, justified that Jesus would approve of our own hate and anger, because it is for 'good' is for Jesus.

The only way to put an end to the cycle of anger, hatred, violence, injustice, rage, and killing through retaliation is to stop. We are supposed to stop and pray for our enemies. We are to shower them with love. I know it sounds crazy but it works. And not only does it kill the anger and hate in the hearts of our enemies, but it changes us from the inside. It starts to slowly change the way we see other people. It starts to allow Jesus to take over our perception of them, and we begin to see these people...these people that were once our Christ sees them.

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Ephesians 6:10-17
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Redemptive violence is not capable of redeeming anything. Christ is our redeemer!

*Would you like to learn about the true power of love in the face of anger and hatred? Look into the history of Rwanda. Look into the present state of the country and how the present governemnt put an end to the violence. Love works!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Are You Disturbed As Well?

You know those big signs that so many churches post these days. They are often peppered with witty Christian sayings. I don't know who comes up with so many plays on words. Often I read them and roll my eyes. They are frequently too far on the corny side for my enjoyment. And often they are trying so hard to sloganize Christianity...and I think it makes following Christ look cheap and easy.

I saw one yesterday that disturbed me. I really could not remove the image of this sign from my brain. It said "November is the month for being thankful". Sounds simple enough. After all, Thanksgiving in this country falls in November. In my mind, I can already see their sign for December..."December is the month for giving". As if such enormous things and thanking God and giving to his people can just be checked off the calender and not thought about for another year. Why does this disturb me so greatly?

We are instructed in the Bible to pray without ceasing. In other words, we are to pray ALWAYS. And we are instructed on how to pray. We are to praise God. We are to thank God. And we are to petition God. So the way I see it...maybe I'm wrong...we are to THANK God without ceasing. We are to thank him ALWAYS! Not merely on Thanksgiving, but every month, every week, and every day.

I am thankful for life and the ability to use my life to give my life meaning. I am thankful for my family...they brighten my day, and comfort me. I am thankful that God loves me even when I am unlovable...because I am often unlovable. I am thankful for Jesus...because he truly saved me. I am thankful for creation. I am thankful for art. I am thankful that God meets all my needs and still throws in some of my wants. I am thankful for the laughter of little girls. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for a warm home. I am thankful for people willing to share what they have with others. I am thankful that I am not the one in control. I am thankful that others are more interested in politics than I...because I don't want the responsibility of running this country. I am thankful for peace...and long for more of it. I am thankful for the people who God places in my path daily who give me a reason to smile. I am thankful for music, and the ability to hear everything from the sounds of birds chirping to bluegrass music. I am thankful for sight to see beauty all around me. I am thankful for the changing of the seasons. I am thankful for love and passion. I am thankful for tears. I am thankful for compassion. I am thankful for healing. I am thankful for a purpose, and for opportunities to serve that purpose. I am thankful for the kind words of a stranger. I am thankful for the opportunity to share a smile with a scornful stranger. I am thankful for pain, because it means I can feel. I am thankful for the silent peace of snow. I am thankful for food and that I have not only enough to not go hungry, but a variety to enjoy. I am thankful for hugs and I am thankful for words of encouragement...they are the most valuable of possessions. I am thankful for trials, because they give me the opportunity to emerge triumphant. I am thankful for freedom which my God has blessed me with. I am thankful for the smell of horses and of dry wild grass. I am thankful for my husband who believes I am beautiful and wonderful...when I am far from either. I am thankful for silliness. I am thankful that God has created ticks and mosquitoes for a purpose...even if I haven't discovered it yet. I am thankful that one day we can sit around and chit chat...and he can tell me about it. I am thankful for laughter.

And I am thankful for all these things EVERY month, EVERY week, and EVERY day. May you have a blessed and thankful life as well.