Thursday, February 03, 2005


The Way Of Community

Lu has written about a misunderstanding between some of the Nashville Mosaic team members. At first when I read this I didn't understand. Left out? We all get left out.

And then I thought some more about it. The reason I'm so blase is that I've always been left out, from little things such as not being taken on neighborhood trips when I was a kid to the day Mosaic pulled out of Beverly Hills and left me sitting on the curb.

I've learned to expect it. Leave me out? Fine. I'll do it myself. The real key to living effectively, I've learned, is to be ready to abandon the others before they abandon you. Mosaic Beverly Hills just caught me by surprise; churches aren't supposed to disappear overnight. The circus pulled out of town and I just had to wave good-bye.

I'm used to it. Anything that stays put is an ongoing miracle. I keep expecting to wake up one morning and find that God has pulled out, has lost patience and left me there, bereft of any hope. Which is the way I used to feel, when I was a kid and got left out.

A real community wouldn't leave anyone out. It just plain hurts, which is why I'm so well defended. It's also why I've not worked very hard to join another church: once bitten, twice shy. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I'm not the kind to come around for a second helping of abandonment.

I admire the folks in Nashville. They're working at something very difficult: forming a new church in a highly commercial place that already thinks it knows everything about God. It's easy to say from my seat 3000 miles away that all they need to do is improve their intraorganizational communication processes, but that glib phrase leaves out the personal histories of all the people involved. Mistakes have multiple sources, and very deep roots. Living in a community is a very quick way to make problems come to the surface because of all the pressure the people are under.

They have to conform, they have to work together, they have to support each other even when they'd rather do something else. There's a strong feeling that the church won't happen unless all of the people involved get their acts together.

Well, what is the desired end product? To the human participants, that would be a functioning church that, one hopes, lasts longer than Beverly Hills. From God's point of view it could be considerably different. God moved Mosaic to Beverly Hills for his own purposes (one of which was to get my attention), and when the time was right he directed its departure. God brought a group of people to Nashville to teach them all something. If a church grows from that, fine. If not, another group will do it, and the current group will go on to other things and take what they've learned with them. Others will benefit from those lessons and God's living word will spread.

Look at history. Groups come together and then split up. The United States exists as it is because of religious dissenters and malcontents, and the various subsets of the U.S. exist for the same reason. Humans, left to themselves, will Balkanize into nations of one. Community is a counter-entropic enterprise that only the Holy Spirit can direct.

A soloist can make music anywhere, any time. If you want a symphony, you have to assemble a bunch of people who are willing to pay attention to the director. I'm a soloist, sotto voce. If you want to make a big beautiful noise you have a whole 'nother kettle of fish, and it takes time to learn. No one is born into an orchestra.

Father God, please help your people in Nashville
to relax and hear your voice.
Help them see what you're doing
from your perspective.
Touch the ones who have been hurt
bring them healing
through this experience
pulling out the roots of pain
so they can go on to learn new lessons.
Thank you for inspiring them to come
from all over the place
to Nashville to start
what we all hope
will be something beautiful and irresistibly attractive.

Larry just reading this makes me hurt for you. I don't know if you ever went to the artisan well... but I think the first song I put on there (or second) Love Stays around another day was written for a friend that is actually high in leadership in a church... who grew up in a Foster Home... and around people who consistently left.

Her arguments with me always started with just leave... Wendy just leave... or go away already. It breaks my heart. The whole idea of cutting off before you can get hurt further...runs deep and is hard hard to move out of. I know that I do it to... but probably not to the the level that this friend did.

I have the "strength" inclusive... so I often am hurt when peopel leave me out. I want to get invited to everything Larry. Even if I can't or am not planning on going I am just hurt when people leave me out. I really really try to notice people around me that feel that way as well... but inevitably I leave someone out. I try to communicate there is an open door in my life... you are always welcome... and if I am missing something hit me over the head with it.. because sometimes it takes that for me!

It's true everyone has to work together... and see who's missing... but if you are the person they missed... stick your neck out and yes risk... but just let others know you are offended by it. Many times it was a harmless omission... yes sometimes you find out you are not wanted or some other embarassing reason... but for me anyways.. I would rather know if someone is leaving me out for a reason if I thought I was suppoed to be a significant part. (Maybe that's the country girl in me too... JUST TELL IT TO ME STRAIGHT! :).. )

Thanks Larry.. always appreciate your insights..
Sorry about the grammer and spelling. I need to edit my responses but if I spend the time doing that... I never end up sending them! :)
Thank you, Wendy. I was hoping I wasn't over the top with this one, nor treading on toes already sensitive. I hope the folks in Nashville are OK.

As to my lack of trust... God will have to handle this. I've been proven to be incompent.

As for your grammar and such, don't worry. I'd rather get comments with errors than no comments at all. Don't worry about polish. Leave the hair on. (smile)
Wendy wrote: "Larry just reading this makes me hurt for you."

You and Carl, both. You don't need to worry too much; this is my way of doing things.

I decided, when God recovered me, that I wasn't going to buy any more off-the-shelf churchy answers. I'm amazed that God would put the effort into me that he is, but he has pretty much started from scratch.

I don't know joy, love, happiness or any of the other stuff. I know duty, practice, work and creativity. Eventually the latter will lead to the former because that's what the Holy Spirit wants. I just have to hang on, follow, and he wants me to write about the walk.

It would be nice to have more company along the way. That's the next level course, I think. (smile) After I graduate from kindergarten.

Wendy: "I don't know if you ever went to the artisan well..."

I don't know what that is.; As for love staying around, well, God has convinced me that he will stay around, and he is love.

Wendy: "...but if you are the person they missed... stick your neck out and yes risk... but just let others know you are offended by it."

I've tried this, and the usual response is "What are you upset about?" Maybe this comes from always putting on a strong face for people. They can't conceive of the idea that I can be hurt. But if they do find out I've been hurt, the usual response is to push the button again to see me react.

Now, it seems this business of Names that I've been writing about is important to me. I get the feeling that once I'm convinced that God calls my Name, then it won't matter so much what anyone else says. This is new, so I'm not sure. It's all an experiment.

Wendy: "(Maybe that's the country girl in me too... JUST TELL IT TO ME STRAIGHT! :).. )

Wouldn't that be nice. Instead we get elegantly worded periphrastic compliments that are actually insults. Our culture is highly skilled in the art of putting people down. Critics and such. Gargh.

I do know that this Weblog fellowship has become an important part of my life. Practice in writing, practice in relating, practice in becoming a new kind of person.
What is off-the-shelf Churchy answers, Larry? I am not sure anymore. Sometimes these answers are responses people have worked long and hard for! :) Playing Devil’s advocate here… but seriously I am glad you don’t accept an answer just for the rhetoric but look to see what is behind it. God somehow pulls each one of us as we need pulling.
You say you know Duty, practice, work and creativity! Well that’s a jump on me… :) I have to work hard on that. I read today this verse in Proverbs 4:25 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.. That is what you are doing! And it is so true that joy, love and happiness will follow!

My song on Artisan Well (that Lu and I have been negligent on) is here: for a friend
It’s true the “what are you so upset” response comes in always… I think the term hurt would be better than “offended” too.. people even though their initial response is “BLAH ON YOU!” start realizing that their actions have affect on people… I think also working through things like this Larry.. brings greater intimacy with people sometimes. It let’s them know you are human. When I was working in India some years ago… a conversation I had with the Indian professor I was working with made me cry.. J … He started laughing! He could not believe that I this COLD westerner could respond the same way his wife might respond to him. He told me later… you really are more “Indian” than western… the highest compliment… that strange vulnerability of saying I was hurt sometimes moves us closer to others. (and those would be the others we want to be close to!)

I love that you are a perpetual learner Larry… it helps and encourages me too..
Wendy wrote: "What is off-the-shelf Churchy answers, Larry?"

Any answer that comes out automatically. Any answer that is probably right, but being used for the wrong reasons. Any answer that's intended as browbeating rather than life-bringing.

How many Christians have you known who have problems so they start being more intensively mechanical: praying, reading the bible, the various acts that are supposed to define the Christian. All the while forgetting that following Jesus is a relationship.

If you had a friend coming by and standing by your window constantly asking if you were home, you'd get a little tired of it, right? You'd say "Come on in. Let's talk. You don't have to stand outside and yell." That, in effect, is what I've been told to do at times. So, when Mosaic presented the idea of God as a person with whom I could communicate, no shouting necessary, I took it. The old way didn't work.

"Sometimes these answers are responses people have worked long and hard for!"

I know. Perhaps for that person it's the right answer, but they arrived at it in a personal way. God has a way set up for each person.

What I get tired of is the way our institutions try to standardize people. Everyone has to do things identically. It's efficient. It's also ugly, and it stamps out the individuality that God gave each of us. I think that if the church is to attain any real strength and attractiveness it will be through grouips of real individuals following Jesus together.

"Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.. That is what you are doing!"

Actually... I'm learning to get away from that in certain ways. We're all told to set our faces as a flint and go forward, which works with spiritual walking. There are many distractions, and none of them will get us closer to God. I think that many people apply this idea out of context.

We have one man at work who sees everything in terms of obedience. He's determined to be obedient to God. He's right in that wihtout obedience we can't please God, and we'll get lostj. The problem is that our human definition of obedience isn't very good. God's idea of a slave is different from ours. A slave of God is a human being, a person being obedient to his own ideas is a slave to rigid ideas, and there's no spark. Perpetuual hangdog expression.

I may be setting myself up for a crash. I hope someone will speak up if they notice me getting too weird, but I am in desperate need of life and don't need obedience to ideas. I need to obey God, whose burden is light. I trust that God will correct me if needed, as he has done before, if I get too far out of line. The only way to learn how to do things is to do them and make mistakes. You can't become someone's friend by following rules slavishly.

God gives us clear rules. No one comes to the Father but by Jesus. The gate is narrow. On the other side of that gate, however, we become God's people in a wide land. I'd like to go find out what's there, and I'll never learn its beauty by following rules.

"I think also working through things like this Larry.. brings greater intimacy with people sometimes."

I think it's the only way to get real intimacy. We have to know each other. In practice it's hard to pull off. I know for certain that without real communication there is no intimacy. The problem is that it takes two to tango. Finding somone else in our world who is willing to take risks relationally is difficult. Which is why so many people have a shallow relationship with God. No one wants to take risks with God because of the angry images we've stored up. Actually, though, the truth is the opposite. As Erwin said last year "The safest place for a sinner to be is at the foot of Jesus' cross." There's no one safer to make mistakes with than God.

My hope for this Blog is that people will read it, find out that they can argue with God, know him, make mistakes and go on to learn about God's kind of life.

"that strange vulnerability of saying I was hurt sometimes moves us closer to others. (and those would be the others we want to be close to!)"

That takes courage. I've never been relationally courageous until recently. Having some confidence in God's Name for me has changed the way I look at this. Who cares whaat others say if God knows my true Name? I'll let him describe me, and it won't be as "Failure."

"I love that you are a perpetual learner Larry… it helps and encourages me too.."

Thank you. I really like our Weblog fellowship, and am very glad for your honest writing. That helps me keep on going and learning.
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