Category Archives: community
There’s a lot being said on facebook, blogs, magazines and occasionally in face-to-face conversation. Right now most of it is focused on the shooting in Connecticut, gun regulation and mental health care. I’m not ready to weigh in on that because the grief is still too fresh. However, as I read posts and comments I see the same situation we witnessed in the months leading up to the election…and with just about every other major news story. People talking past one another, building up an army of straw-people with which to argue, and generally doing everything BUT communicating. That reminded me of a half-written post that’s been sitting on my desktop for months.
The point of that (this) post is that communication would be so much simpler if we didn’t have to use words.
How many times has a conversation broken down because one or both parties were so hung up on the other’s words that they couldn’t hear what was being said?
Sometimes the problem is that, purposely or on accident, we use emotionally-loaded language. I remember a time in high school when time seemed to stand still…
We were in the locker room after football practice. A group of guys were in an argument and pretty close to a fight. No big deal…these guys were almost always arguing and fighting. Several of them were related and all had grown up in the same neighborhood. The argument would likely lead to fisticuffs, but nothing more.
So most of us were just ignoring them. I was jealously wondering how they still had energy to argue…I could barely move after our workout.
Then another teammate, a big goofy redneck, walked through the door. He was an offensive lineman and was NEVER in a good mood after practice. Most of us were half-dressed by the time he made it into the locker room.
He saw the guys arguing and, after a few annoyed expletives, said, “Why are you people always fighting?”
The room was immediately bathed in silence. For a few moments that felt like hours it was really, really quiet…until the yelling started.
Oh yeah, did I mention that the guys fighting were black?
In this instance, “You people” referred to this specific group of guys who were always at each others’ throats…but that was most definitely NOT how they understood the phrase. And everyone in the room (with the exception of one goofy lineman) knew it as soon as the words were uttered.
Fisticuffs did ensue…just not as we had initially anticipated.
This isn’t just a problem in racially charged scenarios, and it’s not simply an issue for testosterone-fueled teenage guys.
Many times the communication break-down occurs between social groupings – gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economics, geography, political affiliation, education level, and religious background can all play a role. But the struggle isn’t limited to these obvious cultural differences.
All communication is cross-cultural…even if we’re just talking to ourselves.
Perhaps speaking a common language is one of the biggest miscues for communication. We can be lulled into a false sense of “being on the same page,” and never realize how much we’re speaking past one another.
I have another memory from high school (yep, just the two…the rest is a blur). We were on a summer mission trip in Mexico. I sat on the back pew in a swelteringly hot, one room building with a 10 year old Mexican boy. It was my first trip across the border and I could only speak a few halting sentences in Spanish. He spoke even less English. And yet, we talked.
We were very aware of just how incoherent our words were to one another, and I’m convinced that knowledge helped us communicate much more carefully. He loved his small village of La Pesca. He loved the ocean, his large family (a term that I soon realized was not limited to blood relation), playing soccer with his friends. He wanted to visit the US, but he had no interest in living there. He was happy we were visiting, not because of the work we came to do but because he loved meeting new people. He thought my Texas-accented, broken Spanish was hilarious, but he thanked me for trying to speak his language.
The significance of that conversation wasn’t found in the details we learned about one another. It was the sense that for that moment, because we couldn’t assume anything about our communication, we were completely attuned to one another. We were listening deeply with all our senses. We were both fully present.
I met many people in Mexico on that and subsequent trips. Later, as my Spanish improved, I had conversations that were significantly more verbally coherent. But still, close to 20 years later, his face is the first one that comes to mind when someone mentions visiting Mexico.
Words, and the assumption that they mean the same thing for the speaker and hearer, can really make communication difficult.
We live in an age of relative and rapidly evolving definitions. Perhaps things were different in ages past, when people lived around the same people for most or all of their lives; when travel or even communication with other groups was rare.
But the world has changed. Whether we like the change or not is beside the point. It happened. It is now more important than ever to slow down and make sure there is some amount of consistency between what is being said and what is being heard.
Assuming that we’re all speaking the same language just because we’re speaking the same language can cause serious problems.
However, if we will take the time to be fully present in a conversation we can find ourselves communicating deeply with another person. We don’t have to share cultural backgrounds, religious affiliation, political leanings, sports team loyalty or even native language.
Of course, there’s also the question of whether we actually want to hear what the other is saying. But that’s a post for another day…
I’m kinda weird.
No, no, don’t try to deny it. Its true. If you remain dubious, my wife and mother will both happily provide confirmation.
I’ve always lived in this strange tension between groups – belonging to many but not really belonging to any. This isn’t so much an adolescent existential crisis – at least, I don’t think so…but adolescents always deny it too…dang dirty paradoxes!!
Part of it stems from my inability to do things the “normal” way. I graduated high school in August – so, not a full year early and not with my original class…I’m not really in either group. As a growed-up, I’ve tried to walk the line between academics and practical ministry – which means that I’ll likely never be a stand-out in either and I’m not enough of a people person to do a good job of bringing the two groups together. There’s another one…what kind of introvert goes into church planting?? A weird one.
I have conservative friends who all think I’m too liberal (they’re probably right) and liberal friends who all think I’m too conservative (they’re probably right…but admittedly there are fewer of them and they’re all pretty weird too.)
Country folks say I’m too city and city-folks say I’m too country…though using the word “city-folks” certainly provides a colloquial indicator of leaning toward the former. Of course, using “colloquial indicator” returns the scale to neutral.
Many in the Churches of Christ find me suspect – and so does everyone outside the Churches of Christ. Maybe that’s not a good example, I’m just suspect.
If scientists had any reason to study me they’d find a confusing mixture of (over)work ethic and laziness, obsessive tendencies and flightiness, perfectionism and procrastination.
I absolutely love to plan things in my head. Stupid random things that aren’t ever going to become reality – but if they do, I have a plan in place. The only problem is that I can’t stand operating under a strictly planned regimen like the ones I concoct.
You may say to me, “You aren’t so unique. There are plenty of people who are wired this way.”
However, my response is, “Yes. There are others like me. And they too are weird.”
Make no mistake, this weirdness sets the stage for interesting things to happen. I have accumulated a number of life experiences which are inspirational and/or (usually and) utterly ridiculous. And it seems that I’m genetically predisposed to these sorts of stories.
The closest I’ve come to “normalcy” was right before I got laid off and moved my family to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
But these interesting stories come at a price. Life isn’t an epic novel and I’m not the beloved main character. Maybe I’m the strange traveling companion who bites it just before the plot resolves…who knows, my “biting it” may just provide the aforementioned resolution.
And unlike a character in a novel, I often don’t experience a miraculous rising above my limitations. I also haven’t found the instant healing energy/medical packs that litter the video game landscape.
They say that its darkest right before dawn – which if “dawn” is defined as the point at which it starts getting light, then that statement is like saying you found something in the last place you looked. Really? Amazing.
But the problem I’ve found is that when you think you’ve reached that darkest time right before dawn… it often gets darker still. You don’t know the night is as dark as it can get until it starts getting light again. So waiting for dawn seems to be a recipe for frustration and ulcers.
But you can only sing so many songs to make the night seem less terrible.
My life lacks normalcy. I’ve accepted that. I often feel like an outsider everywhere I go…partly due to the abnormal rhythms of my life, but mostly due to my general weirdness. Okay. We’ve lived in our current house for three years. That is by far the longest I’ve lived anywhere since leaving my parents’ house back in the 20th century. Today, I had a brief and yet eye-opening experience.
While my truck was drinking an expensive steak dinner for two’s worth of gas, I went into the gas station to get a cup of ice. In the contemporary world of 32oz plastic cups, ice ain’t free. Supposedly that used to happen – in Mayberry – when everybody was neighborly and whatnot. Those days are gone. I live in a hyper-mobile culture where nobody knows anybody and ice ain’t free.
But today it was.
And I realized that it has been on several occasions at this gas station…just like the coffee often is at my favorite cafe (if you know me, you know what that is…but I’ll leave the name out in case Big Brother is listening). Why was my ice free? For the same reason my coffee often is.
Because I’m a “regular.” Because I’m part of the group. Because even if they don’t all know my name, they recognize my face.
For whatever its worth, to some small degree, I belong to these transient communities. A moment of normalcy in the midst of chaos. I initially set out to “inhabit” these spaces three years ago as on opportunity for missional engagement in THE community. Somewhere along the way it became engagement in MY community.
…Which probably means we’ll have to move soon.
Sorry, neither of you two readers would have believed this was authentic if I didn’t include a little cynicism.
Perhaps I should say more about this. I should unpack it and explain away the weirdness to show how I’ve developed healthy rhythms within the insanity…to provide some attempt at profundity. But I haven’t…so I won’t. Today, a brief moment of connection will have to suffice – for me and for you.
Partners and Community for Ourselves
God, Community of Love, you have created us to live in community rather than isolation. We pray, for our own continued health, that you will surround each of us with friends and family committed to a shared vision of following you together. We pray for the leadership of Intentional People, that these families will continue to cultivate trust and friendship, so that each will be nurtured and encouraged to continue serving others. We pray for our new church plant, that relationships will be strengthened and cultivated so that we will continue to move forward in discipleship with joy and passion. In both of these endeavors we continue to pray for those you are raising up to partner together in different ways. Grant us wisdom and discerning hearts to protect one another from those who would do us harm and guide us forward in cultivating community in the places where you have placed us.
Back on Sunday, we asked you to be praying for financial, prayer and ministry partners for both Intentional People and our church planting efforts. Has God put any names on your heart? If so, would you consider speaking with them about these ministries? Please also feel free to contact us with names of these potential partners. Are there ways in which God may be laying it on your own heart to join with us in some way or to take the next step toward deeper connection? Again, we are extremely grateful to you for joining us in this season of prayer. We thank God for your partnership in the gospel.
Cultivating Community with The Poor and Oppressed
God, Community of Love, we want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We want to be known as “friends of sinners,” we desire to show solidarity with and developing community among the poor, the overlooked, forgotten and oppressed. Open our eyes to see these people which our society tries so hard to ignore and open our hearts to see them instead as you see them, as your beloved children. God we pray not only for opportunities to extend hospitality to the poor, but also for the grace to receive it. Grant us the honor of affirming the dignity of your image bearers who may have, this very day, been denied that birthright. God we acknowledge that among impoverished communities there is much darkness, sin and violence. We pray that you will bring light, repentance and peace to these places and that you will use us as your cracked and humble vessels in doing so.
Today, would you ask God to reveal ways in which Intentional People can serve as an encouragement to the poor and oppressed? We pray for partners and a growing community of people working together to eradicate the darkness around us through the Light of God that is within us. We have been blessed as part of Christ Journey to serve the poor in this area, and have cultivated some lasting friendships. We pray that this will continue as we launch out with our new church planting work as well.
Cultivating Community in the Global Community
God, Community of Love, we are citizens of your kingdom which transcends national and ethnic boundaries. Teach us, Lord of Light, to see this world through your eyes and not be blinded by narrow, nationalistic thinking. Holy God, we pray that Intentional People will serve as a resource for inspiring those whom you are preparing to serve in various ways throughout the global community. We place our hands, our talents and our lives at your service to bless and encourage others wherever you may send them. In the same way, Father, we pray that our local church planting work will not lose sight of your love and concern for all people everywhere. Guide us in loving and caring for those who live across the street and together with them, in being mindful of those who live across the oceans. As citizens of your vast empire, God, Community of Love, erase from us any selfish desires or agendas for building empires of our own. We confess Jesus the Christ as both our savior and our Lord, to the glory of the Father and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you know someone who is working to build community or bring hope amidst the global community? If so, we would love to connect with them and perhaps even interview them for the Intentional People Video Project or the Missional Monks podcast. As we pray together, we invite you to think about and approach God with us regarding those we can partner with to inspire others.
Cultivating Community in the Local Community
God, Community of Love, we know that you bless us in order that we will be a blessing to others. We pray that your wisdom will guide us into the midst of our neighborhoods and communities to model and invite others into a life of community – with you and with one another. Father, teach us to see the ways in which you are already at work bringing people together and allow us to serve as your co-laborers and ambassadors. Lord, we ask that Intentional People will serve to bring people together in their local context, working alongside you in community. We pray that you will show us those you are raising up to work in your fields – we pray that your Spirit will cultivate those relationships and produce a great harvest. God, Community of Love, we pray that through our work of planting the gospel in north Burleson, we will be aware of the people you bring across our paths – give us eyes to see and ears to hear so that we may make the most of every opportunity.
Be intentional today about looking for people that God may be bringing into your life. Cultivate awareness of those around you – often the only thing that keeps us from being able to have a positive influence for the kingdom in someone else’s life is that we simply aren’t present in the moment. God is already at work all around us.
Community in the Church
God, Community of Love, we are grateful for your Church. We pray that wherever the Church meets, your spirit of community and communitas will be present. Teach us, O Lord, to lay down our selfish ambitions and in humility consider others better than ourselves. We pray that our attitude will be that of Christ Jesus, who did not consider equality with you something to be held on to, but humbled himself and took the form of a servant. We pray that our small community of faith will grow in its influence throughout our region by living openly as your humble servants in community. Let our love for one another display our identity as your disciples; let our testimony of redemption be a proclamation of hope to those we encounter. God, Community of Love, we pray that Intentional People will serve as a resource and encouragement to your Church. We pray that our work will be a pleasing gift to your kingdom, which we believe wholeheartedly is at hand and which we anticipate arriving in fullness in the future.
As we pray today for community in the Church, let us remember that there are local expressions of the Church, but all are connected to the One Body of Christ. We pray that Intentional People will serve to help cultivate the experience of community in local churches through the fostering the experience of communitas (community shaped and formed by shared mission or struggle). Are there ways that your local expression of the church could partner with or benefit from the work of Intentional People? Consider talking with your local leadership about this, or contact me for more information.