Spontaneous Belonging

posted by Jeffrey on Thursday, July 28, 2005 at 7:55 AM

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I'm reading a book right now called the Search to Belong by Joseph Myers (see the link in the sidebar). I'd like to share some excerpts from this book and hopefully have some conversation about them. Sorry if this post is a little long, but its only because of the book excerpts. I always want to know "who" the person I'm reading is, so here's a little about Joseph: He's a speaker & writer; owns a consulting firm called "FrontPorch" which helps churches, businesses, and other organizations promote and develop healthy community; and is founding partner (with his wife) of "settingPace", a communication arts group based in Cincinnati...so now you know Jo.

Jo's thought on page 68 states, "So often our small group models encourage forced belonging", and the rest of the chapter builds on (or rather digs into) that idea. He goes on to use the Emergence Theory as his primary example (and no, he's not talking about the organization that you may have just thought of, but the scientific theory that the organization drew it's name from). This theory uses a slime mold on a forrest floor to spark new ideas regarding community. To sum it up, Jo quotes author Steven Johnson as saying:
"The slime mold spends much of its life as thousands of distinct single-celled units, each moving separately from its other comrades. Under the right conditions, those myriad cells will coalesce again into a single, larger organism, which begins its leisurely crawl across the garden floor, consuming rotting leaves and wood as it moves about. When the environment is less hospitable, the slime mold acts as a single organism; when the weather turns cooler and the mold enjoys a large food supply, 'it' becomes a 'they'. The slime mold oscillates between being a single creature and a swarm."
Myers goes on to comment that,
"The intriguing secret of the slime mold is that there is no 'master planner' calling the cells to unite. The coming together is spontaneous. There is no apparent leader. There is no call to action. No vision statements, value statements, or mission statements...the cells collect spontaneously when the environment trigger the response."
He then presents the idea that,
"We humans could help by creating the healthy environments {emphasis mine} in which people naturally connect. If we would concentrate upon facilitating the environment instead of the result (people experiencing community), we might see healthy, spontaneous community emerge."
Finally (for this post anyway), Myers presents a "formula" for community:
"I suggest it {the 'community compound'} looks something like Pu8 S4 P2 I. For every one part Significant intimate belonging {'I' in the compound}, there are two parts personal {P}, four parts social {S}, and eight parts public {Pu}...Many promote this as the compound for community: Csv Cvf FMCC (a common set of values plus a common vision of the future plus frequent meetings plus a formal or informal contractual covenant). These are not the ingredients for community, but rather the results of community {emphasis not mine}.
I personally do by no means see these ideas as absurd, but just different--and definitely worth considering as we journey towards becoming a new community of faith. Thoughts?

Last Night's Conversation

posted by Jeffrey on Monday, July 25, 2005 at 3:45 PM

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Last night we continued our conversation through Acts with chapters 6 & 7. Luke begins to shift gears at this point in his letter to Theophilis as we see the Church begin to spread beyond the borders of Israel. Chapter 6 introduces a group of people that are referred to as "Grecian Jews". These are Jews that were born outside of Israel in one of the provinces of the Roman Empire and tended to live a life more reflective of Roman culture than Jewish. These folks felt like the Hebraic Jews (born in Holy Land and brought up in traditional Jewish custom) were slighting their widows in the "daily distribution of food". What do the apostles do? They allow seven men who were known to be "full of the Spirit and wisdom" to be appointed to the task of allocating the money, alms, and food; and if you look at those 7 names, they were most likely Grecian, not Hebraic.

Enter Stephen, one of the seven. He is the first non-apostle to be recorded as working "great wonders and miraculous signs among the people". Let's pause to imagine what the Jewish priests and officials (called the Sanhedrin) may be thinking--
"What's this? Is it not bad enough that the 12 who were with this 'Jesus' for 3 years are working miracles and won't shut up about Him, but now we have a Grecian doing it??? What's next? Gentiles (non-Jews)?!?!"
It's no wonder they bring false witness against Stephen and arrest him. Which ironically goes directly against what they decided to do just a very short time before (see Acts 5:33-39). Stephen goes on to give a WONDERFUL summary of the Hebrew scriptures (the "Old Testament) in his address to his accusers...then he lets them have it calling them such things as "stiff-necked" and having "uncircumcised hearts and ears". On hearing this, they bum rush and stone him.

One of the crew last night noticed that these priests who preach a life lived in God's will seem to always get in the way of it. Hmm...good observation I think. I wonder am I the same some times? Do I say I long for God's will but then inadvertently work against it like many Jewish priests did? Unfortunately, I think I do. So what can rescue us from our hypocrisy??? Maybe its what Stephen said--to not resist the Holy Spirit for our hunger of "control". Oh that we may live in the reality of the glory of God (like Stephen saw) and to follow where the Spirit of God leads--even into the unknown.

Same Blog...NEW Look...

posted by Jeffrey on Friday, July 22, 2005 at 10:43 PM

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I've recently tried my hand at some basic css and html and here's the new design I came up with. At the very least its more original and not the old cookie cutter blog template that 1,000's of people have. So what do you think?

*UPDATE*--the header seems to have some minor kinks in browsers other than mozilla firefox, but will be resolved soon.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!! Woo Hoo!

posted by Jeffrey on Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 1:57 PM

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The city of Nashville is too good to me. They've really out done themselves this time. I mean they went to the trouble of building me a brand new $400,000 office, and I didn't even have to ask them. What's its name? S-T-A-R-B-U-C-K-S! That's right, a brand spanking new one is going up less than a mile from our home. Oh and here's a twist from all the other ones in town--this big guy is going to be 24 hr!!! It's scheduled to open in late September, so I guess I can make do for until then. All I have to say is its about freakin' time! We've been totally without a good late night coffee place on this side of town for....um, well, ever.

Now I'd much rather prefer the anti-franchise Cafe CoCo (the only 24 hour coffee place in town, apparently until September that is) up off Elliston place, but that's like a 20-25 minute drive into downtown Nashville so I guess I can suffer at the evil chain store, ha ha. The soon opening of this coffee haven will be an answer to another prayer as well. Nearly 50% of the Hermitage/Mt. Juliet area's popluation is under the age of 35, but they all head into downtown Nashville to do stuff. It'll be nice to be able to hang out at a place and know that most of the younger people around are part of this community. Cool stuff.

Anyway, since we have good ole' dial-up internet at the house, I'll probably be migrating over there w/ the trusty laptop to do lots of my high-speed dependent studying, downloading, web/graphic design (which I'm kind of learning), and stuff.

Here's some pics of the construction provided by my twin sis. Thanks Jess.

Starbucks #1 Starbucks #2
Starbucks #3

If the World Truly is a Stage...

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, July 20, 2005 at 9:10 AM

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...then marriage is the Phantom of the Opera. Oh it looks simple enough from the outside, but when we really get into the plot it is full of mystery, surprise, allure, confusion, and yes...even music (especially if you're Dr. Kevin Leman). All of these facets together (coupled with the infinite more that would be impossible to identify and list) make marriage a wonderful life of fun and excitement. Of course it has its rough times and it takes work, but that's part of the fun. Anyway, I was thinking about the whole "husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church" (in Ephesians 5) thing earlier this morning (and for the past several months) and I began to wonder what does that really mean? I've been taught in my "church upbringing" that it means that the husband is supposed to be the "spiritual leader", but I'm not so sure that's an appropriate interpretation. I mean in comparison to the grander scope of marriage and its place in the story of redemptive history, to say that the husband is just supposed to be the "spiritual leader" kind of seems like a lesser calling, well it does to me anyway. Not to mention its inspiration of pedestal-like expectations of the husband and the indirect subordination of the wife's spiritual wisdom.

Well those are at least my preliminary thoughts, but what do yall think? I'd like some feedback and comments from married AND unmarried folks about what it might mean for "the husband to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church".

A Night in Covenant

posted by Jeffrey on Friday, July 15, 2005 at 10:01 AM

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*Note:* I'll update this post with pictures once they come in!

We're back. Yesterday afternoon after I got off work my wife and I drove down to Covenant College in Chattanooga where our dear friends Maris and her hubby Steven (as well as the rest of the guys from Spur58) were leading worship (not just music) at a Student Life camp. It was wonderful to be on the ground once again where God invited us into this journey with Him as He draws together a new community of faith.

The air was light, the wind was blowing, and the smell of a smoldering fire pit lingered. I couldn't help but mentally travel to ancient Israel and place myself in the assembly of the people at the tabernacle or temple as the ruwach (wind/breath/spirit) of God moved among the people and carried the fragrances of incense and burnt offerings into the air. At magic hour (dusk) we found a rock shaped like that of a cornerstone buried in the muck and mire of seemingly the exact place we pulled the first one from a little over two years ago. That 1st stone, I fear, has long been gone--but Yaweh the faithful painted a clear picture last night, that the foundation cannot be broken. The cornerstone will always be there, in the exact place it always has--seated at the right hand of God the Father, forever making intercession for His people, and somehow saturating every fiber of all created things at the same time.

We placed a copy of the seven page document that chronicles God's incredible faithfulness in this journey over the last two years under that rock and it felt appropriate to name it Ebenezer (which means stone of help). So I close with the words of Samuel the prophet, "Thus far has the LORD helped us."--and I add, and so He will for the rest of our days and the days that come after, even if we see it not as help.

Here's a pic of "our Ebenezer":
Our Ebenezer

Re-living the Covenant

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, July 13, 2005 at 10:30 AM

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This past Sunday night's conversation at the Dane's house was incredibly special, for more reasons than normal. It happened to fall on July 10th, which marked the 2 year anniversary of when God called us to this mysterious adventure of following Him into the beginnings of this new community of faith. The story of how He did so is quite lengthy indeed, so for this post, I'll give the abridged version and the basics...perhaps a back dated and linked up longer version is to come later...

Shaunna (my wife, though she wasn't at the time), myself, and a third witness of this "covenant" (who is no longer with us) were with our high school & junior high students at a Student Life camp being held at Covenant College in Cleveland, TN. The morning of July 10th, a heavy and dense fog settled on the mountaintop campus and we could not help but imagine what it would have been like for Moses atop Mt. Sinai as the cloud enveloped it and God spoke with him. Or maybe like the priests in 2 Chronicles 5 who could not perform the service because the cloud of God's presence filled it to the brim (which, coincidently, the "cloud" did later filter inside the sanctuary where we met for our large group times).

That evening a great storm began to come upon us (see Psalm 18) with wind, lightning, thunder, and pouring rain. As we three huddled in what we later found to be the "cleft of the rock", we were moved to weeping under the heaviness and intensity of God's manifest presence as in the ancient days and roots of our faith. After a very short while a gust of wind seemingly forced all 3 of us, simultaneously, to the ground. We sat and wept as our God who's love endures forever brought His showers of refreshing down hard upon us. When words could be mustered, all we could do is declare the goodness of our God and Father with the words He has given us in His holy scriptures.

Many more wonders happened that evening, young men prophesied (so I can assume that old men dreamed dreams), young women did so as well, the praises of our God and Provider were on the lips of His children for hours to come. But that is another story for another day. After the students were settled in their rooms--in an erie calm and peacefulness might I add--we 3 gathered back in front of the huge stone sanctuary where we had been "broken to pieces" just hours before.

It was now past midnight. We new that throughout the history of His people, God has accompanied a specific instruction, message, or warning with the revelation of His glory (masked as it must be). What happened next I can only describe to you in hopes that you will view it through a lens of faith as God allowed us to that night. We sat on the ground with our Bibles in front of us wondering what to do and where to begin. Shortly after, a breeze began to blow. It turned the pages of our 3rd person's Bible and came to rest in Haggai--and so he read the story of God's charge to the the returning Israelite exiles to rebuild the temple. Then the pages of Shaunna's Bible begin to turn (as us other two's remained still) and comes to rest in Ezra 3--and so she read the same story, only a different account, of God's charge to the returning Israelite exiles to rebuild the temple. Many more of these page turning revelations occurred, until finally, our 3rd person states, "I won't believe this is of God until my Bible turns to Jeremiah 23"...all three of our Bibles turned to Jeremiah 23.

These are the basics of the covenant that our God of grace and Lord of the Sabbath made with us that day. Only a part has to do with this new community of faith, the rest is both more lofty than our comprehension may ascertain and incredibly personal at the same time. The Lord has opened a door for us to visit our newly wed friends Maris and Steven as Spur58 (band that Steven rocks the bass in) lead music, and prayerfully worship as well, at Covenant College this week.

This is the God we serve. Who constantly and lovingly reminds us of where He is leading (and journeying with) us to, and at the same time, where it is we first began. So it was with the patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith, and so it will be with us. Grace and Peace to you my friends and sojourners.

Progressively Ceasing

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 at 8:58 AM

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Sabbath. It is a semi-foreign concept to us these days. Exodus 16:23 is the first time God communicates His gift of rest formally to His people. The Hebrew word here in Exodus 16:23 is "shabbath" {pronounced: shab-bawth'} and it is the proper noun for the actual Sabbath day (or week or year depending on the context). This word is derived from the Hebrew root word "shabath" {pronounced: shaw-bath'} which literally means "to cease, desist, rest".

Jesus told the Pharisees in Mark 2:27, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." In addition, Hebrews 4 provides some interesting reading of how the Sabbath tradition fits into the New Covenant through Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, though it is no longer required of us (like it was the ancient Hebrews) to observe this tradition--we may physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually be done well to do so.

One of my wife and I's best friends, Lacey, sent me a neat little sabbath exercise from YMWomen.com that freakin' rocks. It'd be cool to experiment with this guided journey through a Sabbath week. Here's the link to the exercise.

Absurd Insanity

posted by Jeffrey on Monday, July 11, 2005 at 9:30 AM

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I'm back. We had a great conversation last night, with a few new faces to the crew. We continued our discussion of Acts 5:17-42 and discovered something kind of interesting--insanity is quite central to the Christian faith.

Here we have the first recorded beatings of the apostles--and boy were they beat. Peter and John were each publicly "flogged" and yes, this is the same flogging that Jesus received. Paul calls this punishment "forty lashes minus one" and goes on to note that he received this 5 times (2 Corinthians 11:24). The Greek word here for "flogged" could also be translated "skinned" because that is exactly what a beating with the cat-of-nine-tails does to its victims. Upon receiving this beating, the two apostles "left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (of Jesus)." No matter how you look at it--that is madness and insanity. Who in their right mind would rejoice after being beaten within an inch of their lives? How foolish and crazy they were!

Absurd right? Maybe not. There is an emotion and a bond that is possible on this planet that turns logic and rational upside down. What is it? Love. I would gladly suffer physical torment and disgrace on the stead of my wife and would not think twice about it. But here is the pressing (and cutting) question at hand: Do I love Jesus so much as to so readily suffer for His Name?

In John 15:18-25 (among other passages), Jesus does prepare His disciples for this (and future) sufferings. With every lash, surely these words resonated nearly audibly in the minds of Peter and John and hence inspired their joy. Maybe this element of suffering is partly what the angel who freed them from prison earlier in this passage had in mind when he told them to go and tell the people "the full message of this new life." So perhaps it is not insanity that is central to the Christian faith, but a love so deep that it seems as insanity.

I Should Be Dead

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, July 05, 2005 at 5:05 PM

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Purity. I don't talk about that word a whole lot these days--nor do I hear it being discussed among others. Why? Purity was of the utmost importance to the early Christian church in Jerusalem. It was so important, that a husband and wife who could actually be credited with introducing impurity and deceit to the church (as a whole) dropped dead when doing so. Yeah, read it in Acts 4:1-11 if you'd like. This is what our conversation was about this past Sunday night.

I'm curious, does anyone have any thoughts about this issue of purity and why it was so important to the infant Church? How/why has it fallen out of our vocabulary? Please try to keep the legalism (if there be any) to a minimum.

On another note, gonna be out of pocket for a few days. Will try to blog and/or be involved in conversation here, but may not get to it.

As always, Lace and Park--good to have yall with us this past Sunday.