Archive for the ‘community’ Tag

The Self Made Man Deflects Grace   1 comment

We Americans are strikingly individualistic, even inventing self-contradictory proverbs to make our point.  “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” we say as though sheer effort can somehow overturn the law of gravity.   This outlook even molds our view of spirituality, which we see as something personal and private, between me and God.  We turn what is quintessentially a collective, integrated, synergistic  venture–the church–into a gathering of individuals, largely disconnected personally.  Henry doesn’t know that John’s marriage is crumbling or that Karen’s fifth grader is desperately struggling with depression.

This individualistic mindset is especially detrimental to grace.  Grace, like patty-cakes, is not something we can do on our own.  It is not something we “claim,” but something we are given… there must be another to offer us grace.  Gifts are never earned or won or conquered or they would cease to be gifts.  It is true that all grace originates with God, but his primary means of delivering that grace to us is through people.  We are all bearers of his light of grace, sharing our small, flickering flame with those whose wick has whiffed out.  God came down to us once in flesh that could touch and hear and comfort us, but that was 2000 years ago, and since then, his body has taken on the form of our fellow humans.

This it at once a great responsibility and an amazing privilege–to be the voice and hands and heart of God to our fellows, and them to us.  None of us do it perfectly, perhaps not even particularly well, but we each have an indispensable role to play in the redemptive journey we are all on together.  We depend on each other for our core heart needs to be met, and we suffer deeply when we cannot connect in mutually supportive relationships.  Failing those redemptive relationships, we must do our best to welcome with hope those small tastes of it, the little gestures of goodwill that come our way.


Posted June 26, 2017 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Sharing Life   Leave a comment

From one of my new favorite blogs:

What’s that in the Pool?

 Parts of the Rocky Mountains look like

algae bloom out in the Indian Ocean.

Parts of me look like parts of you

and here we go with oneness

being nothing more than

pattern recognition and optical illusion;

though I hope there is more to it than that.

My hurt might not be your hurt,

but I have a sense of it.

Likewise your hope may not resemble mine,

but it cheers you just the same

and we are all the better for it.

We needn’t replicate each other

or attempt imitation,

but recognition is a kind thing

and art is what we all have to share.

Posted December 11, 2012 by janathangrace in Poems

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Leftover People   1 comment

Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality:

It was time for the Scripture reading and a girl shuffled toward the front of the church. What a moment for Connie. She had finally mustered enough courage to ask the pastor if she could read the Scripture. Without hesitation, he said yes. For years Connie had stifled her desire to serve in the church because of her “incompetencies.” Reading was extremely dif­ficult for her, and Connie had a terrible time enunciating clearly. But she had been in this church many years, and she was beginning to understand the grace of God. Jesus didn’t die just for our sins; he died so people who couldn’t read or speak could read and speak. Now she could serve the Jesus she loved so much. Now she could express her desire for God in a tangible way.

Connie’s steps were labored as she made her way to the front; one leg was shorter than the other, causing her body to teeter from side to side. Finally, she was standing up front, looking at the congregation with pride and joy.  The congregation was silent. Too silent.

The screaming silence was covering up the congregation’s discomfort. Clearly, most of them were trying to understand what Connie was doing, and they were trying not to notice her many incompetencies. Her eyes were too close together, and her head twisted back and forth at odd angles while her face wrenched from one grimace to another.  Connie began to read, and stammering, stuttering, she stumbled proudly through the passage in a long sequence of untranslatable sounds, garbled sentences, long tortuous pauses, and jumbled phrases. Finally, the reading was over, and the congregation was exhausted.

Connie didn’t notice the exhaustion. She was ecstatic. Her face seemed no longer distorted, only full of joy. Her cheeks were flush with pride; her eyes were sparkling with the joy of accomplishment; her heart was warm with knowing she had served the congregation, participated in her faith. Yes, she would remember this day for a long time. How wonderful it was, she thought, to no longer be a spectator in church; she was the church this morning!

Thank God her mental capacities were limited. Thank God she was not able to discern the faces of the congregation or she would have crumbled in despair. Thank God she wasn’t able to sense what people were really thinking.  Almost everyone in the congregation was thinking, This is an outrage! I know this is what they were thinking, because the senior pastor, my father, was ordered to attend an emer­gency board meeting after the service.

Stain Glass Masquerade
by Casting Crowns
(click image to hear)

 “How did this happen?” they demanded to know. “What were you thinking?”

“Connie wanted to read the Scripture,” he replied softly.

“Well, let her stand at the door and pass out bulletins, or help in the mailroom, but don’t have her read! The girl can’t read or speak. Her reading took ten minutes! The church,” they said, “is not a place for incompetence.”

My father believes, as I do, that the church is the place where the incompetent, the unfinished, and even the un­healthy are welcome. I believe Jesus agrees.

Posted April 15, 2012 by janathangrace in Story

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Silent Struggles   Leave a comment

I have been struggling more with depression in the last few weeks and it deflates my energy for social media.  I kept trying to process the feelings because it always helps me work through to a better place if I can identify the source of my emotions, but I could get nowhere with it, so I used busyness as an alternative escape.  I think I have finally identified the source… Kimberly’s discouragement at work.  Not only do I suffer because she suffers, but both of us continue to be inspired by the L’Arche vision (even though I resigned a year and a half ago) and we have kept hope alive that this L’Arche community would find its way through the turmoil to a place of genuine L’Arche living.  With Kimberly now having doubts after hanging in there so long, it is the slow death of our dreams for a community that embraces weakness as a core value.  This is why we moved to Lynchburg in the first place, and it leaves a sense of emptiness, uncertainty, pain, loss.

Posted October 25, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal

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Bonhoeffer on Community   1 comment

In a Christian community everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain.  Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable.  A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them.  It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable.  Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak.  The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship. (from Life Together p. 94)

In the current economic/political context I need to point out that “employment” is about one’s role in the body, not about earning a wage.

Posted October 11, 2011 by janathangrace in Reading

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