Don’t let Bart Ehrman spoil your Christmas…Greg Boyd’s apologetics class

Our community enjoys learning about history in order to learn about what is true about Jesus. I think this class by Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church helps prove the case that Jesus really lived and that his birth story and thus all the prophecies that predicted his birth are true. This is important for us who are following Jesus.  I will be sharing this with our community and hoping for fruitful discussion. I respect Greg for many reasons including the fact that he is a vegetarian and is a passionate follower of Jesus.

Here is the first video: A general overview Part 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2j6STlPHstM

part 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJiyPU7HQNE3

part 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv3K1aSyaqI

part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcniA1Bp7H8

part 5:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmwjJ1HrIOI

part 7:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8Jqt68Gezo

part 8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMmY7270SQ8

part 9:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqlGaWbTVHk

An upcoming conference about doubt that I am thinking about attending

I am exploring possibilities of visiting another communit, Third Way http://www.thirdwaychurch.org/ in St. Paul  as well as attending a conference at Woodland Hills Church where my favorite pastor and teacher, Greg Boyd, is senior pastor.  I am realizing that my journey to visit intentional Christian communities does not feel quite finished.   I am praying about this.  I really thought I was home for good and that I would stay put for a while. But now that I have had a taste of travel which  I have not had for years. 

I really encourage you to take a look at this video and see how it might rock your view of doubt. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca0sigV30Qk

Here is a full description of the conference.

http://reknew.org/resource/upcoming-conference/

If you want to catch some of Greg’s great sermons, they are put up fresh every week at www.whchurch.org

 

An inexpensive rental duplex in South Fayetteville will be available

We would love to have some friendly neighbors.  Here is info on a duplex practically right next door to us:

Location:  320 Ella Ave, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701

Owner:  Mark Sugg  479-225-7504

$575/month  $400 deposit

3 Bedrooms and one bath

No pets.  6 month minimum lease.  Background check required.

Small fenced yard with a small shed

Laundry room

Spacious living room/dining room

Central air and heat

Tile floor in main part of house. New carpet in bedrooms.

New cabinets and paint

Minimum noise from shared wall which is at the end of the house.

Plenty of parking

Great location:

One block from large gazebo, tennis courts, racket ball court, volley ball court and basket ball court  at Walker Park.

On a dead end street

About one mile from Fayetteville trail system.

This duplex is located next to another duplex and there is an apartment that shares parking lot.  This gives much potential for more friendly neighbors to join us and you. If you have a vision of a community, this would be a good place to start.

 

“Wellspring Community moves forward” Some Jesus Vegans Project History

I love looking back at how my family was so receptive to helping me meet my needs for community. Even though now my daughter is married and living about 45 minutes away, she still wants to be involved. Chris is engaged to be married in Spring of 2017, is planning on building his house near Cliff’s. They still are figuring out what part they will play in Jesus Vegans Project…but they definitely are supportive and will be great neighbors at very least! So here is some history….

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I think last night was a historic occasion for our Wellspring Community. It was also my birthday.  The best thing I could imagine doing on my birthday is to get Robert, Cliff, Chris,  Mahriyanna and I together to share dinner and talk about how to move forward.

One of the things we thought was important was to decide how we could state how we perceive reality.  The closest thing we have come to is the ReKnew Manifesto http://reknew.org/2012/07/a-reknew-manifesto/  We have all read this and we are going to continue to talk about this.

We also decided that in addition to being a community, we are going to be a house church and start meeting for worship, prayer, testimonies, bible study and discussion of (for now) Greg Boyd‘s sermon series called Imagining Prayer. http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon/imagining-prayer  We want to encourage each other more in being disciples of Jesus, and a small group is so great for that.

We are in the process of developing some guidelines for how we do meetings. We decided to use consensus to make decisions that affect the whole group. We’ll be discussing more specifically what does affect the whole group.  And we are exploring the possibility of having an over night retreat.  I feel so encouraged and hopeful knowing that things that are really important to me are also important to my community.

I have tried to create communities and organizations in the past with people who disappointed me.  I’m sure I disappointed them as well.  All have floundered and failed no matter how much work I would put in to them.  I am so pleased to see that with a minimal amount of work and encouragement plus lots of prayer that Wellspring Community can come to agreement on important issues in a meeting lasting only about 1 1/2 hours.

I am in a stage of my life where prayer , scripture study and memorization, silence, fasting, and studying the giants of my faith like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Greg Boyd and Dallas Willard,  are taking a high priority in my life.  I am so happy that at last I can understand and embrace what Jesus said: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”  Leaving home for a mere month to visit intentional communities where people are really focused on being disciples of Jesus helped me immensely. If any of you are reading this, I hope you feel encouraged to know what a difference you made in my life.

I think my community senses a difference in me and thus are more receptive.  I’m not so driven to achieve certain goals or attached to outcomes. What is more important to me is our healthy relationships and encouraging each other in our spiritual growth.   I thank God for progress that is not from my striving.  God and I are co-creating what his will for us all. Praise God!

In search of Gifts: Adventure in Fayetteville

Giving thoughtful gifts is something my daughter, Mahriyanna, enjoys doing for her friends. Since I am without a car temporarily, and Robert was tied up, we decided to walk around looking for garage sales with a plan to end up at the farmer’s market to purchase food.

What I most enjoy about walking and spending any kind of time with Mahriyanna is that if I introduce a conversation topic she is 99 percent of the time willing to have a discussion.  Since I like to have deep, meaningful interactions, this is very beneficial for me. 

So we walked and talked about many things, and prayed intermittently that we could find some nice gifts for her friends.  I remember at one point telling God that we didn’t see him as just a supplier of needs, but since we have a good relationship it seems like it is okay to ask for things.  This reminds me of my relationships with people.  If I have a lot of trust built through positive experiences, then it is easy for me to ask for a favor.  This is something I am focusing on with our community.  Even though we have a lot of trust built up, there is also much healing to do.  I want to do all I can to strengthen and build up the relationships by being honest, loving, and encouraging.

So Mahriyanna and I had been walking for about an hour and we had not seen one garage sale sign.  So Mahriyanna suggested that we ask someone.  I saw some people approaching us and I asked them if they had seen any garage sales. A woman in the group said, “I saw a sign on Prospect and Wilson.”  She was friendly and we thanked her for her kindness.

When we found the sign after having a nice walk to this goal, we realized we had no idea where the street Douglas was.  But someone I knew lived right on that corner.  So I knocked on the door and was able to get directions. 

When we got to the garage sale, most of the stuff had been carted away.  I found a volley ball in good shape for a dollar.  I have not owned a volleyball for about 35 years, so it seemed like a good thing to buy.  Our whole community is very enthusiastic about volleyball.

We were somewhat disappointed because there was nothing else remotely resembling a gift for Mahriyanna’s friends.  But by now we realized that this journey and Adventure we were experiencing was not so much about the goal, but about all that was happening on the way to the goal.  We got exercise, talked about important things, saw beautiful flowers and other scenery, and connected with some people.  We did our best to bring God into the experience because experiencing God while experiencing life is not an easy dance.  We did our best to hear where God was leading us, asked him for what we were wanting, and shared our gratitude for what was happening.  I forgot about seeing people through God’s eyes, but I did have a lot of love for all the people we came in contact with.

Going to the Saturday Fayetteville Farmer’s Market near the end of the market time is an opportunity to get really good bargains.  I simply would go to vendors, some of whom I knew, and asked for deals.  We got so much produce for about $35 that we chose to give some away to some old friends we saw. The vendors were grateful to get rid of stuff near the end and some just lavished beautiful produce on us.   We just could not carry it all home in our back packs and thus were glad to pass some on.

Our packs were heavy when we left the farmer’s market.  We were pretty tired, too.  We rested and had coffee at Jammin’ Java’s.  Mahriyanna had to help me lift my back pack, which has great back support, onto my shoulders.  We bravely proceeded to accomplish the last mile and a half or so which was fortunately mostly down hill.  We wanted to finish strong, so we discussed how although this experience was challenging, it was preparing us for a future back packing trip where we might carry even more weight. 

“And just think about how some people in third world countries have to walk far away every day to carry heavy water to their homes,” I said.

“And I remember watching a program about people who had to carry heavy packs that didn’t have the good support that our packs have.  They had to walk 10-15 hours a day,”  Mahriyanna chimed in.

By the time we got home, we felt exhausted but satisfied.  It didn’t take long for us to eat a light lunch and then bounce back for whatever else God had in store for us.  I feel so grateful to have this precious time to spend with my seventeen year old daughter.   

Reba Place Fellowship: Things I liked about this community

I realize now that this blog is as much for Wellspring Community as it is for my self-expression and for others who might feel inspired to join us at some point.  Also, many have expressed interest in learning more about my journey to visit intentional Christian communities.

I am feeling inspired to write about each community that I visited highlighting the positive points that I hope our community can learn from and practice. I’m going to start with the first community I visited. Here goes…

Reba Place Fellowship in Chicago, IL.

1.  An elected director who has the talents to coordinate the whole community to implement its mission and goals as well as make sure that conflicts are resolved in a timely and harmonious matter.  Director works with a leadership group which she selects.  Directors can be male or female.

2. Involvement in the community consists of people having differing levels of commitments all the way from people who are full members and sharing income to people who are neighbors or friends who live far away.

3.  Quarterly day-long prayer retreats

4.  Full members all belong to a smaller group within the community which are geographically close for easy meeting.

5.  Full members attend one of the two churches that Reba Place helped plant.  The churches are not a part of the community, but definitely strongly influenced by RPF.  Since RPF is located in two different neighborhoods,  members attend the church within walking distance.  The church shares their foundational values including following the non-violent teachings of Jesus.

6.  RPF is a member of a group of other communities called Shalom Mission Communities.  These communities share foundational values and are located, for the most part, geographically close so that it is easier for members to gather yearly for a conference as well as for members to visit each other.  Being part of a group of similar minded communities helps with accountability and integrity especially when conflicts arise that can not be resolved within the community.

7.  RPF has access both to urban living and country living because RPF started what is now a separate community called Plow Creek Community located two hours away by train.  Members from RPF can visit and work at Plow Creek easily.  There is a retreat cabin at Plow Creek owned by RPF.  Food is produced at the Plow Creek farm which is sometimes delivered to RPF.

8. RPF owns businesses which provide employment for members.

9.  There are monthly membership meetings for all the community members to attend which helps to keep everyone posted about decisions that effect everyone.

Is it okay to doubt?

One thing that is true for our community is that we have a diverse view of God, Jesus, and the bible.  This blog post about secret doubt gives me hope that we can co-exist and even thrive even if we have differing beliefs.  Here is an excerpt that particularly touched me:

“Considering the diversity of perspectives under the umbrella of Evangelical Christianity, how can I ever be certain I hold the right ones?  Will there be a theology quiz upon entering eternity?  Will I have to pass a spiritual polygraph of sorts, based on my certainty?

Is He seeking certainty?”

You can read the whole blog here:  http://reknew.org/2013/08/secret-doubt/

History of Jesus Vegans Community:Wellspring Community meets for the first time since I left

This post helps you get to know my amazing family which was the foundation upon which Jesus Vegans Project was built. I feel so grateful to them! And for the evolution which would not have happened without their support and love.

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Last night was marvelous, wonderful, inspiring, uplifting, and connecting.  Even though I was exhausted  after a long day of unexpected organizing work,  I didn’t want to cancel.  By the end of the evening I felt energized and joyful.  That is a sign of healthy relationships!

I have been reviewing the teachings of Marshall Rosenberg about Nonviolent Communication, and one of the things he suggested was to share appreciation and gratitude with others as a way of increasing positive energy.  When I first thought about what I wanted to do during our meeting, my inclination was to discuss all the ways we could start moving towards being like the communities I had visited.  But the combination of being tired and remembering Marshall’s encouragement about sharing appreciation lead me to a different suggestion.

So when I asked, “Does anyone object to sharing a few sentences expressing appreciation to each one of us,” no one objected.  We started with Chris.  Each one of us said specific thing that we appreciated about him.  I could feel my energy coming back. Warmth and joy permeated the room as we went around the circle delighting and cherishing each other.

There were words spoken that revealed to me that breakthroughs had happened in our relationships since the two months or so ago that we decided that we are community.  I heard feelings and observations that told me that we have made huge progress in our depth of connection.  I can see that as I practicing loving people as God loves people–as beings of unsurpassable worth–has reaped blessings in how I treat my community.

I feel grateful that my community was willing to go through a kind of structured process that yielded a lot of spontaneity.  Having a light structure, I find, enables the quieter members of the group (Cliff) to be able to express more easily.  Rather than confining our words, having some structure encourages creativity, connection, joy, and focus.

The book “Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us” by Christine D. Pohl has as its first section, “Embracing gratitude as a way of life.  This is one of four practices that she recommends for healthy community. I am convinced that gratitude is in great need and a habit that we all need to cultivate.  I feel encouraged that our community is practicing this now.

The rest of the evening flowed with a depth of conversation that nurtured my spirit.  Chris and I shared stories of our adventures. Chris had gone with friends to Moore, Oklahoma, to help Samaritan’s Purse clean up the tornado damage and was away for a month being a camp counselor at War Eagle.  I, of course, had been gone for a month visiting communities.  Our community enjoyed hearing serious and funny stories.

We also watched part of my interview with Shane Claiborne and talked about how connecting with Shane and his wife was such an inspiring happening in my travels.  When Cliff and Chris were saying they were ready to go, I asked what I thought was a simple question. “What was the movie “Gladiator” about.”  This resulted in a 45 minute discussion about how Cliff and Chris saw spiritual messages in this powerful movie.

It was as if we really didn’t want to part ways because we were basking in the love that we felt for each other.  I feel greatly encouraged.  Our next meeting will be more about structure, commitment, and how to move forward. We needed this time of connecting heart to heart to build the foundation of our community and to realize how valuable our community is.

 

“We are community!” History of Jesus Vegans project

I am so glad that I started writing about community years ago, and now you and I can look at the history of how we came to be Jesus Vegans Project. I feel amazed and grateful to see how God was working back then.  Amazing Grace!

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The best thing about going out and visiting other communities was to learn that Cliff, Robert, Mahriyanna, Chris and I can start structuring ourselves like other communities are structured.  In fact, all of the communities I visited have gone through many re-structuring times.  They say that this process was how they were able to survive and thrive.

I feel so grateful because I can take everything I learned and apply it to our community. For example, two of the communities have women directors.  I decided I am going to apply for this job–director of Wellspring Community.  This does not mean that I am the boss. It merely means that since I have a gift of administration, this is a good role for me.  By having this role, I a more clear about where I need to focus my energy.

I will be talking to my community about this idea.  I am looking forward to the conversation.

There’s no place like home…

At first it was hard to transition being home. On one hand, I was glad to be back with my precious family.  Reconnecting with people I work for was very rewarding as well.  Looking forward to seeing Chris, my son, who has been a camp counselor at Camp War Eagle for the past two months, is a happy feeling also–along with anticipating connecting with my friends who I fellowship with at Living Springs on Sundays.

But at the same time, the excitement and unusual things that happened at every step of the way on my journey to visit intentional Christian communities was something that I had gotten used to. Even the bus rides connecting me to the next community were full of unexpected delights. Like when I had a 15 hour lay over in Atlanta that was packed to the brim with a variety of rich encounters with people that will take me hours to write about.

But now after being home for four days, I have finally adjusted to being home.  In fact, I am over joyed to share that the Adventures just keep happening.  The interesting, inspiring, uplifting interactions with people, including family, friends, and strangers just keep going.  I am still traveling!

What is truly exciting is to let all that I have learned and experience become something that I practice in my daily life. I have realized that, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, what I was seeking was here all along.  Although Cliff, Chris, Mahriyanna, Robert and I decided that we were community before I left on my trip, I didn’t know exactly how to go about helping make that happen.  But I learned that all communities are continually evolving and growing. Just like we are. That gave me a lot of hope.

Every step of the way I was learning what makes successful community. Conversations, books, studying web sites, working together, attending a prayer retreat, a conference, and praying together all contributed to my heart and head knowledge about community. I am glad I am not easily overwhelmed, for the intensity of all that happened in one month was a bit over the top even for an extrovert like myself.  But I had faith that even though I might not be digesting everything, that at some point clarity would emerge.

The best part of my experience was practicing seeing people through God’s eyes.  Even though my habitual response to people is some kind of judgment–either positive or negative–I worked hard to rise above that habit and delight in each person I saw or met as God delights in them.  Yes, I often failed. But just the intention to do this opened my heart and helped me to connect with love with the people I met.

My definition of love is “wanting God’s best for someone”.  I want to reassure you and myself as I write this that my expression of love is not merely being nice. Although for the most part I focused on what was right rather than what was wrong, at times when it seemed appropriate I shared discomfort, confusion, or concern about someone’s actions which resulted in deeper connection for the most part.

Something about my trip which I will be contemplating as I write stories of specific incidents just drilled this theme of seeing people through God’s eyes into my heart and mind like no other experience ever has. It wasn’t like people were talking about this all the time or that I was even reading about this idea.  It was more like a direct message from God.  “I want you to really get this lesson–it is super important!” was what I kept hearing.

I remembered a book that my dear friend Jeannie Saul had recommended about a year ago called “Practicing the Presence of People.How we learn to love.”  I googled the book and read what I could in the section that good old Amazon.com was willing to share. (You can get quite a lot from just searching inside a book.)  I resonated greatly with what I read. Here is a description of the book:

” In the deepest part of our hearts and souls is the desire to love well. Yet in our struggle to do so, we learn that, as Mike Mason puts it, “We are not born with love; it is something we must learn.” Now, in Practicing the Presence of People, he helps us launch that learning process. Mason points the way to fresh knowledge and fresh experience, showing how we can discover new things about those we love, understand them from the inside out, tenderly identify with their weaknesses, and celebrate that they too were lovingly made by the hand of God.”

I take a risk in writing this because now you who know me might have high expectations of me.  I know that in the past I have been prone to being critical and thinking that by helping people see what was wrong in their lives (being a know-it-all) I was doing them a great service. Over the years I have learned to use restraint greatly since this kind of approach was not winning me very many friends. In fact, I think many people regard me as a kind, loving people.  But still, I have had more critical, thoughts than loving ones about people than I liked.

But all along, God has been encouraging me to learn to love greatly…and I hope with all my heart, and pray–that my one month trip has helped me form a new habit of seeing people through God’s eyes–seeing them as having unsurpassable worth.  This has given me tremendous peace and joy because of the feelings this attitude generates, as well as the relationships that have been cultivated especially in the past month.

There is no place like home…and no place like home to practice the presence of people who I have known for many years. I intend to see them with new eyes with God’s help. To be more present. To be more kind. To be more open. To be more understanding. To have an intention of contributing to their well being. To pray for them. To cultivate friendships that will be deeper and more beautiful than I ever thought possible.

This is how to build community, I believe. And to help bring the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Shalom.

Waking up with Jesus

my first morning home I woke up feeling so close to Jesus. But going to bed feeling close to Jesus was helpful too. I have found that when I do a process called Immanuel Approach as a way of praying, I just naturally feel his presence. It is easy to  pray for a long time because I am experiencing a love–both for Jesus and for people.  The key is that before I start praying, I recall a time when I felt the presence of Jesus strongly.  I meditate on that experience and bring it to the forefront of my consciousness. Then, my prayer is permeated with the reality of Jesus.

Last night and this morning I did this process.  The memory I recalled was meeting a young man in the Memphis bus terminal.  This lead to other memories of people I met just in the last few days, and I found myself praying for them.  I am going to have a very long prayer list and I am committed to look at that list daily.  The people I have met on my travels have changed me in profound way. I could write a post about each of them.