Staying at the Simple Way community is simple

I reserved a room at the Hospitality House  which is a kind of simple hotel where people who want to take part in the neighborhood and community activities at The Simple Way community can stay.  It costs only $25 a night unless one stays longer.  I am staying there a week and I get a  40 percent discount.  I am so happy that going to this community was so simple because last I had heard it was rather difficult to visit.

When I had thought about going to the Simple Way years ago the web site said “don’t just show up at our door step because we probably can’t accommodate you.”  I have a feeling they were inundated with visitors after Shane Claiborne, who helped found the community, wrote “The Irresistible Revolution.”  This can be really stressful for a community, especially a Christian one, which wants to help people, but also needs to draw healthy boundaries.

I am excited about visiting these folks. I have not made a direct contact yet. They prefer to communicate via snail mail.

I just have one more community to contact now–The Third Way in St. Paul.  I’m on it:)

 

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I am definitely welcome at two communities

I have only contacted two communities out of the four I definitely plan to visit–Reba Place Fellowship near Chicago, and Koinonia in Americus, Georgia. I am so excited!  It took some weeks to figure things out–that has been an adventure in itself, and I already have learned much about the people at Reba Place Fellowship because I have communicated with about five people. The conversations have been very uplifting, thoughtful, inspiring, and helpful.

Reba Place Fellowship is the first destination.  Now I need to contact The Simple Way (Where Shane Claiborne lives) in Philadelphia  and then Third Way  which is St. Paul. If you want to learn more about the communities I plan to visit here is a post I wrote.

I can’t wait to write more about how I communicated with each of the communities which shows their uniqueness.  I am going to start a blog called Intentional Christian Communities Resources so that I can share what I am learning about these wonderful places.  Sure, you can look at their websites.  But to actually interact on-line is another thing.

I leave on July 8 which is Cliff’s birthday and it is almost exactly 14 years ago to the day that I ran away from home. Now that is another story.

Christian Intentional Communities I hope to visit and why

It was easy to select the communities that I wanted to visit on my first tour.  (Yes, I am already planning more!)  Here are the reasons:

  • Geographically they were close enough for me to take a one day bus trip to each one.
  • They share my values. I have researched them all very thoroughly and feel confident that they share my values and goals and are a key parts of the vision and goals that I share here.
  • They have been around for more than a decade. They have staying power. Except for the Third Way which is connected to Woodland Hills Church which has been around a while.
  • I believe they are approachable. So far, I have contacted two communities and both have been very encouraging.

Here are the communities I plan to approach to visit:

Reba Place Fellowship near Chicago:  “We are followers of Jesus Christ, freely sharing life and resources with one another and with our neighbors in order to demonstrate God’s peace and justice in the world.”   I am currently having a dialogue with folks at Reba and looks like the light is green for my visit.

Their rural sister community, Plow Creek: “A global village practicing the peace of Jesus.”

Third Way in St. Paul,  Minnesota:  “We are a young Mennonite community of followers of Jesus Christ, committed to love like God, to follow Jesus life and teachings, center our lives around community, and work for the reconciliation of all people to God  and each other. ” They are associated with Woodland Hills Church

Woodland Hills Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota:  This is the only place that I plan to visit which is not an intentional community because I consider Greg Boyd, senior pastor, to be the main spiritual teacher in my life that feeds me and points me to live out practically the teachings of Jesus.  I really hope to meet him in person. He is also into building a network of like-minded Christians in the organization ReKnew which I wholeheartedly support.

If possible, I might squeeze in a Thrive seminar after my visit to Reba.  You can find out more info here. http://www.thrivetoday.org/thrive2012july.html

My plan is to stay week in each area, attending the church service of the community.  I hope to stay in the actual community in their guest quarters or just on the floor or in a tent outside. I am flexible!  I will travel by bus or train or if people give me rides–that is all the better. I won’t hitchhike, I promise!  I will be gone 4-5 weeks.

The Simple Way in Philadelphia, Pennsyvania. “We have a dream of a village in the middle of the urban desert – with a little cluster of row homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other. ”  Founded by Shane Claiborne, author of a book that tremendously inspired meThe Irresistible Revolution. “

Koinonia:  Americus, Georgia. “Koinonia is a Christian farm community founded in 1942 by Clarence & Florence Jordan and Martin & Mabel England. Home of the Cotton Patch Gospel, birthplace of Habitat for Humanity, Jubilee Partners, Prison Jail Project, Fuller Center for Housing and other ministries. Still growing pecans and peanuts, welcoming visitors, and living the “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.”  I have been accepted to be a visitor there.

My reasons for visiting Christian intentional communities

When I felt inspired and compelled to step out in faith for the umpteenth time to create community after reading the Christian Intentional Communities Handbook, for once I did not have a plan.  I just made a blog–easy enough–and started posting a few things. I didn’t even have a vision. That is unusual for me.  But the seed was planted.  About six months later, I felt prompted by what I think is the Holy Spirit to go on a tour of my favorite Christian intentional communities as well as visit and connect with Woodland Hills Church (and hopefully Greg Boyd).

As I planned my trip and researched more about intentional Christian communities, I realized that our unusual family is really a community.  I approached them with this idea, and they were all enthusiastic. I now consider myself living in community with my two former husbands and our two children.

For the first time in years, it seemed that money and time were available for me to take a month long break.  My family is very supportive also–and that helps immensely.

Here they are:

1.  Be able to tell Christian skeptics (that is, they are skeptical about the viability of intentional communities where income and lives are shared so profusely)  that they are thriving, healthy and even doable.

2.  Learn all I can by asking questions, experiencing community life, serving along side the community members, and attending their worship services and other programed events.

3. Document what I learn and experience by writing in my blog, recording interviews, taking pictures, making videos (if I can get the technology)  of what I am doing, and doing podcasts.  (pray for me please: I am not the best at the technological side of documenting things-but I can learn. I also could really use an IPAD)

4.  Make connections, make friends and meet kindred spirits who share aspects of my vision (which I hope encompasses just about everyone’s vision) so that we can collaborate in the future. In person connections are so much more flowing and powerful than meeting on line.

5.  Find people who yearn to live in the country at Wellspring Community as  pioneers who want to help develop community and work on the vision the I share on my blog .

6.  Make the trip itself an adventure by wearing clothes that invite conversation. This was inspired by this wonderful movie, Lord Save Us From Your Followers. I will be mostly traveling by bus at this point.  I envision my self wearing different bumper stickers that will attract all kinds of people–including a diverse group of Christians, atheists, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and people of different faiths. I want to interview people about how they see Christians, invite people to record their statements, write and draw in a notebook I will provide.

I also want to be service oriented and have snacks, children’s toys, and other things that might nurture people. I plan on having some kind of hand out that will inspire people to look at Jesus in a way that motivates them to learn about his basic teachings of love, including non-violence.

7.  Utilize my organizing skills to lead a team to de=clutter a huge project. You can find out more here.

8.  Develop spiritually.  Deepen my love relationship with Jesus and learn to trust him more. Discern what my next step in developing community is. Practice more and more seeing people through God’s eyes as I meet so many new people especially as I travel.  Practice listening more and talking less as I meet the people in communities.  Develop a consistent prayer life moment to moment, feeling a constant awareness of Jesus by my side and in my heart.  Return to my family and faith community a renewed person who is a more effective servant leader.

9.  Learn the exact ways that communities have found to work and live together harmoniously. Learn from their mistakes. Adapt what they share to help me make a good structure for Wellspring Community so that we can build on what others have done and not re-create the wheel.

10.  Be a bumble bee.  I want to share the good news of other communities and resources wit the others and help connect them to each other for mutual benefit.  This is what I call pollinating.

11. I want to have fun and experience extravagant amounts of joy and be a joy starter wherever I go. .

If you can think of any more reasons I should visit intentional communities, or have any comments, I would very much appreciate hearing from you.

My Immanuel Approach story: Part 2

Vivian and I first took a leisurely walk with her son and we connected once again and felt very comfortable with each other.  I was able to really encourage her son who was having some problems with learning disabilities, and so that bonded Vivian and I even more.  We then found a secluded place outside under a tree.  We sat facing each other.  I started with a prayer. Then I asked Vivian to recall a positive memory of perceiving the Lord’s presence.

I was delighted and surprised to hear her tell me about how just last Easter a neighbor had come and shared the story of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection.  Vivian had felt a warm, tingling sensation and a feeling of being wrapped in a blanket of safe, unconditional love.

Then I asked Vivian to share with  me the burden she had in her heart.  She proceeded to tell me a very difficult situation that she had with a family member where she outwardly dealt with the problem as the loving person that she normally is, but inwardly she was hating the person. When the family member died,  Vivian felt terribly guilty and regretful that she could not deal with the situation better. She saw that if she did not deal with this guilt and shame that she might start doing the same thing in similar situations and she was very afraid. I gazed at her with unconditional love and acceptance, and this experience in itself was very comforting to her and helped me to connect with my “Godsight”–how much God loved her in spite of her shortcomings.

I asked Vivian to close her eyes and remember the memory of Jesus that she shared with me.   This is not the exact way that the sheet said to do it, but it was the way it flowed.

Vivian immediately had a vision of Jesus and a picture of how he was comforting her.  I can not remember the exact vision she had, but it was very beautiful and real to her and to me. The presence of Jesus felt very strong to both of us.  I was both amazed and touched by how powerful the vision was for her as she described it to me.  She felt a profound sense of safety and protection.

After the experience she had with Jesus, Vivian told me that she felt the weight had been lifted off of her.  She felt completely clean and refreshed. I was so happy for her.

We went on a walk and talked more about her heart and her dreams and concerns. I felt so connected to her–more than ever before.  We had always been good friends, but as I told her when she told me she wanted to confess her burden to me, “I always felt like I was at the bottom of the barrel in your list of friends,”  and her answer was, “You are now at the top of the barrel.”  Well, I don’t have a need to be her best friend, but I am so glad that I can share Jesus with her because not only does this help her emotionally and spiritually, but it gives us something very  wonderful and special to have in common.

If you want to hear about my experience with Vivian facilitating me with the Immanuel Approach, you can go here.

My Immanuel Approach Story Part 1

I learned about the Immanuel Approach when I was reading the Intentional Christian Communities Handbook.  I was inspired to read that at Reba Place Fellowship, which is one of the first communities I contacted to visit when I decided to visit Christian communities,  this model of emotional and spiritual healing was used very effectively.   I believe that most of the problems caused in relationships and thus communities are caused by deep roots of hidden trauma that need to be resolved in some way.

I knew I was going to be learning about the Immanuel Approach at some point, and when I found a morning free in a very busy, often non-stop schedule of family, Christian fellowship,  and work, I settled into a seat at Einstein’s Coffee Shop where one of the employees graciously allowed me to move a table so I could plug in my computer. Good thing–because I was there for the next four hours. My batteries would not have lasted:)

I was happy to find out that the Immanuel Approach website had an abundance of free material that was inspiring and fascinating.  Because I have done work with a similar secular process called Co-counseling or Re-evaluation counseling, I knew the power of having a person being present to help facilitate the healing of memories. Only I learned later that the memories are not being healed, as I thought was true in Re-evaluation counseling.  What happens is that the memories are processed in such a way so that a person can realize that Jesus was there loving him or her during the painful traumatic incident.  By realizing this, a person’s relationship with Jesus is strengthened and becomes more real.

Jessica Handy, who teaches the Immanuel Approach, says this: “Immanuel (approach) helps people learn to hear God for themselves and become more aware of His presence in the daily moments of life,” she says.  “It generates deep and lasting healing in the context of prayer, community, and the overarching focus of maturity in Christ.”

Jessica Handy and Leren Chamberlain were the very inspiring teachers in a series of free on line videos which I was glued to most of the time I was in the coffee shops–with ear buds of course.  I felt like I had been looking for this approach for my whole Christian walk.  If I had discovered it before I surrendered my life to Christ along with the beautiful people who are teaching and promoting it, I most likely would have been able to have given my life to Christ at that time.

I really wanted to try out the Immanuel Approach. I watched the videos at home whenever I was washing dishes or doing chores.  I didn’t quite see all of them, but I was eager to experience this model.  My previous experience with both co-counseling and Non-violent Communication gave me confidence that I could be a safe, loving facilitator for another person. Little did I know that my chance was coming sooner than I thought.

When a dear friend who I had not connected with four over four years was in my area, we got together to visit. I was actually a bit reluctant to spend my precious time with her because every minute I had extra I wanted to spend with my family or to do some writing which I rarely got to do.  I was the main supporter of my family at that time and also did my share of the many chores including gardening.

I thought we no longer had much in common because she was more into spiritual teachings like Course in MIracles and Eckhardt Tolle’s book, “A New Earth”   I respected and loved her. We had about fourteen years of history together.   But I thought, “What do we really have to talk about?”  I really like deep conversations.  And if my life was not so intense and hectic, I would have been more willing to visit.  Since she very much wanted to visit, and have my daughter spend time with her kids–so reluctantly I made time for her.

I actually enjoyed our conversation very much.  We talked just a little about spiritual things, and she told me that she loves Jesus and has a close relationship with him.  When we were saying our goodbyes, she said to me very vulnerably, “I want to confess something to you that is a burden on my heart.”  I was surprised that she would use the words “confess” since she was not a Christian in the orthodox sort of way.  But now I realize that she is following Jesus–and has been hurt or misguided by Christians so she is not so much into the whole Bible.

Even though I was super busy, I knew I needed to make time for my friend who I will call Vivian.  When I called her to schedule a time to get together, she said, “I want to do the Immanuel Approach with you.”  I was surprised. We had just talked about it briefly. I told her how inspired I was by the process.   She also was reading the book, “Joy Starts Here” by Jim Wilder and friends which I had lent her and she liked it. I hesitated briefly and then said, “Ok. Let’s do it.”  We set up a time. I was a bit nervous about making this commitment, but I had faith that it would work out.  I prayed about it as well.

A few days before we were to meet I googled, “fast, easy, super simple ways to do the Immanuel Approach.”  I was overjoyed to discover a document that was only two months old entitled, “Immanuel Approach:  Super Extremely Simple Basic Exercise (One page summary) by Karl Lehman.  A friend printed it out for me and I had it just in time to take to our meeting.

I had glanced at the “cheat sheet” and it did seem super simple.  I am going to describe what happened in part two of this story here.

My faith journey: From church goer to agnostic to many paths to Jesus

When I approached Reba Place Fellowship about possibilities of visiting, the director, Sally Schreiner Youngquist,  asked me about my faith journey.  I spent hours writing about my whole life because really I have looked for Jesus all my life and been attempting to figure out what my faith walk is.  I am still not done editing this piece which was at times quite painful to write as I recalled difficult memories.  At the same time, it is so encouraging for me to see what a different person I am as I look back on the transformation that has taken place in my life since I left my Christian faith walk at age 16.  I am going to do my best to briefly summarize in this blog my faith walk.  I have written extensively about my walk in my blog www.patriciamikkelson.wordpress.com

1954:  Born.  Even though my dad was in the Navy, I was born in Lafayette, Indiana where he was working with the ROTC at Purdue University. So I got a daddy and mama with me for the first three years of my life which is supposed to be the most formative. Relatives in Chicago and good friends in Lafayette. So my faith in the goodness of God was probably formed during that time.  Even though my childhood was imperfect, over all my parents were kind, loving, and encouraged me. I still remember my dad saying, “you can do anything you set your mind to do.”  I know they did their best to live out their Christian faith.

Okay, I better speed up!

1954-1970  Attended all activities at United Methodist Churches wherever my dad was stationed. Was chairman of Methodist Youth Council at age 16,

1970 At age 16, I became disillusioned with the church and Christianity in general due to hypocrisy I saw plus not having a good understanding of what I was supposed to be believing. I officially left the church without much resistance from pastor or parents.

1973:  While backpacking I sensed very strongly that a presence which I believe was God urging me to travel and get out of the life style of sexual sin I was experiencing.  Part of this was the materialism of Western culture, and part was my sinful ways.  I didn’t know why I was supposed to go–but I knew I needed to do this.

1974:  At age 19 I boarded a plane alone to Paris with a one way ticket not knowing how long I would be gone and yearning to find my “niche”.  After quickly becoming disappointed with Europe, I took the Orient Express to Turkey and spent the next year in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka.  My most uplifting experience was when I was very depressed and almost suicidal when I saw the musical Godspell seven time in seven days in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I loved the Jesus that was presented in Godspell. But there were no Christians around to tell me more. I returned home having a revelation on the plane:  In order to be happy, I needed to serve using my talents.

1975:  Age 20:  Introduced to Indian guru Parmahansa Yogananda through his Autobiography of a Yogi.  I married my now former husband Cliff and became a disciple of Yogananda and joined Self Realization fellowship (SRF).  I was particularly attracted to this path because it was supposed to be a blend of eastern religion and Christianity.  I wore a cross with a lotus at the center. I loved Jesus.

1976:  Moved to Arkansas with Cliff. We meditated and studied weekly with the folks who invited us to come and live with them and help them with a now famous blue berry farm near Jerusalem, Arkansas. We also went to a weekly Christian service which we very much loved with some neighbors. No one ever pressured us to give our lives to Christ and we were glad about that.   We loved the music, testimonials, prayer and even the sermons. We also felt a bit smug because we knew that all paths lead to God and we had no need of salvation.

1980:  Cliff and I moved back to California to be closer to the SRF temple and also to be with folks who were part of the Church Universal and Triumphant.  We were members of both of these churches. We liked the Ascended Master’s teachings–including Mother Mary, Jesus, and Paul.  They seemed to be more concerned than SRF about making positive changes in the world.  I left after about four years when I realized CUT was a cult.

1987:  Started taking Ashtanga Yoga and tried to get more into the physical aspect of spirituality. Mostly what I got was in very good physical shape, but not much spiritual growth.

1989:  Left Self Realization Fellowship when I had my first child, Chris.  I was choir director for about ten years and that was the main reason I really felt connected. I had developed wonderful relationships in the choir and honed my leadership skills as well with great success.  But since most of the choir members did not have children we did not stay connected.  I had no time to be director after Chris’s birth, and I also realized that I really was not getting my self realized after all these years.

1989-2001  Experimented with all kinds of spiritual paths but never got committed to any of them. I believed that all paths lead to God. They included:  yoga, Course in Miracles, New Thought teachings,  Native American teachings, Wikka, pagan and transformational psychology.   But I still loved Jesus.  In 1991 I was going through a particularly hard time and I cried out to Yogananda and Jesus. I felt Jesus peace completely envelop me. I knew it was Jesus. I will never forget that.

In 1994, I was befriended by a Presbyterian pastor and his wife when I lived in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (we moved back to Arkansas in 91). I really tried to fit in and also believe. But I just couldn’t buy that Jesus was the ONLY son of God. No one ever really explained to me that Jesus was God–that would have been hard to believe also.

Around 1998, I felt really drawn to the Episcopalian Church in the town I was living in.  I really wanted to be a part of this church. I asked the pastor if he really believed the Apostle’s Creed that was read every Sunday. His answer was, “No, that is just a metaphor,” or something like that. I realized I could not attend a church where the pastor did not believe his own creed.

1999:  I ran away from two former husbands and my two children (Mahriyanna, 3, and Chris, 10)  I was so at a loss with my life feeling estranged from Robert (second husband), dreams of community had been dashed, and I was having a lot of problems with friends.  I thought if I did not leave, that I would kill myself. I asked God to release me by giving me a sign–if I woke up in time to leave at 5am to board a bus, then I would go.  I did wake up at 5am.  On the way to the bus while riding a taxi, I saw a sign in a church that said, “Go in peace, I am with you.”  I felt God’s help and presence during the trip. I returned home after five weeks and had reconciliation with friends and family.

I still remember during this difficult time of separation from Robert when I had a bad toothache. I was crying out to Jesus to help me.  I did not feel the same peace I felt in the other experience I had many years ago. But I was still crying out to Jesus.

2001:  Through a series of miraculous events Robert and I were reconciled and we moved to the country  4 miles from Living Springs which is a loosely knit Christian fellowship and neighborhood which you can learn about here.  We met the folks there and started attending the open church meetings. We felt very welcome, and my questions were met with an openness I had never experienced. I was offered the book “more than a carpenter”  by Josh McDowell when a discerning friend who is still one of my closest friends realized that my intellect was crying out for answers.  I also read “A Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.  I found that there were Christians who were into Creation Care by searching the internet.  Non-violence was important to me, but I did not research that aspect of Christianity which would have been really encouraging.

I reluctantly gave my life to Christ five months after I connected with Living Springs Fellowship. No one pressured me. I pressured myself because I realized that I needed whatever these folks had.  And I had enough faith and knowledge to make the plunge.

My daughter and my now former husband Robert gave their lives to Christ weeks later. Chris, my son, surrendered his life to Christ about three years later.

At first I tried to believe what everyone else believed–although there was a variety of theologies. I never really felt like the Christianity “stuck”.  But I persisted and tried to be a good Christian. My life, though, was not changing.

2004: Conflicts occurred at our fellowship which were so bad that I questioned my faith. I had based my faith partially on the fact that finally I had found people who walked their talk, and now they had failed me. They no longer encouraged me to study apologetics–but more to pray, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

I publicly stated that I was not sure that Jesus was the only way to heaven.  Because of this and other reasons ( was very angry because of all the rejection and conflict–and acted out in pretty emotional and negative ways), I stopped going to the fellowship. I read or skimmed about twenty books by liberal Christians such as John Spong and Elaine Pagals as well as atheists and free thinkers.  I came to the conclusion that their arguments held no water and I decided to keep my faith in Jesus even though it was shaky.

2005:  I read books that really inspired me, especially “The Irresistible Revolution”  by Shane Claiborne who gave me a lot of hope about the Christian faith since he emphasized non-violence, creation care, and taking care of the poor–as well as community. I dove into his teachings and just really felt inspired. I also read “Velvet Elvis” by the now very controversial Rob Bell and “Blue Like Jazz”  by Donald Miller who continues to do very wonderful things for Jesus.  I wished that I could meet Christians who had these same kinds of thoughts. But we had bought land at Living Springs and our kids were very much rooted there.  So we felt stuck.

2007:  Community gatherings became my prime source of service and sharing my faith in a non-churchy way.  I was attending The First Christian Church during this time and hoped to get them involved but there was not much interest.  I wanted churches to get involved in community outreach by hosting a weekly gathering that could serve people in ways that I now see were completely in alignment with so many of the things I learned about later like the missional church and the life model.  But I could not get one Christian to join me and the team of people who supported me ended up being very dysfunctional and after a series of wonderful gatherings things fell apart.  But I still think that the model is beneficial and worthwhile.

2008:  At a very vulnerable time in my life I came across the book “The Shack”.  This book helped me to realize how God loves me and everyone. It was a turning point in my spiritual life.  Here is a blog post that tells more about that experience  http://patriciamikkelson.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/reading-the-shack-for-the-fourth-time/  And I just discovered that I wrote a whole blog about the Shack by googling myself  http://theshackjourney.wordpress.com/

2009:  I felt a need to really anchor myself in my faith and I read and re-read about four times Lee Strobel’s “A Case for the Real Jesus”.  I read other apologetics books and inspirational Christian books.  I attended a few Christian churches, but just did not feel connected to any of them. I also missed sharing a church experience with my kids who were still with their good friends at Living Springs.  I also split up with my husband Robert after trying for many years to live in harmony. We didn’t have good support from our previous fellowship and now neither of us had a church where we could be accountable.

2010:  I felt strong enough because of reading and getting counseling from a few Christians including a life coach–to go back to Living Springs Fellowship, now re-named Resurrection Church.  I decided that even if people did not want to take responsibility for their part in the drama that had hurt our family so much, I would forgive and move on.  There were some new people who I connected with as well as healing that took place with old timers.

2011:  I came across writings about  the missional church including “Organic Church” by Neil Cole. I loved the ideas presented by such authors as Allen and Deborah Hirsch, and I enjoyed the Tangible Kingdom Primer

At this time I was working for Bob Jordan who had six months previously fallen off a roof experiencing brain damage.  I had worked for him on and off for thirteen years before his accident, and he hired me to help him get his life back together. One of his great needs was to express the compassion and unconditional love he felt towards people because of something that happened to his brain when he fell.  I helped him to start the Kindness Alliance for the purpose of helping especially people in Fayetteville to achieve their kind goals.  We had a very elaborate vision and got to a point where a group of people were very enthusiastic and decided we were the board of directors. We even presented our vision to the mayor of Fayetteville who encouraged us to keep moving forward.  Once again, the group fell apart due to differing values and expectations and dysfunctions.  We managed to limp a long for a year, but at the end it was very disappointing and I decided that I could not ever do a project with non-Christians. I kept hoping that just by working with and reaching out to folks who were not followers of Jesus,  people might be at very least interested and open to Jesus. I also hoped that churches would get on board and see the potential.  But this also did not happen.  I realize even as I write this that I believe so strongly “faith without works is dead.”  I wanted my faith to shine through the Kindness Alliance.  I know I failed in some ways miserably…and in other ways I truly experienced being the hands and feet of Jesus.

2012:  I started out the year getting involved with Celebrate Recovery thinking that maybe my problems with Robert, my former husband, could be resolved if I could just deal with my anger which was one of the topics of the recovery program.  At first I was excited and totally on board because people seemed to really be working on themselves.  But as time went on, it seemed that people were not as friendly, loving, and connecting as I would think they would be when welcoming in another person like myself.  I was looking for healthy community and it wasn’t happening.  So I quit attending. But I am grateful for all the dedication, resources and energy that churches and individuals pour into recovery programs in order to help them and I was blessed by many of the people who supported me.

2012 was a big year for stepping out and trying to find a faith community I could totally embrace.  When I met the pastor of Gracepoint Church at our neighborhood park where the folks were hosting a feeding program for kids at lunch, I was impressed with how the church was reaching out to the homeless and needy.  My kids and I attended the church for several months and tried to get really involved.  But we found that our roots went deep with our old fellowship and it was really strange to go to church for an hour and then everyone would leave.  The small groups they called Life Groups were where people could connect more deeply, but these groups separated me from my family and this did not feel good to me.  We are still connecting to these folks and I am so glad we made the connection.

Later last year when I was listening to The God Journey Podcast, where Wayne Jacobson and Brad Cummings inspired and entertained me ever since I read the book “The Shack,” I heard an interview with Bruxy Cavey.

Because my former husband and my daughter were on vacation for a month and I had the house to myself, I listened to about forty hours of his sermons whenever I got the chance.  I was so delighted to finally find a peace church that also preached the bible. I realized I was an Anabaptist at the core and that was a completion for me of my Christian walk.

Bruxy lead me to Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church, who I also really appreciated.  In addition to being a pacifist and being willing to lose a third of the church membership by sharing his beliefs about this matter, he is a vegetarian because he respects the rights of animals. Since I have been a vegetarian for 42 years for the same reason, I really resonated with him. He is also very much into apologetics, building bridges with other similar minded folks through the organization www.reknew.org, and imaginative prayer (which is similar to Immanuel Approach in many ways) I decided to start listening to his sermons.  My daughter and former husband liked Greg better than Bruxy, so now we listen to all of Greg’s sermons.  I plan on visiting Woodland Hills when I am on my tour and hope to meet Greg in person.

I have watched many sermons about the history of the early Christians and the Anabaptists and have been very excited to hear that my dissatisfaction with evangelical Christianity has been valid.

A kindred spirit at our Christian fellowship lent me a book called “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up”.  This lead me to dive in even deeper to studying the early Christians and what they believed.  I thought that David Bercott’s teachings about living in the Kingdom of God were going to have the final answers I was seeking–but fortunately I found the Life Model which was developed by Jim Wilder. I am in the process of figuring out how the early Christians practiced the Life Model and how they did not.

2013:  I attended the second IHOP conference for young people with my children.  I really enjoy the musical worship and the fellowship with my kids. I also made some great connections with many of the leaders.  I know they are moving in the direction of community and are making great strides. When I heard George Otis, Jr. speak about the unconventional war in Uganda I wanted to research everything about what he was doing. I found that many people at our fellowship were in alignment with the  Transformations videos I purchased some videos and prayer booklets and people seemed interested in pursuing this and this is in process.

I also gave some “Joy Starts Here”  books to a few people to see what they thought and they are very much in agreement with the concepts and we are having some discussions about the book.  Three women agreed to meet once a week in what is called a Life Transformation Group.  We confess sins, pray for the lost and encourage each other in reading scripture. I have discovered that it is a great way to encourage each other generally and everyone has found a lot of joy in this group.

http://www.amazon.com/Will-Real-Heretics-Please-Stand/dp/0924722002

I want to mention some of the other things I have thrown myself into over the years that I forgot when I was doing the time line.  I do tend to pour myself into anything I find that I am drawn too. Since I gave my life to Christ I find that I am much more discerning about what I choose to dive into and I believe that is because I am being led by the Holy Spirit more. I think I was led by the Holy Spirit before I was a Christian but now that I have surrendered my life to Jesus, he has more permission to guide me plus I am better able to listen.

When I was in my mid-twenties I went to a three-week raw foods retreat where I used my abundant free time to go through a tape series Insight on Time Management which helped me to discover the importance of identifying my values and living in alignment with those values. This retreat also inspired me to make music my career and I had the faith and trust to start my business called Music for Life. Uplifting music for people of all ages was my venue and I was quite successful and made many recordings. One recording I did when Chris was in my womb called Amazing Grace.  I did all Christian songs including Amazing Grace, In the Garden, How Great Thou Art.  I also did a more “new age” tape which really had concepts that I now know are true about God–how much he loves me and cares for me and how we can have a love relationship.

Also in my late twenties I took seminars called Insight which helped me get in touch with my inner child and heal my child hood wounds. Later I helped produce seminars facilitated by the now famous  Jack Canfield.  I almost became a facilitator but because of conflicts with Jack it did not work out.  All of these transformational seminars were about love, forgiveness, being in integrity, being vulnerable and authentic, and they helped me open up to love people on a deeper level and be more honest with my now former husband, Cliff.

Non-violent communication was all about not judging people and using language that could help me take people out of boxes and see them through eyes of compassion. I still love this model and it really saved my relationship with my kids as I learned this when Chris was in my womb.

Catholic Worker movement was something I researched and almost was going to go on a tour of these communities several years ago. I was really inspired by their selflessness and dedication to help the poor.  I enjoyed reading about Dorothy Day’s wonderful leadership and how one woman could inspire so much good to be done.

Christian Apologetics is something I have been interested in since I first read “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell. But I really dove into studying about three years ago when friends offered to buy some books on apologetics and my kids bought me the video set by Lee Strobel with A Case for Creation, A Case for Christ, and A Case for Faith. I watched these videos over and over wanting to let the concepts just sink in–and I shared them with friends and family.   I still enjoy hearing and reading about apologetics and listen to Ravi Zacarias’s teachings on Bott Radio when I can.  I am hearing more and more on Christian radio about apologetics and I am glad that this topic is getting to be more mainstream as I see a very big need for being able to defend our faith as well as deepen our faith as we can see how valid the bible is.

Re-evaluation counseling was something that I was introduced to when I was 40.  I immediately dove into it and took classes and did peer counseling once a week or more as much as possible for the next two years when I was involved.  The basic premises I was drawn to was that people are inherently good and that the reason they don’t behave well is because they have distress that hasn’t been healed. In many ways this is like the Immanuel Approach because it is about having another person love me unconditionally as I work through my difficult memories and attempt to heal them.  But so much was wrong with this re-evaluation approach. Many who practiced it were spiritual, and I saw it as a spiritual practice of being able to unconditionally love and accept others. Over all it was a good experience.

Open Space Technology is a way of having meetings that I realize now that helps people be led by the Spirit.  Most of the things I have immersed myself in have not been headed up or discovered by Christians, and yet I see so much of what Jesus taught in things like OST.  I was able to attend a workshop for minimal cost in San Francisco because the facilitator wanted all to come and for money not to be a block. I had experienced OST several times in a permaculture conference and a communities conference.  I still think it is the best way to run conferences and hope that Christians will take it and run with it. I think church services could use this idea as well.

Attachment Parenting was something I learned about when I was pregnant with my now 24 year old Chris.  I lived in Encinitas, California where my neighbor and many friends practiced attachment parenting. Therefore having a home birth, nursing for 3-4 years, being a stay at home mom, having our kids sleep with us when they were small and using non-violent communication were just part of my environment.  This fit in with my beliefs of people being inherently good and that raising them in a peaceful, secure, loving, non-violent environment could help them to not have all the hang ups that I had. And they have turned out wonderfully in spite of many imperfections in my parenting.

Homeschooling was something both of my former husbands and I knew we were going to do from the time Chris was born.  We were in the know about how schools tend to brainwash kids, and our attachment parenting style did not fit in well with sending kids to school and losing that connection.  Even though it was hard for me, because I did not like to be with my kids all the time,  I wanted to protect my kids and raise them with our spiritual values.

Children were something I never wanted to have, but part of my faith walk was to have children I am convinced.  Both Mahriyanna and Chris were born under seemingly impossible circumstances.  Even though I was not a Jesus follower,  as I can see my  entire life, God had a plan for me and he was not going to wait until I finally surrendered my life to Christ!  He knew my heart, and he knew that having children would help me to become more like Christ as I learned to sacrifice, put aside self, and love unconditionally. He also knew what joy I would receive from especially nurturing them in their older years. I was resistant to being a parent because I wanted to “save the world” but now I am so glad when I came to Christ I had sisters in Christ who really encouraged me to embrace my role as mother.

Becoming a vegetarian at age 17 was part of my faith even though I was an agnostic.  I see my heart was full of compassion and God honored that. I was also very hurt by people and that is why I left my church and faith, although I can’t remember the specific ways that people at our church hurt me.  My conversion to vegetarianism came when I was watching a Lassie program and I realized that animals were much kinder than people.  My logic went like this:  animals are kind and we eat them.  People are not kind and we don’t eat them.  Therefore, we should not eat animals either since they are so kind.  Something like that:)  I do on rare occasions eat fish because I see them as not having so many feelings–but I think I just need to abstain from fish so I can say I am a vegetarian.  I now lean towards mostly vegan eating (no animal products) because I realized after watching a vegan documentary that the animals who give us dairy products suffer as much or more than those who are killed because they are experiencing a living death.

My first failed marriage resulted, I believe, greatly because of my lack of a healthy faith community.  When I wanted to split up with Cliff, my friends in Self Realization Fellowship (except for one who I will never forget) and my new-thought friends believed that it was perfectly fine to divorce because after all things change.  Cliff was totally committed to our marriage because he felt like he made a promise–I just didn’t see it.  But my marriage to him was definitely part of my faith walk because he inspired me to make God first in my life.  When we first talked about marriage, he told me that God would always be first.  I have read recently that God is not first–but he is in every aspect of our lives.  Cliff is one of the kindest person I have ever met and the fifteen years of our marriage healed me of many childhood wounds because he loved me unconditionally and supported me in living my dreams.  When I shared with him about my new vision of community, his response is, “You are always coming up with refined dreams–and they are good. I support you.”

When I met Robert, I was on my eclectic spiritual path where all paths lead to God.  We got together fairly quickly and moved in within months of starting to date.  I remember praying every night before we went to sleep and usually Robert, and sometimes even me falling asleep as I prayed.  He had also been part of eastern religion and had been disappointed. He, like Cliff, was very supportive of me having a spiritual path–but like Cliff–did not point me towards Jesus.  However, when he gave his life to Christ within weeks after I did, I was really shocked.

Even as former husband and present friend and room mate, he is totally supportive of my spiritual path as is Cliff.

Both of my former husbands continue to be wonderful fathers as they have always been.  Their dedication and commitment to lovingly raise our children is so awesome and inspiring.   I believe that because we have sincerely kept God at the center of our lives he has been faithful even though we may not have had Jesus at the center. He knows our hearts.

My children (see their picture here) are an inspiration to me.  My daughter, who lives with me,  is so much on the same page as me with my spiritual path with Jesus.  She will often watch Greg’s sermons before I do and say, “mom, this was awesome–you gotta watch this.”  We have at very least weekly times to get together and just talk about our lives, our dreams, our spiritual walk and I get the privilege of speaking into her life as well as her helping me be a better Jesus follower.

My very best experience with Chris was helping him to produce The Flight to Light Experience mini-festival that was designed to be an outreach to youth as well as bonding, community building, faith building experience for the volunteers.  We met every week to plan and organize.  We talked almost every day. We prayed together much more than we ever had. I got to watch him develop and practice already existing leadership skills.  We grew close as we went through trials and victories.  We were so much on the same wavelength when it came to ideas and planning.  I considered him the coordinator and always was able to work with him and find consensus in all we did.  The event was very successful and a ton of hard work so we haven’t done it again.  But because of all we recorded on our blog we have a record of what we did that when the time is right can be done in a similar fashion.

One of our kindred spirits at our fellowship strongly encouraged us to cover this activity with prayer, which we did.  Both of us had stronger prayer commitments than we ever had, and it was quite wonderful as we saw how God worked along with us and we co-created with him. We got closer to many in our fellowship as well as found out who it was most difficult to work with.

My kids and I along with Robert pray almost every night before we go to bed.  Even though Chris lives separately with his father, we are able to use the speaker phone to pray together, and I cherish this time.  Chris often leads or plays bass at our worship at our fellowship and I love experiencing his talents being shared.  Mahriyanna and Chris are always working on some kind of service project with the group they started, and Fun Fellowship and Service, and this gives me great satisfaction to both mentor them and see how much they inspire their friends and their families to work together for good.

We work together sometimes as the Funktional Family and help each other whenever we can.  Our whole family always celebrates holidays and birthdays together and two former husband with two kids and I make a lively, diverse group where the conversations and activities are always interesting, bonding and for the most part, loving.

I could write a book about my kids and their awesomeness and how they impacted my faith walk–but I won’t right now:) But I will conclude that they have never strayed away from their faith or their family and I believe it is because of both our faith and our attachment parenting up bringing.

I feel so glad that a community member asked me the question about my faith walk.  As I write this I see how God has been so present in my life and how he continues to satisfy my hunger for knowing him and knowing what he wants me to do with my talents and resources.  I see how he has guided me and helped me through the trials. Protection has always been their during the dark times.  This writing has helped me deepen my affection for God and see how he delights in me.

Although there are many things I am dissatisfied with the fellowship we attend, I see hope for healing and I have closer friends there than anywhere I have had in my life.  My kids are leaders and loved and encouraged by all.  I am receiving more encouragement than ever before.  We are a small fellowship and there is freedom to connect during our all day Sunday gathering so I value that highly.  I look forward to seeing what God wants to co-create with me and others there at Resurrection Church.

After I wrote this, I noticed a thread of consistency. From the time I helped Cliff coordinate the Whole Earth Foods Co-op (not mentioned in this blog post) when I was 23, I always had some kind of organization going that would be for the purpose of service.  I have been drawn to serving people since I was a little girl with the exception of my two years in college when I went awry in my values.  I also see that until just two years ago, I still was neglecting my children by starting organizations that they were not interested in being a part of.  Since I have had more focus on mentoring my children and more closely being a part of their lives, I have found that my faith journey has been much richer and deeper.  My dream of community, I believe, is big enough to include their dreams also.  We will see.

I also see how God has been with me throughout my whole life. He has been so kind and loving. Yes, there were hard times–many of them–but I know now that he was there.

I could share lots more…but this gives you a picture of my faith walk. I realize that my whole life has been my faith walk!  I welcome questions and comments. Thanks for reading this.