Monday, November 24, 2008

Cultivating Goodness by Shane Claiborne

Community is about surrounding ourselves with people who remind us of who we want to become, people in whom we can see Jesus...and hopefully those people rub off on us a little.

Certainly God loves us as we are, not for who we could be - not in spite of our shortcomings but with them. And yet being a Church of and for the broken doesn't mean we stay in our brokenness. We are to be wounded healers. As with Christ, it is from our own wounds and brokenness and humiliation that we are empowered to heal others. And we need to be healers, communities where people can heal. As Dorothy Day says, we have to create an environment where it is easier to be good.

For many of us, the judgmental, arrogant, legalistic Christianity we knew growing up has created a suspicion of discipline and order that can lead to a pretty sloppy spirituality. By reacting to the institutional sickness, we can easily find ourselves with little in place to help us heal from our wounds, create new disciplines, and carve out a space where goodness triumphs.

I just read an article that spoke about one of the parenting gurus who died a few years back. He was one of those psychiatrists who pioneered the movement that taught parents not to discipline their kids but to allow autonomy as kids make mistakes and decisions on their own (let them touch a candle so they learn what "hot" is...). On his deathbed this doctor confessed that the social scientists were wrong, saying, "We have raised a generation of brats" Much of the seeker sensitive, postmodern church is in danger of making the same mistake. We can raise up a generation of spiritual brats, that do whatever we want and no one can tell us otherwise. People come to the altar singing "Just as I am" and leave just as they were - a church that teaches what to believe but now how to live. A church that is scared of spiritual disciplines like simplicity, fasting, solitude, and chastity will not produce very good disciples.

Community is pretty hip these days. The longing for community is in all of us, to love and to be loved. But if community doesn't exist for something beyond ourselves it will die, atrophy, suffocate. "Discipline" and "Disciple" share the same roots, and without discipline we become little more than hippie communes or frat houses, we fall short of God's dream to form a new humanity with distinct practices that act as contrast culture to the rest of society.

Like any culture, we who follow the Way of Jesus have distinct ways of eating and partying, different from the culture of consumption, homogeneity and hedonism of the world around us. There's that beautiful passage (Luke 14) where Jesus tells us when we throw a party we are not to invite our friends but to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind...all those who might find themselves on the margins of other parties. Our homes, our living rooms, even our parties can become places of solstice and hospitality for those with addictions and struggles. But it doesn't happen without intentionality.

I long for our community houses to be known as safe places for folks to recover from the temptations we face, for the momentum to move away from substances that are so destructive, or at least numbingly unfruitful, to ourselves and to our neighbors. We are a recovery community, for sinners recovering from all sorts of addictions. Our community should be a place where people can detox - whether that be from alcohol, tobacco, gluttony, shopping, or gossip - where there is a tipping point towards goodness rather than away from it. And may we catch each other with grace when we fall short of who we want to be.

Friday, November 14, 2008

the Advent Conspiracy

The thought of Christmas approaching often makes me feel..... muddled. I feel excited and happy about eating special Christmas foods and treats, seeing family and doing family traditions, like decorating the tree, or going to a candle-light church service on Christmas Eve.

But then I also feel kind of sick and anxious when I think about the mad rush of people throwing money around on meaningless items, the crazy consumption and excessive spending, the emptiness of what our society has turned this holiday into.

Each year, we've attempted to strip away some of the clutter and junk that has become attached to the Christmas season; and each year we've found more and more people doing the same thing, finding hope and meaning without the stacks of presents and insane credit card bills in January.

It's time to re-think Christmas in North America. Click Here if you feel the same.

Or check out this video here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Moment With Taylor....

Hello there. My name's Taylor, and I am the newest addition to the House Famous. I've been enjoying my time here and have been becoming more acquainted with the idea of community living. Though if I have to listen to Todd sing along with Bryan Adams again, I might leave.

Spending the night on the streets of Ottawa was quite an adventure. Despite the cold and not being able to sleep, I found it to be a very beneficial learning experience.
After our group split up, I wandered a bit before settling down on a busy sidewalk to panhandle. This part of the night probably had the greatest impact on me. I realized right away the humiliation that comes with being homeless.

Most of those passing by did their best to ignore me, which is understandable. No one wants to be caught staring. I've done this one a lot myself. I suddenly need to grab something from my bag, or adjust my coat, or look across the street... anything to avoid eye contact. I realize now that this just adds to the feelings of loneliness those on the street deal with.
Others muttered their opinions of the homeless to their companions.

"He's not a failure at life, just a failure at getting a paycheque!"

Some others, in a greater attempt at politeness contained their laughter and comments until they were a few feet past me.

A few dropped some change into my hat.

No one said a word to me. And why should they have? I was homeless and probably a drug addict, a criminal, the scum of the earth. I’d probably just pester them for some change to blow on any number of my addictions.

I realized how much we have isolated the poor and destitute among us. I’ve been just as much a part of this even though I’ve spent many hours volunteering in soup kitchens. Somehow in the past I’ve allowed myself to amicably interact with street people while volunteering, and then completely ignore them when I pass them on the street.

This whole ordeal allowed me a small glimpse into the realities faced by those who are homeless. I say a small glimpse because although I experienced the frustration of trying to sleep on the cold Canadian streets, I did not and have not experienced the type of situations that many of our homeless friends find themselves in.

The constant hunger. The loneliness. Deteriorating mental health. Lack of money. Rejection. Addictions. Lives full of abuses.

I guess the fruition of my experience is just beginning to show. I am not an outgoing person by any means, but I am trying to interact more with those I pass on the streets. I’ve always respected my grandfather for the way he treated street people. He often felt compelled to help the homeless he came into contact with, but instead of just giving them some small change, he would invite them to sit down for a full meal at the closest fast food restaurant and actually engage in meaningful conversation with them. It’s this sort of creative compassion that our friends on the street need to encounter.