Wed - May 3, 2006

BOOK DRAFT EXERPT


On this wind swept rocky crag I call to mind the words of Paul of Tarsus in Athens as he stood atop the jagged rocks of the Aeropagus: “God determined the times set for us, the exact places where we should live. God did this so that people would seek [God] and find [God] because [God] is not far off.” Where we live and the times we live in are intimately connected to the purposes of our creator. This is the place and time from which we will “seek [God] and find [God] because [God] is not far off.” We are not here now by accident. Our lives are pregnant with meaning and purpose. We were made for this time and place. We are invited to embrace this time and place as the landscape of our journey with God.

“The God who made the world… gives life and breath and everything else.” Our existence here is wrapped up in the life of the creator. Everything we have is a gift. The baseline for our understanding of life is that we were formed and are now sustained by a loving presence. Rather poetically, Paul of Tarsus went on to say, “In [God] we live and move and have our being.” The presence of divine benevolence is inescapable. It is the air we breathe. We are swimming in the waters of divine immanence.

Many of us live discontented spiritual lives partly because we have failed to connect our faith or spirituality to the details of everyday life in the here and now.

The acceleration of our society can be disorienting and we struggle to gain equilibrium. Yet we live in time of unprecedented opportunity-- grappling with what some describe as the collapse of space and time. Our mobility allows us to be increasingly aware and connected to global friendships and concerns. The diversity and pluralism of our day allows us to explore and struggle together with how to move beyond the social and cultural fragmentation that often characterizes contemporary society. We can either approach the changes we perceive with fear and skepticism or embrace change with a sense of hope and expectancy.

The traditionalists among us long for the mythic past, an illusive golden age that never existed. Others seem content with being consumers of the present. Still others embrace the opportunity to create and work toward a different and better future. It is unfortunate that in our society, God-seeking people often have the reputation for being cultural traditionalists, cultural consumers or cultural critics. If we embrace the truth that our time and place is the context from which we discover the God who is here, we can be culture creators who imagine and work toward a better future for all people.

Some of us are made uncomfortable by an optimistic attitude toward the future. What about the prediction that things will get worse before they get better? Isn’t our obligation to simply hold on as the world collapses around us? We are invited to trust that God is at work in our time and that, even if we can’t see whether the world is getting better or worse, we can cooperate with our creator’s agenda that we become better people who live out a legacy of love in a world desperate for healing.

I recently asked a group of friends to tell a story about themselves that reveals something of the goodness and beauty of God. My suggestion was met with blank stares that begged to ask: “A good story about me?”

----“Many of us struggle to see the provision of God in the narrative of our own lives. If we are part of a good creation, living in a world where God is present and active, then these truths should be reflected in how we tell our stories. “

Ryan, a handsome, talented and well-liked young man speaks quietly, “So far, I have a hard time finding much good in my life story.” Knowing something about Dan’s family, gifts and affluence we wonder why he can’t recognize the story of his life as a good story. “I guess I felt misunderstood by my family and I didn’t feel loved in the way I needed.”

I respond to Ryan, “We are often limited by the dominant messages we received in our families. We simply can’t expect another human to see us as God sees us. Only the maker can put a title to what has been made. “An ancient poet of the Psalms sang, ‘God sets the lonely in families.’ We often assume that our needs must be met in a particular way or by a particular person. Instead it might be more helpful to ask, “Who did God place in my life to demonstrate love in the ways I needed?”

Mick, a musician with arms covered in tattoos, sits anxiously in the corner waiting to speak: “Its not hard for me to see the hand of God in my life. It’s been a year now since I’ve become sober, and my life is better than ever because of the grace of God.” Mick’s girlfriend, Elizabeth, chimes in: “The story of my life is a real drama. I was homeless as a teenager. There have been so many times when I should have been dead—crazy car accidents—it’s a miracle that I am alive and sitting here.”

Aurora speaks reluctantly, “My life has been rather boring and uneventful. There is not much to tell. I mostly remember things from when I was three or four years old, before my parents got divorced and I started getting shuffled between San Diego and Seattle.”

---- “We can tell our own stories in so many ways. It can be a story of abandonment, tragedy or triumph—depending on the lens we choose to view our lives through. I think you could tell the story of your life a thousand times and each time it would sound like the story of a different person. We are often limited in our imagination by the messages we have been told or tell ourselves. Aurora, if you begin by thinking that your story is boring, you are going to tell us a boring story. Or if you see yourself as an abandoned child, you will tell a story about an abandoned child. But, what if the story of your life is about a vibrant and adventurous person who is discovering who she was made to be by her maker? It seems that our minds are often polluted by the limits of what we imagine our lives should be. We are tempted to think that whatever we have experienced, it could have been different or better: If I had different parents, gone to different schools, had different friends, or been taller or smaller-- somehow my life would now be better and I would be more happy. We may have to keep retelling our stories until they have more resonance with the grander narratives of creation and redemption. ”

Then Alice, an Asian refugee from a difficult situation interjects, “As I think about my life I realize that the two events I considered to be the hardest things were actually the doorway into what has proved to be the very best experiences of my life. I know this sounds so trite, but I can see how “God works out everything for the good of those who love God.”

Lisa adds, “What you said makes me think of the summer I spent in Mexico City. I went there to help people I thought were poor and disadvantaged. The children wore worn clothes, had no toys and lived in cinder block houses without windows. And yet they were so generous to me, offering me their food and few possessions. I had to be careful not to notice the things they had, because if they saw that I liked it, they would offer it to me. I realized that, even if they didn’t live well by our standards, in other ways they were happier than most Americans—they had loving families and enjoyed the simple pleasures of life together.”

----“I heard that once when Mother Teresa visited San Francisco she commented that there is a level of poverty here that they do not have in Calcutta—a soul or spiritual poverty. One culture starves for food, clean water or healing medicine, while another starves for time, relationships and meaning. Who are we to say that our lives are better or worse off than others?”

“May I say something?,” Jason asks, and then pauses to collect his thoughts. “I am tempted to be offended when I hear people talk about “the poor.” Growing up Hispanic in one of the more violent neighborhoods in Southern California, we were often visited by affluent people from the suburbs who wanted to practice their charity on us. From their perspective we were disadvantaged. I have a good deal of lingering resentment about being labeled “poor.” We were not poor. And yet we thought of ourselves as poor and acted poor because of their patronizing.”

----“I once heard a statement suggesting that “If the imaginations of the poor are awakened, they will liberate themselves.” I add.

--It seems that the way we tell our stories is predetermined by the themes we set up. I’m reminded of an experience I’ve been contemplating. For several years I have taken people on guided walks through various neighborhoods in San Francisco. For many of the people who participate in these walks the city is a foreign, exotic or scary place. They tend to view the city in contrast to where they live-- usually supposing that where they live is a nicer and safer place. Though I now regret this, for awhile I unfortunately played the role of the urban activist, shocking people with my sordid tales of gang violence, homicide, drug trafficking, and indecent public behavior. Not surprisingly, on our walk they would notice things that confirmed their preconceptions—and they ignored signs of health, safety, beauty and vitality.

Eventually I learned to tell the story of our neighborhood quite differently. I began to invite people to look for signs of God’s goodness and beauty in the things that they could hear, taste, touch, see and smell--even if it was as small as a blade of grass growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. As we walked, they still noticed differences, but they also found reasons to love the place where we live.

I believe how we view ourselves functions similarly. We are often “set up” to notice our weaknesses, failures or disappointments. Sometimes we become fixated on the most dramatic parts of our personal narratives. I have had encounters with people who, as they awaken to spiritual realities, perceive a complete chasm between the life they have lived and the life they are being called to. Might we look below the surface to recognize the redemptive threads in our personal histories? If we have the faith to believe that the creator has always been at work in our lives—loving and leading us to a better way, then our past is not disassociated from the life we are being called to in the future.

The encouragement to read and write our lives differently does not imply that we gloss over personal pain and tragedy. We hold in tension the fact that we live in a good world that is also a world in which we experience pain and frustration. We are invited to wrestle with God to negotiate how we are being loved in every moment of our lives. People of faith in various times have struggled with God in the midst of their disappointments and sorrow. The poets of the ancient scriptures often cried out to God with their complaints, which, to paraphrase, I believe sounded like: “God where in the world are you? Have you fallen asleep? Look at the misery I face!”

David, the poet-warrior king of ancient Israel, complained with the confidence of someone beloved by God. In some of his songs he essentially said, “I know you love me, but in my situation right now, I do not feel loved, I feel abandoned—so we have some negotiating to do.” Perhaps the question we should ask is not “have I been loved—but how have I been loved in every circumstance of my life?” We can only trust Jesus, as teacher for life, to the extent that we are able to trust that we are deeply loved by our creator. It would be impossible to follow the way of a teacher we do not trust. The path of faith is a gradual process of learning to trust in the benevolence of God again.

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Tue - May 2, 2006

A PIRATE PARTY


Early in April Noah celebrated his 11th Birthday with a Pirate Party at China Beach.



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A DRAFT OF OUR VOWS AND RHYTHMS


We seek to love the creator and creation
By following the way of Jesus
And helping others discover life in the way

We commit ourselves to pursuing a way of life that is fueled by the Spirit and characterized by love. To do this we pursue these rhythms:

Community
Service
Creativity
Simplicity
Obedience
Prayer

COMMUNITY: We cannot know or love God apart from knowing and loving one another. Through his life and words Jesus teaches how to love one another and seek reconciliation with all people. We are committed to taking the journey of faith in solidarity with one another and our brother's and sisters around the world.

SERVICE: We are made to collaborate with our maker in caring for creation. We recognize the sacredness of work and use the capacities of our minds and bodies to serve others according to our talents, skills and the needs of the place where we find ourselves.

CREATIVITY: We seek to be awakened in our imaginations and actions, inspired by the epic story of God's kingdom and creation, and connected to our cultural context. We want to live artfully, taking risks, experimenting and using the language and mediums of our culture to explore the story of God's kingdom together.

SIMPLICITY: We acknowledge the abundant provision of our maker, and seek to live in trust, radical contentment and generosity in an empire of greed and scarcity.

OBEDIENCE: We recognize Jesus as our teacher and authority, and wrestle with how to surrender to the way of love in every detail of our lives. We submit ourselves to one another in love and strive to keep our vows to God and our commitments to one another.

PRAYER: We seek the fruitfulness and guidance of the Spirit that comes from being centered and surrendered to the will and presence of our creator. We practice rhythms of prayer, silence and solitude that help us remain open to the voice and power of the Spirit.

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Mon - May 1, 2006

JESUS DOJO COMMON RHYTHMS


The past two weeks a group of us committed to several rhythms:

1. Praying the hours three times a day.
2. Practicing the presence of God.
3. Writing out a prayer that we might share with the group.
4. Exploring confession.

Come prepared to discuss the following:

1. Describe your experiences praying the hours and practicing the presence of God.

2. Share a short prayer you have written or a prayer you use with the group.

3.Where did you feel particularly led, empowered or connected to the Spirit in the past two weeks?

4. What challenges did you face in keeping these rhythms?

5. An urban monastic can be described as someone who lives a life of engagement in the city, but strives to maintain a life that is centered in the Spirit of God. Would you aspire to be an urban monastic? How could we support one another's efforts towards being urban monastics? What limitations might a person have to place on themselves in order to live a life centered in the Spirit?

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UPDATE ON PEER LEARNING COMMUNITY


Sixteen of us met over lunch on Friday April 28 to explore the possibility of a six month Peer Learning Community. We met at a Chinese Restaurant and then went to a nearby Park and sat in the sun for the rest of our discussion.

What we all seem to have in common is the quest for a more missional integration in our lives.

We decided to meet again on Monday June 5 from 4-7 P.M. At Dave Sunde's Parent's Home in San Francisco (Address details to follow) Our formal time will be from 5-7 P.M. Preceded by an casual cocktail hour and followed by dinner. For people with a tight schedule, come at five and leave at 7. For those with more time, the flexible time provides valuable additional space to connect.

Location will rotate primarily between San Francisco and Oakland.

At each gathering we plan to have a small group of people facilitate a topical conversation/ skill share. We will also have 1-2 people share more deeply about their goals/ambitions and dreams and listen and pray for them as a group. Caroline will contact participants about the topics they are most interested in.

Please direct any questions or comments to info@reimagine.org

Peace,

--mark

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Thu - April 27, 2006

THOUGHTS ON PEER LEARNING COMMUNITY


I am really looking forward to connecting with everyone tomorrow over lunch
to consider the possibilities of an ongoing peer learning community. I feel
like the group of us coming together have a lot in common, and a lot to
offer one another. My sense is that we have the potential to really be
supportive to one another in our next steps in spiritual integration.

I appreciate the fact that several of you are traveling from long distances
to be at this gathering-- and others are having to take time off from other
responsibilities, and because of that there is great expectation about our
time together being really useful.

I've noticed that people often approach the formation of a group as if they
are the outsider-- and everyone else somehow has more in common. Its like
when a group of people meet, the single people look around and say,
"everyone else is married, I don't fit here" and the married people look
around and say, "everyone else is younger and single, I don't really fit
here." We might be tempted to do the same with this group--everyone else
lives in the city, or everyone else has worked as a pastor, or everyone else
is male, evangelical, a mac user, starting a business, working for a
non-profit, etc.

My hope is that each of us can embrace the fact that we bring a unique
perspective and experiences-- and that we recognize the opportunity we have
to serve one another in whatever ways we can. Your contribution is valued
and the potential of this Peer Learning Community will be shaped by your
unique contribution.

So, this note is my perhaps awkward attempt to say that I'm inviting each
of us to:

Recognize the potential of our unique contribution.
Embrace ownership of what this peer learning community can be.
Speak with authenticity about what might be a helpful process.

Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow.

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A PRAYER CAROLINE SHARED WITH US


Our friend Caroline shared this prayer with us from her spiritual tradition (Greek Orthodox). What moved me was not only the words, but the sincerity and depth with which Caroline said these words-- in great awareness of God's presence:

A Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (evening):

Lord, I know not what to ask of You.
You alone know what my true needs are.
You love me more than I myself know how to love.
Help me to see my real needs, which may be hidden from me.
I dare not ask for either a cross or a consolation.
I can only wait upon You; my heart is open to You.
Visit and help me in Your steadfast love.
Strike me and heal me; cast me down and raise me up.
I worship in silence Your holy will.
I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice.
I put all my trust in You.
I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will.
Teach me to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Amen.

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Fri - April 21, 2006

Thoughts on Practicing the Presence


After our contemplative practice discussion, Caroline mentioned this: I once had thought about setting my watch to chime every hour as my secret way to remember God. But then I guess I decided it would be annoying to have it click 24 times every day and often I’m in the midst of a meeting or conversation, so what would I do? And then either because of laziness or for some other reason, I thought it sounded too contrived.

My response:

When I was in high school I used to pray at the top of each hour (when
classes would usually begin) I know people who do set their watches for each
hour as a reminder-- not a bad idea.

There is a famous story from Evangelical tradition about a person named
Frank Laubauch who decided to be aware of God's presence once every hour. He
was a deeply spiritual person and organized community development projects
all around the world. I think he is an example of an engaged contemplative--
someone who deep spirituality catapulted them into loving action.

The sisters I met at the Orthodox monastery in Central California used their
beads to say the "Jesus Prayer" even while talking with us. They had trained
themselves to simultaneously be aware of God and the people around them.

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Thu - April 20, 2006

DOJO MEETING SUMMARY


We read the text for the day, which led into a discussion on confession and
practices that help us stay open to the work of the spirit in our lives. As
a group we decided to experiment with 4 practices over the next two weeks:

1. PRAYING THE HOURS. In the book of Acts we noticed that the Spirit was at
work in the times the apostles set aside to pray (noon, and 3 P.M.
Specifically) Historically people have set aside at least three specific
times to pray each day (morning, noon, and early evening). Finding a quiet
space to pray for a few minutes during these times will also remind us of
our solidarity with one another in prayer.

2. PRACTICING THE PRESENCE OF GOD. In his little book brother Lawrence
described his practice of always seeking to be mindful of the presence of
God. As a group we thought that praying the hours would help us to practice
the presence of God throughout the day.

3. WRITING OUR PRAYERS. Some of us find it easier to focus on prayer when we
write our thoughts out to God. Next time we meet we will each bring a prayer
we have brought to share (see the prayer Caroline shared with us from the
Orthodox tradition below).

4. CONFESSION. Confession was a practice in the early church related to
renouncing dark habits by bringing them into the light. We discussed
appropriate contexts for confession and related confession to the larger
goal of learning to love the creator and creation with our whole beings. The
group decided to experiment with confession with someone over the next two
weeks. The book of James records, "Confess your sins to one another, that
you may be healed."

A Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (evening):

Lord, I know not what to ask of You.
You alone know what my true needs are.
You love me more than I myself know how to love.
Help me to see my real needs, which may be hidden from me.
I dare not ask for either a cross or a consolation.
I can only wait upon You; my heart is open to You.
Visit and help me in Your steadfast love.
Strike me and heal me; cast me down and raise me up.
I worship in silence Your holy will.
I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice.
I put all my trust in You.
I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will.
Teach me to pray. Pray Yourself in me. Amen.


In the Morning:
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.
Help me in all things to rely upon your holy will.
In every hour of the day, reveal your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of
soul, and with the firm conviction that your will governs all.
In all my words and deeds, guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing
others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day, with all that it
shall bring.
Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray yourself in me. Amen.

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MY FRIEND BRYCE'S GROUP FUSE FACTORY IS IN TOWN


FUSE FACTORY (Switzerland) <http://www.fusefactory.ch/>
BOCA
414 Jessie Str.
SAN FRANCISCO / 21+UP
 Wednesday April 26th, doors 8pm, show 9pm <http://www.blasthaus.com/calendar.html>


Swiss Audio/Video collective makes SF debut. FUSE FACTORY <http://www.fusefactory.ch/> are an audio-visual break-pop live act based in lausanne, switzerland, delivering a symphony in 3 dimensions. Multi-layered saturated video images, powerful and atmospheric electro beats and a feminine melodic voice are the components of the universe that invites total immersion. The artistic concept of Fuse Factory bends the boundaries of sounds, images, and vocals. The 3 artists, sam, mio*star and spir interact with each others media in a live-mixing/remixing performance, fusing the sampling and looping beats, video sounds, vocal effects and imagery to create a unique show every time. Check out some great clips from previous shows:

http://www.fusefactory.ch/creation.html

Label:
http://www.fuselab.ch <http://www.fuselab.ch/> /


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Some Great Photos


Damien & Jen stopped by from Riverside last week and Damien showed us what his new MacPro can do with photography. I took these portraits of myself-- and the camera and effects do wonders for my looks.

On a related note, last night at our Dojo meeting we talked about the personas we present to one another in order to protect ourselves from fear of rejection. We are being invited to show our true faces as people who know they are loved by their creator.


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Mon - April 17, 2006

PEER LEARNING COMMUNITY


SIX MONTH PEER LEARNING COMMUNITY
ORGANIZING MEETING
FRIDAY APRIL 28. 12-3 P.M.
MEDJOOL RESTAURANT ROOFTOP
2622 Mission Street, San Francisco (at 21st)
http://www.medjoolsf.com/

During the Fall of 2005 and the Winter of 2006 ReIMAGINE sponsored a series
of regional gatherings for faith leaders and seekers exploring the way of
Jesus in emerging contexts. Approximately 100 people attended these events
which ranged from casual networking meals to facilitated topical
discussions. In feedback we received from regular participants they
suggested a more covenanted opportunity to connect with others on a
consistent basis.

A group of us would like to explore connecting through what I would describe
as a peer-learning community. This would be a group primarily composed of
leaders (thought leaders, those exploring spiritual leadership, and people
leading with their lives in various vocations-- business, social
entrepreneurship and the arts. It seems as if faith leaders in the present
future will be multidisciplinarians-- people who exercise leadership in a
particular life domain in addition to guiding others spiritually.

We think that this kind of peer-learning group might be helpful to people who are:

Captivated by what it might mean to be seekers of the kingdom of God in our
time with a holistic, integrative and relational perspective.

Fascinated by Jesus as a teacher and source of energy for life

Exploring intentional communal formation

Seeking to address their spiritual hunger with optimism, creativity, and
Risk-taking.

Navigating life with a global, multicultural and ecological awareness.

This peer-learning group would be an advanced conversation with a practical
orientation and might involve a group project at the end of a six month
contract to meet monthly as a group for 4-6 hours. Participants would
encourage one another to take their courageous "next steps" as life leaders.
We hope that this covenant community can offer solidarity and encouragement
to life leaders who are trying to cut a new groove for what it means to be
followers of God in our world.

If you are interested in participating in this peer learning community, we
would like to invite you to meet with us on Friday April 28. At this meeting
we hope develop more specific goals and expectations for a group that would
meet monthly for the next 6 months. We think it might be best to limit the
group size to 10-12 participants.

Please R.S.V.P. To nate@reimagine.org. If you are not able to make the
meeting on April 28, but would like to stay abreast of how you can be
involved, please also indicate this in your response.

ReIMAGINE will periodically continue to offer more general opportunities to
connect in conversation about faith in emerging contexts through Emmaus
Road.

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Tue - April 11, 2006

HONEY, YOU ARE LOOKING SO FINE TODAY!


“Honey, you are looking so fine today,” A voice calls to me as I walk down the street. I turn to see who is speaking. It is Eric or Erica, a person I know from the neighborhood community center where I volunteer. “Oh, Mark, I didn’t know it was you, I’m so sorry for talking like that to you. But you are so handsome, you look so hot, and I’m in love with you,” Erica says after I’ve extended a brief hug. “My wife thinks I’m attractive too,” I say. “Well, all I can say is, she better watch out!” As we walk down the street together Erica calls out to a man who makes suggestive comments and movements. “Its O.K., he knows me--we’re just playing around.”

Erica, has a toothless smile and wears large clothes over a small frame. “Mark, you’re so sweet, how did we ever fight?” She asks. At the community center Erica has a reputation for fits of rage, and has been banned from the center on several occasions. Early last year Erica confided in me about her anger issues, her addiction to crack cocaine, and her struggle for identity. “People think I’m gay, I’m not gay, I’m transgendered. I’m a man who thinks he is a girl. I started feeling this way when I was a child. School was hard because I wasn’t into sports and people teased me for acting like a girl. I never let my momma know how I am. She is a very religious person and it would have broken her heart to see me this way. I don’t know why God allowed me to be like this.”

“What are you doing out here today?” I ask. “Oh I’m working. Selling this stuff.” Erica pats her pocket. The government brings this stuff in, and gets us black people addicted-- to keep us down and take our money. I’m telling you, its modern day slavery.”

“Are you a slave or are you free?”

“Oh I just sell the stuff. I’ve been off crack for a long time now.”

“So by selling, aren’t you keeping your own people down?”

“I’m in and I’m out. I’m just making a little money off the slave trade. I’ve got to eat, you know.”

“Mark, I’m sorry I’m distracted, there’s a cop over there.” As we talk Erica gazes furtively, aware of every person on the street. A man standing next to us keeps asking me, “You doing alright?”

“Are you selling crack or heroine today?” I ask.
Looking around hesitantly, she reaches in her pocket and produces a handful of tiny bags containing a black tarry substance.

“In four hours I make two-hundred, two-hundred-fifty dollars.”

“That’s a lot of money.”

“Damn right it is.”

“It would be hard to make that much at another job.

“I use to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant and I made good money.”

“I bet it was satisfying to have a job helping people. It would be great if someday you could work doing something like that again.”

Another man comes up, deftly slips a wad of bills in Erica’s front pocket and runs down the street.

“Mark, I gotta go to work.

“If you are hungry later on, you are welcome to join us for dinner.” I say pointing to the restaurant across the street.

“Oh, thank you Mark, you are such a sweety! I love you so much.”

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Mon - April 10, 2006

COMMON LIFE SABBATH RETREAT SUMMARY


I thought I would take a stab at summarizing the retreat this weekend for
those who weren't able to participate due to sickness or marriage
engagements.

First, the consensus was that it was the most restful retreat we've had. I
think it helped to meet at the cabin earlier-- we all arrived around 5 P.M.
And we stayed until 8 P.M. On Sunday night. So even though we spent some big
group time together, there was space to take a hike or a nap, or just sit
around being silly together.

Dave and Laurel and their kids joined us as well, which was a great bonus.
They have a family cabin down the road and hosted us for a champagne brunch
on Sunday morning. We did a bit of singing with the kids, read the Palm
Sunday account, and did some affirmations of how we see Jesus in one
another.

After relaxing Sunday afternoon we sat down and talked through a few things
in regards to our community and common life. I will try and give a feel for
what we discussed. I summarized many of the discussions various ones of us
have had over the past few months to catch up Joshua, Kristen and our new
friend Amy.

ACTION POINTS:

1. WEEKLY MEETING. An open leadership meeting each Friday at 3 P.M. At 3166.
This will give us weekly space to build momentum on various community
priorities, and, I hope, will help people develop initiative and confidence
to lead out in various ways the community needs.

2. HOUSING. Housing emerged as a priority. Joshua & Kristen, Aurora and
potentially others would like to participate in a cohousing situation, and
there are a few other people who might also be interested in renting a
larger common space that will be more affordable in the Mission.

3. COMMUNITY. The next thread in the life of Jesus that we will be exploring
together is how Jesus was a companion-- to his closest friends and to the
people in his context. Since we are beginning a common life together, it is
timely that we are exploring what it means to be a companions in various
dimensions. We will start this module in Mid may and have a camping trip
together the first weekend of June.

4. COMMUNICATION & SCHEDULING. It is time for us to develop better
communication streams and calendar coordination.

UPCOMING CALENDAR ITEMS:

MAY 6-7 NEXT SABBATH RETREAT

MAY 11th A group of us will be speaking at Valley Christian Chapel.

May 7-13 We will be hosting a group of students for a week in the Jesus Dojo

May 12-14 Mark has been asked to speak at a retreat for Abundant Life
Church in Mountain View. Would love to do this in teamship with a couple
other people.

May 20 Mark will be speaking at CHURCH IN A DIVIDED WORLD conference in
Walnut Creak-- about what our community is discovering about formation.
Again, it would be great to have one or two people to partner with on this.

June 2-4 COMMUNITY CAMPING TRIP-- working through exercises on Jesus and
Community.

June 5-10 EMMERGENT SUMMER LEARNING INSTITUTE, Minneapolis. A group of us
are considering presenting at this event.

YET TO BE SCHEDULED:

COMMUNITY FEAST FOR APRIL./MAY

LOUNGE EVENT FOR MAY

5. COMMUNITY RHYTHMS. We began discussing community rhythms. We enjoy the
spontaneity that is allowed by living in close proximity, but it would be
helpful to begin planning certain activities-- hospitality meals, times of
prayer, etc.

6. MONEY. We would like to explore how we might share money in at least two
dimensions:

A. There are certain group expenses, food for retreats, supplies, materials,
etc. It would be helpful to have a covenant commitment to contribute a
certain amount or percentage each month toward these costs-- and also have
funds in common for our projects, like the Page Street Feast. Kristen and
??? Committed to helping us think through this.

B. We are also exploring ways to share materially and monetarily in ways
that help us give to one another and live more sustainably.

On a practical note. While we were at the cabin, the water line clogged,
probably due to tree roots. We would like to give some funds to Dan's family
to help with these repairs.

THIS IS PROBABLY ENOUGH FOR NOW.

More to follow soon...

Posted at 05:36 PM   unfiled   Feedback

Thu - April 6, 2006

BERYL-- A SEMI PRECIOUS STONE


I first saw Beryl at the meeting of a small Baptist Church in East Oakland. With long and greasy gray hair, she was hunched over a pew, wearing an old polyester dress. When I reached out to shake her hand I could smell the odor of soiled clothes and unwashed skin. “Beryl is the oldest member of our congregation,” I was told, “She has 70 years of perfect attendance pins.” Next to Beryl stood Russell, her “companion,” an elderly man with short hair and thick glasses, who wore an ill-fitting plaid suit and white socks.

Just after Christmas Beryl fell and couldn’t come to church anymore. One day I went to visit her at her home in a nice neighborhood just off the lake. I first noticed the piles of debris and swarms of flies buzzing around the front porch. When I knocked, Russell came to the door. The hallway and rooms were piled waist deep with boxes of old books, broken tools and bags of rotting food.

He led me down a narrow path back to a dark room where Beryl laid in a bed. She greeted me with a smile, as I reminded her of where we had met. I asked her how she was feeling. “Oh I’m fine, “she said, “I just haven’t been well enough to leave this room for the past two months. I’m good for nothing.” Russell shuffled around and cleared the way for me to sit in a chair next to the bed. As we talked I looked around the room. Prescription bottles and dirty dishes covered every flat surface. Piles of filthy clothes and bags of garbage filled the spaces not taken up by the bed, where Beryl lay propped up eating fried chicken, surrounded by stacks of newspapers and old mail. The sheets were worn and soiled, and when I looked down, I noticed dried feces on the floor. The stench in the room made it difficult to breathe, like there was sickness in the air.

“Beryl, have you been to the doctor since you fell?,” I asked.

“I don’t think the doctor could do anything for me, I’m too old.

“Do you feel any pain?”

“No. I’m just tired and depressed.”

“Are you able to get up to bathe or use the bathroom?”

“Russell helps me with those things. Do you know what my name means? I’m a semi precious stone-- one of the nine jewels from the streets of gold in the book of revelation.”

I ask Beryl more questions about her life, where she grew up and how she spent her years. She never married. She worked as a municipal court clerk for 36 years. This was the house where she lived with her parents and where she continued to live after they died in the 1950’s. The church was really her only family. For ten years she was the church book-keeper and also helped in the Sunday school. She had Russell show me the old red dress with 70 perfect attendance pins strung together down the front. Beryl had written thousands of poems, mostly based on the weekly sermons she heard. I read a couple of the poems that Russell found in a cabinet. On the wall behind my head was a raggedy-Ann doll like the ones Beryl had made for the children of missionaries. “My Raggedy-Ann dolls are in 23 countries,” She said, proudly.

The whole time we are talking, a dog barks and scratches at the door. Russell occasionally yells at the dog, and when he finally gets up to put the dog outside I ask, “How long has Russell lived with you?”

“For five years.”

“How is it that he came to live with you?”

“Russell was coming to our church. He had lost his apartment and was living out of a truck in our church parking lot. I invited him to come and live with me to cook and clean.”

“So Russell does the cleaning?”

“Yes. And he runs errands for me and drives me to church and to the doctor.”

All the other rooms are filled with stuff, where does Russell sleep?

“In the bed beside me.”

“Is it a romantic relationship?”

“Russell asked me to marry him, but I’m too old. He’s seventy-five and I’ll be ninety-three next week. He’s a good companion. I don’t know where I’d be without him. I’ve had other people live with me over the years. There was a family I met in the housing projects when we were inviting people to church. They lived with me for 15 years—but they’ve moved on.

“Do you feel safe sharing a bed with Russell?”

“His parts don’t work anymore. He just lays there.”

When Russell returns he speaks gruffly to her, “Now eat your food, Beryl, its getting cold.”

I ask if I can pray with them, and take Beryl’s hand. Later Russell shows me out. At the front steps I turn and say, “I think Beryl needs our help. She needs to go to the doctor.”

“Well, if she don’t want to go, we can’t make her go.”

“I also think it would help Beryl if we could make the house cleaner.”

“I do my best.”

Tuesday is Beryl’s ninety-third Birthday. In the afternoon I arrive at the house with a bakery cake and candles, and we sing “Happy birthday.” I cut the cake with a butter knife, Russell finds a couple of dirty plates and we eat the cake with our fingers, while the television blares in the background.

“You shouldn’t have brought me a cake. I’m nobody special. I’m worthless.”

“I wanted to celebrate your birthday with you. You are valuable to God and to all the people who love you. There is a poem in the Bible that says, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Beryl, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“I don’t feel like it. I feel worthless.”

“How is it that you feel this way? Did something happen in your life that made you feel worthless?”

“When I was ten we lived out in the country. I was friends with the kids who lived down the road and we used to play in their chicken coop. One day their dad had me pull down my pants and sit on his penis. He would make me do that every time I went over there.”

“I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I imagine it made you feel ashamed and confused. Did you tell your parents?

“I’ve never told anybody.”

“How do you think that experience has affected you throughout your life?”

“Well, I never married because of it, and it really made me feel like I was good for nothing. I’ve never been good at caring for myself. There was a delivery man who use to rape me every week when he came to pick up my laundry. I guess I’ve let other people take advantage of me.”

“How long ago was this?”

“Just a few years ago, I was already an old woman.”

“Did you tell anyone from the church?”

“No, I figured it was what I deserved.”

“I’m so sad that you’ve had these experiences. I want you to have a sense of the fact that you are loved and valued. I want to see your sense of self restored—so that you are able to embrace that you are a precious jewel in the sight of God.”

“Embarrassed, Beryl smiles. “I don’t feel like a jewel.”

“Well, according to the scriptures, you are a princess in the kingdom of God. We would like to help you remember that you are a princess of great value. As I look around at your house I’m thinking, the conditions here don’t seem very princess-like. Do you think so?”

“Well, I guess not, Russell tries his best to take care of me, but he’s also getting old.”

“Sometimes we need the help of others to affirm that we are royalty. Would you mind if we helped you live more like the princess that you are?”

“I would like that.”

“With your permission, we could get some help to bathe you, clean your clothes and sheets, help you to the doctor, and make your house more like a place fit for a princess.”

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© Mark Scandrette