Building CommUNITY p3 [v70]

DECEMBER 2004

BETTER TOGETHER—In the past few ‘newsletters’ I have been discussing the “campaign” our entire church congregation has been going through—and I wanted to share with you (and remind myself) some of the ‘highlights’ of what we learned.

Primarily, we learned two of the most important truths in life:  #1, That we BELONG to each other; and #2, that we NEED each other.

You were never meant to go through life by yourself. Whether you marry or not marry is irrelevant—you need a ‘extended’ family that’s going to be there in the tough times.

During the “40 Days of Community,” we looked at the fact that RELATIONSHIPS are what life is all about. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Well, that comes from the Bible and is what is called the “horizontal” part of life (the “vertical” part is “Loving God with all your heart”).

We also learned that if we want to attain a quality relationship, that it requires ‘effort’. Relationships are not always easy—and sometimes they get ‘messy’.

It also takes hard work to build community—to build fellowship—but the benefits are worth the effort. You have people that are in your life, ‘helping’ you through—and you’re not alone.  They care about you, and you care about them—the benefits are enormous. Most of the time it’s beneficial and pleasant.

A ‘subset’ of the two important truths we learned is GROWING TOGETHER.  We learned that it takes participation. You just don’t grow by what you hear, but by what you learn—and you don’t grow just by ‘studying’—it’s by putting it into practice that helps you actually ‘grow’.

Now what did we learn about growing together? Well, we learned a couple other important truths. First, we all grow faster and we grow stronger together (in fact, no one can grow “spiritually” by oneself).

So, if you’re not connected to some kind of group who are in your life (and you in theirs), there’s no ‘lifeblood’. You’ve got to be connected—we all grow faster and stronger that way.

I heard of a story that was told about a pastor went to see a man who didn’t attend church very faithfully. It was a cold winter day and the man was sitting before a fire, watching the warm glow of the coals—the coals were red hot, and the fire was warm. The pastor pleaded with the man to be more faithful in meeting with the people at church, but the man didn’t seem to be getting the message. He said, “I think I can do just as well alone as at church.” After reflecting a moment, the pastor took the tongs beside the fireplace, lifted a live coal from the fire, and set it down at the side of the grate. As they both watched in silence, its color turned to gray and the heat slowly dissipated. The pastor then got up and placed the coal back onto the fire. Within minutes it was red hot again. The church member got the point. After a long pause, he said, “I’ll be in church Sunday.”

The story also helps to illustrate the second ‘truth’ we learned—that growth is a choice—and in this church members’ case, he is going to be as close to God as he chooses to be. This also pertains to all of us—if we’re not ‘growing’ spiritually, it’s our own ‘fault’.  Growth in anything, especially spiritually, is a daily ‘choice’.

[You can get a great little daily “devotional” that will take about 2-5 minutes to read/ponder by clicking this link:
http://www.lwf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=for_DailyTreasures ].

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the giant redwoods in Northern California, but they are the largest living things on the planet. They are enormous. They can grow hundreds and hundreds and hundreds (400-500) of feet tall!  The trunks are so big they actually dug out the middle and you can drive a car through them.

What most people don’t know about redwoods is they have incredibly shallow roots—very, very shallow roots—and would fall over in a windstorm very, very easily. So how do they stay standing strong?  Redwoods always grow in groves, and they ‘intertwine’ their roots—they hold each other up!

So, taking a ‘lesson’ from nature, we should ‘intertwine’ with others. We are all going to have ‘storms’ in our lives—relational storms; financial storms; and health storms. We’re all going to have all kinds of problems in our lives that will knock us over if we’re on your own. We need others to ‘hold’ us up!

Another ‘subset’ of those overarching truths is learning to SERVE TOGETHER. We also learned another two very important truths:  #1, That we all need to be served; and #2, That we all need to serve others.

First, you’ve got to ‘learn’ to be served. You’ve got to learn to accept help from other people. If you can’t accept help from other people, you’ve got a pride/ego problem. On the other hand, if you never help anybody else, you’ve got a selfishness problem.

Either way, you’ve been ‘designed’ to give and receive help all the time—to serve and to be served—to share and to be shared with.

Just for a minute, remember a time that you ‘unselfishly’ gave of your time or your ‘treasures’ without the desire to get something back. How did that ‘feel’? For me, it is ‘way’ better to give than receive!

For some of us, there is also a ‘point’ in our lives we come to that we ‘give it all’ to God—everything we are and everything we have. The Bible says that when we do that we are “born again,” and begin to experience life as it was meant to be lived!

The third ‘subset’ we learned about is REACHING OUT TOGETHER. The Bible says the ‘test’ of your faith is not what you know, or what you say you believe—it is how you treat other people. That’s it—specifically, those who need help—especially when they’re ‘down’.

To ‘learn’ this, our small group developed some community ‘projects’ (mentioned briefly at the beginning of this newsletter, and in more depth following it). For us, we wanted to do something for those who are very ‘limited’ in their choices and ability to change their ‘circumstances’.

As I mentioned last month, our church participates in a program called “Angel Tree”—spreading a ‘message’ of hope to children of prisoners by helping to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of these families. In the past, it has been a powerful way for communities to lovingly ‘minister’ to some of the most overlooked members of our culture
[ http://www.angeltree.org/site_hmpg.asp ].

But we wanted something a bit more ‘personal’. So, we contacted Oakland County Corrections to determine if we could actually ‘meet’ one-on-one with  a prisoner and ask them what they would like to ‘give’ to their children. Though this has not happened yet (security issues) we were offered the next best thing. We are communicating with the mother of the inmate and getting a ‘wish list’ from her. (We are working towards getting one-on-one with the prisoners by offering to teach a “Purpose-Driven Life” class at the prison).

This has definitely ‘stretched’ each one of us in what we thought we could accomplish with just 6 people meeting once a week for 6 weeks! (And it could ‘affect’ a person/family for years/generations to come!).

Overall, the last 40 days taught us that we are not on this earth to live a ‘self-centered’ life. We are here, for a ‘short’ amount of time to make a difference—a CONTRIBUTION with our lives.

Now, if you remember what I talked about last year in our “Purpose-Driven Life” campaign—of how life is preparation for eternity—this is a “dress rehearsal” to get us ready for the next life in Heaven.
(Visit this link for a overview of the book: http://www.spiritedesign.com/pdl ).

The campaign reiterated the primary ‘truths’ learned last year, and added three ‘reasons’ why we should focus on others.

First, because we are part of God’s FAMILY—and He wants us to learn to get along together.  In fact, God is more interested in the relationships you develop than He is in what you do!

Secondly, we NEED each other. We all have strengths, and weaknesses—and God has ‘equally divided’ the strengths so that we would need each other.  He also ‘wired’ the universe that way so that nobody is totally self sufficient.

Thirdly, with a ‘team’, we  get MORE DONE. We all know this. This is not news. Teamwork multiplies effort.  It’s teamwork—being ON a team—that will make you more effective in life.

Here’s a question I have for you: What ACTION(s) will you take today/tomorrow in starting or continuing to become part of a community ‘group’ that you can be able to share and develop your abilities for the ‘greater’ good; to experience the multiplication ‘effect’ of a group with a ‘mission’; to ‘encounter’ the love and care of a few intimate friends; and to know the joy of what the coming Christmas ‘season’ is all about—that God came to this earth in a ‘form’ we could relate to, so He could communicate an ‘assurance’ of a life after this one that will be one BIG COMMUNITY forever and ever!

So, let’s start ‘practicing’ on how to work together now—since we could be TOGETHER for a long, long, time!

[Excerpts from: Ken Larson; Rick Warren ]

P.S. If you would like to get ‘connected’ into a group, we would very much like to have you. We meet on every 2nd and 4th Monday nights from 7-9PM. If this is not a good time for you, give me a call and I might be able to help you get connected to another group.

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v70) for DECEMBER 2004
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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SMALL GROUP “PROJECT” #1 – “RECYCLE DECORATIONS”

We are looking for donations of QUALITY decorations that you no longer use [items like artificial trees/stands; lights (working); ornaments (tree and table); wreaths; candles and holders].

We will sell them at the “Lucia Christmas Store” at Faith Covenant Church on 4 DEC 04. (All are invited to come by to pick up some handmade items, specialty foods, and, of course, some great “recycled” decorations!).

All the proceeds will go to our “Angel Tree” campaign to purchase gifts for the children of prison inmates.

So, let me encourage you to get your decorations out a bit early this year and consider donating some of them. We need all donations by THIS WEDNESDAY, 1 DECEMBER 04.

There is a drop-off ‘area’ at Faith Covenant Church (14 Mile and Drake roads) or just call me and I can arrange for someone to pick it/them up from you.

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SMALL GROUP “PROJECT” #2 – “ANGEL TREE”

We will be delivering gifts, food, and clothing to families of prisoners in the Metro Detroit area on SATURDAY, 18 DEC 04 in the morning and early afternoon. Contact me if you would like to join us.

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SMALL GROUP “PROJECT” #3 – “DAWN’S FAMILY”

We have started communicating to a prisoner named “Dawn” and will be delivering gifts, food, and clothing to her family (Mother, daughters, sons, and grand-children) the afternoon of SATURDAY, 18 DEC 04.

We will continue to ‘encourage’ Dawn and her family to communicate more often, and will try to keep in touch with her and her family until she is released sometime 6-8 months from now. If all things go ‘well’, we are planning to help her ‘transition” back into society. If you can, pray for her ‘transformation’.

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SMALL GROUP “PROJECT” #4 – “MOBILE SALVAGE”

Sometime in the early spring (March/April), we are going to have our group members (and any of you who would like to join in) pass out a ‘flyer’ in their neighborhood explaining the “salvage” program we will be doing.

It will consist of telling them that we will be coming back to the neighborhood in two week with a “U-Haul” truck to pick up “salvage” items (clothing; appliances; building materials; etc.), and the items will be donated to Grace Centers of Hope (Pontiac Rescue Mission). [Note: GCH has a “Rescued Treasures” thrift store in Utica, and a building materials “Salvage” in Pontiac].

Contact me if you think you or someone you know will need to get rid of something that can be reused —especially large ‘items’ (like having a ‘garage/home’ being demolished or added on to!).

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DEEP THOUGHT:
This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as I live it is my privilege—my “privilege” to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I love. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got a hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.  [George Bernard Shaw]

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OUR SMALL GROUP IS DOING THREE ‘COMMUNITY’ PROJECTS:
– “Recycling” Christmas decorations (needed by this Wednesday, 1 DEC 04)
– “Angel Tree” gift/food deliveries (18 DEC 04)
– Supporting a prisoner with letters and her family with Christmas gifts, food, and clothing

[COMING: Plans for “Mobile Recycling” in the Spring of 2005]

(Details of all of these ‘projects’ available after this first portion of the ‘newsletter’).

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I hope you enjoyed some of these insights. Share them with your friends and colleagues, so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from—and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” especially if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.”  [Genesis 48:4].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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