Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A New Sojourn

I am now living with an intentional Christian Community called Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, Ca. I came from Santa Barbara, Ca 1 month ago on Aug 14.

Life is different now. I play with little kids, talk with caring adults, and learn from the elderly. The difference is that I do these things all under the same roofs, in the same backyard, it's all within arms reach. And the living arrangements and schedule of live together demands that I will frequently have the opportunity to try and engage and get to know others. I have realized since being here that just being in this community does not guarantee that I will connect deeply with people and have a wonderful life. There are people here who struggle with depression or addiction or who withdraw from community, just like anywhere else. The difference between my surroundings here at Sojourners and my surroundings back in Santa Barbara is that here it is a heck of a lot easier to connect with people and seek support. Let me explain

It's easier to connect with others here at Sojourners because of a combination of physical proximity and a culture of family like I have not experienced before. And because we are so physically near each other, and because there are 5 shared meals a week, 5 shared morning prayer times, a teaching time, and a worship time on Sunday, we see each other living out the culture of family and being open to each other. On Sundays there is a time of "open mic" affirmations, when everyone is encouraged to speak about how they see God at work in someone else in the community. I have found this time of affirmation from individual to individual while the group listens to be profound, because it helps us as a group have eyes to see God at work in each other in the daily grind. And then with eyes of greater understanding and empathy we go live the daily grind with each other, sharing space.

This is a beauty I have seen so far. Not that I have not struggled with some loneliness, anger at self, compulsive eating, emotional flat-lining, withdrawing from community, or spiritual distance from God, because I have some struggled with all of these since coming. But I am finding it easier to bounce back and more tangibly evident that there are people who care walking with me, because they are literally with me both in physical location and verbal affirmation and concern. My room is a 12' x 12', rather small, and that's were I keep my personal belongings. But I also have a key to all 9 flats of the community and permission to not only use space and many group resources, but also to connect with others assuming their welcome.

Again this is not a solution to my problems.... but it seems to make solving them a heck of lot easier.

I would say the same for church.... as I see it so far (with my limited experience here) that this way of doing church is not THE SOLUTION, but it makes doing "church" and community heck of a lot easier.

For more details on church of the sojourners read my previous post and/or go to

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Church of the Sojourners: Intentional Christian Community

The following is a summery of The Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco
I will be joining them for a year starting Aug 14th 2011.

Their are 4 town houses houses within walking distance of each other in the Mission district of San Francisco that constitutes the Church of the Sojourners. They are a community that shares life and are a church, they see no distinction between the two. They are multi-generational, with some families with small kids, young adults, long-time members, up to the elderly. They have a schedule of life together, involving worship on Sundays, some group meals throughout the weeknights, some bible/devotional studies. Most members have part time jobs, but not full time because they are highly invested in their housemates. They are more focused internally on loving each other well rather then constantly going out and trying to love all their neighbors. That said, they frequently receive new members or visitors who are needy into the community who are then cared for by the group.

They also have what are called discernment meetings where they come together to prayerfully decide as a community what to do with certain pooled resources, and help individuals decide about taking jobs, or other life matters. The idea is that a community of Jesus followers thinking and praying together will better be able to make any important decision, including those that American culture considers personal. And when that community also lives with you then they are invested in the results of the decision, whether for better or ill, and they get to see the fruit God bears in their housemates, and so it seems to be an atmosphere that encourages empathy and deep connection.

New members first go through an apprenticeship year which is what i am considering. It involves participating in the community life i have described, and then deciding at then end if the their is a goof long term fit. I think i would learn much from this group in the year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crazy Ideas for Crazy Consumers

I am in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. They have not only trash and recycling pickup here, but also compost. I also saw a Canadian TV commercial discouraging purchasing of food products with wasteful amounts of packaging. I have neither seen nor heard of either of these 2 things in the US. Its time to learn from the Canadians. We need everyone composting to dramatically reduce land filling, and we need to reduce are dependence on disposable plastic, and we should invest money in educating people as to the true costs of the products they buy. And, just like the surgeon generals warning on cigarettes, i think that ultimately the corporations that produce products should have to label those costs on the product themselves. In addition to nutrition info, there should be an environmental impact per-unit-product label. If I buy a carton of milk i should know the carbon footprint of the factory that made it, the amount of feces and methane produced by the cows, and how many thousands of years the container will take to decompose (should i fail to recycle it). This would require a policy change, which I think would be beneficial. It would mean that companies would be more responsible in their manufacturing practices because the public would actually know what they are buying into. Maybe some customers would still choose the cheapest product no matter the other factors, but at least they would now know that the cost of an out of season Chilean grape bought in California is not simply 1.99 per pound, put it is 1.99 per pound plus X million tons of container boat exhaust spewed to bring it northward.

But until such a labeling law a arrives we should not be afraid to publicly decry waste and environmental hazards no matter how common place and no matter what percent of consumers are participatory. The more educated the public the more the public can make informed decisions. I think most people will chose to save the earth, (and thus themselves), when presented with a choice. But pure TV driven commercial consumerism does not provide a choice, it just creates an empty feeling in side of you that you try and fill with the neat gadgets and colorfully labeled processed foods that commercials present. We need to balance out product commercials with educational commercials. Or require that product commercials present a more whole perspective of their product. Does any company ever do product satisfaction surveys and then include undistorted results on commercials for that product. ‘Did this product make you happy?’ should be the first survey question, because most every TV commercial is implicitly saying, ‘If you use this product you will be happy’, which is a lie. We should not assume anyone will see around this lie, especially in this the age of identity by consumption.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Sacred Garden

I went walking today. Down the street, along the freeway and past golf course. Took a right at the gas station and took a pedestrian tunnel under the freeway. Over the train-tracks and past the man curled up on the ground by his bike. I kept walking past the spanish villas, and well kept houses with beautiful flowers to the ocean. I gazed on as the waves waved back. Then I turned right and walked up the hill along the bike path by the cliffs. There are pretty flowers along the cliff; red,  orange, purple. I kept going past an ipod-jogger and followed the curve of the path to the right, along the road; down then left. And that's when I entered the sacred garden. The land of lost love and stone memory. I had to enter. 

The gates where flung wide, great cast-iron gates, but hardly a soul was in site. A few gardeners in the distance. I walked in. Grass was everywhere, and well kept trees. A vast area. I walked up the hill in front of me staying on the road, I walked past the women in her fifties who was down on her knees sobbing, while a young man stood nearby silently, ready with a bouquet of flowers. I kept walking, past the men shoveling soft brown earth, on to the upper plateau of this sacred garden. I occasionally stopped to read a name hear or there. Some short, some long. "Carrie" or "John Doe, beloved husband and father" chiseled in stone. And usually, but not always the dates, which revealed the age. I walked on. I was drawn to several mausoleums or monuments, or castles of remembrance. Call them what you will. They stood out on the green grass. Stone sentinels. One with parthenon inspired pillars, another shaped like a pyramid. I looked in on the stacked sarcophagi, some with whole families who had lived as long ago as 1810. I walked on. 

Bright yellow flowers grew all about while in front of many stones empty flower receptacles were evident. Birds called and the sun was shining. But it was a little muggy, partly overcast, so I keep moving.

I approached one mausoleum and find its entrance blocked by a sturdy angel of weathered green iron. I ask "What news do you have for me angel?" I receive no reply. I peer through, under the angel and get barely a glimpse inside. Whoever name is inscribed inside remains unknown to me. 

I walked on, as a nearby gardener drove past graves and removed still fresh flowers left by the living. Then I saw a women sitting outside of the perimeter fence near the edge of the cliff, what was she doing leaning outward in a squatting position with her black hair pulled back. I approached her, then realized I had been looking at a stump with ivy grown up over it. 

I walked on. As I passed two tall trees I was suddenly greeted by a chorus of birds, who knows how many, thirty, forty, sixty, all singing to each other up in those trees. Small birds, with little hearts beating four hundred times a minute. A community of little bird-hearts beating and little bird-beaks chirping and munching on little worms, in those trees, over the tombstones, on the cliffs above the ocean. 

I walked on, and down the hill and left the sacred garden. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Satan's Serpent of Sarcasm

I hate Sarcasm more and more. I would rather be punched in the face then be treated to the radiation poisoning of a sarcastic insult.

Sarcasm has been used to insult me many times; usually to try and make me feel like an idiot. My enemy could instead choose to yell "Your an idiot!!" in my face. But that would expose the verbal assailant's feelings, which would in turn open the assailant up to public scrutiny. This is not what the assailant wants. It is quite possible that the sarcastic person is not aware of their anger with me and thus may not be at a point of bursting out in anger. Rather the sarcastic one is often a frothing mixture of various suppressed human emotions, including those of resentment for the potential victim.

So whether aware or not of their hatred for their victim, whether holding back tears of rage, or bumbling along unaware yet tensely ready to pounce, sarcasm is used to insult; and it is a back-handed cowardly weapon of the emotionally fragile. A choice made by wimps who can't meet their enemy in battle, and thus prefer to slip something in their drink. (By 'battle' here I mean anything from mortal combat to heated discussion).

But what do I mean with all these metaphors? I am saying that insulting sarcasm carries out its purpose in what I think is the most mean-spirited and pain inducing way: indirectly. By being indirect the assailant delivers an insult which unloads over time as a virus in the mind of the insultee. Sarcasm is hard to defend against initially because it is often not at all certain whether the insulter is being sarcastic or not. The comment "Ben, your a great singer!!" seems innocent enough. This ambiguity usually is enough to prevent the insulter from being identified by observers as belligerent or it at least gives observers an excuse to not intervene on the insultee's behalf. This excuse is the plausible deniability needed to allow a 3rd party observer to sit idly by during verbal abuse and still appear respectable among peers.

Thus the moment passes, no one has defended the insultee because of ambiguity, and the insulter has not been identified as a mean spirited for the same reason. Also the one being insulted may not even yet be aware of the insult. But assuming he/she has heard it, assuming the acid of hate has entered the intended mind, the real cataclysm is yet coming. Upon realization, the thoughts of the insultee go like this: "I was just insulted, everyone else thinks its OK, and the vile perpetrator is now grinning ear to ear because he will pay no price (because of a lack of conscience, or a simple non-awareness of his own actions) and it is now socially unacceptable for me to retaliate, because I was not directly attacked." This is when Satan laughs a great belly laugh, this is when a fairy somewhere dies, this is when the mental anguish begins. It is a uphill battle from here to address the insulted person; to address the problem with frank discussion. As is the case for myself, I fear, that the vast majority of the time the insult is pressed down into the insulted individuals froth of personal emotions, adding to future confusion, anger, and in all likelihood, retaliative sarcasm. The world sometimes seems very dark.

Here are a few definitions of sarcasm: : A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
Wikipedia: Sarcasm is the rhetorical device of using a characterization of something or someone in order to express contempt.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Moon-dwellers Remember

Once there was a large wandering river.  From glacial birth it dripped, trickled, and babbled forth, through frigid pond to freezing lake; then scampering down always down over pebbles and green moss it came. From many such glaciers did this river form. All for one and one for all, the white winter guardians slowly died, slowly became less, so the river would be more; slowly dissolved, slowly released their precious molecules to gravities keep. And so the river grew, deeper, wider, always down. Then shaded by trees, trees of all kinds. Small evergreens twisted and marred by wind and snow and ice, tall trees scarred and twisted by time and foe, large deep rooted trees wide and proud; all drinking deeply from the rivers soul. A life source and life blood it was to them. But still, on the river would go, rolling, playing, tumbling down, always down, over rocks, under rocks, through rocks. As a flowing sword this river was said to cut stone, smoothing and removing and undoing sediment, and volcanic ash, and molten rock, and precious jems and jewels alike, all the same, then flowing on and always down. 

Occasioned were this river's banks by the walking forest children, free yet thirsty creatures. And though the river paid no heed to the glaciers trees or rocks, it did perceive these ten toed wanderers. For as is told in ancient lore, river blue would laugh and babble at these thirsty forest children, and it would seize their toes and limbs that did intrude upon its frosty flow. Legend states that these fair children who frequented the rivers banks would enter often, listening to the rivers voice, feeling its cool touch. Some would grasp the rivers locks, but none could hold them long. The river delighted in these children and it would play them songs at night, melodies to warm their hearts. And these dear children warmed their souls with the waters babbling poems. Even still the river would go on, always down. But this became a joy, for the river was daily new for the forest children. These humans (as they then were called) never understood the great mystery of the River, and now it has been lost forever. 

None remember the true tale of the river's land which now is gone. Some choose not to believe this ancient legend. They reject the land of lively water flow. They say: "the birds, and flowers, trees and rocks all just seem so silly, who ever heard of an aquatic dance so willy-nilly." But we all agree that what was there is now gone, for that first planet we have lost. We had much to learn, and learn we have: to this day we've cultivated learned minds and these in turn have created much: our ships and machines, our rockets, robots, and zero-gravity-veggies, our UV shielded cubicles, exploration probes, and telescopes. But I fear that all that we have found and made and learned cannot bring back that land of mystery, that first home of blue and green. From those ancient forest dwellers we are descended and we must carry the memory of the laughing river with us always, lest we forget the mystery of the shining snake of Eden.