Things I am Learning and Thinking about

I feel a little bit like I'm emerging from the somewhat numbing shock of finding myself in the adult world (aka sitting at a desk for 9 hours a day, dependent on that sitting for health insurance). There are many hopeful signs of this emergence. It really feels like a thawing out, most desperately needed in my heart--to become more inclined and hungry for the things of God, and less driven by my selfishness and pride--but also occurring in my mind.
It is exciting to be captivated by what is going on around me, to uncover something and then realize that it is much bigger than my fickle curiosity, and much more established than the fads that I catch a whiff of. Themes have been taking shape, in the things that Keith and I have been reading, in the conversations we've been having with friends who are much more active and knowledgeable than us, and in the experience of walking into life with a new church. The idea of community that God planted in my heart back in Clemson, is growing and being challenged and expanded by my experience here in Birmingham--a very different community than Clemson--but I'm seeing threads that have remained throughout...God is guiding and teaching with purpose, which is so encouraging. Really, that's just it, the theme is community. But I am seeing it in more and more angles, with more and more questions, and more and more possibilities. Here are some of the things rolling around in my head these days.
  • Living in a quasi-urban environment is not simple. It is way scarier and more humbling than patting myself on the back for driving 45 minutes to the city and giving peanut butter sandwiches to homeless guys once a week. I'm realizing that I have no idea about urban ministry, when "urban" lives next door. I want to be a good neighbor, but I know I'm not right now, and I don't really know where to begin.
  • "Community" is much bigger than a group of really close friends, or even a great, authentic church. It is where we live, no one can really be excluded, and we probably need to start paying attention to each other, and how we can take care of and know each other better.
  • What would it look like for there to be real harmony in our faith, politics, and economics? I'm not even going to go there on a large-scale, but on a personal scale I mean. Both how we spend, and what we buy. Not just in the sense of being good stewards of our money, but of our resources, and of what our consumption costs the community. Wendell Berry (thanks Pat and Kerry) calls it "the modern divorce between economy and religion--which is really just a version of the devastating old dualism of body and soul."
I'm hopeful because, instead of just patting myself on the back for having these thoughts, which my pride is inclined to do, I see that there are people, here an Birmingham and in communities all over, who have been thinking about these things for a lot longer than I have. And beyond the thoughts, they have the courage to take action that I can only hope for. Friends who live in areas of town where many Christians are afraid to enter, and know and love their neighbors. People who sacrifice convenience and let their convictions actually dictate their lives, as evidenced in where they shop, what they drive, where they work, what they eat, and the things they own (and don't own). Local businesses and farmers that make those same choices on a larger scale, perhaps sacrificing profit, but educating at the same time. A general whisper of a realization, on many levels and in many places, that we need community and we have greatly cheapened it over the years by mindlessly pursuing more and bigger and easier and faster.

My thoughts don't do these topics justice. It's a conversation and a slow learning process.


Shireen said...

Well, it may just be a conversation, but I appreciate your thoughts and your heart, Elaine. I was telling a girlfriend over dinner tonight that I'm enjoying getting to know you/your sweet heart.
Gosh, your voice, too, is blessed! :)
Hope to see you IF you can make it ;) Thursday night!

AJ Macc said...

It is so easy to get caught up in the rush of the world. It will take people like you and your friends to "go against the tide" and show us somewhat older folks :) how to truly be in the world but not of the world. I believe that is what living out our faith is all about.