Archive for April, 2012

Our Past Does Not Dictate Our Future in Christ

April 23, 2012


By Bill Behr

We all have developed beliefs about ourselves. Those beliefs have been shaped by our experiences, the happy and sad events in our lives, what we have heard others say (whether true or false) and what we have learned.

We ultimately decide which beliefs to adopt as part of our identity (whether good or bad), and they do affect how we relate to others (good and bad).

Many of my beliefs are healthy, true and part of my identity, such as, “I am made in the image of God my Father” and “God loves me dearly.”  But like all of us, I have also grown up with false beliefs about myself, many of them starting in my childhood.

These false beliefs also became part of my identity.

One of the false beliefs (lies) I discovered about myself originated when I was about 7 years old.  I was a bright-redhaired, highly freckle-faced, pale-white kid.  I stood out among other kids, but did not realize how much until the first grade, when some of my classmates started teasing me daily about how I looked.

I slowly became convinced I was not acceptable, and I was to embarrass to talk to anyone about it.   I tried to fix this lie by becoming a people-pleaser to validate my worth. I eventually shed this false belief with the help of family, friends and counseling. Most important, I came to realize my true identity is in Christ.  I understand now how Christ views me and His purpose for my life (for the lives of all of us).

I have learned a lot about my identity in Christ through reGROUP at Summit Church.

reGROUP is a Christian program that has been designed for anyone with hurts, habits and hang-ups (those cover the bases of all of us).   reGROUP teaches that I need to surrender, and to trust and believe in Jesus Christ, and then join Him in healing the hurt and restoring the loss in my life.

I need to surrender to the fact that I need the help of God and my Christian community to do this.

But I have to want this change.  Do I really want to experience a life of freedom and break away from my false beliefs?   Yes I really do!   So how do I do this?  I need to:

  • Sincerely want to surrender burdens and change (repent).
  • Honestly trust in the amazing unconditional love of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to change me.

When I do these things, God starts to call me to enter into a community of people that is willing to care about me, so I can share my struggles with them.  In community, we equally give (share) and receive (listen), and we agree as a community to surrender our lives and depend on God for our restoration.

I am part of a team from Summit Church that leads reGROUP in the 33rd Street Jail on Tuesday nights.  We have listened to the inmates’ personal struggles and also shared with them our own struggles.   We are building a level of trust and forming new relationships, in community, to learn together about the truth of Christ’s love for each of us.

This is where Dignified Interdependence begins, with a small community of you, God, and me as we lean in care for one another. This is where forgiveness, kindness, patience, accountability, God’s grace, repentant joy and sacrificial love all begin occur and our needs are met (Phil. 4:19).

When we all “surrender me” (ourselves) to God, He accepts us where we are and starts healing us.  We start to experience sincere change and become a new creation – the “old me” diminishes and the new (real) “me in Christ” is discovered

(2 Cor. 5:17)!

Praise you Lord for revealing the truth to us all!

Bill Behr

Bill Behr

Bill Behr is the Associate Campus Minister of Summit @ 33rd St. and can be reached at bbehr@summitconnect.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs. 

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Who Doesn’t Like Barbecue?

April 20, 2012

By Rebecca Lujan Loveless

Scott and Sammi, residents of The Palms Trailer Park on Orange Blossom Trail, care about their neighborhood.  When asked what they think would make The Palms a better place to live, they said, “A place where friends and family can gather to barbecue, socialize and have kids play safely.”

They believe that having this community space will bring people together to get to know one another, which will lead to more trust between neighbors and even diminish petty theft and fighting.

“When you know your neighbor and they know you’ve got their back, they’re less likely to pick a fight with you over stupid stuff,” Scott said.

And, after all, who doesn’t like barbecue?

There is a grassy area at the front of the neighborhood between the Trailer One Community Center and Palms Chapel that is not used or fenced in. The area borders one of the busiest streets in Orlando.  Kids wait for the bus in the morning, playing on the sidewalk while 18-wheelers race by.  The space has dead shrubbery and is riddled with ant piles and weeds.

Scott sees this area not as the “eyesore” that it currently is, but as a blank canvas that, if treated properly (with the help of neighbors and other donors), could turn into a place where friendships are grown and ideas and dreams are shared.

Scott is a Master Welder and landscaping expert. He spent time and energy creating a blueprint for a professional BBQ Pit, Smoker and Griddle.  He also plotted out the landscaping plans, soil grading and re-fencing that he says will be necessary to create a space that is peaceful, safely protected from the busy street and able to hold a vegetable and herb garden.

The project can be accomplished for less than $1,000.  Scott and Sammi have already been going door to door, to neighbors, with hand-drawn fliers showcasing the plans, asking people to pitch in.  Scott has also called several companies to ask for donations of cement block, sand, equipment etc.  He is committed to seeing this idea come to fruition.

And he could use your help! Please donate to POLIS and indicate “Project: BBQ” and your tax-deductible donation will directly support this effort. You can also give of your time and talent, or provide some of the necessary materials. Just contact us at info@polisinstitute.org and let us know. Help Scott and Sammi make their community a better place.

Oh, and come by and join us for a barbecue soon!

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-lesson course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.

The Power of Community: How Daniel Returned Home

April 13, 2012

Daniel and his children reunite in Ohio.

By Dan Crain 

ATLANTA – When Daniel left home six years ago, addiction guided his path, and he might as well have walked off the face of the Earth.

His parents’ parting words to him: “Don’t ever come back here.”

He left everything behind: his home, his job and, most important, his kids.  His destination was addiction, bouncing between prison and the streets.

About a year ago, Daniel left prison for a third and final time.

Daniel’s testimony last week riveted each of us: He was going home.

Soon after getting out of prison, Daniel visited Church on the Street’s ministry, Retreat from the Street. Its members strive  to live in community with Atlanta’s most vulnerable men and women — those who live  on the streets — and welcome them into fellowship.

Daniel began to show up for a simple breakfast, Bible study, prayer and lunch on weekdays. After awhile he decided it was time to get serious. Daniel gave his life to Christ.

This was just the beginning of his journey. Church on the Street continually held its arms open, welcoming Daniel into community.

He felt God’s Spirit say to him, “If you stay apart of this community, there are some wonderful things I want you to receive from them.” Daniel did not want to stand in the way of God’s blessing by thinking he was OK. He was not OK. He knew he needed help. Once he admitted this, blessings came.

In the Church on the Street community, everyone plays a role — everyone is asked to contribute. One of the first opportunities Daniel was offered was to clean the bathroom to serve the community. Albert Schweitzer is quoted as saying, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know — the only ones among you who will be really happy are those that have sought and found how to serve.”  God has given everyone a gift to serve community – even if it is as small as cleaning toilets.

Daniel remarked that he immediately felt the love of the Church on the Street leaders. They were not interested in just giving him food and clothes and sending him on his way. They took time to get involved in his life. To have such love extended unconditionally, instead of with  judgment, was absolutely crucial to Daniel’s journey.

He shared that one of his struggles is a predisposition to look down on people on the streets. Despite being an addict, he had taken solace in the fact that he was not as bad as someone who has a stronger addiction to crack cocaine. Truth is, we all find ways to judge others in order to escape the reality of our own pain, regardless of where we find ourselves.

Since he has been a part of this community, he has felt his impulse to be judgmental disappear. His conversation and spirit are also different. Just simply by being apart of this community, he has experienced change. This place and its people have become his family.

After a few months of spending time with this community, he was offered an opportunity to get off the street. What sets  Church on the Street apart from many houses of worship is its dedication to actively and intentionally  embrace the homeless, welcoming them into community. This is particularly true for Daniel. Elders in the church invited Daniel into their homes, and they have benefited greatly from his friendship.

Daniel commented at one point that, “This place is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” Through being a part of community, he has sensed God’s Spirit say to him, “You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.” After 20  years of struggling with addiction, he is at last beginning to experience healing.

And in community, his gift of cooking was discovered. He was named the chief chef of the Church on the Street’s kitchen. (Oh, and Daniel already had his culinary degree.)

He is now on his way home to a small town in Ohio. Through God’s grace, he now has custody of his three youngest children. These kids are special because they never gave up on their daddy even though he had given up on himself.

He also has a solid support system through a church in the hometown.  Interestingly, the small town in Ohio has a huge methamphetamine problem. Daniel’s church has reached out to him to know how to best reach out to people who struggle with addictions to meth.

These are the kinds of ministries that Polis is trying to encourage people to emulate. A ministry that is purely focused on giving and receiving with the most vulnerable in the context of community. It is in this context that people’s talents are engaged for the betterment of the city.

The myth of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is just that, a myth.

What is the best way to experience change in our lives? It is in the realm of community. No one is self-sufficient. We all need each other.

What I love about this story is that Daniel spoke of personal responsibility. He spoke of realizing his need to change. But, he spoke of it all within the context of community. No one changes alone.

Crain family

Crain family

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer in South Atlanta for Polis Institute. He can be reached at dan@polisinstitute.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.