Archive for September, 2012

A Day In The Life: 2 Worlds in Atlanta

September 23, 2012

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – I really love what God has called us into. As many of you know, I am a pastor/trainer/neighbor, leading “the church” (people) into living a life of giving and receiving with everyone we interact with. Through joining, listening and living interdependently with residents of an at-risk community, I see the ways in which God is at work.

Here’s an example of a good day, in two worlds

I was working in the office space I rent from in our neighborhood. I grew hungry and decided to return home to grab a bite before  my next appointment.

As I pulled into our driveway, I noticed a neighbor I am getting to know as he sat next to the large oak tree. He lives in and watches the vacant homes in our neighborhood. He’s a watchdog so thieves don’t strip the homes of copper rain gutters and pipes. (There’s quite a market for copper, which people sell to survive).

The neighbor and I exchanged greetings as I walked into the house. But I wasn’t far beyond the threshold when I felt the Spirit tell me: “Go and share your lunch with him.” In the kitchen, I heated up lunch and walked outside with two full plates – not before my wife asked me, “What are you doing?”

We shared lunch together for 10 minutes, and we talked. He shared about his life and his periods of homelessness. But we also talked about family and his three daughters. Bob Lupton says, “A relationship built on need will always be pathological.” I tried not to focus his need, but to learn what he enjoys and is good at. A good friend said, “The closer we get to treating everyone as family, the closer we get to how Jesus wants us to serve people in need.”

I spoke to this neighbor about church, and I shared more than its location – I offered an invitation. As a Pastor in an under-served neighborhood, I can point people on the streets in the direction of the church. “Come, be a part of our community,” I say. Then I asked my neighbor how I could pray for him, and I told him how he could pray for me.

When we had finished, I hopped into my car and drove out of the neighborhood to one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Atlanta. I had an appointment with someone who is interested in becoming a trainer in our Dignity Serves curriculum.

We talked about the same subjects as I did with my homeless friend; struggles with life, family, living inter-dependently, and the huge potential God have placed in our lives. Both people in such different neighborhood circumstances have huge value and dignity. I am learning to appreciate both and have the same kinds of conversations with people regardless of their apparent need.

It was a good day in two worlds.

Dan and Adrienne Crain and their family. Since this photo, they've been blessed by the arrival of twins, Eden Violet Alliene and Isaac Levi Keith.

Dan and Adrienne Crain and their family. Since this photo, they’ve been blessed by the arrival of twins, Eden Violet Alliene and Isaac Levi Keith.

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.

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Needing Others Well

September 12, 2012

By Dan Crain

ATLANTA — Scripture is clear: We need to lead honest and vulnerable lives in community, to confess our needs and to bear our burdens together. Yet how do we live out that command without “getting messy”? Or what if we don’t follow His command at all?

As Americans, we like to project an image of “having it all together.” We build walls or summon a force field to insulate ourselves from others.

We all know people who are eager to confess their needs to anyone willing to listen. I have done that, and sometimes still do. That’s emotionally messy. What I have realized is that it takes time – often a long time – to earn the trust and respect of people with whom we share.

And we also know people who guard their hearts. They live with deep, emotional scars. They erect walls around their lives. They don’t need anyone to help them.

So when Paul ends his letter to the church in Philippi, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus,” what does this mean in this context?

Let me offer some of my thoughts from my struggle through this idea:

God is the one who meets needs. I cannot. You cannot. We cannot. God is the “need-meeter.” No one and no thing in the world can “meet “needs like Him. Christ and only Christ can meet our longings for significance, security, satisfaction and belonging.

Yet to the extent that I am individualistic and focus solely on my relationship with God, I still am called to live in community with you. God commands us to live together.

This nugget of Paul’s wisdom especially resonates with me: “Not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.”

There is so much meaning packed into those 14 words. Paul models a special kind of relationship, with this church being “partners in the gospel,” “suffering together” and “sharing of the same spirit.” Then he ends the letter by linking giving and receiving. Giving and receiving can be achieved only in the context of community as we give as well as receive.

So who really empowers the giving and receiving? God. So if I don’t confess my needs to you and pretend that I have it all together, whose help do I really refuse? God’s. He works through us, sometimes despite us, to meet our needs.

God’s intention for us to confess our needs compels us to realize that He is the only one who can meet our deepest desires to belong, to gain acceptance, to know security (peace). With that realization, we can confess our needs to one another, and appreciate that it is a two-way street. Confessing our needs to one another reminds us of where our deepest desire for belonging, acceptance and security can be found.

This is the beginning of Christian community.

Dan Crain and family.

Dan Crain and 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.

Are You a ‘Have’ or a ‘Have-Not’?

September 3, 2012

By Bill Behr

The story of Anders Breivik is very sad. The mass murderer admitted to killing innocent Norwegian men, women and teenagers in a bombing-and-shooting spree in 2011. He was recently sentenced to 21 years in prison.  What brought about this great tragedy?

He justified the 77 deaths, and more than 240 injured, as necessary to prevent “Islamization.” He insisted he is sane. He feared that Norway (and all of Europe) was losing its identity to Muslims settling in his country.

Breivik radically took matters into his own hands.

How many times throughout history have we seen people persecuted or oppressed – looked down as having less value, less worth, less dignity – just because they were “different”?

The oppressors said they had a different colored skin, a different race, a different sexual orientation or maybe just lifted under a different set of rules – and these people groups could not be tolerated.  Thus, illogical and hate-filled tragedies (some call them wars) occur again and again in the name of fear, protection and control.

It is in our nature to compare ourselves to others and decide who is better. So begins the slippery slide, as we focus solely on ourselves. (“How can I get more control of my life and become better than others who have less, look better, are popular, and achieve more recognition at work?”)  This focus becomes an obsession and way of life.  It leads us to judge and segregate other people and groups, treating them as “beneath us.” These are the  “have-nots” of our society.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that Jesus became man and, out of unconditional love, sacrificed Himself to pay for all the sin in each of our lives.  In Jesus’ time, the Jews lived under Roman oppression.  Jesus did not condone fighting the Romans. Instead, in Matthew 5:43-45, he said,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Paul wrote to the Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

I am the first one to admit that I sometimes look down on others.  I compare myself to everyone. The world tells me what is pretty and what is not, who is successful and who is not, who is poor and who is not.  The world dictates that there are “haves” and “have-nots.”

“Comparison is the enemy of contentment,” my Pastor says. If you are living an anxiety-filled life of fear, sadness or loneliness: turn your focus off yourself. Then, start sharing God’s love with those you look down on. Even better, let them give back to you. (One idea: Let them pray for you.)  You will recognize their dignity when you let them serve you. And you just might discover after that, after spending time with them, they were “haves” (like us) all along.

Thank You Lord for showing us the real beauty of every person we meet. Help give us the strength to reach out and love the people (our family, our neighbors, and the marginalized) you put on our hearts.  Praise you, Father. Amen!

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.