Living Loved Communities

The vision
June 29, 2010, 1:50 pm
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My goal is to create an environment where people are encouraged to explore and live their path of living loved by God so that they can more easily share their gifts and live as God intended them to.  It has been said that environment is stronger than will power. I believe that if people are surrounded by other who have a desire to live loved, they can all make quantum leaps in their ability to be the person they and God wants them to be.  People can also heal from their past hurts in an atmosphere of unconditional love and get the positive and healthy aspects of community that they were wanting to get from a church community which is often dysfunctional.

I envision a  community where people who are leaving the institutional church and doing their best to live loved can own their own homes on their own  parcel of land. A community center and common land can serve as a gathering place for people who want to cooperate on various levels including sharing meals; growing food and livestock; creating cottage industries; running a retreat center  and much more.

I am in the process of creating a governing structure where people over see the village/community with maximum amount of freedom and rules that only make the community as safe as possible. This structure is like the banks of a river which makes it possible for the river (which I liken to the Holy Spirit) can flow freely. In my thirty years of experience with working with groups, no structure or rules enable people who want to take control to do so.

Living loved by God  is a concept that I learned from first reading the book THE SHACK and then listening to The God Journey podcasts by Wayne Jacobson and Brad Cummings in February of 2008. This was a paradigm shift in the way I looked at and experienced God which completely changed my life.

Community is something I have been yearning to live in since I discovered a movement called Intentional Communities back in 1975 when I was twenty years old.  I had a wonderful experience living in East Wind Community with my five year old son in 1994. Although my stay ended because of tragic misunderstandings. I still got a taste of how rich and nurturing the environment of community could be in day to day living.

I now co-own land with family near Living Springs. There are mostly Christians living in a neighborhood called Living Springs. In spite of many shortcomings, this place where we have lived for the past 7 years has been a safe environment where our kids could grow up with friends who have similar values.

I have recently discovered beautiful land that would be ideal for a community which is located about 1/2 hour from Fayetteville, where I also live part time. I am helping the owner promote it because I would prefer that someone buy it who has dreams of community. I would love to have a  community in Northwest Arkansas where people who are living love can encourage each other. You can learn more about this land here.

With 64 acres, a large house and out buildings; plenty of farm land and forest with natural air conditioning, and excellent well, and on the grid for now–it has amazing potential for immediate move in for a core group of people who share this vision.

My dream is that someone will want to buy the land which needs to be sold soon so that it won’t go into foreclosure. For only $139,000 it is an amazing deal for a start up community.

You can find more about the land here.

Since I learned about the concept of  intentional community in 1974 when I was twenty years old, I have always dreamed of living in such a place. An intentional community is where people live together in all kinds of ways in order to cooperate and enrich each others lives.  I have spent countless hours studying about how to create successful communities. i have lived, visited, and communicated with members of  intentional communities.

I am ready to use all my experience in creating a structure that encourages people to freely and extravagantly  live in love–and I intend to find others who share this vision who can help refine the structure.  I hope that many will join me in this endeavor.

Compulsory education is not my idea of love
July 12, 2010, 4:17 pm
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Here is a book that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that compulsory schooling is not good for any living creature. WEAPONS OF MASS INSTRUCTION by John Taylor Gatto

July 3, 2010, 9:59 pm
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Some thoughts on an ideal structure
July 2, 2010, 7:14 am
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Here is my ideal structure right off the top of my head: Iam exhausted but I am going to just go with this draft. Just know there is so much more–but this will give you and idea. your input is welcome.

1. Find one or two people who share the vision that is articulated in the beginning of this blog.

2. Get to know them through conversation about the vision, proposed structure and reading their writings. Ask them to listen to God Journey Podcasts  and and see if we are in alignment with views shared.

3. Pray together and see if we feel lead to work together

4. If there is a yes, start talking about the structure in detail and come to agreement. If there are any minor adjustments, make at this point.

5. Actual structure is as follows:

The core group makes final decisions. whenever a decision is in the making, anyone involved will be informed and feedback/counsel will be received.

I will work on guidelines for land use and management to be approved by core group.

As interested people join, core group will consider admitting them to the core group as people demonstrate trustworthiness and alignment with values.

If people are obviously trying to control or change the basic structure–they will be kindly asked to withdraw. Yes, we do just want people who are naturally in alignment with the values of living loved. Unfortunately there are many Christians who think it is their God Given duty to change folks like us who are trying to live loved–and we do not want to waste our time in dealing with these people who are not really interested in living in harmony, but wanting to change us.

Land use:

At first, the people who live here will be either living in the house which is adequate for offering both private and public space , or camping near by. They will be the pioneers. Patricia will not be living in the community, but will serve as advisor once the core group is established.

As zoning land use laws are researched, the core group will determine how to deal with the various ways that people will have stewardship over land. A land trust might be established in time.

The main rule is this: that people treat each other with respect and if conflict arises, it is taken care of as soon as possible. people need to agree to the conflict resolution guidelines which I will write about later.

Core group will agree on a screening process which will help make sure that people who share values are part of community. It is essential that shared values is the common thread–living loved–because other wise conflict will be build into the community from the beginning.  There will be plenty of opportunity for people to work with diverse groups–like neighbors and guests of the community.

Each person will need to take care of their own finances. Expenses will be divided among members. Eventually as people steward their own plots, and build–costs will depend on how big plot is, location, etc.

Guidelines to help people to live more harmoniously will be developed (I will write about this soon) They will be suggestions, not rules–except for the respect people–even that isn’t really a rule.

Regular activities like shared meals, morning prayer, regular celebrations, play times, exercise times, dancing, celebrate recovery–will be established so that people can build trust and connections and relationships.

Weekly mandatory meetings will be held so that members can talk about decision, clear up conflicts, and share how things are going–work out a weekly schedule and goals etc.

Core group meets weekly to discuss how things are going and gives a report to whole group.

My history of leadership
July 2, 2010, 6:46 am
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I decided to write down a few thoughts about structure for this community.  After all, I have been thinking about and researching governing structures for 36 years. But first I want to write a bit about my back ground Actually, maybe my on the job training started when I was in the eighth grade and was a member of the refreshment committee in junior high. I was kicked off the committee when I challenged the associated student body president about where he thought the coke cups should be placed. His answer was, “I’m president and I make the final decisions.” My answer was to get angry and say something like, “But I am a member of the refreshment committee and I should have a say in the decision making process.” I can’t remember exactly what I did, but it was extreme enough to get kicked off. So I decided that I needed to run for class office in order to have more power. Ever since then, I wanted to have power with–not power over. So if my path about structure of leadership started then–I can say I have been researching and experiencing this for forty three years. Wow! That’s a long time!

The really funny thing was when I ran for office–I came in third out of four candidates. But the two people in front of me defaulted, and I got to be class secretary. The next year, I came in second running for class secretary–but the winning candidate defaulted again. I really wasn’t the most popular kid naturally. But when I ran for class office the next two years, I cam in first, having proven myself to be a good leader.

Ever since then, I have been experimenting with being a leader. Sadly, I have failed miserably at times. I am still learning. But I have had enough experience, including in my own family, in building consensus and servant leadership that I feel hopeful that I have something useful to contribute.

What would Wayne and Brad think?
June 30, 2010, 12:18 pm
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Wayne Jacobson and Brad Cummings host the podcast “The God Journey”. They have conversations which delight and inspire me about the difference between living a religious life and living loved by God.  This weekly podcast was my lifeline after I read the book  THE SHACK.  Their lively, often humorous and always heartfelt discussions helped me to ground the concepts that so turned my life upside down–in a good way–that I learned in THE SHACK. Wayne’s writings which are available free on line, including WHY I DON’T GO TO CHURCH ANY MORE and his talks on give me a sense of the Father’s love for me like no one else can.

But often when I hear Wayne and Brad speak, I hear more emphasis than I enjoy about how there can’t really be an ideal structure to help people who have left the IC (institutional church) to cooperate well. Now I have not yet addressed this issue with Wayne and Brad in order to know exactly what they think. But I believe I have listened to enough of their podcasts (about 40) to get the sense that they are not promoting any kind of structure.

Yet I have researched community and the structure vs. freedom idea for 35 years, and discovered that with no structure there results the tyranny of structurelessness. What happens is simply this: when there is no clear governing structure and no guidelines as to how to make decisions–then people can more subtly manipulate the situation. Someone is going to seize power at some point or another even if the people have the best of intentions.  I experienced this first hand in the tragedy of an idealistic open Christian fellowship where the group was constantly invaded by people who thought they were too open and didn’t have the correct doctrine. The result was that the group, in desperation,  elected elders who promised to keep the open structure but then betrayed the people by creating rigid structures similar to a church.  People were desperate for some order, and those who wanted to keep the open structure were basically rejected in various ways. It was a very sad situation for me who was one of those who was rejected from a community of people who I had grown to love.

My passion then is one that I discovered at the age of 26 when someone asked me why I kept a day timer calendar. “Why don’t you just let life flow?”  Thirty years ago, I was starting to juggle many interests and projects that I wanted to accomplish.  I found that without some kind of structure, my life was chaotic. My answer rather surprised me, but made sense. “Structure is like the banks of the river. The banks make it possible for the river to flow freely.”

I have heard Brad and Wayne say time and time again that the important thing is to have healthy relationships with people. With healthy relationships you have no need of structure. Yet in a marriage, we have vows. No, it is not the vows that keeps the relationship healthy–but going into the relationship there are agreements that are made to make it clear what each person expects from each other. And perhaps if there were more specific guidelines and structures for marriages that people could agree to, there would be more successful marriages.

The structure of this community would include:

1. Who is the core group of people who makes the final decisions.

2. What activities are permitted and not permitted.

3. How are conflicts to be resolved.

4. How will we accept new people

5. What are the boundaries for land–what is for personal use, and what is for public use.

6. How do we determine if someone is so toxic that we need to ask him or her to leave.

7. What activities can we have that can make it easy for  more connection, cooperation, and harmony.

I will be writing more about answers to these questions and more. I want to review the successful structures that have been conducive to people working together in a combination of interdependence and freedom. This topic of how can people most easily cooperate has been a life long search for answers.

Yes, it is going to make it much easier if people all are focusing living loved by God. But people enter that path in many stages of development.  All of us have challenges in getting along with people, and my vision is to minimize conflict and maximize the living life fully in love with each other and with God. Perhaps this “experiment” would really result in knowing that we are followers of Jesus because we love each other in ways that can be clearly be seen by the outsider.  Of course we are not only loving others who are the same–but by having an actual physical existence in the midst of others who are doing their best to live loved with a structure that makes it safe and easy to do so, could it be possible that people can make quantum leaps in their ability to live loved?

Wayne tells the deeply moving story of a woman who was raped when she was raped by a relative when she was 5 years old. She held on to a belief that God was not a God who loved her if he could allow such a travesty.  After sharing this story with Wayne, he suggested to her that she pray about this situation every day and whenever the thought arose, asking God to reveal himself as a God who cherished her and loved her.  After eight months he received an email with giant words, “I GOT IT!”  I loved that story, and it inspired me to continue these efforts to create community. What if people who have had such tragic pasts could live in a place where it did not have to take eight months to get it.

I also dream of this community being a retreat center where some members of the community come along side people who are needing healing. I have heard of one community where people who were insane came–and all the people did was to love them and make them feel welcome and wanted and purposeful. This healed the people. I believe this. I believe that people are insane because they are not getting their basic psychological,emotional and even physical needs met. What if a retreat environment could supply those needs, including and most powerfully being surrounded by people who just loved them?

And what if somewhat healthy people lived in a community of others where they were surrounded by others who were living loved? People could make quantum leaps in their ability to change themselves and therefore be in a position to help the world know about this way of living. That is a whole other blog topic.

I really hope that Wayne and Brad will think that this idea of having a community as a kind of experiment in using structure and intention to create an environment where people can both be healed and help others is a good idea. Their support would help this project move a long. I look forward to discussing with them more of these ideas. And if they don’t think this is a good idea–that is okay–we can agree to disagree. I love them just the same:)