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Joy Fellowship
Spring 2003 Newsletter


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Musings on Life With Jesus
by Joyce Braun
 

Jesus described himself as humble of heart in Matthew 11. He is referred to in Paul’s letter to the Philippians as the God who humbles himself, not clinging to his right to be God, but stripping himself of all privilege and dying the death of a common criminal for us. "Whenever we stand, like the [tax collector]…, outside the realm of ‘right,’ only in the realm of mercy, we can meet God…The word ‘humility’ comes from the Latin word ‘humus’ which means fertile ground." (1)

Wendy Wright states: "Humility ... has to do with knowing ourselves as human, as earthy, as the clay into which the divine breath has been breathed. To be humble is to balance midway on the spiritual tightrope between the knowledge of our extraordinary blessedness and our very real brokenness.... Small, finite beings, we open out into the vast spaciousness of infinity. Our destiny is beyond believing. Yet we are also wounded, marred, fallible, frail—unable to respond fully to our destiny. We are bound, blind, and broken. To be humble is to grasp our true humanness, our earthiness into which divine life is poured. To be humble is to live the paradox of our blessed and broken natures." (2)

Humility frees me to live in gratitude to God for His incredible mercy and helps me accept the "broken blessedness" of others, as well as of myself. The folks of Joy Fellowship, a ministry with developmentally delayed adults, have again blessed me with their love and acceptance as they receive me, not for doing anything special but just for being who I am. They model, flesh out, Jesus’ acceptance of me.

David Benner, in Sacred Companions, describes spiritual friendship, soul hospitality, as having a foundation of inner stillness. "It is out of this place that soul friends offer their gifts of presence, stillness, safety and love." Speaking of the intimacy God offers me, this is "…not limited to him hosting me. If I am to have a place of stillness at the core of my being, it will only be because I have learned to offer hospitality to the Spirit. The Spirit, then, becomes the source of my soul hospitality as I make myself available to others." Prayer leads me then, not only into relationship with God, but through Him, into true community. My journey into listening, reflective prayer has not been without companionship, both in individual spiritual direction relationships and in the recent peer support group.

Prayer leads me, not only into relationship with God, but through Him, into true community with others. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt very odd because of the way I see the world; I definitely listen to an alternative drummer beating. I recently went to a Joy Fellowship worship service, feeling like the "queen of odd" and again felt so embraced, quite literally, as well as figuratively, by the awareness that my oddness didn’t matter either to these folks or to God. People’s diversity is accepted and even celebrated as leadership invites sharing of giftedness, whether dancing in worship, carrying a glass of water carefully to a speaker who was coughing, helping each other find page numbers in the song book, walking up front to give a hug of encouragement and pray in mumbled phrases for the person preaching. An autistic man’s wanderings up and down the aisle are accepted as this is what he needs to do and his having paused to make eye contact and waiting to be greeted by Joy Gregory was acknowledged and affirmed with claps from the community at this step he had made and gift he had given.

As we were singing, words of one of the worship songs touched me and some tears rolled down silently and, I thought, undetected. The young woman sitting next to me, who has few verbal skills, did notice, however, and made the sign for crying. Reaching over to me, she gave me a big hug which was then noticed by the woman behind us who asked why I was sad and gave me another hug. Later, as I was reflecting, I wondered to myself whether Jesus ever felt odd as He likely didn’t fit the typical Nazareth carpenter mold. "Thank you that you are the God who created ‘oddness,’ who celebrates diversity and who tells us it’s in all our combined ‘oddnesses’ that our very strength lies if we too learn to celebrate and affirm our differences." I think what I was experiencing at Joy Fellowship ties in to what David Benner describes as soul hospitality in his book Sacred Companions. I am received so generously by these people. The rock-like defense of bitterness I protect myself with is worn down by their love.

I have been remembering my experience at the Joy Fellowship (JF) camp that had given me a closer sense of God’s presence as I was ministered to by the very people I was helping. Society would say they have nothing to offer me but by their simple love and gratitude, as well as the atmosphere of mutuality and community fostered by JF pastoral staff, helping Mary Gail with such basic tasks as assisting her onto the toilet taught me something about being human and knowing God. I had been reminded again that what matters most to God is not how smart I am but whether I am living in love with Him and the people around me.

(Joyce is an Occupational Therapist working in Richmond. These thoughts are taken from her reflective papers written for a course she is taking at Carey Theological College.)

(1) Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray, Ramsey, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1970. P.35, 36
(2) Wendy Wright, Weavings, January/February 2003

 

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Susan Woods (now living in Kamloops, B.C.,
and frequently comes to our camps) sharing
communion with Stephanie McClellan
(a theological college student—almost
finished—and a great teacher for
our sign language choir)


 

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Upcoming Events
 

March 22—Joy Fellowship Annual General Meeting at Trinity Baptist Church (49th and Granville), 7:00 p.m. Come for dessert, music, laughter, thanks to God and fellowship.
 

March 28-30—Retreat at Rivendell on Bowen Island.
 

April 12—Spring Fair, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church. Fun for the whole family: games, crafts, car wash, prizes, hot dogs, white elephant sale.
 

May 2-4—Spring Camp at Camp Squamish. You're welcome to join us—room for many!!

Spring Fair 2003

 

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