Closer to Heaven: Doing Life Together

An American friend, living and totally immersed in Chinese culture shared this picture of a meal together and the philosophy behind it.  He said, “Everyone sits around a round table, facing each other across more food than the guests can possibly finish.  And you literally eat and drink together; you don’t scoop food on to your plate…and then eat off your plate; you take each bite with chopsticks directly from the same serving dishes, and before each sip from your cup you’ll first look someone in the face across the table and raise your glasses toward one another, or you’ll first clink glasses with everyone, and then all drink together.  But you never drink on your own.”

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Never on your own.  Fascinating, so different from American habits.  We forget our needs for community and suffer depression and anxiety often so unnecessarily, alone.

Who do you do life with?  Or are you mostly going solo with your work and play and decisions?

There is that pioneer spirit, entwined into most American souls.  Do our own thing.  Don’t depend on anyone but yourself.  I subscribed to that for so many years but felt a hollow place inside, unsatisfied, unfilled by material possessions, shopping, etc.  Not even traditional church, being surrounded and in the buzz of lots of people and conversations, great music, none of that filled the hollow.

God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit do not do life alone.  They are a community, always together.  It’s ok, it’s good to not want to be alone.  We are created for community with God, with each other.

Over the past few years I have discovered a layer of community very rewarding, starting to fill in the hollow.  Intentional community, where people, regardless of how busy their individual lives are, plug into relationships with each other.  They know each other’s gifts and struggles.  They have meals together, sharing food, work, laughter, tears.  No shame: we don’t go it alone.IMG_2765

So delightful weirdnesses arise.  Like one person in the community sending a picture to everyone in the community of a plant growing tall in the wilderness of our recently created swales, carved and planted by us.  The birds and deer didn’t eat it all—that’s a miracle; we are novices/greenhorns at this. We planted and watered alongside the Creator’s great rains and sunlight.   We were thrilled, as thrilled as a little child planting a seed for the first time and watching it grow.  A joy all its own but so much more; shared together– multiplied joy.

Research on stress suggests that getting outside in nature, out of our concrete jungles, is necessary to the human body and spirit.  Multiplied joy again from venturing outdoors, away from our chaotic, pressured existences, however technologically savvy.  Into serenity of breezes, chirping and soaring birds, the slow pace of nature slowing down our speeding heart rates.

Much is documented as well on the benefits of working and playing together with purposes greater than ourselves.  People live longer and healthier lives, who plug into intentional living with others and spend time outdoors.  Even in ancient times the monks in monasteries with their gardens and other shared labors, whether bread-baking or cheese or wine-making, prayers, ministries to the poor, orphans, widows, the sick, and outcasts—all that contributed to longer lives than most of the average people of their day. And yes, the stories are there, that they bickered and fell out with each other at times. To do so is human.  It’s not heaven here, but we can get closer to it by cultivating life together with others in unity of convictions, purpose, etc.

Soon we will start to build a retreat cabin, our first building on our land.  We will use rammed earth and experiment.  Together and with much humility, joy, and prayer for guidance.  Others will come and join us in the building project for sheer curiosity, desire to do the work and together with friends, to get out and away for a while from job demands, etc.

Again–we are excited children in our Eden wilderness.  Ready for fresh winds, work, ideas, and experiences to overtake us…together.  A little closer to heaven on earth.  Here and now.


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