Yesterday I entered into a deeper commitment with the members of the People of Praise. After spending the past few years discerning whether God was calling me to spend the rest of my life in it, I was invited by the community to do just that. Sarah, Laura, and Trish also did this at the same time I did. My parents came out for it! After being embraced and prayed over by many many people, we were each given an opportunity to reflect on our decision. Sarah has posted her sharing here, and Laura and Trish gave awesome glimpses of the events leading up to their decisions too. Here is what I shared with the hundreds of local branch members and visitors:
I don't really know how to organize my thoughts about what this commitment means to me. When I moved here a few years ago, I only vaguely knew a handful of people here, but that was less important to me than what I already knew about all of you. I knew in my mind that there would be a bunch of saints here, doing something to lay down their lives for one another. I wasn't really sure what that looked like. I knew that I'd be sharing what I'm thankful for at Lord's Days, but that's about all I really knew about what I'd be doing.
Since then, flesh has filled the skeleton of ideas that was in my head. I've prayed with all of you, and for all of you, and I've experienced countless opportunities to grow closer to you. You've changed, from a fabled Christian community that I knew OF, to an intimate Christian community that I know. Parents, you've trusted me with your children. You've encouraged me in youth activities ranging from kindergarteners to high schoolers, from soccer to camp to paintball to retreats. Speaking of retreats, if any of the guys who have retreated at my parents' cabin want to thank them personally, they're here with us today.
I am a product of the Muncie branch of the People of Praise. I love the people in Muncie as much as my family, because they offered me something called disinterested friendship throughout my whole childhood. That means they each very clearly desired friendship with me with no ulterior motives, no interests other than friendship. As I entered college, I still had very little clue as to how rare this is. Away at college, I discovered how many of my peers doubted the love of their own parents. Can you imagine that? Or can you imagine that being an utterly foreign reality to me?
The Holy Spirit was at work in me through all of this. I was baptized in the Spirit at High Country Adventure #1 as a high schooler, and Christ has reigned in me more and more since then. Each day a little more. I've discovered the joy of valuing friendship over comfort, and integrity over appearances. Working for the LaSalle Company and One:Ten, I've discovered what it's like when management cares more about me than about what I've done. At our office on-site at the Work College, I've discovered a level of intimacy amongst co-workers and peers that I never even thought possible. In fact, as a member of an area, but working in the midst of the the Work College, I often feel like a double agent. I get to soak up the wisdom of each group, and report back to the other group.
Hopefully I will get up here more often and tell you about my life and what God is doing in it. For now I want to thank my Mom & Dad for getting me started, and all of you for carrying the torch. You are daily fanning the Spirit into life more and more in me. A few verses from 1 John 4 I wanted to read are:
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. ... We love because he first loved us.
So.. thank you for offering me this love, with your words and your lives!