Book Review – Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us by Christine D. Pohl

by Mark Votava

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Christine D. Pohl has written a fantastic book on some practices that will sustain us as we live into community.  Some of these practices are: embracing gratitude as a way of life, making and keeping promises, living truthfully, and practicing hospitality.  The book suggests that these practices will help to bring us together over time as we work through our difficulties and find some discernment in our lives.  Living Into Community will help us to become more authentic expressions of love and compassion as we live in a world that fosters isolation from one another.

•  Gratitude keeps us from focusing on flaws in a community

“Gratitude and ingratitude are closely tied to what we notice, and once we start focusing on flaws in a community, they quickly dominate our attention.  There are always things about a community… that will disappoint us, and because our expectations for the church are high, disappointment and frustration can run very deep.”

•  Discontent blinds us to what we’ve been given

“Grumbling is highly contagious within communities, and occasional complaining and dissatisfaction can become a way of life.  Complaint is often overgeneralized, and soon everything seems unsatisfactory.  While gratitude makes us more sensitive to the gifts that other people bring into our lives, discontent blinds us to what we’ve been given.”

•  Establishing deep roots in a place

“Commitment to a place and a people means that relationships can be formed that are able to withstand trials and disagreements, but often people move in and out of… communities before deep roots are established.  When expectations of mobility are combined with a consumer-mindset, people are very likely to leave when things get difficult.”

•  Stay with the process in difficult times

“A willingness to ‘stay with the process’ or to stay in connection with a community during difficult or uncertain times allows progress to be made in spite of the messiness.  Although giving things ‘time’ does not guarantee that we will move forward or find healing, slowing processes down often provides opportunity for giving attention to relational issues.”

•  The importance of listening

“When we think about truthfulness in relation to speech, we do not often assume that listening is a top priority.  But listening is at the heart of wisdom and discernment…”

•  The practice of hospitality

“Often, the best gift we can give another person is our time and attention.  Human beings need a place in which they and their contributions are valued, and a hospitable community finds ways to value the gifts people bring.  Few experiences are more lonely or isolating than finding oneself unwanted, unneeded, or unable to contribute.  People come to life, however, when they and their offerings are valued.  This means that communities and folks within them must be willing to receive.  Only as we recognize our own vulnerabilities and incompleteness are we open to what others can contribute.”

What are your thoughts on Living Into Community?