Community friendship Relationships

The Flavors of God; The Need for Uniqueness in Community

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I appreciate this perspective from Leanne Penny, as she and I are both non-native Okies. I wonder when we learn to stop trying to fit in? Say hi to Leanne and let her know your answers to her question in the comments. If you have a story to tell about community, view my Guest policies above.

I live in a relatively small town in South Eastern Oklahoma, but I was born and raised in West Michigan. When I first moved to town I only knew stereotypical things about what it meant to be an Okie and I was convinced I’d never fit in. I had no interested in frying things or falling in love with Dr Pepper; I thought I was doomed to be a reject.

Thankfully, I soon found myself woven into a community of friends who began to feel like family and better yet, they liked me for me. They encourage my writing, love my homemade scones and are a constant source of encouragement. As it turns out, community isn’t about everyone being the same, but about everyone falling in love with each other’s uniqueness.

My finding a home here in Central Oklahoma had nothing to do with becoming an Okie and everything to do with being brave enough to be authentic, very Michigan self. Although I have started making beans and corn bread and my friends now appreciate the beauty of homemade apple crisp.

I was back in West Michigan last week and while there I made a point to pick some fresh blueberries, my favorite summer flavor. I picked berries while my children ate them and tumbled around in the dirt and brush, all of us sweaty and content.

As I filled the bucket tied around my waist I thought about the vastness of gifts and passions God pours into his kids. When we join together it’s essential that we find the bravery to open up and share who he made us to be. This is deeply needed not for our own pride but because God needs all of us to add our unique color and flavor to the world to bring his fullness.

Community shouldn’t be about a group of people trying to blend in and be the same. Rather it’s about a collection of individuals who show God to the world more completely together than apart.

I’ve noticed something lately that breaks my heart a little. When I see people, myself included, witness each other’s beautiful gifts we respond not with appreciation but with self-degradation.

We don’t appreciate what we see as gifts from God, instead we see a reason to put ourselves down.

For example, when someone brings us a lovely pie, instead of appreciating a fantastic dessert, we reflect on what crappy cooks we are. When someone brings us fresh produce we don’t praise their green thumb, we talk about our own failed gardening attempts.

Instead of see God in each other’s gifts, too often we wonder why he short-changed us. This attitude is robbing all of us from experiencing the fullness of God.

We aren’t called to be each other; we aren’t all going to be master gardeners or pastry chefs. But it’s essential that we commit to being brave enough to bring what and who we truly are to the table.

If we can do that we will find ourselves in sweet and true communities that realize how vastly we rely on each other’s differences. We’ll be able to surrender ourselves to serving the whole by doing just exactly what we were created to do.

Okay, so there aren’t many of us who were created to clean toilets or fold socks but even in God’s community I’m pretty sure that there’s such as thing as “taking one for the team.”

May we all fall in love with who he created us to be and return the favor by recognizing the treasure inside each other, then, may we change the world together.

P.S. My unique flavor is probably a blend of blueberries and almond extract, yours?

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Leanne Penny spends her days drinking coffee and chasing her two kids with her college-pastor husband in Ada, OK. When the kids are sleeping or decide to play with their toys she ignores the dishes and writes about her journey of hurting, healing, and choosing joy at www.leannepenny.com Twitter @leannepenny Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeanneRPenny

10 Comment

  1. Leanne: I am a friend of Jen’s. Our families met when I lived and worked in Tulsa. Though I loved Tulsa, I yearned to get back home to Colorado. Community has something to do with roots too, at least for me.

    Your post reminded me of what Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12. Unique gifts and people unified in Christ make for a full, healthy community.

    But I must say I learned to love both Dr. Pepper and corn bread in Colorado. Thanks for a well-written post. Eugene

    1. Oh man Eugene, they got my on the cornbread already but I just can’t get into DP or any other pops… er… cokes 😉

      Paul does nail the healthy community vision on the head when he’s talking to the Corinthian church. I love how God gives us lasting visual metaphors to understand the diversity in his kids.

  2. Love these thoughts, Leanne! I have no idea what my unique flavor is but well…maybe that of one of my signature parties: chili and doughnuts. Spicy and sweet. That’s me.

    Jen, I just might have a guest post about community brewing. If I can write the other guest posts I owe people first. I”ll keep you posted.

  3. Leanne, I can relate to this since I moved from Wisconsin to North Carolina five years ago. While I’m accepted in a general sense, there is that constant reminding that I will never truly belong here. Yet, I don’t fit in at home either. Friends from WI tease me for my “Southern accent” while friends from NC think I’m making up words when I say “bubbler” and “TYME machine.” I’m learning to embrace my multicultural life though every day is a challenge.

    1. multi cultural is rough but I try to tell myself that no matter where I end up I will pick up traces of different places as I go? And also I have no idea what a TYME Machine is either and I’m just across the pond from WI?

      1. I love picking up different places and my own multicultural life but I just don’t always fit.TYME- Take Your Money Everywhere… what the rest of the world calls an ATM.

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