Posted by: Matt Norton | February 3, 2009

February Newsletter

February 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

Have you ever had a yearning to have friends who understand you, listen to you, and enjoy spending time with you? That was my wish for many years. In that time there were enjoyable people around me, but we weren’t close. My relationships with friends always felt superficial and empty. We didn’t help or challenge each other to grow by asking difficult questions about one another or just about existence. Thankfully, things slowly started turning around.
As I aimlessly sought a different kind of community, God graciously guided me to one. I changed schools my sophomore year in high school and was placed into a new environment with new people. I had to make friends. As I did, God started showing me what it means to be in a community in which the members care for each other’s mental, physical and spiritual well-being. As others took interest in my life I was challenged to do the same for them. That started the process of God showing me my selfishness, independence, and resistance to putting all I have into a community.
One of my biggest struggles is giving to community, as God desires. I often only want to give as much as is convenient and easy. I want to have group situations catered around my desires. I think, me, me, me. Since I started to realize my selfishness, God has been able to work in me. He reveals different inadequacies that can only be fixed with His strength and wisdom. I am most definitely a work in process. It’s like they say, the first step to recovery (or in this case discovery) is recognizing one has a problem.
This year at Jeff Street is a continuation of God’s ongoing work to make me a better member of a community. I have so many loving and caring people around me who ask how I am doing and really want to know. They provide support in the difficult times and challenge me when they see I am living for myself and not Christ. I can go to different individuals and get advice, ask a difficult question, or just crack a joke. These people are my family and community here in Louisville.
This month I have become acutely aware of my inability to love and care for others as Christ loves me. Recently, my pride, arrogance, and indifference reared their nasty heads enough to upset three of my good friends all within 36 hours. In the days that followed I was torn inside. I was around two of them in the Day Shelter and it pained me to pass by them and know I had hurt them. On the other hand though, Satan was telling me to let them be angry because I didn’t care. These emotions led me to my knees in prayer. I cried out to God asking what to do. I could see how my sin had caused the problems and I asked God to give me strength, humility and knowledge, even though I just wanted to drop them like they were hot. I did not want to reconcile because that would require me to humble myself and confess my sin to them. Luckily, I followed God’s way, not my way. I humbly confessed and asked for forgiveness and they graciously forgave me.
I praise God that I have reconciled with all three of those friends and learned through the experience. God is teaching me that community is not easy, AT ALL! However it is what He wants for us as we see in 1 Peter 3:8, “all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” And he continues in verse 13, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” Peter, inspired by God, is talking about how we are to live in community with humility and compassion for others. He even says we may suffer for doing good, but in that we are blessed. It seems to me like a big challenge, but I know that with Christ’s help it is possible.
Once again I want to thank you for your support, be it through prayers, letters, donations, or whatever. Those are a great encouragement to me. Please keep the people here at Jeff Street in your prayers. Here a few specific things for which to pray.
• Please continue to pray for perseverance, love, grace, and patience for the Hope team and Jeff Street staff.
• Pray that a loving community may surround us all and that we may give fully to it with humility, sympathy, love, and compassion.
• Please continue to pray for our new Executive Director as he is transitioning in and our old Executive Director as he is moving on to the next place to which God is leading him.

With love,
Matt

Visit the HOPE website at http://www.hopeforlouisville.com

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