Thursday, May 21, 2015

His grace shall lead me

I don't feel like visiting her.  I watched her over the past year start to throw her life down the drain- again.  I watched Meth take control- again.  I watched her very wonderful husband need to walk away. I watched her neglect her girls. I peered into her drugged up life through her facebook posts.  I read the newspaper article of her arrest.  And I just feel mad, and hopeless, and done.  I don't feel like going to jail to visit her.  Even if she has hit the bottom and is repentant- again.  

And then Grace whispers to me.  And He reminds me of His presence in my straying.  His love for me in my rebellion.   His forgiveness and friendship in my sin.  His mercy and refusal to leave me behind.  His patience in my stubbornness.  Grace reminds me that He is not a limited set but an infinite source of love and kindness and hope. 

And because this is true for me, I will go visit her.  And I will testify to the good news of Christ's grace for us both. Amazing, amazing grace.  

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Romans 5:15

Monday, May 4, 2015

a step toward peace

I want to thank Reverend Whitfield and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church for extending blessing to the community yesterday.  Their invitation to pray over Waterloo’s law enforcement, their gesture of bringing people together in the spirit of peace, in the Spirit of Christ, felt like a little balm of Gilead being applied to some wounds that so desperately need healing.  

“There is a disconnect between our police department and especially the African American community.  We want Mt. Carmel to be the re-connect.  We want to show people we can work together.” 

Mayor Buck Clark thanked Mt. Carmel for welcoming The City with open arms, and he shared points from the morning’s sermon at Orchard Hill regarding blessing a broken world by turning our face toward people, offering grace, and bringing peace.

Police Chief Dan Trelka talked about our common enemy, Satan, who is hard at work in our community, nation, and world seeking to devour, divide, and destroy.   He addressed the crowd saying, “Well, we’re making Satan mad today.”  

Councilman Quentin Hart spoke to the congregation and reminded them that just as Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a day when his children wouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin, he reminded the congregation that neither do people want to be judged by the color of their uniform.

Reverend Whitfield invited Mayor Clark, Councilman Hart, and Chief Trelka, along with other officers and family members, to the front.  Deacons gathered around them, and the pastor prayed over them. 

Some of the officers left after that because they were on duty, but a few others stayed, and at one point in the morning, a deacon stood up, and spoke a powerful word to the officers remaining.  He talked about his favorite movie “Avatar”, and he looked intently at the officers, and said, “I see you.”  “I see you.”   He was speaking beyond the physical “seeing”.  He was in essence saying, 'I see your humanity.  I see the risks you take and the sacrifices you make.   I see your wounds.  I see your strength.  I see you.'

Whitfield used his message to communicate a strong both/and to those listening.  He discussed the reality of crime and needed accountability for criminal acts, but he also addressed a history that is littered with a long string of injustices that continue today.  He talked both of how these injustices can understandably bring people to such great anger, and yet he also talked about how Christians must respond so as not to sin in our anger.  He made three great points:

1.       He spoke about a godly anger that calls for justice but refuses to hate.  He shared from Hebrews 13:1:  Let brotherly love continue.  Whitfield talked about recognizing our differences but working from a common place…the fact that we have one common enemy and one common Savior.  If love is at work in us, we will become more sensitive to humanity, the suffering and pain, and human rights. 

2.       Reverend Whitfield’s second point:  Be careful how we respond to strangers.  We might be entertaining angels unaware.  He spoke about how we have deeply embedded stereotypes, assumptions, prejudices that often make us treat a person negatively.  We categorize people without really knowing them.  We need to be careful how we respond to strangers.   We need to respond to injustice by putting it in God’s hands and never, ever lose the capacity to love every single person. 

3.       And finally, Pastor Whitfield reminded us that we need to share the sorrow of victims.  Injustice leaves people wounded.  Can we bear the pain along with those who have been wounded?  We should galvanize our sympathy to work toward something good together.  

I was thankful Mt. Carmel friends extended an invitation to the community to worship with them yesterday, and I am grateful to have been present with them.    

Click here to read an article from our local newspaper. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

living without enemies

I recently finished the book Living without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence, written by Marcia A. Owen and Samuel Wells.  

In the recent rash of gun violence in Waterloo, and on the heels of both peaceful and violent protests across the country, this has been a timely read.  

"With senseless violence occurring throughout society, people are suffering and communities are groaning.  Fear and not knowing where to begin hold many back from doing anything.  But is "doing something" really what is most needed?

Marcia Owen and Samuel Wells tell the story of a community's journey into deeper dimensions of social engagement.  Through prayer vigils for local victims of gun violence and friendships with both victims and offenders, Owen learned that presence was precisely the opposite of violence- it was love.  Living without Enemies offers profound insights into what it takes to overcome powerlessness, transcend fear and engage in radical acceptance in our dangerous world."  

I found this a beautiful and challenging narrative of a mom who moved toward the violence in her community and discovered a love that transcends fear and death.  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

youth art team prepares for urban gallery installation

The Youth Art Team began a spring Urban Gallery project yesterday with a trip to Des Moines to learn about Public Art!

Thanks to David for giving his Saturday to lead us through the Historical Museum and help us to consider aspects of creating public art for our community.

The team stood in front of CARE, a trash receptacle that shares a message with the 6th Ave. Corridor Neighborhood.

An artist in the 6th Ave. Corridor Neighborhood encouraged the Youth Art Team to keep lifting their voices and sharing their ideas with our community.

We came home from Des Moines and met today for our first big learning and planning session.  Thanks to the Behrends Family for making team snacks and decorating them with awesome Scripture and pictures!

Heidi reminded the team what an urban gallery installation is all about.

Waterloo Historians, Bob Neymeyer and Annette Freeseman, led a tour through downtown Waterloo, sharing many interesting stories and pictures from the past.

After the downtown tour, four lifetime residents shared about their memories of Downtown.  They talked of going to the movies, shopping, and what life was like before cell phones.  They also spoke of the power of love to overcome adversity in life, how love can change even the hardest of hearts, and how love can overcome segregation and bring people together.  

Students recapped the day through sketches, lists, and sharing what stories and details had stuck with them from the tour and interviews.  
Our guests joined us in our closing prayer circle and Youth Art Team cheer.

Can't wait to see what God will inspire and create through this team, as they bring a message of hope and beauty to Downtown Waterloo.  Praying that it all points to the one who redeems and reconciles all things- Jesus!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

dietrich bonhoeffer

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's death at the hand of the Nazis.  I read the book Bonhoeffer a few years back, and his life so emboldened me.  Disciple of Jesus, Prophet, Friend.  His life in the Kingdom of God was so compelling!  Some of my favorite quotes of his...

Peacemakers will bear the cross with their Lord, for peace was made at the cross.

We pray for big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.

Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.  not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.

You can only learn obedience by obeying.

The pursuit of purity is not about the suppression of lust, but about the reorientation of one's life to a larger goal.

There can only be a community of peace when it does not rest on lies and injustice.

Jesus calls men, not to a new religion, but to life.

The church is the church only when it exists for others.

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.

Your life as a Christian should make nonbelievers question their disbelief in God.

May God in his mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may he lead us to himself.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Days for Girls

Orchard Hill Church friends recently produced reusable feminine hygiene kits for young women in Haiti so that they may continue their education and go about their lives in their community during their menstrual periods.  Orchard has a partnership with UCI in Haiti, and a team of Orchard college students will personally get to deliver these kits and provide some education with them next week.

This idea was conceived through Days for Girls, an organization that delivers washable feminine hygiene kits to girls in more than 60 countries so that they may attend school more regularly and complete more years of education.

Listening to the community and partnering to meet real felt needs!

Friday, March 6, 2015


I listened to this Rich Nathan audio teaching today while driving about town.  Loved so many points about being a both-and church.

Nathan talks about the past's Great Divorce of evangelism and social justice, and he spends time talking about the Church coming back to holistic, Biblical Christianity. He used some great examples from Scripture about the vertical and horizontal relationship of both-and.

In 1 King 18, Elijah confronted the fake prophets about idolatry (vertical sin) and then in 1 King 21, Elijah confronts King Ahab about stealing land and murdering Naboth (horizontal sin).  The prophets address idolatry and injustice.  Both-and.

In Micah 6:8, towards people we are to act justly and love mercy.  Towards God we are to walk humbly.  Both-and.

Jeremiah 19:4..  "For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods (vertical)..and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. (horizontal)"  Idolatry and injustice.  Both-and.

Love God.  Love people.  Both-and.

R. Nathan spends time talking about how great revivals and missionaries have always been about both-and, and then he finishes with two parables from the New Testament that depict the both-and nature of God's call and provision for us.

The Prodigal Son                                            The Good Samaritan

He was a victim of his own sin.                        He was a victim of the sins of others.

He modeled personal sin.                                 He modeled social sin.
God loves the lost.                                           God loves the least.
He was rescued by forgiveness.                         He was rescued by charity and justice.
Some refuse the call of evangelism.                   Some refuse the call of social justice.

The Church can offer Good News for those who are in bondage by their own sin and those who are also in bondage due to other people's sin.  Both-and.

Take a listen...he speaks well of a holistic Gospel.