Saturday, May 21, 2016

CCD Saturday: ladder down the change

Community problems run deep and wide, and I can easily find myself in meetings where the talk is about the gaping educational achievement gap for minorities, or the blight of neglected neighborhoods, or the increase in gun violence, the need for employment opportunities, or the work for more temporary shelters and affordable housing. These ARE all significant problems to solve together toward a healthier community, but Saturday reminded me that while strategizing and mobilizing for the Biggies, we can also ladder our way down to some very simple ways to build community and care about our neighborhoods.  

Saturday's 2nd annual Zinnia Blast found neighbors rallying around pink and purple and orange annual flowers that will adorn several corners of the Walnut Neighborhood and will brighten the front steps and porches of several neighbors.  After four hours of visiting and working side by side with neighbors, it was apparent that the small act of planting flowers and beautifying the neighborhood can have a BIG affect...helping neighbors come to know neighbors, strengthening neighborhood through collective action, and beautifying an area with the bright and bold colors of summer.  

Jesus was all about the power of the small.  While coming to save humanity through the big work on the cross, he also demonstrated the power of the small through a conversation at the well with a Samaritan woman, through inviting children to gather around him, through making breakfast for his friends on the beach.  

In the midst of working toward big systemic change, we cannot forget the need to ladder down the change with very tangible, very concrete small acts of love that turn out to be not so small after all.

Friday, May 20, 2016

keep showing up

A large part of Christian Community Development is found in the "keep showing up".  A great example of this is found in a small group from Orchard Hill Church who befriended Jack, a Walnut neighbor who was in need of some assistance a few years back. Their friendship has been mutually transformative in so many ways   Through committed presence and listening deeply to one another's lives, a small band of friends have become family.  Here's just a sampling of how Jesus and the Good News of the Kingdom of God have become visible...

*Celebrating Jack's 73rd birthday last week with a living room, a loving room, full of family and friends.
*This group of friends have walked with Jack through neck surgery, through rehab at a local care facility, through advocacy for in-home healthcare, through doing the required work to get an awesome powered wheelchair, through doing the work together that was required for Jack's house to get an outdoor makeover by Habitat for Humanity.  And so. much. more.
*Jack saw the Gospel being lived out in this group, and dialogue about Jesus and finding life in Jesus pursued.  Jack made a decision for Christ, and is learning what it means to put his trust in the Lord.
*Not only has this group taken Jack out to concerts and for dinner, but yesterday, they were able to organize the logistics to get Jack's older sister to Jack's house for his birthday.  I do not believe that Shirley had been inside Jack's home for many years.  In the picture below, you can see her listening to Jack play one of his many treasured guitars.

As this group kept showing up, they moved from service through a mission motivation to service through a friendship motivation. 

 John 15:15  Jesus talks about no longer servants, but friends.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

butterflies, God's Kingdom, and a great big party

It is great to be able to connect good and beautiful action in our community with the Source of such goodness and beauty.  In my work with the Youth Art Team over the past six years, I so often experience and desire to point to Jesus, His character, and the values of His Kingdom that I experience in the midst of the Youth Art Team's work.  

Through the latest Urban Intervention project of creating 53 butterflies together, I saw hope, beauty, invitation, empowerment, bridge-building across divides, the value of a child's voice and gifts, creativity, and care for all people and the whole of our community.  These all speak of the nature of Jesus, and just as Christ is God's wonderful intervention into our world, the Youth Art Team's butterfly sculptures have been a wonderful intervention into our community.  

We'd love for you to help us celebrate God's gift of our young people and their amazing voice in our community through their artwork.  We'd love for you to help us celebrate this good and beautiful God who invites us into His restoring work through Jesus.  See the event information below.  

 Orchard Hill Church's chuckwagon will be serving walking tacos, fruit, cookies/bars, and homemade rootbeer!  Bring your families!

When: Monday, May, 23 | 4:30-6:00 p.m.
The team has another surprise planned that will include the community and take place at the event between 5:00-5:30 p.m. If you can only make it for a short time, we hope you can make it for these 30 minutes!

Where: At the butterflies!
Currently located along Logan Ave. in front of George Washington Carver Academy in Waterloo (1505 Logan Ave). Just south of Allen Hospital.  

Who: Everyone is invited!
Youth Art Team will provide food and games. Kid friendly, free and open to the public.

Facebook event 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 3 What Jesus Knew: Our God-bathed World (pp. 61-64)

This chapter of Willard's book rocks my thinking in the best way.  The deeper I walk into injustice and brokenness in ourselves and our world, the easier it is for my thoughts to land in darkness, depravity, and the despair found in the depth of the stubborn problems that exist in our community and world.  

These quotes from chapter 3 remind me of the beauty, life, love, hope, and joy that IS God and His Kingdom!

"Jesus' good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live.  To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world."  

"It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it."  

"Central to the understanding and proclamation of the Christian gospel today, as in Jesus's day, is a re-visioning of what God's own life is like and how the physical cosmos fits into it.  It is a great and important task to come to terms with what God's own life is like and how the physical cosmos fits into it.  It is a great and important task to come to terms with what we really think when we think of God.  Most hindrances to the faith of Christ actually lie, I believe, in this part of our minds and souls."

"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that He is full of joy.  Undoubtedly, he is the most joyous being in the universe.  The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy.  All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness."  

"We treasure our great experiences for a lifetime, and we may have very few of them.  But he is simply one great inexhaustible and eternal experience of all this is good and true and beautiful and right."

"One of the most outstanding features of Jesus' personality was precisely an abundance of joy.  This he left as an inheritance to his students, 'that their joy might be full.' (John 15:11)  And they did not say, 'Pass the aspirin,' for he was well known to those around him as a happy man.  It is deeply illuminating of kingdom living to understand that his steady happiness was not ruled out by his experience of sorrow and even grief."

"So we must understand that God does not 'love' us without liking us-through gritted teeth-as 'Christian' love is sometimes thought to do.  Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it.  The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures i the natural outflow of what he is to the core-which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word love."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

rooted in character

A ministry partner from Mozambique was visiting our community a few months ago for the wedding of a mutual friend of ours.  We were having a conversation about leadership and the world stage. He spoke about how there is a worldwide character crisis happening among leadership and politics today. He is seeing repeatedly the election of leaders who have weak character and little integrity.  

I've been reflecting on that conversation and asking myself, "Why, when good character is a fundamental for good leadership, are we so easily duped and willing to compromise character? What do we believe we will gain from electing a leader who has poor character?" 

What are we seeking that we believe is more important than character?  

I believe I will keep following after the Leader whom I desire will teach and shape me...

Colossians 3:12-17New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 2 Gospels of Sin Management (pp.55-59)

Toward the Integration of Life and Faith

"And so we have the result noted:  the resources of God's kingdom remain detached from human life.  There is no gospel for human life and Christian discipleship, just one for death or one for social action. The souls of human beings are left to shrivel and die on the plains of life because they are not introduced into the environment for which they were made, the living kingdom of eternal life."

"To counteract this we must develop a straightforward presentation, in word and life, of the reality of life now under God's rule, through reliance upon the word and person of Jesus.  In this way we can naturally become his students or apprentices.  We can learn from him how to live our lives as he would live them as if he were we. We can enter his eternal kind of life now."  

Monday, May 9, 2016

richard rohr on contemplation AND action

A friend turned me on to Richard Rohr's daily meditations, and I have been loving them this year.   Sample below.  You can subscribe here.

Action and Contemplation:
Week 1
Alternative Consciousness
Monday, May 9, 2016
I often use this line, a paraphrase of Albert Einstein: "No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that caused it." Unfortunately, we have been trying to solve almost all our problems with the very same mind that caused them, which is the calculating or dualistic mind. This egocentric mind usually reads everything in terms of short-term effect, in terms of what's in it for me and how I can look good. As long as you read reality from that small self, you're not going to see things in any new way. All the great religions taught a different way of seeing, a different perspective. This alternative vantage point is the contemplative or non-dual mind. It is what we usually mean by wisdom.
The word contemplation has ancient roots, but for a long time it was not taught much in the Western church. Contemplation was finally rediscovered again through Thomas Merton's writings in the 1950s and 60s. What is contemplation? Simply put, contemplation is entering a deeper silence and letting go of our habitual thoughts, sensations, and feelings. You may know contemplation by another name. Many religions use the word meditation. Christians often use the word prayer. But for many in the West, prayer has come to mean something functional, something you do to achieve a desired effect, which puts you back in charge. Prayers of petition aren't all bad, but they don't really lead to a new state of being or consciousness. The same old consciousness is self-centered: How can I get God to do what I want God to do? This kind of prayer allows you to remain an untransformed, egocentric person who is just trying to manipulate God.
That's one reason why religion is in such desperate straits today: it isn't really transforming people. It's merely giving people some pious and religious ways to again be in charge and in control. It's still the same small self or what Merton called the false self. Mature, authentic spirituality calls us into experiences and teachings that open us to an actual transformation of consciousness (Romans 12:2). I think some form of contemplative practice is necessary to be able to detach from your own agenda, your own anger, your own ego, and your own fear. We need some practice that touches our unconscious conditioning where all our wounds and defense mechanisms lie. That's the only way we can be changed at any significant or lasting level.
For a full lifestyle change, I believe we need both action and contemplation. The state of the communal soul is the state of the social order. As Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith puts it, "The world cannot be changed by love to become just unless we are changed by love to become whole, but we cannot be made whole without engaging in the work of making the world whole. Personal transformation and social transformation are one piece." [1]