Sunday, November 27, 2016

the right to vote

I can't stop thinking about my neighbor.  She's an 83 year old African-American wonder who spent many hours this fall going to  high schools in order to help 18 year olds register to vote.  Then, on Election Day, she spent the day at local hospitals giving voting access to people who had been hospitalized within 48 hours of November 8.

I was marveling at her commitment the other day, and I decided to go back and look at a bit of history. In Divided by Faith, I read about the Reconstruction Period 1865-1877.  Four millions former slaves were now "freed" but owned no land and were living without much for resources or educational experience.  Many white folks were angry with the abolishment of slavery, and a new type of oppression emerged- sharecropping.  Still, with that all of that being true, this was happening:

"Blacks and whites were seen going to school together, and even in politics together.  As northern reporter James S. Pike reported on his visit to the South Carolina House of Representatives: 'The Speaker is black, the clerk is black, the doorkeepers are black, the little pages are black, the chairman of the Ways and Means is black, and the chaplain is coal black.'  This was a shock to white southerners, and northerners too.  After hundreds of years of white domination, suddenly, within just a few short years, former slaves were holding seats of power.

In addition to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, African Americans in the South were able to capitalize on their numbers.  According to the 1860 census, African Americans constituted 35 percent of Virginia's population, 36 percent of North Carolina's, 44 percent of Georgia's, 45 percent of Florida's and Alabama's, 50 percent of Louisiana's, 55 percent of Mississippi's, and 59 percent of South Carolina's.  Assuming voting along racial lines, those proportions made winning elections not only possible, but likely.

All this was too threatening for most white southerners, and for many white northerners as well. They feared for their way of life, their sense of group position, and their vision of a Christian America, which, as the leading evangelical social reformer of the time, northerner Josiah Strong, clearly expressed, was to be an Anglo-Saxon society.  The former slaves were not properly Christianized nor educated to be holding elected offices and running the nation.  More directly, the economic and cultural threat of the African Americans was very real, and southerners responded by instituting the increasingly harsh realities of the now well-known Jim Crow laws, designed to separate blacks from whites and subjugate blacks in social and economic life."

I spent some time the other night trying to answer questions to a sample literacy test found here that was used to turn away African Americans from their right to vote during the Jim Crow era.  I, of course, failed big time.  And, I considered deeply how the Voting Rights Act wasn't signed until the year I was born, 1965.  Crazy.  Unjust.  Not okay.  

This to say, that I've been impacted this year in a way I had not been before regarding the privilege and right to vote and the struggle for so many in what I have previously taken for granted.  I so appreciate my neighbor's commitment and what she's shown me this year through her tireless work to honor those who have struggled before her and to use her voice to help others use their voice.  She makes me want to fight the good fight alongside her.   Thank you, W.M.W.  Your faith in Jesus, your life, and your commitment to justice work makes our community a better place.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Dakota 38



The power of a story.  I got up early this morning to watch Dakota 38 (1 hour, 18 minutes) .  In my opinion, it's a must see.  

*I need to look at real history.
*I need to grow understanding.
*I need to grow empathy.
*I need to learn stories of healing and reconciliation for my own heart's journey of healing and reconciliation.
*I need to feel with and pray for Native brothers and sisters whose land is still being threatened. (ie: Standing Rock, North Dakota)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

a different story

Over the past month, I have worked with a handful of individuals who are seeking to understand the mission and vision of Link and its initiatives.  I am finding that people have a common story in their mind that needs to be challenged. 

We white American Christians have developed a storyline that lives deep in us regarding mission and community transformation.  It's a story that usually reads something like "Resourced church starts program to help poor children get out of poverty."  That is not our story.  Certainly, Link’s goals include working to help people overcome material poverty, but just as important is the goal for people like me to overcome spiritual and relational poverty due to my neglect of justice and the sin effects of segregation.  

Link is a story of building a community together where all people and gifts are valued, where we each give and we each receive so that we might all experience more of the fullness of life that Jesus promises.  I am finding that regardless of our race or class, we have all been damaged by racism and classism, and we need healing. 

I think the hardest page for folks to turn in this uncommon story is the pressing need for people like me to engage with the marginalized and the poor not because of what we have to offer them, but because of what they have to offer us for our own development.  

The bottom line of Link is relationship.  Jesus the Reconciler offers to make us right with God and with one another. If we can begin to live in the power of Christ as neighbors and friends across lines of separation, then I believe our worldly power structures could begin to reorder so that our caring and sharing together might just produce a model that looks like reconciliation and justice….that looks like Jesus.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Merton's letter to a young activist

Thomas Merton: A letter to a Young Activist
Letter to a Young Activist     

“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.

The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.
The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth: and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration and confusion.
The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it before hand”.
Enough of this…it is at least a gesture…I will keep you in my prayers.

All the best, in Christ,

Tom

Friday, September 30, 2016

Lina Thompson



Lina Thompson is a pastor in a Presbyterian church in the Northwest.  She spoke at the CCDA conference in LA last month.  Her message was so amazing, yet difficult to capture in a summary.

Thompson, like Daniel Hill, spoke about how we see. How do we see Jesus?  How do we view following Jesus?  We will always disciple from a vision.  What vision do you have?

So often, Christians tend to operate from a vision of power and a big win.  But when Christ said, "follow me, " he was heading to suffering, pain, to the cross.

What is the vision of Jesus you are painting to people?  Is it compelling?  Is it a vision people want to give their lives to?

Thompson also had a few other sticky points...

*"We can have the right answer but the wrong practice."

*"Grace is like water.  It flows downhill and pools in the lowest places."

*Thompson also compared classical and jazz music to a classical and jazz theology.


Thompson said that we've been about classical in the Church for some time, but it's time for jazz.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wayne Gordon

Coach Gordon and John Perkins shared a Bible Study with us each morning of the CCDA conference in LA.  One morning, Coach shared Proverbs 3:5-6, a familiar verse to many:  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.


He then went on to talk about a friend, Darryl Saffold, who, 15 years ago, came to Hope House in Lawndale as an addict.  After getting clean, he married, he went to seminary and got his masters of divinity, he went back to get a doctorate in Christian Community Development and his DMin.  He was executive pastor at Lawndale, the chairman of the Board for their community development corporation, and Coach Gordon was sensing and planning that Darryl was God's succession plan for Lawndale's leadership as Coach prepares to pass the baton and retire.  

Then, Darryl died at age 49 of a massive heart attack in June.

Coach shared about going to Darryl and Julie's house. Coach got there as the paramedics stopped working on Darryl, and he prayed and prayed for God to revive Darryl's life. Darryl did not come back to life on this side.  

What do you do when you are trusting God, you believe He's directing your path in a certain direction, and then it doesn't go that way?

This was Gordon's question to us that morning. Where is our trust when it doesn't go the way we were so sure it was supposed to go? Can we still trust God?  

The truth in these hard and confusing circumstances is that God is still God.  And if we're honest, we don't really know what we're doing or what is going to happen.  But can we walk by faith and not by sight? Can we still put our trust in a sovereign and good God?  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and HE will make straight your paths. 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Christ the sure foundation.  He, through faith, is our only certain future.    



Friday, September 23, 2016

Noel Castellanos

Noel started off the National CCDA conference by showing us the video below:




Prior to the conference start in Los Angeles, about 150 people participated in El Camino, a 150 mile, 11 day pilgrimage from the Mexico/U.S. border into the conference in LA.   (70 people went the whole way)

Noel used the metaphor of pilgrimage/El Camino to talk about our walk of faith.

Proverbs 8:20  I walk in the way of righteousness along the paths of justice.

1.  The camino is hard.  For the CCD practitioner, the way is difficult personally, relationally, every way.  

2.  The camino is not meant to be walked alone.  The very character of God is that He is a communal God.  We must go out and walk with people.  Everyone on the camino is in pain and suffering.  The camino requires grace for the journey.

3.  The camino is transformative.  The group of walkers thought they were walking to change immigration.  You know what?  God changed their hearts.  Transformation does not happen through power; it happens through pain.  

The road is built as we walk.  That we would walk together for love, for reconciliation, for the glory of God.