Sunday, August 16, 2015

reneighboring

Bob Lupton believes strongly that you can't serve a neighborhood out of poverty.  Here's two excerpts from Lupton's new book, Charity Detox:

"Programs don't fix communities; they can't.  They may genuinely help some individuals (often by enabling those individuals to escape the neighborhood), but they don't bring about fundamental community change.  Only neighbors can do that.  Neighbors, after all, are the building blocks of every neighborhood.  When programs empower the best and the brightest neighbors to move out, they unintentionally weaken the community.  'The only way to change a neighborhood,' I told him, 'is through reneighboring.'  It was not the answer he was expecting, but it was the only solution I knew to address the heart of the issue. Without connected, involved, resourced neighbors, no neighborhood can thrive. Without a transfusion of new blood, troubled communities will continue to deteriorate as the capable exit in pursuit of better opportunities.  An infusion of new life, rich with creativity, teeming with fresh ideas and energy, abundant with capacity- this is what invigorates a community.  These nonmonetary riches spawn hope among discouraged residents, giving them a reason to stay. The very presence of vested neighbors committed to ridding their streets of drugs, improving educational opportunities, and restoring homes ignites hope and kindles visions of what the community could become.  Thus a vested citizenship becomes the catalyst for transformation from within."  

"When intelligent minds join with sensitive hearts to devise sound strategies for economically viable community development, foundations for shalom are laid.  And when new, energetic neighbors join in community life with those who have endured long years of hardship, opportunity for the dreamed-of 'beloved community' is within reach."  


the open table fellowship of Jesus



Jesus often used meals around a table to share Kingdom truths.  He often "turned the tables" on societal rules and rituals regarding who was invited to the meal, where they would sit, who could eat together, and who was to be honored.  Mark Moore wrote a helpful two page essay on "Table Fellowship in the Gospels" found here.  

I was at Picnic in the Park today in Lincoln Park.  Looking out over a very mixed group of about 220 people eating, serving, playing, and worshiping together, I recognized that PIP gives us a glimpse of this open table fellowship that Jesus demonstrated on his travels.  My friend, Patti, calls Picnic in the Park a "classroom" to practice Kingdom neighboring and becoming more like Jesus.  

Jesus, thank you for being our host at this meal, and for welcoming ALL people to your table!  


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Global Leadership Summit 2015

Willow Creek's GLS was packed full of inspiration and training for leaders.  My co-worker and friend, Ben Patterson, takes amazing notes. And even more, he invites anyone and everyone to read them with a single click!  Did I mention that Ben takes AMAZING notes?  

If you weren't able to be at the Global Leadership Summit, you will get a serious good look at the content offered this year....

BEN'S AMAZING SUMMIT NOTES

Saturday, August 1, 2015

needed on this journey

This was an important article for me to read this week:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-metta/i-racist_b_7770652.html


Twenty years ago, I was a youth director at a church in Waterloo, IA that sits in the very neighborhood that I believe God has called me back to join in my mid-life.  Twenty years ago, I did not have a systemic lens from which to view racism.  There was a woman in our church, Carolyn, who was passionate for racial reconciliation, and she even started a nonprofit back in the early 90's to promote racial understanding and build bridges with teenagers.  I remember she would occasionally come visit me in my office, and she would share about her work and her passion for reconciliation and justice.  I was a high school youth director, and she was looking for ways we could connect our church's high schoolers into the mission of racial reconciliation.

It's interesting what I remember from our few talks.  I remember feeling at that point in my life, that she was a bit "radical", a bit "over-the-top" on the issue.  My understanding as a 28 year old white privileged Christian was that we're just called to love one another and be kind to one another regardless of race, gender, age, socio-economics.  I did not...and maybe could not even....wrestle beyond a very simple, individualistic viewpoint.  There was not an openness, interest, readiness for me to grapple with deeper nature questions or challenges that might have helped me begin to consider life and social realities differently.  I did not feel like there was a connection or a need for our white youth group teens to engage in what Carolyn was doing.  My greatest goals as a youth director were (1) inviting students into a personal, growing relationship with Jesus  (2) building community with who showed up, and (3) helping youth serve in our church and city.  I thought those 3 goals were separate from the issues and questions that Carolyn brought up to me.  I was wrong.

These interactions with Carolyn have been important for me to remember, as I am quite certain that now I am that middle age white lady who is seen as a bit "radical" or "over-the-top" regarding race, reconciliation, justice.

It's very difficult to know how to help someone like me, with my kind of life experience, walk forward into new understanding and action.  I've often likened my own 'conversion' journey as going from a one-eyed view to a two-eyed view.  Or, I sometimes tell others that these past eight years have felt a bit like taking the red pill in the movie "The Matrix".  I know that as I attempt to speak and to share the importance of this journey with others, I have to attend to the following needs.

Needed is prayer.  Someone must have been praying for me, as I didn't have the knowledge of my one-eyed-ness or the need to see from a systemic perspective.  I believe it will have to be Christ's revelation in people's lives.  The blindness is so pervasive, and it reflects that we are dealing with incredibly stubborn powers and principalities.

Needed is conversation.  I didn't write "needed are more facebook and twitter posts".  That's not conversation. We need to elevate respectful dialogue rather than polarized, emotional responses. This new thing that God is doing will require that white people actually spend some time together with people of color and listen deeply to their stories, history, and perspectives.  Friends of color, however, remind me how painful it is to continue to share their pain and to discuss their frustration and anger with white people who generally stay pretty stuck.  I heard a friend say last week that it's not the responsibility of people of color to put their pain on the table over and over for the sake of educating white people.  White folks have to take on the responsibility of educating themselves.  This is difficult, because many people like me won't even feel compelled to read an article like the one I linked to in this post, or to pick up a book and read on the topic.  It's a maddening cycle of insanity.  I do know that I now have a responsibility to use my voice and to challenge others like me with these questions: Could there be something that people like us are not seeing, not understanding, not owning...but need to be?  And what if it does have to do with us and what if it does have everything to do with the Kingdom of God and following Jesus?

Needed is a strong Scriptural foundation.  Scripture has to be used to both understand the brokenness as well as to understand the heart of God and the vision of Christ the Reconciler who can and ultimately will make all things new.  We have to begin to unpack Scripture that addresses wordly power vs. Christ's power and addresses both personal relationship and social relationship.  And Scripture reveals the only hope that I can find in this very complex mess.

Needed is love and patience.  I know that this an unfair statement to people of color who live with oppression and injustice that affects every aspect of life. I know that I cannot even fathom from a place of my privilege how difficult it must be to love or show patience in this.  I know that I should instead write "Needed is justice.  Period."  or "Needed is a sense of urgency"...because that's true...a sense of urgency for justice is what's needed.  But I also know from my own experience, that when I personally have left love and grace and patience aside on this journey, I have harmed both others and myself and have closed the door more than opened it.  This, then, is the spiritual growth defining moment in my life...to live the way of Jesus...a life toward truth and justice and love, grace and patience right smack in the middle of the injustice and brokenness.  This was His way.  When I begin to leave love, grace, and patience out of the equation, it is often because I've forgotten my own condition...how I still see through a glass darkly...how I still have so far to travel from arrogance and ignorance toward Kingdom thinking and living.  And yet, I can trace how Christ has loved me, shown me grace and patience all while he holds out truth and freedom to me exactly where I am found at the moment.  The litmus test is the fruit of the Spirit...are joy, love, patience, goodness, gentleness, self-control, kindness, and faithfulness increasingly evident in my life as I walk with others on this journey toward just living?

Needed is joy.  A week ago, CCDA's Wayne Gordon addressed a cohort that I'm a part of, telling us to "not take ourselves too seriously."  "you're not important as you think you are."  "you're too serious..have fun."  Though seeking racial reconciliation and justice is the narrow way, I have to remember that there is One who is able; who is Victor.  Joy reminds me that He gives bright spots and good gifts on the journey, and I should receive them and live with joy and gratitude.

Needed are heroes.  There are many saints and heroes that God provides along the way from whom I can learn and gain courage.  Audrey Dubose, Judy Scott, the Emanuel AME families who are speaking the Word of God and choosing love and forgiveness as they bury their loved ones. My community's black leaders who organized seven Jericho prayer marches around our city this Spring and who work tirelessly to bring learning opportunities before our community.  My friends who pastor a small hispanic church in our community and who faithfully serve a congregation that has many daily struggles.  My dear friends at Harvest Vineyard who are in the thick of the challenges present in a multi-ethnic church.  There are many local and national voices who are writing books and articles, speaking, marching, organizing.  I am inspired by their God-given courage and strength, and I am grateful for their lives, writing, teaching, challenges, and persevering spirit to see God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Needed are friends.  Lastly, I am so grateful for the Christian community; so grateful that we don't travel alone.   God has faithfully placed friends in my life who are traveling along the same path. Some are further ahead of me, some are at my side, and some are a bit behind me on the road.  I know that I have more to meet, and I am so glad for this companionship!!




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

making access and power part of the conversation

Last week I was away with a group that spent quite a lot of time in conversation learning about one another's lives and considering the work of reconciliation and justice together.  We were a mixed group of black, brown, and white friends, and I heard one member of the group talk about our need to name and unpack white privilege in our conversations.

After the group dispersed, and I was alone with my roommate that evening, I asked this black friend, "Will you help me know more specifically what you'd like someone like me to do with my white privilege?" This friend graciously shared with me that she'd hope that I would use it to give access to those who do not have equal access to things such as education, jobs, housing, healthcare, and more. She spoke plainly and clearly about power dynamics and using white privilege to work consciously and intentionally toward a sharing of power, a transfer of power so that we might begin to see something other than the power scenarios that seem to replay over and over within the dominant culture.

This was not new information for me, but after this particular conversation, I began to examine very concrete behavior and activity in and around my life and asked the question, "Am I (are we) using privilege to give others access, to help open blocked pathways for others to use their gifts and pursue their God-given potential?" "Do I see evidence of shared power or power shifts?"

Though not enough of this is happening across our country, I do see some examples of this happening around me at micro and macro levels...examples that are not paternalistic...many through the lives of friends and community who are inspiring to me.

One example is BASIC college ministry and employees at Sidecar Coffee who came alongside friends in Jamaica to start up a business called  Deaf Can! Coffee.




I am currently reading Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like if we Cared about Results, Bob Lupton's newest book.  Lupton talks a lot about using power and privilege in the marketplace to help lift people out of poverty through employment.  It's a worthwhile read!

Monday, July 20, 2015

from popularity to ministry

"We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life.  We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God." 

-Henri M. Nouwen

Saturday, July 18, 2015

making housing happen

It's difficult for neglected neighborhoods to revitalize without addressing housing. Waterloo's Walnut Neighborhood, once an area of beautiful turn of the century homes, has seen blight and demolition and a lot of stress on the aging homes that remain standing.  For eight years now, a small group of us has been praying weekly for.....

1. physical, spiritual, and social transformation in the neighborhood.

2. that God would bring a developer with a business mind and a Jesus heart so that we might have revitalization in the neighborhood without harming or leaving out those with lesser income means. Gentrification brings eye appeal, it renews and brings economic turn around... but does it change the social fabric and the segregation patterns that exist?   When gentrification and justice and reconciliation are addressed together, there is hope for beautiful new creation at so many levels!

3. that there would be increased opportunity for affordable home ownership in the neighborhood.  More home ownership leads to more stabilized and flourishing neighborhoods.

4. that a group of strategic neighbors would form...both relocators and remainers...who would build community, be involved in good neighboring, and lift up the voices and the assets of the neighborhood...all in the name of Jesus who is the Reconciler of all things.   

Though we haven't found developers who have mixed-income or reconciliation on their minds, God has been faithful to make some housing happen.  Homeowners and landlords have been involved in slowly but surely fixing up houses over the last few years.  Over the past two years, we've seen several houses being sided and roofed in the neighborhood.  We're grateful for this trend, and we recognize God's faithfulness, timing, and mysterious ways in the midst of it.   There are a few houses and open lots available in the neighborhood right now for those whom God might be nudging!

The latest house in Walnut to get a new exterior.