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,


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.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

Before I begin to read and wrestle through chapter 5 of the Divine Conspiracy, I wanted to share a teaching from Karla Chestnut who did a great job interpreting content from Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy.  Watch this excellent teaching if you have a chance!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Daniel Hill

Daniel Hill (Twitter: @danielhill1336) is pastor at River City Community Church located in Chicago, IL.  He is a white man who used to work at Willow Creek Community Church, and while there, he developed a passion for racial reconciliation.  Nancy Ortberg was his supervisor, and she encouraged him to go into the city and develop a multi-ethnic community of faith.  

Daniel shared his journey over the past fifteen years.  His journey early on was driven by the question, "What do I do with privilege?" but has since changed to "How can I learn to see?"  

Daniel did an outstanding job sharing from his narrative.  He shared the verse in John chapter 3 about Nicodemus visiting Jesus, and Jesus saying to Nicodemus, "No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again."  This implied that Nicodemus was blind and could not rightly see.

The question that initially began to guide Daniel changed from "What do I do with privilege?" to "Can I see?"  And the answer he found was, "No, I cannot see."  Therefore, new questions led him forward....

"Can I embrace the fact that I cannot see?"
"What will I do about this blindness?"

Hill challenged his white listeners to address these blinders that privilege has put on our eyes.  To start with the question, "How can I learn to see?" rather than to start with "What can I do?"  

He challenged us to not be satisfied or think that we mostly know. We don't know.  We must acknowledge our blindness because to be white is to be unexposed to so many realities.   He also challenged us to not get caught in sincerity or intention.  The conversation is more complicated than that. 

Hill spoke to white brothers and sisters, charging them to take responsibility for educating themselves...reading books, reading theologians outside of European descent, going to lectures and discussions, committing to proximity, presence, and powerlessness.

Though individual commitment to listen and learn is necessary, Hill also shared that wrestling with privilege will take community and will need to be done with brothers and sisters who are on the margins.  Daniel shared how critical friends of color have been in his life....including Brenda Salter McNeil who has been an influential mentor.  Hill also sited two biblical stories...God's word to Cornelius to receive and help Peter learn to "see."  And God's word to Ananias to receive and help Saul/Paul see after being blinded.  Hill asked people of color to not give up on white people, though he acknowledged the depth of pain and risk involved for them in this request.  

Hearing the pain in our emcee's voice, Erna, after Hill spoke, was certainly a moment for me.  She walked on stage after Hill spoke. As a Korean-American woman, she came to the microphone with emotion and honesty and shared how difficult it is and how she's not sure she's ready to receive and help white people learn to see.  That moment pierced me with an awareness of a depth of the harm and a depth of pain in our friends of color and the depth of ignorance and arrogance that reside in me....far deeper than I currently know or can see.  

Daniel's message was a critical one for me.  "Can I embrace the fact that I cannot see?"  God, beyond sincerity and intention, help me confront my blindness and give me sight.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sandra Van Opstal

I am still going to spend some time on this blog sharing notes and impressions from speakers I heard at the CCDA conference in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.  

Sandra Van Opstal brought the conference worship band together, and they were amazing at leading us in praise and worship through the plenary sessions.  In one session, after a time of worship, Sandra stopped and shared about the importance of the diversity we saw on the stage.

1.  This diversity speaks, "We welcome you.  We've been expecting you." Diversity extends a hand and is about hospitality.  

2.  This diversity speaks, "I see you.  I hear you."  It is a stand of solidarity.  

3.  This diversity speaks, "I want to learn your story.  I need you."  This diversity is about mutuality, and how our view and understanding of God and neighbor and self is dependent on knowing others who are different from us.  

Sandra then went on to introduce the bass player who was a young man from Syria.  He shared briefly a powerful story of his friend, a Christian doctor, who was kidnapped, along with 250 Christians, by ISIS.  He watched on youtube as his friend spoke into the camera before being executed by ISIS.  It was such a moving story, and this young man then began to teach us a familiar chorus in Arabic.  I felt drawn in together with the global family of Jesus.  I felt drawn up together into the heart of God and his love for all people across the world.  

Sandra has written a book called The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World.  (InterVarsity Press)  

She believes every church should be singing songs in other languages as a discipline to stand with the global Church.  

If you are in a predominately homogeneous congregation, here are a few questions to reflect upon...

1. How are you preparing for diversity in your congregation?
2. How is your congregation growing in multi-cultural awareness and intelligence?
3. How are you moving toward a global, multi-ethnic church that reflects and celebrates your community's make up and also guards against assimilation into the current dominate, homogeneous culture of your church?  
4. Why might God desire your church to be a unified yet diverse community of faith?