Saturday, July 31, 2010

classic Saturday

Beware. The following devotion is not a common teaching among the Church today. Benedict of Nursia (480-543), known for his writing of The Rule, gives feel good spirituality a 1,2 punch in his Call to Ascend the Ladder of Humility.

Step 1: Reverence for God
"The first step of humility is to have a constant reverence for God before our eyes. We must shun our tendency of forgetfulness and be always mindful of God's commands. Consider in your mind how those who despise God will burn in hell for their sin, and that life everlasting is prepared for those who have reverence for God."
Step 2: Doing God's Will
Step 3: Obedience to Others
Step 4: Enduring Affliction
Step 5: Confession
Step 6: Contentment
.."We are to be content with the meanest and worst of everything. In all things we must be mindful of our lowliness, considering ourselves to be lowly and meek, knowing that though we have nothing in this life, the Lord is always present with us."
Step 7: Self-Reproach
"The seventh step of humility is when we declare with our tongue and believe in our inmost soul that we are the lowliest and vilest of all, humbling ourselves and saying with the Psalmist, 'But I am a worm, and I am the reproach of all, the outcast of the people.' The Scriptures teach us that it is good to be humbled so that we may learn God's commandments."
Step 8: Obeying the Common Rule
Step 9: Silence
"Withhold our tongue from speaking, keeping silence until we are asked. The Scriptures teach us that 'in the multitude of words there comes sin.' And further, 'A person full of speaking is not established in the earth.'"
Step 10: Seriousness
"The tenth degree of humility is when we are not easily provoked to laughter. For the Scriptures remind us, 'The fool exalts his voice in laughter.'"
Step 11: Simple Speech
"Speak with few and sensible words. We are to speak gently and not with a loud voice. Again, the Scriptures teach us, 'The wise man is known by the fewness of his words.'"
Step 12: Humble in Appearance

As you can see by a few of the steps that I spelled out, Benedict meant to do serious business with our prideful nature. Consider one relationship or circumstance in your life where you battle with a hard heart...with pride...with your ego. Consider entering into a time of prayer and reflection using these steps to allow God to soften and humble your heart in this area of your life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

the Church is not a building

This week, my daughter and I were in Grimes, IA, to visit my mom-in-law for her birthday. We went to a quaint little business in Grimes called the Gortz House. It is a gift shop and restaurant, coffee and flower shop, and they specialize as consultants in wedding planning and home interior decorating. The Gortz House is a unique and beautiful little place, and what's more, it is located inside an old church building right there on the main drag. As I walked through what used to be the sanctuary and the church offices, I was reminded very tangibly that the Church is not a what but a who. Not a place but a people. This building's purpose has changed throughout the years, but as the people of God in Christ, may our purpose never change from that of living to glorify God and be about His will and work on earth.

kid on mission

For the past three years, our family has sponsored a young girl named Maria in Mozambique, and a two boys, Darlin and Mercideau, for even longer in Haiti. We sponsor them through our church which has an ongoing relationship and partnership with ministries in both countries. Our kids very regularly pray for and talk about our three sponsored children, and we also get to see pictures and hear stories from teams from church who head to Haiti and Mozambique annually to nurture those partnerships.

Over the past three to four years, I've dreamed of taking our children to both Haiti and Moz before they leave home someday. I considered the Haiti trip when they are 7th or 8th grade, and the Moz trip in high school. Now that our kids are entering 6th grade, I began to more seriously consider what that will take to accomplish such trips. Cha-ching. It will take lots of cash, so last week, while the boys were riding their bikes across the state on RAGBRAI, I mentioned to Sara that maybe, due to the cost, Nathan should go to Haiti in junior high, and Sara to Moz in high school.

Sara's response: No way. She vowed to help pay a big part of her way there, and got busy painting magnets to sell the first day. Within 12 hours of the comment, she had sold three magnets and pursued the idea of selling some of her wares at a local coffeeshop. The following day, as we cheered the RAGBRAI riders into Waterloo, she sold ice cold lemonade and giant homemade rice krispie bars in the driveway of a friend who lived along this year's RAGBRAI route. Along with her price signs, she wrote a "Help me get to Haiti" sign, which attracted conversation and some generous tips.

This morning, we're heading to the bank to open a "Sara's Haiti fund" account. Her passion is contagious, and she's ignited a sense of focus and commitment, that God-willing, may end up helping our entire family of four get to Haiti in a couple of years.

urban-suburban lesson 2

Lesson #2

Do not make a blanket statement about a community.

I was at a meeting last month in Waterloo, and one topic of conversation was how to change the perception people have of Waterloo. Just recently, an out of town sports team had called the downtown Ramada to cancel 46 rooms because a friend had told the coach that their team shouldn’t stay in Waterloo due to the danger of the city. The team re-booked a hotel in Waverly.

I was at a party the other night when I listened to someone at our table tell the rest of those seated at our table that essentially nothing but bad happens in Waterloo.

These are blanket statements and stereotypes. They ignore the assets of a community. Is there crime that occurs in the city? Yes. Does it pervade and define the whole city? No. From East Waterloo to West Waterloo, there are amazing people with amazing gifts and talents, many who are contributing in positive ways, many who desire a healthy and thriving community.

I’ve also heard another blanket statement from time to time. “People who live in Cedar Falls are snobs.” Are there snobby people in Cedar Falls? I’d guess there are some in every city. Do they pervade and define a whole city? No.

Blanket stereotypes are not helpful as we seek to grow a more unified, reconciled community. Perhaps identifying, concentrating on, and celebrating the bright spots (assets) in both adjoining communities will help to bring about a healthier perception of the entire Cedar Valley. What bright spots do you recognize?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

urban-suburban lesson 1

I am a white female who, apart from attending church in a downtown Waterloo location while growing up, has lived an upper-middle class suburban lifestyle. As God has been leading me into the urban environment over the past years, I am learning some lessons that I should probably share with others in case they are lessons for you as well. Maybe you’ll have some of your own to share.

Lesson #1

My white, American, suburban context and lens affects the way I think about everything.

One of the CCDA core values is “listening to the community”. I thought I was “getting” that, but there came a moment a few years ago that was a big AHA moment for me. I was in a van heading to a ccda conference, and I sat and listened for over an hour to two young black men talk about what it is like to be black males, the obstacles that black males face, how the past has influenced the present, and how finding their identity in Christ has been so key in their lives. As I listened, some deeper layers in me began to be impacted in ways that had never before happened. Maybe it was because of the depth of their honesty and sharing, but something profound moved in me that day. I realized for the first time how much I had been trying to “listen” but had been running everything through my own lens and context. How much had I been “listening” but not really seeking understanding?

The United States is changing in demographics. I recently read an article in a newspaper that talked about how minorities are increasingly going to make up the majority of our population. I have to be keenly aware of my own worldview...a worldview that is deeply engrained and involves privilege and dominance.... and I have to increasingly pray that God changes my worldview to His worldview.

p.s. Soong-Chan Rah's plenary talk at the ccda conference later that week drove this lesson home for me. You can listen to it at: You just have to fast forward several minutes into the audio to the place where he speaks.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


As we partner with Harvest, and as we come to know a lot of folks who live in poverty, we find that a great need for these friends is employment. We also know employers who have entry level jobs available, but they have trouble finding solid, reliable employees who have the characteristics needed to retain the job. How can we work together to bring about solutions for both parties?

Jobs for Life ( is a job training program that is currently used in 177 sites around the U.S. The 8 week course focuses more on character issues than skill building. Many employers report that they can teach skills, but they need to have employees who demonstrate character. So, topics in the course include:

attitude, respect for authority, conflict resolution, taking responsibility, teamwork, perseverance, effective communication, integrity, etc...

Harvest and Orchard are teaming up to offer a Jobs for Life program in our community. One of the aspects I really like about JFL, is that the program is bathed in prayer and taught from a biblical perspective of work. I also love that each student has a "Champion", or mentor, who walks with that student through the course and through the following year in the workplace. Another great foundational piece to JFL is that there is a business relations person on the core team who acts as an ambassador and works to share the mission of JFL with the business community.

Brian and George, friends who are passionate and called to this ministry, are preparing Jobs for Life to launch its first class in the months ahead. I'm prayerful and excited about how God might use this program to help people take steps toward Jesus, toward responsible living, and toward growth in Christian community for all involved.

classic Saturday

By the time Frenchman Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was 31 years old, he was well known for his contributions to math and science. However, it was also at this age that he visited his sister who lived in a religious community, and he had a profound experience with Christ. He lived six years in that community, and while there wrote thoughts that were later gathered up to become the book Pensees. Pascal died at the young age of 39. Below is a short piece from his writing.

Such amazing contradictions

"Our greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in us some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness. It must also account for such amazing contradictions.

To make us happy it must show us that a God exists whom we are bound to love; that our only true bliss is to be in him, and our sole ill to be cut off from him. It must acknowledge that we are full of darkness which prevents us from knowing and loving him, and so, with our duty obliging us to love God and our sin leading us astray, we are full of unrighteousness.

It must account to us for the way in which we thus go against God and our own good. It must teach us the cure for our helplessness and the means of obtaining this cure. Let examine all the religions of the world at that point and let us see whether any but the Christian religion meets it."

Foster/Smith: Pascal writes, "Observe yourself, and see if you do not find the living characteristics of these two natures." In looking at your own life, how have you seen both greatness and the wretchedness, the pure and the impure, the noble and the ignoble?"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Nehemiah 5

Lessons from Nehemiah in chapter 5....

1. Nehemiah listened to the community. He heard the complaints and cries of the people.
Listening to the community is one of the core values and practices found in Christian Community Development. We must listen to the felt needs of people.

2. Nehemiah's heart was aligned with God in such a way that the injustices he heard reported from the people bothered him. "When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry."

Do the things that break God's heart, break our heart? Do they bother us? If not, why not?

3. Nehemiah advocated for the people and spoke out. He pointed out the injustice and called for justice.

Are we standing up for justice? Advocating? being a voice for the voiceless?

4. Nehemiah had credibility and trust. When the officials heard Nehemiah, they had such respect for him that they responded favorably. "We will give it back," they said. "And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say."

Nehemiah's integrity was rock solid. Are we living in such a way that our lives verify our words?

5. Nehemiah identified with the people by joining them. He did nothing for selfish gain, he sacrificed privilege and worldly power in order to identify with the people . "I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people."

How much of our privilege and power and comfort are we willing to surrender in order to join with people for the work of rebuilding our community?

6. Nehemiah kept his focus on his calling and the mission; not on self-centered ventures. "I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for work; we did not acquire any land."

What calling has God given you? What titles, possessions, privileges take your focus from the call?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Picnic in the Park (PIP)

Every first and third Sunday of the months June-October, Orchard Hill Church partners with Harvest Vineyard in their outreach called Picnic in the Park. Harvest was actually formed six years ago after several years of serving a meal and worshipping in the park on Sundays. Several folks were found regularly attending, and Judy and George Marshall, leaders at that time of Picnic in the Park, discerned that God had indeed started a church in the park.

Six years after moving into a building, Harvest continues to reach out to downtown residents with PIP. Orchard has come alongside by cooking and serving the meal, offering hospitality, and offering games for children in the park.

Each time that I am at PIP, I find Jesus in the following people and the following ways:

- the guest who is homeless and an addict (suffering and rejection)
- the person giving their testimony of new life in Christ (hope and power)
- the volunteer serving the meal (hospitality, "came not to be served but to serve")
- the person battling mental and physical health problems (hardship and perseverance)
- the children and those who play with them. (joy, love, value of a person, creativity)
- the park (beauty)
- the music and teaching (truth and devotion)

I pray that these encounters in the park will shine God's glory and that each individual present will encounter Jesus in a life-changing way at Picnic in the Park.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

justice and grace

I've been gathering thoughts from a few friends around the topic of justice. Below is a paragraph from a friend who brings up the relationship of grace and justice. I love this thought. God didn't act justly toward me; he acted in grace to bring me to a place of justice and righteousness. Shouldn't this be what moves us then? The gratitude we have to God for not getting what we deserve, for receiving what we don't deserve? Truly, it's because of my deep brokenness and sin, and God's amazing grace poured over me, that I can even reach out to others with the love and compassion and grace that God has shown me.

What's interesting to me about Ephesians is that Paul makes it pretty clear that God acted anything but justly toward us, at least in terms of the way I typically think of justice. God blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing: he made us holy and blameless in his sight, he adopted us as sons and daughters, he redeems us, forgives us, and makes known to us his will - to bring everything under Christ. And God did all this while we were sinners. We were dead and He gave us new life. We were disobedient, selfish, sin-craving objects of wrath and now we live in peace with God. We were excluded from the family, far from God, foreigners and aliens and now we are members of God's household. Is this justice? If so, there's something incredibly unjust about justice. I think Paul calls it grace. What is the role of grace in justice?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

classic Saturday

Some powerful words about self-denial in this week's devotion by John Calvin (1509-1564). It's from his Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life. Here's just one paragraph of a very rich and challenging excerpt...

Our only legitimate goal

"If we are not our own, but the Lord's, it is clear to what purpose all our deeds must be directed. We are not our own, therefore neither our reason nor our will should guide us in our thoughts and actions. We are not our own, therefore we should not seek what is only expedient to the flesh. We are not our own, therefore let us forget ourselves and our own interests as far as possible.

We are God's own; to him, therefore, let us live and die. We are God's own; therefore, let his wisdom and will dominate all our actions. We are God's own; therefore let every part of our existence be directed towards him as our only legitimate goal."

Foster..."Calvin writes about abandoning our reason in favor of following God's will. When have you experienced a clash between your reason and what you felt to be the will of God? How did you respond?

Friday, July 16, 2010

the uncomfortable Word

There is, in a word, nothing comfortable about the Bible -- until we manage to get so used to it that we make it comfortable for ourselves. But then we are perhaps too used to it and too at home in it. Let us not be too sure we know the Bible ... just because we have learned not to have problems with it. Have we perhaps learned ... not to really pay attention to it? Have we ceased to question the book and be questioned by it?

- Thomas Merton
from his book Opening the Bible

Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah 4 has one of my favorite Scriptures. In the face of opposition and persecution, the people rebuilding the wall began to speak fear and spread discouragement.

Nehemiah leads his people through prayer and perseverance. I love Nehemiah 4:14 in the Message translation.

"Don't be afraid. Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes."

Don't fear; have faith. Focus on God, not man. Remember what you are fighting for and remember that the God who calls you, will also fight for you.

Love that. We all have assignments from God that the enemy is working to take down. In what areas of your life do you most need to deal with fear through faith, focus, and perseverance?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nehemiah 3

Collaboration. Unity. I may have miscounted, but it looks like Nehemiah 3 accounts for close to 38 different groups who worked side by side to make repairs on Jerusalem's wall. To accomplish this kind of collaboration is no small feat; it certainly takes the move of God working through the gifts of a called leader.

We can hear the charge for collaboration all around us in our community. "Let's come together, let's work together, we all want the same thing." In your opinion, why doesn't this plea to unify often work? What "ingredients" are imperative for effective collaboration and the building of unity? I think the book of Nehemiah offers insights to these questions, but I'm curious as to your opinion as you consider these questions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Two of our friends were married on Saturday at Harvest. I had never been to such a wedding as this in all my life. Chassidi and Brion, friends over the past two years, began to realize this past fall that God was kindling a flame beyond friendship. Early on in this realization, in order to ensure honoring Christ and to ensure that they hear the voice of God for their relationship, they covenanted together a vow of purity....not even a kiss would they share so that they could clearly discern God's will for their relationship, honor Him with their bodies, and stay free from the power and pull of the physical relationship. Their first kiss was at their wedding after being pronounced husband and wife. This was such a radical and counter-cultural message to our sex-saturated, media-induced mindsets on love and relationship. A witness that I am sure will stick deep in the memories of the young people who were at this wedding.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. Ps.119:9

oswald chambers

Sixteen years ago, a friend and mentor of mine gave me the daily devotional book My Utmost for His Highest written by Oswald Chambers for my birthday. It's a classic that I would recommend to all. Ours sits faithfully next to our kleenex box on the back of our toilet. Yesterday's reading was a goodie, as is most every entry.

The Spiritual Society

"Rehabilitation means the putting back of the whole human race into the relationship God designed it to be in, and this is what Jesus Christ did in Redemption. The Church ceases to be a spiritual society when it is on the look-out of its own organization. The rehabilitation of the human race on Jesus Christ's plan means the realization of Jesus Christ in corporate life as well as in individual life. Jesus Christ sent apostles and teachers for this purpose- that the corporate Personality might be realized. We are not here to develop a spiritual life of our own, or to enjoy spiritual retirement; we are here so to realize Jesus Christ that the Body of Christ may be built up.

Am I building up the Body of Christ, or am I looking for my own personal development only? The essential thing is my personal relationship to Jesus Christ- "That I may know Him." To fulfill God's design means entire abandonment to Him. Whenever I want things for myself, the relationship is distorted. It will be a big humiliation to realize that I have not been concerned about realizing Jesus Christ, but only about realizing what He has done for me.

'My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.'

Am I measuring my life by this standard or by anything less?"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

classic Saturday

Classic Saturday on Sunday. Richard Rolle (1290-1349) was a great spiritual leader in England. This quote came from his book The Fire of Love.

"I offer, therefore, this book for the attention, not of the philosophers and sages of this world, not of the great theologians bogged down in their interminable questionings, but of the simple and unlearned who are seeking rather to love God than to amass knowledge. For he is not known by argument but by what we do and how we love."

"Everyone of us who lives in this life of ours knows that we cannot be filled with a love of eternity or anointed with the sweet oil of heaven unless we are truly converted to God. Before we can experience even a little of God's love, we must be really turned to him, and in mind at least, be wholly turned from every earthly thing. The turning is indeed a matter of duly ordered love, so that, first, we love what we ought to love and not what we ought not, and, second, our love kindles more towards the former than to the latter."

Foster/Smith: Richard Rolle exhorts us to love Christ with our whole heart, unmixed with love for earthly things. This week examine your loves. Ask yourself if these loves are competing for your devotion to God.

quote of the day

Religion (ought to be if it isn’t) a great deal more than mere gratification of the instinct for worship linked with the straight-teaching of irreproachable credos. Religion must be life made true; and life is action, growth, development -- begun now and ending never.

- Anna Julia Cooper, from A Voice from the South

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Since my college years and my aunt's death, I have not stayed in touch with Karen (see post below). I did try to find her online last night, and I found that a Karen M White, caucasian female about the right age of the Karen I knew, was released on parole in 1995 from the state of NY prison system. I'm so curious as to what she might be doing fifteen years later. My prayer is that she is thriving.

advocacy and my first trip to prison

I was in high school when my aunt from NYC drove me to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison for women located in New York State. I was about to make my first trip into a prison to meet Karen Marie White, a young woman who I had been writing letters to for a few years. Karen had run away from home as a teenager after being sexually abused by her stepfather. On the run and looking for food and shelter, she ended up in prostitution and was imprisoned after one of her clients ended up dead. Karen's story had somehow made the NY Times, and my Aunt LuDean read it and began to write Karen. She got me involved in writing Karen, and by the time I was a junior in high school I had written the governor of NY asking for clemency for Karen. Karen was an amazing young woman....gifted bigtime as an artist and poet and very intelligent. She rocked my stereotype of prisoners who were behind bars for murder.

I write this because I've been thinking a bit lately about advocacy. My aunt showed me what advocacy looked like. She wrote letters for 1o1 causes, and she was often found advocating for some of her clients (she was a child psychiatrist). I'd go to her apt. in NYC, and she'd have newspaper clippings all over the place and would passionately draw me into believing that the causes she was advocating for were indeed the most important causes in the world. I remember feeling at age 17 like I was living in a little cave back in Iowa completely unaware of the world until I was around her.

Though LuDean most definitely had lasting influence on me (she died when I was 21), my sense of advocacy has not been naturally strong. I grew up with a compassionate, outreaching mom who was (and is) full of mercy ministry. Together, I'd follow her into county home visits, meals on wheels, visiting shut-in's from church. My mom and her sister, LuDean, were very different in personality. My mom, Lois, would lean on peacemaking and quietly serving, and my aunt might be seen as a "trouble-maker", rocking the status quo and always living in a passionate state.

For most of my adult years, I have leaned on the serving side without getting myself too involved in systems or root causes. Maybe there's been a part of me that's been lazy...maybe I didn't want to be a rebel-rouser or be different from the norm....maybe I wanted to control how much I serve or allow to disrupt my comfortable life. Whatever the reason, I've had some very good advocacy models move back into my life over the past several years in my adult life. I'm grateful for their witness and for the challenge it brings me to go beyond "standing with" people in compassion to "standing up" and "standing in the gap" for people in advocacy.

What has been your history, your learnings, your experience with advocacy?

advocacy: the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending; active espousal

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

compassion and beyond

A few stories from people who have been bothered by the thought, "This just isn't right"...bothered and burdened and prompted until they act in a way to help make that particular something right.

- A couple of guys sympathize with men and women who are struggling to find jobs due to lack of education, a criminal record, or a host of other reasons that might make them unemployable to many employers. Not only are these guys listening and sympathizing with those in need, these guys are starting up a Jobs for Life program that will help train and mentor and connect folks into the workforce.

- a friend is helping a woman through difficult circumstances, unemployment, and now a move brought on by the changing guard of landlords and a big spike in rent. The new landlord was demanding some very hard exit requirements of this woman, and beyond listening and sympathizing with the woman, the friend called the landlord to be an advocate for the woman and to explain her circumstances and situation more clearly to the landlord. The landlord is still requiring some tough demands for exit, but is much more open to consider giving back more of the deposit money. The money will make a big difference for this woman. Another friend sees that the woman needs a place to store some furniture while she is in transition from her duplex to another place to call home. Knowing that this woman can't afford a storage unit, this friend and her husband are giving a bit of their basement for the furniture to be stored for a time.
- a friend writes prisoners regularly and faithfully prays and corresponds with them. She recently went beyond this encouragement ministry to leading a Celebrate Recovery class in the Black Hawk County Jail on Wednesdays. Inmates have a lot of time on their hands. Programs for growth and recovery are so needed. This class is a first of its kind in this jail.

mozambique summary

Dear Family& Friends…

A few numbers for you. Since we’ve arrived in Mozambique we have worshiped with 7 churches, visited 8 sponsored children and their families and received 4 live chickens as gifts. Two Chestnuts fell in the water. We attended 2 birthday parties and eaten in 4 homes. We dug 2 latrines and saw 2 elephants up close and personal. We squeezed
16 people in 1 very mini-van. We’ve walked through 4 markets. We provided 26 hours of training for 92 people (nurses, pastors, women, staff, volunteers and Sunday School teachers). We’ve eaten in 5 local restaurants and consumed at least 168 chickens and 55 lbs of rice; we lost count of the bottles of Fanta. Elliot alone has taken over 4000 pictures. We’ve been gifted 3 straw hats. Barb was called momma by 1 sponsored child. There’ve been 2 flat tires. We’ve watched the USA lose 1 “football” game as we played 6 vuvuzelas. We danced (some of us badly) with about 200 children in 2 Bible clubs. One unnamed female staff employed by OHC lost 1 skirt after 1 relay race. We found 1 Southern Cross in a field of billions of stars on 1 sort-of clear night. Alyssa& Ellie attempted to teach 300 kids to play kick ball. We’ve given 200 backpacks, 40 soccer balls, 10 dodgeballs,165 wash clothes, 1 parachute and a whole bunch of other gifts to the local Food for the Hungry. One heel is healing. One box of cheez-its was not shared. Jenny took 1 motorcycle ride. Patty sent 1 email successfully. Owen has shot 3 hours of video. Doug, Neil& Karla preached 230 minutes total. And we have grown to love the people of Mozambique the weight of an elephant.

We love you all and appreciate your prayers and thoughts. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow (Sunday) is our last day in Gorongosa.

On behalf of the Moz Team,

Pastor Del (Doug)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

need inspiration?

I added two blogs to the list at left.... 'A Monkey and a Cymbal' and 'Liberate'. Two of my very creative friends keep me artistically inspired with their blogs. Reading their blogs elevates my thinking and frees up my spirit everytime. Check them out.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

compassion and justice fleshed out

I am so honored to be friends with so many amazing people in my life who are living out real life stories of compassion and justice.

I've been walking beside a situation in which a young mom with a tough past recently had her two children removed from the home due to a situation that involved violence and alcohol/drugs. This mom, however, has made strong strides forward over the past two years, has kept steady employment, and has become known by and a friend of a group of my friends. When this young mom found herself reeling from being stabbed and facing legal troubles, this group of friends did more than come alongside her to offer her comfort and encouragement. They did more than offer compassion to her. They showed up at court hearings. Because of her previous record and patterns in her life, the family court system, with their full load of cases, was ready to write her off. The court appointed attorney was not willing to look at the full story and changes made in the past few years, and the decisions of the judge in a few of the early hearings did not looking very promising.

But this group wrote letters. This group pooled money for a respected private attorney. This group made phone calls. At the first family meeting hosted by the Dept. of Human Services, not only did some from this group show up, but the children's school counselor came and offered to take the children into her home for a matter of months to be their primary caregiver during this period. Who does that?! And in the course of the next weeks before the second family meeting, a friend arranged respite periods for the counselor; offering help with the kids from this cluster of friends. The cluster also applied to be able to help DHS workers supervise during the supervised visits that the mom could have with her children. At the second family meeting, DHS said that they have never seen such a support system come alongside not only the mom and kids, but also DHS. Isn't this the Church at her best? A community of faith-filled friends offering the love and grace of Jesus together so as to help this mom shoulder her burdens and grow. A group of friends who show the love of Christ by their actions of love and service and sacrifice. A group who is working to offer life to this family.

The children's father, who is currently incarcerated for another year, has been at the family meetings via phone. Some from the cluster of friends have volunteered to transport the children the two hours to the prison for visits. The father has even asked if there might be a member from church who might be willing to mentor him as he prepares to enter back into the society in a year.

This whole situation for me bears witness to what we talk about when we talk about development vs. charity. When we talk about wholistic outreach. When we talk about Christian community. When we talk about compassion and justice. And because relationships and friendships are deepening with those involved, there is a growing presence of truth and accountability. There is an opening up into the deeper layers of life, and a possibility for healing and new life that has only come through these trusting relationships. There is also opportunity to verify the Word of God through deeds, and clarify the deeds through the Word of God.

Just recently, the young mother was told that the children may be back into the home before school starts in late August. This is one of the fastest moving cases seen due to the network of friendship and support found alongside this family. I'm so grateful and moved to be a part of Church that looks and loves like this.

compassion and justice

Here are a few quotes from friends about what they're thinking as they consider the relationship between compassion and justice:

"If we talk about compassion without justice, would it not be somewhat like telling others that Jesus comes to walk beside us as a friend and put some salve on our wounds but neglecting to tell them that he also came to save us and make us right with God?"

"It seems to me if I focus only on compassion, without justice as the destination, I can easily end up with charity. If justice is my only focus-- where is the tender, merciful, compassionate heart of God?"

"I absolutely agree that compassion must lead to justice. Otherwise, "suffering with" people and systems, etc. leads to charity, but also, in a way, kind of just adds more suffering to the world. It might spread it out over two people rather than just one – which is definitely better- but compassion / "suffering with" for justice / change toward less overall suffering is beauty.

I also think about how the verse says "love and faithfulness go before you." If faithfulness means "adhering firmly and devotedly, as to a person, cause, or idea; loyal" and "worthy of trust or belief; reliable" and "consistent with truth or actuality," then it seems to me that Christian faithfulness requires compassion for justice. Am I truly faithful to Jesus if I do not have compassion?"

classic Saturday

Perhaps the best way to share this week's devotional classic of Gregory of Nyssa (331-396) is to summarize an excerpt of his from The Life of Moses. Gregory believed the main use of the Bible was for growth in virtue. He saw the spiritual life as the race Paul describes in Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

In this selection by Gregory, he wrote about how perfection is not attainable on this side of heaven, but how we should strive to progress toward perfection....not to avoid a wicked life because we fear punishment and not to do good because we hope for rewards, but because we are God's friend.

Some of the suggested exercises from editors Foster and Smith this week are:

1. This week, cheer someone on in his or her spiritual journey. Send a letter, give that person a phone call, or drop by for a visit, simply to encourage him or her to keep running the race.

2. Chart out one or two areas of your life in which you would like to see some growth. Share your desires and intentions with a friend who can help you grow through the grace of accountability.

3. This week strengthen your friendship with God by spending time with God, sharing more and more of your life- your hopes and dreams and failures- allowing God to love you as a cherished friend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

justice as the destination

I've been thinking lately about the relationship between compassion and justice. Would you bear with me as I try to flesh it out some? Maybe you'd consider adding your thoughts too.

A verse that has really stuck in my mind this past month is found in Psalm 89:14 "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you."

I actually visualize this Scripture in picture form. God's throne sitting on a big base named justice and righteousness with this unending river of love and faithfulness flowing down from the throne out onto and down a road that leads to the throne.

When I consider this picture, I think of justice and righteousness as the destination. The vision. The desired outcome. The destination postcard that God gives us. The "place" where His will is being played out and where there is rightness, right relationship in everything.

It starts with God's desire to make us right with Him. The end goal is for justice and righteousness to play out for my life. Why does God desire that for me? Because He made me, knows me, loves me. He has a knowledge of who I am in that "right" state as opposed to who I am in my broken and sinful state. He desires to redeem and restore me to the righteousness He created me in and created me for.

Because in my sinfulness, I can't get to the destination by myself, He sent Christ. Christ is the road that leads to the throne. He is the only one who could make me right with God and bring me to a place where I'm justified and right with God through faith in him.

What moved God to act in such a way as to send Jesus Christ not only to earth but to a life of service and sacrifice? Love and Compassion. He knows us and cares so deeply for us that it was His compassion for us that fueled His action. It was compassion, which means 'to suffer with', that brought God to earth in human form to join with humanity and come along side of them. But compassion was not the destination. Compassion was not the end goal. Justice was the goal. God didn't stop with some gestures of care and goodwill toward us. He fought for us...he advocated for us....he gave us undeserved favor....all the way to a sacrificial death on the cross to make us right. And when we open this precious gift, we are made right for good (justification), He continues to make us right (sanctification), and He wants to live and work through us to restore others and His world to righteousness and justice (mission).

So, as I think about analogies, I think about our trip out West. We had a destination of Salem, Oregon. We needed a mode of transportation which was the truck, and the truck needed fuel to keep moving forward toward the destination.

I think of justice as the destination. The mode of transportation is our lives, and the fuel that moves us toward the destination is compassion.

These are just a few of some ramblings that I'd like to boil down better at some point. I'd love to get some of your thoughts about the relationship between compassion and justice.

God's birthday everyday

I met a little 8 year old last night who captured my heart with her personality and her spiritual sensitivity. We were playing together in the park when she noticed some books that were in the tub of activities. She asked if she could read to me because she needed to practice her reading for next year. I told her, "sure", and she dug out a book with the title God Loves You. After reading the title, here is how the conversation went:

D: I know everything about God.
me: You do? What do you know about God?
D: I know that it's His birthday everyday, and I know that he punishes you for the stuff that you do that is bad.
me: Where do you learn things about God?
D: Right over there in that brown and pink building (Salvation Army across the street from the park)
me: How about if we read through the book and find out what you might learn about God?

D. went on to read, and we had snippets of conversation. Then she disappeared. She had gone home and then came up to me to tell me that her TiTi (aunt) wanted to meet me. On the way to her house, D. asked me when we could go to church, and if she could learn more about God. She wanted me to tell her aunt about church, and so I spent a little time with her Aunt S. introducing myself and telling her about Harvest, one of the churches in the neighborhood. This experience reminded me to be paying attention and engage those around me who seem to be open and seeking spiritually. Who are you noticing around you these days that seem spiritually sensitive?

do good, do something

A friend of mine the other day told me she heard a quote that was sticking with her. "In order to do good, you have to do something." I'm not sure there's much we have figured out about how to quell the violence in our community or how to work toward positive change with our young people, but I am pretty sure that whatever the answers and strategies are, we do actually have to do something. And I'm pretty sure that involved in the doing something is actually getting to know the young people.

A few of us went into the Walnut neighborhood last night and found a bunch of kids hanging around. For a few hours, we played and talked with them, got to know their names and interests and personalities a bit. Where might a positive difference begin to take shape if we do not begin to know and care about one another?

Nehemiah 2

A few days back, I posted a bit about Nehemiah 1 and how the whole story of Nehemiah begins with confession and repentance.

I journaled notes about each of the successive chapters and thought I'd include some observations and questions to consider as we seek to live on mission in Christ and for Christ. In chapter 2....

- Nehemiah is deeply troubled and burdened by the condition of Jerusalem. I took wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart. What has God burdened your heart about? Sometimes we call it a holy discontent..what is your holy discontent?

-Nehemiah does not just stay still and shake his head about the troubles...he's willing to be a part of the solution and to act. First he prayed. Then he allowed himself to be sent. Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it. Have you prayed about that which burdens you...asking how God might want you to be a part of the solution? What is God calling you to be a part of "rebuilding"? Are you open and willing to be sent?

- Nehemiah has the support and trust of the king. Later in the chapter, he calls into action the people of Jerusalem, and many of the people respond in support. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. and later....Then I said to the people, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been bured with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us start rebuilding," So they began this good work. Nehemiah must have lived in such a way that he had integrity and had gained credibility with people. Are you daily living in the way of integrity so that you build trust with people?

- Nehemiah faced opposition from the beginning. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote he welfare of the city. We will battle opposition from the beginning of God's call upon our lives. Many times the enemy is our own flesh resisting God's call to be sent. The Evil One also throws many obstacles in our way to keep us from advancing in God's plan for us. Are you staying close in your relationship with God in order to recognize the enemy , stand firm because of your confidence in God, and move past the opposition? The God of Heaven will make sure we succeed. We're his servants and we're going to work, rebuilding. You can keep your nose out of it. You get no say in this- Jerusalem's none of your business!