Friday, May 27, 2011


I went to sleep and woke up this morning with thoughts about the young people I'm seeing and meeting in and near the Walnut Neighborhood. I couldn't get D. out of my mind- an 8 year old little friend who felt so good about contributing to his neighborhood in a positive way yesterday. I couldn't get Mrs. H. out of my mind as she signed the "save the park" petition and said, "They keep taking things away from our young people, but nobody's replacing those things with anything FOR them." I was reminded this morning of a young 11 year old boy in the neighborhood last summer who stayed after Triangle Park night, and standing there with his bike, asked us to pray for him because a friend's life had been lost just weeks before in a shooting. As we prayed, he cried, and as we talked, the look in his eyes said, "Please let there be some other option for me." Another friend in the neighborhood is a pastor. She's been dealing with several kids who are suicidal, and she's overcome with the hopelessness she's encountering.

I've been thoughtful these days about God's calling on our lives as followers of Jesus. My friend, Heidi, went to Germany this month and she blogged about her trip to Dachau Concentration Camp in Munich. She took a picture of the gate and wrote "it was strange to think that people lived right here next to the camp, going on with everyday life while all of the horror went on beyond the gates… and I’m afraid I would have been one of them if I were in their shoes." I wonder how much of that is true of my life right now. How much I'm going on with everyday life while pain and oppression and evils are going on next door to me.

We talk about how God calls us each uniquely as followers of Jesus. I agree with that, but I'm wondering why it seems in some of the areas of greatest darkness and injustice in our country and world, it seems so few followers are called? And I'm wondering if I was not a Christian and was trying to understand what Christians are called to, what would I find as I went church to church and explored people's lives to get an understanding of calling? And what would I conclude about their Christ as I explored their lives and callings? I think I might conclude that their Christ has written off and cares not for the most vulnerable and marginalized and oppressed due to the statistical findings of what the majority of Christians spend their time, talents, and treasure doing and not doing. (I am included in these statistics.) This, however, seems to conflict with the Christ I read about in the Bible.

The question I am asking Jesus this morning is "How now, then shall I live as your follower in this life that is but a fleeting moment, a vapor? Command my destiny, order my steps, let me heed your calling and not make up my own and call it yours upon my life."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

growing our awareness

Last September, when I left the CCDA conference in Chicago, one of my take-home action steps was to discipline myself to learn more about immigration and the need for immigration reform. There have recently been several blog articles through Sojourners on the topic. If you are also interested in growing your awareness, perhaps you might choose to read one of the articles below:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

step by step

Mike and I, along with another friend, hosted a surprise "Stepping into 7th Grade" dinner party for our twins and 12 of their friends and parents the other night. The meal was served "crazy-style" with the kids getting their meal in a mixed-up manner over three courses. Dessert was experienced "team-style" as the kids decorated and ate an ice cream sundae served in a six foot eavestrough, but the best part of the evening for me, was when parents called their children up front and one by one, they publicly affirmed them for the people they've become and the great strides they had taken over the course of their elementary years. It was so beautiful to listen to the different words of love each parent used to describe their kids, and it was so fun to see the students receive such words in front of their peers. I was reminded this night of how life-giving and powerful are words of honor and affirmation.

Friday, May 20, 2011

mushy middle disappearing?

“What’s happening is secularism and devout religion is growing together. And what’s going away is the kind of mushy middle, where people are just part of the synagogue, the mosque or the church because it’s expected,” said Keller. “So what’s actually happening is polarization.But not only is America becoming more polarized religiously, it is also seeing extreme division in politics."

These are the words of Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC (read full article here.) He believes that the person who grew up going to church because it was expected or the cultural norm, is no longer the person going to church. He's claiming that most of those persons are either walking away from the church or they're going to church as a more committed and active follower of Christ.

I'm trying to lay his comments next to a Barna report that shares six megathemes/patterns seen in American Christianity these days. As I read that report and also reflect on Keller's words, these are my thoughts:

I see polarizing happening, but I think a lot of the polarizing is tied up with politics.

And I believe the mushy middle is still very mushy. Barna's report includes "the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence. Further, a growing majority believe the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God's presence or power, but not a living entity." I would say this is true...which means there's quite a lot of mushy middle.

I think we need a new model. I don't want to be a part of any of those groups. Not those who are walking away, disgusted by what they see Christians to represent. Not those who are polarized in a nationalist-type of Christianity, nor do I want to be lukewarm or mushy.

Perhaps the new model is Jesus. Looking to him, I see a leader whose life reflected the kingdom he represented. He could speak words of challenge, be clear about truth, but at the same time his love and grace for people were over the top. He was all about high expectation, high grace.

Just as churches have become associated over the years to be either "evangelical" or "social justice" (and now we're trying to put proclamation and demonstration back together where they belong), I also think Christians have become either too high expectation without grace (causing a superiority and judgmentalism that has been damaging), or we've become too high grace without clear expectation (causing a mushiness with little transformation). Radical living and loving...I think that's what Jesus would ask of us these days.

the Rapture and teachable moments

If anything, Harold Camping has certainly spurred some good conversation at our home. Camping, the leader of Family Radio Christian Network, and his organization have predicted that Jesus will come to rapture His Church tomorrow, May 21, 2011. Camping has advertised this Judgment Date on billboards and in press around the globe. Even our local newspaper has jumped on the story (sigh) and it was front page coverage in yesterday's Courier (sigh, sigh). You can read articles here or here.

Amidst the comments from my sixth grade son about today being the last day of school for him in his life, the Cubs not going out very well, and the Miami Heat not being able to seal the championship, we have had some good conversations and opened Scripture to see what the Bible does say about Christ's return. And we've been talking about how we should live as followers of Christ on a daily in a close, dynamic relationship with Jesus, living a kingdom life with Christ whether that be here on this earth or in eternity beyond, and being prepared at any time for either our earthly death or Christ's return.

It's been good food for thought and conversation....kind of a priorities and values consider the question "If we really knew that the date of either our earthly departure or the world's end was close at hand, what would we change in our lives?" and "Why do we so often live like we have loads of time to change and do things differently anyway?"

Friday, May 6, 2011

seeking things or seeking God?

"We are seeking things instead of seeking God."

These were some of John Perkins' words during Immersion. They were close again today as I spent three hours with a young man during a prison visit in Ft. Dodge. As I listened to *Marv tell his story, I heard him talk about growing up in Cabrini Green. He lived with both parents, which was a rarity, and he felt like the situation was not all that bad at home. But then he started going to some ministry camps as a kid, being mentored, etc., and Marv saw how others lived with so much more in the area of material goods. He began to long for things. Toward the end of his teens, he came to visit his brother who had moved to Waterloo and was dealing drugs. Marv saw the nice cars, nice clothes, nice electronics, nice stuff, and he wanted it. He fell in line with his brother in order to get such things.

The god of materialism is so prevalent for both rich and the poor in America. The comfort, convenience, and status found in things creates a desire for more and more, newer and better. Speaking as one who would be classified upper-middle class, I know that the lifestyle I've grown accustomed to makes it more difficult for me to give up or give sacrificially. Greed, ease, pleasure, security become roadblocks for me to care more authentically for those who are vulnerable or oppressed in our society and to trust God more with life and resources. I want to give, but I don't want to give up anything in doing so. My self-protection is greater than my love for others.

I see the god of materialism rampantly eating up some people who are considered poor as well. The desire to have things that they see all around them, the desire for status and approval in the world's eyes, the feelings of deprivation, along with unequal opportunity and access, have led some to deal drugs or steal. Some others spend unwisely and wastefully on material items even though finances should have gone toward bills and needs. Comfort, convenience, and status drive the purchasing, and the poor become lured in just the same as the wealthy.

I was just reading a new report out by George Barna Research. It states that areas of growing importance for American adults are lifestyle comfort, success, and personal achievements. These values are being pursued at the expense of faith and family. As I read this, as I look at my own life, and as I observe what's happening in our world in the areas of economics, politics, race relations, I understand why Jesus had more to say about money than any other subject. It seems that the hunger and love for money and things may be the greatest competitor for our hearts.

love is power

Progress is being made on the mural! Lots of prayers going up for this painted space to stay free from vandalism and graffiti.

Check out for many photos of mural making.