Monday, November 21, 2011

more Christmas Store rationale...

"One-way mercy ministry, as kindhearted as the giver may be and as well intentioned, is an unmistakable form of put-down. On the other hand, everyone loves to engage in the process of exchange. Everyone loves to find a bargain. There is something life affirming when someone comes to the bargaining table with a resource to barter. The playing field is leveled. The eyeing of each other's commodity takes place from both sides of the bargaining table. Both sides have a choice; both sides weigh the worth of the other's commodity. A deal is struck and an exchange is made. And remarkably, both parties leave the encounter feeling like they have gained more value than they brought."

"The Kingdom reserves a special place for the poor and for those who show compassion toward the poor. But how we demonstrate our compassion has everything to do with whether or not the poor actually feel valued. This is very good news indeed to Kingdom-minded people who are also bargain hunters, entrepreneurs, wheeler-dealers and creative types who know the magic of exchange. Our is the unique opportunity to use our know-how and our creative energies to design methods of exchange that enable those with little as well as those with much to come to the table, participate in the excitement of making a deal and leave satisfied. With dignity."

- Bob Lupton, from his book Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life

Jesus Storybook Bible

What an amazing Bible storybook. We are currently selling this Bible to families at church, and we plan to give one to each family that shops at the Christmas Store on December 10.

I decided to buy one, read through it over the next several days, and allow my reading to serve as a reminder to pray that God would...

*supernaturally prompt those who take home the Bible to open it and read it.
*prepare the hearts of the readers, children and adults alike, to receive His love and truth in Christ through this Bible.
*use this Bible to create a longing for Himself and spur people on to go deeper in their journey of faith.

I love, love the illustrations and the language of the Jesus Storybook Bible. Every story ties in to God's Big Love Story of rescuing His broken and sin-stained people through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

Friday, November 18, 2011

youth development learnings

Here are 3 key learnings we have discovered as we delve into the youth development component of Christian Community Development work:

1. Cross-cultural friendships/teams are important if we are ever going to break down racism.
2. A strong adult:child ratio is critical if we hope to actually get to "development" and not just "crowd control".
3. Students have more God-given ability than we often believe possible. We are learning that we need to learn and do hard things. Challenging students to higher level thinking, creativity, and action is producing some outstanding contributors as we join Jesus to create a more just community.

Last night was our fifth and final night for Youth Art Team's 3rd session. The students did some research on The Five Sullivan Brothers, and teams created a framework for the play that they are writing. I learned so much about The Five Sullivans who grew up in Waterloo, enlisted in the Navy together, and who died together in WWII when their ship, the U.S.S. Juneau, was bombed. My study group had fun learning about the brothers as boys. The brothers stuck close together, hung out by the banks of the Cedar River...hunting, fishing, and making a boat that capsized while they were trying it out. Their brave dog paddled over to save the youngest brother, Al, from drowning.

We also learned about "The Great Banana Heist." One day the boys skipped school with some friends, saw a railroad car full of bananas being unloaded at the Hoxie Fruit and Produce Co., climbed on in the boxcar, only to get locked in while the produce company employee called the truant officers and had them come find a boxcar full of boys who should have been in school.

The boys were also known to watch out for their neighborhood and help to keep it safe and strong. It was great to talk about how Jesus wants us to be good neighbors like that as well.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas in Walnut '11

why a Christmas store?

We are in partnership with others this season to offer an alternative to a Christmas Adopt-a-Family program...The Christmas Store...where new gifts are donated and then sold at a 75-80% discount. Why?

"Something seems to go wrong when one with valued resources attempts to distribute them to others in need. The transactions, no matter how compassionate, seem to go sour in the gut of both giver and recipient. A subtle, unintentional message slips through: "You have nothing of worth that I desire in return." The giver remains protected by his one-up status while the recipient is exposed and vulnerable."

"Perhaps the deepest poverty of all is to have nothing of value to offer in exchange. Charity that fosters such poverty must be challenged. We know from forty years of failed social policy that welfare depletes self-esteem while honorable work produces dignity. We know that reciprocity builds mutual respect while one-way giving brews contempt."

-Robert Lupton, quotes from his book Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

on safety and security

"Every day, people make decisions influenced by a desire for security. Ask yourself, "To what degree are my employment decisions based on money or job security? Would I willingly confront an injustice in the workplace even if it might jeopardize my job? When I consider where I should live, how much of a factor is the safety and security of the neighborhood? Do I move toward new relationships or remain in unhealthy relationships because I clutch a measure of safety or security that they provide? Have I ever refused to do something that I felt God might be calling me to do because it felt too threatening, too unsafe?

None of us is immune to pressure from the false self to play it safe, to keep a hedge of security around us. The problem is, we become enamored with safety. When this occurs, pressing hard after the Lord's will, abandoning ourselves to the character of God, offering up our livelihoods and possessions to follow Jesus are seen as too romantic and risky. Though rarely voiced this bluntly, our fears can easily infect our motivations. We give lip service to the romantic while examining our choices through the eyes of culture, gravitating toward those options with the most safety and security. Thus, the manner in which we make choices is virtually indistinguishable in practice from the average non-Christian's method, except for the invocation of God's name to lend legitimacy. We mimic the world, and it's simply business as usual."

- Judith Hougen Transformed into Fire as she writes about our false self's quest to find security, esteem, and power in the things of the world rather than God.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

community dreaming

I went to a "Rebuilding our Community" workshop today with about 65 people there from the community. We spent time moving table to table, forming new groups to listen to one another and dream together for our community. The pages of notes I wrote largely fell into the following dreams for the community:

1. Economic opportunity and justice for everyone.
2. Neighborhoods revitalized and beautified.
3. Youth empowered with opportunity to discover and use gifts. Also where there are community spaces to gather for recreation.
4. Unified, reconciled people across the many barriers that divide us.
5. A community that is safe and where people have community pride.
The youth that were gathered there today voiced their desires for more places where teenagers could gather for sports, music, art, theater, rollerskating, hanging out. They also spoke of wanting to find more businesses that were willing to hire teens and where transportation would not be an issue. I left at the point in the day when the young people at the table where I was seated were writing a "next step" to form a youth council so that the youth voice could be heard at the level of city government.

It was an interesting day listening to people, participating in the process, and meeting a whole variety of people with different passions and gifts in our community who desire to help create a better Cedar Valley.

Friday, November 11, 2011

youth art team students are brilliant

What a night at Youth Art Team! The students drew sketches of Waterloo.
They brainstormed some things about their community that they might want to write their play about.
They looked at historical books that gave them more clues about what makes Waterloo, IA, unique and interesting.
Students grouped up, went to the public library, and each group chose one Waterloo topic to research. Our group chose to learn about the Five Sullivan Brothers. These five brothers grew up in Waterloo and all served in the Navy on the U.S.S. Juneau in WW II. They were all killed when their ship was bombed in 1942.
Youth Art Team students were brilliant at researching and sketching their community topic.
Each group returned to Harvest and reported on their topic. This group researched Lou Henry Hoover, President Hoover's wife who grew up in Waterloo! They had fascinating trivia about First Lady Hoover.
Heidi wrote down some interesting facts as each team reported. Here's our group reporting on the Five Sullivan Brothers. They told the other Youth Art Team members that the brothers liked to hunt, fish, ride motorcycles, and dance Irish dances while they were growing up in Waterloo.
This group reported on the four "green goddesses" seen perched on top of one of our downtown's buildings. Brilliant! I learned a lot that I didn't know about the statues.
Here's a group that talked about the "Mother of Waterloo". Mary Hanna, who rode in on a wagon and found the Cedar River to be CLEAR! Amazing!
The Youth Art Team voted about which topic they'd like to write their play about. Five Sullivan Brothers won the vote. On to the next step of producing a play!
As always, we closed up the night in a circle prayer and Youth Art Team cheer. Go, Youth Art Team!

friends like doug

This is my friend Doug.
Doug is a grown-up on the Youth Art Team, and he's also my supervisor at work.
Doug is amazing with kids and adults. And Doug makes me laugh.
Here's Doug with friend Heidi, our brilliant and fearless Youth Art Team leader.
In the midst of a whole lot of serious brokenness in our lives and world,
I hope
you have someone like Doug in your community of friendship
who makes you laugh, brings fun to the party, and reminds you of the joy found in Jesus!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

why love our neighbor?

When our friend, Josh, was here from Food for the Hungry, I asked him how he approached audiences in speaking about Christ's general call for his followers to love our neighbors and engage with those who are considered by society as least, last, or lost. Josh told me that he often teaches the following:

1. Help people to see that we ourselves were strangers, orphans, slaves, helpless and hopeless in our sin. Only by God's mercy, grace, and hospitality have we been rescued and brought into freedom and his family.
2. Help people see that every person is created in the image of God...there are no ordinary people. Everyone has inherent worth and dignity because they are made and loved by God.
3. Everything is owned by God. We own nothing. We're given and entrusted with life, opportunities, gifts, money, etc... only to steward and put them into play in the larger mission of Christ's work to restore everything into right relationship. (justice= "right relationship"...God to people, people to self, people to people, people to creation)

How would you address an audience regarding this call on our lives?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

waking up to find the oppressor in the mirror

The following is an excerpt from Insurrection by Peter Rollins:

"In the surreal late-1960's television series The Prisoner, the show revolves around a secret agent who, after resigning under mysterious circumstances, is kidnapped and taken to a strange unknown location. The Village, as it is called, is an elaborate prison that looks to all intents and purposes like a picturesque seaside town. Everyone in The Village is referred to by a number that has been assigned by the authorities. The secret agent is given the number "Six."...

"Number Six has been brought to The Village because those in charge want to know why he resigned. Each episode thus revolves around the ever-escalating conflict between the British agent and his captors. Number Six constantly attempts to escape his bizarre prison, undermine those in power, and find out who ultimately runs The Village, while his captors devise ever more elaborate schemes to break him and extract the information they desire.

The result is a tense psychological drama that explores the nature of power and resistance in contemporary society. On the surface, The Village is a place of freedom and contentment. All one's needs are provided for, and the powers that be appear benign. Yet the calm and free nature of The Village has a deeply uncanny texture- beneath the surface there is constant indoctrination, escape seems impossible, and obscure psychological techniques are routinely employed to keep people docile and obedient.

In addition to this, it is never clear who the prisoners are and who the guards are. In fact, it is unclear as to whether the guards themselves are prisoners. One of the few authority figures we do see, Number Two, changes constantly and would seem to be just as trapped in The Village as everyone else..

Throughout the series Number Six is constantly striving to find out who the power behind Number Two really is. As the dialogue over the credits show, he is obsessively attempting to unmask the always elusive Number One...

In short, what the series reveals is that the oppressive power behind The Village is none other than Number Six himself. He is responsible for the oppressive regime that holds him captive. He enables it to function. He has built this prison in which he languishes. He is the power whom he rails so passionately.

In The Prisoner we are confronted with the idea that it is we who create the Big Other that controls us. While we may experience this Other as separate from us, existing independently of us, and bearing down on us, it is nonetheless our own creation. We are oppressed by a foreign power that is our own.

We are Number Six and Number One, the oppressor and the one being oppressed. We are a divided subject at war with that which we create and which creates us."

This passage struck me deeply. Ever since I took part in the Divided by Faith discussion this fall, and then attended CCDA in October, the truths found in the excerpt above have been hitting me hard. I've been challenged to examine the structures and systems in which I operate my life and the ways that I contribute to keep them from changing. I've been challenged to see how some of the very structures and systems I give a lot of my energy and time to do, in fact, help create some of the very problems I'm devoting my time to fight.

What do you do when you wake up to discover that you're an oppressor by the very nature of your privilege and power, freedom and choices? Well, according to some of our friends who have been more marginalized and oppressed in our society...they would suggest the following:

1. Admit...confess once you grow aware of how you contribute to the problem.
2. Submit....repent and walk in obedience and the will of God.
3. Commit...commit to relationships that will help overcome oppression and injustice.

Awareness and admission can be disturbing and freeing both at the same time. However, it's the next two steps that cost the most and are most often left unattended. We will need the grace and power of God to help us submit and commit so that growth and change can happen.

Friday, November 4, 2011

question to ponder

What are some things that you know but you live pretending you don't know?