Friday, December 30, 2011

stories from the streets

Stories from the Streets 
Sunday, January 8, 5:30-7:30 p.m., in the Orchard Hill Commons. Soup and Sandwich Supper Provided. 
We serve an AWESOME God!  Come listen as four men share how Christ has empowered them to overcome broken pasts that included addiction, prison, homelessness.   Judy Marshall and Laura Hoy will facilitate this panel of men from Harvest Vineyard, and we’ll listen to how God has brought them from the streets into a discipling, serving community of faith at Harvest Vineyard.  Please RSVP to Laura Hoy at by January 6, so we know how much food to prepare.

missional church

Someone shared this video with me last year, and I ran across it again recently.  I agree with the picture of the arrows being turned outward and of the people being the Church in the areas that the video shows: neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.  The issue I take with this picture, though, is that we have so often set up society so that our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools are places with people who are a lot like us.  This is not always the case, certainly, but among the vast majority, our churches, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces are often filled with people much like ourselves.  And even if there is some diversity, we tend to gravitate toward the people there that are most like ourselves.  Therefore, you could live "missional" as defined in this video, and you'd perhaps never grow aware of justice or racial reconciliation as matters of concern.  A person might never be challenged to reorient their lives to be on the side of just living and racial healing.  What might we add to this missional whiteboard that would stretch people to move beyond their familiar circles and help them consider God's call on all of us to be more wholly missional? 

I run into people who are hearing this whiteboard video message of missional, and they'll tell me that because they are being missional in the places God has called them to live, work, and go to school, that there is little of their resources left to direct toward crossing racial, economic, or cultural divides.  With this being the norm, "missional" continues to be largely about sharing Christ with people similar to us and bringing them into our current homogeneous church models.  What if God is calling us to be less separate from people we've largely neglected (or perhaps condemned...or oppressed) in our cities?  To work at breaking down walls that divide us so that we might more fully represent Christian community and the love Christ has for all people?  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


One of my favorites about Christmas Morning each year is to get up before dawn and to savor some early morning time on my living room couch while the rest of the family sleeps.  The quiet of the house, a hot cup of coffee in my hands, the light and smells from the Christmas tree and cinnamon spiced candles, the afghan that my now-deceased-grandma made me when I was in high school, and the Word of God.  And if that isn't enough to thrill me, the brilliant orange sunrise that cut through the black outside was the absolute cherry on top of already delicious moments with God as He reminded me of the many gifts He gives us through Jesus Christ.

This Christmastime, while I'm thankful for times like these of solitude and slowing,  I've also been vexed these past few days by a gnawing sense of how behind I feel and the mountains of work I sense are ahead of me this winter/spring.  And as God knows us better than we know ourselves, He "randomly" led me this morning to a debriefing journal entry I wrote last February, after completing a forty day juice fast that He graced me with the ability to complete.  I'm quite certain it is His way of reminding me of the absolute necessity for Sabbath and for fasting/prayer in my life so that I don't get mixed up about who He is, about who I am, and our roles and responsibilities in light of these truths.

An excerpt from that journal entry:

"Sabbath.  Through the forty days, God brought much to me about Sabbath.  This was a surprise learning for me; I did not set out on this fast with “Sabbath” goals in mind.  I listened to a Tim Keller cd on Sabbath at Harvest.  I read through Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, and I was amazed at how much God brought up the command for Sabbath.  To cease from work.  To rest and trust in Him.  To remember Him and honor Him.  To remind us who is in charge and whose work it is.  To help us be God-centered rather than self-centered.  God knows human nature so completely.  He knew that He’d have to hammer this commandment because we would neglect it.   

Besides this teaching I received on Sabbath, the fasting itself produced in me so much more Sabbath than I ever would have experienced had I not been fasting.  Fasting has a way of slowing me down on the inside.  My RPM’s decrease dramatically.  I go to bed earlier.  I strive less and receive more.  I release.  I listen and watch more intently.  My prayers of “God, your will, your work, your way” are more genuinely uttered from my very core than just spoken from my lips.   Several mornings, I found myself on my couch curled up praying, “You, God.  I just want you.  My prayers might be all wrong, so just please give me You.  You work.  You lead.  You reveal.  You empower and fill me. “   There is something about fasting that helps me understand dependence on God and to rest in His power and work.  In Genesis 15:1 God says, “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”  God Himself is the reward of this fast.  Not what He can do but Him!  This was a very good “Sabbatical” for me even though I found myself in my office and at my computer through the 40 days.  I felt like I was truly retreating for many of the 40 days..." 

What disciplines and structures do I need in 2012 to help me be willing for God to be God in my life and work?  How about you?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

20 under 40

Hurray for my friend, Derek Sallis who was named one of our community's 20 under 40!   Read the article here.

suburban-urban partnerships

I'm currently doing some review through my Harvest-Orchard Hill church partnership file.  For me, the most instrumental resources for our partnership have been the CCDA Institute called "Developing Urban-Suburban Partnerships" that Alvin Bibbs gave in St. Louis in 2007, and the book Linking Arms, Linking Lives.

Here's a summary list from Linking Arms, Linking Lives that has been helpful for us on the journey:

Partnership Essentials

1.        Deep reconciliation
2.       Authentic relationship
3.       Collaborative action

Do’s and Don’t’s for both urban and suburban partnerships
1.        Do begin with existing relationships/don’t attempt to partner with brand new contacts
2.       Do let human need motivate us/don’t forget to love God!
3.       Do strive for equality and joint ownership of the ministry/don’t allow inequality to define the partnership
4.       Do foster interdependence and mutual service/don’t be a burden and a liability to the other.
5.       Do cultivate a relationship that transcends the ministry project/don’t forget to play
6.       Do commit long-term/don’t give up too easily
7.       Do aim for quality partnerships/don’t partner indiscriminately

Do’s and Don’t’s for urban partners
1.        Do be motivated by the larger Gospel truths of reconciliation and mission/don’t let financial needs define the partnership
2.       Do be honest about your struggle/don’t sabatoge the partnership with unforgiveness
3.       Do have confidence in what you bring to the partnership/don’t play the victim
4.       Do provide key leadership in the partnership/don’t acquiesce to the default posture of subservience
5.       Do listen to the insights of suburban partners/don’t let the oppressed in you become the oppressor
6.       Do be open to new ways to understand time/don’t dimiss the virtues of timeliness
7.       Do see enriching suburban culture as part of the task/don’t ignore suburban culture

Do’s and Don’t’s for suburban partners

1.        Do remember that Jesus is Lord of the City/Don’t be overly critical of the City
2.       Do make it personal/Don’t objectify the urban poor
3.       Do understand the initial distrust and resentment that may come from urban counterparts/don’t be too defensive
4.       Do establish presence in the community/Don’t be aloof
5.       Do live by the principles of servant leadership/don’t always feel you have to lead and teach
6.       Do show generosity as the ministry calls for it/don’t mistake wanton handouts for generosity
7.       Do share the responsibility of managing financial resources/don’t allow finances to manipulate and control the ministry
8.       Do learn the art of being flexible with regard to time/don’t be impatient and too quick to judge tartiness
9.       Do provide ways for suburban volunteers to participate in the work/don’t make a showcase for the poor

Monday, December 19, 2011

a simple month

A friend and I were talking the other day about the discipline of simplicity, and it took me back to 2007 when we invited friends into an experiment of 30 Days of Simple Living together. I revisited our blog from that time, found at and I re-posted the same challenge for January 2012.  Anyone else want to join in this exercise during the month of January?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

elephant and mouse...a parable

"Let me tell you a story about missions," an African Christian friend said to me.

"Elephant and Mouse were best friends. One day, Elephant said, 'Mouse, let's have a party!' Animals gathered from far and near.

They ate. They drank. They sang. And they danced. And nobody celebrated more and danced harder than Elephant.

After the party was over, Elephant exclaimed, 'Mouse, did you ever go to a better party? What a blast!' But Mouse did not answer.

'Mouse, where are you?' Elephant called. He looked around for his friend and then shrank back in horror.

There at the elephant's feet lay Mouse. His little body was ground into the dirt. He had been smashed by the big feet of his exuberant friend, Elephant.

Sometimes, that is what it is like to do missions with people in positions of power, high status, or authority.," the African storyteller commented. "It's like dancing with an elephant."

This parable was given to me in 2007 in a CCDA "Urban-Suburban Partnership" class taught by Alvin Bibbs who works at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago. I have reflected on it often, especially when Orchard Hill Church partners with Harvest and the Walnut Neighborhood for events like the recent "Christmas in Walnut."

One thing I love about the parable is that it does not condemn the elephant for BEING an elephant. Elephants are marvelous animals. The parable does, however, speak of the great need for the elephant to exercise pay be aware of her size and power and to serve and celebrate in humility and care with her friends.

Orchard Hill Church is an elephant. And, like I said above, there is nothing wrong with BEING an elephant. In fact, I celebrate the generosity, the joy, the love of this elephant. As we seek to come together and partner with others, though, in Christ's work of reconciliation and restoring neighborhoods, we will have to exercise pay be aware of our size and power and to serve and celebrate in humility and care with our friends.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas in Walnut volunteer quotes

Here are a few quotes from volunteer feedback from Saturday's Christmas in Walnut:

"I can't tell you the last time I felt so filled full as I did Saturday."

"We celebrated the smiles all around."

"I met people in the community and our own church that I had never met."

"Seeing everyone coming together by providing gifts and service to those in need in a venue that is challenging a long standing tradition of charity that keeps a division between our communities. No matter the degree to which you can provide, having an investment and choice in providing for your own is a major part of an individual's own sense of value."

"I feel like I am a part of something that reflects Christ's love for all people."

"Many kids had a great time doing the crafts, and several even made their crafts and then wrapped them right away to give to others for Christmas."

"Watching lots of people, all very different, yet the same....interacting and enjoying time together...the way it is supposed to be!"

"Parents and children were able to shop and make crafts with dignity. I didn't feel a division between us and them..we were doing it together."

"I celebrate that Orchard is working, not just for, but alongside the Walnut neighborhood to help make Christmas brighter for the community. It's not about the gifts, it's about the relationships."

You can still make a comment! Comment below on this post, or fill out the Christmas in Walnut survey.

Christmas Store remaining gifts and finances

Many people ask where the money that comes into the Christmas Store goes and where any remaining toys go. Here's the answer for this year's Christmas Store...

Finances brought into the store: $5239.00. This money was distributed in the following ways:

-gifts to the following schools: Cunningham Elementary, Carver Middle School, Highland Elementary, Irving Elementary, Edison Elementary, Lowell Elementary, and Lincoln Elementary, Waterloo. These schools had the most parents represented at Christmas in Walnut.
-gift to the Boys n' Girls Club
-gift to Link Christian Development Corporation, a 501c3 being formed among OHC, Harvest, and the Walnut neighborhood for the purpose of holistic neighborhood revitalization.

Remaining boxes of toys were offered as follows-

-Boys n' Girls Club, Salvation Army after school program, EMA Headstart, Sonrise Christian Daycare, Quakerdale, Alternatives, Women's program through the Black Hawk Co. court system.
-Some toys are being stored to seed next year's Christmas Store.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


One of the things I love about the Christian community that God has surrounded me with at both Harvest and Orchard Hill Church is the JOY of Jesus that pours out of my friends as we serve together. Both this year and last year, one of the most common responses about Christmas in Walnut from both volunteers and shoppers is about the joy experienced. Here are just a few feedback quotes:

"So many smiley, friendly volunteers."
"There was joy everywhere."
"The smiles, hugs, and intense feeling of thanks that were poured upon me. It was humbling to tell all that it is not us that is providing the blessing, but our Father who is showing His love to all through us."
"There was a palpable sense of joy throughout the day."
"It was a great day! The joy of the morning was contagious."
"I saw so many Christian principles at work...the Body of Christ (we all did a little and did our own part and together it was beautiful), joy found in serving and loving on others."
"Seeing the awesome look on the face of the children as they finished each of their crafts. Their excitement to put something else in their sack!"
"The joy and feeling of family at breakfast!"
"There was great team work and encouragement."

Luke 2:10-11 "...I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

Christmas in Walnut...celebrating in a number of ways

Here are some Christmas in Walnut stats!

950 pancakes
450 sausage patties
670 cups of coffee
470 cups of hot chocolate
370 hungry breakfast eaters
175 children making crafts
350 shopping tickets redeemed
2,250 toys and gifts
$48,500 estimated amount in toys and donations
600 cookies offered in hospitality
340 Jesus Storybook Bibles given away
425 estimated volunteers for Christmas in Walnut

1 big God

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas in Walnut in the news

Christmas in Walnut made the front page of the Courier on Tuesday. You can read the article here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas in Walnut '11- Breakfast

Click on comments, sign into your google account, and share your thoughts about breakfast!

Christmas in Walnut '11-Craft Fair

Share any favorite moments about the craft fair below under "comments"!

Christmas in Walnut-Christmas Store 2011

Please share any comments about your experience at the Christmas Store today! (click comments below, sign in with a google password, and leave a comment!)