Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Love Cedar Valley '12 Kicks Off

One of the things I love about Love Cedar Valley are the relationships formed with the core church planners!  Last night was our kick-off meeting as we begin to look ahead to LCV '12 on Saturday, April 21.  What an outstanding, enthusiastic group of Christ-followers seeking to help their church family unite with the Body of Christ to pray, serve, and worship together.  Learn more HERE.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


We met this morning for a leadership retreat at our church to share and celebrate what God has been up to in and through our body, to spend time in worship, and to collectively look ahead of us into the future a bit.  Over one hundred leaders in the room.  It was so, so good to hear from people in our body and to listen to the movement of God through their voices.  I desire processing and discerning from this day for a good spell ahead.

I was paying particular attention to many comments throughout the morning, but it was during one time of sharing that tears began to well up and my mind has been fixed since ....that's when I know I better pay attention.  The sharing done was about the discernment and transition process for a bringing a new leader for Orchard Hill in the next six years.  The issue on which my mind is stayed is that of calling.

The person who will lead this church must be undeniably called by God. I think I got teary because the call of God is so powerful...so irrevocable....so compelling.....so right.....so burdensome......so difficult.

On the one hand, you cannot NOT follow the call of God, you feel compelled, you cannot rest and find peace until you do.  When you are in the way of God's calling, you know it, you feel carried along by God, you have great passion, and you recognize His work in and through you.  You feel like you're coming into your destiny and purpose.  There is no deeper joy and grace and dependence found than here.

On the other hand, though you feel Kingdom rightness and gain, there is much death and loss to undergo.  The way is treacherous, and it is foolish to those with eyes and values of the world.  There is hardship and struggle and suffering and sacrifice at multiple levels.  The burden is heavy.  It is lonely.  It is hard, often unpopular, dangerous,  risky, and it is costly in the ways of this world.  I am familiar with only a bit of this cost at this point in my call but enough struggle to feel deeply moved to pray for the future leader of Orchard and for all leaders as they move with courage into the calling that God has for them.

That's why we so need the Fellowship of Christ around us...to pray, listen, discern with...to give courage to one another so that we might walk forward in obedience and en-couragement, to sharpen one another as God equips and empowers His Church to do His bidding as He reconciles the world through Christ.
"The way is fraught with danger."  A mentor far, far, far ahead of me on the journey of Christian Community Development sat straight across from three years ago, looked me in the eye, and spoke those words.  At the time, I could only begin to guess what he meant. I have a slight taste in my mouth now of what dangers lurk on this journey, so what a reassurance it is to remember "The battle is the Lord's".  It is Christ who works and calls and empowers and reigns as King.   May we trust and loyally follow as His servants.

Friday, January 20, 2012

17, 011 days in

I'd be sure to receive the author's severe reprimand for speedbrowsing through a book called The Power of Slow (Hohlbaum, Christine Louise, 2009, St. Martin's Press), but I did.  I can't help myself from taking home several books from the "New Books" shelf at the public library, knowing full well I won't arrange my time to read most of them.

Ah, well, as long as we're on the subject of time, here's a quote from The Power of Slow:

..."the term 'time management' itself is contradictory.  How can you manage something as uncontrollable as time?  It exists whether we do or not.  The only things you can manage or control are the activities in which you engage during the time you have available to you.  It is inarguable that we all get twenty-four hours a day.  And Americans live, on average, approximately 28,000 days.  That gives us about 672,000 hours to make use of.  While there are broad variations from one person's life span to the next, we all get to choose what to do with the time we have.  Most of us do not know how long we have to live.  This uncertainty makes our relationship with time extremely personal.  We begin our lives with our own individualized bank account of time.  It is up to us as to how we spend our temporal currency."

I'm 17,011 days into my earthly time bank.  Praying I'll invest the balance in learning to love and follow Christ without reservation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

undoing racism

After the Undoing Racism workshop last winter, I wrote the following list of what I think I’ve been learning about change and action…

1  1.    I can’t see change without Jesus.  Because of our sin, He’s the only one who can truly reconcile and restore us to Himself and one another.  Forgiveness of self and others, newness, freedom, our true identity and calling as a community of people can be known when we trust and obey Jesus as the leader of our lives.
2 2.  I need to meet people where they are.  I only have to look at my own journey thus far and know how important it is not to condemn or write others off.
3 3. This is a slow, very intentional journey of patience, grace, humility, love, listening.
    4. This is a very urgent journey of importance and is deeply interrelated to our identity, lifestyle, values, poverty, worldview, faith. 
5 5.       We must bridge and bring people together.  We deceive ourselves to think the problem can be solved without coming together, reconciling, and modeling change.
6 6.       Relocation is optimal.  When we become literal neighbors, our lives become more integrated and interconnected. 
7 7.       Conversations and questions are critical for the journey.
8 8.      Personal stories are important to help people tap into emotions involved in the issue.
9  9.      Being reborn means seeing people as Christ sees them…the value, worth, dignity, gifts of all people.
1 10.   CCDA has been a great source to learn about components and models of reconciliation and restoration.
1  11.   Focus is important.  Too often we stay too broad, overwhelmed, disjointed.
1 12.   Find the bright spots in your defined area of calling and build off of them.
1 13.   Wholistic neighborhood strengthening.
1 14.   Small things have a cumulative effect as relationships are built.  We often think big problems need one big solution.  Many times, small, focused wins and successes create a momentum that makes big change happen.
1 15.   Translate ideas into specific behaviors.  Be concrete.
1 16.   Know passions, gifts, skills, calling in the mix…we try to serve outside of those and we lose energy, get distracted, burn out.
1 17.   Experiences lead to relationships; relationships lead to advocacy.  Not a lot of people are aware enough or care enough to start with advocacy. 
1 18.   Learning communities are helpful.
1 19.   Book discussions are helpful.
2 20.   Focus on children is key.
2 21.   Jobs for Life and economic strategies  important
2 22.   Long term commitment is necessary.
2 23.   Partnerships are critical.  It may start with a core but is too big for one or two churches and will require many people of faith, as well as cooperation with agencies and government at all levels.

What have you been learning about change and action toward reconciliation and justice in our community ?

Monday, January 16, 2012

plumb line prophets

This past week, I read both the book of Amos in the Bible and the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" written by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963.  I think I, along with the North American Church at large, can deceive myself in believing that words like those found in Amos and in the Birmingham letter were written for another time, another place, another people.  "Thank God things aren't like that today!"  Or are they?

If I get past denial and justification, I honestly think Amos and the Letter from a Birmingham Jail speak directly for my life, my time, and the very place in which I live.  These writings convict and challenge me toward repentance, a re-ordering of my life that puts me more directly on the path of Jesus, of justice.  I'm thankful to God for raising up prophets such as Amos and Martin Luther King Jr. to show us the plumb line of our lives.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

from where we have come

I've been feeling a burden overnight that I didn't bring up when we were gathered together for the MLK Jr. party last night, but I want to bring up briefly here.

The group opened last night in a big circle.  Each person sharing their name, what food they brought, and a bit about their heritage.  We closed last night in another big circle, and during our prayer time, heritage was again brought up.  It was during the prayer that I felt the pain for our brothers and sisters who have been robbed through slavery from knowing much about their heritage and ancestry.  This wasn't voiced aloud last night, but I recognized the tension and was sensitive to the absence of not being able to mention the roots of some of our friends gathered last night.  Maybe I was particularly sensitive to it because my mom is a genealogy fan who has been tracing our family line back 250 years into Germany.  I feel a sense of sadness about that today, and I'd like to tell many black friends that I am confident that someday in eternity they will be introduced to their rich family history.  I am also so grateful that as we all trace back, we can be confident in finding our amazing Creator and Father who fearfully and wonderfully made us all in His image and who in Christ makes us all brothers and sisters.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

come together

God's been leading me on a racial reconciliation journey over the past few years.  This past fall was an especially defining time for me as I studied and discussed the book Divided by Faith together with six black friends and six white friends.

As we began to near the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this year, I began to pray and think about what intentional act I would like to be involved with this year that would help me continue to commit to this road toward a racially reconciled community.  One of my takeaways from Divided by Faith was the fact that we're so segregated that we really don't know one another, and if we do, it's often casually...we often don't have the relationships needed to get real or get deep about issues of race.  We often don't know what we don't know because of our deep separation from one another.

So, why not have a party?!  A time to actually come together as human beings, Christians, friends, so that we might better come to listen, understand, know, trust, and celebrate one another.   A time for fellowship....food (a potluck with food from our heritage or family traditions...can I say aMAZING?  German soft pretzels, Dutch apple cake, rice and beans with avocado, collard greens with smoked turkey legs, German meatballs, beef stroganoff, Kolaches, and so many other yummy dishes!) and a time to focus on the vision of reconciliation and justice that MLK Jr. lived and died to share and that Jesus lived and died to make possible.

We met in 3 small groups for awhile after dinner to share stories and to discuss 5 questions.  You'll find a few notes below from those questions.  We'd love it if you would care to add to any of them in a comment on this post!

1.        What have you been learning about racism or undoing racism in the past year?

-That it is more deeply embedded in our lives than we realized. 
-How ignorance plays a part.
-I have had blinders to its existence.
-Racism is “alive and well” in our society. 
-It’s not as obvious as it was in the past.  It’s more covert.
- There is black vs. black racism….light skin/dark skin, and more.
- My recent conflict is that though I find my identity in Christ now, how much is it okay to identify and be proud of my race and culture? 
-There are misunderstandings that happen…not out of ill-intent, but out of ignorance.
-When you become aware, you can hear and see racism more easily around you.
-Now aware of the systems and structures of racism, of the powers and principalities of racism, it requires greater responsibility to speak, to educate, to be an activist for justice and reconciliation. 
-Systems perpetuate racialization
-Building relationships is key
-Solutions are long term

2.       What do you most respect about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr./what influence or impact has he had on you?

-He was strong but humble. 
-He kept standing, even under persecution.
-His Christian witness was so strong.  His example in the face of persecution.  He continued to stand firm.  He lived his faith. 
-He was a reluctant leader.  The people pushed him to the front to lead them.  They wanted to follow him before he wanted to take on leading them. 
-He gave a face to Black America that White America had not seen before.  He was intelligent.  Clear and articulate.  Loving.  Prophetic.  Powerful. Wise.  He shattered notions that White America had about the Black community.
-He was brave.  He had the ability to galvanize people with words, move them to action.  He was powerful and clear.  He believed what he said.  He knew the cost.  He embodied truth.  In the truest sense, he followed the law.  He had the ability to teach non-violence.
-Power of his leadership
-The ability to verbalize his wisdom
-Bravery of his action from the heart
-Respect of his sense of calling- truely someone that was all in
-Appreciate his view that it is not about race but about people, unity and equality
-How steadfast and consistent his approach was
-His view that power is in people coming together

3.       What is your dream?
-I want my children to not perpetuate the racism and ignorance that I was taught and have to work through.  I want my children to have a natural way of thinking that differently.
-Educate people I socialize with
-That the Waterloo/Cedar Falls communities will respect each other.
-That black churches in Waterloo would embrace Christian Community Development.  We have to raise up indigenous leadership.  The Black community hasn’t seen itself in leadership but needs to and needs to get involved in this movement.
-SHOUT MO’.  Sharing Christ through concerts and events.  John and Brion writing music and sharing it in a way and in places where people can hear the Gospel in the music and testimony. 
-That our children will ask what was the big deal
-That our children can just live
-That there will be a higher level of awareness- everyone will be Christ centered

4.       What is one thing you’ll do toward the vision of racial reconciliation?

-Build relationships with those in my sphere and be there for the long-haul.
-Bring Christian influence and prayer
-Help the white staff of an organization. 
(only one group got to this question)

5.       If we would ever have a joint MLK Jr. service together, what would you include as a part of the service?

(only one group got to this question)
Heart felt content as a result of MLK's strong opinions
Not a worship of him
Allow attendees to just observe if so inclined
Include elements of his vision- love of people, unity
Celebrate impact he had on all of us

"Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they cannot communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated."  Martin Luther King Jr.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

timeless words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.  - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better. - MLK, Jr.

If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive. - MLK, Jr.

Read more quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

stories from the streets

Last night's "Stories from the Streets" was a powerful time of sharing and listening!  Four friends from Harvest Vineyard helped our listeners get a glimpse of the power of Christ and the power of Christian community to transform lives.  It was a great time of partnership strengthening as we spent a few hours together listening, learning, and praying together!

Friday, January 6, 2012

service vs. justice

Not-as-deep service  vs.   Deep justice 

Service makes us feel like a “great savior” who rescues the broken. 
Justice means God does the rescuing, but God often works through the united power of his great and diverse community to do it. 

Service often dehumanizes (even if only subtly) those who are labeled the “receivers”. 
Justice restores human dignity by creating an environment in which all involved “give” and “receive” in a spirit of reciprocal learning and mutual ministry. 

Service is something we do for others. 
Justice is something we do with others.

Service is an event. 
Justice is a lifestyle. 

Service expects results immediately. 
Justice hopes for results some time soon but recognizes that systemic change takes time. 

The goal of service is to help others. 
The goal of justice is to remove obstacles so others can help themselves. 

Service focuses on what our own ministry can accomplish. 
Justice focuses on how we can work with other ministries to accomplish even more.

(taken from deep leadership: training onramps for your youth ministry team by Kara E. Powell, from the Fuller Youth Institute)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I'm a wumcac.  That's short for white, upper middle class, American Christian.  And I sure am learning more over the past few years about how my wumcac lenses have shaped the way I see and experience the world.  Because I am a part of the dominant culture, one of power and privilege, I have much ignorance and arrogance that I have not even been aware of throughout my lifetime.

I am increasingly more aware of that within me which is characteristic of my wumcac culture, especially as I spend time with people who are not wumcacs.  I have been experiencing the Spirit of God most when I make it a general rule to engage people who might seem"other" to me in the following posture..

1.  Confession.  As I meet with people whose life experience is different than mine, who might be a different race or struggling in a different socio-economic reality, it is best for me to enter with a prayerful posture of confession.  I confess my ignorance and arrogance.  I confess that I do not see people as Christ sees them.  I confess that I have rules of superiority and inferiority that are deeply embedded in my being.  I confess my judgmentalism and prejudice.  I confess my indifference to so many injustices around me.

2.  Listening.  One of the best things I can do is to listen well to people.  To hear from their life experience and their perspective.  To seek to better understand others.

3.  Receive.  Instead of being concerned first about what I can offer into the interaction, I believe God wants me to first be willing to receive.  Am I willing to receive people as gifts?  Am I willing to receive God's truth in the encounter?  Am I willing to be open to receiving from the other person?

4.  Participate in/join with.  The wumcac in me wants to believe I have all the right answers.  The wumcac in me wishes to control and fix.  The wumcac in me has pride and self-protective issues.  I have found that if I can sit together with others long enough, and we can authentically begin to forge relationship and trust to a place where we validate and value one another, God begins to take our collective giftedness and do a new thing.

I wish I could tell you that this posture is easy for me.  It's not.  This four-fold posture does not come naturally for me even when I'm with people whom I live and work with everyday and who are similar to me.  Oh my, yes...I have a long way to go as Jesus teaches me about living and loving.  This is a good reminder for me as to why Jesus tells me to abide in Him and stay connected to the Vine...for apart from Him I can do nothing.