Tuesday, October 30, 2012


We shared today in our staff meeting about supernatural experiences with God that we’ve had in our lifetime.  One of our staff's teachers referenced a study a few Sundays back that found a high percentage of people have had supernatural encounters with God….but that the last place many of them said they’d share about that encounter was…..the Church!  People surveyed said that they would share their experience with their hairdresser before they’d tell someone at church!  Something is wrong with this picture if the followers of Jesus aren’t encouraging one another with experiences of the miraculous and mysterious power of God. 

I have many experiences with the presence of the living Christ in my life, but as we shared together, I recalled a time in my life when the Spirit of God moved in a most dramatic way.   It was March 2004, and  I had told a young Korean-American friend that  I would visit a Korean-American church in town with her.  I went into the service pretty closed off, not really interested in an afternoon of worship in another language, and somewhat ticked off at this friend for some of the choices she was making in her life.  We were standing singing “Fairest Lord Jesus” in Korean, and out of nowhere, the presence of God came into the room with such overwhelming power.  I remember starting to cry, and as we sat and began to listen to the minister, a young man from across the room, got up, walked around the sanctuary and sat by my side.  “I believe I’m supposed to interpret for you,” he said. 

Through the sermon, as my tears and goosebumps continued, this man…this conduit of God… leaned over and whispered 7 sentences to me.  I believe they were straight from God’s mouth for me.

1.       You must be silent to receive the blessings of God.
2.       You must open your hands to receive the blessings of God.
3.       You must be humble and childlike to receive the blessings of God.
4.       Being thankful helps us recognize our blessings.
5.       Be poor in spirit.
6.       Jesus lived a life of service and sacrifice; we must do the same in the Church.
7.       Jesus is the Good Shepherd. 

Who is this God that can show up so mightily in my life during a worship experience that wasn’t even in English?!  Whose power breaks through a closed mind and heart in the middle of an afternoon when I least expected Him?  This is our God.  Praise and glory and honor be to Him alone! 

How about you?  Any encounters with God you’d be willing to share? 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

We care...confession and repentance

Compelled by Christ's love and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we extend Christ's compassion to those in need.   We care.

As we seek Christ and his heart of compassion, we must recognize the ongoing need for confession and repentance on this quest to really care for our neighbor in need.

I opened up the Word of God this morning and read from Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 1.  Both Daniel and Nehemiah cried out to God in lament as they confessed and repented of their personal and collective sins as God's people.

To the White Evangelical Church, I'd like to propose that we cannot learn to authentically care about or effectively walk with the vulnerable and oppressed in our communities until we are broken by the ways that we as individuals and the Church have not cared, and in fact, are often the oppressors through the systems we maintain in order to keep grasp of power and privilege.

I'd like to propose that we must also be willing to examine how very deep the evils of racism go...by taking a look through American history and by taking a look at our racialized society today.

If we are skeptical that there is need for confession or repentance on our part, we have only to examine the large degrees of separation between our churches and the needs of our community, between our lack of sustained relational connection between whites and people of color, between the materially resourced and those in material poverty, between how we live and how Jesus lived.  

I believe one of the starting places toward caring is to be broken by how we have not cared.

"When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.  Then I said:  "O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.  I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you.  We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses."  Nehemiah 1:4-7

"I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.  I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:  'O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong.  We have been wicked and rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.'"  Daniel 9:3-5

Monday, October 22, 2012


Our last Picnic in the Park of the season today, and the weather and turnout could not have been more beautiful.  One thing I was deeply reminded of today was the mutual sharing that happens in this park community.  Here's just a taste of this mutual sharing:

I shared a welcome, a Scripture, and a prayer within a large group of volunteers and guests toward the beginning of our time together.  Afterward, one of the regular attenders approached me and told me that the next time I pray, I should share that Jesus gives us life where there is death, Jesus gives us happiness in the sadness, and that Jesus gives us encouragement where there is discouragement.  I thanked John for sharing the word God had for him, and I invited him to share that prayer when we gather again.  We had more conversation about Jesus our provider, and I left the conversation feeling so encouraged in Christ as John shared from the heart about the difference Jesus makes in his life.  Mutuality.

Emma shared her testimony filled with hope and thanksgiving in Christ, and her Harvest church family shared their love for Emma through cheering her on, praying over her, loving on her and affirming her through the whole testimony.  Mutuality.

Orchard Hill Church and Harvest shared a meal and teaching and prayer in the park, and Seeds of Hope/Black Hawk Grundy Mental Health shared information to help raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence. They also shared about resources available in our community to help protect against sexual and domestic abuse and they had  fun crafts for the children in the park.  Partnership and mutuality.

Sharing together in such a way that the community offers Christ,  their stories, their gifts, their service to one another in mutual giving and receiving throughout the park.  That is the way of the Kingdom of God right there.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

give and receive coat exchange

Orchard friends are joining their partner church, Harvest Vineyard, in a give and receive coat exchange on November 3.  Rather than a coat GIVEaway, this year’s event will allow for friends in need to be givers in the effort. 

Each year, Harvest Vineyard participates in Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox Project.  (Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian relief organization that annually mobilizes the filling of Christmas gift boxes for children around the world who live in abject poverty.)  All who come to the coat exchange will have been invited to donate a small toy for the shoeboxes or $2 to help Harvest with shipping costs.  Friends will learn about the work God is doing around the world through Samaritan’s Purse, and they will play a role in sharing Christ’s generosity on a global scale with their contribution to the project.  As friends give to the effort, they will also receive a warm coat as a part of this event.

This value of exchange cannot be overstated!  When we serve in a way in which everyone gets to participate, we can better recognize God’s truth that everyone has value, immeasurable value, and everyone has something they can give.  When we care and share in the manner of exchange, we begin to break down the walls of division that keep some with an upper hand and others with loss of dignity.  When we begin to care and share together with others, God begins to form new community, a new “we”, and it’s a picture of the kingdom of God to be sure. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

harvest party this saturday

To thank you for our partnership, Harvest Vineyard is joyfully inviting Walnut neighbors and Orchard Hill friends into a Fall Festival of events being held on Saturday, October 20.  Bring your family and enjoy one or more of the following events of the day…all at Harvest Vineyard, 715 E. 4th Street, Waterloo (across from the East High tennis courts):

9:30-11:00 a.m.                 Complimentary pancake and sausage breakfast
11:00 a.m.- Noon             Join together to walk through the neighborhood for a neighborhood clean-up (gloves and garbage sacks will be provided, bring a push broom if you’d like to help clean sidewalks)

5:30-6:30 p.m.                   Soup and salad supper
6:30-7:30 p.m.                   Games for children  (face painting, indoor carnival games with prizes)

Monday, October 15, 2012

party at the peacock!

We celebrated the completion of the peacock mural with the Youth Art Team, volunteers, and family members! Of course, there were some good eats at the party!

Nathan gives a vote of confidence for the lemonade

Each artist signed their name at the mural 

Endya even had awesome peacock earrings for such an occasion!

Some artists in Des Moines made beautiful peacock feather clips for all our female artists

Jessica, owner of the Plaid Peacock, made these awesome moustaches as party favors

Jessica and Greg, owners of the building, also provided each artist with a peacock feather  to take home.  In addition, Jessica had various artists, local and not-so-local, write notes to the students.  She pasted them on a poster board, and we read all of the encouraging words to the guests during the party!  

Go, Youth Art Team!  1 Timothy 4:12  "Don't let anyone look down on you  because you are young..."
Young people doing great things in Christ and in community!

Friday, October 12, 2012

ccda conference quotes 2012

I've been reviewing my notes from the CCDA (www.ccda.org) conference a few weeks back in the Twin Cities.  So many great speakers and workshops...I thought I'd capture some quotes that I found powerful through the event:

"We've created a god that has made Jesus the god of middle-class American values.  Are we going to make God an American God or are we going to embrace Jesus of Scripture?" (Tony Campolo)

"There's a restlessness for a new future possible in Jesus Christ."  (Chris Rice)

"It's easy to lose the C (Christ) in Christian Community Development.  Jesus without Justice loses the C.  Justice without Jesus loses the C.  How do we not lose the C?  We learn to think and act in the mind of Christ."  (Chris Rice)

"What does the Bible talk about more...Loving God? or Loving neighbor?   Neither.  There are far more verses that talk of God's love for us.  You have to get God's love into your bones.  The most important person in this is Jesus.  Keep Jesus at the center or quit."   (Chris Rice)

"The enemy is not a person.  The enemy is the fear, the lack of trust."  (Sami Awad)

"Our work is not Christian because we put the stamp and label on it, but rather by the expression of Christlike love, humility, and solidarity with those on the margins."  (Noel Castellanos)

"It's not about your resources; it's about your God."  (Bishop Charles Blake)

"Our organs work and serve together for the good of the whole body.  Each organ contributes to the whole. We cannot thrive if we think and work for ourselves alone.  We are part of God's body, and so I need you." (Bishop Charles Blake)

"Make sure your vision is big enough to require a miracle.  Make no small goal or plan.  We serve an able God.  There is no time for timid people." (Bishop Blake)

"How does Jesus work?  He often doesn't start work until there isn't enough (ie: loaves/fish) and it's too late (ie: Lazarus)"  (Bishop Blake)

"Paternalism is managing others intrusively and arrogantly."  (Wayne Gordon)

"Be still.  Reflect on what God has done and will do in your life."  (Wayne Gordon)

"Sixty years after desegregation, we have totally unequal public school systems."  (Nicole Baker Fulgham)

"Look at Nehemiah 1.  Nehemiah first wept and fasted and mourned and prayed."  (Lisa Sharon Harper)

" We (the Church) must identify the core lies and specifically confess them.  The Church tends to be a-historical, but we need to look at the past before we're able to move forward."  (Lisa Sharon Harper)

"We need to change the conversation from a fear narrative to a redemptive narrative."  (Troy Jackson)

"We try to stabilize place (neighborhood) so we can stabilize people."  (Urban Homeworks Director)

"Every time the minority gets to the center, the center moves."  (Raymond Rivera)

Monday, October 8, 2012

sharing a little anniversary love

One of my favorite pictures of Picnic in the Park this year was the day that Deb and Darrell, two of our core volunteers, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, and Deb brought her wedding album to the park.  As she sat with friends in the park, she shared the album, and many stories and conversations about God, love, relationships, marriage, faithfulness came up in the conversations that morning.  It was a beautiful picture of sharing and honesty about God being there through the good times and the hard times of our lives.

church in the park

Our Picnic in the Park Season is coming to a close for 2012.  One more picnic on October 21.  Picnic in the Park is a meal and worship service in the park hosted by Harvest Vineyard and Orchard Hill Church.  For me, one of the most defining phrases I can think of when I consider Picnic in the Park is that it is all about building a community of welcome.

Picnic in the Park works to break down walls of individualism and superiority.  It reminds us that ministry is both communal and mutual.  I've been re-reading In the Name of Jesus by Henri M. Nouwen.  In the chapter From Popularity to Ministry, Nouwen shares the following:

"We are called to proclaim the Gospel together, in community....Indeed, whenever we minister together, it is easier for people to recognize that we do not come in our own name, but in the name of the Lord Jesus who sent us."

"We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life.  We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God."