Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Word on Wednesday

Opposition to the Rebuilding
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.[a] They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. 

This passage reminds me that...

1. Though Christian Community Development is fundamentally about relationships and reconciliation, you won't be able to partner with everyone, for everyone will not have shared vision or Christ-centered motives.  

2. You really need to know your calling and to be in an intimate relationship with Christ so that you can discern when to stand firm despite opposition and when you may need to listen to that opposition and adjust your own leadership and steps.  

The passage goes on to describe how the opposition succeeded in bringing the rebuilding of the temple to a standstill, and the work didn't start again until 14 years later.

3. This standstill reminds me of God' mysterious timing, His sovereignty, and the fact that our calling and work is likely only a small piece in the much bigger vision and story of God.  

As I consider how God is calling me in the Walnut neighborhood area, I reflect on what has happened in the past...

Twenty years ago, I was working at First Presbyterian, in the Walnut Neighborhood, as a youth director.  At that time, I had no vision for neighborhood revitalization.  Yet, at that very time, a Christian Community Development Board began to meet and formed a two year transitional program called House of Hope in the neighborhood.  Our associate pastor at the time, helped start a neighborhood association during that era, and a resident in the neighborhood began to try to organize people in order to save some of the historical houses in the neighborhood.  All the while, I was on the fringes, observing and occasionally participating in neighborhood functions.  

I ended up leaving that church fifteen years ago, but five years later, I entered back into the neighborhood through the House of Hope.  I volunteered and joined the Christian Community Development Board, and it was at that time that God began to introduce to me the philosophy of ministry called Christian Community Development through CCDA.  I began to learn that much of the vision that birthed CCD in the neighborhood had been lost in just ten years' time.  Houses in the neighborhood continued to decay and/or be torn down, the CCD Board was functioning now largely as a House of Hope Board with little vision or mission that had anything to do with Christian Community Development.  

So, here I am, twenty years later, back in the neighborhood with a much bigger, broader vision of Christian Community Development.  This passage in Ezra has been good for me to read.  I don't presume to understand God's mysterious ways and why things seemed to start twenty years ago and then stall out.  I don't presume to predict the future and God's timing or plans for the neighborhood.  But I do know, that for this time, I am called into the picture to help create a model of Christian Community Development.  I recognize that my role is just for a time and is just a small part of a much bigger story of God, and I pray that God will give me the spiritual wisdom and discernment to play out my part faithfully and well for Christ!   

Sunday, May 26, 2013

cabbage patch kids!

TT and Janiya put pink styrofoam peanuts in the bottom of the bucket for good drainage
Darwin drills holes in the bottom of the buckets

Harvest students painted their buckets last Sunday and planted cabbages today!

These cabbages will line the new walkway of Grace Gardens in the Walnut Neighborhood!
Jesus shares a lot of spiritual truths using imagery and stories of gardening, farming, and soil.  It will be great to see cabbages grow AND to see hearts grow in Christ this summer!

       Harvest-Orchard partners join together to grow relationships and now, to also grow cabbages!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Quotable Monday

"Scripture describes a Kingdom comprised of diverse people with all manner of gifts and talents. Each citizen of this heaven-based Kingdom has been given an important work to do.  Those with highest standing in heaven are the people who, in our earthly value system, are considered least important.

It is disquieting to realize how little value I attribute to 'the least of these', the ones deemed by our Lord to be 'great in the Kingdom' (Matthew 5:19)  I have viewed them as weak ones waiting to be rescued, not bearers of divine treasures.  The dominance of my giving overshadows and stifles the rich endowments that the Creator has invested in those I have considered destitute.  I selectively ignore that the moneyed, empowered, learned ones will enter this Kingdom with enormous difficulty.

One who would be a leader, I am cautioned, has a greater weight of responsibility to honor the despised, share his earthly possessions, model interdependency and encourage the use of gifts concealed in the unlikeliest among us.  To the leader, then, the gift of humility is offered- the gift is the salvation of the proud, which comes with great difficulty from learning to receive from those who are the least on Earth, yet greatest in the Kingdom."   - Robert Lupton, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life. 

I'm reading this book for my third time, this time discussing it with a co-worker and an intern in our ministry.  In my reading last night of the first part of the book for today's discussion, the paragraph in bold was the one that stuck out the most to me.  This is truly the empty oneself  so that one might learn mutuality, interdependency, and authentic community.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Christ's redemptive power

Last Sunday, Chassidi gave the message for Mother’s Day at Harvest…she talked about not only honoring mothers, but also honoring God who can redeem the lives of mothers who have not always made the best decisions in and for the lives of their children.  She invited her husband Brion’s mom, “Net”, up to share, and Net shared a marvelous story of God’s redemptive power through Christ in her life.  From 20 years of crack cocaine addiction and losing her children to a life of being rescued by Jesus, clean from drugs, and restoration in her family. 

John, Brion’s brother, came up at the end and shared this song he wrote for his mom:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quotable Monday

I have a quote notebook in which I write in  or cut out and tape all sorts of quotes from a whole array of sources that, when read, move my mind and heart and hopefully at some point, my life.  Here's two for today:

"Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor.  Unfortunately, it is very unfashionable to talk with them."  -Mother Teresa

"The ministry of reconciliation is a struggle in the terrain of habits, desires, identities, loyalties, and power."
-Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katangole from Reconciling All Things.

Friday, May 10, 2013

thank you, Dallas Willard

I think it was about 10 or 11 years ago when I first read The Divine Conspiracy written by Dallas Willard.  Never has a book outside of the Bible overwhelmed me so magnificently with the life of Christ, the Kingdom of God, and the vision of life in the Kingdom of God.  Willard left his earthly body behind on Wednesday, and John Ortberg wrote a lovely tribute to his friend in the article found here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Word on Wednesday

Ezra 3:10-11 “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel.  With praise and thanksgiving, they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.”  And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  

These verses reminded me this morning of one of the reasons we had a joint worship service on Saturday for Love Cedar Valley.  It was a chance to gather as God's people to be reminded that He alone is the source of love, goodness, kindness, and that it is in the posture of gratitude and thanksgiving that we  serve.  Coming together as One Church to praise Jesus Christ as the foundation for all things good is fundamental in the restoration of our community.  

Ezra 3:12-13  “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.  No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise.  And the sound was heard far away.” 

Change is hard!  Perhaps especially for the older generation who remembers how things were in days past.  Perhaps also for churches as they operate in ways that are familiar and known to them.  We must trust and follow the Spirit of God as He moves us toward community restoration in some ways that are more unfamiliar and unknown to us. I love the following verses found in Isaiah 43:18-19.."Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

jobs for life celebrates another graduation

One of the JFL graduates is quite the artist!

Students and mentors turn their classroom space into a celebratory meal after completing the 8 week Biblically-based curriculum that helps to prepare students for work and life.

Our prayers that this session's four graduates would be able to find and keep meaningful work!  Congratulations!  
Read more about Jobs for Life at   

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Walnut love

The Walnut Neighborhood received a lot of lovin' on Love Cedar Valley yesterday!

Friends helped George and Judy scrape their front porch to prepare for painting.

Teens from Harvest, Orchard Hill, and the Boys n' Girl Club served together  in the neighborhood.

Patti D. cooks up a little breakfast for the community breakfast offered at Harvest yesterday morning.

Love Cedar Valley friends offered flowers to residents in the Walnut Court Retirement Home.

A teen center was painted at the Boys n' Girls Club

An ambitious crew hauled out carpet from a newly purchased home in Walnut and worked to scrape off the  backing.

Mike worked in the Almond house lawn to remove some old dead trees from the backyard.

Harvest turned around after their community breakfast and offered free hotdogs for any passersby.

Anthony hands a May Day Basket to a Walnut neighbor.

Josh and Mark beautify the grounds throughout the neighborhood.

Brion serves to beautify the grounds.

Harvest friends provide a tea time for residents at Walnut Court Retirement  Apartments.

LCV '13

It was a smaller Love Cedar Valley this year in number, but God was at work in some powerfully big ways through the day!  With a strong forecast of rain, He granted favor on Cedar Valley servants this day by gifting us with a dry skies day and warming temps.  He moved through the community by the hands and feet of his people visiting nursing homes, providing free meals, working on homes, thanking employees throughout the Cedar Valley.  Christ's name was lifted up by His people throughout their service and in worship together  throughout the day!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

EVERY act of kindness done in the name of Jesus

"My sister and I just spent 3 hours making caramel corn for the May Day baskets we're giving out on Saturday at Love Cedar Valley."  This message came from a friend across my facebook at 11 p.m. last night.  It was like a flashing billboard straight from God to me.

Love Cedar Valley is a city-wide, multiple church, day long, annual event that is in its 8th year.  It's a day when churches come together to pray, serve, and worship jointly and to share Christ's love in real practical ways throughout the community.  I lead this effort, and there are many unknowns and "free radicals" in this event.  Weather.  How much attention and leadership each church gives to their organizing efforts. How well vision and communication gets disseminated into the multiple layers. Core leaders from a lot of different churches with a variety of styles, levels of commitment, and personalities.  I spend a lot of mental energy toward the end of the planning period trying to do what I can to control what I can, and then, I generally spend a lot of mental energy worrying about that which I cannot control and that which I wish I had done differently along the way of planning.  Last night's late night facebook message was a clear message from God to me:  "Stop.  Look right in front of you at what IS.  Give thanks for EVERY act of service; EVERY act of kindness being extended by my people in my name this Saturday.  Do it now.  And let go of every single thing that might have been or won't be this year.  Trust that I'm in what IS and can move in what IS in ways far beyond yourself."  

And so, this morning, I lay down my misguided desires for control and human excellence, and I pick up gratitude, joy, and faith.

*Thank you, Jesus, for the friend who engaged his sister in an evening of caramel corn making for May Day Baskets.  May your presence and love be experienced by the receivers of these gifts.  Thank you for speaking to my heart through their act of kindness.
*Thank you, Jesus, for the production crew who will spend a good portion of two days setting up and preparing an environment of worship so that your Body of Believers can lift our hearts and voices to you in honor and praise.
*Thank you, Jesus, for each person who will don their coats, hats, and gloves for a forecasted cold and potentially rainy May 4th Love Cedar Valley this year, and they will spend the day sharing your love in a variety of ways outdoors...picking up trash, handing out meals and treats, preparing gardens.
*Thank you, Jesus, for each elderly person in our area nursing homes and for each volunteer who will visit them, giving them flowers, drawings, balloons, and playing an instrument or singing a song to our elderly neighbors in care facilities.
*Thank you, Jesus, for Antioch Baptist Church and the energy they have put into their first Love Cedar Valley.
*Thank you, Jesus, for each photographer that will take pictures this weekend to create a photographic memory of the day.

I have and will continue to name each person and each act of giving as a gift received in gratitude, God, and I will set my heart and faith on the good, powerful, and mysterious ways you are able to move to accomplish your purposes in this community.  And thanks for messaging me on fb.  :)