Sunday, June 30, 2013


I've spent a great deal of June at a house Mike and I bought this Spring in Walnut from the City of Waterloo.  Its address is 335, and Judy Marshall helped me to check out Scripture that was either 3:35 or 33:5.  Here are the two Signature Scriptures best fit for this place, thus its nickname "33:5":

Psalm 33:5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is filled with his unfailing love.

Isaiah 33:5  The Lord is exalted,  for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness.

We have purchased this house as a dual residence for the near future.  Just as some families buy a 2nd home on a lake to recreate, we have purchased this home for re-creation, too.  We believe that this home can serve as one more example of revitalization in the neighborhood.  It had been abandoned for four years, but its bones were definitely too good for demolition.  We didn't want a landlord to purchase it and turn around to rent it without putting much of the needed effort into restoring it.  Home ownership and strategic neighboring are also important if we desire to see the fabric of a neighborhood strengthen.

Though we're not going to move in full-time in the near future, we believe that partial relocation can be beneficial.  I've been called to proximity and presence in this neighborhood over the past six years anyway, so purchasing a home to be even more intentionally present is a good next step.  I look forward to neighboring in a new way and creating a base in which Christ can do even more of his most excellent transformative work.

 We are working to prioritize projects and to be as financially responsible as we can as we fix up this 1925 home.  Rather than hire someone to repair and texture two of the bedroom walls, I textured them myself with lightweight joint compound.  This cost me $21 rather than the $500+ that it would have cost to hire someone to texture the walls.  It also cost me many hours and some crazy stories, too, as I learn  the ropes of  "Do It Yourself" projects.

Last week, our twins were on a mission trip in Duluth, MN, so I worked at the house 60+ hours and listened to dozens of hours of speakers on a website called Right Now Media.  I felt a bit like I was at the Global Leadership Summit, as I listened to series of talks by Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Francis Chan, Philip Yancy, N.T. Wright, John Ortberg.  All of these messages energized and challenged me-and then I listened to John Ortberg interview Dallas Willard.  That 2 1/2 hours transported me into all-out spiritual retreat mode.  I was no longer conscious of wall-washing, priming, texturing; instead my soul felt like it was literally being bathed and massaged as I listened to him.  What was it, I wondered, in his message as opposed to the others, that gave me such a deep sense of assurance, peace, rest, joy, trust, and hope?  I thought about this and came up with this conclusion:   Willard speaks brilliantly about what IS.  What is most true and what is most real in this created universe.  His vision of God and His Kingdom, along with the invitation to come live in that Kingdom in my everyday life, speaks to the core of my longings and desire. I found that in listening to Willard, my thoughts got taken off of myself and onto a marvelously good God and a wonderfully compelling Kingdom.  There was a fundamental shift as I listened that moved me from a me-centered, striving, self-dependent posture to a Jesus-centered, receiving, trusting posture.  So good!

After about 4 days of working solo- which I deeply needed- I was ready for company, and God brought wonderful friends in to join efforts to the mission.  It's been so good to work and visit alongside Marla, Judy W., Maribeth, as well as my parents, brother, and daughter, this past week.    Marla, expert painter, is responsible for the awesome, professional looking paint trimming in the bedrooms of the house.   On Wednesday, a downtown business, Visual Logic, brought about 16 people to Walnut to serve at Grace Gardens and our house.  Many hands make work light!  The group that worked at 33:5 washed walls and stripped a floor in the hardwood refinishing process. In serving, they got to build community as co-workers, hear the vision of Christian Community Development in Walnut, and be a part of Jesus's restoring mission in a hands-on way.  Later that same evening, I came back to the house to finish up a project that this group had started in the afternoon.  Mari, a ten year old neighbor friend and member of the Youth Art Team, rode her bike by, and asked if she could help me.  Together we scraped a floor for about 40 minutes and had some nice conversation.  I told Mari that her offer to help was such a great neighbor-thing to do.  The kids of the neighborhood can't be encouraged too much when they are "caught" doing awesome things in the neighborhood.  Earlier that day, Mari and three other young girls were out picking up trash across the street from our house.  That's neighborhood strengthening, right there!  Yay, girls!

Another day while I was working last week, I saw Carl out tending to the Grace Gardens beds.  I walked over to the gardens...the veggies are growing so well with all of the rain we've gotten this summer!  Carl and I visited about a Burmese family that lives next to the gardens and kitty-corner to 33:5.  I had seen the woman of the house picking some greens from her yard, and I mentioned to Carl that it might be great to inform and invite the family into the Grace Gardens effort.  To deal with the language barrier, we talked about working through the young people of the house to communicate to the elders.  The next thing I know, Grandma and Granddaughter were harvesting mustard greens after Carl went to their home to introduce himself and Grace Gardens.  Carl shared the picture above with me and the excitement of engaging a few more neighbors into the neighborhood garden.

Lastly, I was inspired while I was in Haiti this Spring by the long table down the center of the main room in the dorm.  That table saw devotions and prayer around it, raucous games of cards and Up Jenkins, planning and preparations for events such as VBS, and wonderful meals together (there was always enough food and room for one more person at the table).  As I consider the community that is often built at mealtime, and the wonderful truths, conversations, and imagery shared around tables and mealtime in the Bible, I am inspired toward "The Open Table" at 33:5.  I look forward to the variety of people God will bring together for meals, conversations, games, planning, and prayer around the table in this place.  And why wait until the house is fully renovated to begin?  The picture above is that of sharing a rice and beans lunch while I shared with a group about my trip to Haiti and God's work through UCI.

Each day that I've been at the house, I surrender it to God's purposes and am full of hope-filled, Christ-filled expectation for how He might use this residence as a lighthouse in His magnificent Kingdom work.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Youth Art Team goes to Chicago

Where has the month of June gone?!  Before we flip the calendar, I need to share some snapshots of June on the blog!  On June 4-6, eighteen Youth Art Team students and ten grown-up friends went to Chicago for a few days.  We had a GRAND time together!

Students had been in an 8 week Viewfinder Photography project prior to our trip.  With their photography skills, students were given cameras on the trip.  They took over 2,800 photos on our trip!  
We started the trip with a Photo Scavenger Hunt in the Loop.  Groups had to find various pieces of art in the  city and follow directions.  At the Picasso, one of our group members had to take a picture of another group member jumping in the air in front of the sculpture.  I missed getting that particular photo!

We ended our first evening at "Agora", a sculpture of over 100 pairs of legs walking in different directions.  We had a great devotion and small group time there.
We toured the FireHouse in Lawndale.

We ate Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnati's in Lawndale.

We went up 103 floors to the viewing floor of the Sears Tower!  Awesome!

On Thursday, the group toured the Art Institute and saw several paintings we had been studying.

On the trip home, each van recalled 100 memories of our Chicago Trip.  Stopping at the World's Largest Truckstop on I-80 was one of just so many terrific memories from this trip!  The group bonded as friends and as a team, had tons of fun together, experienced new and exciting city adventures, and had the opportunity to witness God's love and beauty in so many ways throughout our three days together.  Christ-centered, relational, wholistic development!  Go, Youth Art Team!  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday Scripture

It's June 1!  School is officially out, summer is officially declared, and the sky is dry after a week of rains and flooding in the Heartland.  I couldn't wait to rise early this feel the cool air of early June mornings, to listen to the birds, and to watch the sun come up out here in the country.  These are my favorite times of the day and the year! Add to that the Word of God on my lap and there's no better peace experienced than this.  Here's today's Scripture that reminds us of God's heartbeat of compassion and justice....

Ezekiel 22:29  "The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice."

Galatians 2:10  "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."  

(In December 2006, I visited Kit Danley of Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, AZ.  As we visited, she recommended that I read through the Bible and highlight all of the Scripture passages that spoke of God's heart of compassion and justice.  In 2007, I did just that.

In 2008, I attended a workshop at a CCDA conference in which the facilitator instructed the class to work in pairs to name as many Scriptures (by reference or by text) that had to do with God's heart of compassion and justice.

The two exercises above have impacted me, and over the past five years, my eyes have been opened in a whole new way as I spend time in God's Word.  

I am going to spend Saturdays this year sharing Scripture passages on the blog, one OT and one NT, that help lay the Biblical foundation for compassion and justice; Scripture that describes God's character and His imperatives for His people.)