Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Willard Wednesdays

Quotes from the following sermon that involved John Ortberg, Scotty Scruggs, and Dallas Willard...
sermon link.  I've watched this message at least ten times and don't do it justice with a few random quotes below.  What I'm trying to say is, just watch it!!

*"Spiritual formation is the process of tranforming the person into Christlikeness.  It's not behavior modification.  It's about changing the sources of behavior."

*Ortberg:  How much change, with God's help, are we capable of?
Willard:  "You're capable of walking in all of the things that Jesus said to do.  There isn't anything you can't do by God's grace if you're willing to go through the process of discovering the source of behavior.  If you're stuck on changing behavior, you'll kill yourself, and everyone else will hate you."

*"Confession is very important to discover our soul.  When you confess, you give up splitting the self.  You own up to yourself.  Sin always splits self.   Confession is very deep in the process of discovering the soul."

*Willard "In seeking the Kingdom of God, you have to want it more than anything else."
Ortberg:  What should a person do if they realize they don't want it more than anything else?
Willard:  "We have to identify what defeats us.  I have to look at things and see them for what they are.  That alone can loosen the grip.  What do I seek?  Why do I seek it?  We have to learn to be more open and honest, but religion tends to make you closed and dishonest.  Stepping into the Kingdom means that we begin to feel the redemptive power of the Kingdom moving into all of that and setting us free."

*"Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another.  It isn't just words.  It's the actual putting forth your will for the good of another person.  It always involves God.  When you will the good of another, you realize only God can bring it about."

how does your garden grow?

(Below is the last page of Paul Fleischman's wonderful book called Seedfolks):  

"Like the ancient Egyptians, we recognize that contact with nature can heal.  Hours after the 9/11 attacks in New York, scores of people were standing in wait for the gates of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to open.  The city's public gardens waived admission fees and were thronged with those seeking solace and serenity.  In the uprush of altruism, we also saw that a sense of community-that we are known, that we care, that we will be cared for- provides an even greater solace.  

I sense that we all have hidden stores of generosity that find no outlet except in such moments of disaster.  This was the marvel of the community gardens I visited.  There were oases in the urban landscape of fear, places where people could safely offer trust, helpfulness, charity, without need of an earthquake or hurricane. Television, I'm afraid, has isolated us more than race, class, or ethnicity.  Community gardens are places where people rediscover not only generosity, but the pleasure of coming together.  I salute all those who give their time and talents to rebuilding that sense of belonging.  It's a potent seed.  "I have great faith in a seed," wrote Thoreau.  "Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." 

Community gardening in the Walnut Neighborhood has brought about some delightful events with neighbors this summer.

Salsa making with neighbors using veggies grown in the garden.

A lovely tea party that came about after meeting a charming group of young girls who have been coming to the garden all summer with their daycare provider to water the beautiful flowers.  
Generosity, beauty, community...all signposts pointing to the Kingdom of God and Christ's invitation to join him daily in this garden of goodness!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

how can we work together toward more home ownership?

A few days ago, I stood at our backyard fence and visited with our neighbor who has lived in the Walnut Neighborhood since the 1950's.  We were discussing how a neighborhood is sure made stronger and more stable through residents who own their homes.  Better upkeep...longer-term neighbors....more shared concern...a greater chance to build relationships and community and to discover together the passions and employ the gifts of those in the neighborhood.   I've really enjoyed hearing the stories from longtime Walnut neighbors about the ol' days when everyone knew everyone in the neighborhood, and when blocks were closed off for parties.

As Link friends have spent time with youth development efforts in the neighborhood, I have experienced the challenges first-hand of the transient nature of a neighborhood that primarily has rental property.  In the early days of Youth Art Team, we had eight children from the neighborhood on the team.  They could walk over to Harvest Church for Youth Art Team meetings.  There was a relational connection due to proximity and the fact that children played together in the neighborhood.  These young residents even went door to door a few years back to help give voice to the neighborhood's desire to keep the playground that was going to be removed in the land purchase by CVS Pharmacy.  These students exercised leadership, and I could see such ownership and neighborhood pride developing as they contributed to something larger than themselves.  The same is true as I watched these students plan and paint a "Love is Power" mural in the neighborhood.  It was super cool to see the relational and empowerment dynamics developing within those who literally lived right in the neighborhood.

Fast forward a few years, and only two of the Youth Art Team members still live right in the neighborhood. Many have moved to other rentals in the Cedar Valley, and we now travel around the community in order to pick up and bring the students together.  Though community and relationships can certainly still be strong, there are just some things that are missed now due to the physical moves across our city.

So, home can we help increase the number of houses that are home-owner occupied in a distressed neighborhood?  And how do we do this in a healthy manner...without just a bunch of folks of middle to upper middle income turning over the neighborhood?  How do we create a mixed income strategy so that those of lower income do not get pushed out of the neighborhood?  How do we help everyone flourish and together work toward a neighborhood revitalization that includes physical property, a reconciling social fabric, and a thriving Christian community?  There are others around the country asking the same questions and developing models for this kind of church-based neighborhood development.  I am praying that Christ will open doors for the gathering of people and gifts who can be about this together in the beautiful historic Walnut Neighborhood.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Global Leadership Summit's sticky phrases

A week ago, I attended Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit at Orchard Hill Church's satellite site.  I wrote notes over two days, and I read some excellent notes taken by a co-worker.   After the event, I highlighted some of the notes, and I thought about various points speakers made.  But after one week, there is just one phrase that has really stuck hard and fast in me.

"Leaders change the order of things."  (spoken by Carly Fiorina)

This has come to mind over and over again, mostly as a prayer.  I've been praying that Jesus, my leader, would change the order of things in me.  That I would more fully live a life ordered under the rule of His Kingdom and less ordered by the rules of this world.  Jesus, continue to change the order of me and in this world.  May your Kingdom come.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Willard Wednesdays

My son and daughter were at a national youth conference this summer in Colorado where Alex Harris, author of Do Hard Things, spoke to the crowd of three thousand teens.  The event was streamed live, so I had the chance in Iowa to hear Alex as well.  During his message, he encouraged teens to "make friends with dead people".  Harris suggested that we all need mentors, but so often our living mentors have busy lives and might be difficult to sit down with very regularly.  On the other hand, spiritual giants who have lived and died but have left behind some of their books and writings make excellent mentors for us as we walk with Jesus.

I "amen"-ed loudly as Alex shared.  One such mentor and spiritual director in my life is Dallas Willard. Willard directs me to the heart of Jesus and the Kingdom of God so profoundly.  When I listen to Willard teach on the Kingdom and on spiritual transformation, the Holy Spirit taps into my deepest longings and helps me to better understand what a life lived in the Kingdom of God looks like.  I decided that I'd dedicate Wednesday blog posts to some Willard thoughts, quotes, links the rest of this year.

Dallas Willard from his talk on youtube entitled "The Kingdom of God" found here

"The new frontier for humanity is always the Kingdom of God.  That's it.  All the others are illusions.  The only way forward is the Kingdom of God as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The only way forward.  It's the only way home.  And home is where forward is and forward leads home.  Because the Trinity is meant to be the abiding place of the human soul."  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

race and progress

I spent the last two days attending the Global Leadership Summit at the Orchard Hill Church satellite site in Cedar Falls, IA.  I always come away inspired by God's community of 200,000+ gathered around the globe to learn and thoughtful about more than a few timely nuggets of coaching and wisdom that God provides me through the speakers' faith, research, experience.

A young high school friend of mine who also attended the Summit was especially excited to hear from Tyler Perry...and excited that I would get to hear him also, as I am not much familiar with his story or work.  I was not disappointed!  What a tremendous smile, gregarious spirit, contagious positivity, delightful interview.  I look forward to being in the company of my young friend when she sits me down to take in some Madea movies in the future.

There's just one place in Perry's interview in which I would like to encourage him, due to his tremendous influence, to go beyond his answer.  Bill Hybels asked Mr. Perry about his take on race in America, given the most recent set of racial tensions exploding in Ferguson, MO, where an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a police officer, and rioting has ensued for days after.  Tyler Perry responded that he believes each generation is getting better than the last and that we just have to keep opening doors to other people and realize that we all are people with more similarities than differences.

I understand that Perry had like 30 seconds to answer on the complex topic of race, but I would like to suggest to Mr. Perry that his answer won't exactly help the average middle to upper-middle class white person who already doesn't believe that there's much of a race problem...especially on his or her own part. Blind to systemic racism, white evangelicals tend to view racism individualistically and believe that if we're just friendly to our neighbor of color, racism should just disappear in the future.  I was reminded as I read Rachel Held Evans' blogpost this morning, that we will not drift toward a non-racialized society but will only move that direction through a great deal of intentionality and hard work.  To hear that each generation is getting better likely translates to the average white American into a rationalization for inaction and a deepened, stubborn inability to recognize core assumptions and regenerating systems at play.

As our country's minority population grows to the majority, as white dominant culture attempts to hold on to power and wealth, tensions will continue to grow around race and class, I believe.  What a critical time for Christ's people, who, in Christ "regard no one from a worldly point of view (2 Corinth. 5:16)", to confront the -isms of class and race within themselves and at the root.  

I encourage my white friends to be ultra-intentional about growing self-awareness by:

-praying that God would grow you in honesty, openness, and willingness to clearly see reality.
-praying that God would give you a deep hunger for the Kingdom of God.
-reading broadly and educating yourself on the history of race, racialized society, systemic racism.
-taking a class or joining a book study or conversation group around the topic of race relations.
-Browzing through this website:  RACE: Are we so different?
-finding a mentor of color from whom you can learn and follow.
-doing a mental inventory to discover the patterns and things in your life that keep you largely separate from people of other races, ethnic backgrounds, or socio-economic realities.
-Naming some of your fears and pray about them.
-taking yourself out of comfort zones and into contexts you consider "other" in order that you might grow to listen, learn, and love better those of a different race.

Mr. Perry, you mentioned that you use humor to get to the heart of things things that really matter.  I am so grateful for your faith and calling, your creative gifts, your narrative, and your platform and influence to impact the world at the heart level.  I encourage you to keep using humor in ways that will help deconstruct racism so that it will indeed become less and less of an evil due to the reconciling work of Christ in you and through you and your work in this generation.  

Friday, August 15, 2014


I'm coming back online.  I've taken a hiatus this summer from taking in or contributing much on the social media web.  Needed to free up some space and energy for action elsewhere.  But I have much in my bones that's aching to get out, so I know that it's time to begin journaling and blogging on a more regular basis!