Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Christmas in Walnut in pictures

celebrating 2014 Christmas in Walnut in numbers

There are many celebration stories found in the numbers of this year's Christmas in Walnut!

*Orchard Hill Kids gave $960 that purchased 64 of the Action Bibles given to families yesterday at the Christmas Store.  Youth buying an exciting graphic-novel style Bible for other youth in our community...awesome!

*4 college students took on the wrapping of 400! Action Bibles to give as gifts to each family shopping....that's a lot of wrapping.  This team also secured $3,200 from business partners, as well as start a toy drive at Scratch Cupcakery for the Christmas Store.

*At the Craft workshop upstairs, 195 children made gifts and were allowed to experience the joy of giving them to their family members.    One mom began to cry as she saw the photo craft gift this year...her child's face imprinted on a glass vase with the glow of a candle inside.

*The 6 person prayer team gave the blessing of prayer to many shoppers yesterday.  So many shoppers stopped to be prayed for..a woman who recently moved here to support her brother who is testifying in a murder trial, a woman who recently lost her job, a person recently separated in her marriage,...

*2,333 gifts were donated to this year's Store.  I watched so many families help their little ones deposit toys they bought to the big wrapped box at church.  People generously gave finances to help fund the event yesterday.  Christmas in Walnut is witness to so many cheerful, sacrificial givers!

*100 dozen cookies and bars were lovingly made and packaged to share at Christmas in Walnut.

*490 people were served breakfast...and so many joy-filled servants were flipping pancakes, cooking sausage, pouring orange juice, and waiting tables.

*345 volunteers gave time and talents to the day.  This effort could not be done without the outstanding team leaders and volunteers who own their part in the day.  Amazing to see this in action!

*390 shopping families were given the opportunity to give as well.  By offering an amazing bargain price, these families were invited to choose and pay for the gifts they would buy for their own children this year.  Everyone has something to give, and we want to reduce the "us/them" and encourage the "we" as much as possible in our community.

*1 Great Redeemer came to earth to save us from our brokenness, from our hostility against God and one another.  He came to usher in His heavenly Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of peace, hope, reconciliation, compassion, justice, a Kingdom of love.  We pray that Christmas in Walnut is just one small piece He uses to reweave and restore our community under His reign.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

the layers of Christmas in Walnut

We’ve already been layering up quite a bit for some weeks this winter.  Sweatshirts, coats, scarves, hats, mittens came out early in November here in the Midwest.  Christmas in Walnut has a bunch of layers too.  There are some layers regarding why we do it and what happens through it.

First layer:  Link Christian Community Development (formed from our partnership with Orchard Hill, Harvest, and Walnut Neighborhood) believes in listening to the community and learning about their felt needs.  One of the felt needs each year at Christmastime is that there are some who express a need for assistance to be able to give gifts to their family members.  We also have people in our community who want to give back and who want to share their resources to meet that need.  One layer of Christmas in Walnut is that it helps us to bring need and resource together in a way of helping that allows everybody to get in the game.

Another layer is that our partnership, which is based in Christian Community Development principles, looks for ways to move beyond charity to a development model.  We hope that one day, there is so much development going on with individuals and in community that parents will begin to say, "I don't need a ticket this year to the Christmas Store."  That's the dream.  Until that happens, though, we believe parents should have the opportunity to shop for their own children and pay something for the gifts (we sell gifts for $2 and $5...about 75% off retail price.)  We also believe those who shop at the store should be given an opportunity to volunteer in the day if they'd like.  Christmas in Walnut is meant to develop community and capacity ultimately so we might become a different kind of community moving forward. 

Another layer of Christmas in Walnut helps us teach the next generation about the blessing of giving.  I can tell you lots of stories here.  A few weeks ago, I watched our older generation spend a day preparing crafts so that on Saturday, children from our community can make, wrap, and give Christmas presents to their families and experience  the joy of giving.  I’ve been listening to how parents and grandparents have been taking their young ones shopping for the purpose of choosing a great toy and then learning to give that toy away.  I’ve seen how our teenagers have given over 300 toys toward the store.  And I’ve heard stories of sacrificial giving, as a college student gave a hundred dollar bill, and one family this year emailed to say that of the three gifts they usually give each child in their family, this year, the whole family decided that the children will receive two, and the third gift is being given to Christmas in Walnut.  

Another important layer of Christmas in Walnut is the chance for the people of Christ to be His light and to testify with our presence and our presents to the Good News of this Redeemer that we celebrate at Christmas.   As the Word became flesh in Jesus, we also are present in the flesh to be His love, His joy, His peace, His hope throughout the morning, in word and in deed. 

Another layer of Christmas in Walnut is that it helps to strengthen our relationships and partnerships. It’s so great to be in the neighborhood with neighbors, Harvest, Boys n’ Girls Club, First Presbyterian, House of Hope, and we’re grateful for our relationship with a couple of elementary schools, Cunningham and this year Irving.  We’re thankful that the work we’re doing in the neighborhood is supported by local businesses such as Visual Logic Toys R Us, Walgreens, Target, and many and others.  We believe Christmas in Walnut is just one way that we hope to continue to link arms to encourage one another and strengthen a neighborhood. 

And finally, I would be remiss if I did not directly mention the deepest layer of Christmas in Walnut. It's another felt need and it is rising up in the cry among millions of our brothers and sisters across our country and the world for justice.  It lies close to the heart of God and it painfully reminds us that things are not as things should be.  There have been –ism’s- racism, classism, sexism- that have kept us separate in this world and that keep us from knowing, and understanding, and loving each other.  Christmas in Walnut, maybe in a very small way, but a critical way, brings us together as people so that we might see the humanity in one another, so that we might recognize the image of God in every person that is present, so that we might stand side by side and care and share together for a morning.  And when we begin to do that, we become about a new ism- Grace-ism, born out of a God who extended His grace to us through His Son who was born, lived, died, and was raised again so that we might, through Jesus, extend His grace and blessing in a broken world.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

living restoratively

My time in Chicago this past week was well spent.  Eight friends gathered around one of our CCDA sisters, Cheryl Miller, to learn from Cheryl about the critical transformation that takes place when CCDA components intersect with mediation skills and with restorative justice processes and practices.  Real, practical steps toward reconciliation take place when we actively listen, use neutral language, ask good questions, take responsibility, and create safe environments for honest sharing.  

Cheryl provided a handout from Howard Zehr, one of the founders and fathers of the restorative justice movement.  

10 ways to live restoratively by Howard Zehr

1.  Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions, and the environment.

2.  Try to be aware of the impact, potential as well as actual, of your actions on others and the environment.

3. When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm- even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.  

4.  Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don't expect to encounter again, even those you feel don't deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.

5.  Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.

6.  View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.

7.  Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don't agree with them.  (think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)

8.  Engage in dialogue with others, even when what  is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.  

9.  Be cautious about imposing your "truths" and views on other people and situations.

10.  Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, and classism.