Friday, February 27, 2015

new relationship

My team at work is finishing up reading and discussing Reconcile: Conflict Transformation For Ordinary Christians by John Paul Lederach.  What a necessary book for me to read in a world so torn apart by conflict.  

Toward the end of the book, Ledrach references Ephesians 2:13-16, and talks about a new humanity through Christ.  

"In the life of Jesus, holiness is defined more than anything else by his persistent movement toward people, their pain, and the formation of a new relationship.  

In this text (Eph. 2: 13-16), Paul declares that through Christ, through a person who reaches out across lines of hostility, through his very flesh and person, enemies meet and are held together. Thus they form a new humanity, a new relationship.  What we find here is the most necessary part of the mission methodology: movement into relationship.

From the perspective of God's purpose, the example of Christ Jesus is clear.  It is not possible to pursue reconciliation except through people who risk the journey to relate across the social divides.  In this way they help make present the reconciling love of God.  In other words, through people who reach across the lines of hostility, a new relationship between enemies becomes possible."  

This passage speaks to and challenges my relational poverty.  To the degree that I stay apart from or move away from people I consider other or enemy, is the extent that I keep the reconciling love of God from doing a new thing with both of our lives.  Jesus, help me to risk on this journey of moving toward.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters

Reading this morning about the 220 Christians abducted in Syria. Praying that the Spirit of God will cover and carry each and every one of them and their family members with His strength, hope, and love today.  Praying for God to intervene in His supernatural and miraculous ways in the lives of persecuted Jesus followers and their persecutors around the world.   


Romans 8:35-39

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

prepare the way

Every time I've driven out West to see my brothers in Montana and Oregon, I've looked out the car window as we travel through the mountain passes and wondered how on earth any Native American or pioneer made it through the mountains and rough terrain on foot. While traveling 70 mph along well paved interstate, our headlights shining the way in the dark, and our vehicle creating a fairly sound enclosure of comfort, rest, and safety, I am quite certain I would have gotten lost and succumbed to cold, fatigue, hunger, injury, or a mountain lion had I been on foot with no road.    

My reading of Scripture today reminded me of those drives through the mountain passes out West. Orchard Hill is focusing on the last 27 chapters of Isaiah through Lent this year.  I have decided to spend time in those chapters as well, in order to align teachings at church, the Daily Scripture delivered in my email, and my own study and meditation time.  Today I read Isaiah 40.  I almost highlighted the whole thing.

I love the imagery in Isaiah 40:3-5.   Can you hear it? A voice calling in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord.  God’s Word speaks of making a straight highway through the desert, about valleys being raised up and mountains and hills made low; the rough ground being made level and the rugged place a plain.  I picture a straight and flat paved road running straight through treacherous terrain…much like that drive along Interstate 90.   This is the way of the Lord…the road that allows sure footing, a clear and traversable path.   Verse 5 ends with: “the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together. “ How awesome is that?  This level way through the wilderness, this straight path with dangers all around it, is a well-lit highway…lit by the glory of the Lord.  And not only will all people see it…we will see it together.  Somehow, that word together stands out as significant to me today.

Prior to these three verses are the opening verses 1 and 2 that speak of comfort and grace and peace and tenderness and mercy and forgiveness and abundance for a weary Jerusalem.   And right after speaking these hope-filled words in the opening two verses, the Bible talks about this highway, this way that is being prepared.  This way of grace and life and blessing and God’s glory. This way of Jesus.

Jesus, I desire to walk in your way.  You offer it to us.  It does not mean that we won’t experience bumps in the road, valleys and mountains, ditches and desert times.  We will, but they will not overtake us.  They will not consume us.  They will not cause us to get lost nor to fall and not get up.  We will find sure footing, strength, direction, and light on the way you have provided through these landscapes.  May we keep finding our way back to you if we fear we might succumb.  "In the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God!"  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

jobs for life testimony

One of Link's initiatives is a Jobs for Life program.  Read Rich's testimony below and learn more about JFL here.

In and out of jails and a 5 time loser (prison), I had not the knowledge of what to say or how to say it, at an interview or online or on an application.  Then I heard about this Jobs for Life (JFL).  I took this class, which is a Christian based program.  I learned so much from this group.  After taking this class, within a couple of weeks, I had a fulltime job. 

Now, some people would say, “Oh, he got lucky.”  This was NOT the case in my situation.

With felonies on my record, only by the grace of God working through these beautiful people, I achieved the job.  Honesty and presenting my Jobs for Life certification helped me so much.

Jobs for Life mentors not only showed me how and what to say and how to handle myself but they also showed me how to love and care about others and how my God loves me and how to give it all to him and to have faith in Him.

These friends go up and beyond the call of Jobs for Life.  They became true brothers and sisters in Christ.  They take time out of their life to take you to the interviews if needed, they’re there if you just need someone to talk to!  It’s been about two years now since I graduated from JFL, and I’m still connected with the JFL family. 
It’s not just about finding a job- it’s also about loving ourselves and others.  A new life than the one we have led.

This fits all people coming from different walks of life- if you don’t have Jesus in your heart, then you’re not happy and if you’re not happy, it shows up through your appearance, and your appearance and attitude are what gets you the job, not so much as the knowledge of the job or your age, but the positive attitude that you present. 

I strongly insist and urge you to try JFL; God is waiting for you!  Try it and see, and remember this: When I got or get to feeling bad about myself, I think of the elderly who can’t work or people in wheelchairs who don’t give why should you?  You have a choice, make that choice today and give them a call.  You can only better yourself!

May God direct you and bless you,


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Willard Wednesday


"Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another, as cursing is the projection of evil. It is putting forth your will for the good of another person. You bless someone when you will their good under the invocation of God."

-Dallas Willard

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

an apology to my lake house friends

A few days ago, I posted and wrote a statement that described why we bought a 2nd home in a distressed neighborhood. In describing how I've talked about it with others, I have sometimes said, "Some people buy a house on a lake for recreation.  We bought a 2nd home in Walnut for Christ's re-creation."  A friend of mine challenged me with this question today:  "Can't a person also buy a home on a lake for Christ's re-creation?"

My answer is yes, of course they can.  And that answer comes with my apology.  I did not mean to communicate that one is exclusive from the other.  And I'm sorry that I did communicate that. Heck, my family experiences Christ's re-creation every year up at a lake house.  Community, joy, rest, love, beauty.  My folks even drove to Newton, IA, last week to visit a neighbor from that Minnesota lake house neighborhood.  That's God's restorative work right there.  I also have dear friends who own a 2nd home on Clear Lake.  They have ministered to me multiple times as they've opened their home for me to have personal retreats.  And I've watched three friends who live on a river provide the hospitality and presence of Jesus in ways too many to count.

All geographic areas and physical structures aside, I fully recognize that I can be a participant in Christ's re-creation one given moment in our any home...reflecting the goodness of the Kingdom of God.  In another given moment, I can be quite the antithesis of Christ's re-creation, representing only my little kingdom of self.  Truth is, I'm a mess and mix of both sacred and flawed humanity saved by God's grace no matter what roof I'm under.

I used the phrase I did because many people don't have difficulty understanding the purchase of another home on a lake or on the beach or in the mountains.   But people have had trouble understanding the purchase of another home in a neighborhood of ill reputation. I was hoping to help people see the possibility of new creation or re-creation and not see it as so "out there".  I'm sorry if the statement sounded like a judgment..I won't use that example again.

Link: a focused community strategy

My personality and gifts have me as a networker, a big picture visionary, a spark, and primarily, a catalyst.  Over the past 8 years, God has been bringing that me into a focused model of community development...a community development model that is based on the foundation of Jesus and the call to His people; a community development model that is built on a network of relationships; a development model that is focused on strategies based in and out of a particular geographic area.

Bob Lupton, author and community developer from Atlanta, visited the Walnut Neighborhood two times over the past eight years, and during his visits, he verbalized my call. He gave words and story to what was happening in me.  He encouraged me and us to gather gifts and resources and to create a wholistic model of Christian community development in the Walnut Neighborhood.  In Atlanta a few decades back, he founded FCS Ministries, a collective of people and organizations who focus and create strategies for the wholistic development in named geographic areas.  (

Link Christian Development ( has been birthing as a network of friends and organizations who focus and strategize together for neighborhood flourishing through Christian Community Development in the Walnut area. Christian Community Development is a philosophy of ministry that believes in listening to the community, the empowerment of people, indigenous leadership development, a church base-with followers of Jesus carrying out compassion and justice work in the name of Jesus, and a wholistic approach.  Christian Community Development, or CCD, believes in 3 R's- reconciliation, relocation, and redistribution. In order for there to be a different balance of power, a new story written in our community, Jesus will need to reorder a bunch of lives with those 3 R's through His power and love.

One area that will need to be addressed in the neighborhood is housing.  Home ownership makes for a more stable neighborhood.  Through some youth development efforts over the past 8 years, we've met many children who have ended up moving out of the neighborhood.  We have land owners and landlords who live out of state even.  We have people in positions around our community considering the neighborhood from all sorts of angles and opinions and disconnected strategies.  What if we could gather these gifts and resources together and pull in the same direction?  What if we could focus on a revitalization effort together that would create a model of wholistic development...where there is physical restoration and the development of the landscape, and people also intentionally working toward spiritual and social restoration and development...people who would live and love as strategic neighbors and serve as neighborhood chaplains in the neighborhood.  What if we could work toward revitalization in such a way that ensures justice and offers fair and affordable housing for those with lesser economic means but also brings some with greater economic means into the neighborhood?

I met yesterday with the exec director of a housing program in town, and we spoke about such things. The power of focus.  The momentum and traction that could be created if we'd pool our energy and gifts.  This dream excites me and also overwhelms me.  Praying God will guide us into the right next steps toward this vision.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

why would we buy a house THERE?

Yesterday, we had an open house at the home we've been restoring in the Walnut Neighborhood of Waterloo.  It's a 1925 house that Mike and I bought from the City who had acquired it after it sat uninhabited for five years.  The neighborhood, once prestigious in the 30's and 40's, became a product of the middle-class and upper-middle class white and black flight of the following decades, and today, many label Walnut as "distressed", "ghetto", "dilapidated"; certainly not a good or logical investment.  Currently, this home is not our primary residence, though it might be in a few years, and many people ask us, "Now, explain the vision you have for this house." or "Why would you put your money into a house in this area?"  Here's why....

*The house offers a great place to offer hospitality and to bring people together.  I've spent a lot of time  in this neighborhood over the past seven years, and the house is just one next step as I work with others to build on assets in the neighborhood.     

*I recently read a friend's thesis that described in detail the history of segregation in our community. From the time of the Great Migration to attempts with an Urban Renewal Program that failed through an era of housing discrimination, the Cedar Valley has continued through the years to retain the title of Iowa's most segregated community.  One of the ways to reverse this trend is to invest in some of the neighborhoods hardest hit.  That's what we're doing.    

*The Walnut Neighborhood sits up against Waterloo's downtown.  Bob Lupton, developer and author, described it as "prime for revitalization".  It's not densely populated, it is not a large neighborhood, it has remaining character, and it is in a fantastic location up against a downtown that is working to revitalize.  Bob keyed the term "gentrification with justice".   Can we think about revitalization in a way that does not push those of lower economic means out?  Can we develop some kind of mixed income strategy that enacts gentrification/revitalization AND justice?  I'm for that.

*A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post entitled "moving out or moving in".  I described the way of Jesus and the sentiment of voices from marginalized places in our community as basically a "moving in" strategy.  "Join us, incarnate, come alongside."  I've been trying to listen and follow in this way of Jesus.  

*I have been a part of a serving mentality in our community for most of my 49 years of life.  I have seen little transformation regarding bridging racial or socio-economic divides, especially in the Christian community.  Our lives and society have been ordered in such a way to continue to perpetuate that kind of isolation and separation. This home is allowing Christ to reorder our lives in a way that helps us move from compartmentalized living toward more integration.  

*I believe that Jesus Christ is the reconciler, the restorer, the one who makes all things new.  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus talked of pouring new wine in new wineskins.  We partner with Him in His world as He restores hearts, lives, and communities.  As He brings His Kingdom to earth.  Neighborhood transformation is a part of this new wine in new wineskins.  

*Finally, buying this house and restoring it has been a Jesus call on my life.  I'm grateful for Mike and our children who have been supportive every step in this.  I'm grateful to my parents who've caught the vision and done so much work to make it beautiful. I'm thankful to my brother and sister-in-law and the many friends who've worked in the restoration. I'm thankful to my church families of Orchard and Harvest who have been a part of this journey.  

Maybe you're called as well to join God at work in Walnut and to intentionally come be a neighbor.  :)  



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Willard Wednesdays

On making disciples....

"In life, some things that can be pushed cannot be pulled.  Making disciples is a matter of pulling people, of drawing them in through who we are and what we say.

Disciples are those who have been so ravished with Christ that others want to be like them. Others look at those disciples' life in the kingdom of God, and they say, 'This is the best thing I ever saw in my life.  I must have that.' "

"What do the pastors and other spokespersons for Christ do?  They bring the life of the kingdom to other people.  They bring that life in themselves.  That's what Jesus himself said, and that's what he did.  When he came, he said, 'Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand.'  What was at hand?  The kingdom that was in him.  As people looked at him and listened to him, they realized that the kingdom of God was there and that it was available to them, and they became disciples of Jesus because of that.  Pastors and spokepersons for Christ exemplify eternal living and bring it to bear on everything around them.  Eternal life is the life we have now, because our life is caught up in God's life."  

-Dallas Willard,  Living in Christ's Presence

Saturday, February 7, 2015

our part

"God does not crash your party.  He waits for you to wake up.  If I am too absorbed in my own affairs, if I am too impressed with my own religion, too intent on bringing my truth as I understand to the world, I will not seek him, and I will not seek him appropriately.  I will do it halfheartedly.  The promise is never halfhearted seeking.  You will recall, he says, 'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart' (Jeremiah 29:13)  When we are thinking about stepping into the kingdom and living there, it has to be something we want more than anything else."

-Dallas Willard, Living in Christ's Presence