Tuesday, July 28, 2015

making access and power part of the conversation

Last week I was away with a group that spent quite a lot of time in conversation learning about one another's lives and considering the work of reconciliation and justice together.  We were a mixed group of black, brown, and white friends, and I heard one member of the group talk about our need to name and unpack white privilege in our conversations.

After the group dispersed, and I was alone with my roommate that evening, I asked this black friend, "Will you help me know more specifically what you'd like someone like me to do with my white privilege?" This friend graciously shared with me that she'd hope that I would use it to give access to those who do not have equal access to things such as education, jobs, housing, healthcare, and more. She spoke plainly and clearly about power dynamics and using white privilege to work consciously and intentionally toward a sharing of power, a transfer of power so that we might begin to see something other than the power scenarios that seem to replay over and over within the dominant culture.

This was not new information for me, but after this particular conversation, I began to examine very concrete behavior and activity in and around my life and asked the question, "Am I (are we) using privilege to give others access, to help open blocked pathways for others to use their gifts and pursue their God-given potential?" "Do I see evidence of shared power or power shifts?"

Though not enough of this is happening across our country, I do see some examples of this happening around me at micro and macro levels...examples that are not paternalistic...many through the lives of friends and community who are inspiring to me.

One example is BASIC college ministry and employees at Sidecar Coffee who came alongside friends in Jamaica to start up a business called  Deaf Can! Coffee.

I am currently reading Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like if we Cared about Results, Bob Lupton's newest book.  Lupton talks a lot about using power and privilege in the marketplace to help lift people out of poverty through employment.  It's a worthwhile read!

Monday, July 20, 2015

from popularity to ministry

"We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life.  We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God." 

-Henri M. Nouwen

Saturday, July 18, 2015

making housing happen

It's difficult for neglected neighborhoods to revitalize without addressing housing. Waterloo's Walnut Neighborhood, once an area of beautiful turn of the century homes, has seen blight and demolition and a lot of stress on the aging homes that remain standing.  For eight years now, a small group of us has been praying weekly for.....

1. physical, spiritual, and social transformation in the neighborhood.

2. that God would bring a developer with a business mind and a Jesus heart so that we might have revitalization in the neighborhood without harming or leaving out those with lesser income means. Gentrification brings eye appeal, it renews and brings economic turn around... but does it change the social fabric and the segregation patterns that exist?   When gentrification and justice and reconciliation are addressed together, there is hope for beautiful new creation at so many levels!

3. that there would be increased opportunity for affordable home ownership in the neighborhood.  More home ownership leads to more stabilized and flourishing neighborhoods.

4. that a group of strategic neighbors would form...both relocators and remainers...who would build community, be involved in good neighboring, and lift up the voices and the assets of the neighborhood...all in the name of Jesus who is the Reconciler of all things.   

Though we haven't found developers who have mixed-income or reconciliation on their minds, God has been faithful to make some housing happen.  Homeowners and landlords have been involved in slowly but surely fixing up houses over the last few years.  Over the past two years, we've seen several houses being sided and roofed in the neighborhood.  We're grateful for this trend, and we recognize God's faithfulness, timing, and mysterious ways in the midst of it.   There are a few houses and open lots available in the neighborhood right now for those whom God might be nudging!

The latest house in Walnut to get a new exterior.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

from relevance to prayer 3

"It is not enough for the priests and ministers of the future to be moral people, well trained, eager to help their fellow humans, and able to respond creatively to the burning issues of their time.  All of that is very valuable and important, but it is not the heart of Christian leadership.  The central question is, 'Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God's presence, to listen to God's voice, to look at God's beauty, to touch God's incarnate Word, and to taste fully God's infinite goodness?'"

- Henri Nouwen In the Name of Jesus

Nouwen's book so touches the contemplative in me.  He reminds me where 'home' is and  to dip and drink deeply from the well that is Jesus!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Try Pie sends off a teammate

Try Pie celebrates and bids farewell this week to one of our team members, Megan.  Megan and her family are moving to Sedona, AZ, this summer, and we wish her all the best!  In an exit interview, Megan shared the following about her experience in Try Pie:

What did you gain from being involved in Try Pie?
“I definitely learned how to give money and save money.   I learned a lot of teamwork; how to work together with other people.  And I learned about time management-balancing work, school work, and sports.”

Do you have a favorite memory?
“No,  I just liked talking and getting to know the girls better.”

What do you like about the business/ministry model of Try Pie?
“I like that it wasn’t just about making and selling pie.  It was about growing closer to God and developing in our faith.  It was also about giving back to our community.”

Did Try Pie help you break down any walls with people? 
“When my mom first told me that there would be girls from East, I had some fear because of the gangs and violence I hear about in Waterloo.  We don’t have as much of that happening in Cedar Falls.  Getting to know the girls helped me break through some of that fear, and I learned from them everyday.” 

What dreams do you have for Try Pie?
“That it would become a real business in a real building with more advertisement and marketing.  Kind of like Cookie Cart.  That would be cool.”

How would you complete the following?

The thing I love about Try Pie is the community of girls that we get to work with.

Try Pie is a community of girls, faith-based, trying to change the world by their pies

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

from relevance to prayer 2

"Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time, there is a deep current of despair.  While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world."

"From a worldly vantage point, ministers may not feel relevant or competent or needed anymore in our secular world- but under the success, power, popularity, wealth, there is a great moral and spiritual poverty...Is there anyone who loves me?  Is there anybody who really cares?  Is there anybody who wants to stay home for me?  Is there anybody who wants to be with me when I'm not in control , when I feel like crying?  Is there anyone who can hold me and give me a a sense of belonging?"  

"The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there."  

-Henri Nouwen  In the Name of Jesus

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


According to a statistic I heard on the radio this morning, these shells are just a few of the 300,000 items in my house.  Yep, the average American has 300,000 things in their home.  Not sure I'm going to count our possessions...quite possibly because I fear that I'd exceed 300,000 when I add what we have in our garage and outbuildings on our acreage.  

Honestly, I am weary of so much stuff.  The shells in the picture came home with Mike and I from Guam beaches back in 1992 when we moved back to the Cedar Valley after living on the island for two years.  I almost never notice those shells, and if I were to die today, who would even want them?  

Over the next two years, Mike and I are challenging ourselves to a significant downsizing effort. When we actually lived on Guam, we had very little stuff, and it was so wonderful. Our time was not spent managing property or stuff; it was instead spent enjoying meals and card games with friends, going on island adventures, and being attentive socially and relationally.  

Twenty-three years, two homes, and two children later, we are steeped in stuff.  I look forward to the freedom of not having 300,000 items in my home, but it's quite the difficult challenge to know what to get rid of and where to pass it off.   Hoping that if I start now, I can succeed in freeing up some space and time for the future.  

Check out the whole article that referenced the 300,000 items.  It's a pretty stunning list of statistics:

21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own

Monday, July 6, 2015

bitter sweet

Andy Mineo tweeted this today:  "I’ve found that God often lets us taste how sweet he is in our most bitter moments."

Friends of mine are in the midst of the unspeakable grief of losing three family members in a tragic car accident. I gave them a Communion chalice because when we lost our first child, Aaron, seventeen years ago, it was the Communion cup that best represented for me both the incredible bitter taste of suffering and the incredible sweet taste of communion with Jesus intermingled in the same cup. This intimate fellowship with Jesus found in suffering can only be described as a mystery of God; dreaded yet gift in the strangest of ways that can only be described as an unexpected walk into the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

from relevance to prayer 1

I just finished reading for the second time In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen.  His word to Christian leaders for our time is critically important to heed.  For some days ahead, I will share some quotes and thoughts from this literary treasure.  

"..I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her vulnerable self.  That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love.  The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life."  - Henri J.M. Nouwen