Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CCDA Memphis Review: Mary Nelson

Mary Nelson is one of the founding members of CCDA. She's a Christian Community Developer in Chicago...

We don’t need to retaliate.  Look at oppressors and say, "God bless you.  There is another way."

What is it we want in place of what we don’t want?

Isaiah 65 is the Kingdom vision.

Mary’s mother was arrested at age 78 sitting in a boat that blocked a nuclear submarine.  She put her vision into action. She did it for the children of the world.
When Mary would call her mom with problems in ministry, her mom would say, “What are you going to do about it, Mary?”  

Don’t agonize, organize.  

Some of us need to lead differently by standing with.  Some of us need to learn to accompany.  To step back and let others lead.

"When I get to the pearly gates, I want to hear Jesus say, 'Where are your scars?'"  

If there aren't scars, was there nothing worth fighting for? 

Raise the consciousness of people.  Think more globally. What are the places we know we can make a difference?

We must be prayerful, passionate, and persistent.  

We who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes.

Monday, November 23, 2015

CCDA Memphis Review: Christena Cleveland

Cleveland began with this beautiful prayer: 

Be still and know that I am God.  Be still and know that I am. Be still and know.  Be still. Be.

Our saviorism gets exposed in the face of setback.

Justice and reconciliation are the work of the cross.  When I put myself on the cross instead of Jesus, I start to feel like I’m being crucified.  Feeling hopeless is a marker of privilege.  We say, “Jesus, I’m the one on the cross.  It’s me.”

We must focus on God’s infinite love.  Your hopelessness is proof that your reliance on Jesus is lacking.  

Resentment indicates how we are orienting our lives.

The first guys through the wall always get bloody.  

Here’s how we should respond to setback:

1. Focus on positive attributes of God not negative attributes of oppressor.  Don’t put the oppressor in the center. Centralize Jesus.  Decentralize the enemy and yourself.  

2.  Check your self-righteousness level.  Bitterness speaks, "You have hurt me.  I would never do that to you.  I am better."  The term is called infrahumanization. We dehumanize the powerful, we dehumanize the other when we say, “I get it and you don't”.  You don’t get to decide who is human or not.  “I’m making all things new.  I can get to their heart,” says God.  

3. Take a break.  Do you find yourself thinking, "If I don’t say it, it won’t be said.  If I don’t do it, it won’t get done."  Maybe the holiest thing you can do is take a nap.  Know when to walk away.  Take yourself off the cross to even hear it.  One of the things that will tank us is when we try to supersede God.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

CCDA Memphis Review: Alexia Salvatierra

Over the next days, I'm going to share pieces of notes from speakers at the 2015 National CCDA Conference in Memphis a few weeks' back.

Alexia Salvatierra

Matthew 9:35-26  Jesus looked at the crowds and had compassion on them.

Before compassion, Jesus saw.  

To be illuminated is to see the world as Jesus sees.  If you look through Jesus’s eyes, you’ll see the invisible people.  In the eyes of Jesus, we are all visible.

If you see someone only in terms of their need, you do not see them fully.  Are the invisible people in your ministry blessing YOU?

We are brothers and sisters.  We are together the body. They are also our arms...why don’t we feel the pain?  Leprosy is when you don’t feel...and you’re on the outside...could this be us?

Jesus saw the crowds.  We also need to know/see systems. We see the problem and solutions differently when we see the crowd.  

Jesus runs toward the pain.  

Heb. 12:1-2  Fix our eyes on Jesus.  What will keep us going?  The vision of the joy set before Him/us.  Joy awaits. People are not issues, they are members of our own body.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

this creative and joyful good news

Our CCDA Cohort 6 met last night at the home of one of our cohort members who lives in Memphis.  There is amazing good news coming out of the home of Don and Linda, and it was so fun to see the creative ways they are welcoming the neighborhood into their home.  

Our cohort of about 35 members and spouses was seated in the garage that's been converted to "community center". White boards, tables, large screen TV,...This place serves as meeting room, a Tuesday tutoring center, a fellowship hall.  Last night, it was exquisitely decorated and set up as an Italian restaurant complete with top notch servers who are all a part of the ministry happening in and around that household.  

Don. Linda, and their children have several others living with them in their home, and the sense of Jesus and community and unified mission was palpable.  Don and Linda even put a big screened in gazebo in the front yard to serve as their 'porch' space for neighbors to gather.  

I looked around last night when the decibels in the garage got so loud that I could hardly hear the friend seated next to me.  It was so excellent to be together and to observe so many robust conversations happening around this table of family.

Keep loving people in the love and name of Jesus, Don and Linda! Your enthusiastic witness in word and deed is such a testimony to this New Thing that God is doing!

Monday, November 9, 2015

my need

Nine years ago, after years of serving in our community, I started to see the need to move from a charity mindset to more of a development, relational understanding of service and engaging.   I remember being at House of Hope, spending some time in dialogue with some of the women there, and thinking about how they didn’t have a network of support that worked for them.   I started to understand that relationships were the critical factor for change, and I thought about that largely in terms that they were the ones who needed development.  I knew that I would be mutually impacted by the women, but I didn’t think that I needed a new worldview, or that I really needed the women from House of Hope.  If you cut me open, I still felt like I had everything to give and nothing really to receive. 

Not long after I began to think about transformational and wholistic development, I flew out to Long Beach, CA, for a Renovare Spiritual Formation Conference.  I befriended a local homeless clan while there, and I spent a few breaks and meals with this group of primarily five adults who hung out in the courtyard between two hotels.  While I was eating dinner with my conference friends toward the end of my stay in Long Beach, I watched one of my new friends, Betty, walk up the street toward a public bathroom that she used.  I had a divine revelation at that moment about just how much I was the one who needed transformation and development.  God, in the middle of a lot of spiritual formation messages, some good solitude that week, and my interaction with this group of friends without a home, stopped me in my tracks and revealed something to me at a new level about my need for them. 

Seven months later, I found myself in Phoenix, AZ, shadowing Kit Danley, and I’ll never forget sitting across from her at lunch saying, “We need each other, right?  We’re interdependent, the poor and rich need each other.”  I’ll never forget her look.  It was a piercing look into my soul.  And with very carefully constructed, intentional words, she replied, “You need the poor.  The poor don’t need you.”  I am sure I gave her a nod like I understood what she meant, but the truth is, I was desperately uncomfortable with what she told me, and at the same time, I knew she was trying to tell me something very important that she could tell I did not yet “get”. 

Fast forward over the past 8 years of my life.  God has slowly but surely been helping me to understand what Kit was trying to tell me.  It’s really a similar concept as our coming to Christ.  I can play church, do things for God, try to be a good person, know about God, and more, but not until I recognize my deep brokenness and sin and my desperate need for Jesus, do I really get an “aha” that I have nothing to give…there’s nothing I can do…to earn God’s love.  It’s about seeing myself for who I really am, recognizing my need, and receiving the Savior’s love and work on the cross for me.  When I live in that new way of being and identity, I will give and do, but it’s out of a new way of seeing and being. 

The same is true about reconciliation and justice.  We who are materially resourced and walking among the privileged and dominant culture often read Scripture about doing for and giving to those who are poor or those who are marginalized and oppressed.   Unknowingly, we consider them from a mindset of power, and a mindset of us and them. We often don’t really believe we need them…but we believe they need us.  We often don't believe we have a critical need for them in our lives, that they actually have something very important to offer us, and that their very lives, culture, and voices will help us to see and be in a new way that is critical for the Gospel, for reconciliation, for justice. 

I know I still have a lot to unlearn and to learn about my own internalized superiority and my ignorance and arrogance, but I am now growing more aware of it, and I am convinced that I must have people different from myself in my life to teach me the truth.  Those whom society often discounts and sees as “the least of these” have helped me more accurately see Jesus, myself, and others.  Their voices have helped me to take off blinders and to come out of denial, blame, justifying, minimizing and into a new light of how we’re set up to maintain divisions and stratification.  I’ve been broken and taken down by revelations that were once not apparent to me but that are coming into the light.  This lament, confession, repentance has been the critical intersection for me as I’ve grieved the brokenness in me, in my people group, and throughout history.  And as I’ve grieved for brothers and sisters whose lives have been impacted adversely by injustice.   This lament and place of brokenness and powerlessness is exactly where Christ’s power shows up.  It’s exactly this powerlessness and proximity that is changing the way I view our community.   Though I am still acting and doing and serving, I recognize that if I stopped all the acting, doing, serving, I would still now recognize my absolute need for “the other”…the poor, the immigrant, the prisoner, the minority, those whom society defines as “less than”.

Embedded deep in me is the lie that I am the one that others need.  We often consider "help" only as financial resources and leadership and education and skills and status/power that need to be shared around the world.  Yes, redistribution and sharing are necessary, but I believe God wants me to first understand my place of need, brokenness, humility, and powerlessness.  Several years ago, I sensed that God was telling me, "Laura, this is not about people receiving your gifts but about your journey to receive people as gifts.”  

This is a messy journey.  I know that I won't arrive until I'm on the other side.  But I do believe that spiritual power breaks in at precisely this place of brokenness.  What a beautiful vision to see Jesus as our restorer and reconciler; living in the way of all of us broken, all of us redeemed by Jesus, all of us deeply loved and valuable children of God.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

who are we listening to?

Last night was the fourth week of a race, racism, and reconciliation conversation I've been facilitating.  The conversation has been transformative...largely because the group has both Black and White friends, and we've had the opportunity to listen to one another.  

Part of our conversation last night revolved around the non-negotiable of both lament and hope in Christ on the journey of reconciliation.  The other non-negotiable is for dominant culture folks to recognize their desperate need for "the other" and to learn from people different from themselves.  Soong Chan Rah, in this 31 minute video, describes why we must recognize this as a high priority need.