Sunday, November 27, 2016

the right to vote

I can't stop thinking about my neighbor.  She's an 83 year old African-American wonder who spent many hours this fall going to  high schools in order to help 18 year olds register to vote.  Then, on Election Day, she spent the day at local hospitals giving voting access to people who had been hospitalized within 48 hours of November 8.

I was marveling at her commitment the other day, and I decided to go back and look at a bit of history. In Divided by Faith, I read about the Reconstruction Period 1865-1877.  Four millions former slaves were now "freed" but owned no land and were living without much for resources or educational experience.  Many white folks were angry with the abolishment of slavery, and a new type of oppression emerged- sharecropping.  Still, with that all of that being true, this was happening:

"Blacks and whites were seen going to school together, and even in politics together.  As northern reporter James S. Pike reported on his visit to the South Carolina House of Representatives: 'The Speaker is black, the clerk is black, the doorkeepers are black, the little pages are black, the chairman of the Ways and Means is black, and the chaplain is coal black.'  This was a shock to white southerners, and northerners too.  After hundreds of years of white domination, suddenly, within just a few short years, former slaves were holding seats of power.

In addition to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, African Americans in the South were able to capitalize on their numbers.  According to the 1860 census, African Americans constituted 35 percent of Virginia's population, 36 percent of North Carolina's, 44 percent of Georgia's, 45 percent of Florida's and Alabama's, 50 percent of Louisiana's, 55 percent of Mississippi's, and 59 percent of South Carolina's.  Assuming voting along racial lines, those proportions made winning elections not only possible, but likely.

All this was too threatening for most white southerners, and for many white northerners as well. They feared for their way of life, their sense of group position, and their vision of a Christian America, which, as the leading evangelical social reformer of the time, northerner Josiah Strong, clearly expressed, was to be an Anglo-Saxon society.  The former slaves were not properly Christianized nor educated to be holding elected offices and running the nation.  More directly, the economic and cultural threat of the African Americans was very real, and southerners responded by instituting the increasingly harsh realities of the now well-known Jim Crow laws, designed to separate blacks from whites and subjugate blacks in social and economic life."

I spent some time the other night trying to answer questions to a sample literacy test found here that was used to turn away African Americans from their right to vote during the Jim Crow era.  I, of course, failed big time.  And, I considered deeply how the Voting Rights Act wasn't signed until the year I was born, 1965.  Crazy.  Unjust.  Not okay.  

This to say, that I've been impacted this year in a way I had not been before regarding the privilege and right to vote and the struggle for so many in what I have previously taken for granted.  I so appreciate my neighbor's commitment and what she's shown me this year through her tireless work to honor those who have struggled before her and to use her voice to help others use their voice.  She makes me want to fight the good fight alongside her.   Thank you, W.M.W.  Your faith in Jesus, your life, and your commitment to justice work makes our community a better place.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dakota 38

The power of a story.  I got up early this morning to watch Dakota 38 (1 hour, 18 minutes) .  In my opinion, it's a must see.  

*I need to look at real history.
*I need to grow understanding.
*I need to grow empathy.
*I need to learn stories of healing and reconciliation for my own heart's journey of healing and reconciliation.
*I need to feel with and pray for Native brothers and sisters whose land is still being threatened. (ie: Standing Rock, North Dakota)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

a different story

Over the past month, I have worked with a handful of individuals who are seeking to understand the mission and vision of Link and its initiatives.  I am finding that people have a common story in their mind that needs to be challenged. 

We white American Christians have developed a storyline that lives deep in us regarding mission and community transformation.  It's a story that usually reads something like "Resourced church starts program to help poor children get out of poverty."  That is not our story.  Certainly, Link’s goals include working to help people overcome material poverty, but just as important is the goal for people like me to overcome spiritual and relational poverty due to my neglect of justice and the sin effects of segregation.  

Link is a story of building a community together where all people and gifts are valued, where we each give and we each receive so that we might all experience more of the fullness of life that Jesus promises.  I am finding that regardless of our race or class, we have all been damaged by racism and classism, and we need healing. 

I think the hardest page for folks to turn in this uncommon story is the pressing need for people like me to engage with the marginalized and the poor not because of what we have to offer them, but because of what they have to offer us for our own development.  

The bottom line of Link is relationship.  Jesus the Reconciler offers to make us right with God and with one another. If we can begin to live in the power of Christ as neighbors and friends across lines of separation, then I believe our worldly power structures could begin to reorder so that our caring and sharing together might just produce a model that looks like reconciliation and justice….that looks like Jesus.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Merton's letter to a young activist

Thomas Merton: A letter to a Young Activist
Letter to a Young Activist     

“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.

The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.
The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth: and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration and confusion.
The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it before hand”.
Enough of this…it is at least a gesture…I will keep you in my prayers.

All the best, in Christ,


Friday, September 30, 2016

Lina Thompson

Lina Thompson is a pastor in a Presbyterian church in the Northwest.  She spoke at the CCDA conference in LA last month.  Her message was so amazing, yet difficult to capture in a summary.

Thompson, like Daniel Hill, spoke about how we see. How do we see Jesus?  How do we view following Jesus?  We will always disciple from a vision.  What vision do you have?

So often, Christians tend to operate from a vision of power and a big win.  But when Christ said, "follow me, " he was heading to suffering, pain, to the cross.

What is the vision of Jesus you are painting to people?  Is it compelling?  Is it a vision people want to give their lives to?

Thompson also had a few other sticky points...

*"We can have the right answer but the wrong practice."

*"Grace is like water.  It flows downhill and pools in the lowest places."

*Thompson also compared classical and jazz music to a classical and jazz theology.

Thompson said that we've been about classical in the Church for some time, but it's time for jazz.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wayne Gordon

Coach Gordon and John Perkins shared a Bible Study with us each morning of the CCDA conference in LA.  One morning, Coach shared Proverbs 3:5-6, a familiar verse to many:  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

He then went on to talk about a friend, Darryl Saffold, who, 15 years ago, came to Hope House in Lawndale as an addict.  After getting clean, he married, he went to seminary and got his masters of divinity, he went back to get a doctorate in Christian Community Development and his DMin.  He was executive pastor at Lawndale, the chairman of the Board for their community development corporation, and Coach Gordon was sensing and planning that Darryl was God's succession plan for Lawndale's leadership as Coach prepares to pass the baton and retire.  

Then, Darryl died at age 49 of a massive heart attack in June.

Coach shared about going to Darryl and Julie's house. Coach got there as the paramedics stopped working on Darryl, and he prayed and prayed for God to revive Darryl's life. Darryl did not come back to life on this side.  

What do you do when you are trusting God, you believe He's directing your path in a certain direction, and then it doesn't go that way?

This was Gordon's question to us that morning. Where is our trust when it doesn't go the way we were so sure it was supposed to go? Can we still trust God?  

The truth in these hard and confusing circumstances is that God is still God.  And if we're honest, we don't really know what we're doing or what is going to happen.  But can we walk by faith and not by sight? Can we still put our trust in a sovereign and good God?  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and HE will make straight your paths. 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Christ the sure foundation.  He, through faith, is our only certain future.    

Friday, September 23, 2016

Noel Castellanos

Noel started off the National CCDA conference by showing us the video below:

Prior to the conference start in Los Angeles, about 150 people participated in El Camino, a 150 mile, 11 day pilgrimage from the Mexico/U.S. border into the conference in LA.   (70 people went the whole way)

Noel used the metaphor of pilgrimage/El Camino to talk about our walk of faith.

Proverbs 8:20  I walk in the way of righteousness along the paths of justice.

1.  The camino is hard.  For the CCD practitioner, the way is difficult personally, relationally, every way.  

2.  The camino is not meant to be walked alone.  The very character of God is that He is a communal God.  We must go out and walk with people.  Everyone on the camino is in pain and suffering.  The camino requires grace for the journey.

3.  The camino is transformative.  The group of walkers thought they were walking to change immigration.  You know what?  God changed their hearts.  Transformation does not happen through power; it happens through pain.  

The road is built as we walk.  That we would walk together for love, for reconciliation, for the glory of God.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

Before I begin to read and wrestle through chapter 5 of the Divine Conspiracy, I wanted to share a teaching from Karla Chestnut who did a great job interpreting content from Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy.  Watch this excellent teaching if you have a chance!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Daniel Hill

Daniel Hill (Twitter: @danielhill1336) is pastor at River City Community Church located in Chicago, IL.  He is a white man who used to work at Willow Creek Community Church, and while there, he developed a passion for racial reconciliation.  Nancy Ortberg was his supervisor, and she encouraged him to go into the city and develop a multi-ethnic community of faith.  

Daniel shared his journey over the past fifteen years.  His journey early on was driven by the question, "What do I do with privilege?" but has since changed to "How can I learn to see?"  

Daniel did an outstanding job sharing from his narrative.  He shared the verse in John chapter 3 about Nicodemus visiting Jesus, and Jesus saying to Nicodemus, "No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again."  This implied that Nicodemus was blind and could not rightly see.

The question that initially began to guide Daniel changed from "What do I do with privilege?" to "Can I see?"  And the answer he found was, "No, I cannot see."  Therefore, new questions led him forward....

"Can I embrace the fact that I cannot see?"
"What will I do about this blindness?"

Hill challenged his white listeners to address these blinders that privilege has put on our eyes.  To start with the question, "How can I learn to see?" rather than to start with "What can I do?"  

He challenged us to not be satisfied or think that we mostly know. We don't know.  We must acknowledge our blindness because to be white is to be unexposed to so many realities.   He also challenged us to not get caught in sincerity or intention.  The conversation is more complicated than that. 

Hill spoke to white brothers and sisters, charging them to take responsibility for educating themselves...reading books, reading theologians outside of European descent, going to lectures and discussions, committing to proximity, presence, and powerlessness.

Though individual commitment to listen and learn is necessary, Hill also shared that wrestling with privilege will take community and will need to be done with brothers and sisters who are on the margins.  Daniel shared how critical friends of color have been in his life....including Brenda Salter McNeil who has been an influential mentor.  Hill also sited two biblical stories...God's word to Cornelius to receive and help Peter learn to "see."  And God's word to Ananias to receive and help Saul/Paul see after being blinded.  Hill asked people of color to not give up on white people, though he acknowledged the depth of pain and risk involved for them in this request.  

Hearing the pain in our emcee's voice, Erna, after Hill spoke, was certainly a moment for me.  She walked on stage after Hill spoke. As a Korean-American woman, she came to the microphone with emotion and honesty and shared how difficult it is and how she's not sure she's ready to receive and help white people learn to see.  That moment pierced me with an awareness of a depth of the harm and a depth of pain in our friends of color and the depth of ignorance and arrogance that reside in me....far deeper than I currently know or can see.  

Daniel's message was a critical one for me.  "Can I embrace the fact that I cannot see?"  God, beyond sincerity and intention, help me confront my blindness and give me sight.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sandra Van Opstal

I am still going to spend some time on this blog sharing notes and impressions from speakers I heard at the CCDA conference in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.  

Sandra Van Opstal brought the conference worship band together, and they were amazing at leading us in praise and worship through the plenary sessions.  In one session, after a time of worship, Sandra stopped and shared about the importance of the diversity we saw on the stage.

1.  This diversity speaks, "We welcome you.  We've been expecting you." Diversity extends a hand and is about hospitality.  

2.  This diversity speaks, "I see you.  I hear you."  It is a stand of solidarity.  

3.  This diversity speaks, "I want to learn your story.  I need you."  This diversity is about mutuality, and how our view and understanding of God and neighbor and self is dependent on knowing others who are different from us.  

Sandra then went on to introduce the bass player who was a young man from Syria.  He shared briefly a powerful story of his friend, a Christian doctor, who was kidnapped, along with 250 Christians, by ISIS.  He watched on youtube as his friend spoke into the camera before being executed by ISIS.  It was such a moving story, and this young man then began to teach us a familiar chorus in Arabic.  I felt drawn in together with the global family of Jesus.  I felt drawn up together into the heart of God and his love for all people across the world.  

Sandra has written a book called The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World.  (InterVarsity Press)  

She believes every church should be singing songs in other languages as a discipline to stand with the global Church.  

If you are in a predominately homogeneous congregation, here are a few questions to reflect upon...

1. How are you preparing for diversity in your congregation?
2. How is your congregation growing in multi-cultural awareness and intelligence?
3. How are you moving toward a global, multi-ethnic church that reflects and celebrates your community's make up and also guards against assimilation into the current dominate, homogeneous culture of your church?  
4. Why might God desire your church to be a unified yet diverse community of faith?  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

the risk to belong

It was so good to be at Orchard Hill Church on Sunday!  I've been gone due to traveling and Picnic in the Park this summer.  So great to see friendly faces and to be together in worship.

I love the teaching series we're in...about a risk-taking faith.  Dave spoke Sunday about the power of Christian community and our need to belong.  His key points:

Community is a place where you can....

Know and be known
Love and be loved
Serve and be served
Celebrate and be celebrated

He also spoke about how....

1.  Belonging has many levels.
2.  Belonging must fit your life and your personality.
3.  Belonging often requires you to initiate.

I've experienced God using Christian community in such amazing, exponential ways!  Discipleship in community.  Mission in the community/world with all of our gifts used collectively.  Accountability in community.  Empowerment in community.  Encouragement in community.  Learning in community. Worship in community.  Deep friendship in community.  I love how God has designed us to grow and go together as a family in Christ!

My missional journey has involved community, too.  I know that Jesus's community includes people of all different colors, cultures, backgrounds, income levels.  Because my cultural norms are so set in me, it requires me to initiate belonging in community outside of the homogeneous community I naturally tend to form.  This doesn't always fit my life and personality, but it does fit risk-taking faith, and God has moved supernaturally here in the ways of knowing, loving, serving, and celebrating.

That Jesus will continue to grow us and heal us as he develops unity through diverse Christian community, and that He will send us out together in our community and world with Him in his restoring mission of making all things new and right!

Here's Dave's talk if you'd like to watch:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Peter Chin

*Peter W. Chin is the pastor of Rainier Avenue Church and author of Blindsided By God. His advocacy work for racial reconciliation has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, and the Washington Post.

*Peter spoke about growing up with a mentor/discipler who had the gift of encouragement.  His mentor didn't talk about Peter as he was but as he was to become in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Peter encouraged us to disciple people by helping them grow into maturity.  Draw them into God's future for them in Christ.  

*Peter also spoke about how our culture acts as if a person's beliefs are fixed.  Because of this, we tend to give up on people.  We assume they won't change.  We lose hope because maybe we've walked with someone who doesn't change.  Or the problem seems so pervasive.  Or we guard ourselves for emotional safety reasons.  But Peter went on to say, "People CAN change and grow...and I'll tell you my story of how that  is true of me."  

*Peter grew up in a community with deep hostility and contempt between Korean-Americans and African-Americans.  His father was a store owner whose store was vandalized by African-Americans.  There were many clashes over the years between Korean-American store owners and the African-American community.  Peter didn't believe that racial reconciliation could ever happen.  That wounds could ever heal.  Then, Peter was called to pastor a church in a predominantly African-American community.  He didn't want to go, but people there received him.  In his words, "People did not give up on me.  God did not give up on me."

*Peter's challenge and encouragement to us listeners....

-People CAN change through the Holy Spirit and through your presence.
-Don't just 'bring truth' in a 'drop the mic' moment.  (Like Jonah tried to do...bringing a prophetic, condemning word, and then walking away.)  God does care about the truth, but He also cares about wrongdoers.  So should we care about people...and remember that we are wrongdoers, too.
-We might need to carry the mic in one hand, but we also need to carry a shepherd's staff in the other.  We need to walk with people as a gentle shepherd.  

How might Peter's words apply in your world and life?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Brenda Salter McNeil

I recently returned from the Christian Community Development Association's National Conference hosted in Los Angeles at the end of August.  I've been reviewing notes and will try to summarize some of what was shared over my next few weeks of blog posts.  

Dr. Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil

I have always loved listening to Brenda Salter McNeil, but her opening plenary message was, for me, the most powerful and Holy Spirit inspired charge to Christ's Church that I've heard in the times we're living.  

An attempt to summarize some of the message:

*Dr. Rev. Brenda has been about speaking on racial reconciliation for some time, but something changed after she and other pastors went to Ferguson, MO, to listen to activists in Dec. 2014.  She speaks now with more of a conviction and a charge to the Church.

*Young activists were feeling called, feeling that a moment was upon them to join in a movement which birthed as the Black Lives Matter movement.  Pastors asked the group why they weren't basing the movement from the Church-center, like the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's.  Activists proceeded to "take the pastors to school" by letting them know that they didn't like the Church's mysogyny, hypocisy, complacency, and exclusion of people groups. They felt that the Church was working harder to keep people out than to let them in.  The Church no longer had credibility, and they shared that they were needing something else from the Church. Though the Church might be wrestling with diversity and reconciliation, the young people were basically asking, "Diversity for what?  Reconciliation for what?"  

*God has been stirring Brenda with Mark 2:21-22 for some time, and the time in Ferguson only confirmed that it is time for "new wine in new wineskins."  Different models are needed in these times.  Old models have served their purposes and brought us to a place now where new models will be required.  

*New models will require:

-Collaboration.  The "day of the single superstar is over.  We are not looking for the next Martin Luther King Jr. or Billy Graham."  Partnership and collaboration with women/men, church/city, different racial and ethnic groups, multi-generations will be needed.  This will create a disorientation and fear, but Salter McNeil reminded us that "faith is fear that has said its prayers.  It is going to scare us to death to try new models."  

-Reparations.  We will need to leave comfort zones and practice proximity. And not only that, we will need to work together to repair broken systems.  Brenda spoke about how the activists were asking the Church, "Are you addressing anything, repairing anything, fixing anything?"  The group of young people were speaking to justice.  Churches might be addressing faith and our family systems, which are both needed, but is the Church also seeing outside of these and addressing other real time justice issues in our society?  

And a final word here.  Salter McNeil described this new wine as a wine that will need to go beyond personal, individual efforts. Tutoring, mentoring, individual relationships are all critical, as we have to deconstruct racist systems through relationships and through one-on-one, daily encounters of offering self in presence. (I've heard from two people who listened to Salter McNeil's talk and experienced a sense of invalidation of the work that they've done toward reconciliation and to right the wrongs in our communities.)  I don't believe Salter McNeil was intending to dismiss the critical need for individual efforts to know people, to feed, clothe, house, mentor people, etc.. I do believe she was challenging to the Church, especially the white community of faith, to gain a systemic lens.  So often individual efforts stay embedded in a social and racial hierarchy that is unhealthy.  She challenged the Church to not stay silent.  To be a prophetic voice and to bring Biblical story and vision.  To speak about painful history and what is broken.  To speak about God's vision of Shalom and His Kingdom.  To learn, to listen, to lament, to confess, to repent, to educate.  To show up and "not feel the need to run everything."  To join with.  To mobilize. To be involved corporately and collaboratively in Christ's work of new creation, a creation that is redemptive and just, in our communities and world.

So, it's not either/or.  It's both/and.  Christ's restorative mission is personal, but it's more than personal.  It's also corporate, collective, structural in nature.  And it will require new wine in new wineskins as Jesus leads us forward to deconstruct systems that were built on white supremacy and to construct new systems built with Imagio Dei  and "one new humanity" in mind.   

You can hear McNeil's talk if you go to  You will have to scroll down to August 31 and look for the caption "A sneak peek at opening plenary."  You won't be able to see the stage very clearly, but you can clearly hear Dr. Brenda's whole message!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

a model of presence

I can't stop thinking about a funeral that my friend, Judy, pastor of Harvest Vineyard Church, officiated a few weeks back. 

Roy was a neighbor in the Walnut Neighborhood, and alcohol took a toll on Roy's life, ultimately leading him toward an early death while he was in his 50's.  

What moved me so much through this funeral, was the fact that Judy knew more of Roy than his alcoholism.  She spoke of the encounters she'd had with Roy through the years, both in the neighborhood and when he'd come to church a few times.  She knew of his kind heart, his love of fishing, his good nature.  She told stories of his help with the community garden, and the times when he tried to kick his addiction.  

As Judy spoke with the family and those gathered, we could see and celebrate who God made Roy to be.  It was a holy time of personal story and brokenness and God's grace.  

And for me, it was a powerful testament to presence.  While many in the neighborhood might have only seen and labeled Roy as the neighborhood drunk, Judy really saw Roy beyond that, as a deeply loved human being with gifts and a future, a person who needed Jesus and healing, just like every other one of us who walks the earth. 

I was so warmed by this funeral.  By the loving presence and "noticing" done by a neighborhood pastor, to the sense of grace and healing I could feel happen with family members in the room.  

This hour marked me as I consider my own presence in the neighborhood, the eyes by which I see, and the availability I have (or don't have) to be with and experience life alongside my neighbors.  

Thanks, Judy, for your witness of incarnation and loving presence with people...especially people who are often passed over or dismissed.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

God's working through partnerships

Yesterday, Orchard Hill Church's leadership and Mission Strategy Team had the honor of bringing together our partners from UCI in Haiti, and from Food for the Hungry in Mozambique.  After being at the Global Leadership Summit Thursday and Friday, we joined together Saturday morning for a brunch and a time of listening to our partners share what God is doing through their ministries.  

This time of listening and learning was a Spirit-filled, holy time together.  The group was especially captivated when Aweke and Joal, staff at Food for the Hungry, Gorongoza, Mozambique, spoke about God's fruit through the many savings groups forming in their region.  

Food for the Hungry initiated several groups consisting of 12-25 adults and began to share with them a biblical view of money and stewardship.  They described the value of saving money together. Initially, the participants rejected the idea that they could save money.  'We don't have any money to save. We're too poor,' was a common response.  However, with education and a compelling vision, the participants began to pool small amounts of their money, and they began to loan it to individuals within their group who would return the money along with interest.   

God is working mightily through these savings groups!  No seed money was given to these groups.  From the beginning, it was owned by the participants and the money saved was their own money.  The groups provide motivation, encouragement, and accountability from within.  Relationships are built.  Businesses and innovative ideas are being pursued with the loans.  A faithful God is experienced, and His principles are being learned about and lived out tangibly.   

And, talk about a "fishes and loaves" story.  From their initial meager offerings, these savings groups have generated over $400,000 U.S. dollars together over the past 4 years!  These groups have been bearing much spiritual, relational, and economic fruit.  It is a goal of Food for the Hungry that some of the savings groups would now start to join together to form associations together.  

This time of sharing was a great reminder of the following:

1. Wholistic ministry integrates the spiritual and physical.  Economic development within a biblical worldview.  Spiritual development and Christian community are central in community transformation because they address the heart, mind, and the foundational "why"...the motivation toward being Kingdom people on a Kingdom mission toward a Kingdom vision.    

2. Mutuality!  Our partners felt blessed by being invited to come be a part of the Global Leadership Summit, and I was inspired and challenged by the ministries of our partners.  We have so much to learn from one another.  The picture in the room was one of the global Body of Christ listening and learning from one another.  JeanJean and Kristie, from Haiti, asked for more information from Aweke and Joal regarding these savings groups so that they could consider savings groups for their context in Gorongosa, Haiti.  I've been taking Dave Ramsey's class with our two teens, and I'm aware of the troubling statistics in our country around Americans' lack of saving money and living instead in debt.  I also know many right around me who would say, 'I don't have the money to save.'  Whether America, Mozambique, or Haiti, we all need to address thinking about and stewarding money God's way!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Perkins coming back to Iowa

"What separates Christian community development from other forms of social change is that we believe that changing a life or changing a community is ultimately a spiritual issue...I want to be clear that a ministry of Christian community development without evangelism is like a body without a soul.  To be Christian, by definition, is to live and speak in such a way that our lives continually point to the wonderful person of Jesus Christ."  John M. Perkins from Beyond Charity

Dr. Perkins is coming back to Iowa in October.  He'll be a presenter at the first ever Iowa CCDA Regional Conference in Sioux Center, IA (Dordt College), Oct. 27-29.  Learn more at 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 123-125)

Uh oh, it's bad, when you look at your own blog and only find your weekly Willard posts!  I have much else I'd like to share in writing and no time to do so...that's a problem!  I will attempt a little more variety in the future between Wednesdays.  :)

I am blogging through The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.  It's been a pivotal book for me as I seek a renewing of my mind (Romans 12) and a more fully formed Kingdom of God worldview.  

Some quotes today from Willard who spent the last part of chapter 4 writing about the "hopeless blessables".  

"Blessed are the physically repulsive, Blessed are those who smell bad, the twisted, misshapen, deformed,, the too big, too little, too loud, the bald, the fat, and the old- For they are all riotously celebrated in the party of Jesus."

Willard goes on to write about others we tend to disqualify:

"The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs.  The broke and the broken.  The drug heads and the divorced.  The HIV positive and herpes ridden.  The brain-damaged and incurably ill.  The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or at the wrong time.  The overemployed, the underemployed, the unemployed.  The unemployable.  The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced.  The parents with children living on the street, the children with parents dying in the "rest" home.  The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid.  The emotionally starved or emotionally dead.  And on and on and on."

"Is it true that Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal?  It is true!  That is precisely the gospel of heaven's availability that comes to us through the Beatitudes.  And you don't have to wait until you are dead.  Jesus offers to all such people as these the present blessedness of the present kingdom- regardless of circumstances.  The condition of life sought for by human beings through the ages is attained in the quietly transforming friendship of Jesus."

"If I, as a recovering sinner myself, accept Jesus' good news, I can go to the mass murderer and say, 'You can be blessed in the kingdom of the heavens.  There is forgiveness that knows no limits.'  To the pederast and the perpetrator of incest.  To the worshiper of Satan.  To those who rob the aged and weak. To the cheat and the liar, the bloodsucker and vengeful:  Blessed! Blessed! Blessed!  As they flee into the arms of the Kingdom Among Us."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 115-122)

This section of Willard's writing reminds us that Jesus, through the Beatitudes, and other biblical passages, emphasizes that the Kingdom of God is readily available to all people, including individuals who tend to be disregarded and discarded in society.

"The Beatitudes serve to clarify Jesus' fundamental message: the free availability of God's rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself."  

"Thus by proclaiming blessed those who in the human order are thought hopeless, and by pronouncing woes over those human beings regarded as well off, Jesus opens the kingdom of the heavens to everyone."    

In Luke 4 :18-19, when Jesus opened and read the scroll, he read from Isaiah, and told the people that He was the anointed one to "proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to announce that captives are released, that the blind have their sight, that the oppressed are empowered, and that this is a time when the Lord's favors are open to people.

"Clearly this is the same type of list found in the Beatitudes of both Matthew and Luke.  It is a list of people humanly regarded as lost causes, but who yet, at the hand of Jesus, come to know the blessing of the kingdom of the heavens."

When John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent one of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one who was to come.  Jesus responded, 'The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are revived, and the poor hear some real good news.'

"Note here the list of 'hopeless cases' that are blessed through the sufficiency of God to meet them in their appalling need.  The personal ministry of Jesus from his present kingdom brings them beatitude."

Many biblical writings "celebrate this theme of God's hand lifting up those cast down and casting down those lifted up in the human scheme.  The reigining of God over life is the good news of the whole Bible: 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" Isaiah 52:7

We simply cannot not pay attention to Jesus's proclamation and demonstration of making the 'firsts' last and the 'lasts' first throughout his life and teachings.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

move toward the pain

We must run toward the pain in our communities. 

A few weeks ago, at a peaceful protest  against police brutality in Dallas, TX, a gunman opened fire killing 5 police officers and injuring 7 more.  As gunshots rang out, protest participants ran from the area, while police officers ran toward the gunfire.  

This image reminded me of a story regarding the Early Church:

"The Antonine Plague (165–180 AD), also called the Plague of Galen, was a pandemic now believed to be smallpox that was introduced to the Roman Empire by soldiers returning from Syria. Five million people died as it ran its course. In the following century, the Plague of Cyprian (251–266 AD) spread from Africa throughout the known world. It was transmitted person-to-person by physical contact and by touching or using clothing and items infected by the sick. Half of all people who encountered the disease died.
During each pandemic, government officials and the wealthy fled the cities for the countryside to escape contact with those who were infected. The Christian community remained behind, transforming themselves into a great force of caretakers.
On Easter Sunday in 260 AD, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth praised the efforts of the Christians, many of whom had died while caring for others. He said:
Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.
The early Christians’ dedication to caring for their neighbors as themselves during times of plague and sickness, whether the sick were believers or not, showcased the integrity of their unique message of love for others. These Christ-like actions had great social impact and attracted outsiders to the faith." (by Kathy Baldock "Canyonwalker Connections")

Christ himself incarnated into the pain of society.  He was born and walked and lived and loved among the poor and the oppressed.  As His followers, we are called to move with Him toward our society's pain and problems.  The power of love demonstrated through presence, proximity, and powerlessness. As we live in relationship with Christ, we must ask ourselves how he is calling each of us to move toward the pain.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 106-114)

I pulled The Divine Conspiracy off my shelf after John Perkins' visit in February. More than ever, I'm considering the invitation to life in the Kingdom of God and training as a student of Jesus. I've invited my co-workers into the 10 chapters of The Divine Conspiracy over the course of 10 months of 2016.  This is my third time through the book; Dallas Willard has much wisdom for us related to life in the Kingdom of God.  

Jesus the Master Teacher

"The secret of the great teacher is to speak words, to foster experiences, that impact the active flow of the hearer's life.  That is what Jesus did by the way he taught.  He tied his teachings to concrete events that make up the hearers' lives.  He aimed his sayings at their hearts and habits as these were revealed in their daily lives.  

Now, Jesus not only taught in this manner; he also taught us, his students in the kingdom, to teach in the same way.   He taught about teaching in the kingdom of the heavens- using, of course, a parable.  'So every bible scholar who is trained in the kingdom of the heavens is like someone over a household that shows from his treasures things new and things old' (Matt. 13:52)  By showing to others the presence of the kingdom in the concrete details of our shared existence, we impact the lives and hearts of our hearers, not just their heads."  - Dallas Willard

I love how Jesus used real everyday situations and questions to challenge assumptions and worldviews.  He often compared and contrasted the kingdoms of this world vs. the Kingdom of God through pictures and stories.   He used everyday occurrences to point to the values and the ways of His Father's Kingdom as opposed to the values and the ways of this world.   We can look for everyday, concrete happenings to do the same.   

Sunday, July 17, 2016

a few more recommended messages and podcasts...

I watched Leonce B. Crump Jr.'s sermon from July 10 today.  Recommended for any white person who is trying to learn, seeking understanding.  This is a 45 minute sermon by this pastor of Renovation Church, Atlanta:

Watch a 5 part conversation at the Verge Network.  Really critical.  Part 1 Understanding the Problem  10 minutes  Part 2 The Illusion of Progress   6 minutes  Part 3 What is your Racial I.Q.?  36 minute panel  Part 4  Why colorblindness is toxic; a conversation with Propaganda 5 minutes  Part 5  Why we should stop using the term white guilt; conversation with Soong Chan Rah

Thursday, July 14, 2016

the role of Christ's Church in these days

Last Sunday, July 10, 2016, Andy Stanley and John Ortberg interrupted their sermon series to respond to the awful events of last week and to address Christ's call to His Church in the midst of these days. 

I'd also like to find and post a few sermons from leading black pastors.  Please comment and reference any that you have found to be impactful.

Andy Stanley interviews 2 black men for about an hour. Important conversation.

John Ortberg shares a short message, asks the congregation to pray in small huddles, and Condoleezza Rice closes in prayer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 97-106)

"The Beatitudes, in particular, are not teachings on how to be blessed.  They are not instructions to do anything.  They do not indicate conditions that are especially pleasing to God or good for human beings.  

No one is actually being told that they are better off for being poor, for mourning, for being persecuted, and so on, or that the conditions listed are recommended ways to well-being before God or man.  Nor are the Beatitudes indications of who will be on top 'after the revolution'.  They are explanations and illustrations, drawn from the immediate setting, of the present availability of the kingdom through personal relationship to Jesus.  They single out cases that provide proof that, in him, the rule of God from the heavens truly is available in life circumstances that are beyond all human hope."  -Dallas Willard  

gathering tomorrow for "The Stranger" documentary

Tomorrow, July 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Harvest Vineyard Church, 715 E. 4th St. Waterloo. 

CCDA Connect is showing "The Stranger", a 45 minute documentary highlighting biblical teaching related to immigrants, sharing compelling stories of immigrants who are also evangelical Christians, and addressing some common economic and political misconceptions, The Stranger seeks to mobilize evangelical Christians to respond to immigrants and to immigration policy in ways that are consistent with biblical principles.

Share with anyone whom you think might be interested!

Nurys Lopez, pastor from the Spanish-speaking church, La Cosecha, will be with us, and also Ann Grove who is an advocate and friend to many of our Burmese neighbors.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

the both and

Mourning the deaths of black lives and mourning the deaths of police officers are not mutually exclusive.  We can grieve the loss of each life along with grieving the fear and the hostility that exists between people groups.  We can honor the lives, families, and professions of both at the same time while working for justice. 

This afternoon, I went to the home of a friend who messaged me and asked me to come over to help her process an idea she has.  Ruby started by sharing the heavy burden she's had over this past week, and how she's been torn up, losing sleep, and so troubled by the events in our country over the past seven days. 

Through tears and passion, she shared a spiral of notes with a vision she's getting to organize a local event with the goal of bringing the community and law enforcement together to help the Cedar Valley demonstrate that we desire to know one another and live as good neighbors.  She wants officers to know that not everyone is against them.  She wants to show support and appreciate them.  She wants to bring the community and the police department together to meet one another, eat together, play together through games and activities, and to hear a few voices speak a vision of a unified community of individuals that are for one another. 

In the next breath, Ruby spoke about how afraid she is for her family.  Her husband is black, and she spoke about how sweet and loving he is, but how he is in such danger due to fear and assumptions.  She wants officers to know him  so that when he drives to work at 5:30 a.m. each morning, there's a friendly wave rather than suspicion.  She told me how she and her husband teach their children protocol for police interaction, but she still fears for them regardless of this. "We need to get to know one another, become familiar with one another."   

As I listened, the both/and was so clear.  Ruby was both for the lives and the work of law enforcement and for a day when she won't have to fear that her husband and children will be wrongly judged because of the color of their skin.  She even talked directly about not being an either/or but a both/and person.   

I too am thankful we have police officers in our towns and cities across our country. It would be terrible imagining our society without them. (except for on Union Rd. when I want to get home   I am thankful for the work they do, the danger they put themselves in daily, the difficulties they face, and the sacrifices they make to keep people from harm and to maintain a sense of safety and lawful order in our communities.  I have gone to events to support our police chief, I have loved cheering on Spencer, a police officer who comes to our neighborhood meetings and who used to be one of my youth group kids at church, and to see one of my past fifth grade students, Bryce, serve as an investigator.  We have many officers who go to our church.   They are individuals committed to faith, family, work, city, country.  I would mourn the loss of their lives if they would die in the line of duty or outside of duty.

At the same time, I can deeply grieve the loss of lives of black men, women, and children across our country through the centuries to today.  Lives cut short due to a whole number of tragedies and injustices, including but not limited to, being a victim of a shooting by a police officer.  

I can grieve the racist operating system that we developed when we packed black bodies in the bottom of ships to bring to our nation to enslave and then determined that they were only 3/5 a person.  This operating system has been internalized throughout our history and influences how we see and experience ourselves and our neighbors today.  

Our lives are lived out in individual relationships to be sure.  But I believe we do live them out as software within a hard drive that has always been broken.   I believe that in the complexity and confusion of our time, we really can be both/and people....honoring and loving black lives and police officers, grieving for black lives and police officers, and working with black, brown, and white lives, police officers and citizens, to rewire the hard drive.