Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 1 Entering the Eternal Kind of Life Now (pp.25-28)

Walking through this book on Wednesdays with some quotes from a favorite teacher/author on the Kingdom of God, Dallas Willard....

God's Kingdom

"Now God's own 'kingdom' or 'rule', is the range of his effective will, where what he wants done is done.  The person of God himself and the action of his will are the organizing principles of his kingdom, but everything that obeys those principles, whether by nature or by choice, is within his kingdom."

"The kingdom of God cannot be shaken and is totally good.  It has never been in trouble and never will be.  It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder.  We do have an invitation to be a part of it, but if we refuse we only hurt ourselves."

"Indeed, the social and political realm, along with the individual heart, is the only place in all creation where the kingdom of God, or his effective will, is currently permitted to be absent."

"Jesus's own gospel of the kingdom was not that the kingdom was about to come, or had recently come, into existence (the kingdom was already existent).  If we attend to what he actually said, it becomes clear that his gospel concerned only the new accessibility of the kingdom to humanity through himself."

"Jesus came among us to show and teach the life for which we were made.  He came very gently, opened access to the governance of God with him, and set afoot a conspiracy of freedom in truth among human beings.  Having overcome death he remains among us."

"By relying on his word and presence we are enabled to reintegrate the little realm that makes up our life into the infinite rule of God.  and that is the eternal kind of life.  Caught up in his active rule, our deeds become an element in God's eternal history.  They are what God and we do together, making us part of his life and him a part of ours."

"New Testament passages make plain that this kingdom is not something to be 'accepted' now and enjoyed later, but something to be entered now.  It is something that already has flesh and blood citizens who have been transformed into it and are fellow workers in it."

"The apostle Paul on one occasion describes the Kingdom of God simply as 'righteousness and peace and joy' of a type that only occurs 'through the energizing of the Holy Spirit'.  That it is not of, or not derived from, this world or 'here' does not mean that it is not real or that it is not in this world.  It is, as Jesus said, constantly in the midst of human life.  Indeed, it means that it is more real and more present than any human arrangement could ever possibly be."  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

CCD Saturday: The New Normal

In order for God to be about new creation, some of the old creation has to get confronted and challenged. I'm learning through Christian Community Development, that I just have to name uncomfortable feelings as a new normal for myself.  As God works to challenge a lot of my preconceived assumptions about 'the way things are', as I grow more of a lens regarding systemic injustice, and as I sit at the table with people different from me, I find that in order for me to stay honest, open, and willing to keep taking steps forward, I first have to be aware and accept that I will experience an array of thoughts and feelings that I need to sit with and wrestle with..and sometimes just live in the tension with indefinitely.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 1 Entering the Eternal Kind of Life Now (pp.21-25)

"It is nevertheless true that we are made to 'have dominion' within an appropriate domain of reality.  This is the core of the likeness or image of God in us and is the basis of the destiny for which we were formed.  We are, all of us, never-ceasing spiritual beings with a unique eternal calling to count for good in God's great universe."

"Our 'kingdom' is simply the range of our effective will".  Whatever we genuinely have the say over is our kingdom.  And our having the say over something is precisely what places it within our kingdom.  In creating human beings, God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere.  Only so they can be persons."  

"However unlikely it may seem from our current viewpoint, God equipped us for this task by framing our nature to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with Him.  We are meant to exercise our 'rule' only in union with God, as he acts with us.  He intended to be our constant companion or co-worker in the creative enterprise of life on earth.  That is what his love for us means in practical terms."

"God nevertheless pursues us redemptively and invites us individually, every last one of us, to be faithful to him in the little we truly 'have say over.'  There, at every moment, we live in the interface between our lives and God's kingdom among us.  If we are faithful to him here, we learn his cooperative faithfulness to us in turn.  We discover the effectiveness of his rule with us precisely in the details of day-to-day existence."

"When we submit what and where we are to God, our rule or dominion then increases.  In Jesus' words from the parable of the talents (Matt. 25), our Master says, 'Well done!  You were faithful with a few things, and I will put you in charge of many things.  Share what your Lord enjoys'; that is, share the larger direction or governance of things for good.  For God is unlimited creative will and constantly invites us, even now, into an ever larger share in what he is doing.  Like Jesus, we can enter into the work we see our Father doing (John 5:17-19)."

-all Dallas Willard quotes 

Aligning our little kingdom under the say and direction of His Kingdom equals "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."   All of these quotes point me to John 15...

John 15New International Version (NIV)

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

CCD Saturday: Stay close to the ground

When you look at the life of Jesus, he stayed on the ground, walked among the community, and went to where the people were in their day to day lives.    

The philosophy of CCD is an incarnational philosophy.

How much time is being spent with people in the day to day life of the community? How much time is being spent inside of walls at a desk, at meetings, with committees?  Certainly, there's a tension to live with, but I find that if I'm not careful, I can quickly become disconnected from the very voice and people I say that I value.  I have to intentionally schedule my life in a way that helps me to be present, incarnational, in the flesh,  within our community.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

pondering prosperity

Chicago is a getaway city for me.  A five hour drive from home, it has become an annual destination in which I meet up with friends, have some down time, and enjoy the art, food, and pulse of big city living for a few days.  

For the past 2 1/2 days I have stayed in the Loop and walked up and down the streets for hours just observing and reflecting.  It's always such a jarring experience to have within my sight a place like the Trump tower alongside a homeless person begging at the nearby corner.  Oppulence alongside indigence leads to penitence for me.  

This morning, I walked by the beautiful old Methodist Church that now has a bank on the first floor. As I looked on,  I considered our country's definition of prosperity based on economics rather than a prosperity based on beloved community.  As I walk and wander, I's that working out for us?  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 1 Entering the Eternal Kind of Life Now (pp.11-20)

We are invited into right-side up living!

"We are invited to make a pilgrimage-into the heart and life of God."

"God's desire is that we should live in Him.  He sends among us the Way to himself.  That shows what, in his heart of hearts, God is really like- indeed, what reality is really like.  In its deepest nature and meaning our universe is a community of boundless and totally competent love."

"The Way we speak of is Jesus, the 'luminous Nazarene', as Albert Einstein once called him."

"Jesus offers himself as God's doorway into the life that is truly life.  Confidence in him leads us today, as in other times, to become his apprentices in eternal living."  
"And what is it, really, that explains the enduring relevance of Jesus to human life?  Why has he mattered so much?  Why does he matter now?  Why does he appear on the the front covers of leading newsmagazines two millenia later?  Why, even, is his name invoked in cursing more than that of any other person who has lived on earth?.."

"I think we finally have to say that Jesus' enduring relevance is based on his historically proven ability to speak to, to heal and empower the individual human condition....He promises wholeness for their lives.  In sharing our weakness he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity."  

"Personal need and confidence in Jesus permits any person to blunder right into God's realm."  

"When we see Jesus as he is, we must turn away or else shamelessly adore him.  That must be kept in mind for any authentic understanding of the power of Christian faith."    

-all quotes by Dallas Willard

Meditation from Study Guide:

Colossians 1:15-17; 2:1-3, 9-10

Do I regard Jesus as a sufficient guide and teacher in all areas of my life?
Do I believe Jesus really has "all wisdom and knowledge" about everything, as the passage of Colossians declares?
In what ways do I have and not have confidence in Jesus to guide me in all the various areas of my life?  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Enrique's Journey

So often it is our tendency to dehumanize and demonize people.  In all of the political posturing over immigration policy and reform, I knew I needed to read this book. I'm in a book discussion each Thursday at the UNI library over this bestseller.  It is a heartbreaking read, but despite the harrowing realities for Enrique, he inspires me with his determination and resolve to keep moving toward his goal despite the unthinkable, horrific obstacles and risks that he faced on a daily basis.  

Also, after reading about unspeakable evil migrants face in the Chiapas region of Mexico, my hope was renewed by the residents further north who selflessly cared for and sacrificially gave to the migrants who passed their way.  

This book also helped me pray for my CCDA Cohort 6 friend, Alexia Salvatierra, who is an advocate and community organizer in California, a person whom God uses to help us truly see and love our immigrant neighbors.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

CCD Saturday: Renew and Reorder

Dr. Perkins' visit to the Cedar Valley has created a lot of interest and desire to continue learning about CCD (Christian Community Development)!  So exciting to have the encouragement of John Perkins and to see God's movement from past to present.  

Since I do best with some structures, I thought I would dedicate Saturdays to post about learnings and musings on this calling and journey called Christian Community Development.

A learning that I'm still learning....

CCD is a lifestyle.  It is a philosophy of ministry that God uses to "deconstruct and unlearn" a faulty belief and operating system that the world has formed in us...and it "constructs and teaches" us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2) into a Kingdom of God worldview.  

It is not a project.  It is not a program.  CCD is a new way of seeing and being in the world with Jesus and the Kingdom of God teaching us to do everything he has commanded us to do (Matthew 28:20).  As we follow Christ, he reorders our values and lives into His life and Kingdom.  This is my ongoing development through is really a journey of spiritual growth and discipleship.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Youth Art Team's Urban Intervention

My heart is overflowing by the beauty of this Urban Intervention. Kudos to the dream and the details of Youth Art Team Director Heidi Fuchtman that has played out through dozens of energetic, creative young people in our community.  I'll share more writing about this amazing sculpture garden, but in the meantime, go check it out in March along Hway 218, near Lowell Elementary, Waterloo, IA.  The butterflies will migrate to a new location in April!  Learn more at or check out Youth Art Team on Facebook! Reflecting the Kingdom of God in so many ways!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 1 Entering the Eternal Kind of Life Now (pp.1-10)

We have a problem, Houston.  We are flying upside down and don't know it.  According to Willard, in the world of secular humanism...

"There is now no recognized moral knowledge upon which projects of fostering moral development could be based."

In the opening of this chapter, Willard writes about a young college student who was taking philosophy courses with classmates who were getting high grades but were treating her so crudely that she decided to leave the university.  In her exit interview, she asked, "I've been taking all these philosophy courses, and we talk about what's true, what's important, what's good... What's the point of knowing good if you don't keep trying to become a good person?"  

Willard goes on to write, "The problem here is less one of connecting character to intellect than one of connecting intellectual to moral and spiritual realities. The trouble is precisely that character is connected with the intellect.  The trouble is what is and is not in the intellect."  

The Divine Conspiracy is a book that recognizes the power of ideas and how our thinking shapes our acting.  

I never took Willard's words below with much seriousness the first few times I read this book...but now, in the midst of this 2016 presidential campaign, I believe this to be more serious and true than ever:

"What is truly profound is thought to be stupid and trivial, or worse, boring, while what is actually stupid and trivial is thought to be profound.  That is what it means to fly upside down.

"In fact, the popular sayings attract only because people are haunted by the idea from the intellectual heights that life is, in reality, absurd.  Thus the only acceptable relief is to be cute or clever.  In homes and on public buildings of the past, words of serious and unselfconscious exhortation, invocation, and blessing were hung or carved in stone and wood.  But that world has passed. Now the law is 'Be cute or die.'  The only sincerity bearable is clever insincerity. 

"And yet we have to act.  The rocket of our life is off the pad.  Action is forever.  We are becoming who we will be- forever.  Absurdity and cuteness are fine to chuckle over and perhaps to muse upon.  But they are no place to live.  They provide no shelter or direction for being human."  

Is there not something more true, more real, more good that we are invited into?  Oh, yes indeedy, friends.  Don't close the book now. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

I'm back to Dallas Willard.  Pulled The Divine Conspiracy off my shelf after John Perkins' visit. More than ever, I'm considering the invitation to life in the Kingdom of God and training as a student of Jesus. I'm inviting my co-workers into the 10 chapters of The Divine Conspiracy over the next 10 months of 2016.  Other than the Bible, there's not been a book that has influenced my thinking and faith more than this book.  It's dense, but it's oh so worth it.


"Very few people today find Jesus interesting as a person or of vital relevance to the course of their actual lives.  He is not generally regarded as a real-life personality who deals with real-life issues but is thought to be concerned with some feathery realm other than the one we must deal with and must deal with now.  And frankly, he is not taken to be a person of much ability."

"It is the failure to understand Jesus and his words as reality and vital information about life that explains why, today, we do not routinely teach those who profess allegiance to him how to do what he said was best."

"How could the obligation be so clear and at the same time there be no attempt to meet it?  The problem, we may be sure, lies very deep within the ideas that automatically govern our thinking about who we are, as Christians and as human beings, and about the relevance of Jesus to our cosmos and our lives."

"In fact, it lies much deeper than anything we might appropriately feel guilty about.  For it is not, truly, a matter of anything we do or don't do.  It is a matter of how we cannnot but think and act, give the context of our mental and spiritual formation.  So any significant change can come only by breaking the stranglehold of the ideas ad concepts the automatically shunt aside Jesus, "The Prince of Life," when questions of concrete mastery of our life arise."

"More than any other single thing, in any case, the practical irrelevance of actual obedience to Christ accounts for the weakened effect of Christianity in the world today, with its increasing tendency to emphasize political ad social action as the primary way to serve God.  It also accounts for the practical irrelevance of Christian faith to individual character development and overall personal sanity and well-being."

Planning on blogging through the book on Willard Wednesdays...hold me to it!

El Shaddai

I was around Dr. Perkins for most of the weekend of his visit, and I heard him say more than once that we needed to meet "El Shaddai"..the God who is bigger than our problems.

I looked up El Shaddai because I had really only heard this term for God in an old Amy Grant song.  

El Shaddai: 

The All-Sufficient One.  The Almighty God.  

The Hebrew word "dai" means sheds forth, pours out and suggests provision, sustenance, blessing.

The Hebrew word "shad" means breast and suggests one who nourishes, supplies, satisfies.

The Hebrew root word "shadad" means to overpower or to destroy and suggests absolute power. 

According to one definition that I read, "While Elohim is the God who creates, in the name "Shaddai", God reveals Himself as the God who compels nature to do what is contrary to itself. He is able to triumph over every obstacle and all opposition; He is able to subdue all things to Himself."

Come now, El Shaddai.