Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 2 Gospels of Sin Management (pp.44-49)

The Gospel on the Right

The Gospel on the Right has largely become solely a gospel that is believed to be a transaction regarding Jesus's payment for our sin so that we might live in heaven after we die but a gospel that has little to do with our everyday life on earth.  

"Certainly forgiveness and reconciliation are essential to any relationship where there has been offense, and also between us and God.  We cannot pass into a new life from above without forgiveness.  Certainly it is Christ who made possible such a transition, through his life and his death.  We must be reconciled to God and he to us if we are going to have a life together.  But such a reconciliation involves far more than the forgiveness of our sins or a clearing of the ledger.  And the faith and salvation of which Jesus speaks obviously is a much more positive reality than mere reconciliation."  

"The issue, so far as the gospel in the Gospels is concerned, is whether we are alive to God or dead to him.  Do we walk in an interactive relationship with him that constitutes a new kind of life, life 'from above'?  

"What must be emphasized in all of this is the difference between trusting Christ, the real person Jesus, with all that that naturally involves, versus trusting some arrangement for sin-remission set up through him- trusting only his role as guilt remover.  To trust the real person Jesus is to have confidence in him in every dimension of our real life, to believe that he is right about and adequate to everything."  

Many Christians today believe that the gospel is "an arrangement for forgiveness of sin that leaves Christ, the now living person, simply irrelevant to our present existence."

"They have been led to believe that God, for some unfathomable reason, just thinks it appropriate to transfer credit from Christ's merit account to ours, and to wipe out our sin debt, upon inspecting our mind and finding that we believe a particular theory of the atonement to be true- even if we trust everything but God in all other matters that concern us."

"When all is said and done, 'the gospel' for those on the theological right is that Christ made 'the arrangement' that can get us into heaven.  In the Gospels, by contrast, 'the gospel' is the good news of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, now and forever, through reliance on Jesus the Anointed."

"Accordingly, the only description of eternal life found in the words we have from Jesus is 'This is eternal life, that they (his disciples) may know you, the only real God, and Jesus the anointed, whom you have sent.' (John 17:3). This may sound to us like 'mere head knowledge', but the biblical 'know' always refers to an intimate, personal, interactive relationship."  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

building bridges through butterflies

Be sure to walk through the butterflies at the Little Red Schoolhouse, Cedar Falls, before they migrate to Location #3 beginning in early May! #goyouthartteam

Interesting project facts
Number of…
Youth artists: 101Youth artist hours: 866
Hands-on adult leaders and volunteers: 45 
Adult volunteer hours: 372
Sculptures created: 53

Participating students attend…
14 different local schools:
– 8 elementary schools
– 4 middle schools
– 2 high schools
– 8 Waterloo schools
– 6 Cedar Falls schools

Saturday, April 23, 2016

CCD Saturday: focus

Focus is critical for Christian community development.

The needs are so big and so wide and so great in our community.  So often, big and wide efforts to address big and wide needs result in big and wide confusion and fail to mobilize resources, build momentum, and ultimately fail to build relationships needed for the wholistic transformation that is needed.  

Focus and clear next steps, even if small, can provide tangible results that help to build toward a greater and grander vision.  

Focus will ultimately expand mission.  

“Focusing is about saying No.” 

― Steve Jobs

Friday, April 22, 2016


Praying today for my friend, Robert McCathern, who pastors Joy Tabernacle Church in Flint, MI, and has been working tirelessly for months alongside his community to pray, to give voice, to organize, to obtain clean water for daily needs, to hold accountable those responsible for this grave injustice.  Praying also for the health of every man, woman, and child who had been unknowingly drinking lead-laced water for months prior to the exposure of this environmental crime.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

beyond the bubble

I'm thankful these days for the Developing Nations class our twins are taking this year in high school.

My daughter, Sara, texted me yesterday, writing, "If you lived in Sierra Leone, your life expectancy is only 51.  You'd be at the end of your life."  

Not long ago, we were on a walk and she was talking about her realization of being a part of the top 1% wealthy of the world.  She has likened it to living in the Hunger Games' Capital and is talking more about the bubble in which we live and how to intentionally move herself beyond the bubble.  

I just signed a permission slip this week for our kids to watch "Blood Diamond" and "Hotel Rwanda" in that class.  I love to see them begin to reflect on and process these realities as growing, maturing teenagers and then to connect these realities to the heart, words, and actions of Jesus as they intend to follow him as his students.  

From everyone who has been given muchmuch will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with muchmuch more will be asked. Luke 12:48

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 2 Gospels of Sin Management (pp.41-42)

Sharing quotes from Dallas Willard through one of my favorite books..The Divine Conspiracy.

"The current situation , in which faith professed has little impact on the whole of life, is not unique to our times, nor is it a recent development.  But it is currently at an acute stage.  History has brought us to the point where the Christian message is thought to be essentially concerned with how to deal with sin: with wrongdoing or wrong-being, and its effects.  Life, our actual experience, is not included in what is now presented as the heart of the Christian message, or it is included only marginally.  That is where we find ourselves today."  

"To the right, being a Christian is a matter of having your sins forgiven.   To the left, you are a Christian if you have a significant commitment to the elimination of social evils.  A Christian is either one who is ready to die and face the judgment of God or one who has an identifiable commitment to love and justice in society.  That's it."  

"The history that has brought this about-being filtered through the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy that consumed American religion for many decades and still works powerfully in its depths-also has led each wing to insist that what the other takes for essential should not be regarded as essential." 

"What right and left have in common is that neither group lays down a coherent framework of knowledge and practical direction adequate to personal transformation toward the abundance and obedience emphasized in the New Testament, with a corresponding redemption of ordinary life."

continued next Wednesday....

Sunday, April 17, 2016

about the urban intervention

About the Urban Intervention
(aka “The Butterfly Project)

Fifty-three butterfly sculptures appeared by surprise on the lawn of Lowell Elementary in Waterloo between March 8-13, 2016. The artwork was created by six teams of young artists – about 100 total students of all ages from Waterloo and Cedar Falls – as a surprise for the community this spring. Butterflies recently migrated to Cedar Falls and can be viewed in the area surrounding the Little Red Schoolhouse at 205 W 1st Street.
The goal of the Youth Art Team Urban Intervention project is to instill in the young artists who create this fluid work of art the knowledge that their actions have the power to alter the dynamics of the community. This project models the butterfly effect, a term describing the potential for one small change in a condition to affect a large and complex system. We’re learning that art has an immediate impact but can also spur people on to do something new themselves. The Youth Art Team thinks this one small change could make a big difference in our complex community – maybe in ways we can not even predict.
Please take the time to walk through the butterflies and read the student-made signs! Help spread the word, and share your photos and comments on social media with the hashtag #goyouthartteam so we can share your support with the students.
The Youth Art Team invites the entire community to join us for an outdoor celebration recognizing the young artists on Monday, May 23 from 4:30-6:00 p.m. (free and open to the public). We will announce the location on the Youth Art Team Facebook page in May, because we aren’t quite out of surprises…

Saturday, April 16, 2016

CCD Saturday: power

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts 
absolutely." - Lord Acton

You've likely read this quote before.  I am paying more attention to power dynamics along this journey of CCD.  We human types need so desperately to identify and act in Christ's power to reconcile, heal, and transform otherwise it becomes an ongoing tug of war for status, money, control rather than the new story that Jesus wants to write for our lives and for our communities which will have his power in the center, not ours.   

1 Corinthians 4:20 
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Friday, April 15, 2016

dreaming for our community

Cedar Valley CCDA Connect met last night, and one of our  activities was to write down and share a dream we have for our community.  I'm inspired.

"People would unite and work to learn from each other."

"I dream our community is a place where all people live in decent homes, in safe, stable neighborhoods."

"A reconciliation between our different sides of town."

"I wish we would humbly accept the Divine call to live as one."

"To see students be able to break the bands of oppression (spiritual/physical) and find their way in and with Christ."

"To open a freewill payment or free local restaurant that is sustainable."

"I dream of a Waterloo with lots of well-kept, affordable housing of different sizes and types, with plenty of heat in the winter."

"I dream of warm acceptance and the 'meeting of eyes'."

"A grocery store in the Walnut Neighborhood."

"Neighbors get to know each other."

"Holistic program to do job-training, internships, job placement/retention, GED study, literacy, etc."

"All of us carrying each others' burdens."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 2 Gospels of Sin Management (pp.35-40)

A bumper sticker that reads "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven" may hope to convey a message about the undeserving grace of God, but in fact, communicates to many that Christianity is primarily about receiving a forgiveness pass for life after death with no real power or significance for our real, everyday life on earth now.  This idea is backed up by the high percentages of people who identify as Christians but whose lives and actions look no different than those who do not.  

Willard likens this belief system to a bar code scanner.  It doesn't actually matter what product you have in your hands, the scanner will respond only to the bar code on the label.  If there's an ice cream sticker on the dog food, the dog food is ice cream as far as the scanner knows.  Bar code faith means that "being a Christian has nothing to do with the kind of person you are."  "Life now being lived has no necessary connection with being a Christian as long as the 'bar code' does its job."  

Willard asks a list of questions to ponder regarding this kind of belief system...

"Can we seriously believe that God would establish a plan for us that essentially bypasses the awesome needs of present human life and leaves human character untouched?  Would he leave us even temporarily marooned with no help in our kind of world, with our kinds of problems: psychological, emotional, social, and global?  Can we believe that the essence of Christian faith and salvation covers nothing but death and after?  Can we believe that being saved really has nothing whatever to do with the kinds of persons we are?  Have we somehow developed an understanding of 'commitment to Jesus Christ' that does not break through to his living presence in our lives?  Are we to suppose that God gives us nothing that really influences character and spirituality?  Are we to suppose that in fact Jesus has no substantial impact on our 'real lives'?"

"A leading pastor laments, 'Why is today's church so weak?  Why are we able to claim many conversions and enroll many church members but have less and less impact on our culture?  Why are Christians indistinguishable from the world?'  

Should we not at least consider the possibility that this poor result is not in spite of what we teach and how we teach it, but precisely because of it?  Might that not lead to our discerning why the power of Jesus and his gospel has been cut off from ordinary human existence, leaving it adrift from the flow of his eternal kind of life?"  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

desperate choices

Pulitzer Prize author and speaker Sonia Nazario (author of Enrique's Journey) spoke at the University of Northern Iowa last night.  She shared stories of the plight of migrants, the cause and effect of many problems that play into the immigration realities across Central America, Mexico, and the United States, and she shared many of her own experiences as she traveled on the tops of 7 freight trains to make her way from Honduras to the United States, retracing Enrique's journey north.  

I have been wrecked by the book and her sharing.  The desperate, agonizing choices of people.  The 11 year old 6th grader whose elementary school is run by the Narcos gang.  The gang approached three of his classmates and asked them to start taking cocaine,  When they refused, all three were found murdered.  When this 11 year old is asked, he has the choice of getting hooked on cocaine, being murdered, or fleeing by himself north through treacherous conditions in an effort to escape.  This is only one story of thousands regarding minors, some as young as seven years old, trying to cross 2,000 miles to either escape terror in their homeland and to reunite with relatives who have come to the United States before them.  As they travel, they face bandits, rapists, starvation, extreme heat, extreme cold, being thrown from the trains, being caught up in the wheels of the trains, drowning in rivers, being beaten, being killed.  Many are deported along the way north, and after experiencing the dangers, many make repeated attempts because they long to reunite with mothers or fathers who've gone ahead, or because they face almost certain death by staying in their crime ridden, drug and gang controlled, and poverty stricken situations.  

The brokenness is so prevalent...fueled by the fact that the United States is the number one consumer of illegal drugs...which then feeds into the drug cartels and the corruption present. There's no quick nor easy solution...but the bright spots throughout the book were found in the people of God who, poor themselves, would come out along the train route and throw food up to the migrants.  Or would share one bed with their whole family so that they might offer their other bed to a few migrants for a night's rest on a bed.  Or would stand by the tracks and pray as each train passed by with migrants. One elderly woman said, "If I have one tortilla, I give half.  I know God will give me more."  The Christian community was seen throughout the book giving from their little to help their neighbor. One woman, Olga, runs a shelter for children who have been mutilated by the wheels of the train.  Children have lost legs, feet, hands as they've tried to hop on and off the trains because they can't get on a train at the station....they have to hop them while they are moving.   

The two strongest impressions for me from this book were

1) The grit, resiliency, strength, and determination of the migrants through the hardest of hardships moved and inspired and convicted me deeply.  

2)  The simple yet sacrificial service of the Christian community as they cared and shared for people, doing what they knew Jesus would do if he was in their place.  They did not debate it, analyze it, try to justify other actions...they simply followed his words about seeing someone hungry and feeding them....someone naked and clothing them.  They, too, had a grit, resiliency, strength, and faith in such difficult circumstances that moved, inspired, and convicted me deeply.  

This won't be a book that leaves my thoughts quickly.  Pray with me today for the plight of our neighbors to the south.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

CCD Saturday: small and big

Christian community development is both small and big.  It's lived out in the small gestures of good neighboring.  Like the 3 pies that Judy Marshall and I delivered to new renters last Saturday.  Or a weekly prayer walk that allows us to pray for each home and family in the neighborhood as well as pick up trash along the sidewalks and streets.

It's also big.  Like having conversations and taking action steps for mixed income housing redevelopment, more home owner occupied homes, and creating a long view vision of holistic neighborhood revitalization.  It's considering the need and opportunities for jobs and economic strengthening that would help keep dollars circulating in the neighborhood and community.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 1 Entering the Eternal Kind of Life Now (pp.28-33)

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

These passages help remind me of the great accessibility and invitation today to live in his grace and will.

The Kingdom of Heaven has come near....

"It is indeed the Kingdom Among Us.  You can reach it from your heart with your mouth-through even a shaky and stumbling confidence and confession that Jesus is the death-conquering Master of all (Romans 10:9).

To be sure , that kingdom has been here as long as we humans have been here, and longer. But it has been available to us through simple confidence in Jesus, the Anointed, only from the time he became a public figure.  It is a kingdom that, in the person of Jesus welcomes us just as we are, just where we are, and makes it possible for us to translate our 'ordinary' life into an eternal one.  It is so available that everyone who from the center of his or her being calls upon Jesus the Master of the Universe and Prince of Life will be heard and will be delivered into the eternal kind of life."

"One thing that may mislead us about the meaning of 'at hand' in Jesus' basic message is the fact that other kingdoms are still present on earth along with the kingdom of the heavens.  They too are 'at hand'.  That is the human condition.  Persons other than God, such as you or I, are still allowed on earth to have a 'say' that is contrary to his will.  A kingdom of darkness is here, certainly, and the kingdoms of many individuals who are still 'trying to run their own show.'"  

"Right beside and among the kingdoms that are not God's stands his kingdom, always 'at hand'.  It is that of Jesus and his heavenly Father.  It can be ours as well.  The door is open, and life in that kingdom is real.  Even now 'the whole earth is full of his glory' (Isaiah 6:3).  True, few see it.  The earth is not yet 'filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.' But that too one day 'shall be'.  (Heb. 2:14)

Monday, April 4, 2016

the kingdom of heaven is like...

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field...

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed....

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls...

The Kingdom of Heaven is like Youth Art Team's Urban Intervention.

Jesus was God's brilliant intervention into our world.  The Youth Art Team's butterfly sculptures are a brilliant intervention into our community.

Jesus is beautiful and points to the beauty of His Kingdom.  The Youth Art Team reflects the beauty of Jesus and His Kingdom through their artwork. Isaiah 33:17  Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; They will behold a far-distant land. 

Jesus showed love to people by including them.  Youth Art Team has shown love to other youth by including them in this project.  

The Kingdom of Heaven is about Jesus's love, joy, and care for people and for our whole community.  The Youth Art Team is about Jesus's love, joy, and care for people and our whole community.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

love these meditations

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Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation
Homes on the former Juarez dump_ Juarez_ Mexico 2006. CAC archives.
Homes on the former Juarez dump, Juarez, Mexico 2006. CAC archives.    
Bias from the Bottom:
Week 2 
Sunday, March 27-Friday, April 1, 2016
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. --Harper Lee (Sunday)
Jesus' basic justice agenda was simple living, humility, and love of neighbor. (Monday)
Only converted people, who are in union both with the pain of the world and the love of God, are prepared to read the Bible with the right pair of eyes and the appropriate bias, which is from the side of powerlessness and suffering instead of the side of power and control. (Tuesday)
One of the most transformative experiences is entering into some form of personal lifestyle solidarity with the powerless. (Wednesday)
Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? It's not only to help them, but because we need to stand in that position for our own conversion. (Thursday)
May we grow tired of sleeping and ask for flesh that feels, weeps, and even bleeds for the immense suffering of our world today. (Friday)
Prayer of Quiet
I believe it's especially important for those of us who are comfortable and privileged--whether we are white, financially secure, male, or have some other social "advantage"--to nurture a contemplative mind. Only through the eyes of the Divine Witness can we learn to see that to which we are mostly blind. Only when we are listening from the True Self, not the protective ego, can we hear the truth about ourselves and the unjust system in which we participate.
Christena Cleveland, one of our CONSPIRE speakers this July, wrote recently about how hopelessness is actually a privilege. [1] Those of us who are well off and at ease have the luxury of feeling despair. It's easy to look around at our dysfunctional politics, endemic racism, the unbalanced distribution of wealth, and climate change and become overwhelmed . . . and then disengaged. But those who are oppressed or connected intimately with systemic suffering have the greatest capacity--and sense the most urgency--for hope and for compassion.
As a white, educated, American clergyman, I realize I'm privileged on so many counts. From my own experience, I know I need a contemplative practice to rewire my mind. Some form of the prayer of quiet is necessary to touch me at the unconscious level, the level where deep and lasting transformation occurs. From my place of prayer, I am able to understand more clearly what is mine to do and have the courage to do it.
Unitive consciousness--the awareness that we are all one in Love--lays a solid foundation for social critique and acts of justice. I hope you will let God show you how to think and live in new ways, ways that meet the very real needs of our time on this planet.
Gateway to Silence
Open my eyes.
[1] See Christena Cleveland's blog, "The Privilege of Hopelessness," December 15, 2015,

Adapted from Richard Rohr, the Mendicant, Vol. 6, No. 2  (CAC: 2016), 7.
For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, CAC Foundation Set (CDMP3 download)
Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer
Richard Rohr, Scripture as Liberation (MP3 download)
Richard Rohr, The Path of Descent (CDMP3 download
CONSPIRE 2016: Everything Belongs
Friday, July 15-Sunday, July 17, 2016
In person, Albuquerque, New Mexico * Live webcast worldwide
Richard Rohr * Christena Cleveland * James Alison * Mirabai Starr

When we realize that everything belongs, when we discover who we truly are as God's beloveds, there is no longer any reason to scapegoat or exclude anyone. Rather than directly fighting evil and untruth, we must bring it into the Light of Love.

Join us for CONSPIRE 2016. Learn more at

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2016 Daily Meditation Theme
Richard Rohr's meditations this year invite us to discover, experience, and participate in the foundation of our existence--Love. Throughout the year, Fr. Richard's meditations follow the thread of Love through many of his classic teachings in 1-2 week segments. Read previous meditations and view a video introduction at

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