Monday, May 30, 2016

more peace, less violence

"Even though there's violence in Waterloo, we can still have peace and beautiful things like this and this (pointing to butterflies), and we can make more peace and less violence."  Londrell, Youth Art Team student.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

CCD Saturday: learning from others ahead on the journey

Just to give you an example of a CCD ministry that is tied to a church (Tapestry Church) in Raleigh, North Carolina, check out N2N, or Neighbor to Neighbor.  Royce Hathcock, another CCDA cohort friend of mine, directs this ministry that "cultivates life-changing relationships resulting in communities of hope, justice, and compassion."

Part of being inspired, trained, and networked in Christian Community Development is learning from the wisdom, experiences, and best practices of other CCD ministries throughout our country.  I have called, studied, visited, and gleaned from multiple ministries over the past ten years to learn how to better walk in the calling of Christian Community Development.     

I love what God is doing through Neighbor to Neighbor..take a look at the video below, and I believe you will too!

Neighbor to Neighbor from neighbor to neighbor on Vimeo.

Friday, May 27, 2016


I think the Derailed sermon series is one of the best ones I've heard Orchard Hill Church do in my 18 years going to Orchard.  

It may seem that it is solely a series about moving through grief and loss, but it's also really a series on the spiritual growth journey of dying to the world so that we might live in Christ.  It's about the journey into compassion and justice that requires us to meet the SHOCK of brokenness found not only in the world but in ourselves, the SORROW and lament needed in confession and repentance, the crisis of faith and STRUGGLE that ensues as we're called to live and give in a different way in the world, the SURRENDER needed to follow the way of Christ, and then the SANCTIFICATION and SERVICE that occur when we move into being and doing from within places of the marginalized and pushed aside in our society and world.  

Try listening to the series from a personal ear regarding your own places of loss and disappointment.  Then try listening to the series from more of a systemic ear, an ear for the pain and loss required of us as Christians to pursue reconciliation, healing, peace, and justice in the world.  

Start with the sermon "Shock" by Jeff Mickey and listen through to the last, "Service" by Brian Steenhoek.

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress."  Frederick Douglass  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

praying for Flint

I have the honor of being a part of something called a "leadership cohort" with 23 others through CCDA.  I have met wonderful new friends through this new community, one of them being Robert McCathern, pastor of Joy Tabernacle Temple in Flint, MI.

Robert has a giant faith in Jesus and lives in an expectancy of Christ's presence and power among us.  His life is testimony to this, and there is certainly an anointing from God in his calling and work.

Robert has been working tirelessly over the past months in solidarity with his community to fight for clean water and justice in Flint, MI.  

I made a decision awhile back that when I use my kitchen faucet, I would say a prayer for families in Flint who've been affected by the high levels of lead in water, as well as for the actions needed to hold those who were negligent responsible, and for solutions that will help these families and all families in Flint.  These prayers have expanded to praying for all who lack the kind of clean water I have such easy access to everyday.  

Join me today in thanking God for Robert and others like him who are providing leadership and spiritual encouragement in Flint, MI, and for all who have been physically harmed and adversely impacted through this water crisis.  

This is Robert with President Obama on a recent visit from Obama to tour the city and listen to the people.  

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 3 What Jesus Knew: Our God-bathed World (pp. 64-66)

 “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” -A.W. Tozer

Willard agrees with Tozer:

"Frankly, our daily experience, under pressure from many quarters, constantly keeps us from thoughtful living and 'dumbs us down,' in many ways- especially theologically.  But the resulting lack of adequate ideas and terminology does great harm to our faith.  It insulates our real life from what we say we believe.  We cannot, even by miracle, believe a blank or a blur, much less act on it.  There is no 'what' for our minds and lives to lay hold of in such a case- or it is the wrong 'what'.

"To trust in God, we need a rich and accurate way of thinking and speaking about Him to guide and support our life vision and our will."

"Still today the Old Testament book of Psalms gives great power for faith and life.  This is simply because it preserves a conceptually rich language about God and our relationships to him.  If you bury yourself in Psalms, you emerge knowing God and understanding life...We learn from the psalms how to think and act in reference to God.  We drink in God and God's world from them.  They provide a vocabulary for living Godward, one inspired by God himself.  They show us who God is, and that expands and lifts and directs our minds and hearts."  

"But because of ideas arising out of the eighteenth century-the richly informative language needed to nourish thoughtful faith in God is no longer functional in our cultural setting.  The ideas of Modernity now dominate the academic centers of the world, even where they are not consciously identified or understood, and even where they are explicitly rejected."

"We are all products of this modern thought system, and you yourself can test its power by observing your response to a representative statement about God from a century or so ago.  In the grand and carefully phrased old words of Adam Clarke, God is

the eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfet; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself.  In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just and right, and kind.  

"It would be surprising if you found this easy reading.  However, it is a lot like Shakespeare- not just old, but incredibly rich.  Possibly you even began to think the words are just meaningless.  Nevertheless, with some earnest thought we can all appreciate what a vast difference it would make in anyone's life to actually believe in such a God as these words portray.  Think of someone whose every action, whose slightest thought or inclination, automatically assumes the reality of the God Adam Clarke describes."

Praying today that your faith and mine might be in this infinite good God who can do nothing but what is eternally just and right and good..  And that our thoughts and actions will demonstrate this belief.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

CCD Saturday: ladder down the change

Community problems run deep and wide, and I can easily find myself in meetings where the talk is about the gaping educational achievement gap for minorities, or the blight of neglected neighborhoods, or the increase in gun violence, the need for employment opportunities, or the work for more temporary shelters and affordable housing. These ARE all significant problems to solve together toward a healthier community, but Saturday reminded me that while strategizing and mobilizing for the Biggies, we can also ladder our way down to some very simple ways to build community and care about our neighborhoods.  

Saturday's 2nd annual Zinnia Blast found neighbors rallying around pink and purple and orange annual flowers that will adorn several corners of the Walnut Neighborhood and will brighten the front steps and porches of several neighbors.  After four hours of visiting and working side by side with neighbors, it was apparent that the small act of planting flowers and beautifying the neighborhood can have a BIG affect...helping neighbors come to know neighbors, strengthening neighborhood through collective action, and beautifying an area with the bright and bold colors of summer.  

Jesus was all about the power of the small.  While coming to save humanity through the big work on the cross, he also demonstrated the power of the small through a conversation at the well with a Samaritan woman, through inviting children to gather around him, through making breakfast for his friends on the beach.  

In the midst of working toward big systemic change, we cannot forget the need to ladder down the change with very tangible, very concrete small acts of love that turn out to be not so small after all.

Friday, May 20, 2016

keep showing up

A large part of Christian Community Development is found in the "keep showing up".  A great example of this is found in a small group from Orchard Hill Church who befriended Jack, a Walnut neighbor who was in need of some assistance a few years back. Their friendship has been mutually transformative in so many ways   Through committed presence and listening deeply to one another's lives, a small band of friends have become family.  Here's just a sampling of how Jesus and the Good News of the Kingdom of God have become visible...

*Celebrating Jack's 73rd birthday last week with a living room, a loving room, full of family and friends.
*This group of friends have walked with Jack through neck surgery, through rehab at a local care facility, through advocacy for in-home healthcare, through doing the required work to get an awesome powered wheelchair, through doing the work together that was required for Jack's house to get an outdoor makeover by Habitat for Humanity.  And so. much. more.
*Jack saw the Gospel being lived out in this group, and dialogue about Jesus and finding life in Jesus pursued.  Jack made a decision for Christ, and is learning what it means to put his trust in the Lord.
*Not only has this group taken Jack out to concerts and for dinner, but yesterday, they were able to organize the logistics to get Jack's older sister to Jack's house for his birthday.  I do not believe that Shirley had been inside Jack's home for many years.  In the picture below, you can see her listening to Jack play one of his many treasured guitars.

As this group kept showing up, they moved from service through a mission motivation to service through a friendship motivation. 

 John 15:15  Jesus talks about no longer servants, but friends.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

butterflies, God's Kingdom, and a great big party

It is great to be able to connect good and beautiful action in our community with the Source of such goodness and beauty.  In my work with the Youth Art Team over the past six years, I so often experience and desire to point to Jesus, His character, and the values of His Kingdom that I experience in the midst of the Youth Art Team's work.  

Through the latest Urban Intervention project of creating 53 butterflies together, I saw hope, beauty, invitation, empowerment, bridge-building across divides, the value of a child's voice and gifts, creativity, and care for all people and the whole of our community.  These all speak of the nature of Jesus, and just as Christ is God's wonderful intervention into our world, the Youth Art Team's butterfly sculptures have been a wonderful intervention into our community.  

We'd love for you to help us celebrate God's gift of our young people and their amazing voice in our community through their artwork.  We'd love for you to help us celebrate this good and beautiful God who invites us into His restoring work through Jesus.  See the event information below.  

 Orchard Hill Church's chuckwagon will be serving walking tacos, fruit, cookies/bars, and homemade rootbeer!  Bring your families!

When: Monday, May, 23 | 4:30-6:00 p.m.
The team has another surprise planned that will include the community and take place at the event between 5:00-5:30 p.m. If you can only make it for a short time, we hope you can make it for these 30 minutes!

Where: At the butterflies!
Currently located along Logan Ave. in front of George Washington Carver Academy in Waterloo (1505 Logan Ave). Just south of Allen Hospital.  

Who: Everyone is invited!
Youth Art Team will provide food and games. Kid friendly, free and open to the public.

Facebook event 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 3 What Jesus Knew: Our God-bathed World (pp. 61-64)

This chapter of Willard's book rocks my thinking in the best way.  The deeper I walk into injustice and brokenness in ourselves and our world, the easier it is for my thoughts to land in darkness, depravity, and the despair found in the depth of the stubborn problems that exist in our community and world.  

These quotes from chapter 3 remind me of the beauty, life, love, hope, and joy that IS God and His Kingdom!

"Jesus' good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live.  To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world."  

"It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it."  

"Central to the understanding and proclamation of the Christian gospel today, as in Jesus's day, is a re-visioning of what God's own life is like and how the physical cosmos fits into it.  It is a great and important task to come to terms with what God's own life is like and how the physical cosmos fits into it.  It is a great and important task to come to terms with what we really think when we think of God.  Most hindrances to the faith of Christ actually lie, I believe, in this part of our minds and souls."

"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that He is full of joy.  Undoubtedly, he is the most joyous being in the universe.  The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy.  All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness."  

"We treasure our great experiences for a lifetime, and we may have very few of them.  But he is simply one great inexhaustible and eternal experience of all this is good and true and beautiful and right."

"One of the most outstanding features of Jesus' personality was precisely an abundance of joy.  This he left as an inheritance to his students, 'that their joy might be full.' (John 15:11)  And they did not say, 'Pass the aspirin,' for he was well known to those around him as a happy man.  It is deeply illuminating of kingdom living to understand that his steady happiness was not ruled out by his experience of sorrow and even grief."

"So we must understand that God does not 'love' us without liking us-through gritted teeth-as 'Christian' love is sometimes thought to do.  Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it.  The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures i the natural outflow of what he is to the core-which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word love."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

rooted in character

A ministry partner from Mozambique was visiting our community a few months ago for the wedding of a mutual friend of ours.  We were having a conversation about leadership and the world stage. He spoke about how there is a worldwide character crisis happening among leadership and politics today. He is seeing repeatedly the election of leaders who have weak character and little integrity.  

I've been reflecting on that conversation and asking myself, "Why, when good character is a fundamental for good leadership, are we so easily duped and willing to compromise character? What do we believe we will gain from electing a leader who has poor character?" 

What are we seeking that we believe is more important than character?  

I believe I will keep following after the Leader whom I desire will teach and shape me...

Colossians 3:12-17New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 2 Gospels of Sin Management (pp.55-59)

Toward the Integration of Life and Faith

"And so we have the result noted:  the resources of God's kingdom remain detached from human life.  There is no gospel for human life and Christian discipleship, just one for death or one for social action. The souls of human beings are left to shrivel and die on the plains of life because they are not introduced into the environment for which they were made, the living kingdom of eternal life."

"To counteract this we must develop a straightforward presentation, in word and life, of the reality of life now under God's rule, through reliance upon the word and person of Jesus.  In this way we can naturally become his students or apprentices.  We can learn from him how to live our lives as he would live them as if he were we. We can enter his eternal kind of life now."  

Monday, May 9, 2016

richard rohr on contemplation AND action

A friend turned me on to Richard Rohr's daily meditations, and I have been loving them this year.   Sample below.  You can subscribe here.

Action and Contemplation:
Week 1
Alternative Consciousness
Monday, May 9, 2016
I often use this line, a paraphrase of Albert Einstein: "No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that caused it." Unfortunately, we have been trying to solve almost all our problems with the very same mind that caused them, which is the calculating or dualistic mind. This egocentric mind usually reads everything in terms of short-term effect, in terms of what's in it for me and how I can look good. As long as you read reality from that small self, you're not going to see things in any new way. All the great religions taught a different way of seeing, a different perspective. This alternative vantage point is the contemplative or non-dual mind. It is what we usually mean by wisdom.
The word contemplation has ancient roots, but for a long time it was not taught much in the Western church. Contemplation was finally rediscovered again through Thomas Merton's writings in the 1950s and 60s. What is contemplation? Simply put, contemplation is entering a deeper silence and letting go of our habitual thoughts, sensations, and feelings. You may know contemplation by another name. Many religions use the word meditation. Christians often use the word prayer. But for many in the West, prayer has come to mean something functional, something you do to achieve a desired effect, which puts you back in charge. Prayers of petition aren't all bad, but they don't really lead to a new state of being or consciousness. The same old consciousness is self-centered: How can I get God to do what I want God to do? This kind of prayer allows you to remain an untransformed, egocentric person who is just trying to manipulate God.
That's one reason why religion is in such desperate straits today: it isn't really transforming people. It's merely giving people some pious and religious ways to again be in charge and in control. It's still the same small self or what Merton called the false self. Mature, authentic spirituality calls us into experiences and teachings that open us to an actual transformation of consciousness (Romans 12:2). I think some form of contemplative practice is necessary to be able to detach from your own agenda, your own anger, your own ego, and your own fear. We need some practice that touches our unconscious conditioning where all our wounds and defense mechanisms lie. That's the only way we can be changed at any significant or lasting level.
For a full lifestyle change, I believe we need both action and contemplation. The state of the communal soul is the state of the social order. As Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith puts it, "The world cannot be changed by love to become just unless we are changed by love to become whole, but we cannot be made whole without engaging in the work of making the world whole. Personal transformation and social transformation are one piece." [1]

Saturday, May 7, 2016

CCD Saturday: with

It was 2009, and I was driving a nine year old boy back to his apartment at the House of Hope after he went on an outing with our family.  As we approached the Walnut Neighborhood, I pointed out a big church in the neighborhood that was for sale, and I shared with this youngster a dream of having such a great building where we could have a lot of cool things going on for young people.  I'll never forget his response:

"Please don't tell me that it would just be for poor kids."  

I.'s statement arrested my heart.  He offered a defining moment for me and helped to shape the vision, mission, and strategy of Link Christian Development. At the same time I.'s words were spoken, I was learning through Christian Community Development Association about the difference of being IN, FOR, and WITH a neighborhood.  

CCD is about WITH. Link CCD is about linking people and places WITH one another in order to join Jesus in his restoring mission in the world.  This requires a paradigm shift from a paternalistic FOR to a reconciling community WITH.  

Journeying WITH.  Learning WITH. Serving WITH. Forming friendships WITH. Studying the Bible and worshiping WITH. Building community WITH.  Seeking justice WITH.  Doing more of life WITH.

Friday, May 6, 2016

giant triplets

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 2 Gospels of Sin Management (pp.50-54)

The Gospel on the Left

"By the late 1950's and early 1960's, the older liberal theology, with its 'social gospel', had pretty well proven itself unable to accomplish the transformation of human existence that it had envisioned and promised.  Bludgeoned to its knees by world events, its intellectual capital exhausted , and incapable of providing concepts that could clarify exactly what was happening in Western life and society at the time, it awakened to find itself, as a social and institutional reality, on the side of the oppressor when the civil rights movement began to dawn."

"Quickly, liberal leadership moved into an activist posture.  By 1963 the National Council of Churches leadership had for some time been preoccupied with the question of the church's nature and mission, hence with the basic nature of the Christian gospel.."

"To be committed to the oppressed, to liberation, or just to 'community' became for many the whole of what is essential to Christian commitment.  The gospel, or 'good news', on this view, was that God himself stood behind liberation, equality, and community; that Jesus died to promote them, or at least for lack of them; and that he 'lives on' in all efforts and tendencies favoring them.  For the theological left, simply this became the message of Christ."  

"This is the gospel of the current Christian left:  Love comes out on top. "

"But just as there was a serious question as to what constitutes saving faith, so there is a problem with the precise nature of redemptive love.  In this world, there are many things called love.  Which love is it that is God?  And who is the God that is called love?"  

"Robbed of its reference to a transcendent spiritual being or substance that nonetheless engages with humanity while holding them responsible to its specific directives on how to live, this 'love' ('God') has no recourse but to become whatever the current ideology says it is...this 'gospel' turns out in practice to be little more than another version of the world-famous American dream.  Words associated with it are 'egalitarianism,' 'happiness', and 'freedom'.  As a professor of education at Bradley University recently stated, 'the American dream is that people can do or be what they want if they just go ahead and do it.'  Desire becomes sacred, and whatever thwarts desire is evil or sin.  We have from the Christian left, after all, just another gospel of sin management, but one whose substance is provided by Western (American) social and political ideals of human existence in a secular world."