Sunday, August 13, 2017

all in grocer

We have a grocery store in the works for the Walnut Neighborhood of Waterloo.  That's exciting!  For some years now, we've listened to neighbors speak their desire at neighborhood association meetings for a grocery store with quality, affordable groceries that would be within walking distance.  And here we are in 2017 with City Council's vote last Monday taking this dream to reality one step closer.

Not only is there a grocery store planned, but there are several pieces of good news within it...

*The developer is an African-American man who grew up in Waterloo and is committed to building up his home community.

*Uplift Solutions, a nonprofit that comes alongside urban grocers to help them be successful, will be a part of this start up.  Check out their mission here.  They work together to create food sustainable solutions, health solutions, finance solutions, and workforce solutions.  They strive to create community and are committed to offering job opportunities for people who have been incarcerated. Their mission: to strengthen, heal, and inspire.  Plenty of that needed in our neighborhood and across our community!

*We have heard that the operator will be a local owner/operator.  It's hopeful that this will mean a long term and strong connection and commitment to excellence inside the store, to the property, and a relationship with the neighborhood.

*Rodney Anderson, the developer is also putting a restaurant in the grocery store.  The grocery store and restaurant will bring needed jobs and commerce to the area.  Commercial development will help housing development in the neighborhood, and vice versa.  More residents living in the area will increase the customer base at local businesses.  Win-win.

The name planned for the grocery store is ALL IN GROCER.  It will certainly take an All In approach from a broad spectrum of our community to create a thriving and bustling corner of commerce.  The neighborhood CVS store, which will be directly next door to the grocery store, is across the street from our home.  I find myself at CVS a couple times a week to buy some item.  On average, no matter what time of day I shop, there are 2-5 customer cars in a very large and open parking lot.  All In Grocer will need to have unique appeal not only to residents who live in the vicinity, but to people from across the community, especially those with discretionary income, who will commit to lifting up the neighborhood and community by spending their dollars at this downtown grocery. I'm all in.  You?  

Friday, August 11, 2017

relearning respect

I'm home after 2 days at the Global Leadership Summit 2017. So much good content and inspiration and challenge! In Bill Hybels' opening talk, he addressed what we can seemingly all agree to in this particular time of our history:  we are living in a time of increased disrespect and incivility.  

Hybels went on to give the following list that he used in a message he gave entitled "Respect Everyone Always".  This is an important code of conduct for us in this day of increasing tribalism.  

10 Rules of Respect Every Leader Simply Must Obey
  1. Leaders must set example on how to differ with others without demonizing them.
  2. Leaders must have spirited conversations without “drawing blood”.
  3. Leaders must not interrupt others who are talking and must not dominate conversation.
  4. Leaders must set example of limiting volume levels and refusing to use incendiary or belittling words that derail a discussion. You know what words are like hand grenades. Don’t use them.
  5. Leaders must set the example of being courteous in word and deed to everyone at every level.
  6. Leaders must never stereotype.
  7. Leaders must apologize when they are wrong, don’t double down or cover up.
  8. Leaders must form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.
  9. Leaders must set the example of showing up when they say they will and do what they say they will.
  10. Leaders must set rules of respect for what they believe and implement relentlessly. Make a written code of what the rules are and have the employees sign.

Civility Code example:

  1. Greet and acknowledge each other
  2. We will say please and thank you
  3. We will treat each other equally and with respect
  4. We will be direct, sensitive, and honest
  5. We will address incivility whenever it occurs

Friday, August 4, 2017

making me braver

My friend, Michael, moved to Georgia today.  I stopped to say goodbye a few days ago, and besides wishing the best for him, I wanted to let him know how much he inspires me and increases "my brave".  

Three years ago, Michael and a few other friends from the Democratic Republic of Congo moved in kitty-corner to our house in Walnut.  They came to America by lottery and were escaping political corruption and civil war in their home country.   A few friends and I spent the summer of 2014 driving our new friends to English classes at a local church.  I watched them get jobs at Tyson Foods, and we escorted some of them to Hawkeye Metro to get signed up for a series of English classes that would start that fall.  I also learned that many of them had already gone to post-secondary school and held professional jobs in Congo.  Now, they were starting over.  

Fast forward three years.  This May, I had the privilege of attending Michael's graduation from Hawkeye Community College.  Over those three years, Michael and his roommates have learned English, worked difficult jobs at Tyson, gone to college, and even worked their way back from a house fire that burned most all of their possessions- both with sentimental value, and items they had purchased since arriving in the United States.    

I am in awe of Michael.  His grit.  His courage.  His faith.  His tenacity and perseverance.  I sometimes think about if the table was turned.  If I landed in Congo...away from my home, family, friends, culture....not knowing the language, nor the people, nor what resources were available.  That seems overwhelming to me.  As we were saying goodbye, Michael mentioned that God had helped him, but that people like me had helped him too.  On days when I feel like life seems difficult and obstacles loom large, I say the same to Michael in return.  God helps me, but people like Michael help me too. His life inspires me to press in to struggle, and it's people like Michael, gracefully working through hardship, who make me braver. Continue to put your hope in the Lord, Michael, and Godspeed in Georgia.   

Isaiah 40:31
“but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Saturday, July 15, 2017

BLESS model

Orchard Hill Church organizes a week of camping every other year at fabulous campgrounds in the Midwest.  This year, about 130 individuals and families signed up to camp together at Baker Park Reserve just west of Plymouth, Minnesota.  What a stellar campground!  Excellent bathroom and shower facilities, well-groomed property, bike trails, sandy beaches, boat rentals, a golf course, a large playground for children, and more.  Just a beautiful lake and campground...and a day trip into the Twin Cities from there is very easy, too.   

I drove up mid-week with a friend and co-worker and her children, and we spent two nights enjoying the fun of camping...campfires, s'mores, hikes, card games, swimming, fishing, etc..., and the joy of the community of friends gathered for unhurried meals and conversation, for play, for devotion and worship.  In short, it was a terrific week for new and old friends to be in community in the great outdoors.  

The BLESS model was the theme visited during each morning's devotional time at Camp this past week.  It's a model that comes from Dave Ferguson and the Verge Network.  Basically, its premise is that God has blessed us to be a blessing to others.  The BLESS model describes a strategy for blessing people:  Begin with prayer.  Listen to people.  Eat together with people.  Serve people. Share your story/God's story with people.  When I am intentional about these actions, whether with my family or with anyone, I do find they often lead to a life-giving experience, a blessing in the midst of our days.  What I noticed this week while camping and paying attention to the BLESS model, is that each of the actions is one of mindfulness and one of time.  A slowing and an attentiveness is needed to enter into this space of blessing.  So often our phones and TVs, our frenetic schedules, our hyper pace run a distracting counter to the BLESS model....perhaps they are the CURSE model. :) Anyhow, being at Baker these past few days, and being able to eat together, listen together, share stories together, serve together, pray together, was a necessary reminder to me to make space and time for individuals and meals and conversations in my life.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Justice Conference 2017: Michael McBride

Listening and considering the thoughts and words from several speakers at the recent Justice Conference.  

Michael McBride, Director of Live Free found at 

"We can't say we love our neighbor if we don't create environments where our neighbors can thrive."

"I think part of the task of the church, particularly in this moment, if we are really trying to help people live into loving our neighbors both as a discipleship and disciple-making enterprise, is to help train our eyes and our heart to have a systemic and structural vision of how loving our neighbor happens so that we don't just devolve into radically interpersonal conversation about loving our neighbor."

"Systems are complex.  They've taken generations, centuries to put into place.  So, every generation has to identify their mission and fulfill it or betray it.  We have to own the calling to dismantle while we are alive the systems/structures that are being sustained or built on our watch.  We have to learn, we have to read, hear, and listen to the stories of those who are oppressed and marginalized.  We can't just operate from a position of power, privilege, and status and say everything is great."  

"We-the Church- are even now more called to make sure that no one is excluded in a vision of what it means to be human."  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Justice Conference 2017: Jeremy Courtney

I did not attend Justice Conference 2017 last month at Willow Creek Community Church, but I am grateful that the Justice Conference facebook page has begun to post messages from the event.

According the web, "Jeremy Courtney is cofounder and executive director of the Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC), an international development organization based in Iraq that provides lifesaving heart surgeries to Iraqi children and trains local doctors and nurses. Jeremy resides in Iraq with his wife, two children, and an indespensable team of dear friends."  He is author of Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time.

"I want to start by acknowledging that I'm standing here on stolen ground....we don't do that in America....we don't acknowledge our first nations, our friends who have been here before us."

"It's easy to sing songs about lifting high the name of Jesus...I find it interesting that we don't spend a lot of time lifting up the way of Jesus."  

"What if we could flip the script on this whole thing and what if we could dare to be a people who would love first and ask questions later?"

"What if there is something bigger, and better, and more important than trying not to be carried by six friends to your grave.  What if instead of trying to just stay alive, we could figure out how to truly live?"

"Could we dare to be a people of preemptive love? Could we love first and ask questions later?"

"The simplicity of some of our mantras, and mottos, and quips, and ideas they get a lot more complex and a lot more nuanced when you're actually living it and you're not just doing some arm chair pontification about it."

"This idea of ask questions later got us here but it wasn't going to get us there.  We actually knew the questions by this point.  The questions came at us hard.  We had to figure out how we were going to live this next chapter.  We had come to the conclusion that the world is scary as it's ever been, what would we do about it?"

"When the world is scary as hell, we're going to redouble our commitment to be a people who love anyway." 

"When we only lift up the name of Jesus and we don't lift up the way of Jesus, we can get the impression that somehow things are just supposed to be comfortable, things are just supposed to be nice, things are supposed to be easy. And this love anyway mantra has become the thing that we need as a community to get us through some of the hardest things that have ever been thrown at us."  

"As the bombs are falling, could we love anyway?"

"And they kidnap your friend, can we love anyway?"
"You will see soldiers pointing their guns at you.  Do not be afraid.  They are people too,"
"Police officers, you may see people pointing their guns at you.  Do not be afraid.  They are people too,"
"We will see people on trains and buses, who are wearing different clothes and speaking different languages.  We need not be afraid, they are people too."

"Somewhere between 'be safe' and 'have no fear' is where most of us live....bring your fear to the table.  We can be afraid.  And don't let anyone shame you for your fear.  But try to figure out how to rise above the fear....  The only way to ever get above the fear is actually to press through the fear.  You have to go closer to the thing that scares you most.  You have to go closer to the bombs and the bullets.  You have to go closer to the people that would hurt you and hate you.  You have to dare to draw near to each other to understand each other.  To feel each others' pain, to hear each others' stories, to hear each others' perspective. To love anyway in the face of the things that scare us most is the thing that refines us and pushes us through to the other side."

"You can still love anyway.  You can still press into the confusion.  You can still press into the things that are not working for you.  You can still press into the things that are not yet made whole. And love anyway.  It's only by pushing through it that we're ever going to find a way above it.  And on the other side of fear, on the other side of the things that scare us most, is the most beautiful world our hearts know is possible."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

turning right side up in an upside down world: loss is gain

 Loss is Indeed our Gain (Walter Brueggemann)
The Pushing and Shoving in the world is endless.
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who was like a sheep led to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.
We seem not able,
so we ask you to create space in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to newness.
So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial —
not to notice the suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we should not deceive ourselves
That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.

Monday, March 6, 2017

let us not hesitate

"Give us grace, O God, to dare to do the deed which we well know cries to be done. Let us not hesitate because of ease, or the words of men’s mouths, or our own lives. Mighty causes are calling us—the freeing of women, the training of children, the putting down of hate and murder and poverty—all these and more. But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifices and death. Mercifully grant us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that we say: I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish. Amen.

-W.E.B. DuBois

*This prayer was the conclusion of today's Lenten Devotion at .  If you don't have a Lenten devotion plan, I encourage you to check this one out.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

live restoratively

I am so glad to be welcoming Cheryl Miller to the Cedar Valley today!  She travels from her home in Texas to train 15 local partners in the way of restorative justice and mediation over 3 days. I took the training from her a few years ago in Chicago, and as divisions heat up in our country, I thought it might be a good time to revisit these principles and gather community partners to also gain important tools for helpful dialogue.  

Miller recommends reading and learning from Howard Zehr.  Here's a list from Zehr on 10 ways to live restoratively.  

10 ways to live restoratively
by Howard Zehr

1.  Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions, and the environment.

2.  Try to be aware of the impact +/- potential as well as actual +/- of your actions on others and the environment.

3.  When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm +/- even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.

4.  Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don't expect to encounter again, even those you feel don't deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.

5.  Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.

6.  View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities. 

7.  Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don't agree with them.  (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)

8.  Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.

9.  Be cautious about imposing your 'truths' and views on other people and situations.

10.  Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, and classism.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

inauguration declaration

  1. the beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.
    "the inauguration of an independent prosecution service"
    • the formal admission of someone to office.
      "Truman's second presidential inauguration"
    • a ceremony to mark the beginning of something.
      "the inauguration of the Modern Art Museum"

It's the day of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration.  As we begin this new era, it's also a good day for me to declare how I want to live forward in this period.  

I confess....

*I confess that I have a hard time loving my enemies.
*I confess that is hard to pray in the right spirit for those whom I am angry with and view as enemy.  
*I confess that I often place my hope in a false sense of comfort and security.
*I confess that I have not represented Christ well.
*I confess that too often I self-protect. 

I commit to...

*not return violence and hate with violence and hate.
*intentionally living in the tensions in order to seek healing.
*learn the way of Jesus who embodied truth and grace, beauty, forgiveness, humility, courage, sacrifice, service, and most of all, love.

I pray for...

*our cities, country, world.  
*those whom we most often neglect, de-humanize, harm.  
*the United States government.  
*personal courage, wisdom, discernment, and Christ's heart and mind.  

How about you?  What do you confess, commit to, and pray for as we live in these days?