Tuesday, December 26, 2006

May God bless you with foolishness

I like this blessing that I found on Tom Allen's blog.
May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships
so that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Pursuit of Happyness

I finally got to see Pursuit of Happyness tonight. I cried through much of it. Many of the homeless guests that we serve at Breakthrough have the kind of potential that Chris Gardener had if they could just get an opportunity. They, too, experience the constant struggle to make it into the shelters before they are full and it seems like there are so many factors working against them. Will Smith did an awesome job. I really hope he gets an Oscar for it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Podcast Link

"A Junky's Christmas" by William S. Burroughs

Here's a link to a heartwarming clay animation video edition of William S. Burroughs', "A Junky's Christmas" narrated by Burroughs himself. It's a story about Danny the Carwiper and his desperate search for a fix on Christmas day. It's a tragic reminder for us of those who will be spending this Christmas locked in addiction and isolation. It's 21 minutes long but worth the watch.

Happy Day!

May you be as happy today as these two pots on the stove.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Breakthrough Stories: Season Opener

For those of you who are technologically challenged I have uploaded our podcast season opener into YouTube and placed it below. My kids used to tell me to "get in the '90s"! Believe me, if I can figure it out, you can too! Just click twice in the box below. It takes a few seconds to load...

How much should we give?

This is the time of the year when financial managers are busy trying to maximize tax incentives by giving. It's not just that Christmas warms our hearts to give, but it makes economic sense for donors to hang on to their investments, letting them gain as much interest as possible, until the very last days of the tax year, when those dollars can be released to ministries and charitable organizations to reap the maximum deduction in income taxes.

In my research about poverty and giving I came across this interesting article in the New York Times magazine by Peter Singer. He says the philanthropy this year of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet raises the following ethical questions...
Why are the people who are giving doing so? Does it do any good? Should we praise them for giving so much or criticize them for not giving still more? Is it troubling that such momentous decisions are made by a few extremely wealthy individuals? And how do our judgments about them reflect on our own way of living?
Singer outlines how it is within our reach to eliminate extreme poverty (defined as living on less than the purchasing-power equivalent of one U.S. dollar per day).

In 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders in history, jointly pledged to meet Millennium Development Goals, by 2015. The goals include:
Reducing by half the proportion of the world’s people in extreme poverty.

Reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Ensuring that children everywhere are able to take a full course of primary schooling.

Ending sex disparity in education.

Reducing by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under 5.

Reducing by three-quarters the rate of maternal mortality.

Halting and beginning to reverse the spread of H.I.V./AIDS and halting and beginning to reduce the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

Reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
Last year a United Nations task force, led by the Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, estimated the annual cost of meeting these goals to be $121 billion in 2006, rising to $189 billion by 2015. When we take account of existing official development aid promises, the additional amount needed each year to meet the goals is only $48 billion for 2006 and $74 billion for 2015. Singer details how a total of $404 billion could be generated without creating any hardship from just 10 percent of American families (those earning more than $92,000) if they gave just a portion of their wealth.

Where does that leave me? I am clearly not in the top 10 percent of America's wealthiest, but I learned from the Global Rich List website that I am in the top one percent of the world's wealthiest. I can't ask people to give unless I am doing my part. So I'm tossing in my "loaves and fish" and asking God to multiply it.

Pursuit of Happyness

Marcie Curry, Breakthrough's Youth and Family Services Director, blogged yesterday about seeing the movie, Pursuit of Happyness. Seeing it is on my list of things to do during the Christmas break. When you visit Marcie's blog be sure to read her December 7th post about the funny thing her three year old daughter, Addy, said. She is an incredibly bright little girl who is growing up urban as you will get from the quote!

Check out our new podcast

Yesterday we launched a new podcast called Breakthrough Stories. We will be mixing some audio and video episodes with a variety of content put together by Breakthrough's Communications Director, Scott Parker. Scott has assembled a great team of professional documentary journalists who are volunteering their time to work on this podcast. If you are new to podcasting let me tell you that I like it alot because you can determine what you want to listen to and watch. You don't need an ipod to participate. Before I got my ipod I listened to them on my computer or burned them on cds to listen in my car. Eventually we will link to the podcast from the Breakthrough website. For now just download itunes if you haven't already, go to the itunes store and enter Breakthrough Stories in the search line. We will be uploading new episodes several times a week, so subscribe now so you don't miss any of them, and please give us feedback about what you would like to hear and see in the content.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Increased Cost of Living for Low Income Residents

The cost of renting a two bedroom apartment in the Chicago area has risen by 25% since 2000 according to an article in the December 13th Chicago Tribune. An individual or family would have to earn about $18/hour or $37,400 per year in order to afford the current average $935 monthly rent. With the Illinois minimum wage at $6.50, without paying more than 30% of income for housing three people in each household would have to be working full time to afford a two bedroom apartment. In our neighborhood of East Garfield Park, the per capita income in 2005 was $11,599.

The Christmas Bonus Buzz

Today I get to hand out Christmas bonuses to our Breakthrough staff. We will all be elated and grateful to the Breakthrough board members who every year pony up cash from their own pockets as a gift of heartfelt appreciation for the hard work and dedication of our 49 staff members who love on our city's most vulnerable populations day after day.

I've been hearing the buzz this week about outlandish Christmas bonuses being handed out on Wall Street. The New York Post reported that Goldman Sachs' bonuses average $622,000 per employee. The most senior partners can expect $10m to $20m in their Christmas stocking. Some top traders are expecting $60m.

Our staff are just as smart and talented as these financial salesmen, but they do what they do out of a sense of mission and love for God and people. Our reward? Seeing lives transfromed by God's power. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, my prayer is that those of us who stand in that gap will always understand that our reward is not on this earth, and that those who are blessed with such wealth will learn the joy of giving.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Personal DNA Test

Here's a link to a very cool free personality test, My Personal DNA Report, that you can take on line. I was amazed how "right on" the results were for me. My new label, the "Considerate Inventor"!! You can run your curser over the grid below to see how I stack up... (the very bottom right hand blue sliver is my ranking for authoritarianism!)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Isaiah and Justice

I read the book of Isaiah today and was again impressed by how justice is emphasized throughout the entire book, starting with chapter 1...
16 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, 17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
I wonder why we don't more often associate "evil deeds" with oppressing poor people by our greed and self-indulgence when Scripture seems to make that association over and over? Lord be merciful to me a sinner!

Isaiah 58 is my all time favorite...
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
From Isaiah 65:17-25, Ray Bakke outlines seven characteristics of a healthy community from the heart of God:
• Public celebration and happiness (18, 19)
• Public health for children and the aged (20)
• Housing for all (21)
• Food for all (22)
• Meaningful work (22, 23)
• Family support systems (23)
• Absence of violence (25)
This list outlines our marching orders. There is a good chance that the next great movement of God will involve putting the church back into community where it can be the leaven, salt and light God designed the church to be.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Willow and Jami Smith

Thanks for praying for me while I was out at Willow this weekend. What an amazing place! Everything is done with such precision and with the best of the best. Of course, I was totally out of my league, but welcomed the opportunity to give glory to God for the many miracles we have experienced at Breakthrough. The people were very kind and responsive.

I was also amazed by the love of God that I would have the privilege of hanging in the Green Room with Jami Smith, who performed and led worship all weekend. I blogged about her song "Your Love Is Deep"
back in June and have loved her cd, Bravo God. She did Christmas music from her Christmas cd, Hope Of all the Earth, which I have also downloaded from itunes. It was a privilege to meet her and her band. I am more a fan then ever!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Thanks to Breakthrough staffer, Mariko Tinaya, for sending me the poem below, right when I needed it!
If I forget, yet God reminds me.
If these hands of mine cease from their clinging,
Yet the hands Divine hold me so firmly I cannot fall.

And if sometimes I am too tired to call for him to help me, Then he reads the prayer unspoken in my heart
And lifts my care.

I dare not fear since certainly I know that I am in God's keeping, Shielded so, from all else that would harm, And in the hour of stern temptation, Strengthened by his power.

I tread no path in life to him unknown;
I lift no burden, bear no pain, alone;
My soul a calm, sure hiding place has found;
The everlasting Arms my life surround.

God, thou art love!
I build my faith on that.
I know thee who has kept my path.
And made light for me in the darkness,
Tempering sorrow so that it reached me like a solemn joy.

It were too strange that I should doubt thy love.

                 - Robert Browning

Please pray for me!

I have the wonderful opportunity to speak before the Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington for four minutes once tonight and twice tomorrow. Please pray that the Lord would anoint and inspire my words and use me to encourage the congregation. Thanks!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I've been getting a lot of insight from the book The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann. Here's a quote from page 91...
Jesus is remembered and presented by the early church as the faithful embodiment of an alternative consciousness. In his compassion, he embodies the anguish of those rejected by the dominant culture, and as embodied anguish, he has the authority to show the deathly end of the dominant culture. Quite clearly, the one thing the dominant culture cannot tolerate or co-opt is compassion, the ability to stand in solidarity with the victims of the present order. It can manage charity and good intentions, but it has no way to resist solidarity with pain or grief. So the structures of competence and competition stand helpless before the one who groaned the groans of those who are hurting, and in their groans they announce the end of the dominant social world. The imperial consciousness lives by its capacity to still the groans and to go on with business as usual as though none were hurting and there were no groans. If the groans become audible, if they can be heard in the streets and markets and courts, then the consciousness of domination is already jeopardized... Jesus had the capacity to give voice to the very hurt that had been muted, and therefore newness could break through. Newness comes precisely from expressed pain. Suffering made audible and visible produces hope, articulated grief is the gate of newness, and the history of Jesus is the history of entering into the pain and giving it voice"
I am coming to realize that much of the hard work of the kingdom involves entering into the pain of others and visioning alternatives. It is indeed a journey to the cross. It is in enlarging our capacity to suffer that we become like him and know him.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Requests for shelter increase while funding falls

Here is a link to an article in the State Journal Register about the need for more funding for homeless shelters. A survey of nearly 60 shelter providers conducted by the Housing Action of Illinois indicated 44 percent of organizations have seen a significant increase in demand for their services since 2003.

While the state contribution to rental subsidies for low income residents has increased due to new legislation enacted after years of advocacy, funding for emergency shelters has decreased. Nancy Radner, Executive Director of the Partnership to End Homelessness, says funding emergency shelters is the “missing piece” that has gotten less attention. “Plenty of people need that place to go immediately,” Radner said. Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, predicts the number of people who are refused from shelters will go up in the days ahead.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Positioned for a miracle!!

I mentioned a few months ago that we needed another million dollars for our building project at 402 N. St. Louis and that I was struggling with how we would be able to reach that goal. I can tell you now, that blog post was an understatement. Just before Thanksgiving the real estate and finance committees of our board met to try to map out a plan of action. There were very legitimate questions being asked...

Was the construction project distracting us from focusing on raising our key programs to excellence? Was there a way to change our plans to free up money and staff during the construction? How was the construction project impacting general operating funds? If God was leading us to do this work, why were we struggling financially? Were there other options that we had missed? How was this construction project and the ensuing costs going to impact Breakthrough’s financial stability going forward? How would this project affect our ability to complete the 2010 plan to build a Family Plex (academic and recreational center)? What were we going to do about the funding gap?

Beyond these internal questions we were facing the likelihood of having to halt construction until the bank felt confident providing a bridge loan for us while pledges from our capital campaign come in. We investigated a plan to phase the project and finish only a portion of the renovations. We certainly did not want to reach the end of construction and have a debt of one million dollars to repay from our already tight operational cash flow! And there was the stress of our thirty homeless men having to squeeze into a small apartment building every night because the construction project at First Free Church was beginning to disturb the habitat of the building's rats. The guys desperately need this living space.

I could write on and on about the process, the escallating costs of construction, trying to keep everyone on the same page, facing the constant vandalism and stealing at the construction site. Let me just say, the last several months have been the most stressful of my life. In the midst of the stress, I somehow knew the Lord was with us, but it felt like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being tossed into the fiery furnace with the claim that, "Our God is able to deliver us, but even if He does not, we will not bow down." The fire was unpleasant and hot and I didn't know the outcome, and yet I knew Jesus was with us in the furnace.

Another analogy I thought of was Moses leading the children of Israel to the Red Sea and not seeing a way out. I admit, I was beginning to lose faith. Several times I woke in the middle of the night filled with anxiety and I would get down by my bed to pray. I felt that I had done everything I knew to do, and we were coming up short. I wavered between earnest cries to God for help and flat out protests of "Where are you God? Why have you abandoned me?"!!

Finally, this past Monday, our staff leadership team told God that we recognized that we were positioned for a miracle. We had done all we knew to do and we were utterly dependent on God for the next step. We repented of our pride and self sufficiency. I joined Nancy Hall, our Development Director, in a fast that day (She fasts regularly). By the end of the day I told my daughter, Teri, that I no longer felt stressed about the building. It was as if something had broken free in my spirit and I knew everything would be fine, that God was going to make a way.

The next day I had a meeting scheduled with Alderman Burnett. I had asked for the meeting several weeks before in hopes of getting him to use his position to get a blue light police surveillance camera at the corner of our construction site to stop the vandalism. We talked about the construction and the gap in funds. He immediately got on the phone and made some calls and it looks like we will be getting one million plus from the city!! It was unbelievable. The same people and departments that had turned us down for funding suddenly did an about face and basically told us that if the alderman wanted a million dollars for this project, we would get it!!

We still have hoops to jump through, but it is looking really good that we will get this building built, on time, and entirely paid for. I can't stop sighing and saying "thank you" to God.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

State house approves raising the minimum wage

Great news today from Springfield. The Illinois House approved raising the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour starting in July '07.

Christian Coalition refuses to address issues of poverty

Here is a link to an article published in the Washington Post today about, Joel Hunter, the second new leader of the Christian Coalition to step down. The board of directors did not agree with his plan to broaden the organization's agenda. In addition to opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, Hunter, 58, wanted to take on such issues as poverty, global warming and HIV/AIDS.

"My position is, unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we're not carrying out the full message of Jesus," he said in a telephone interview yesterday. "They began to think this might threaten their base or evaporate some of their support, and they said they just couldn't go there."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fundraising Dissonance

This picture, "old man eating", or one like it, is common in rescue mission fundraising during this time of the year. The Donor Power Blog describes the problem with it. Studies show that this kind of picture is the most effective in generating donor giving even though the old man is not typical of the residents of most of our shelters and missions. Most tend to be women and young adults. Yet the OME outperforms pictures of women and children every time. The dilemma is, if this is what touches people's hearts and motivates them to give, should we use it for the sake of moving the ministry forward financially, or should we try to educate our donors regarding the actual face of homelessness? It is a dissonance we face often at Breakthrough. Here's a quote from the blog...

So what are you going to do?

Stubbornly insist on showing the "real" more typical need -- and cripple your ability to do your work by decreasing the number of donors who join you? That would be malfeasance. It would lead to more suffering.

Spend a zillion dollars trying to "educate" every donor in America about the real problem? That won't work -- anyway, they already know.

The Donor Power solution: Meet donors where they are -- not where you wish they'd be. Put forth the need that motivates them to respond. Then, you'll find, you earn the right to have the conversation with them about what you do, and who you (and they) serve. Those who are ready to move beyond the gut reaction to OME will do just that.
I would add that we need to do both, reach donors where they are, but also try to move them to a deeper understanding of the issues of race, poverty and homelessness. That is why we started the BUILD program. You can sign up now for groups to start again in January.

Can anyone help me understand why this picture motivates people to give?

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Toddlers laugh 400 times a day and adults laugh 15 times a day. I think we knocked out about 25 laughs at breakfast. Everything becomes a game. My granddaughter, Naomi, eats a few bites and then slides her plate to me. I pretend to eat a bite and then slide it back to her and she laughs. And we do it over and over. Laughter lowers stress and releases those life giving endorphins. I wish such simple things brought me that kind of joy!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tomorrow is...

Breakthrough Kids and Slate Magazine

As I mentioned a few days ago, Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James visited Breakthrough last Thursday. They came to interview some of our middle school kids about the TV series, The Wire. This week Kotlowitz wrote about their feedback in Slate, the online magazine. He called Breakthrough, "an oasis in this hardscrabble community".

Jayden: The Turkey Stuffer

What I'm Thankful For

I am enjoying the day with my daughters and grandkids, my favorite place to be. I am grateful for the warmth of our relationships, our health and God's amazing provision. I am also grateful for my family at Breakthrough. I love being at the Breakthrough Joshua Center. God's presence is so profound there and our relationships are deep. I'm blessed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Honda Commercial

This film took 606 takes. On the first 605 takes, something, usually very minor, didn't work and they would then have to set the whole thing up again. The crew spent weeks shooting night and day. It took three months to complete and cost six million dollars.

Everything you see in the film (aside from the walls, floor, ramp, and complete Honda Accord) is parts from two disassembled Honda Accords. When the ad was shown to Honda executives, they liked it and commented on how amazing computer graphics have gotten. They were surprised when they found out it was for real.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving on the Street

I am on Bob Lupton's mailing list and just received his November "Urban Perspectives" newsletter. He is such a great writer. This one is about two homeless guys conversing on the street. Their impressions about the attitudes of people who they met panhandling reminded me of what I heard at River City Community Church from Pastor Dan Hill on Sunday. He spoke from 1 Corinthians 13:3-4 to the point that we can do very good things for the wrong reasons. Without love it is nothing.
"If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames , but have not love, I gain nothing."
I went forward for prayer for a heart transfusion. I need to be more loving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Day of Rest: Exhausted but Exhilerated

I have been speaking a lot.
The Harvest Baptist Women's Retreat
Willow Metro 212
Three East Delta Congregational Churches in the UP
Christ's Church of Oak Brook Ascend Group
First Free's Ministry Community
I have also been leading a BUILD group for the last ten weeks and teaching a Wheaton in Chicago class. While speaking involves preparation time and thought and the actual delivery can be somewhat exhausting, I have been sensing the Spirit using me in many of the sessions and that is very exhilarating. I think I learn more and get more out of it than the listeners. Today, I was able to really relax. I slept in, went to the River City Community Church, read the Tribune (I have to buy it at CVS now because my delivery papers kept getting stolen), walked Charlie around the Garfield Park lagoon and watched the movie, The Replacements, on TBN.

Speaking of movies, I finally watched Beyond the Gates of Splendor last night, about the five missionaries who were speared to death by the Waodani tribe in the Amazon basin in Ecuador in 1956. It is a documentary and I liked it better than the dramatized version of the story, The End of the Spear. I was touched by the courage of Elizabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint. They went in after the murders to live with the tribe and led them into an understanding of the love of God that eventually transcended their murderous cultural habits and brought faith and peace to the tribe. There is a shot of Valerie, the Elliot's daughter, being carried lovingly on the back of one of the tribesmen who had murdered her father.

The story is narrated by Steve Saint, who spent summers with his aunt Rachel in the jungle and also came to love the men who had murdered his father. At one point he said he was accepted by the kids in the tribe, because like him, nearly all of them had lost a parent or someone they loved to death by the spear. It is an amazing story of the power of God to bring forgiveness and healing transformation to an entire culture.

It was also fun to see Frank Drown in the movie. Frank led the team that went in to recover and bury the bodies. Frank and his wife, Marie, were missionaries that my home church in Iowa supported and I think he even may have stayed in our home. I always really admired him. I remember him telling us that he had used the fuselage of a crashed plane to build a water tower to bring running water to an entire village. He is a visionary entrepreneur who used his gifts for the good of the community. He and Marie now live in Canada. They do workshops on "de-westernizing" the gospel.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Do It Again - Fierce and Free

"A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

                 - G.K. Chesterton

Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James visit Breakthrough

We were privileged today at Breakthrough to spend several hours with Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here, and Steve James, the director of the movie, Hoop Dreams. They have done a lot to bring the stories of inner city youth to a wide audience. They spoke of their joys and struggles of following the stories of the lives of youth and their families through the many challenges and hardships of their lives. They challenged us to continue to tell stories from our neighborhood that will bring attention to the heroism and the issues of justice that we see day to day. We filmed the discussion and will be making segments of their thoughts available in a podcast in the near future.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A year of blogging

Wow! It has been a year since I started blogging. When I posted my first entry I just wanted to try it to see how it worked and I kind of got hooked. It has been a great way for me to organize my thoughts, to keep track of links that are meaningful to me, and to advocate for the people in the community where I live. I have met some new blogger buddies and it has reconnected me with many old friends who somehow stumbled on my blog. So, here's to a new year. BLOG ON!

Mixed emotions...

The odor of dead mice in my apartment.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Joy of Giving

Here's a link to an article in the Economist about research that shows that donating to charity rewards the brain.
"They found that the part of the brain that was active when a person donated happened to be the brain's reward centre—the mesolimbic pathway, to give it its proper name—responsible for doling out the dopamine-mediated euphoria associated with sex, money, food and drugs. Thus the warm glow that accompanies charitable giving has a physiological basis."

Here's a link to an article by John Stott about Christian giving. He says...
"Christian giving is an extremely important topic on the contemporary church's agenda, for I doubt of there is a single Christian enterprise in the world that is not currently hindered and hampered by a lack of funds."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The River

One of the women at the retreat last weekend pointed me to a beautiful song by Brian Doerksen entitled The River. I downloaded it from iTunes.
To the river I am going
Bringing sins I cannot bear
Come and cleanse me, come forgive me
Lord I need to meet you there
In these waters, healing mercy
Flows with freedom from despair
I am going, to that river
Lord I need to meet you there
Precious Jesus, I am ready
To surrender every care
Take my hand now, lead me closer
Lord I need to meet you there
Come and join us, in the river
Come find life beyond compare
He is calling, He is waiting
Jesus longs to meet you there

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Korean Americans and Domestic Violence

I had dinner tonight with some Korean American friends. They mentioned this article in the LA Times about the cultural pressures to succeed within Korean families and some of the drastic consequences. Here is an interesting quote from the article...
No one really knows how pervasive domestic violence is among Asian immigrant groups, but Korean Americans are repeatedly ranked at the top. There is another old saying in Korea: "A woman must be hit once every three days in order to preserve peace and harmony in the family." Until 1997, when South Korea passed its first domestic violence law, wife-beating was not considered a crime.

The Korean Chrisian church plays an important role in confronting this issue by upholding truth and transparency. The article mentions Peter Chang, a pastor and community center executive director...
he estimates that about 70% of Korean Americans in Southern California attend church and that most are Christians. As a minister trying to enlighten the community about domestic violence, Chang hasn't always liked the sermonizing of his fellow Korean pastors, which has often been more about collecting money than in helping troubled souls. In 2003, he was part of a Los Angeles-based group called Korean Churches for Community Development, which published a hard-hitting study on Asian family violence and the need for Korean churches to confront it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
                                Billy - age 4

Behind the Scenes of the "ONE Vote 2006" TV Spot

Watch behind-the-scenes interviews with Don Cheadle, Pastor Rick Warren, Jack Oliver, Mike McCurry and Tom Brady.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thanks for praying

We had an amazing weekend. God blessed us by beautifully orchestrating everything. The testimonies, the songs, and my messages were woven together in ways that we could not have planned. Missy, who gave her testimony this morning, said that God was "freaking her out" because what she had written to share weeks ago was right in sync with what others had said! There were lots of tears as the women shared their burdens in small groups. I spoke on Saturday morning about broken cisterns and wells that were bursting with living water and asked the women to spend half an hour alone at the well. Many women shared that God had met them there and they were ministered to deeply. The fellowship was rich and profound. God is so awesome!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Women's Retreat

I'm speaking at a women's retreat this weekend for Harvest Baptist Church in Oswego. We are staying at the Abbey Resort in Fontana, WI. I would appreciate your prayers that God would empower my words to minister to the women.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

OK, back to more important stuff

Here are some links I've been getting from my fellow BUILD participants.

Joyce sent me a link to a CBS news video called "Preparing for Life" about a program in DC that is preparing inmates for community reentry. About 3,000 men and women are released from prison back into our neighborhood every year. Those with felons, (ie. crimes such as aggravated assault and drug possession), are not allowed to live in public housing, vote, or work any job that involves knives or weapons such as security, cooking, barbering or lawn care. Most employers will not hire them so they have very limited opportunities. We are anxious to get our facility open at 402 N. St. Louis in order to welcome these men back home with housing, recovery counseling and employment training. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Thank you, Keith, for this link to an article by Jim Wallis that made it into the Chicago Sun Times last Sunday, entitled, Is religious right looking left. Wallis describes the reaction of Bethel College students to his chapel speech and says there is a new generation of Jesus followers who "care deeply about poverty, global warming, sex trafficking, human rights, genocide in Darfur and the ethics of war in Iraq. And they are eager for an agenda that will call forth their best gifts, energies and the commitment of their lives."

Anita Lustrea had Randy White on MidDay Connection today. Randy graduated from the same program I did at Bakke Graduate University , so I read his book, Encounter God in the City: Onramps to Personal And Community Transformation with great interest. On the show he described the process of the transformation in his life that led him to urban community development in inner city Fresno. he expressed the power of experience in the city, which leads to joy and spiritual growth. It reminded me of a comment I heard recently from Bill Shereos, pastor of First Free in Chicago, who remarked that cross-cultural experiences should become one of our spiritual disciplines.

Finally, my friend and co-worker, Marcie Curry, let me know today she felt slighted because I haven't blogged about Derek Webb, a musician she turned me on to, who is writing and recording heroic songs about faith and justice. Here is a quote from his song "Rich Young Ruler".
(vs. 1)
poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me

(vs. 2)
so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me

because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

Monday, October 30, 2006

Got him!

At least one of them. I finally got the nerve to dig into my coat closet from which I have been hearing mouse noises and finding droppings. When I got to the bottom box I found him and knocked him over the head with my flashlight! I don't think I have ever prayed more sincere prayers for help!

Then I found this hole in the corner, just like in the cartoon Tom and Jerry which my grandson has been watching nonstop. But my Jerry was not nearly as cute! So now I have barricaded the hole. I know, I need steel wool. But I'm hoping to poison them out of my walls first.

Today I had the victory! Well, until I came home and found more droppings and half of the poison gone. And the battle goes on.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Deception of Beauty

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Breakthrough Benefit

It has been awhile since I have actually written anything in this blog so here I go with some thoughts.

It is the busy time of the year at Breakthrough. Last Friday was our benefit. It is always a great feeling for me when I see the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker filled with 1,000 guests, the big stage with media screens on each side, the beautiful centerpieces, the lighting, and especially the Breakthrough youth choir on stage sounding better and more confident every year.

I had 12 minutes to speak, although I think I stretched it to about 15. When I sat down I thought of all the things I wished I had said. I failed to tie into our theme, which was that when something is healthy it grows and needs to be repotted to remain healthy, and I didn't even mention the Family Plex, the next project in our 2010 plan. I wanted to talk about the 7 graduates from our Youth and Family Services program who entered college this fall, in a community where fewer than 5% have a college degree and nearly half drop out of high school.

I did get the opportunity to introduce Alice, a woman who has been freed by God from a thirty year addiction to heroin and all of the other things associated with life on the streets. She is very courageous about giving her testimony because she is so grateful to the Lord for restoring her. She has a beautiful story.

Dr. Joseph Stowell spoke. He was wonderful as always.

Since this was our largest event of the year we had high expectations for what we would raise financially. We were trying to meet the Kresge Foundation challenge to finish our five million dollar capital campaign and finish our building renovation project. We needed to receive $500,000 in gifts and pledges to get to 4.6 million. When we get to 4.6 the Kresge foundation will give us the last $400,000. We raised $378,000, which is wonderful, but it fell short of our goal. Now the challenge is to come up with that $120,000 shortfall so that we can get the building built without having to cut into our general operating funds.

While fundraising for the ministry never ends and can be burdensome at times, it is also an opportunity for us to find new friends who will get behind what we are doing and experience the joy of giving with us. It is a real test of my faith and I am praying that God will show us what to do.

Anyway, it seems ridiculous to complain about raising $378,000! That is a ton of money and I am grateful. I was reminded by a friend that God usually supplies the manna way... just enough for today. That is what keeps us on our knees and utterly dependent on the Lord day by day.

Of course, right after the benefit, when we were struggling with what to do about the shortfall, and I was feeling like maybe this job is too much for me and I should hand it over to someone more capable, I heard about a CEO position with a global orphanage ministry that would pay three times my salary! I have to admit, I was tempted. But I love Breakthrough. It is not a sacrifice to stay. For now, I know this is where I am supposed to be.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

War on poverty slips from election agenda

Here's a link to a yahoo news article with that title.

Wise words

On the side of a CTA bus advertising Loyola University,
"Social justice is not just for rock stars."

From Desmond Tutu,
"We can never win the war on terror as long as there are conditions that make people desperate."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Asleep in the Light

I was reminded today of this song by Keith Green, especially the verse, "God's calling and you're the one, but like Jonah you run. He's told you to speak, but you keep holding it in. Oh can't you see it's such sin?" Ouch! Are you tawkin' to me?!!
Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down
Don't you care, don't you care
Are you gonna let them drown

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done

Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord
You know it's all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear

But He cries, he weeps, he bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in
Oh can't you see it's such a sin

'Cause he brings people to your door
And you turn them away
As you smile and say
God bless you, be at peace
And all heaven just weeps
'Cause Jesus came to your door
You've left Him out on the streets

Open up open up
And give yourself away
You see the need, you hear the cries
So how can you delay

God's calling and you're the one
But like Jonah you run
He's told you to speak
But you keep holding it in
Oh can't you see it's such sin

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can't fight
'Cause its asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you've been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can't even get out of bed

Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on get out of your bed

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job's done
You close your eyes
And pretend the jobs done

Dont close your eyes
Dont pretend the job's done
Come away, come away, come away with me my love
Come away, come away, come away with me my love

Monday, October 23, 2006

Health Care Issues

Saturday at our BUILD class we discussed issues of health care in impoverished communities with Bruce Miller, COO/CFO of the Lawndale Christian Health Center. He talked about the growing number of undocumented immigrants who are now eligible for medical coverage through the state "AllKids" program, but often don't want to give their information for fear of being deported. Yesterday's Tribune carried at article about that very issue. I'm thankful to have a ministry in our community like Lawndale that provides health care for $15 a visit, no questions asked.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Women's Ministry Day at the New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church

I was privileged to bring the Scripture meditation this morning at the New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. I got to sit "in the pulpit" (ie. on the platform) beside Rev. Cy Field's wife, Yolanda, who serves as Breakthrough's Director of Women's Services. It was an incredibly inspirational service. Yolanda preached. She is always great. And the worship was outstanding! I loved the "Litany for Women" which was read responsively. It was very unlike anything I have ever heard in churches from my background. Black churches do not have to be reminded that social justice and community service is intrinsic to the gospel.

All knowing God, who sees and helps to bear the pains and disappointments of every black mother, we ask that you extend to our mothers comfort and strength.

We pray for women everywhere. They give us life and love and hold our families together. Amid changing family structures we remember mothers young and old, single mothers and fathers, homeless mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and surrogate mothers.

We pray for women who suffer due to unemployment, insufficient housing and poor healthcare. Heal black mothers, Lord, as they have often experienced mistreatment and witnessed the harsh abuse of their children, husbands, siblings and parents.

Awesome Savior, fortify our sisters. Continue to make them a refuge in the time of trouble.

We pray for mothers and their children, as violent crimes and drug abuse conspire to tear the fiber of black families.

We pray for women of old who have bent their backs cleaning homes, picking cotton and working by the sweat of their brow. We thank them for their determination and their belief that education is a door to liberation and success.

God, empower women to enrich the lives of their families. Aid them as they teach sons and daughters determination and the value of investing in the future.

Women have always been activists and leaders, teaching us how to live and making our communities better. We remember poet and writer Frances E. W. Harper who birthed a crusade against lynching during Reconstruction.

We remember Rosa Parks who birthed a bus boycott, and Shirley Chisholm who blazed the trail to high public office for black women.

We cherish Sisters who teach, write or preach the truth and who open the minds of children to limitless possibility. We celebrate women who are homemakers, educators, authors and pastors, who formulate ideas, expend creative energy and inspire young people to become leaders.

They have been a loving presence in business, play, in the arts and in all of life.

Because women taught us that "the Lord will make a way out of no way", we have the inheritance of a powerful spiritual legacy. We give women bouquets of gratitude and honor. Kind and Gentle Savior, ever bless them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sara Groves Awakening

I attended a Midday Connection Tea today with Craig Muller from Warm Blankets and singer, songwriter, Sara Groves. I had heard of Sara Groves but didn't know much about her. After today, she has become one of my favorite artists, not just because her music is great, but because of the message she brings. She said that while working with Charlie Peacock on an IJM project, she felt like she came out from under a rock and became aware of justice issues. She spoke with great humility about the importance of becoming educated about the issues and getting involved. The lyrics from one of her songs has been echoing through my head, "your pain has changed me". Great stuff! If you don't already download Midday everyday as a podcast, it would be worth your while to download and listen to this one from the Midday web site. If you can't listen to the whole show at least listen to the 23 to 25 minute section. She said so much about what I believe in those three minutes. Here's a quote from Mother Teresa that she used...
We can do no great things, only small things with great love.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Prayer: Enjoying the Attention of God

My friend, Keri Wyatt Kent, has written wonderful article on prayer for Christianity Today. It reminded me of how important it is to my grandkids when I give them my attention as they play. They are constantly checking to make sure I am watching as they try some new thing. To think that God is longing to give us that kind of attention is very encouraging. So I'm going to leave this computer right now and go enjoy God's attention! Thanks Keri, for using your gift to inspire!

Akleelah and the Bee

One of my blog buddies, Sharla Earlandson, suggested that I blog about Akeelah and the Bee, A Starbucks sponsored, Lionsgate movie about an eleven year old girl in Los Angeles, who faced her fears and insecurities, and won the national spelling bee. It is an inspiring and heart-warming movie that we took all of the kids in our Breakthrough Youth and Family Program to see because of the positive influence we believed it would have in their lives.

We, at Breakthrough, have connected with this story on many levels, especially in the way the community came together to help Akeelah learn her last 5,000 words and to cheer her on to victory. Bringing a community together to ensure the success of its stars is central to Breakthrough's philosophy of ministry.

I could write about the movie, but I can't think of a better way for you to learn about it than to link to the Earlandson's Raindrops of Sunshine blog and read what Sharla has written. She has also posted a You Tube video trailer of the movie.

Thanks Sharla. I agree. This is one of the best movies I have seen that brings hope to inner city youth.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Shane Claiborne and John Lewis to speak on Sunday

Tomorrow will be a full day of great messages for me. First of all, Shane Claiborne, the author of the great book, Irresistible Revolution, will be speaking at LaSalle Street Church at 9 and 11. Then at 4:30, Congressman and civil rights activist, John Lewis, will be speaking at the 10th Anniversary Rally of the Protestants for the Common Good at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington Street. See you there!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dr. Joseph Stowell and my lamb story

Dr. Stowell has been a great friend of mine and of the ministry of Breakthrough for many years. He will be the featured speaker at our benefit next Friday. Yesterday he talked about Breakthrough in his new podcast.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Set your TIVOs for this inspiring documentary about Manley Career Academy

On Sunday, October 15th, at noon, Carol Marin at Channel 5 will air a documentary entitled "Nobody Told Me". It is the inspiring story of a struggling high school in Lawndale, Manley Career Academy. In 1997 less than 10% of Manley's graduating class went on to college. In 2003, thanks in large part to the efforts of one heroic woman, Lila Leff, over 70% of Manley's graduating seniors headed to colleges and universities all over the country. Here is a link to a written version of the story.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rocky Balboa and Spiritual Warfare

Sorry to be posting so many videos, but I had to repost this one that I blogged sometime in March. I woke up at 5 AM yesterday morning and was really feeling the battle, with a clear sense that the enemy wants to stop what we are doing and especially doesn't want to give up the turf in and around our construction site. As I prayed Ephesians 6:12 came to mind, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." This video clip reminds me of how it feels sometimes to be slugging it out in the city.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Making Poverty History : Dr Max Collison

Here's a great message about justice from Dr. Max Collison, an Australian missionary from Nairobi. He says that in the New Testament there is one Greek word for righteousness and justice and he goes on to explain why it matters to God what coffee we buy.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A word about Scripture from the Desert Fathers

Abba Poemen said: The nature of water is yielding, and that of a stone is hard. Yet if you hang a bottle filled with water above the stone so that the water drips drop by drop, it will wear a hole in the stone. In the same way the word of God is tender, and our heart is hard. So when people hear the word of God frequently, their hearts are opened to the fear of God.

       --from Desert Wisdom by Yushi Nomura and Henri Nouwen

School integration in Omaha

There was a very interesting article in the Chicago Tribune today about Omaha's attempts to face issues of race and school integration. They even considered segregation as the answer!

Focus on School Funding

Joyce from my Saturday BUILD group sent me a link to this article from the Chicago Sun-Times. On Friday Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, were scheduled to hold a news conference at the Board of Education headquarters about school funding. Surprisingly they were joined by Mayor Daley and Jesse Jackson, Jr. Jesse, Jr. has talked about challenging Mayor Daley in the mayoral race. It is encouraging that these politicians recognize the importance of this issue and are competing for the limelight on the issue.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Signs of Hope

Here is a link to a Tribune article about a group of privileged suburbanites who have joined to assist a new Providence St. Mel's school on the south side. This is the kind of bridge building and understanding that will begin to address the issues of unequal access to educational opportunities.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Doing Theology By Any Means Necessary - Carl Ellis

I don't know of a theological teacher who does a more effective job of teaching about theology in an African American context than Carl Ellis. Here is a video of his teaching at Williams College.

A Nooma teaching from Rob Bell

This Nooma video by Rob Bell gives a whole new perspective on following Jesus. Jesus actually believes in us!

Friday, September 29, 2006

True Faith

"True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people."
                  -- Menno Simons

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
                  --James 2:14-17

Different Rules for Whites

"For centuries, whites have benefited from exclusionary laws and policies, while other groups were barred from citizenship, denied opportunities, and restricted from full participation in American society."

Here's a link to a PBS article that traces historical policies that have provided for whites while excluding others.

Plight Deepens for African American Men

Here is a link to a NY Times article entitled, "Plight Deepens for African American Men, Studies Warn". It highlights a flurry of recent studies that show that Black men are falling increasingly farther behind the rest of society with higher dropout rates and greater rates of unemployment and incarceration. Here are some highlights from the article...
Especially in the country's inner cities, the studies show, finishing high school is the exception, legal work is scarcer than ever and prison is almost routine, with incarceration rates climbing for blacks even as urban crime rates have declined.

Terrible schools, absent parents, racism, the decline in blue collar jobs and a subculture that glorifies swagger over work have all been cited as causes of the deepening ruin of black youths.

In inner cities across the country, more than half of all black men still do not finish high school, said Gary Orfield, an education expert at Harvard and editor of "Dropouts in America" (Harvard Education Press, 2004).

"We're pumping out boys with no honest alternative," Mr. Orfield said in an interview, "and of course their neighborhoods offer many other alternatives."

By their mid-30's, 30 percent of black men with no more than a high school education have served time in prison, and 60 percent of dropouts have.

Among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day — 34 percent — than are working — 30 percent — according to an analysis of 2000 census data by Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley.

In response to the worsening situation for young black men, a growing number of programs are placing as much importance on teaching life skills — like parenting, conflict resolution and character building — as they are on teaching job skills.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Taken, Blessed, Broken and Given

“The operating biblical metaphor regarding worship is sacrifice. We bring ourselves to the altar and let God do to us what God will. We bring ourselves to the eucharistic table, entering into that grand fourfold shape of the liturgy that shapes us: taking, blessing, breaking, giving—the life of Jesus taken and blessed, broken and distributed; and that eucharistic life now shapes our lives as we give ourselves, Christ in us, to be taken, blessed, broken and distributed in lives of witness and service, justice and healing."

                         -- Eugene Peterson

Monday, September 25, 2006

Reading Scripture in an African American Context

I appreciated a blog post by Scot McKnight entitled "Scriptures and Scripture: African American" in which he makes the case that social context affects what we look for and find in Scripture. African Americans read Scripture in a context of oppression and suffering and therefore have found in Scripture God's identification with the oppressed and the acts of God to bring justice in this world.

Jerry Falwell compares Hillary Clinton to Lucifer

Yesterday's broadcast of ABC's World News Sunday referenced Rev. Jerry Falwell's September 22 attack on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) comparing the senator to "Lucifer". Falwell said later it was "tongue in cheek", but I think this is the kind of hateful talk that fuels the fire of animosity toward Christians and certainly does not attract people to the faith.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Heroin deaths and race

I wrote this as a comment on the "White Privilege" post on Thursday night, but thought I would highligh it again. Thursday night channel 5 news featured the story of a white kid from the suburbs who drove to the westside of Chicago and got some heroin laced with fentanyl and died. He was a Maine South student and his father was Jack Krecker, deputy police chief of the Franklin Park police. While I feel the pain of the Krecker family I couldn't help but think of Curtis and the 70 others who have died from this deadly heroin whose stories aren't told on the 10 o'clock news. They have families too, but they are the invisible Americans.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My walk around the Garfield Park Lagoon

My neighbor down the street: “How you doin’ sweetie?” (I like being called that)

“I’m blessed and you?”

“Blest too. Did you make it to Curtis’ funeral?” she asks.

“No, I had planned to go but I got that bad cold that’s going around and didn’t want to spread it. Did you?”

“Yea, it was nice. They showed him and he looked real good.”

“Sorry I missed it.”

“That’s ok. You were sick.”

I poke my head in the corner store without actually going in because I have my dog Charlie on a leash. “You got any of those sticky mouse traps?”

He looks back over his shoulder at the wall. “No, not the sticky kind.”

I need the sticky kind because it’s the only thing that will catch the one inch babies that have invaded my apartment again.

I cross Lake Street and enter the park. A group of men have set up a card table to play cards and drink beer. I nod. They nod back. “What kinda dog is that?” One of them asks. I’ll get asked that three more times before I make it around the lagoon.

“He’s a Papillion”, I say.

The park drive is always lined with cars, usually with people sitting in them talking or listening to music. One of them is selling bags of peanuts out of his car. Another has lined the hood, roof and trunk of his car with nice looking sneakers still new in their boxes. He is strategically parked next to the basketball courts that are always busy with men in hot hoop competition.

Charlie does his thing and I pick it up with a baggie even though his little poops are smaller than the geese poop I have to dodge constantly. Speaking of geese I decide to count them and get to 100 when I give up. One of them has a lame leg and limps slowly behind the others. He can still fly though. I decide I’m a lot like that goose. I may limp, but I can still fly.

I wonder how the geese butts stay so white even though the lagoon is covered with a green sludge. I guess God put some kind of thing on their butts that repels dirt and grime. I dunno.

I round the back end of the lagoon near Hamlin and notice a man standing in a concrete bunker. I wonder what he’s doing in there. As I clear the trees I get near him and say, “How you doin’”?

“I’ve had a really bad day”, he says.

“Why, what happened?”

“My fiancĂ© broke up with me and we have a little girl. I’m just really upset about it. I need a job real bad too, but I have a record. People don’t realize how hard it is to get a job if you have a felony”.

“Yea, I know”, I say, “no one will hire you or rent to you and you can’t even get into public housing.

“Yea, that’s right. It’s terrible. You can’t do nothin’”.

I proceed to tell him about Breaking Ground, a ministry in the neighborhood that provides job training and work opportunities. I explain how to get there and he seems confused, can’t seem to get my directions. Then I notice two hypodermic needles in a pipe in the bunker and it all makes sense. He’s still talking about how hard it is and I say, “You really have to lay off the needle, that'll really mess you up.”

He seems shocked. “How did you know? Did you see me?”

“I can see the needles right there.” I point to them.

He looks ashamed. “I know. I just do it once a week. I know its bad”.

“It will kill you”, I say, “a friend of mine died last week from bad dope he got in this park”.

“Yea, I heard”, he says, “a friend of mine died too. I know, I gotta quit”.

I walk on and notice a young white girl sitting by the lagoon. She seems to be drawing on an art pad. Yup, I think, the artists come first. Gentrification is on the way. I round the bend and try to keep Charlie out of the cocklebur bushes. I see two men fishing who I have talked with before. One of them is leafing through a stack of bills. They say hi. I smile and say, “Hey, you’d better be careful flashing that cash in this park!”

“What you gonna do, rob me”? He jokes.

“Me and my killer dog,” I say. They laugh. Charlie weighs about 10 pounds.

I walk on and notice two people sitting on a bench. One of them is a woman from our shelter. I stop to talk. “How you doin’”?

“Great!” she says and gives me a big exaggerated grin.

“Oh wow”, I say, “you got your teeth today”. I remember seeing the dental van at the Breakthrough Joshua Center. “Just the uppers?” I ask.

“No, both uppers and lowers”.

“They look great,” I say.

She smiles broadly, “I know,” she says. Then she goes on to tell me a story about how she’s been going to court because she was stabbed in the neck by someone who had been in for murder and was released on a technicality. The police are grateful that she is pressing charges cuz this guy is dangerous and needs to be behind bars.

I’m not sure whether or not to believe her because I know she makes things up, but it’s an interesting story. I express my amazement and affirm that she is doing the right thing, say hi to her guy friend, whom I had met before, tell them to have a great night and walk on.

I cross Lake Street again and head back up St. Louis Avenue. Two little boys ask if Charlie bites. I say no.

“Can I rub him?” One of them asks.

I nod a yes and turn my attention to an elderly man hoeing his garden. “Since I see you and we say ‘hi’ everyday I really should learn your name,” I say.

“It’s Al,” he says, “but everyone calls me Melvin”.

“What should I call you?”

“I guess Melvin cuz that’s what everybody calls me”.

“I’m Arloa,” I say and explain that it is the feminine form of Arlo, like Arlo Guthrie, the folk singer who recorded “City of New Orleans”. He gets it right away.

“I’ve lived here 40 years,” he says.

Oh, so you were here after King was assassinated and the neighborhood burned,” I say.

“Oh, yea. It was bad. I stayed to watch over my aunt. She’s passed now”. He says the owner of his building is thinking about selling. He needs to find a place to go. I remember Yolanda, our Women’s Services Director, questioning where her people are going to go as the whites start to move in. I tell him about the seniors building on Drake, that it’s been renovated and is pretty nice. He says he’ll check it out.

I turn onto Fulton and head for home. Punkin and I discuss the mice situation outside my front door. She says she hears them in the walls. So my mission now is to find those sticky mouse traps. I’ve been to Walgreens and Dominicks… guess I’ll try Home Depot.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

White Privilege

Marlone Finley from my Tuesday night BUILD group sent me this link today to an article about a survey that indicates that 60% of whites understand that being white brings them special privileges. What is concerning to me is that means 40% believe that institutions are color-blind and don't contribute to those privileges.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Breakthrough on Midday Connection

Anita Lustrea interviewed me and other Breakthrough staff on Midday Connection today. You can listen to the show at this link.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two deaths on my block this week

Curtis was one of the first people I met when I moved here. He was walking his dog early one January morning and we talked. I kept running into him and he would encourage me to get out more with my dog Charlie. He especially appreciated the groceries he received from our food pantry. Later this summer when I saw him mowing the lawn in front of our house I asked him to mow the grass in front of our building on St. Louis Avenue. He was eager to help and always asked if we had more work for him to do. I told him to hold on, that soon the Breakthrough Ministry Center would be up and running and we would have an employment center there to help him get a good job. He was very excited about that and asked me about it everytime we met. Over the weekend he was given bad heroin and I learned today that he died. When I asked my neighbors about his funeral they told me another man we knew as Santa Claus because of his full white beard passed away today. He was living in the boarded up building three doors down from me and died from a gas leak in the building. These are the men Breakthrough is here to serve. We really need to get our building renovated so guys like Curtis and Santa Claus will have opportunities before it is too late.

This is the kind of prayer we need!

I support Mayor Daley on the Big Box Veto

There I said it. I wasn't sure where I stood until I heard Bishop Brazier say our people need jobs, starter jobs, any job. Yes the minimum wage needs to be raised, but across the board, not just in Walmart and Target stores in the city. I am a strong advocate of raising the minimum wage. But to keep the big box stores out of the city is not the answer. It's not enough. I know it is a difficult question. Do the big box stores drive out other businesses? Probably. But to be able to buy goods at lower prices is an advantage that suburbanites have that we don't. Our kids need those starter jobs so they can move on to better employment. Sojourners and all of the social advocates I know have been supporting the aldermanic ordinance that would require the big box stores to pay a higher wage, therefore causing them to stop development in the city. What do you think?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

This Week's TIME magazine

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.                  --Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 6:20

Here's what Rick Warren had to say in the CNN summary of the Time magazine article...
This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? … There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?

I've been duped by bottled water

I tried to give Tom a bottled water the other day and he refused it saying he took issue with bottled water. I was puzzled by that. Surely, bottled water tastes better than tap water. It's been put through all of that filtering and testing and must be better for us.

Today the Tribune ran an article about bottled water and guess what, Tom's right. It turns out "across the board, people can't tell the difference. Over 1,000 people have taken the test in more than a dozen cities, and the overwhelming sentiment from them is that they have been duped. The dirty secret about clean water is that regulation of bottled water is weaker than regulation of tap water. And a quarter or more of all bottle-water brands obtain their water from the same place you do--municipal water systems. These include such leading brands as Coca-Cola's Dasani and Pepsi's Aquafina." And since bottled water does not contain fluoride like most tap water does, it can actually contribute to tooth decay!! The difference is, bottled water can cost up to $10 per gallon instead of the 50 cents per gallon that tap water costs!

I'm convinced. I still think Chicago water has a bit of a bleach odor, so I think I will run it through my Brita pitcher and fill up my water bottles with tap water. Certainly I can put the money to better use than supporting Coca-Cola and other mega corporations.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

O Such Love!

Bonhoeffer on Justice

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, but we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

                        -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Digital Divide

Here is a link to a CNN article about the digital divide. This affects homework, term papers, research capability, access to employment and I'm sure lots of other things. It highlights the value of our computer lab at the Breakthrough Joshua Center.
A total of 54 percent of white students use the Internet at home, compared with 26 percent of Hispanic and 27 percent of black youngsters.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ML King on the Jericho Road

I read this quote on one of my favorite blogs, Allan Greig's "...a personal revolution".
"We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside… but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King (A Time to Break the Silence, 1967)

Amy Grant at Ravinia

I went to Ravinia with my friend Tom to hear Amy Grant last Thursday night and ran into lots of friends. Here are Nancy, Penny and Helen with Amy.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Skin Color and Identity

The effects of racism on the identity of Black children is devastating and deeply psychological. This 7 minute video entitled "A Girl Like Me" shows young girls describing the struggle.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Cost of Living and the Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. During the past nine years, while the minimum wage has remained the same, members of Congress have voted to give themselves pay raises -- technically "cost of living increases" -- totaling $31,600, or more than $15 an hour for a 40-hour week, 52 weeks a year.

While the minimum wage has remained stagnant since 1997, Congress has enacted legislation that has reduced estate tax burdens in eight of the past nine years. The minimum wage bill that passed the House but was rejected by the Senate last month, would have benefited 5.6 million workers, while the estate tax reduction primarily benefits 8,200 very wealthy estates.

Treadmill Dance

Have your seen the Treadmill Dancers? I like how the guy in the red pants starts the music with the remote control!

Trevor Romain

Trevor Romain's blog is a beautiful collage of art, photography and prose--wonderful stories. I especially like his Augsut 21st post about the Nee Nee Man.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Changing the world

"When I wake up in the morning, I can't decide whether to enjoy the world or improve the world, that makes it difficult to plan the day."
        --E.B. White

"I'm out to change my world."
        --Ann Kiemel

"Each of us must be the change we want to see in the world."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Keri Wyatt Kent on Midday Connection

My friend, Keri Wyatt Kent, was on Midday Connection today with Anita Lustrea and mentioned her visit to our shelter in East Garfield Park and how being there can affect one's perspective on life. The show is about listening to the story of our lives and to God's voice in the middle of our pain. Keri is the author of Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life and Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Race Relations and Katrina

Thanks to Scott Ruth for linking me to this yahoo news article about race relations before and since Katrina
"The racism is so raw here," said Barbara Major, a community activist who co-chaired Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back commission.

"People were outraged that people were dying. People been dying," she said. "They should have been outraged that children didn't get a decent education. That there wasn't decent housing here (just) like in every other city in the United States."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Seeking God's Face

Sunday, at the River City Community Church, Pastor Dan Hill spoke about being God's friend. One of his points was that we should seek God's face. He said the word for "face" is the same as the word used for "presence". We should seek God's presence.

It reminded me of Psalm 4:6 which I studied recently where David prays, "Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord". I thought about seeing God's face and experiencing God's presence in the faces of the people identified in Matthew 25; the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, the strangers. Jesus said what we do for them, we do for Him.

I also listened yesterday to an audio of Keri Wyatt Kent on Midday Connection in which she says that instead of asking "What would Jesus do?" we should ask "What if this was Jesus?" When we get behind someone at the supermarket who is slow, or we interact with someone who seems difficult, we can ask ourselves, "What if this was Jesus?"

We seek God's face when we go into our closet to pray, and also when we see Jesus in the faces of the broken. Psalm 34:18 says the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. When we get near the broken, we get near God. We experience God's presence.
"May the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord."

Same Kind Of Different As Me

My friend and co-worker Nancy Hall has given me permission to post the following email I received from her. I just started reading The Same Kind Of Different As Me and can already tell it is a "must read".

One of our Breakthrough volunteers, Sharon Durling, called me a few days before my vacation and felt compelled to strongly recommend that I read the newly published book, Same Kind of Different as Me. It's a true story of an affluent white couple who volunteer at a homeless shelter, in Ft. Worth, TX, and meet Denver Moore, a homeless guest. There's a transformation process that happens for the couple as well as for Denver that's quite amazing.

I began to read the book on the plane. The story was so riveting that I finished the book by the end of the plane ride (six hours later). I concur with Sharon that it's an amazing story that our staff, guests and volunteers would be positively impacted by. It's most definitely written from a Christian perspective but it doesn't hit you over the head with the bible in a negative way. It's truly a story about grace. And, it fits very well with our Breakthrough values.

The authors, Ron Hall and Denver Moore were recently interviewed on TV.

New incentives for charitable giving from IRAs

The Chicago Tribune reported today that new rules which are part of the pension reform legislation make it easier for indiviuduals age 70 1/2 or older to donate money to charity directly from their IRA's. Gifts up to $100,000 are credited toward the donors minimum withdrawal and are tax deductible. According to Sandra Block in USA Today, an individual would need to roll money from the 401(k) plan into an IRA "before they could make a direct contribution to charity."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

There's a power in poverty

Listening to...

Poverty by Jason Upton from his Faith cd.

There's a power in poverty
that breaks principalities
And brings the authority's
down to their knees
There's a brewing frustration
an ageless temptation
To fight for control
by some manipulation

But the God of the kingdoms and the God of the Nations
The God of creation sends this revelation
Thru the homeless and penniless Jesus the son
The poor will inherit the Kingdom to come

Where will we turn when our world falls apart
And all of the treasures we've stored in our barns
Can't buy the Kingdom of God?
Who will we praise when we've praised all our lives
men who build Kingdoms and men who build fame
But heaven does not know their names
And what will we fear when all that remains
Is God on His throne, with a child in his arms,
and love in his eyes
And the sound of his heart cries