Sunday, April 30, 2006

Franklin, My Foster Cat

My niece, Annamarie Monkemeier, and her husband, Matt Wickman, are in Jordan studying Arabic. I get to keep their cool cat, Franklin, until they find a home for me to ship him to. Franklin, and my Papillon, Charlie, are finally becoming friends who tolerate taking turns on my lap. Just want you to know Franklin is doing fine, A & M, although I think in his heart of hearts he really misses you! He's looking forward to your first Skype call. Love you!!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I'm going to Pentecost 2006

I've got my tickets to attend Pentecost 2006 and would love to see you there.
Pentecost 2006: Building a Covenant for a New America
Hosted by Sojourners and Call to Renewal
June 26-28, 2006 - Washington, D.C.

Join hundreds of grassroots and faith-based anti-poverty leaders for three days of putting faith into action through workshops, Hill visits, inspiring speeches, and music, with the goal of building the political will to overcome poverty!
Click here to register before May 31st and receive a $25 discount.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Global Night Commute

Thanks to James Dalton for giving me the "heads up" about the Global Night Commute this Saturday night in Grant Park. If you had the opportunity to catch Oprah yesterday, she had a special on the holocaust that is happening in Uganda, Congo, Sudan and other African countries. Part of the program was the Invisible Children guys. Check out Oprah's web site for a recap of yesterdays show. And also go to the Invisible Children web site to sign up for the Night Commute this Sat. night. We now have over 1, 200 people signed up to sleep in Grant Park. Over all of the country we have 41,481 Americans are closing their eyes to open the worlds’ to an unseen war. Go to this link to watch the whole movie online.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

School of Urban Mission

I have been enjoying a podcast from the UK called the School of Urban Mission. You don't have to be into podcasting to download the mp3 files and listen to them. I have been recommending the October 20, 2005 download especially for its great insight into the gnostic practice, common in the west, of separating sacred from secular.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I Will Trust You

I am listening to the song, I Will Trust You, by Chris Lizotte, on the new Sweetly Broken cd from the Vineyard...
"In my weakeness would you come, help me stand up, help me run, to the shadow of your wings and the comfort that it brings. And I'll wait, and be still. And I'll know you are God."

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Lamb Story

I grew up on a farm in northwest Iowa. As a teenager, it was my daily chore to milk the family cow by hand. One bitter cold morning, before dawn, I made my way out to the big red barn to milk the cow before school. As I neared the door of the barn, I stumbled over something that felt like a rock. I reached down to see what it was and was surprised to find the frozen body of a little baby lamb. Our buck had managed to get through a fence to the female sheep at the wrong time of the year, and now in the dead cold of winter our sheep were giving birth to babies. Unable to survive the bitter cold, they were dying.

I knelt down to pick up the dead body to carry it to the growing pile of dead little lambs that would be carried out by a truck the next day. As I lifted the stiff, cold lamb I was surprised to feel something on my thumb. It was a warm breath from the nostril of the lamb! I gasped! He was alive!

I rushed him into the house and put him in a cardboard box on a heat register in a washroom off the kitchen. I warmed towels on the heat vent and wrapped him in them and held him on my lap. I rubbed his frozen body and warmed him with the towels for nearly an hour, but there was no response.

Discouraged, I placed him back into the box and went into the kitchen to get a drink of water. As I sipped the water I heard a resounding “baaa” from the washroom. I rushed back to the lamb to find him standing up in the box, very much alive!

I fed him milk from a pop bottle and he followed me around for months as if I was his mother.

I tell that story because it reminds me of the men and women who come to Breakthrough many of whom have been frozen out by society and left to die, without hope. Often they have given up on themselves as well and come to our centers nearly lifeless, barely surviving. Yet in every human being created by God there is that little breath of the image of God waiting to be nurtured to life. When they enter an environment of warm love and support we often see them miraculously come to life, almost as dramatically as that little lamb.

Me and Friskie

Someone shot a hole in my window today

When I got home from work today I noticed a hole in my window curtain. Sure enough it was a bullet that went through two panes of glass and my curtain and is lodged in my dining room wall. I noticed kids out yesterday handing out "Cease Fire" posters. I need to get one of those! Thankfully I was not home and my animals, my dog, Charlie, and my foster cat, Franklin, are fine. I guess its just one of the hazards of living in East Garfield Park!

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Thanks to Allan and his great "a personal revolution" blog for introducing me to a speech by Elle Wiesel given at the Seventh White House Millennium Evening, Washington, 12 April 1999. I have to quote Allan's comment because he says what I want to say but can't seem to find the words...
"As I fight against my own indifference and as I groan at our collective embrace of apathy I also plead with God to awaken us to the extreme suffering in our world, that each of us would find our place in bringing His redemption to the least of these…. And not just temporarily where we feel we have done our bit or because our curiosity seeks to be satisfied but authentically, consistently, sincerely… *deep sigh*."
I couldn't say it better Allan!

You can read Elle Wiesel's entire speech at this link to the pbs web site. Here are some highlights...

“What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means ‘no difference’. A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil. What are its courses and inescapable consequences? Is it a philosophy? Is a philosophy of indifference conceivable? Can one possibly view indifference as a virtue? Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one’s sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?

Of course, indifference can be tempting- more than that, seductive, it is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, and our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person’s pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbors are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction. Indifference is always the friend of the enemy.

In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony, have done something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response.

Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor—never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees—not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.

Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment. And this is one of the most important lessons of this outgoing century’s wide-ranging experiments in good and evil.”

"Turning A Corner": a new Chicago-based film about the sex trade

The film Turning A Corner will be screened on Tuesday, April 25th at 6 pm at the Chicago Temple, located at 77 W. Washington, in the main sanctuary. There will be a short Q&A following the film.

Turning A Corner is a one-hour documentary highlighting the voices of women involved in the sex trade and their efforts to raise public awareness and promote needed policy reforms. Created in a media activism workshop to address the issues in the women's lives, the film tells their stories of survival and triumph over homelessness, violence and discrimination and gives rare insights into Chicago's sex industry.

Justice and Love

Here is a link to a video message from Dr. Stephen Long, entitled, "A Vocation for all Vocations: How the Virtues of Justice and Love Understood in the Christian Tradition must Transform Everything, from Work to Rest." Here is the audio link. He presented at a conference on Film, Faith and Justice at Seattle Pacific University on April 7th.

He says that justice informed by love requires a different kind of politics. It requires not a negative freedom, to be free from one another, but to be free for one another, bound together in charity, living together under a notion of a common good, a truth, seized by a beauty which only comes from the glory of God. Our faith requires that we have a place for others.

Our task is not so much to get a plaque of the ten commandments into public places as it is to live the commandments and to create a group of people who can embody their way of life in the world in such a way that they are not compelled to use force and coersion and power to get their way. Then we will have a justice transformed by faith and hope and love and we will recognize that it will require all aspects of our life. It will require that we make room for others who are different from us. The blood that is shed cries out. Our task as Christians is not to engage in propaganda, but to live our lives in such a way that our lives would not makes snese if the God we profess is not true.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Recycling Offers Hope for the Poor

I was inspired by this Associated Press video about homeless kids in Jakarta, Indonesia who are making paper from weeds. They're geniuses!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Kite Surfing

While in Michigan this weekend I went to the Warren Dunes and watched a guy kite surf. I didn't know the sport existed. This guy made it look simple. The water had to be cold and it was windy, but he made it look easy jumping high into the air and guiding himself up wind. It was awesome.

Happy Resurrection Day!

I just got back from a two day personal retreat. It was long overdue. Thanks to some friends who loaned me their beautiful home in Michigan, I was able to be totally alone without even my computer!! I read, slept, journaled and listened to God.

A friend who is a landscape designer explained that during a drought, plants need to be soaked rather than lightly watered so their roots go down deep to draw up moisture. I knew I needed a soaker. I feel refreshed. Easter and springtime bring new life. The drab of drought and winter is over.

Who will roll the stone from the tombs of my life so I can make the dead things smell better? No need! The power of God that raised Jesus raises me!! Praise God for the resurrection!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pimping the Gospel

Here's an link to a blog entry from "Out of Ur" that articulates a tendency I see in the Christian church to shortcut communication of the gospel. Jonathan Yarboro, a church planter from Boone, North Carolina, calls it "Pimping Jesus: Consumerism and the Red-light Gospel".

It is easy to get people to make quick decisions for Christ when they think it will get them special privileges at the shelter or extra size meal portions when they are hungry. It may take a while for a person who is addicted or who has been beaten down to trust us enough to listen to what we have to say about Jesus, so we must first show the love of Christ by our deeds.

As we communicate we need to understand what the listeners are really hearing. Words spoken in a vacuum will be meaningless if the listeners are not also seeing consistency in our deeds. A person who was regularly abused by his or her father, may have a difficult time experiencing God as a loving heavenly father until they first experience a human father figure that they can relate to. We need to model the life and teaching of Jesus, love and listen, and when we know they understand, call them to a lifetime commitment to follow Jesus.
"While we’ve been pimping out the gospel, the real Jesus is weeping because he wants a lifelong relationship that includes joy, forgiveness, brokenness, hardship, and intimacy."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

James Meeks for governor supported by the white church

Here is a link to in interesting article in Christianity Today about James Meeks and his possible bid for the governors race in Illinois. He is receiving strong support from white evangelicals because of his stance on abortion and gay rights.

I am grateful for the voice of reason in the article from my friend and colleague Helene Slessarev-Jamir.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Functional Athiesm

“A shadow common among leaders is 'functional atheism', the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us. This is the unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the ones who must make it happen—a conviction held even by people who talk a good game about God. This shadow causes pathology on every level of our lives. It leads us to impose our will on others, stressing our relationships, sometimes to the point of breaking. It often eventuates in burnout, depression, and despair, as we learn that the world will not bend to our will and we become embittered about that fact. Functional atheism is the shadow that drives collective frenzy.”

--Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Tax Cuts

Here is a link to a CNN article about the administration's proposed tax cuts and who will profit from them. 70 percent of the tax savings on investment income would go to the top 2 percent. Stephen Entin, president of the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation, told the Times that the tax cuts will produce jobs. Really! The investments of the wealthiest Americans would have to trickle down pretty far before anyone in my neighborhood would benefit from them. And while we wait for the trickle programs for the most disadvantaged are being cut.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Victory of Justice

Tony Campolo really nails it in this 10 minute message.
"The Bible deals with the poor over and over again. Beyond that, the word “righteousness” in the Scripture. If you were a Greek scholar you would know that that word which was translated “righteousness” could better translated “justice.” Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice. That’s what Jesus said because they are the ones who are going to live satisfied and fulfilling lives. The Bible just overwhelms us with all of this stuff about justice, about helping the poor, about standing up for the oppressed, about being a voice for those who have no voice. And I’ve got to tell you this: if you think that being religious, being Christian, being spiritual is getting ready for the next world, you’ve missed the message of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come here to get you ready for the next world, he came into this world to transform you into people through whom he could do his work in this world."-- Tony Campolo

Obesity and Advertising

At our BUILD class on Saturday we met at the Lawndale Christian Health Center with their COO/CFO, Bruce Miller. He presented a power point slide that showed the increase in obesity in America. It is astounding. It generated interesting discussion about obesity among the poor. We discussed theories such as healthy food being more expensive, the lack of good grocery stores in distressed communities and the convenience and affordability of fast foods. Today the Chicago Tribune published an article that claims that Black-oriented TV has more fast-food ads.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

CEO Pay - Why does this bug me so much?

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mark Hurd of Hewlett-Packard got $23.2 million last year, 29 times what Carly Fiorina made in the same post just four years before. CEO compensation in the U.S. has tripled from 1990 to 2004. CEOs of eleven companies received $865 million over five years while presiding over a loss of $640 million in shareholder value.

There is also evidence that CEOs are lining their pockets through the glut of corporate mergers.

So why does this bug me so much? I guess as the Executive Director of Breakthrough, I feel the weight of the struggle to provide a living wage with decent benefits for all our employees all of the time. God provides and our staff are doing heroic work with very little.

Are these CEO's really worth that much money, that much more than people who assist the elderly to find housing, or teach kids to read?