Sunday, July 30, 2006

Preparation for Worship

This morning, before I dressed to go to church, I decided to take Charlie for a brisk walk around the Garfield Park lagoon. It was a beautiful morning.

Sunday mornings are always interesting because the park is just waking up from Saturday night revelry. This morning was no exception. There was the usual garbage, two men sleeping on a bench with their pants undone and their hands... Well, you get the picture.

But the really sad sight for me was a very, very, thin, sickly-looking woman getting help from a friend to shoot heroin in her arm. Her friend looked concerned but seemed resigned to help the woman get the fix she needed. She was handing her tissues and looking at her with obvious compassion, a tragic mixture of love and hopelessness.

A quick shower and I was off to worship at River City Community Church. The worship was Spirit-filled and very moving especially in light of what I had just seen. Pastor Dan Hill asked the question, "What did it cost Jesus to love us?"

Jesus faced the fury of hell on the cross, felt nails plunged into his body, cried out as he was abandoned by the Father. It's extreme grace for extreme circumstances, so that captives can be set free, captives like the woman in the park, and me.

NT Wright on Women in Ministry

Here is a link to a very thoughtful speech given by NT Wright regarding the passages of Scripture that are often used to restrict women from leadership in the church.
"I believe we have seriously misread the relevant passages in the New Testament, no doubt not least through a long process of assumption, tradition, and all kinds of post-biblical and sub-biblical attitudes that have crept in to Christianity. Just as I think we need radically to change our traditional pictures of the afterlife, away from the mediaeval models and back to the biblical ones, so we need radically to change our traditional pictures both of what men and women are and how they relate to one another within the church and indeed of what the Bible says on this subject. I do wonder, sometimes, if those who present radical challenges to Christianity have been all the more eager to make out that the Bible says certain things about women, as an excuse for claiming that Christianity in general is a wicked thing and we ought to abandon it. Of course, there have been plenty of Christians who have given outsiders plenty of chances to make that sort of comment. But perhaps in our generation we have an opportunity to take a large step back in the right direction." -- NT Wright

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I'm going to George, IA

I'm driving to George, Iowa, today to visit my mother and to speak at the Kiwanis on Thursday, so will not be blogging for a few days. I'm driving 8 hours each way so I'll have lots of time to think and pray in the car.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Older Donors and Brain Shifts

I always thought the fact that many of our major donors are older had something to do with the amount of their disposable income. It turns out it could have more to do with changes in their brains. Check out this article in Science News by Bruce Bower entitled, Older but Mellower: Aging brain shifts gears to emotional advantage.
Advancing age heralds a growth in emotional stability accompanied by a neural transition to increased control over negative emotions and greater accessibility of positive emotions...

In contrast, people under age 50 experience negative emotions more easily than they do positive ones.

This gradual reorganization of the brain's emotion system may result from older folk responding to accumulating personal experiences by increasingly looking for meaning in life...

Carl Ellis - "Imagine the Kingdom"

Here's a great message from Carl Ellis entitled "Imagine the Kingdom". Both Ellis and Keller are teaching a vertical and horizontal understanding of the gospel that is grounded in Scripture.

Timothy Keller on the Gospel and Justice

Here are a couple of incredible messages from Timothy Keller. Click here for one entitled "Preaching and the Gospel" and here for another entitled "Doing Justice".

Friday, July 21, 2006

When our grandchildren ask...

"When our grandchildren ask us where we were when the voiceless and the vulnerable of our era needed leaders of compassion and purpose, I hope we can say that we showed up, and that we showed up on time."

--Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission

Class and Community's Struggles

Dawn Turner Trice is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune that I read everyday because she speaks to many of the issues I am concerned about. A few days ago she wrote a column titled, "Community's Woes May Not Be Matter Of Class". She pointed out that in the Austin neighborhood to the west of Garfield Park, 41.4% of the residents are middle class, with household incomes of more than $40,000. That is surprising considering the median income in East Garfield Park is $24,216. It seems that although more than a third of the residents are middle class there are enough residents whose income is very low that it brings the median income down. I noticed that Austin's median income is $33,663, which is still pretty low, but not as low as East Garfield Park's.

I think most significantly her point is that in even the most impoverished communities in Chicago, there is a significant portion of the residents who are not poor. This confirms Breakthrough's philosophy of ministry which involves bringing community residents in East Garfield Park together to support one another and to provide role models for the kids.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Answers to Prayer

On Monday I asked you to pray for God's guidance in raising a million dollars for our Breakthrough Ministry Center renovation project. Since then some very interesting things have happened. This week we had about five different individuals and foundations COME TO US and say they wanted to donate money toward the project, to the tune of nearly $250,000!! I don't get very many comments on this blog, but I know you are out there because I see you on statcounter, and I know you are praying because your prayers are being answered. THANKS!!

And Jesus says to the storm, "PEACE, BE STILL"!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

But we see Jesus (sleeping in the boat)

My friend Debbie led me to Hebrews 2:8-9 today. It was especially meaningful for me in light of my recent thoughts about Jesus sleeping in the boat while I am anxious and trying to row harder, bail out water, etc.
"In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus."
Oooo that's good isn't it? Jesus can sleep in the boat because he knows everything is under control. At the present I don't see that everything is in God's control, so I must focus on Jesus, absorbing his peace in the middle of the storm.

The Mouse Chase

OK, I know this is trite.... but I have a mouse in my apartment. I saw him night before last running along my bedroom wall. I really wish Franklin, my niece's cat, was still here. (I shipped Franklin off to Jordan in May) I have set traps and he eats the cheese and peanut butter off the traps without springing them. Charlie, my dog, sniffs him out and whines and scratches and barks. It's crazy I tell you! I finally broke down and called my landlord to bring in an exterminator, one of the many benefits of renting!

Going Home

Going home is a lifelong journey. There are always parts of ourselves that wander off in dissipation or get stuck in resentment. Before we know it we are lost in lustful fantasies or angry ruminations. Our night dreams and daydreams often remind us of our lostness.

Spiritual disciplines such as praying, fasting and caring are ways to help us return home. As we walk home we often realise how long the way is. But let us not be discouraged. Jesus walks with us and speaks to us on the road. When we listen carefully we discover that we are already home while on the way.

- Henri Nouwen

City's most vulnerable populations live in food deserts

The Chicago Tribune has been running several articles in response to a study that shows the shortage of food choices in the city's African American communities. It is easier to get to fast food restaurants than to grocery stores that supply healthy foods at affordable costs. Neighborhood corner stores are more accessible for those without cars, but the prices are higher and the food less fresh. Food shortages lead to higher health risks.

Monday, July 17, 2006

How to raise a million dollars

Wow! It is really crunch time. We have a challenge from the Kresge foundation. If we raise $1.1 million by March 2007, they will contribute $400,000 and we will have what we need for our building renovation project. Simple, right? So how do we raise a million dollars?!

Step one: PRAY!! Isaiah 58 says that if we share our food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter, we will call and the Lord will answer. And if spend ourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, the Lord will guide us and satisfy our needs. Will you join me in calling on the Lord for God's guidance?

We need this building bad. The men in our shelter will be forced out of their present facility in August. Meanwhile, Jesus is sleeping in the boat!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jesus sleeping in the boat

Last Sunday (7/09/06) I was out in Plainfield and attended Calvary Church in Naperville. I loved the sermon, cried through much of it. Some headlines for me... Jesus purposefully fell asleep in the boat knowing there would be a storm. He didn't internalize the anxiety of others. Our natural tendency is to try to row faster and bail out. Jesus has authority to intervene powerfully on our behalf when asked to. God is for us. God cares about our situation. God desires to comfort us.

It was packed full. Here's the link.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Violence rising in our neighborhood

Yesterday's Chicago Tribune reported that our police district has recorded more murders (19) and nonfatal shootings (73) in the frist half of the year, than any other district in the city. We border the Eisenhower expressway which makes it accessible for drug purchases from the suburbs, we have high numbers of reentries from prison and jobs are not available. Again, the need for our employment center and shelter for men in East Garfield Park is verified.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Working for justice is not an option

If you are neutral toward injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

~Bishop Desmond Tutu

5.8% of Illinois residents living in deep poverty

The front page of the Chicago Tribune today reported that Illinois, despite having the fifth-largest economy in the nation, has the highest poverty rate in the Midwest. Illinois leads the region with nearly 724,000 residents in the category of deep poverty: deep poverty means a family of four is living on $9,675 or less per year.
The state's surge in poverty, as documented in the bipartisan Heartland Alliance's 2006 Report on Illinois Poverty, can be traced to a combination of factors: the loss of more than 225,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 15 years, soaring housing costs and cuts in social services due to the state budget crisis of the past several years.

Jay and I caught a fish on the 4th

The worst part was the cleaning. I needed a sharper knife. And if Jesus hadn't cooked fish for the disciples after his resurrection I don't know if I could have hit him over the head with a hammer. But we had fun and Jay learned what the inside of animals looks like and a little about the food chain.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Listening to Sean Dietrich

Sean Dietrich left a comment with a link to his site where we can download his music. I'm liking it alot!!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Hear the Voice

I'm enjoying listening to the Voice. The lyrics come from the Psalms. You can buy it here.

Tribune columnist comments on Barak Obama's speech

Dawn Turner Trice had this to say in today's Chicago Tribune
"Too often it seems talk about religion evolves into a mini-sermon rather than a discussion. One person comes off as having all of the answers and knowing the only path to the truth and the light. In the end, very little ground is gained."
Shortly after I read her editorial I read this in Brian McLaren's book Generous Orthodoxy in his chapter on "Why I Am Incarnational" (p. 290)
"Having acknowledged and accepted the coexistence of other faiths, Christians should actually talk with people of other faiths, engaging in gentle and respectful dialogue."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

From Wendell Berry

"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Next Billy Graham?

I told a group of friends today that I thought Rob Bell is speaking so prophetically to postmoderns that he could be the next "Billy Graham". Anita Lustrea replied that Cathleen Falsani, a religion writer for the Chicago Suntimes, actually said the same thing in a recent Sun Times article.

A Visit to the Oriental Institute

I joined the Naphtali tribe (my bus mates from the Israel tour) for lunch today at Manny's Deli and then a tour of the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago. I hadn't heard of this museum before. We saw artifacts from some of the archeological digs that we visited in Israel as well as from Persia, Babylon and Ninevah.

I have been struck lately by how much there is to learn through history and archeology about the contexts of the stories of Scripture and how little I know about those fields of study. It seems so much of the teaching of the church and Christian institutions has been about privatized faith, me and Jesus, my personal walk with God, etc., that we have missed a whole lot of other information that would give us knowledge about God and help us to be able to have meaningful conversations with people at whatever place they are in their journey toward God.

In DC, a Catholic woman I met commented that her niece and her husband had gotten so into evangelical Christianity that they could no longer talk to the rest of the family. They had nothing to say. It seems we tend to develop insider cliches and a club language that isolates us from others, when there is so much in nature and history that points to God.

Rob Bell made the observation that all of life is sacred and masterfully described the mystery of creation and nature. Bob Dylan sang, we've "gotta serve somebody". Obery Hendricks urged us at Pentecost 2006, to "treat the needs of people as sacred."

Rob Bell's message at Logan Auditorium

It was such a treat to hear Rob Bell, from Mar's Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, last night in our very own community of Logan Square. He was brilliant!

A friend of mine told me yesterday that she thinks there is a dearth of good speakers right now who are interesting to listen to and can speak prophetically to our culture. Rob Bell is speaking to the postmodern generation using meta-narrative (starting with Genesis and making strong personal application), a unique style (he used a gigantic white board to illustrate every point), humor, and unbelievable integration of history, physics, biology, and Hebrew word study. If you get a chance to hear him, don't miss it. Churches using the old school of preaching are going to be left behind if we don't learn to speak this new language.