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