Monday, April 30, 2007

Justice and Partial-Birth Abortions

Here's a link to a thoughtful article posted by Stephen Monsma, from Calvin College, on the Center for Public Justice web site about the Supreme Court and partial-birth abortions.
Justice demands that both the unborn or being-born child and the mother be given their due in our nation’s laws. Banning almost all abortions should be balanced by actions that include fixing our health-care system so that everyone has access to health insurance and to basic health care. Public policies should also provide adequate assistance to poor single mothers and their families, as well as job training and supportive services when they have chosen for life and against abortion.

Steps such as these would help assure that our public policies are just—both for the unborn human life and for their mothers.
You can read Justice Anthony Kennedy's horrifying description of the partial-birth abortion process at this link. This is definitely a justice issue.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Brenda Salter McNeil on Commitment to Reconciliation

Creating a Counter Culture for the Common Good

The Gospel and Losing Weight

Lately people have been asking me how I am losing weight. I have lost about 20 pounds since the filming of that embarrassing Willow Creek video. So instead of trying to explain, I decided to write this post, so from now on I can just say, "Hey, if you really want to know, check out my blog"!

First of all, I have to confess that I fell off the wagon throughout most of 2006. I was feeling a lot of stress and I gained weight. I just couldn't get my eating under control. Finally in mid-February after spending some time with friends in Florida, I had a very frank conversation with God in which I acknowledged that I knew I needed to live a more healthy lifestyle but I didn't have the discipline or even the desire to exercise or lose weight.

As I have reflected upon that prayer, I am coming to see that anything that controls me that is not for my good and for the good of the kingdom is really evidence that I am not embracing the gospel. The gospel is the good news that it is not by my effort, but by the power of Christ that I am resurrected to right living. After I admitted my inability to change my behavior I felt God's love for me, just as I was, along with a gentle nudge to start recording everything I ate.

I resurrected an old software program that I had downloaded a few years ago called Fitday. A basic version is available for free online, but I recommend the $30 download Fitday PC version from I entered my desired weight as a goal and the software told me how many calories I needed to cut back in order to achieve my goal. When you enter most food items the software automatically tracks the nutritional value along with the calories, fat and carbs. This helps me decide what foods to eat.

You can also enter your physical exercise. I pulled out an old fitness program that I actually enjoy, the Quick Fit System by Gilad, which is available in VHS format for $40 and DVD for $70. It is a 12 week program that includes aerobics with some punching and kick boxing and body sculting workouts that work every muscle. I also downloaded a Weight Loss audio by Barrie Konicov. He uses subliminal persuasion as you drift off to sleep to help you think positive thoughts about weight loss.

I started fasting one day a week. I really don't like fasting, but I know it is biblical so I do it. Afterward, I am always glad I did and I find I am less controled by food when I do. So, the combination of prayer, fasting, caloric restriction, exercise and positive thinking has made this process actually enjoyable.

I have reached my goal so now I just pray that the Lord will give me the grace to maintain. My tendency is to begin to think I have done this and I don't need God anymore, instead of living and breathing the gospel of the power of Christ's death and resurrection everyday and living in humble gratitude for the gift of new life. For today, my energy is up. I'm feeling much better, and I'm grateful to God for setting this captive free!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bob Lupton: Gentrification with Justice

Here's an audio file of Lupton on Gentrification and how we should respond. Gentrification is a term referring to the "gentry", people with money, reentering a community that has been run down for years, buying dillapidated properties at low cost, renovating or building new construction. Gentrification is a good thing in that it brings vitality to a community. The propblem is, if it is not done with justice the poor are forced to move. Lupton says we are currently exeriencing a diaspora of the poor being displaced and scatterd to communities outside the city. This brings new challenges to both urban ministries and suburban churches.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bob Lupton to speak at Park Community Church

I have been with Bob Lupton today at Mars Hill Bible Church. He spoke tonight and we got to hang out throughout the day. He told us he has been diagnosed with cancer and asked for prayers for his healing. Please join me to pray for his complete healing and that he can carry on his work in the city of Atlanta. He has devoted his life to Christian community development.

Those of you who live in Chicago can catch Bob at Park Community Church at 9:00 and 11:00 Sunday morning. Park meets at the Francis Parker School at 2233 N. Clark (at Webster).

I am also with Daniel Hill, the pastor of the River City Community Church, at this conference in Michigan and Daniel gave me an overview of the sermon he will preach this Sunday about Cornelius and Peter. You don't want to miss it. So I suggest, Park at 9:00 and River City at 11:00!

American Idol Gives Back

Lots of people were talking yesterday about the Wednesday night American Idol charity performance. I noticed today that it is available to download through iTunes for $9.99. It was a very inspiring show in which lots of celebrities and musicians joined to raise money to help fight poverty in the US and Africa. All proceeds from the iTunes sales go to the cause as well.

Going to Mars Hill

Since I am one of the 50,000+ who listen to Rob Bell's sermons through the Mars Hill Bible Church Podcast, I am especially excited to be taking off for Grand Rapids today to join a group of CCDA leaders for a conference at the church. The Mars Hill leadership is encouraging members to engage with the community in holistic ministry and has invited the CCDA in to help them learn the principles of Christian community development. I will be sharing about how listening to the community has influenced how we minister at Breakthrough. We are meeting with the staff for three hours this afternoon, so I am looking forward to some stimulating interaction. Please pray that God will use me to add something meaningful to the discussion.

Midday Connection Think Tank

Yesterday I joined a group of about fifteen women to brainstorm ideas with Anita Lustrea and Melinda Schmidt, the hosts of the Moody Network Midday Connection program. The program will be going to two hours instead of one next year and they are trying to decide how to structure the program for that. It was great to meet such a powerful group of women in leadership and to hear what media they read, watch and listen to. I wrote down a list of good books they suggested and got lots of ideas for sermons and articles. It reinforced for me the benefit of focus groups to generate good ideas. Thanks for inviting me Anita!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me

I was talking with a friend today whose wife teaches sixth grade at a middle school. He said the new principal has a hard time making firm decisions about discipline and consequently the students are increasingly out of control. Last week while reading through Psalm 23, I reflected on the words, "your rod and your staff, they comfort me" and thought about how important and actually comforting it is to have people in our lives who love us enough to stop us when we are out of control. Kids, especially, need to know that someone will push back when they exceed the limit of acceptable behavior. Without the comfort of the rod and staff, we actually feel unloved. I am thankful for friends who confront me when they think I need correction. I don't always receive it well at the time, but I am learning to treasure God's discipline through trusted friends. I have not been a good disciplinarian of others so it helps me to recognize the value of discipline in my own life so I can become better about challenging people around me to grow, and to do it lovingly.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Police

I walked out of my apartment this morning to see a Chicago police car double parked beside my neighbor's car? "You live by these ignorant people?" a female police officer asked me with a snarl.

"Excuse me?" I replied.

"Do you live above these ignorant people?"

I know my neighbors and they are not ignorant. I felt my temper rising. "Why are you calling them ignorant?" I asked.

"Well we are writing him a ticket for an expired licence plate and he went off."

I felt my neighbor's pain. When you struggle to make rent with no margin for anything extra, when you can't even afford the $78 to renew your licence plate sticker, getting a ticket is not a good way to start the day. And then to be treated with such disrespect, to have your neighbor told you are ignorant. Please, is that necessary?

"We need to do a lot of work on police relationships in this neighborhood," I said. "My neighbors are not ignorant".

"I'm sorry you have to live by them." She growled.

"I love living here. And I like my neighbors." I replied. I am beginning to understand more personally why there is such animosity toward the police in my community. It's the unnecessary roughness.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More on race and the VA Tech Tragedy

Ed Gilbreath wrote some great thoughts about this on his Reconciliation Blog. Let's join him in his prayer that "there will be no backlash in the Korean American community and that our Asian brothers and sisters will feel loved and welcomed in this country." Thanks Ed.

20% rise in reading scores for Breakthrough kids

It has been a good year so far for students in Breakthrough’s Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program. “It is exciting to see then dig in and push themselves,” says Academic Coordinator, Seth El-Jamal. “Everyone is making progress in one way or the other.”

A large focus of the after-school program is to increase reading scores. In addition to valuable time spent with tutors, students use a learning software called Orchard Gold Star Targeted Educational Software. The cumulative effect makes a difference. Seth says, “By the second quarter, 43% of the students were reading at or above their grade level, a 20% jump from the first quarter.” Students will be tested again this spring.

Seth also discussed how Breakthrough assists students by helping them recognize their unique learning styles. “Many school systems use the left-brain, analytical model,” he explains. “But some students learn better through right-brain methods.”

“For instance, some students respond better to math by seeing the problems from a spatial perspective,” he says. “When they can touch and manipulate pieces of a puzzle, it can make learning easier.”

The learning style assessment has worked well for some struggling students at Breakthrough. “It’s not an issue of whether or not they are smart,” he says. “It’s more about them knowing their own best way to learn. They need to know that.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The New Hate Crime: Violence Against the Homeless

Click twice in the frame below to watch the latest "Breakthrough Stories" podcast. Jonathan Choe investigates an upsurge in violence against the homeless and why we should be concerned.

Let It Be Some Other Asian

In case you don't read comments on blogs (I rarely do), I want to highlight an interesting string of comments on my Tuesday post about the Virginia Tech shootings regarding race. Kindra Morelock referred us to this article written by Andrew Lam, a Vietnamese American who says...
"As the country waited to learn the identity of the killer at Virginia Tech, all ethnic Americans held their breath, waiting to see if they would shoulder the spillover of blame for the acts of an individual. To be a minority in America, even in the 21st century, is to be always on trial. An evil act by one indicts the entire community. Whoever doubts this need only look at the spike in hate crimes against Muslims and South Asian communities after 9/11."

Crime's Invisible Victims

Here's a link to the Chicago Reporter, a periodical produced by the Community Renewal Society. The article is entitled Uncounted and Unseen, about the tragic consequences to children when parents are incarcerated. It really affirms the importance of what we are trying to do at Breakthrough to minister to men and women when they come out of prison, so that they don't ever go back. Lots of kids are counting on us to be there for their parents.
Children need wraparound services from time of arrest through the sentencing and the incarceration period. As one of the incarcerated parents put it, "When you sentence the parents to three years, five years and life, … the child has been sentenced, also." As the number of people in our prisons rises, so does the number of children left behind, creating a population far more likely - some estimates go as high as 70 percent - to end up in prison themselves. More often than not, these young people, who are overwhelmingly poor and black or Hispanic - and their caregivers lack access to the resources that could keep them out of the system.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Student Newspaper

Here's the link. The grief I feel is almost overwhelming. I pray for the friends and families and I hold my daughters tighter than ever.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Imus and what lies beneath

I often get new students or new BUILD participants who sincerely believe that racism pretty much died out with the sixties and the civil rights movement. We go to great lengths to read about and discuss the continued disparities in education, income, health care and experiences with the criminal justice system on the basis of race. It seems especially lately what lies beneath is oozing to the surface in even more outrageous incidents with Imus' outlandish statement about the Rutgers Team, Michael Richard's racial rant and Senator Joe Biden referring to Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy". These are just a few of the situations that have hit the press. We hear about these kinds of racial slams often in our community.

Here's a link to a great article by Ed Gilbreath in Christianity Today about the Imus affair. He summarizes it in the quote below...

"Racism is a sin. And sin, despite our best efforts, continues to dog us. Without honesty, without grace, without vulnerability, without humility, without the spirit of Christ from all sides, we cannot rise above our present dysfunction."

Thoughts inspired by BUILD

Joyce Caine is the principal of a new local high school and facilitates our Saturday morning BUILD group. She posted today about their visit with Mary Nelson at Bethel New Life and their group's discussion about whether or not one can have an effective ministry in what she calls "the hood" without actually living there. She always has interesting thoughts.

The Spiritual Formation of Moses

I've been enjoying some great messages from the Zondervan Podcast this week. I listened to Eugene Peterson on Wednesday. He said writing The Message was just a continuation of what he was already doing as a pastor, taking Scripture and putting it into common everyday language. He said he didn't start writing because he had something to say, but because he wanted to discover what there was to say. I like that. That's why I blog. It's in the writing that we find our message.

Today, as I walked around the lagoon, I listened to Ruth Haley Barton speak about the spiritual formation of Moses. It is an outstanding message, especially for leaders. She traces Moses' growth from an undisciplined justice crusader who committed murder, to his place of solitude in the wilderness where he got in touch with his own sense of being an alien in a foreign land tracing back to his roots as an Israelite raised as an Egyptian, and then to being called to leadership and formed by God to the point where his vision for entering the promised land was superceded by his desire to be with God. It's a great message and very well delivered.

Good Fiction

Taunted by Paul Luikart's blog post hinting that I don't read fiction, I picked up a book on Thursday at the University of Chicago bookstore that my friend, Laura Truax, recommended. Laura said she read the book in one day and that it was a read she couldn't stop thinking about. Ditto from me. I started it yesterday and finished it this morning, all 287 pages. It is haunting. The tragic life of a father and son after the world has burned. They scavenge for food and live in fear, mostly of the "bad guys". It made me appreciate the security of my home and the abundance of food, friendship, comfort and beauty in my life.

We need bicycles

Summer is coming and Breakthrough's Youth and Family Program staff has declared an urgent need for girls bicycles, with 24" wheels and either 10 or 18 speed. Some of you have extra bikes hanging in your garages. Here is a practical way for you to make a huge difference in a kid's life.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Speaking up for Asian Americans

Yesterday Today's Christian posted an article about the Youth Specialties skit that was offensive to Asian Americans and North Park University prof, Soong-Chan Rah's action to bring it to their attention. I commend Youth Specialties for their response of issuing an apology and working so expeditiously to remove the skit book from circulation. Here's a link to Soong-Chan Rah's blog.

The Evolution of American Evangelicals

Today on Speaking of Faith, Krista Tippett interviewed Richard Cizik. Cizik is vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals and editor of Washington Insight. He said in the interview that, "preaching the gospel and being salt and light in society is not an either/or choice". Cizik has become a lightning rod in the NAE because he is advocating that the agenda of evangelicals should include care for the environment and poverty as well as the issues of abortion and gay rights. There is another link on the web site in which Cizik speaks about the 17th and 18th century evangelicals who were revolutionaries who called people to social engagement, not just to a conversion to Christ but to doing something as a result of that faith commitment that would change the world around them. He says the flaw in the 50s and 60s is that the movement didn't call evangelicals to do more than simply maintain a privatized faith. He says we have a greater calling. Amen! I admire his courage.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Care, the Bigger Part of Cure

The picture still burns in my mind. It is a haunting reminder of the energy I spend avoiding the cost of loving others. I establish an emergency relief fund instead of inviting hungry families to sit at my table. I develop a housing program to avoid the turmoil of displaced families living in my home. I create employment projects that distance me from the aggravation of working with undisciplined people. As a counselor I maintain some detachment with a fifty-minute hour and an emphasis on client self-responsibility. And even as I share the gospel with the needy, I secretly hope that God will handle their problems.

Of course I don't allow myself to think this way very often. I choose rather to concentrate on the positive things I am doing for people, helpful things, right things. But when I am honest with myself, I must admit that I cannot fully care for one who is suffering without entering into his pain. The sick must be touched if they are to be healed. The weak must be nourished, the wounded embraced. Care is the bigger part of cure.

Yet I fear contagion. I fear my life will get out of control, and I will be overwhelmed by the urgent affairs of others. I fear for my family. I resist the Christ who beckons his followers to lay down their lives for each other. His talk of a yoke, a cross of bearing one another's burdens and giving one's self away is not attractive to me. The implications of entering this world of suffering as a "Christ-one," as yeast absorbed into the loaf of human need, are as terrifying as death itself. Yet this is the only way to life. The question is, will I choose life?

   From Theirs Is the Kingdom by Robert Lupton

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Visible Power Of The Resurrection In Our Lives

Daniel Hill read the following quote from W. H. Vanstone in his sermon this morning.
"As Jesus moves about, He leaves behind him, a trail of transformed scenes and changed situations: fishermen no longer at their nets, sick people restored to health, critics confounded, a storm stilled, hunger assuaged, a dead girl raised to life. Jesus’ presence is an active and instantly transforming presence. He is never the mere observer of a scene, or the one who waits upon events, but is always the transformer of the scene and the initiator of events."
Daniel asked the questions: “Is there anything in your life that’s happening that can only be called revolutionary? Are there areas in your life that are being killed and resurrected? Are there changes that are taking place in your life that nothing can explain, other than the power of the resurrection? He went on to challenge us that there should be revolutionary things happening in our lives. "May those around us see the power of the resurrection in action in our lives.”

You can download Daniel’s sermon at the link on the right, which will bring you to the River City sermon podcast in iTunes.

Happy Resurrection Day! May we live more fully in the power of the resurrection!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Advantage of Having a Growth Mindset

Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, author of the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, explains the difference between fixed and growth mindsets and why it's important for those of us who aspire to be tutors and mentors to challenge students to be able to admit mistakes and overcome them and to believe that they can grow and learn. Here's a link to an article about it in Stanford magazine.

This is important for those of us who work in communities where educational achievement expectations are so low. Beyond just building skills, a large part of what we need to teach involves belief that learning and academic success is possible. “Study skills and learning skills are inert until they’re powered by an active ingredient,” Dweck explains. Students may know how to study, but won’t want to if they believe their efforts are futile. “If you target that belief, you can see more benefit than you have any reason to hope for.”

Here's a graphic illustration that describes the two mindsets.

What Would Jesus Really Do?

Here's a link to an article on the CNN web site by Roland Martin, talk-show host on WVON-AM in Chicago, entitled, "What Would Jesus Really Do?"
An African-American pastor I know in the Midwest was asked by a group of mostly white clergy to march in an anti-abortion rally. He was fine with that, but then asked the clergy if they would work with him to fight crack houses in predominantly black neighborhoods.

"That's really your problem," he was told.

They saw abortion as a moral imperative, but not a community ravaged by crack.
CNN TV is going air a discussion about how Jesus might solve modern-day problems in a special report, "What Would Jesus Really Do?" tonight and Sunday night at 8 p.m. Chicago time. It sounds interesting.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mother-daughter stuff

Last night at about 9:00 my daughter, Teri, called me in a panic. Her car wasn't starting and she wanted to go to Target. So I drove up to the northside and jumped her car which started right away. We thought she had left her inside light on and it had drained the battery so she left for Target and I went home. An hour later she called to say she was at Target and her car wouldn't start again. Since she had the jumper cables with her she found someone to jump the car again. I told her she needed to take the car to a mechanic. Fortunately there is a good one very near where she lives so she could just drop off the keys and call them in the morning.

At 11:15, she called again. She had decided she needed to drive down Lake Shore Drive to recharge the battery and the car had died near Fullerton Avenue. I was a little miffed that she had not listened to me about taking the car right to the garage and of course, she was in a meltdown phase, so when I got to her again we created some drama together. She says I lectured her instead of empathizing. I say she gets mean when she is panicking and there is nothing I could ever do right. I finally told her to call AAA which really ticked her off.

Recognizing the tension between us, I had prayed on the way over, that God would help me with my attitude and teach both of us through this rather stressful experience.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I jumped her car again as cars flew by on the expressway and we hobbled it back to the mechanic and left a note with the keys under the door.

So today, to ease the tension between us, I suggested we go to dinner. We had a nice meal at Charlie's Ale House in Andersonville. As I drove her to her apartment in Uptown she mentioned that my car was low on gas. I nodded that I knew and would take care of it. I dropped her off fifteen minutes before I was supposed to teach a Wheaton in Chicago class a block from her apartment.

Since I was a little early, I decided to review my notes for the class. I let the car run because it was cold outside, and, as you can guess, the car died! I ran it totally out of gas! I can't remember ever running out of gas!!

So I had the wonderful privilege of calling Teri to say, "Please honey, could you come to my rescue and drive me to the gas station?" She lectured me the whole way about how irresponsible I am and I got to show her a more pleasant way to ask for help and of course, we laughed the whole way. God has such a sense of humor!

I love you Teri!

OK, This is cool...

The Bible Experience is downloadable audio of Scripture accompanied by a cinematic musical score, and read dramatically by African-American personalities including Angela Bassett, Common, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and more. You can download The Easter Story for free today and get 12 more stories from The Bible Experience for $3.95 each.

We weep

Last week the bludgeoned body of Christopher Pineda was found in the Cal-Sag Channel. Since my daughter knows one of his cousins we followed the story with interest. He was not a gang banger or a trouble maker. He was a good student and would soon have been the first in his Guatemalan immigrant family to graduate from high school. It seems Chris was the victim of a senseless violent attack by a street gang, probably based upon his ethnicity. He was in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time.

As I let that tragedy sink in I began to weep. I tried to imagine the pain his mother must be experiencing. She waited all week for Christopher to come home without sleep only to learn he would never be home again. Through my tears I heard God’s words speak into my heart, “I too experienced the tragic abusive death of my son. No one feels the pain of that mother with as much understanding as I do. You weep because you feel my heart. I grieve over the injustice in the world.”

And so, we weep. We weep for the sons and daughters whose lives are cut short. We weep for the mothers who cannot feed their children. We weep for the fatherless child, the abandoned baby, the children hit by stray bullets, the victims of hatred and oppression and racism, the uneducated, the unemployed, the unloved. And as we weep we feel the heart of God who, out of love, sent his son to suffer and die in order dismantle the abusers of power and show us the way of humility and service. We long for the day when justice will flow down like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream. (Amos 5:24) But for now, sometimes all we can do is weep.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

In the company of giants

"If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants."

                - David Ogilvy

My car was egged today

Of course, my initial thought was, "Hmmm, someone doesn't want me in this neighborhood." It could have been coincidental, but I don't think so. I'm a white person in a black neighborhood. I symbolize the disruption of the neighborhood. The gentry, the rich whites, who could live anywhere, are buying up property that was once affordable, forcing long time residents out. I believe in John Perkin's three R's: relocation, redistribution and reconciliation, but I don't think community members are all that jazzed that I am here. Relocation, gentrification, how do we live with that angst?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Reconciliation Blues

We had a great time with Ed Gilbreath on Saturday. What a great guy! Be sure to check out his blog and the comments people are leaving there. He is opening up some much needed dialogue. Here's a picture of him (in the middle) with our BUILD alumni coordinators, Stephen Nelson and Michael Dawson. Thanks Ed!Click below to hear a recording of the workshop

Real Estate Hot Spots

Oh no! There goes the neighborhood. Check out this link to MSN and scroll down to see the second hottest real estate spot in the country!