Friday, August 31, 2007

Paul Luikart's Blog

I miss the front lines. Much of my job now involves fundraising and organizational development. I know it's what I'm supposed to do to resource the front line staff who are more qualified to minister directly to the people we serve than I will ever be. I enjoy Paul Luikart's blog. It reminds me of the joys and disappointments of working every day directly with homeless men and women. Paul is our housing coordinator at Breakthrough. Check out his August 28 post about the reality of death among the homeless. Here he is in a comedy sketch...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why we need adversaries

Don't worry. I'm not going through any big crisis. I just like this illustration...

The codfish/catfish story

Codfish is a big business. The market is huge. When codfish were first being shipped, they froze them. They noticed that the flavor was lost during shipping. Somebody came up with the idea to put them in tanks and ship them in actual seawater. Even then the codfish would arrive at the market 3 or 4 days later, and would have lost much of their flavor because they were not active enough in the tank. They had a kind of mushy texture.

Finally, they learned to ship the codfish with a couple of catfish in the tank with them. The catfish is the natural enemy of codfish. During shipping the catfish would chase the codfish all around the tank the whole time, and when they got to the place where they were going, the codfish tasted like you just pulled them out of the sea. Their texture was great; their taste was even better than before.

See God knows that we are codfish in a catfish world. God allows all things, even catfish type things to help us grow strong and if He kept us from those things, we wouldn't grow into the image of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, "In this world you are going to have struggles. You are going to have troubles, tribulations, but be of good courage. I have overcome the world and I am going to take those troubles and I am going to transform you more and more in to my likeness."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

John Green and Emmaus Ministries on CT Site

Here's a link to a Christianity Today article about our good friend and comrade in ministry in Chicago, John Green.

Ruth Padilla DeBorst

Here's a link to an interview with Ruth Padilla DeBorst, the daughter of the Latin American theologian Rene Padilla. She says true Christian mission must address issues of power and poverty. I had the privilege of meeting Rene Padilla in San Jose a few years ago and really appreciated his depth of wisdom and commitment to justice. I love that his daughter is picking up that same mantle. Here's a quote from the interview.
In the end, we find the new Jerusalem and all people bowing before the Lord of all nations. The story between that beginning and that end is not divorced from human history. Rather, it is a picture of God's involvement in history. It's the story of a people wandering closer and further away from his call and claim on their lives to serve as a light to the nations, an example of how people can relate to God and to one another in right and healthy ways. It's also the story of God calling his people back through the prophets, to the point of sending Jesus himself to say, I am serious about this world; I love this world; I'm willing to suffer and die for this world.

In the Great Commission, Jesus tells his followers to baptize disciples in all the world. But he also says, "Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you." I often think about the disciples on the way to Emmaus. When they were blind to Jesus, he explained "all the Scriptures." Too often we don't look at all the Scripture, all of life, and God's comprehensive intentions of not leaving any corner of the earth untouched by his love.

Marathon Training Update

I ran my fifteen miles this morning before church. It took me three hours. I listened to half of the book of Jeremiah on my ipod and then to a Catalyst podcast featuring a very interesting interview with Malcolm Gladwell. He had some things to say about the relatively new surge of attention from church leaders on issues of poverty. In his book The Tipping Point he calls such movements "social epidemics" and looks at what causes them. I noticed a huge increase in the emphasis on poverty alleviation at the Willow Leadership Summit this year. Maybe the epidemic is catching on thanks to leaders like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels. Gladwell seems to think so.

Anyway, I have really been struggling to get out there and run, especially those weekend long runs. My bed feels so comfortable! If I hadn't made this public commitment to run the marathon I think I would have given up by now. I know if I don't stick to my training I will have a very difficult time completing the actual marathon on October 7th.

I look for inspiration wherever I can find it. The video below kept me at it this week along with cheers from the guys on the park benches and seeing Keyonda McQuarters out there on Monday. It was Keyonda who actually inspired me to run the marathon for World Vision. She announced to our BUILD group that she was running and I felt the call!

This is a huge challenge for me. This morning it was raining and cooler which actually made it much easier than last Saturday's twelve miles in the blazing noonday sun. What was I thinking!

Mostly it is hard, but this morning, in about my tenth mile, a flock of geese came soaring down skidding to a stop right beside me as if to say, "We're with you! Don't give up!" and I felt the endorphins kick in for a few minutes so I could experience the runner's high that makes it worthwhile.

I like this quote from the book, Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:
Contrary to what we usually believe... the best moments in our lives, are not the passive receptive, relaxing times-- although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
This training is definitely one of those body and mind stretching experiences for me. I also still have a long way to go to meet my fundraising goal, so please stretch with me to help the kids in Africa!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

This Is True

This was the liturgical reading at the LaSalle Street Church a few weeks ago. Senior Pastor, Laura Truax, told me they repeated it for several weeks in a row and people were very moved by it.
It is not true that this world and its inhabitants are doomed to die and be lost;

This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him shall not die, but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction:

This is true: Jesus has come that we might have life, and have it abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred shall have the last word, and that war and destruction have come to stay forever;

This is true: For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, in whom authority will rest, and whose name will be the prince of peace.

It is not true that our dreams of liberation for humankind, our dreams of justice, of human dignity, of peace, are not meant for this earth and its history;

This is true: The hour comes and it is now, that true worshippers shall worship God in Spirit and in Truth.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil that seek to rule the world;

This is true: To Christ is given authority in heaven and on earth. Christ will be with us always, to the end of the world.

More about white tees

In case you haven't been following the interesting comments in the post below I want to highlight this interesting artice that Westy has found from the Sun Times about gangs and white tees. Thanks Ryan!

Monday, August 13, 2007

White Tee

In the story I linked to below, Bart Campolo mentioned that the guys on the corner all wear white tees. Here's why... the hip hop group, Dem Franchize Boyz and their song "White Tee". Here's a link to the lyrics. Such is the power of music.

Bart Campolo: I Hate It When All You Can Do Is Pray

Thanks to my blogger buddy, Ryan, for sending me the link to this beautiful story by Bart Campolo.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What to do with your $10

Here's a link to an interesting discussion on the Freakonomics Quorum Site about the dilemma we face when we get asked for money by panhandlers.
You are walking down the street in New York City with $10 of disposable income in your pocket. You come to a corner with a hot dog vendor on one side and a beggar on the other. The beggar looks like he’s been drinking; the hot dog vendor looks like an upstanding citizen. How, if at all, do you distribute the $10 in your pocket, and why?
Today at the Leadership Summit Michael Porter made the point that "Society depends on us to use our time, relationships and financial contributions to do the most possible good." (You can see the slides from his presentation at this link.) World Vision provides the opportunity for us to sponsor an impoverished child for just $30 a month. And of course, I would suggest the "Good Samaritan method". The Good Samaritan found the beat up man along the road, got personally involved by putting him on his own donkey (his own Honda Civic). He drove him to the nearest rehab center (the Inn) and paid for his entire rehabilitation. Breakthrough is one of those places that cares for the real needs of people. It seems to me that giving to ministries like Breakthrough or World Vision would do "the most possible good".

Transforming the World

Here's a link to an interesting post by Mark Galli on the Christianity Today web site in which he makes the case that God has not asked us to transform the world.
To be sure, he says we can be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." As such, we can indeed give the world a glimpse of kingdom life so that many will give glory to God. But there's nothing there about the world being transformed. What Jesus wants us to do primarily, it seems, is to love those right in front of our noses.

I remain puzzled as to why we're so bored with the very things Jesus asks us to do, like picking that foreigner up out of the ditch, giving away our goods to the poor, going to court with a young man who's being railroaded by the system, taking an orphan into our home, going the extra mile with the oppressive and manipulative, forgiving the offender, baptizing, and witnessing. I find these things really, really hard to do. I fail all the time. If I can't even do these things well, why would I believe that I could transform my culture, let alone change the world?

What do you think?

Restored by the Woods

Sorry I haven't blogged for so long. I have been gone a lot, backpacking with a friend in Colorado and then writing for a week in Canada. I am so filled up with a sense of God's majestic power, awesome creativity and passionate love by being in nature. This has been a wonderful summer for me because I have had lots of opportunities for solitude in the woods. This is the view from the window of the cabin in Lake of the Woods, Ontario, where a friend let me stay so I could focus on writing. I ran everyday and picked wild blueberries and rasberries to add to my morning oatmeal. It was such a great place to write. I am now at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, running into lots of great friends and soaking in the messages. I especially enjoyed Carly Fiorina yesterday. They started the conference with a video about the history of the church. It was very inspiring. Near the end of the video there were some great shots of our congregation at River City Community Church. Wish I had more time to blog, but I've gotta go. More later.