Monday, October 29, 2007

The Breakthrough Benefit

We had an incredible evening Friday. We had more than 1800 people registered for a sit down dinner event at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. The Breakthrough staff and volunteers did such a great job pulling off the best benefit ever! I was very proud of each of them. The whole event was incredibly well organized and everyone worked with such great attitudes. God blessed us beyond our wildest expectations!

The Chicago Tabernacle Choir sang beautifully and we were mesmerized by an interesting dramatization called a shadow show. It was a unique medium of art performed live with vocalists singing an original score as six people manipulated hundreds of images on six overhead projectors onto the large screens. It was directed by Frank Maugeri, and his crew from Red Moon Theater.

Photographer, Jimi Allen, put together a video with the pictures and voice overs of our kids and guests. It was amazing. It was a great tribute to the work our staff do every day to impact the lives of so many people.

Our speaker, Tony Evans hit a home run, the best speaker ever for our cause. And of course, our kids choir was a huge hit as always.

We have been overwhelmed with the love and support of the donors who gave and pledged at the event. Right now our count is $705,251 and we will most likely get some checks in the mail in the next week. Praise God!! We are still hoping and praying to reach our goal of $750,000. God is so good!!

Special thanks to all of you who helped and who came out and supported us. We are blessed.

I was especially delighted that both of my daughters were able to attend. Here's a picture of us. Monica is on the left and Teri on the right.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Socks and Towels

Here's another Breakthrough story. On Friday afternoon a program assistant from our men's shelter sent an email to our development department asking if there was any way we could get the word out to the public that the center was in desperate need of socks and towels. What he didn't know was that the Regional Passion Conference held in Chicago over the weekend had already put out the word to the 2,300 students who attended to bring socks and towels with them to the conference for the homeless. They collected 5,900 pairs of socks and 1,200 towels. On Saturday our Volunteer Coordinator, Dave Healing, went to pick up a van full of socks and towels!

While loading the socks into the van the van door broke. As Dave was struggling to fix the door a homeless guy approached and asked what he was doing. Dave said he had a van full of socks and asked the man if he needed a pair. The guy grinned broadly and lifted his leg to show that he had no socks. Dave gave him a pair and said, "By the way, do you know how to fix this door?" The homeless man knew exactly what to do to fix the door and left delighted over his new socks and towel.

Call it coincidence if you want, but I think its another example of God's amazing love, providence and provision.

Listening to...

A Living Prayer by Allison Krauss from the album Lonely Runs Both Ways

In this world I walk alone
With no place to call my home
But there's One who holds my hand
The rugged road through barren lands
The way is dark, the road is steep
But He's become my eyes to see
The strength to climb, my griefs to bear
This Savior lives inside me there

In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee

In these trials of life I find
Another Voice inside my mind
He comforts me and bids me live
Inside the love the Father gives

In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee

Seeing Myself As An Oppressor

I am going through another BUILD experience. As I continue to press in on my own growth in the area of race relations, I realize how important it is that I become aware of the privileges I experience by virtue of the color of my skin and of ways in which I tend to dominate and disrespect others. This article, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" is one that always draws lots of discussion in our groups. Those of us who are white are usually quite unconscious of our unearned power. Becoming aware is the first step, but what to do with that power is the big question. What are your thoughts?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another Miracle

Every Friday night our street outreach team parks an RV on the same spot on Madison Avenue. A group of volunteers stay in the RV to pray and welcome women looking for sanctuary from the street, while Breakthrough staffer, Brenda Williams and her crew walk the streets to meet the women who are hustling. Last Friday Brenda drove our new RV to the usual spot, but this time there were two cars parked in the spot where she usually parks. She parked closer to the corner and told one of the guys to move the RV up to its usual spot when the cars moved. The night went on and several cars came and left, but they were never able to move the RV. You can imagine their shock when a car careened wildly across the street and smashed head on into the cars parked at the spot where the RV, filled with volunteers and women, would otherwise have been. Call it coincidence if you'd like, but I'm adding it to the list of Breakthrough miracles.


I ran into Mike Post the week before the marathon. He has run a bunch of marathons and was in this year's Chicago marathon as well. We were talking about the affect that the training has on our bodies and spirits and we both kind of teared up. I was surprised at my own emotion. "It's gratitude" he said, "that's what I feel when I run". There is something very spiritual about the discipline of training. To me it is a metaphor of the power of the resurrection. It is God who raises me and gets me up and out there. God's gift of the resurrection breaks the spirit of lethargy that sometimes seems to choke me. I am grateful that God doesn't leave me stuck. I am grateful for the gift of life. A common prayer we hear in our community and in our shelters is the prayer, "Lord, thanks for waking me up this morning and for letting me be here, clothed and in my right mind." I am grateful.

Bob Shank of the Masters Program put it beautifully in a message forwarded to me by a friend...
Every time I repeat the marathon experience, I'm reminded of Paul's use of the runner's event to describe - in metaphor - the serious Christian's pursuit of God's purposes in their life: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1Corinthians 9:24-27.)

The runner's challenge found its way into the letter to the Hebrews (which I believe was written by Paul, as well) when he said: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3.)

Every finisher in Minneapolis - and, Chicago - was a winner. Why? We all knew that a Kenyan would be in the field, heading home with the gold. Everyone else was there to run their race, with their own mission, opposed by everything around them. Sounds like a good metaphor for life - lived on with an eternal horizon - in often unfavorable conditions.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I finished, but barely!

I woke up Saturday morning with a sore throat, one of those stuffy nose colds. There was no way I was not going to run the marathon on Sunday after all the long runs and time I had spent training.

I was feeling pretty good at the start. I had been drinking from my water bottle so didn't feel the need to stop at the first water station. When I got to the second one I needed water and they were out of water! I couldn't believe it! I was back with the 11 minute mile runners which is pretty far back in the pack and evidently the runners before us were taking two or three cups of water and dumping them on their heads. It was very hot, the hottest on record for the Chicago marathon. I was still doing pretty well and managed to get to the next water station, but I could see people were really suffering from the heat and not getting enough water. I couldn't help but think about the people I met in Africa who would walk for miles to get water in the scorching heat. I was glad I was running for a cause. It made a big difference.

Just past the 15 mile marker they announced through a megaphone that we had to get to the next half mile marker in six minutes or we would not be allowed to finish. Of course, we all took off. By the time we reached the half mile marker people were fainting around me. It was kind of scarey. I saw lots of runners go down. That's when I began noticing ambulances from Western Springs, Elk Grove, Mt. Prospect, etc., so I knew there must be a lot of emergencies.

I was on Taylor Street at about the 18 mile marker when they announced that the race had been cancelled because they had run out of water. I wasn't sure what that meant. I thought maybe the streets would no longer be blocked off and the finish line closed. At one point they diverted about half of the runners off the course onto a side street to head them back to Grant Park. It was confusing. I wasn't sure which direction was the official course. Somehow I managed to figure out which way to go. By then they were announcing that the race was over and that we needed to walk. Someone announced that we all had to take a bus to the finish line at the next aid station. I just kept moving on the course, really hoping to at least finish. One police officer actually said (I think jokingly) that we would be arrested if we were running. He said the health department had issued a warning that running was too dangerous. Everyone around me started walking. I ran occassionally, but pretty much walked the last eight miles.

I think if I would have been faster earlier on in the race, the experience would have been different. I would have gotten to the water before it was gone, etc. I was trying to pace myself. At one point I saw a bank sign flashing the temperature at 93 degrees. It was really hot and there was the constant challenge to get water. Someone in front of Moody gave me a water bottle which I kept refilling. I even picked up a cup from the ground and dipped it in someone's cooler at one point. Anyway, I had hoped to run the course in less than five hours and it took me six hours and five minutes. Pretty embarrassing. I felt better when I learned that more than half of the runners didn't finish and that one guy died and more than 300 were hospitalized, some still in critical condition.

Anyway, thanks to those of you who came out to watch and for your calls and notes of encouragement. I'm feeling good. Just some tightness in my legs. I kind of want to run another marathon so I can experience a more normal one. It shouldn't be too hard to improve on my time!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Marathon Countdown

4 : 12 : 01 : 18 That's the countdown until the marathon, four days, twelve hours, one minute and 18 seconds. Of course its different now. Here's the countdown clock. Did you know you can track your favorite runners by having a text message or email sent to your phone or computer when they reach designated points? How cool is that?

George Yancey at Trinity Seminary

I am going to try to catch one of George Yancey's lectures at Trinity Seminary this week. Yancey is the author of several books on race including One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches. Yancey is speaking at 3:00 tomorrow, October 3rd, at Hinkson Hall, Rodine Building, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is also speaking at the TEDS chapel 11:00 AM on October 4th. Let me know if you are in the area and want to catch a ride.