Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Call to the Church

I'm turning out my lights for Earth Hour

If you haven't heard, it's tonight from 8 to 9 PM. Those of us in Chicago are going to turn off our lights in recognition of Earth Hour.

The Fellowship of His Suffering

I wrote a few days ago on this blog about the pursuit of happiness and how living and working among the poor does not necessarily make us happy. Here's an example of that from Shasta Cole, one of Breakthrough's interns. She writes,
i sit here sometimes and i think, what have i gotten myself into? my heart breaks nearly everyday as i see the pain they go through. my heart broke today as i hear the words, i messed up coming from my bright and beautiful 13 year old girl. and my heart breaks as i walk down the street as i go to church on sundays as i see my teenagers struggle to read as i listen to my kids just talk to each other as i watch my 7th grader and her 9th sister walk down the street cuz they dropped out of school...these things, they break my heart. i dont share any of this most of the time because i want to share the good things that happen. because there are so many small improvements i see everyday. but more often than not, i see pain and i see self-destruction. ugh
Click here to read her full blog entry.

Healing for a Broken World

Steve Monsma's book, Healing for a Broken World, is now available. He interviewed me in the accompanying DVD. Here's what Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship had to say about the book.
“Steve Monsma avoids the modern-day tendency to believe that the kingdom of God will arrive on Air Force One. Instead he offers a balanced perspective on how Christians should engage in the political process. His solid biblical grounding, as well as his concrete applications of Christian principles to public policy, provides wise guidance.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Compassion: The Doorway to Justice

I loved the article by Breakthrough's Housing Coordinator, Paul Luikart, on the Just Life web site about the difference between compassion and justice. He says,
I think compassion is probably the door way to justice. I think performing works of mercy helps people to see the need for justice.
Click here to read the whole article.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Are you too happy?

I was journaling tonight and paged back to the summer of 2003 when I was living in a nice three bedroom house in Andersonville, on the north side of Chicago, with my two daughters. The house had a great deck and an above ground swimming pool in the back yard. It was a beautiful old home on a quiet street with nice shade trees. Andersonville had changed drastically since we moved there in 1988. Clark Street was booming and property values had escalated. There was a garden walk in our neighborhood every summer. The neighborhood was clean and beautiful with many great restaurants within easy walking distance. My girls, who are now 24 and 26, talk often about how much they miss living there.

In my journal I read about how much I was enjoying the summer, daily walks to the lake with my dog Charlie, hot afternoons in the pool with the kids, evenings grilling dinner on the deck. It's a sharp contrast to where I'm living now on the west side of Chicago. I love East Garfield Park and my little apartment, but there are empty lots and boarded up buildings everywhere and lots of trash, broken bottles and cracked sidewalks. It can be depressing. I realized as I read my journal tonight that I was happier living in Andersonville and was beginning to feel sorry for myself, like maybe I had made a bad choice. After all, shouldn't I be happy?

Then I watched the film, When Did I See You Hungry, from the San Damiano Foundation. I rented it from Netflix. It shows the poorest of the world's poor, living in squaller, juxtaposed with statistics and quote after quote from Scripture and from Christians about loving Jesus in the poor. I wept at the sight of a leper, a woman, who looked grotesque from the disease, a disease that isolates people because no one wants to look at them. When asked how she was doing, she said, "Very well, Praise the Lord."

And I'm not happy!!

The producer of the film said, after taking pictures all day in the Payatas garbage dump outside Manila, that he went back to his room and cried.

I don't think we are supposed to seek out suffering, but when we walk with the poor, we do suffer. Life is easier when we avoid them and the communities where they live. I don't think everyone is called to move into a slum, but I think it is important that we let our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God.

Walter Brueggemann in his book, The Prophetic Imagination, defines passion as “the capacity and readiness to care, to suffer, to die and to feel”. He says, the world’s economy is “designed to keep people satiated so that they do not notice." Its politics is intended to "block out the cries of the denied ones. Its religion is to be an opiate so that no one discerns misery alive in the heart of God.”

I am certainly not suffering by living in East Garfield Park. I may have felt happier in Andersonville, but here, I am growing in my capacity to care, to suffer, and to feel.
"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings."
                 - Philippians 3:10

Friday, March 21, 2008

“The anger is real;
it is powerful;
and to simply wish it away,
to condemn it without understanding its roots,
only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding
that exists between the races.”

-Barack Obama

Because Jesus Lives

“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidian mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened with men.”

                 -From The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech on Race

I couldn't listen to Obama's speech this morning, so I was happy to find it on YouTube. Beyond the campaign, this is a historic speech that eloquently represents what we experience in our community on a daily basis.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In the Studio with Michael Card

Michael Card and his host, Wayne Shepherd, had me on their radio show again last week. You can download the entire show at this link to the iTunes podcast. It's program #310. Here's the portion in which they interview me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Standing on the Verge of a New World Order

My pastor, Daniel Hill, told me about this message by Dr. Cornel West at Saint Sabina Church on Chicago's south side. He challenges us to look at the world and this present time in our history through the lens of the cross. He says we have been living in an ice age of indifference where the cross has been pushed to the side, but the ice is melting and change is coming! It's a great message.

Maya Angelou will be speaking there on Friday, March 28, 2008 at 7:30 PM.

They're home!!

The guys moved into our new interim housing and employment training facility at 402 N. St. Louis last week after four long years of planning and waiting! There were so many times when we hit what seemed to me like insurmountable roadblocks, but God got us through. It's done (except for the parking lot and landscaping) and it's beautiful. Thank you Jesus!! Come by and see it!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Politically informed

Joyce Caine sent me this video. In the video an interviewer picks a young African American man and questions why he supports Obama. At first, the interviewer seems to assume he is ignorant and crams difficult questions at him. Unrattled, Derrick articulates Obama's positions so well that you have to be impressed. I wish I was half as articulate.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Free Voicemail for the Homeless

Google is providing free voicemail for life for every homeless person in the city of San Francisco! How cool is that!

Segregation, Incarceration and the Middle Class

Thanks to Matt Harris for linking me to this editorial from Clarence Page in the Tribune today. Page discusses the continuation of segregation in our society. He says one of the reasons we don't have riots like we did in the '60s is because we have incarcerated so many African American men. He says, "The most striking difference in today's urban scene is the number of middle-class blacks who have joined middle-class whites in zipping past poor black neighborhoods with their car doors firmly locked." Kevin Gwin posted thoughts on the article as well.