Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Planning for a happy new year!

The coming of the new year is more than banging pans and drinking champagne. It is a great time to check in on how we are doing and make plans for the coming year. Here are a few suggestions I jotted down.
  • The Red Dot: Where Are You Now?
    Start with a frank assessment of your present situation. Most shopping malls have maps encased in glass to help us find our way. The key to reading the map is to find the red dot with the declaration, “YOU ARE HERE.” If we can locate where we are, we have a better chance of knowing how to get to where we want to be.

  • Your Passion: What Moves You?
    Once you have a good idea where you are, you can start asking yourself questions that will reveal what you want to achieve in 2010.

    What are the issues you care about? What breaks your heart, makes you cry, makes you feel? Is it children? The mentally ill? The elderly? Single mothers? Is there some issue that has evidenced itself in your family?

    I care about arthritis because my father suffered with it. I care about single moms because my daughter has become one. I care about kids in the city because my kids were raised in the city, and many of their friends have been incarcerated, are living in dire circumstances, or have lost their lives to street violence. I care about the homeless because many of them have become my friends, and I have listened to their stories.

    What issues matter most to you? Education? Healthcare? Economic development? Housing? Nutrition? Hunger? What do you think needs to be changed in order for everyone to have equal opportunity? What moves you emotionally?

    Theologian Frederick Buechner wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” What makes you glad?

    I am made glad by seeing underdogs turn their lives around. I love to see people who have never had hope for their future begin to dream. I love to develop leaders. I love to see people operate in their area of giftedness. I love to build things, create things. It makes me glad. Where does your deep gladness meet the world’s deep hunger?

  • Pray for Guidance: Where Is God Leading You?
    Take time to sit in prayer with God, affirming you openness to making changes in your life as the Spirit directs you.

    If there is any hint of guilt or self-condemnation, lay it at Jesus’ feet and know that he loves you. Imagine that Jesus is picking up a towel and washing your feet. Look into his eyes and feel his love for you just as you are. There is nothing you can do to get God to love you more. Jesus does not require your acts of service to win his love. He just invites you to take up the towel and follow him because he loves you. This is not a burden. It’s an adventure.

    Where is God leading you? Ask God to give you a vision for what you are being called to. Spend thirty minutes in uninterrupted silence, letting God speak to you through your thoughts.

  • Write Down Your Vision: Where Are You Going? What would your life look like if you responded fully to your calling. Can you picture it? Write about it in as much detail as you can. Draw or paint your image of yourself carrying out your vision. What will you be doing five years from now that will leave your mark on the world? What will you do in 2010 to move toward your calling. What would you like to be said of you at your funeral? Write it down. Read it out loud.

  • Build Your Plan
    What do you need to do now to move you toward your goal? Build a five-year plan and break it down into years, quarters, weeks and days. Schedule appointments with God on your calendar in order to check in on how you are doing in carrying out the plan that God has given you.

    Bill Lutes, former program manager for Wisconsin Public Radio, wrote, “All one can do is make little beginnings, to try to do ‘the next right thing.’” What is the next right thing for you to do? What do you need to focus on? What do you need to cut out? What do you need to prioritize?

  • Share Your Plan with a Friend
    This is not something you can do by yourself. You need others to join you. Invite them into your plan. Ask for their help. Ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable.

  • Execute
    Nike says it best, “Just do it”! Your life will become so much more meaningful when you begin to spend it meaningfully on behalf of others. I don’t know anyone who has begun to invest their time, talent and treasure on behalf of others who has lived to regret it.

  • Dream Big
    Big problems need big solutions. There is no end to the opportunities to change the world and to make an impact. There are emerging enterprise initiatives that stretch our imagination and creativity with new ways of empowering people. Dare to dream big and join a coalition of others who share your vision.
I'm looking forward to a great year in 2010. I hope you are too. Happy new year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Making Rough Ways Smooth

Merry Christmas! This is the season when we talk about peace and good will, family and love. It is a special time of the year when we listen to the voices of John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus, announce that, “every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth,” The coming of the Messiah would “lift up the humble” and fill the “hungry with good things”.

At Breakthrough we get to see the hungry filled with good things every day, a beautiful fulfillment of the prophecies as the people of God come together to care for those in the low valleys of life. It involves all of us listening to God’s whisper in our hearts and responding to the call to love. God intends that we care for and learn from each other.

I pray that this Christmas you will join the movement to make the “rough ways smooth” for those who are stumbling on the broken ground and the cracked sidewalks in our own backyard. This is the true meaning of Christmas, the announcement of the good news that Christ has come to bring new life. May you experience the joy of participating with Christ in the redemption of all that is broken this holiday season!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil's Message at River City Community Church

The message below is one of the best messages I have ever heard on the incarnation and why we need to cross cultures to care for people. It's an hour long, but very worth the time. A powerful word. You can download the podcast version here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When did you know?

Seth Harris, who works for the Inspiration Corporation and volunteers for i.c.stars, interviewed me a couple of months ago as part of his series of blog posts of interviews with leaders asking them, "When did you know" that you would be working for substantial change in the world? I don't know how he managed to get my Iowa farm lamb story out of me, but he did. I think he asked me to reflect back to when I was ten. Anyway... here's a link to the audio of the interview.

Health gap between blacks and whites in Chicago widens

Here's a link to a very discouraging article in the Chicago Tribune that reveals that a study conducted by the Sinai Urban Health Institute shows that the health gap between whites and blacks in Chicago is getting WIDER!
Institute director Steve Whitman, whose work has compared breast cancer disparities in Chicago and New York, said the health of African-Americans in Chicago fares worse than blacks elsewhere.

"The underlying issue here is racism and poverty," Whitman said. "In Chicago, it's exacerbated by segregation. Black people in Chicago are forced to live in neighborhoods where there are no stores to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, where schools are failing, where they don't have parks to exercise in and where they tend to go to segregated health facilities that are poorly funded and, in different ways, failing."
This is what we have been trying to say at Breakthrough! And why we are raising $15M to build the Breakthrough FamilyPlex to provide a health clinic, fitness center, sports and arts programs, early childhood education and after school tutoring. We are also bringing fresh produce into the neighborhood and beginning to grow our own vegetables. It is urgent that we get this project done and continue to strengthen our work at Breakthrough.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New Poverty and Justice Bible Available

I'm looking forward to getting this new Poverty and Justice Bible. The book highlights the more than 2000 references in Scripture to poverty and justice and includes a 56-page guide for personal and group study. This will be an excellent resource. Recognizing the importance of poverty and justice to the heart of God has changed my life.