Catchin’ Up!

 

Time flies when you are having fun!  It’s been over a month since I have written….yowza!  So, here’s a quick download….

Shortly after Easter, Louis and I took off to Florida for 12 whole days!  4 days in Miami visiting our good friends – the Mozloom’s.  And we got to love on the kiddos including Louis’s goddaughter!  We also had a day at the beach, a stop at Chocolat Fashion (pure deliciousness), Joe’s Stone Crabs, shopping for deals and good ole family fun time!  Then, we had quick stop in St Petersburg for a wonderful time with our friends Tommy and Diane Nance.  Last stop…Orlando for the Exponential Conference and a few days of fun in the sun…including SeaWorld, Aquatica, and relaxing by the pool.  We also had a lovely visit with long time friends who came to visit while we are there.  It was a much needed time of relaxation and refreshment before we face a lot of new activities.

Since our return, Louis has accepted a calling as the Interim Lead Pastor for New Hanover Presbyterian Church, located just a short 15 minutes up Chamberlayne from where we live.  We are excited to be a part of the NHPC family.  Although we were there 2 Sundays ago, flying below the radar, we will be there officially this Sunday, 5/20.  We praise and thank God for his provision during an uncertain time.  It had been about 5 months since Louis helped his congregation close the church he had last served.

 

Over the last 18 months, I feel like we have been under fire with various health issues in our family, Louis and my own.  Many of these have somewhat distracted us from serving the community we love.  However, we had a time of serving our family, and we have been recipients of such love and grace from our friends and community.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.  So, it’s time to get back out on there and meet some of our many new neighbors!  We have much going on…and more to come!!!  Check out our list of summer activities > Summer Fun! The one I am most excited about is hosting Bob Lupton as part of our Christian Community Development ministry!  We are thankful that Bob had time in his calendar to visit Richmond and share his insights.  If you want to hear him speak, check out this link for more information >  Bob Lupton Speaks.


I will try to be more faithful in my writing, but no promises!  :/

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On the Verge…For the Gospel, For the City and For the Nations

The last couple of days, Louis and I have been in Houston, Texas enjoying a lovely visit with my sister and her family.  Tomorrow, we leave for Austin, where we will remain until Saturday.  Austin, you say?  Yes…Austin.  We are attending the Verge 2012 Conference.

2 years ago, Louis and I stumbled upon the Verge Conference on their first year.  Although I was soon to be unemployed, we found the resources to attend….and I am so glad that we did!  Last year The Verge Network joined with Exponential – the largest church planting conference ever – and this year we are back in Austin.  I am thankful for some generous people who have given to us – providing us the opportunity to attend, allowing us to be better prepared (and encouraged) for the work we do each and every day in Southern Barton Heights, in Richmond, VA. I love the ‘church’ – flaws and all.  Admittedly, I love the people more than I do the actual building and institution. But, I sometimes feel like a fish out of water in a typical Sunday morning worship church.  I often leave thinking…is this it?

2 years ago, while attending Verge 2010, I got it.  I had found my people group, my tribe.  People who strive to live out God’s mission EVERY day…at work, at home, at the PTA, gym, soccer field, and coffee shop,  and every where else their everyday, walk-around, work-going, weekend-loving lives take them….not just on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, and on missions trips.  Every day is viewed as a missions trip.

I wish you…every one of you…could attend.  Although it is sold out and located in Austin, you do have an opp to attend the Main Sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, at least, through a simulcast.  Check it out and sign up here.  You will hear from folks like Dr. John Perkins, Bob Lupton, Alan Hirsch, Neil Cole, Dave Ferguson, Mike Breen, Jen Hatmaker, David Platt and Matt Carter.  Let me know if you do!  Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.


1276/27=47.259259

Louis and I are leaving for Chicago in 27 days…to earn our Christian Community Development (CCD) Certification while attending CCDA Institute|immersion (click the link for more information). As I previously posted in Go to the people…, we were told that we would have 10 books that we would need to read.  I started reading one ~ thinking it would be on the list.  GREAT BOOK!  I got about 1/2 way through, when I learned it was not on the reading list.  So, that one has been placed on a shelf for another time.  Actually…I’m lending it to a friend while I read the 10 books by our deadline.  Over the last 2 days, they have been hitting the mailbox with quite thud.  Here’s my reading list for the next 27 days…1276 pages in 27 days…averages 47.259259 pages a day.  I guess I better get busy!

  • Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor by Robert D. Lupton, 136pg
  • Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development by Dr. John M. Perkins, 192pg
  • Theirs is the Kingdom by Robert Lupton, 144pg
  • Communities First by Jay H Van Gronigen,  112pg
  • Real Hope in Chicago, by Wayne L. Gordon and Randall Frame  224pg
  • Generous Justice by Tim Keller, 256pg
  • Reconciling All Things by Emmanuel Katongole & Chris Rice, 116 pg
  • Empowerment Toolkit by Mary Nelson,  96pg plus a dvd that came with it!!

Although this is all a bit overwhelming…I’m excited about being stretched….learning more…and discussing what I learn with others.  OK…my 47+ pages for the day are waiting to be read…so, I’m out!

Deuces. 


Go to the people Live among them….Chinese Poem

Louis and I are going to Chicago the first week of April to attend the Christian Community Development Association’s (CCDA) Institute called Immersion.  Following the week-long program, we, along with a small group of about 50, will be certified in Christian Community Development.  We have been doing a lot in our community at a grass-roots level and are looking forward to gaining additional knowledge!  Financially, this a big commitment for us, but we are so grateful to God to have received a CCDA Scholarship that will assist us!

I just learned Friday, that there are 10 (yes…I said 10, ten, diez, dix, zehn) books were are to read before we get there.  They have shipped them to us.  So…I guess you know what I will be doing between now and when we leave on 4.2! (And…what I will probably be writing on!  Thanks for letting me process with you!!)  I’m hoping I have read some of them, at least!  One that I have had on my shelf for a while now is called Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together & Doing It Right, which I started reading Saturday night.  It’s the “Official Handbook of the Christian Community Development Association”….so I am hoping, expecting and praying that this one is on their list, because I’m about half done!

Dr. John Perkins and some other urban ministry gurus like Bob Lupton, Noel Castellanos, and Mary Nelson share their wisdom gained from decades of experience.

In chapter 1, Perkins asks and answers the following question…

…How do we affirm the dignity of people, motivate them and help them take responsibility for their own lives?  By beginning with the people’s felt needs we establish a relationship and a trust, which then enables us to move to deeper issues of development.  This idea of beginning with people’s felt need is what is called the felt need concept.  It is summed up in a Chinese poem…

Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have:
But of the best leaders
When their task is done
The people will remark
“We have done it ourselves.”

Then, Perkins describes how Jesus engaged the Woman at the Well story located in John 4.  How Jesus started by talking to her and asking her for help — demonstrating she had something of value that she could share with him–Jesus affirmed her dignity and broke down the wall of distrust–before he talked with her about who He was or anything about himself.

Some however sometimes go in like this…

Go to the community with an agenda
Observe the people (maybe)
Tell them what to do
Enable, manipulate and take advantage of them
Even lie to them
Start with what they don’t know
Tell them what YOU think they should know
But the worst of leaders
will do things TO the community
instead of WITH the community
The people will ask
“What have they done to us?”

It’s easy for some of us to come into a situation with all the answers…because although we would never want to admit it…we see ourselves as smarter, more educated, more experienced, more whatever…fill in the blank.  We often think we know what is best for a community.  We force our opinions, thoughts, ideas, etc on a community. When in fact, we do more harm to the community than help.  The community isn’t transforming or coming together, but being torn apart instead.

I’m excited about what we will learn in Chicago…and grateful that we have the opportunity to attend this year.  It’s been on the bucket list for a while…and this is the year!  Praying that we will continue to learn how to see our community and our city through the eyes of Jesus.


“To Give or Not to Give?” Bob Lupton

Yesterday, I posted How Rich are You and I?.  At the time, I didn’t know that this would be a series on spending and giving.  This question always comes up!  My friend and ministry partner, Charles Fitzgerald (who spent 33 years on the streets doing everything under the sun) and I were having that discussion just last night while running ministry errands and meeting his new neighbors in Highland Park.  Do you or do you not give money to the “homeless” or rather…panhandlers on street corners?  Now that I have read this, I can say that although I understand all 3 points of view, Charles and I agree with Ron Sider’s approach presented below.  What about you?  Do you choose to give, or not to give?

To Give or Not to Give?

February 2011

by Bob Lupton, February 2011

Should Christians always give money to street people who ask for it? That’s what Christianity Today recently asked three veteran ministry leaders known for their commitment to the poor.

Yes, freely!” answers Gary Hoag, known as the Generosity Monk whose passionate mission is to encourage Christian generosity.  To him it is very clear in scripture:  “Freely you have received; freely give.”  It is not our place to judge others, to evaluate them as worthy or unworthy of our assistance.  God is the judge, not us.  What they do with our aid is between them and God.  We are to love and give unconditionally.  Gary’s theology of generosity is summed up in his quote from contemplative priest Brennan Manning:  “God’s call for each of us to live a life of unlimited generosity is rooted in his limitless love and care for us.”  Through our free and generous giving “the postmodern world will see Jesus in our generosity.”

Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, sees it quite differently.  “Giving cash to someone in need is the least helpful and most temporary solution and should only be a last resort,” he says.  His years of experience with street people has taught him that most panhandlers are not really homeless at all.  Most are scammers who may collect $300 a day from kind-hearted passers-by and at the end of the day walk a block or two to their cars and drive home.  When someone approaches Andy for money for food or a place to stay, he gives them his card and invites them to his mission where they can get not only food and shelter but other support as well.  Very seldom does he give money, and then only when there are no other alternatives.  Like Hoag, he too has scripture to back his position.  His biblical example is the lame man who asked Peter and John for some money.  They offered no money but rather something better – healing!  “People experiencing homelessness and poverty need a community,” Andy says.  “People need permanent help in becoming strong.  They need a connection with Jesus Christ and a faith community.”

Absolutely not! So says Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and author of best selling Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  A quick donation is cheap love.  There is simply no way to tell whether a story is legitimate, or if a person will spend the money on drugs or alcohol.  Supporting immorality, laziness or destructive behavior is simply irresponsible and clearly not a loving act.  Scripture demands that we stand on the side of the poor but it certainly does not tell us to give irresponsibly.  Rather than give money, Sider suggests taking the homeless person to lunch and listening to his story.  “People almost always need love even more than money,” he says.  Generous giving should be directed toward effective, holistic programs equipped to deal with the deeper socio-economic issues, ministries that share the love of Christ and “truly empower, liberate and transform.”

Three respected Christian leaders, all committed to helping the poor, all relying on the scriptures to guide them, each with distinctly different convictions on how to rightly serve – opposing convictions.  They take their stand at opposite ends of the charity continuum, from “always give money” to “never give money.”  Who’s right?   Whose counsel do we listen to?

Andy Bales certainly has the most direct experience with the homeless, living and serving among them for decades.  His “last resort” giving position is shaped by years of personal involvement, watching con games on the street, seeing first-hand the long, up-and-down battles of those trying to break free from addictions.  Pragmatic experience has taught him that healing is far more likely in a supportive community environment than struggling alone on the street.  Of course he believes it is better to steer street people toward a program like he runs.  He has committed his life to it.

Gary the Generosity Monk, on the other hand, views scripture (and the world) from the ivory tower of religious academia.  Not that he’s removed from humanity – he’s certainly not.  He’s very engaged with the Christian community, particularly as it relates to generosity.  But he doesn’t live among the broken.  In one sense, his reading of scripture is purer, uncontaminated by the troubling realities of life on the street.  His “yes, freely” theology of giving is fashioned around a compelling body of scriptures such as “Give to anyone who asks” and “Freely you have received; freely give” and “If you have two coats, give one.”  And his examples of the extravagant giving of historic heroes of the faith are inspiring.  His message is clearly directed toward an affluent church that needs for its own salvation to be freed from its bondage to material things.  Giving freely is a prime way to break the strangle-hold of materialism.  But is his “unconditional giving” doctrine informed by the real-life down-stream impacts of unexamined charity?

Ron Sider understands poverty from a systems perspective.  He pores over statistics, scrutinizes legislative motivation and decision-making, holds up a biblical standard of justice by which to evaluate public policy and practice.  He is a prophet to a nation that has subsidized poverty, eroded a work ethic through dependency-producing entitlements and decimated the family structure of the poor – all in the name of doing good.  He knows better than most theologians the vast number of scriptures that deal with God’s concern for the poor.  And theresponsibility of God’s people to care for the widows and orphans and strangers.  His plea, like the prophet Amos, is to “let justice roll down like a river.”  The quick donation, whether for expediency, sentimentality or guilt-relieving, is cheap love that is neither merciful nor just.  Prophets are not pragmatists.  They speak in absolutes.  Understandably, to Sider, irresponsible giving is just plain wrong!

Always.  Sometimes.  Never.  Who’s got it right?  I guess it all depends on the level of the platform you are viewing the poor from – ground-level practicality or elevated theological theory.  Your altitude will determine your attitude.

Thankfulness!!!…and HELP!!!!!!!

In  3 Boats Sited in Southern Barton Heights, I told you the story of how the Fletcher’s and the Garza’s came through with the laptop!  I am PLEASED to say that Mario delivered it today!!!

Here it is!!!

I am just FILLED with thankfulness and gratitude to both families for helping us out!   Everett aka “the Gardna” was the first to use it!  He loves for me to find his favorite old school R&B songs for him to listen to.  Now…he is learning to do it himself.  He calls it “you-tubin'”. His first search?  Average White Band – Cloudy!  He played it over and over!  It brought joy to both of us! So now…we are in search for a set of speakers so he can hear it better!  I wish I had gotten a picture of him, but I was working!

Thankfulness!So, this is where I need some help from some teachers and parents!  What are some good sites the kids can visit to LEARN something this summer?  Ages are mostly elementary and middle school age.  Some are high school.  How can computer use be used as a reward?  What are some good “rules” to put into place (other than the obvious…no downloading, no porn, etc)? We have A LOT of kids from many families who hang here…so think about the impact of that with any advice given.  They will learn to share…if nothing else!!!

In addition…watch for a future blog where m2k’s are the authors and photographers! Just have to think of a name!  That just might have to be a contest for the kids!  Name the blog…get the first post!  hmmmm….i think that I might be on to something!!!


3 Boats Sited in Southern Barton Heights

Ok.  After reading the last post “it’s a dangerous thing to let Jesus use your boat.” Bob Lupton, you may be wondering…what is my boat?  I don’t have a boat.  YES, you do!!!

Let me share with you a story that happened just this week that demonstrates Jesus using boats right before our eyes!  We have been praying for a computer that the kids and community could use.  Miss Marti’s Kids don’t always have access to a computer/internet to use for school projects, homework and research.  In addition, there isn’t readily available access to computer/internet to look for and apply for jobs.

Resources

This week, Michael Fletcher and his family used their “boat” called resources and willingly donated their family’s used Dell Laptop (following an upgrade to a new computer) to Miss Marti’s House!!!  I was THRILLED!  But, it came with a slight problem.  It wouldn’t charge.  Thanks be to God! And thanks to the Fletchers for being willing to let Jesus use their boat called Resources!

Time

Well, those of you who know me…know that I am NOT very tech savvy.  I know how to use a computer just fine, but don’t ask me HOW or WHAT makes it work!  That…I have no clue.  Enter…Mario Garza, a new member to our Missional Community.  Mario and his brother Fernando took the computer home to see if they could diagnose the problem.  Mario contacted me today and let me know the solution was simple.  It needed a new power cord.  So, one has been ordered and upon arrival, Mario will not only ensure it is up and running, but is also going to scrub it and download fresh anti-virus protection (which will be MUCH needed!!!) and Windows XP, etc.  Thanks be to God and the Garzo’s for allowing Jesus to use their boats called Knowledge and Time!

Knowledge

So I ask again…What’s your boat called?  ALL of us have something to offer.  Are you using yours to bring glory to God?  Are you fishing for men?  To carry this analogy possibly too far…when we let Jesus use our boats…our nets are HEAVY with fish.  When we try to do it on our own…we bring in empty nets.  When we aren’t doing a thing…the boat’s just rottin’ at the dock and needs a little work.

If you don’t know what your “boat” is, I pray the Holy Spirit will be your lighthouse and guide you through the fog to safe landing at the feet of Jesus.  We often look for the “big mission” or “God’s will” for our lives.  Well, what about God’s will for today or this minute…this hour? God has a will for every moment of our life.  Are you in God’s will right now as you read this?  I dare say yes.  You were meant to read this at this very moment.  As we pray like Jesus taught us….Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  So, what will you do now?  Will you let Jesus use your boat to do His will on Earth?

What is your boat called?