Monday, December 22, 2008

Theirs is the Kingdom

I read Bob Lupton's 'Theirs is the Kingdom' about a year and a half ago. At the time I wasn't a huge fan and advocate of the book. I can't remember my reasoning exactly, but it probably had something to do with the fact that it was difficult for me to 'connect'. I had a hard time being able to place myself in his stories because I didn't have similar experiences of my own. I even remember telling a friend that I just felt like something was missing.. even though at the time I had no idea what.

I pulled out the book recently and started reading some of the stories again. The stories have come alive this second time around. The chapter titled 'On the Corner' really came alive to me as I now can 'connect' on a deeper level. He paints this picture of men ranging in age from fourteen to forty hanging out on the corner to tell stories, to boast, to taunt, to gamble, and to establish or maintain their place in the pecking order of the street.

After painting this picture he goes on to comment on the absence of the talk of marriage and kids, of family plans and dreams for the future, and that he'll get the urge to step in and shout:

"..But this isn't real! Don't you have the same emotions, the same desires for deep permanent relationships, the same hopes and dreams for a family as the rest of us?"

I've been in similar situations and had the same kind of thoughts in my head rolling around in my head that I wanted to shout out for all to hear. However, what he said next summarizes my same thoughts that quickly set in:

"But you remain silent, because you realize you have not seen life through their eyes. You don't know how it feels to be chronically jobless with no legal capacity to support a wife or family. You don't understand how strong young men get trapped in a permanent pool of unneeded labor at the bottom of our economic system. And you wonder: how does it feel to be both disdained by society and impotent to achieve within your culture even the most basic position of respect - the head of the household?"

In the book I have an 'I' written above every 'you'. So it would read "But I remain silent, because I realize I have not seen life through their eyes..." and so on.

Powerful stuff.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

God with us.

"If there is one word to be distilled from the Christmas story, it is Immanuel. God with us. God enters into the midst of the human drama with all its tenderness and terror, its exhilaration and devastation, and participates with us in the full, unedited range of human experience. He enters quietly, to unsuspecting individuals, without public fanfare. He reveals Himself in both blissful elation and in troubling perplexity. His appearance takes people off guard, is often baffling, but always life-changing. Immanuel. Indeed, He is with us still." -Bob Lupton, FCS Ministries
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chaos & Peace

Last night I was reminded again of the thin line between chaos and peace.

Through a similar situation in the past, and through conversations with a good friend, I was given some much needed clarity on how and why these situations happen.
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but the presence of Justice" -MLK Jr.
I like to add to that list.. true peace is not merely the absence of conflict, anger, frustration, stress or any number of related things. Because despite the absence of those things, it only takes one incident, or one conflict to light the fuse and then all of the underlying anger, frustration, stress, pain, etc. gets unleashed. Thus there is no true peace.

Barack Obama described this 'tension' in a much more eloquent way, calling it 'quiet riots':
" 'Quiet riots' happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates. Despair takes hold and young people all across this country look at the way the world is and believe that things are never going to get any better.

You tell yourself, my school will always be second rate. You tell yourself, there will never be a good job waiting for me to excel at. You tell yourself, I will never be able to afford a place that I can be proud of and call my home.

That despair quietly simmers and makes it impossible to build strong communities and neighborhoods. And then one afternoon a jury says, 'not guilty' -- or a hurricane hits New Orleans -- and that despair is revealed for the world to see." -Barack Obama
In the neighborhoods and communities that we work in, these quiet riots go about day after day. Most go unnoticed due to their underlying nature, but it only takes one incident to serve as a reminder that we still have much work to do.

I'm thankful for God's faithfulness and how He gives us glimpses to let us know that what we do matters. I'm also thankful for reminders like tonight that while what we do matters, we still have a lot of work to do to bring forth biblical justice.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Justice is an ownership issue..
"Destruction is certain for you who buy up property so others have no place to live. Your homes are built on great estates so you can be alone in the land." Isaiah 5:8, NLT

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who owns the pond?

"Give a person a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a person to fish and he eats for a lifetime. That's a lie! The real issue: Who owns the pond?" -Dr. John Perkins

Give a person a fish equals charity. Teach a person to fish emphasizes job skills. But if the person doesn't own or have access to the pond he can be denied the right to fish in the pond.  Gaining access to the pond requires a whole different kind of work that the Church doesn't get too involved with.  It requires dealing with the power structures and systems of our day.  Good works that our Lord requires of us (see Micah 6:8 and the story of Esther).

"Justice is an economic issue. Justice is a management issue. Justice is an ownership issue. Justice has to do with equal access to the resources of God's creation." -Dr. John Perkins

History has taught us that without justice/ownership freedom is lost. Segregation and sharecropping replaced slavery - a system that is a few notches above slavery. They were freed from slavery but there was no just system that followed. No justice and no ownership. "40 acres and a mule" was just a pipe dream.

The question of 'who owns the pond?' is one that can be applied to any number of situations. It speaks to who and what operates the systems that are in place? In my opinion, it's a good starting point in discovering where injustice occurs on a systemic level because it'll uncover where power and privilege lie. What you'll most likely find, is that the answer or solution can be something deep and embedded and just plain nasty.

It'll mess with your head a bit and seem overwhelming when you start to connect the dots. Brokenness, sin, or injustice isn't something that is contained and isolated, instead it overflows and effects all.

Lucky for us, Jesus' message was centered on the good news of the kingdom. The good news of the kingdom doesn't just give hope for the future. It also gives hope that a better present is possible. And what's interesting.. is that we don't have to look far in order to find the kingdom..
"The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20-21
The kingdom of God is within us. I'm not a theologian, nor did I go to seminary (not yet) but that passage has always been hard for me to comprehend. One of those verses that I liked to skip over because it wasn't easy to grasp. However, I think Jesus provides much needed clarity in some later teachings:
"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." John 16:7
This is another one that is puzzling because on the surface it doesn't seem to make sense that it would be any better for Jesus to go than to stay. However, He is sending the Counselor (or Holy Spirit) in his place. It's a promise that God will be with us. And in Acts 1 before the ascension he reminds the disciples of this promise. In Acts 2 this promise is fulfilled and the church begins...

And it's through this institution of the church, that God has chosen for his message of the kingdom to be carried out. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). If our motives are of human origin they will fail (Acts 5:38). But if it is from God you will not be able to stop it (Acts 5:39).

So.. who owns the pond?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Urban Farming, etc.

urban farming. innovative, resourceful, intelligent, renewable, organic, strategic..

I like it..

I love to read about movements like this. Movements towards creating a 'greener' economy..

It's also interesting to hear arguments and read about studies conducted on the effects of healthy agriculture in neighborhoods and its correlation to crime. Basically saying that healthy trees, flowers, and green grass are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they could help to build self-esteem, community strength, and prevent crime. (similar to Guiliani's theory about broken glass, trash, and graffiti in New York City.)

After all, we as humans, created in the image of God, were given a divine task to be good stewards of the environment. We are to manage the earth and its resources according to the rule of the One who owns it.
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Genesis 2:15
I hope movements towards urban farming, landscape design, and other methods of creative, strategic and sustainable horticulture practices catch on.