Sunday, February 22, 2009

they will renew the ruined cities

in my last post when i said "more thoughts of the serious variety tomorrow", i really meant "more thoughts of the serious variety in the near future when i can slow down enough to turn the jumbled mess in my brain into understandable, organized statements on paper." that time, as it turns out, is now.

last weekend, i boarded a plane that took me from one dangerous, dying city to another in an attempt for a bit of vacation. rather ironic, i know, but the abandoned houses, barred windows, drug house across the street felt more like home than other "vacations" i've taken. i even slept better than i normally do when away from the comfort of my own bed.

even though it felt like home, it didn't look like home. i've been in enough "inner cities" to know what one stereotypically looks like, but this city was different. this city didn't seem to have hope. in "my" city, you can drive through the worst neighborhood and come across a street of people who have intentionally moved in to be neighbors, to do life. they shop at the local stores, walk to church, and choose not to use air conditioning so that they sit on their front porches. with that comes hope for restoration; for peace. in detroit, very little of that exists. the people that afford to, are moving out of there quickly, leaving houses and buildings boarded up and falling down; causing the local economy to fall apart; making the poor become even poorer. the hopelessness was like a foggy polution.

my friend chris is one of those people that i never imagined living in barred house across the street from both a pimp and a drug dealer. chris was a small town preacher's kid, and the counselor who worked his way up to supervisor at the mostly white, christian, suburban kid's camp where we met. he went to a mostly white, very conservative reformed college. during his senior year (shortly after we became friends), he showed up in the exhibit hall of a conference called urbana where i happened to be working, and he said to me, "i think god might be calling me to teach in a city." i spent some time showing him around my city (which had just topped the most dangerous city chart a few months earlier) and processing what a decision like that would look like. i wasn't surprised when a few months later he chose to teach english in japan instead. chris needed that year in japan (although it was very hard), but god brought him back, set him right in the middle of a decrepit neighborhood, and said "enter into this mess. love the kids. bring some hope." chris has done just that. he's been there all of six months and has done what many experienced teachers in mainstream classes cannot do: he brought his students up to grade level in math and reading. urban children that live in small houses with eight-ten other people; in single parent homes where drugs and alcohol and a number of boyfriends and girlfriends keep children up at all hours; where good nutrition is not affordable; in a school with very little money and fewer resources; in a city where the graduation rate is 27%. chris brings hope.

a part of me really wants to rejoice that i live in the city where hope exists in little pockets; to be proud that i live in the city that is no longer dying. but then faces of the students in chris's little school give life, give a name, to the hopelessness. they didn't choose to live there, but they unknowningly depend upon the people who do choose to live there for a chance to "get out" or even just a chance to survive.

there's a promise in the bible that i have loved for years which takes on an even greater meaning after my visit. it's a promise i'm choosing to believe in and pray over the city of detroit. it's a promise that i hope will bring encouragement to chris and jessi and jessica and eric and dana and the few others that believe god has not yet forsaken the city. it goes a little something like this:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

(this is the best part)
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

bedtime story

i just spent a re-energizing weekend in detroit with an old friend

and a new friend.

we went to this little place where it is christmas all year.

we could partake of gingerbread houses,

speak many languages,

and spy on santa.

we also visited the silent night chapel (a replica of the real silent night chapel in austria) because christmas is really all about jesus.

then we visited a quaint german town

where i got to introduce my old friend to food from my ethnic heritage

the deliciousness made me happy.

the next day, we went over the bridge to canada.

we did not eat at a canadian mcdonalds,

but we did gaze at the detroit skyline

before taking the tunnel under the river back to the states.

i saw funny things while in michigan.

i saw impactful things while in michigan. (the bus rosa parks rode. ironically, i sat in the back.)

i had a great time while in michigan.
the end.
more thoughts of the serious variety tomorrow.

Monday, February 09, 2009

there's creativity oozing from my closet

i'm taking this class at my new church that deals with aspects of how we live life together as the church (not just that church, but the church). tonight dealt with spiritual gifts. i have been thinking a lot lately about giftings, specifically mine. it's pretty obvious that i've got the administrative stuff. (hey don't judge me by my freezer.) over the last four years, god has been deconstructing and rebuilding me, along the way revealing things about me that i didn't know or that i didn't recognize. one of those things being what i think might be some artist personality tendancies. something about that feels very awkward - a creative "type a". the pastor who taught the class tonight was talking about different personality types and he said, "there are those who have their closets all neat and tidy and organized by color. and there are those whose closets you can't even see, but those are the people that ooze creativity." i know that god is the creator and he can create whatever the heck he wants, but it's hard to wrap my mind around creativity oozing out of my organized closet. it causes me to wonder if i'm really just one posing as the other. so which would i be? (note: i do know that a person can have more than one gifting, but seriously, how often do these two go together?)

i can't escape the administrator in me. i don't love the administrator in me, but i love the order and effciency the administrator in me produces.

as for the creative side (which by the way my new church calls the creative communicator spiritual gift). i've got that whole singing thing...for like 22 years now, worship teams and worship leading, saxophone for 9 years, guitar now for 3 months, some photography (which has been affirmed in the sense that a couple of my photos have won very local awards), and i've been hearing more and more lately that i'm a good story teller. i also love to create with food by deviating from a recipe or figuring out how to mesh random things from my fridge into one dish. i feel incredibly close to god in nature and through music, and often hope that when people look at my photos or listen to me sing or allow me to lead them in worship, that will find some sort of connection to their creator. can those things justify my being a creative communicator? is it okay that i'm just mediocre at all of these things, instead of a master of one? how do explain the feeling i get when i touch my guitar or take photographs that move me to closer to the center of god's character?

this post is a lot of processing aloud. i'm interested in what you have to say, not to affirm who i am, but more just to gather some opinions on what feels to be two naturally conflicting giftings, if the one is really my gift. so please, leave your thoughts. start a discussion.
front porches. rainy days. hot tea. good book.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

two songs

two songs I'm diggin' right now (both of which I can actually play on guitar!)

i will rise by chris tomlin

there's a peace i've come to know
though my heart and flesh may fail
there's an anchor for my soul
i can say, it is well

jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed
the victory is won, he is risen from the dead

i will rise when he calls my name
no more sorrrow, no more pain
i will rise on eagle's wings
before my god, fall on my knees
and i rise, i will rise

(v2) there's a day that's drawing near when this darkness breaks to light
and the shadows disappear and my faith shall be my eyes

(bridge) i hear the voice of many angels sing, worthy is the lamb
i hear the cry of every longing heart, worthy is the lamb

giving up by ingrid michaelson (i happen to think that ingrid is a very clever songwriter)

what if we stop having a ball?
what if the paint chips from the wall?
what if there's always cups in the sink?
what if i'm not what you think, think that i am?

what if i fall further than you?
what if you dream of somebody new?
what if i never let you win, chase you rolling pin?
well, what if i do?

cause i am giving up on making passes
i am giving up on half empty glasses
i am giving up on greener grasses
i am giving up

what if our baby comes in after nine?
what if your eyes close before mine?
what if you lose yourself sometimes,
then i'll be the one to find you, safe in my heart.

i don't think this is the "official" video, but it's really ingrid singing

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

one of the things i've been doing in my quest to do new, ambitious things is to watch all of the Academy Award Best Picture winners. by the end of this weekend, i will be one-fourth of the way through the list. in celebration of this, i thought i would share what i have seen.

1929 - The Broadway Melody
1932 - Grand Hotel - i really liked this one!
1939 - Gone with the Wind - i actually had never seen this one. i had always been under the impression that Scarlett O'Hara was some wonderful heroine so you can imagine my distaste at discovering what a self-center, devious women she was!
1941 - How Green Was My Valley - the ups and downs of a mining town told from the perspective of a boy
1964 - My Fair Lady - of course, i love it!
1965 - The Sound of Music - and this one too
1968 - Oliver!
1976 - Rocky
1980 -Ordinary People - i actually watched this for my communications class in's odd, but interesting
1984 - Amadeus
1990 - Dances with Wolves
1993 - Schindler's List
1994 - Forrest Gump - is this movie really 15 years old already?!
1997 - Titanic
1998 - Shakespeare in Love
1999 - American Beauty
2001 - A Beautiful Mind
2003 - Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - it's the only one of the trilogy to win
2005 - Crash
2006 - The Departed

next two to watch: 1937 - The Life of Emile Zola and 1985 - Out of Africa

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

randomness captured on film

i call this one "death among beauty"

a closer look at the death

raina and i were driving down I-70 one sunday morning when this trailer bed full of big ceramic things came up beside us....we laughed for a long time.

the americana boot had a spur on it!

this, folks, is a chicken. a 15 foot chicken.

Monday, February 02, 2009

"The Referral Game" by Bob Lupton

while watching football during what has become an undeclared american holiday, i found myself in a conversation with a new friend from my new church about just what it takes to effect change in a community. it got me thinking about two men that have influenced some of the social justice oriented decisions i have made for my life. one them, randy white, has actually become my friend in recent months. his stories turned into reality as he drove me around his neighborhood this summer. he and his wife are incredible jesus-like models for incarnational ministry in the roughest, poorest neighborhoods should like. randy will be the first to tell you how many times he's messed up, and he'll repeatedly tell you that they don't have it all figured out. the other guy, bob lupton, lives in atlanta where he gave up a career in business to move into a neighborhood that seemingly redefined his life, his assumptions about christianity, people, and the hood. both bob and randy along with another guy, scott bessenecker, are the kind of writers that i would like to be - story tellers really, with a knack for making you feel as if you are an unnamed character in the story. the key is that their stories have purpose, they aren't just time fillers. below is a small section from bob's book "Theirs is the Kingdom." get the book. it's good. but brace yourself as his stories (as well as randy's and scott's) will wreck what you believe to be the truth about christianity and "social justice." but we all need a little punch to the gut every now and then.

The Referral Game
He was a bearded man. He was probably in his late thirties, although it was difficult to tell from his disheveled appearance. With the sleeve of his shirt, he wiped the sweat from his face and readied himself to make a proper reception desk presentation.

He was hungry, he told Trisha. Needed some food real bad. Trisha dutifully responded that our lunch was on Wednesday, but if he would go down the street to St. Anthony's...

The bearded man cut Trisha short. He was no longer able to maintain a meek countenance. His anger flared as he recounted his last two days of trudging through the city, following one empty lead after another. He was now very hungry and desperate. He couldn't tolerate any more of this kind of help. He had come to the end of the Referral Game.

"Referral" is a game devised by people helpers to assist the needy in finding help somewhere else. It appears kind and is laced with compassionate words. It can be played by all kinds of churches and agencies. The only requirement is the purchase of a social service directory and a volunteer to dispense the appropriate information.

"Referral" is an attractive game for churches. Christians can discharge their responsibility to the hungry, naked, and homeless with efficiency and cost effectiveness. Referral requires little personal contact with the poor. It can be done by phone. Serious players, of course, schedule five to fifteen minute personal interviews, fill out data forms, and even make phone calls on behalf of the interviewee. Some Referral fanatics have computerized the game, dramatically reducing the processing time and adding a cross-check dimension that keeps the poor playing by the rules

Referral, like Monopoly or Risk, involves true-to-life situations. It is often played with great emotion and intensity. We can learn a great deal about poverty, the system, and even ourselves by playing it. But for us Referral is different from real life. We can close the manual and go home whenever we decide

Referral is a serious game. The pawns are human beings. They know what the players do not. They know there is not enough food in the game to feed everyone. They know the allocation of beds and jobs is half enough to go around. Yet the pawns continue to allow themselves to be moved from place to place. Perhaps they are hoping to find a Referral player who will remove his or her helper mask and become a real-life neighbor. More than anyone else, pawns understand that in real life there is an abundance of food and shelter. There is enough for everyone. And they know that real neighbors share. Therein lies their hope

Referral is serious, too, because it deludes the resourced people of God into believing they have fed, clothed, and housed "the least of these." In fact they have neither shared their bread, nor given their second coat, nor invited a stranger into their home. Referral allows us to process poverty with rubber-gloved safety rather than enter the contaminating world of redemptive relationships

"Damn racists!" the bearded man exclaimed with a glare. He turned and without looking back limped out the church door, slamming it behind him. A real person. Alone.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

never in a million years

another exciting milestone occured this weekend. not only did i break my all time high of 72 by 43 points, but i won the game! the game just after this brought me a score of 90 and a second place finish. talk about an on night! i'm listed as "a town" in the picture below. no, i didn't come up with this. i was with a group of people from my new church and considering i'm still the new girl, i just went along with it.

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