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plastic Jesus – a couple takes

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Here are two different takes on plastic Jesus for video Friday. The contrast is interesting…

Categories : video
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could i survive in poverty?

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From time to time I post original writings of guests from around the world. In this post,  a lover of Jesus, poverty advocate and devoted believer in social justice for the world shares some of her experience in identifying with the impoverished in America.


How can we truly be Jesus’ hands and feet to the poor? What does it look like to truly serve the marginalized, oppressed and lost? Like many of you, I want to make a difference in this world so I went searching for a job with meaning after graduation. I enrolled in a volunteer corps program for one year where I worked at a local non-profit. In my particular program, I received a small stipend that was the equivalent to what a single person in poverty would make. This was the challenge: could I live like a person in poverty lived? Could I survive on $26.00 a day?

The answer is no. If it weren’t for my gracious parents, savings and a lot of free church meals, I wouldn’t have made it. Yet I learned an incredible amount in that year and I began to see a glimpse of what poverty truly looks like from the inside out. I didn’t just read about it, I lived it.

Part of my experience included applying for food stamps. I wanted to better understand the system and personally go through the process, not to mention I was hungry. I never imagined that it would be so difficult. It took a total of four months to receive my benefits.

My breaking point came when I visited the food stamp office for the fourth time. I asked the clerk why I had not received my EBT card in the mail and she informed me that I had been denied. At that moment, I started crying and yelled at her, “You’re telling me that even though I make less than $800 a month, I can’t get on food stamps!?”

It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it was a life changing one. I was frustrated that I would have to reapply for the second time. But even more so, I was heartbroken for my brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends who would never be able to get on food stamps even though they desperately needed them. I watched a system that was designed to help the poor, fail them.

I don’t claim to understand what it truly feels like to be in poverty nor do I claim to understand the agony of going to bed hungry, but from this experience I have come to better understand the challenges the poor face on a daily basis. More importantly, it got me thinking about how I could be an advocate on their behalf as a believer in Christ and a proponent of social justice.

Food security and hunger are growing concerns across the United States. It is no surprise that only 65% of Alabamians who are eligible for food stamps receive them according to the USDA. Additionally, food stamps only provide $3 per person per day for a family of four. That’s simply not enough.

We then must ask ourselves: What is the responsibility of the Church? What role do we have to play? It is time to rethink how we do ministry and find more effective ways to defend the weak and fatherless and uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3.)

Categories : church, social justice
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the obvious (1 of 4)

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Communicating the points of this post seem almost as foolish as to say 2 + 2 = 4. It’s true and everyone knows it. However, I feel the following needs to be shared in this community. The church needs to think on and talk about these things. For that reason, I am posting this intro post which I will then follow-up with 3 posts on action steps that may be taken. These steps will obviously not be exhaustive, but they will hopefully provide some ideas to consider. Here goes the obvious…

These are tough times for many here in the U.S. Tough in ways that we have not seen in a long, long time.

People need to work. Currently official unemployment in the U.S. is hovering around 9.5%. This means that, if your church is the average, 1 out of every 10 breadwinners in your church have lost their job. If there are 2 workers in a family, then 1 of every 5 families has or is struggling with lost income. As there is variance in the concentration of economic turmoil across the country, some cities and communities report numbers that are much higher. Unofficial estimates of under-employed, those that have given up looking for work, and those that do not qualify for benefits would come close to doubling the official number. This is staggering–especially if these numbers are the reality for a meager economic recovery that may be stagnating or changing direction. It is a reasonable inference that unemployment statistics will at best remain static and will at worst shoot much higher.

Unemployment benefits have been extended out to 99 weeks. The first wave of people losing these benefits and their stories are starting to be made public. In desperation, they are spending the last of their savings to have lodging for just a few more days. Yesterday, someone shared with me that their family is going to lose their home within the month if there is not some intervention. Though anecdotal, this conversation brings a weighty immediacy to the statistics for me.

People need to eat. While official reports on the Consumer Price Index indicate that inflation is not an issue, the reality is that some food costs will inevitably rise. With drought in so many parts of the world, grain prices have been shooting upward over the past several weeks. This will impact next years’s food pricing with anything that depends on wheat in its life cycle including bread, milk, beef, corn, etc. These natural inflationary pressures may be fueled by monetary policy and other issues I will not delineate here. Challenges are not isolated to next year’s prices, though. The number of people on food stamps has been increasing for more than a year now. Currently the number stands at 40,000,000 people receiving food stamps (approximately a $150 per month benefit).

People need a place to live. With the economic difficulties, many people now face a reality that the remaining debt in their mortgage is greater than the value of their home. Reports show that 1 out of 5 homes in the U.S. are in this underwater situation. Many cannot afford to make the payments because of lost jobs. Still others have chosen to stop making payments as the idea of building equity has been lost with the drop in housing prices. There are efforts now to stabilize house prices, but there is no guarantee that these efforts will work. It is possible that homes could drop further in value. A large majority of metro areas have seen increasing rates of foreclosure so far this year. It appears this trend will carry on for some time.

The church has a call, yet she is facing significant challenges. Churches across the country are experiencing decreases in giving. Whether traditional or a more contemporary expression of the church, the challenges listed above are impacting her. A growing number are struggling to make budget. Many cuts are being made.

In the next post, I will address the need for prioritization….

Categories : church, trends
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a walk

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Having just moved into the new place a couple of days ago, we are still settling, unpacking, cleaning, organizing, etc. But we took some time out this weekend to pray as a family in our home and out in our community. As we were walking along, something simple, yet beautiful happened.

My youngest daughter has been praying for a couple of years now thanking the Lord for such a wonderful day and usually praying that He would have a wonderful day as well. But as we walked along in our community praying for our neighbors, she began to pray that our neighbors would see Christ in us…that they would come to Him…that He would touch their lives.

It was a blessing for me to be walking along, holding her hand as we agreed in prayer for what God may do in our community. It was a blessing to see her self-focused prayers switch to be prayers about seeing God’s glory revealed so that those that are around us may come to Him. During this time she had learned something from me and I was learning something from her.

Categories : discipleship, story
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a good scrub

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Lots happening lately, so much to write, so little time to put it down on digital paper. But a brief story real quick…

Sometime recently (my days are running together both figuratively and literally right now) I went over to meet one of my new neighbors. Walking toward his porch, I see soap suds and water flowing freely. Turning the corner I see Gus with a stiff, soapy brush and the water hose giving Jesus a good scrub. Yes, he was washing the grime and dirt off of Jesus. In spite of the fact that his Jesus had either a party hat or a horn coming out of his head–it didn’t seem appropriate to do a micro-examination of his Jesus statue when we were exchanging names and pleasantries–what surprised me most was his attentive, diligent concern for cleaning Jesus.

I have been in his home briefly twice already and his sons helped move some furniture. Gus is already showing himself to be a person of piece. More on this in the future as we are days away from moving in among a people who scrub their Jesus.

Categories : story
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Hello BK?

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OK, so I said goodbye to Starbucks. Since that time my closest Starbucks closed up shop. No kidding, there is now brown paper taped over the windows. I didn’t expect my departure to have such an immediate impact. In fact, if my occasional purchase was the difference between viable operation and butcher paper, then maybe it needed to close or relocate.

Since my last post, several have inquired about the next move. Perhaps with the move I will be able to spend some time at the local Burger King. I am a fan of their Mocha Joe–good stuff if you like sweetened, ice coffee. I am doubtful, though, that this will be my main hangout as it has patronage of the locals, but is not representative of their food and culture. More on this later….

One interesting, comical event from this week occurred when a friend and I were making a quick run from the house to Home Depot for some more of some important something or other to prep the new place for my family. My new neighbor’s family friend, Francisco, was outside drinking a beer. He apologized for not having more beers to share, but wanted to know if I would like to come over and share his.

Categories : story
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Farewell Starbucks

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It is time for me to say adios to my backyard coffee vendor. Goodbye Starbucks.

We are not parting on bad terms. In fact, I appreciate how St. Arbucks has always been there for me when I could not find a quaint, local-flavor coffee shop that had a beverage that was at least as good. Though I am not a big fan of their normal coffee, I do enjoy a Starbucks frappucino, caramel macchiato, and mocha–especially with a bit of peppermint added. But my consistent patronage must end. I will still be able to come and see you from time to time when I am on the road, but no more visits in my hometown. This also goes for my other local coffee shop that has such amazing pastries. Though I may still stop by, it will be very, very rare.

As we move into another part of our town where Christ needs to be exalted among an exploding, low-income minority group, I don’t find any of your stores for miles. The roads that demarcate where my new people reside are still at least two miles from your kind, green sign. Though the future place(s) for my work on all things digital while interacting with the people on some level is not clear, I will find a spot where the language and culture reflect the people rather than my more accustomed, U.S. environment. My drink(s) of choice and normal fare will need to change as well.

Thank you Starbucks. I will see you in the future. But until then you can find me in….

Categories : missiology, story
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Mosaic as Church

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These pictures were taken over a period of a few days in London during the recent Upstream Collective JetSet trip (thanks to Brad Hamilton for the assist with the photos). These represent the mosaic that is modern-day London and so many other global cities.

With the influx of immigrants and cultures, there is, some say, now a trans-national individual. For the individual that is a frequent traveler, student of cultures, in close relationship with non-native nationals, and/or as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation immigrant,  there is a stronger connection with a culture that is more diverse than the singular culture of their parents. As a result, it is possible that a resident in a global, urban center may identify with cultures in other large, urban cities around the world more so than with the culture in other smaller cities and towns in his or her native country.

Missiologist and life-long practitioner, SJ expounds on this idea that there is no such thing as a multi-cultural church. Instead, he claims that there is a multi-ethnic church. Though a church may have people from different nations and languages, the reality is that every church has its own culture. For this reason, a city such as London needs thousands of churches and the resulting cultural connections and expressions that come out of this.

Categories : church, trends
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God save the Queen!

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After helping host last week’s JetSet trip with The Upstream Collective, I had some additional meetings in Spain before returning back to London for a return flight home. With all of the conversations and things to do while in London last week, I never had a chance to break away and see Buckingham Palace. But today I took that opportunity on the way from the airport to the hotel. And….

Upon arriving there in the constant dreary rain, I walked past the front of Buckingham wanting to take pictures, but not wanting to ruin a SLR camera. Then I decided to come back to the entrance and try to snap a couple quick picks with the iPhone. That’s when the guards moved from inside the fence to the outside and began stopping all passers-by. Then just moments later, out rolled the Queen of England and Prince Philip.

Then I remembered that: He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. (Daniel 2:21)

Note: In the upcoming weeks I plan to spend more time debriefing some aspects of the trip and the conversation. I am still processing, and still trying to get back home. Some themes I am still thinking about and praying through include global cities, contextualization, presence vs. proclamation, working in a post-Christian context, etc.

Categories : Bible, story
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Reflecting back a bit on the recent JetSet tour, I am posting some of the influences and expressions of the influenced from Paris and France. This post is part of a much larger subset of posts which I will list here soon as well as a smaller follow-on to the London edition of the same.

Paris Picture Collage

Literary Collage

  • Human beings must be known to be loved; but Divine beings must be loved to be known.
  • Imagination decides everything.
    Blaise Pascal
  • A witty saying proves nothing.
  • Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
  • Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.
  • Everything has been figured out except how to live.
  • God is absence. God is the solitude of man.
    Jean-Paul Sartre

Categories : case study, missiology
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