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Monthly Archives: May 2012

More Than 1,000 words: 2 sites with evocative art

Last week, Rachel Held Evans posted a link to this site for the Old & New Project. I spent a fair bit of time looking through the varied images that two graphic designers have assembled, being inspired by scriptures, and committing to excellent design as well as an unfiltered response to the passages that they are designing for. I appreciate that they haven’t tried to wrap every story concept up in a nice, resolved way. There is beauty, confusion and some great humor in these designs, and I encourage you to check them out. What’s more, they are donating proceeds from the sale of prints to the fine folks at blood:water mission.

Are You A Spiritual Refugee?

Elsewhere, David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor, shared a moving illustration entitled, Are You A Spiritual Refugee? As we see the increasing number of people identifying as being of no faith, many of whom are disenfranchised from the churches of origin. After explaining his definitions of spiritual refugee as well as Internally Displaced Persons, Hayward writes, “They are either in unhappily or out altogether. It is a terrible choice to make that some find liberating and others find extremely terrifying. Just like refugees and internally displaced persons.”

Writing like this continues to chalenge me to consider just how welcoming our churches are, and to ask how we can be more intentional about creating spaces that welcome, give rest and peace and excitement and inspiration to those who are seeking a place of refuge.

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2 Cool Resources | 13 Weeks of Goodness

Occasionally I run into some really compelling looking resources to engage groups and, really, entire churches if there’s enough interest in that. The past few weeks have brought 2 of them to my attention that I want to share with whomever reads stuff here, as I think that their approach, attitude and aesthetic are all very much from the space of their creators – young adults with some fascinating thoughts on life, faith and such. It’s an interesting time for writers and publishers of resources, and I’m seeing some great innovation in myriad spaces. So without further ado…

1) GOOD NEWS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: This is a piece written by 2 of my good friends, Adam McLane and Jon Huckins. The fact that I also share office space with them has no bearing on this, as they have no idea that I’m giving them props while we sit in the same space. This is a 6-week small group curriculum that challenges us to think about how we actually are good news in whatever setting we are in – homes, schools, neighborhoods, campuses, etc. The curriculum includes study guides, discussion ideas, as well as hands-on experiments that groups can try each week as a means of putting the ideals into practice.

Don’t just talk about good news. Be good news.

For Jon, much of this comes from his experience leading an intentional community here in San Diego, called Nieu Communities, that also trains members of the community on how to plant more of these groups. Jon and his group have done some amazing things in San Diego’s Golden Hill neighborhood, transforming a vacant handball court into a weekly neighborhood soccer/BBQ and family festival where neighbors gather and experience life together. They’ve also embraced immigrant communities and served as advocates and friends for those trying to navigate a new life in the US, as well as working with the farmers’ market and connecting poor neighbors to fresh fruits & vegetables to improve their health.

On top of that, Jon is leading a group in the Global Immersion Project, which this August will see a group of 10-12 people spend 12 days in Israel & Palestine, spending time with families and community leaders in the West Bank and in Israel, and being immersed in the stories of these communities. Jon is all about sharing life with people.

Adam recently wrote this about an experience he had while working as a youth pastor in the Detroit area that completely re-aligned his views on what it means to be good news to someone:

“You have a horrible job. You go to work early and come home late. You rush around everywhere. And when you are home there are always people coming over at all hours. You have a beautiful yard, too bad you never get to enjoy it. I don’t know what kind of church you work at but I’d never want to be a part of something like that. My life is way better than that.”

Talk about letting the air out of the balloon. I’d spent a couple years waving and trying to make small talk with my next door neighbor and this is the first serious conversation we ever had.

Of course he was right. If all he knew about my family was what he observed through his kitchen window his synopsis was dead on. Everything he said was true. I was working like crazy at the church, but in three years, had done little more than shake my neighbors’ hands and exchange names.

Simply put, my life wasn’t Good News to him. In fact, as he so clearly articulated, the way I lived was pushing him further away from God. I’ve read tons of books on evangelism and apologetics and let me state the obvious:Nothing I could say was going to draw this neighbor closer to God because I was living in a way he didn’t want to have anything to do with.

His prophetic words were a tough pill to swallow. But it was the truth. If I wanted to make an impact on my neighborhood I was going to need to change how I lived before my neighbors.

So please visit the website for The Youth Cartel, a company that Adam is a partner in, and check out Good News In The Neighborhood. It’s a downloadable product that includes print as well as short videos for each chapter. You can download the videos if you’d like (about 2.5 GB) or just stream them when you meet with a group. Enjoy the invitation to be good news!

2) ANIMATE: This is an upcoming 7-week study from the fine folks at Sparkhouse, the ecumenical wing of Augsburg Publishing. Animate features seven conversations on foundational topics of the Christian faith, with each one led by a different leader. The topics and  leaders/authors involved are:

–  God | Faith Is a Quest  –  Brian McLaren
–  Religion | Spirituality Is Not Enough  –  Lillian Daniel
–  Jesus | The Revolution of Love  –  Mark Scandrette
–  Salvation | Abundant Life Now  –  Shane Hipps
–  Cross | Where God Is  –  Nadia Bolz-Weber
–  Bible | A Book Like No Other  –  Lauren Winner
–  Church | An Imperfect Family  –  Bruce Reyes-Chow

You may recognize some names. Brian McLaren is the sort of godfather of the Emergent Christianity conversation. Lillian Daniel is the pastor of First Congregational UCC in Glen Ellyn, IL. Nadia Bolz-Weber is the pastor of House For All Sinners & Saints, an ELCA church plant in Denver, and she also has a great blog at SarcasticLutheran.com. Mark Scandrette is a friend of mine in San Francisco who leads a faith community and is an author/speaker and can be found at JesusDojo.com. I have heard most of the others speak, and by the looks of the teaser video clip this is going to be a wonderful resource for groups.

So there you have it. 2 cool new resources that are sure to spur conversations, discussions and meaningful experiences. Let me know what you think!

You Are Invited: Homebrewed Christianity Uncorked Podcast Taping

You Are Invited: Homebrewed Christianity Uncorked Podcast Taping

Let It Breathe!

For those of you who don’t know, Tripp Fuller, the youth pastor of The Neighborhood Church, a UCC congregation in Palos Verdes Estates, is also a founder of a fantastic podcast and blog community called Homebrewed Christianity. Tripp, Bo Sanders and the rest of their crew have an amazing catalog of theological and cultural conversations with names big and small from around the country. They have more content than I ever have time to stay current on, but I love every time I stop by the site. And there are 2 Homebrewed events that I’d like to invite you to:

1) This coming Thursday, May 24th, Tripp and Erin Wyma, Associate Pastor at Manhattan Beach Community Church, will host a Homebrewed podcast taping called Theology Uncorked (they’re meeting at a wine bar, hence the departure from taps to corks). It’s happening at Friends Of The Vine in Redondo Beach, from 7-9 PM. The topic: “Christianity + Homosexuality = ?” I encourage you to check out the links above, send in questions, and join the conversation.

2) Homebrewed Christianity will be doing a special Annual Gathering podcast on Friday, June 8th, at Alcatraz Brewing Company in Orange, CA, just 2.5 miles from Chapman University. We’ll be setting up at 9 PM and announcing guests soon. Please come join us for a fun way to wrap up the first day of Annual Gathering.

Guest Post: The Slave Trade Chain

Guest Post: The Slave Trade Chain

This is a guest post from friend Stephen Keating. Stephen was a participant at the Romero Center’s recent Sex Trafficking Consultation conference, and he’s written several pieces for Homebrewed Christianity as well as his own blog about the experience. I’m so thankful for Stephen and his willingness to share the experiences and insights that he gained, as well as his heartbreak and emotional responses. Please take the time to check out the rest of his writing about the experience.

I emphasized some statistics in the last post, but now I want to share a story. How does a girl become a trafficking victim? Friday afternoon our group from Centro Romero went into Tijuana and visited several different sites. We met a man (I’ve omitted his name for safety) in Tijuana who runs a safe house for girls told us about the economic chain involved. The trafficking occurs along a well-established route:

A large number of victims are taken from communities of extreme poverty in places like Honduras and Guatemala. Traffickers go down into these communities and identify potential children. They approach the mother of the child and say “That’s a beautiful daughter, can I buy her for $100?” Because of the extreme poverty, lack of education, and the dire needs of their large families, the mothers often agree to sell their children (often with the added incentive of violence). Once the traffickers have purchsed the children, they are moved to port towns and then on to warehouses in Chiapas (southern Mexico). In these huge warehouses, there are rows and rows of children with signs hung around their neck with prices. Brothel owners, pimps, and other traffickers go to the warehouse to purchase the children for approximately $200-500. They are then moved from southern Mexico up to border towns like Tijuana. At this point, the children are sold again for $500-2000. In Tijuana, a girl on the street can be propositioned by U.S. “sex tourists” for 10 minutes for $40. A very young girl will go for $200-500, virgins for even higher. Pratically anything you want, if you have the money, you can get. The girls are sold to 10-15 times a day.

Some of the girls are moved from town to town to keep their profits high. Others are moved across the border. Traffickers may connect with Americans and pay them to use their children’s birth certificates to move the trafficked child into America. Once in America, they are sold for approximately $15,000.

This whole process can occur in 15-30 days. Throughout the process, the children are raped and their spirits are broken. They are manipulated into believing that they are worthless. Pictures of their brothers and sisters are shown to them and they are told that If they ever speak out to anyone, their family will be attacked.

The Mexican government estimates that 137,000 children, women, and men are currently caught in this chain. In reality, that number is probably much, much higher.

Ouch! A Reminder That Nobody Knows You Unless You Say Hello

Ouch! A Reminder That Nobody Knows You Unless You Say Hello

Last week I was at a conference in Palm Springs for a couple of days. It’s called the BOOST Conference, and it’s for those who serve kids in out of school time programs (before & after school stuff). As someone who has been a volunteer youth worker for most of the past 20 years, I love this environment. It’s fun, exciting, smart, dedicated and a wonderful group of “all-in” people. I got to hear some of the talk by Sir Ken Robinson about the need for creativity in education, a little from Milton Chen of Edutopia, as well as get to hang out with some of the most brilliant and engaging people in education and youth services. It was wonderful.

One of the booths in the exhibit hall area was for The Trevor Project, a non-profit dedicated to crisis intervention and suicide prevention in the LGBT community, particularly among youth and young adults. I’d heard of The Trevor Project via social media, where they do an excellent job of networking. And of course having some prominent supporters like Neil Patrick Harris and Dustin Lance Black doesn’t hurt, but I discovered their involvement later on.

I struck up a conversation with the staff person at the table, asking more about his work as a trainer and presenter that worked with schools, community organizations, etc. I asked him, “do you ever work with any faith-based groups to provide resources or address the topic?”

“We work with anyone who wants us to come be with them.”

“I get that,” I said, “but I’m someone who is in faith circles a lot, and I’m curious about that community in particular, since so many LGBT youth come from religious households that may not be safe places for them.”

“Well, I’ve only been with the organization for a few months, so I can’t speak to the long term track record, but I’ve never been asked to do a presentation for a religious group.”

Ouch!

We continued talking, and I explained that the UCC as well as several other mainline groups are active in advocating for and serving with LGBT communities, and that there may be avenues available for The Trevor Project to provide some insight and education about helping LGBT youth and young adults to find safe places free of condemnation. He thanked me and we agreed to be in touch in the days ahead.

As I left I wondered just how actively we are as churches in not just providing safe places for sisters and brothers in crisis, but in letting our communities know that we are safe places? Many of our churches are decent at that, and I’m not suggesting a systematic failure. But I recall so many conversations with my progressive UCC family where they encountered someone who had just discovered a Christian community that was active in works of justice as an integral part of their faith life. And often the response is, “well we’ve been doing that for years.” A few months ago in that scenario, the person new to this discovery shot back at a group, “well I never knew you existed, so you may want to step up your efforts a bit more.” Ouch! Again!

But it was a good “ouch!” It reminded me that I too often stand content with the knowledge that “my” community is, in theory, a place that espouses values that serve and comfort the disenfranchised, the left out and the left back. But being a place for those fellow travelers and seeking those folks out to let them know that they aren’t alone are two very different things. It caused me to never rest on the virtual laurels of thought and assent when those things are meaningless without the active implementation of those ideals. It’s the difference between the theoretical and the practical.

We often criticize the practical applications of others as not being in line with our theory when we haven’t a leg to stand on when it comes to practice.

So thanks to The Trevor Project for the reminder that the work is never done, and we are to seek out the lost and left out and injured with an abandon that inspired a shepherd to leave 99 sheep to find the one that was lost. A shepherd that didn’t cater to the demands of the contented masses, but rather sought out the deep needs of the left out.