Category Archives: Community development

In the emptiest of places…

Politics aside, there is a dire need today to fight for justice for those who have no voice. A well kept secret is that God plays favorites. The immigrant, the poor, the stranger among us are mentioned more than 2000 times in Scripture. 

Folks are setting aside the next 24 hours to pray and fast. It’s not about whether you eat food or not. Isaiah 58 throws that idea in the mud.  I would invite you to sit with these ancient words today and see what stirs…

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!

    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!

Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,

    face my family Jacob with their sins!

They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,

    and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—

    law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’

    and love having me on their side.

But they also complain,

    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?

    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.

    You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.

    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do

    won’t get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    a day to show off humility?

To put on a pious long face

    and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting,

    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    to break the chains of injustice,

    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,

    free the oppressed,

    cancel debts.

What I’m interested in seeing you do is:

    sharing your food with the hungry,

    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,

    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,

    being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on,

    and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

    The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.”

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,

    quit blaming victims,

    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry

    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,

    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.

    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—

    firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,

    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,

    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,

    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,

    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath

    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,

If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,

    God’s holy day as a celebration,

If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’

    making money, running here and there—

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!

    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”

    Yes! God says so!

The Message (MSG)

What brought you here?

Such a simple question to start a conference. Simple, yet profound. It is an invitation to story. 

The journey to community development work is always circuitous. Each person in the CCDA LA conference had a story. Community development is rooted in story. 

My story intersects with your story. Together, they create our story. Our stories together create the story of a neighborhood, of a city, of a region. There are stories reflective of our racial experience, including the gifts and wound. 

CCDA is all of that, and more. It is a space for renewal. It is a space for collective repentance. It is a space to remember that my tribe is part of a bigger people, a family. 

Would a are named, injustice exposed. I am deeply aware of ongoing fear and prejudice between white and Hispanic brothers and sisters in my town. Sisters have invited me to wrestle with wounds to my African American brothers and sisters. This was a place to listen more deeply to the Asian American experience, to the stories of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. 

It matters. Story matters. 

It is in the naming of story that healing occurs. It is in the receiving of story that compassion awakens and flows. 

And a story, a neighborhood, a city begins to heal. May it be so. 

Artist Quincy Clemons.Title:”fear less”

El Camino 

And so I am here. CCDA national convention, a gathering of folks doing community development in their own cities and neighborhoods. A gathering that creates safe spaces to wrestle with the intersectionality of faith and justice. More than 50 of us cane from Neighborhood Ministries in Phienix, plus 17 youth from the social justice team. My tribe. 

This was the view from our window at 2am. We were over a techno club, our beds rattling to the beat. We watched as people streamed out, laughter and shrieks punctuating the night air. 
CCDA is a space to listen to story. Stories up front, stories one on one. Delving into story for me means sitting in workshops on domestic violence, teen pregnancy, unaccompanied minors, LGBTQ issues,  immigration reform, border state challenges. These stories will haunt me and stir my heart to action. 

Missing from the conversation are conversations about human rights violations in birth in our culture. Where are the stories of women of all races, knit together by shared experiences of birth violence? As a midwife, the absence of these stories feels like a palpable presence. 

And so I will go back to my community, to my neighborhood, to my sphere of influence. Back to engage story, to invite change, to listen, to be present. 

What about you? 

Lenten writings:  Joy coming 

“Joy releases love and compassion. The joy comes at times when you are needing relief. It comes when you are overcoming. And it brings hope.”

  (John Perkins, Neighborhood Ministries, 3/6/16)

“How are you?”  People greet me with this question all the time. “I am here”  is my answer. And that is enough. 

How do I explain that I am in a season of healing and strengthening. There is not day to day or even week to week change. I can see month to month change, perhaps; as I look back from the perspective of week eleven. Nerves take time to regenerate. Concussions take time to heal. Bones take time to knit. Ligaments take time to strengthen. 

Time. 

“I have time.”

I say that often right now. Time to listen, time to pray, time to reflect, time to be still, time to envision. 

And that is enough for today. Enough to see the sunset changing its hue from my porch. Enough to watch the sparrows scratching in last year’s leaves in the morning light. Enough to hear the resonant snores of a pug. 

Enough time. 

Enough joy. 

Because it comes, John Perkins says. It comes when I am needing relief. It comes when I am overcoming. It comes. And it brings hope.