Category Archives: Community development

The Lenten Writings: remember

God of peace,

God of justice,

God of freedom,

We give you thanks for your cadences of peace, justice, and freedom,

Cadences that have surged through the lives

Of Martin,

And Ralph

And Rosa,

And John,

And Fred,

And Hosea,

And Jesse,

And Andy,

And all that nameless mass of risk-takers who have been

Obedient to your promises

And susceptible to your dreams.

Deliver us from amnesia

Concerning their courage in the face of violence,

Their peace-making against hate,

And their hunger for you in a devouring economy

Deliver us from amnesia:

Turn our memory into hope,

Turn our gratitude into energy,

Turn our well-being into impatience.

That these same cadences of your will may pulse even among us.


Source: “Deliver us from amnesia”, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003.

The Lenten Writings: just you

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

(By Teresa of Avila)

The Lenten Writings: Jesus and the disinherited

The disinherited will know for themselves

that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men

which is committed to overcoming the world.

It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture and no condition of men.

For the privileged and the under privileged alike,

if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline,

he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of a son of God.

High Destiny, by Howard Thurman. From the Lenten Poetry companion, neighborhood ministries.

I was first introduced to Howard Thurman in the Mystic Activists. His book, Jesus and the Disinherited, was our focus this fall for a month. It was not enough time to do it justice. But I am learning that theology must come from the bottom up.

We are in a focused time of prayer for our Dreamers. Tomorrow is the deadline for a permanent solution for these children, now grown, who were brought to the states before age 5. They are woven into the very fabric of our culture and society. They are our teachers, they are in nursing classes and serving in our Armed Forces. Dreamers work in every service profession. And they live in a constant state of uncertainty. They never know when their permission could be suddenly gone. And so, quite literally, would they.

The challenge of Scripture must also be read from the bottom up. This is who Jesus hung out with, which often earned harsh criticism from the powers that were in place. The validity and application of Scripture is only as significant as its application to the lowest among us. In fact, when we understand Scripture in this manner, we also see ourselves in that same way. We are the they, living in the most need and desperation.

It is only from this reading of Scripture that we can form a compassionate response to any issues of justice. Literally, the word for compassion with passion or with feeling. Compassion comes when I am moved in my innermost self by the pain of another. I must choose to enter the story. And today, the story is that of our dreamers.

I would ask you today to stand in prayer for the dreamers.


The Lenten Writings:

“We are not experiencing utopia here on earth.

But God meant things to be easier than we have made them.

A man has a natural right to food, clothing and shelter.

A family needs work as well as bread.

Property is proper to man.

We must keep repeating these things.

Eternal life begins now, “all the way to heaven is heaven, because He said, ‘I am the Way.’”

The Cross is there of course, but “in the Cross is joy of spirit.”

And love makes all things easy …

Love is indeed a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, of each of us, but it is the only answer …

to the saints everyone is child and lover.

Everyone is Christ.”

Utopia by Dorothy Day. From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Neighborhood Ministries.

A harsh and dreadful thing…

The phrase reminds me of the Denise Levertov reading where she equates mercy to rage and joy.

Why do we make the gospel into a Hallmark movie? This thing that we are asked to do is both easy and hard. The call to love God and love neighbor, is the whole deal in one phrase. And it takes a lifetime to live into.

These natural rights are not the norm for many even in our “wealthy” country. Privilege is real, an unseen line that divides and creates distinction. If you don’t believe that, you probably live from a place of invisible privilege.

Eternal life begins now.” The kingdom of God is a both and. It is coming and it is here. I am to long for it and work for it today. It is the sublime paradox.

It is in this paradox that I find hope. And love, as easy to love as it is to love a little child or a lover.

And this is the kingdom of God. Even so come.

The Lenten Writings: not yet…


Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,

Hope and desire set free,

Even the weariest river

Winds somewhere to the sea—“

But we have only begun

To love the earth.

We have only begun

To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?

— so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?

— we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,

only begun to envision

how it might be

to live as siblings with beast and flower,

not as oppressors.

Surely our river

cannot already be hastening

into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot

drag, in the silt,

all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet—

there is too much broken

that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other

that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know

the power that is in us if we would join

our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must

complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

~ Denise Levertov ~

(Candles in Babylon)

So much is unfolding that must complete it’s gesture…

I am in a place of unfolding. The unfolding of things that are new, much of which is unseen at this time.

The unfolding also means a closing.

Why is it that grief enjoy so often go hand-in-hand?

This poem is haunting.

We have only begun to imagine justice and mercy…

At Neighborhood, we swim in rivers where we talk about justice. And sometimes, in the river, The current threatens to pull us under. The fight for justice is real. It has faces. It has stories. It is salty with tears.

And then in the invitation to step into new arenas, the questions remain, hanging in the air.

Not yet, not yet–there is too much Broken that must be mended.

Source: Levertov, Denise. “Beginners” from Candles in Babylon. New York: New Directions, 1982.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.

The Lenten Writings: unencumbered

My soul feels lean, trim, sparse, excess clutter left behind, desire and clutching set aside.

And for the sake of what, of what value is this the thinning, weaning, letting go?

Only for the sake of a clear eye, and open mind, and emptied heart.

All this, yes, to enter unencumbered into oneness with the One

Where nothing is everything.

This is this season of letting go. Physically, letting go of 24 years of accumulation in a house. Emotionally, letting go of a place where we have invested, one family, one group of families, committing to one neighborhood of families. That is the essence of community development, is it not?

I don’t know, really, what is on the other side.

What I do know, is that there is an invitation to release. Release into the not knowing.

Could it be that in that space, is the place that is unencumbered? Perhaps even in my soul?

A wise voice in my journey says that this will be a season where grief and joy hold hands.

To the journey ahead.


Source: “my soul feels lean” from My soul feels lean: poems of kids and restoration, Joyce Rupp. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2013.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.

The Lenten writings: Going on a trip…

I’m thinking about taking a trip. Would you like to join me?

How I loved those words as a child. Today, I was invited to go on a journey. At the Mystic Activists study at neighborhood ministries we were given a Lenten poetry companion. I asked if I could share it with you, day by day.

Want to come along?

Ash Wednesday.

A new experience for this recovering evangelical. It is profoundly moving to me to be marked by the ashes. Such a strong symbol, so visible. I see people looking at me differently, focusing on the forehead. Kevin Starr led us this morning, from the Catholic Diocese. Normally, he is in the jails; but he said we were not so different.

That’s what I love about neighborhood actually, such an awareness of being in the mess together.

Opening Words by Denise Levertov

I believe the earth

Exists, and

In each minim mote

Of its dust the holy

Glow of thy candle.


Unknown I know,

Thou spirit,


Lover of making, of the

Wrought letter,

Wrought flower,

Iron, deed, dream,

Dust of the earth,

Help thou my

Unbelief. Drift

Gray become gold, in the beam of

Vision. I believe with

Doubt. I doubt and

Interrupt my doubt with belief. Be,

Beloved, threatened world.

Each minim


Not the poisonous luminescence forced

Out of its privacy.

The sacred lock of its cell

Broken. No,

The ordinary glow

Of common dust in ancient sunlight.

Be, that I may believe.


And so it begins. Welcome to Lent.

What if…

A lament for our Dream Act kids…We were the immigrants once. We are the immigrants today. We are the they. 

What if…we stopped drawing lines in the sand between us. 

What if…we stopped building walls. 

What if…we stopped throwing words like grenades. 

What if…we stopped using fear to form laws. 
What if…we started daring to turn over Temple tables. 

What if…we started with the scroll of good news to the poor. 

What if…we started to break our Samaritan neighbor world view. 

What if…we started to love our neighbor. 
What then?!
Would justice roll down?

Would swords get repurposed as plowshares? 

Would children who took a long trip keep their papers?

Would old sheriffs have to keep the law?
And then?

What if. 

What if the kingdom were to come. 

On earth. 

As it is in heaven. 
Every tribe. 

Every tongue. 

Every nation. 

Every body. 

Welcome home. 

Home where you belong. 
What. If. 

Extortion for birth. 

When we talk about the healthcare crisis or legislation and its potential impact, we must remember faces and stories of people. Real people, people with real needs. 

I hear the stories all the time. Women with a Medicaid plan that doesn’t cover prenatal care, only the birth. Women who are told they can’t get care unless they can pay a deposit bigger than a week’s income. Women who are told they can’t pick up records to change care unless they pay hundreds of dollars. Women who are told that their birth will be $20,000 cash. Women told they can’t be discharged from the hospital until they pay five or $10,000.

I could go on. These are just stories that I’ve heard this month. Legal? Yes. And no. But common, nonetheless. 

As a healthcare provider in this community in this time in history, how do I show up?

Showing up has to look like bold justice, gift wrapped in creativity.  

For me, it looks like a radical sliding scale, with births from $500 to 4000 depending on income. It looks like forgetting about what I’m “supposed” to be doing in my practice, and wrapping women around with the kinds of services I think they deserve. It looks like finding ways to nurture them, bringing in Wise and caring birthworkers who support Lactation, encapsulate placentas, give massages, do acupuncture. It looks like providing birth supplies and pools. It looks like five or six postpartum visits, maybe in the home if that’s what’s needed. It looks like herbs, lovingly crafted into teas and baths. 

I’m not saying this to promote my practice. I’m saying this is what every single one of us needs to do in some manner. Call the legislators yes. Yes and….

And come up with creative solutions within our sphere of influence, solutions that empower women. Solutions that treat them with dignity. Solutions that create safe spaces for their babies to be born. Solutions that hold space for trauma to be healed, for redemption to occur. 

Maybe that’s what’s required. To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly.

Grace for today.  

Today is kids club… the in between Sunday. It’s the day we get to hear from the work crew and interns. They have been working their tails off in the hottest week of summer. It hit 120° the first day. Neighborhood. My kids get to be loved on here, with 450+ others and 120 volunteers. 

Amd change that is occurring in the leaders’ hearts…

It is interwoven with Story. Story of a child’s life and reality. Story of homes that are not safe sometimes. So kids club, it is a respite; a taste of something different. This is the place where someone shows up, just for that child.

This story used to seem so far removed to me, a story of the inner-city. I know now, that it was my story too. I wish that there had been adults with eyes to see, when I was a kid; to see beyond.

And so, when I felt myself swept away with the crazy music on the first day, I hold space for these kids playing tag around me in the middle of worship. I asked that there would be adults who show up for them, and who have eyes to see.

May it be so.