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My friend Dean Smith started Urban Connection Austin which is focused on enabling communities to rebuild themselves, not to rely on charity, not to rely on government, but instead to learn how to empower the members of that community. Education is key to making people stronger, learning how to use government services, opening communication channels with businesses, working alongside faith communities, schools, and neighborhood associations to build a sense of ‘we’.

Here is an article in Community Impact Newspaper about Urban Connection Austin that mentions what I think is a key to success for these types of ministries. That is the ability for faith communities to be humble enough to say to themselves, to their people, “We are not the solution to the problems of this neighborhood.” We do not need to own the solution, we simply need to agree that love is needed in this area. When we decide to love, we will decide to ask of each other, to those in the community, and to God, “How can we help?”. And, then we will be quiet and listen…

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Just passing this along. I just bought this and it’s amazing…

We are proud to announce the official release of the CALL+RESPONSE soundtrack on Itunes today.
This took a lot of hard work to put together, but its finally here!

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=298699580&s=143441

17 Live Performances from the movie along with several unreleased tracks from:

Matisyahu doing a historic rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”
Cold War Kids weaving dissonance and melody into their performance of “We Used To Vacation”
Rocco Deluca offers a stirring and perfect performance of “Buss Ride” from his last album
The Scrolls, now known as W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) performing “Rise Up”

All these along with Natasha Bedingfield, Switchfoot, Talib Kweli, Five For Fighting, Justin Dillon and others.

And this soundtrack would not be complete without a little love from our brother Dr. Cornel West dropping
his wisdom on us all!

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=298699580&s=143441

Get it today.
Tell all your friends and family today.
Gift this to everyone for christmas today.
Facebook everyone you know and want to know today.

Today the faith community we call home, made a bold political statement. We agreed to center our existence in this politically and economically charged culture of America upon the love that is God. And, we put it in writing, signed it, and will deliver to the President (whoever that may be), and to some of the other powers that be.

Each week we profess some version or variation of Mark 12:28-31

“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Today, we finished our journey through the 10 commandments of the pledge that student protesters agreed to abide in Birmingham, AL in 1963, and we decided to not only proclaim our statement for love, we decided to sign it and deliver it.

We have decided as a community of faith to resist the temptations of fear and greed.
“The hallmark of political nihilism is the public appeal to fear and greed, and too much of American politics today as been reduced to such vulgar appeals.” —Cornel West

Instead we have chosen to make a political statement that does not succumb to fear, greed, nor power.

Instead we have chose to make a political statement that does profess God’s love is at the center of who we proclaim to be and the goal we will continue to seek.

Just as MLK and the movement for racial justice did in the sixties, we seek to learn what is our truest expression of God’s love in this time and place. And, for this we rely on those who came before us just as MLK did. For a little background on what I’m referring, read the following from http://www.nathanielturner.com/

While others viewed nonviolence as only one of the alternatives, for Martin Luther King, Jr., it was “only road to freedom.” In September 1948 while a student at Crozer Theological: Seminary, he heard Dr. A.J. Muste and Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson preach of the life and teaching of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of Indian independence. Since his entrance at Crozer, Martin had begun a serious quest for a way to eliminate economic and social evil.

He began a prolonged study of the writings of Gandhi and became a convert to the Gandhian concept of satyagraha (truth-force or love-force) and atmbal (soul-force). King described his conversion thusly:

“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. At that time, however, I acquired only an intellectual understanding and appreciation of the position, and I had no firm determination to organize it in a socially effective situation.” [Strength To Love, p. 151]

One year later, Dr. King became involved in a crisis in which the philosophy of nonviolent resistance could be applied. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old seamstress was arrested because she refused to give her bus seat to a white man.

When the Black people of Montgomery decided that it was “more honorable to walk the streets in dignity than to ride the buses in humiliation,” they called on Dr. King to be their spokesman and leader of the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The association began a nonviolent boycott of Montgomery’s transit system.

From the beginning a basic philosophy guided the movement. This guiding principle has since been referred to variously as nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, and passive resistance. But in the first days of the protest none of these expressions was mentioned; the phrase most often heard was “Christian love.” It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action. It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love.…

Nonviolent resistance … emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method. [Stride Toward Freedom, pp. 84–85]

By 1963 the following pledge was being signed by volunteers for sit-in demonstrations in the restaurants of Birmingham:

I hereby pledge myself—my person and body—to nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:

1. MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.

2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.

3. WALK AND TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.

4. PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.

5. SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.

6. OBSERVE with both friend and for the ordinary rules of courtesy.

7. SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.

8. REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.

9. STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

10. FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.

Name

Address

Phone

Nearest Relative

Address

Besides demonstrations, I could also help the movement by:

(Circle the proper items)

Run errands, Drive my car, Fix food for volunteers, Clerical work, Make phone calls, Answer phones, Mimeograph, Type, Print signs, Distribute leaflets.

Alabama Christian Movement For Human Rights

Birmingham Affiliate of S.C.L.C.

505½ North 17th Street

F.L. Shuttesworth, President

Today, we seek to become part of this satyagraha, this “truth force” that proclaims at its core, our existence is due to love, and this creator of love is an unstoppable force.

In a previous post https://simplegestures.wordpress.com/2007/07/01/my-sock-puppet-has-a-hole-in-the-toe/ from July of 2007 I expressed my concerns and fears about where my family belonged. We were considering moving closer to downtown Austin, away from the ‘burbs where Lane & I grew up…

I am torn between the people and place I love and where I live and work. I feel called, I feel a reason for devoting my life, my family to downtown Austin and the university. But, I live 20+ miles away in Cedar Park and work out west of town near the lake. I’ve been reading “Breaking the Missional Code” and it’s a little formulaic for my tastes. For example, when it brings up the need to love the people to which you want to minister, it says you must learn to love the people first. I agree, but I’m asking the question, “Am I following God’s will if I’m forcing myself to learn to love a people?” I have nothing against the people of Cedar Park and think I could learn to love them and to love what they love, but as the Bass article points out I have a real struggle with this “hyper-individuality” and consumerism that seeps into the core of life here in the suburbs. It effects me just as much as it does my neighbors.

So, what do I do? Do I follow my heart and devote myself fully to the people of downtown and the university area? At what cost? I so long for the mess of life lived in tight community with the other and don’t know where to throw my hat.

The decision was made for us, we couldn’t sell our house and so we were “stuck” in the ‘burbs. Life is curious in the ways we’re forced through sometimes unwanted, or even unpleasant seasons to be recreated. That’s one of the things I love about my live, that I’ve been witness to my own rebirth in so many ways.

Tonight…
I’m sitting on my front porch watching the children run up and down the sidewalk in eager anticipation of tonight’s Halloween party.
I’m listening to the laughter of the moms as they prepare the haunted house.

Time marches on like the dutiful soldier, and I grow older and hopefully the edges are beginning to soften. It is in these moments of life settling into a beautiful rhythm that I feel most alive.

I

realize

the

noise

surrounding

me

is

what

I

long

to

hear.

We are in this together, each family striving to love our kids and each other as best we know how. It is messy, it’s jilted and sometimes awkward…which means it must be real. Once again, I have been forced into another rebirth, and another new season of life. Once again, God has given me what I desire, but it’s done in His way, not mine. I am thankful and blessed…

As I read about the struggles of one friend, I am often saddened at what he went through, but I’m hopeful he is in the midst of finding his way to a people that will love him for who he is, because he is quite remarkable.

I, too have struggled with many of the same frustrations as my friend, but I’ve been fortunate to find a new tribe that is about honesty, even when, no especially when it gets messy and has no particular place to go except towards one another. I missed worship this past week, but my friend Bob wrote the post below on the day. And, as I read I was saddened because I wasn’t there, but excited that such a place and a people exist for no other reason than to celebrate who God is and what he has done for us. So, anyway enjoy Bob’s reflections on “midnight at Denny’s”…

midnight @ denny’s

yesterday was powerful for me in our faith community

thru a fluke of acute viral nasopharyngitis (usually known as the common cold), I taught Bible study.  we talked aboutDeuteronomy 2, when Moses muses thru mementos of the journey all around the desert.  I blasted thru 8x as many media references as Scriptural – as usual, I could have really used an editor.

it felt really meaningful to stand in that space, among people of a journey, and to just start.  it did not have a plan or an outline or even a point.  it was as close to jazz as a non-musician like me will ever know.

and it’s still there – even after the boom & staying far away, at all costs.  no clue what to do with that.

worship was ragged & fluid and just a smack between my soul.  stories shared, a preacher crying, communion shared in small groups.  it touched me so that tom kimmel, an artist I’ve come to know & adore thru journey, played softly & tenderly

dave madden shared about a new idea – a stuffuary, where you could check out what other folks in the community had & borrow it.  simple idea, but it really clicked.

after worship, a group of us grabbed lunch at  phil’s ice house.  we all came to a shared conclusion – our faith community s hard to describe to people who have never been to it.  the labels & short-hand just do not bound this community, so we struggled & stretched.

then it came – one of our friends said that Journey IFC is

midnight @ denny’s

that’s it – a setting that is messy & gorgeous, a time that is just between then & now & tomorrow, a grab bag of journeyers who gather to drink (bad) coffee and just breathe.  all kinds of folks, taking a break in their journeyers, sharing food & their troubles and an encouragement.  splitting the bill & sharing a ride to where they are off to next.

midnight @ denny’s – it was a powerful one for me.

http://thecorner.typepad.com/bc/2008/05/midnight-dennys.html

I’m sitting here taking a break from my morning in the yard. Been hard at work trying to take out unwanted grass from under our big oak tree and move to another part of the yard. My muscles ache from digging and pulling and raking, and it’s hard to type this, but as I sit here listening to the birds chirp and the gentle morning breeze whisper through the open windows I reflect back to when I was a child.

 

I hated working in the yard! Mom and Poppy were always out there tending to the flowers, the grass, and the garden and I couldn’t understand why they worked so hard on their days off from the real world. I think I now have a glimpse into why this was and still is so important to them. This is our opportunity to work alongside God in His creation, to be conspirators with Him in real, honest, tangibly productive ways. We don’t have to say anything, we just have to be quiet and enjoy the earth as we encounter it and Him…even if we don’t recognize what’s happening.

Now I as an adult I can thank my parents for introducing me to the garden. And, now I know it is because of them that I now enjoy my time in the garden. 

There is a voice that speaks to me like no other, where I find God in ways I could never have imagined. If you’ve never seen a Nooma.com film, check out the link…For 48 hours only, enjoy the online premiere of Open, the newest film in our series with Rob Bell. Presale is now available at NOOMA.com with orders shipping on or before February 22  

Went for a ride yesterday with my friend Dean to explore life in a neighborhood very much unlike mine. The “pizza slice” area of Austin bounded by IH35 to the east, Rundberg to the north, and Hwy 183 to the south is teetering on the brink. Pockets of working class homes surrounded by older, rundown apartment buildings, warehouses, and miles of retail strip centers provide witness to lives in various states of existence. What looks like it was once a community of middle-class hope now looks closer to a disjointed mixture of immigrants, the marginalized, the elderly, and the poor seeking only to survive. Yes, there are still areas that are well-kept and inviting, but for the most part the area is in serious need of revitalization. 

 I teeter on the see-saw between hope and despair on most days, and as I drove around I kept thinking, “What if…?” but would soon think, “It’s hopeless…!” I can only rely on what I understand Larry James preaches, that it is in the empowering of those within the community to resolve their own issues that success will be achieved. And, as I looked around at the many adults I saw no hope in them, or at least hope that has been slowly seeping away. But, when I would see children I would see hope, the glimmer of what is yet to be. I think it is in fueling these sparks of hope that success will be found.

I am enough of a realist to know that we will always have neighborhoods like this, but I am enough of an idealist to know that we can rally round our children and the hope they give us all. So, when I found the following article from the Dallas Morning News on Larry’s blog today, I had a renewed since of hope.

Together, we can decide to join God where He is already at work, if only we are willing to have hope. In this Advent season we are called to Hope and to Wait for what is yet to come, but in the New Year I would propose that we get off our couches and get busy.

Found this at Matt Ritchie’s blog “Running with the Lion” and thought it relevant to part of what I’m struggling with, and what I’m sure many others are dealing with.

Occasionally, when the subject of missional living comes up during a conversation with a young parent, I will hear something like this:

One way you can be “missional” is to raise good children. Thats what I’m doing.

The idea is that being a responsible parent and instilling the right attitudes and behaviors in your child is an important spiritual responsiblity. Thus, “missionality” is recharacterized as going about the critical task of child rearing without regard to the reaching out to the marginalized in society.

But it seems to me that this recharacterization does a serious disservice to our children.

As a parent, my job is to raise my children to be disciples of Jesus, and Jesus’ life was about reaching out into the margins of society. How will my children ever learn to imitate Jesus in this way if they (a) never see their parents doing it and (b) are never given opportunities to learn how to do it themselves?

Rather than serving as a free pass for avoiding the marginalized, the responsiblities of parenthood ought to be urging us toward greater commitment to serving those who are weak and powerless in our communities. 

“It’s time to stop complaining about the church we’re disillusioned with and become the church we dream of.”Shane Claiborne