When things go WELL in a city

It’s easy to get caught up in the stories of Baltimore, Ferguson, and so many more places and possibly think, “Wow… NOTHING seems to be going right.”

What we don’t get to hear enough of is when things go WELL in a city. My city, where I pastor, is an inner ring suburb of the Twin Cities. In my time as pastor the demographic has flipped from mainly white and older to plurality of cultures and younger. It has one of the lowest median price ranges for homes in the metro. Over 80 percent of our kids in the schools qualify for free or reduced lunch. The high school 15 years ago was 73 percent white and 27 percent all other groups. Today it’s completely flipped.

And things go WELL in my city. Last night I was privileged to give away scholarships for my Kiwanis group. I love this night and insist I be the one to give this scholarship away. I would actually go to this night if I wasn’t giving any money away just to watch.

In a city with these so-called issues, our community comes together to give away a massive amount of money in scholarships. Last night it was just shy of $225,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors. No other school in the metro touches that goal. Rich school districts, like school districts… there just isn’t a close comparison.

One young lady who received our Kiwanis scholarship is going to the University of Minnesota. She received over $10,000 in scholarships last night from various donors. Her family is a new American family. She is making a way in this country her parents have worked hard to give her. She gets to plow new territory for her family and bring hope to the next generation of Americans.

Please remember, media won’t focus on when things go WELL. You have to get out and see these stories for themselves. And they are stories worth hearing… and telling.

I love my city and love telling others how WELL it can be in the city.

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When the large needs to learn from the small

In the church context, that’s another conversation. And, let’s be honest, probably one that won’t be had in the near future.

But there IS a context it SHOULD happen… and SOON.

There are two situations linked in a way I think it’s time to say, “The large could learn from the small.”

One article posted by a couple of teachers in the school district where I pastor struck a cord. It’s about the tough environment of teaching high needs/high risk kids and the lack of support that happens in that environment.

The other event is Baltimore. The recent riots and the whole issue of community policing, poverty, race, and more.

I want to invite anyone and everyone to Columbia Heights, MN. We don’t do everything well, but we have an attitude to do things RIGHT.

The schools are incredibly diverse and deal with poverty. In the midst of that, along with the harsh conditions teachers deal with day in and day out, success can happen. It’s not always noticeable, and that’s a shame. But our school system is visionary in how they educate kids of all economic and intellectual development.

Our city does community policing the right way. It’s always a struggle, but it’s done WELL. They hire for diversity when at all possible. They get involved in the schools as big brothers/sisters. They have open gym times. They know kids before they have to deal with kids on trouble. It makes a huge difference.

“Big” cities need to see how this place does it.

They love the community and invite the community to the table… ALL of the community. As a pastor, I’ve always enjoyed wonderful access to our community and have worked many years to bring positive solutions to the city. They allow us to help mentor kids in the high school. They allow us places at the table in key committees within the city and the district… as the church. 

They work hard to have all voices at the table and when a segment is missing, it actually bothers them.

We can do things right. Minneapolis should come up all of three blocks from their border and learn. Baltimore should come out here. Ferguson should REALLY come out here.

Talk to our leaders. Talk to our churches. Talk to our mosque.

It’s not perfect. But it’s not Baltimore, either.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

Faithful saints

With the flood of self-promotion, self-branding, social marketing, etc., craze we constantly battle, what gets missed are the true saints.

Between the hollering online over any issue, Baltimore, gay marriage, war, etc., it’s hard to remember there are simply MILLIONS of good people living good lives doing good things… quietly.

A saint has just left us. No one will know her name but her family. She was long gone from our church due to being closer to family members late in life. But she lived a quiet life of faith in the midst of extreme physical struggle and a family that didn’t follow God very well.

The best memory I will have of her is going to visit her in the hospital years ago. When I came in she was reading her Bible. Through her sickness and pain, she looked up and smiled at me. Then she asked me about another member in our church. “I heard she was in the hospital and was just praying for her.”

I will never forget that precious memory. Through her pain she always found joy because she knew the blessed presence of Jesus in the midst of any trial.

Lord, help us be more faithful… and good… in our walk. Let goodness flow from us as we walk well with you.

Following simple directions can make life so much easier

Each generation has had trouble with directions in some form. As much as I like to poke fun at the current generation, and it’s easy pickings because I teach in a college, I am reminded of my most embarrassing moment as well.

In 9th grade biology we were given a list of instructions on a page. At the top it read: “Be sure to read all the instructions before beginning.” It was a list of silly activities to do, including writing your name backward on the chalkboard in the front of the classroom.

Of course, 90 percent of us DIDN’T read the instructions all the way through and were completely red-faced when we went through all the instructions, step by step, only to discover the very last instruction said: “Ignore all previous instructions and write your name correctly in the lower right hand corner of the side chalkboard.” About 5 people had done that and then sat back and watched the rest of us look like idiots.

So when I put simple instructions up in a classroom today and find with those instructions staring students right in the face and they STILL don’t follow them… I remember that embarrassing moment in my life.

Following simple instructions all the way through can make life so much easier. God has that in mind for us. He his BEST in mind for us… and we keep wanting to skip certain sets of rules we just don’t like. Or… we just didn’t see them.

Following what is BEST from the Father really does make life quite a bit more manageable.

RIP Dean Smith

Great tribute HERE.

There is a generation of great coaches passing from us. For guys like Dean Smith, it wasn’t just about a game. It was about life. He worked hard to help a lot of young men. He worked hard to help change a culture.

RESPECT.

Christianity isn’t about a search for comfort

“Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort or truth — only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. Most of us have got over the pre-war wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we did the same about religion.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

Remembering Dr. King

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

— Excerpt, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”