Why my city rocks

I love reflecting on the city where I pastor because there are so many things going on that are RIGHT. They are not totally right all the time, but there are things that defy current trends.

For instance, Columbia Heights is on the very low end of “affluence” in the Twin Cities. Rock bottom for the metro area, I believe. Housing stock is good, but values are low. We are incredibly diverse. Over 70 percent of students in the schools are on free and reduced lunches as well.

Racially diverse. Not affluent. Not great housing stock. Recipe for disaster.

Except… it’s not.

Crime is at a 40 year low. Our school system was only one of four in the metro area to have test scores go UP by state standards in the last academic year.

There are so many reasons why this is such wonderful news and why it won’t make the news.

1. Community policing. The police are incredibly proactive. Every officer is required to have community service hours every month. Even the police chief. He is a big brother in an elementary school.

2. Pro-active government. They work hard to get ahead of issues and promote the beauty of the diversity we have in our city.

3. Pro-active schools. They work hard to navigate language barriers, learning levels, and more. This district gives away more scholarship money every year for college than our richest suburbs. It is a joy to see.

4. Government that actually LIKES churches. We are welcome to take part in any effort that furthers our city. We mentor students, help with programs, sponsor community events, etc. They want us involved BEFORE a problem arises.

There is so much more, but I wanted to stop quickly and give thanks for what God is doing in our community. We need a breath of good news from time to time.


Why I Love My City

I need to tell you about my city. It is the city I pastor.

It is not the city where I pastor. It is the city I pastor. And it’s a great one. I call myself their biggest cheerleader. I LOVE this city!
Columbia Heights, MN is an inner ring suburb, which means it has “issues.” One of the reasons I love my city is they decided to meet those “issues” head on and not act like change was happening. As a result, we have an incredibly diverse area that works hard to acknowledge the challenges and is learning to embrace each other.
My youngest son is getting ready to graduate from the high school this week. All three of our boys are now Columbia Heights High School graduates. Their school system is about as evenly divided ethnically as I’ve seen any district… and the kids cheer for each other. It has its challenges, but again, they decided long ago to face those challenges.
It is a school that challenges kids to do well. And it is a school that embraces the arts. Raising three boys I thought I was destined for the ball fields to watch games. My oldest was athletic. My middle son became an actor. My youngest was on the tech side of productions. Over the past 5-6 years I have become a theater guy. Who knew?
Last night we went to the Spotlight Awards for the Hennepin Theatre Trust. (It is “theatRE” not “theatER.” We do things properly in Minneapolis!)
The Twin Cities has a vibrant arts presence and has world class theaters. (I have to go with the American spelling unless is it’s in that name. Sorry. I’m not THAT cultured!) The Hennepin Theatre Trust runs four fabulous theaters in Minneapolis and they boost the arts scene by having high schools compete in the Spotlight Awards. Each production is graded on its own merits, so small budget schools (like ours) don’t get embarrassed by “losing” to big budget schools.
Our school has been in the Spotlight Awards for about 4-5 years. This year their production of “Hairspray” garnered 22 awards.  It was so amazing to see our kids sing and dance on stage with amazingly talented students from across the Twin Cities and state. Our school was featured TWICE (once in video and then in a specific recognition time) for the work the kids did in reaching out to the community through their production this year.
In a school system and city where there are still “issues,” these are the things we need to celebrate. I think many people who take “issue” with the changing dynamics of our demographics have no idea as to what incredibly great things are going on in our schools. And I want to tell them. I want to tell EVERY ONE OF THEM.
I want to tell you about my city! I want to BRAG on my city. It is an incredible place and more people need to know about it.

You can have my job!

You want my job? You can have it!

Not because I’m done with it. Not by a long shot.

love what I do. I get to teach college students as an adjunct faculty member. This past Friday was graduation and it was a bittersweet time of joy and the knowledge that my time with some of these great students was now over. The opportunity to touch their lives is something I am thankful for all the time.

I get to pastor a great church in a great city.

This weekend marked the end of yet another successful spring musical for the high school. It was my youngest son’s last production (he ran the tech side of the show). My middle son had acted in many productions when he was in high school. I love cheering for those wonderful kids. They have so much fun putting on great productions.

I don’t just pastor my church. I pastor my city. And the schools are part of this great city. I love seeing what is going on.

We are preparing a team to go on a missions trip out of our church. Today we will have a fundraiser for that trip.

I will also be with a family in the city as they remember a father who passed away a couple of weeks ago.

It will be a full day capping off a very full weekend. And it is joy.

So, you can have my job. 

Here is how: Love your city. Love the people around you. Love what God is doing in those people around you and celebrate it. Pray for those around you. Let your heart break with those who have breaking hearts. Let your heart sing with those who are singing. Cheer on those around you because they are looking for someone to cheer them on.

Do that, and you have my job.

Be careful. It will fill you with joy and it has the capacity to break your heart. But that is love.

Please, take my job. It is a wide open field.